Category Archives: Stories

The Six-Tripper

You saw what happened to my studio a couple of weeks ago. I got advice from a construction buddy of mine about how to re-hang the shelves so they would be sturdy, to hopefully avoid ever having them fall down again.  As you can see from the above photo, everything is back in order, but it’s a good thing I like the folks at my local hardware store.  It was an epic number of times stopping by before I was done.

  • Trip #1: Bought the new shelf brackets and toggle screws
  • Trip #2: Bought the correct drill bit since I apparently didn’t have that size after all
  • Trip #3: Bought the little washers when it turned out the screws were a teeny bit too small for the holes in the brackets.
  • Trip #4: Bought longer screws when it turned out the first screws weren’t long enough to push the toggles all the way through the plaster and wood
  • Trip #5: Bought 3 more toggle screws to replace the ones that fell down behind the wall when I put the first bracket on upside down.
  • Trip #6: Bought the spackle to fill in the spots where the old shelves had been attached.

I’ve never had a 6-trips-to-the-hardware-store project before. I’ve had lots of 2-trippers and a few 3-trippers, but never more than that.  The worst part of this 6-trip debacle is that each and every step was a different day;  I was working on this at night and every time I realized I needed to go back to the hardware store, they were closed for the night!

If you’ve seen photos of my studio before, it probably doesn’t look any different to you but it feels different to me – all put back together as well as nice and clean now. And I doubt anything will bring those shelves down again – fingers crossed!

When have you had a frustrating project?

Adventures in Moving

Husband moved yesterday on the reservation from one quarter of a double wide trailer to  half of a double wide trailer right next to his work.  The old trailer, where he has lived for four years, was across from the casino and right next to a gravel pit, so it was pretty dusty.  The fridge didn’t work, and he kept his food cold in a camping cooler. It was sort of like a studio apartment with a bathroom.  Now he has a bedroom and a bathroom and a kitchen. The fridge works. He has a dishwasher and a washer/dryer.

The trailer set up is thus: two double wide trailers are attached to one another end on end, one intended as a sober house for men, and one for women.  There was never enough staff to make the sober houses functional.  They connect in the middle in a laundry and furnace room.  Husband and I were moving things into the laundry room when we realized that the door had closed and we were locked in. We had no key . There was no one nearby to hear us call for help.  We were possibly locked in the room forever.  Neither of us had a phone.  Luckily, there was a kitchen knife above the washing machine, and I pried the lock open. It was a very frightening two minutes.

Tell about some of your moving adventures.

 

Silent Healers

It was interesting that, after I mentioned the traditional Lakota healer/medicine man who I know in the Bad Dream post on Tuesday, I heard from him early Wednesday afternoon.  Ed, as I will refer to him, phoned me to say he was in Sturgis and would be going through my town in a few hours and could I buy him a tank of gas?

Ed is a disabled veteran from one of the Iraq wars, and is on a very limited income.  He was on the way to a town on the reservation where husband works, so that he could do a smudging ceremony at one of the schools. “They are having trouble at the school. I am only staying long enough to smudge, and then I am heading right back because I have another smudging to do in Spearfish tomorrow”.

Ed travels all over the Great Plains doing ceremonies for different tribes and native citizens. If your brother is in the University of Minnesota Hospital and is dying, he will go there and sing and pray and do what he can to restore health. I have heard from people that he is pretty successful, and that individuals who weren’t expected to survive rally after he comes to them. He is called in when there is trouble or tragedy, and helps native families with funerals and grieving rituals.  He has an old suitcase full of his paraphernalia and he zips all over in his little white Ford,  healing and being a spiritual presence for his people.

I usually have no time in the afternoon to leave work, but I had a sudden problem with a toothache and had a dentist appointment Wednesday at 2:45 pm. Because I had no idea how long the dentist would take, I cancelled all my afternoon appointments. I was free, then, to meet up with Ed at the Holiday station and buy the gas. I suppose I could think about it as a happy coincidence, or perhaps it was the universe giving me a nudge to further Ed’s healing in this world.  It gives me great comfort to think of Ed and all the other people in our lives and communities who work under the radar, bringing hope and healing in ways most of us never hear about.

Who are the healers and helpers in your lives who fly under the radar?

The Bad Dream

I had a nightmare last night. Don’t need to go into it but it combined two things I’m not crazy about and I even know what I’ve seen/thought recently that most likely triggered it.  However at 3:25 in the morning, you just want to go back to sleep.  I turned on the TV and pulled up Laura with Gene Tierney, Dana Andrews and Clifton Webb.  I know the first 10 minutes by heart because that’s about how long it takes me to fall back to sleep with it playing.  I didn’t make it 10 minutes in this time.

How to you deal with bad dreams?

Locked Door Mystery

Many of you know I have a complicated relationship with mystery writing. If I figure out the murderer too soon then I’m impatient with the other characters for not getting to it earlier.  If the author doesn’t give me all the clues so I can’t figure it out on my own, then I’m irritated beyond belief.  So it was interesting to me that I got hooked on a British series called Death in Paradise on Netflix a couple of weeks ago.

I realized after watching a few nights worth of episodes that the writers of the show rely very heavily on the locked-door mystery – in which the murder happens in a room or building locked from the inside. Locked-room mysteries almost always fall into the category of “author not giving you all the clues” so they are not my favorite.  But this week I have my own locked-room mystery.

On Tuesday night, I went into my studio with a box, which I put on my desk. Left after 5 seconds and shut the door behind me. Thursday morning, YA texted me “what happened in your studio?”  She then texted that it looked like one of my shelves had fallen down.  When I asked her to send me a photo, I got the above.  Yikes.

When I got home and saw the destruction in person it was clear that a lot more than a shelf falling down had happened in that room. Clearly one shelf, with the attached ribbon rod had come down and everything on it, but quite a bit of the items on the stable shelf had come down as well:  assorted mountains of paper, the box of orange ribbons, a large bin VERY full of individual beads, envelopes, paints, you name it.

But the mystery is how this happened. Normally when Nimue gets locked into a room, you remember letting her out because you’ve been looking for her. She doesn’t usually meow or make a noise to alert you, you just have to search.  She hasn’t been missing this week; neither YA nor I recall opening doors to look for her.  If we had been home, the noise of the shelf coming down would have been noticeable. It certainly seems like her kind of mess… maybe she jumped up on the one shelf and as it went down, she scrabbled onto the other shelf in a panic, knocking things down willy-nilly.  I thought maybe a squirrel loose in the room, but how would the squirrel have gotten in and then out?  Someone breaking into my house to mess up my studio doesn’t seem likely.  YA sleepwalking?  There’s no place for anyone to stand while making a mess like this and the mess is all things that fell, nothing else.  And since the studio is right across from my bedroom, I’m pretty sure that would have woken the dogs and me.

Like those mysteries in which the authors don’t give you all the clues, this one may be a mystery until the end of time!

What projects do YOU have scheduled this weekend?

Cold Weather Stories

Today’s post comes to us from Ben.

I was at a funeral a few years ago. Probably this time of year and it was very very cold. At the graveside there was only a handful of people. The minister is a friend of mine and he was wearing a long black robe. Afterward, I asked him if he was wearing his long johns under there. He said, “I’m wearing everything I own under here”.

Come to think of it, I’ve been at the graveside for a few very very cold funerals. My mom says when her father died it was so cold the minister basically said, ‘Ashes to Ashes Dust to Dust Amen Let’s go’.

I have two personal cold stories.

The first was a below zero day with a wicked -70’s windchill and something broken on the feed bunk. I wore about 5 layers to fix it. As I recall, it wasn’t terrible and only took me an hour to fix. But anything outside in that kind of weather is terrible.

And back in 1996, daughter was 7 months old and was taking her colds very seriously at that age. She spent a week in NICU (Neo-natal intensive care) the first week of February and we had one of these cold waves. I won’t call it a ‘polar vortex’ because that term wasn’t around then. It was just cold.

Kelly spent most of the week at the hospital. I was still home dealing with chores and milking cows. (Curiously, I don’t recall where her older brother was. He may have been home with me or maybe he was at Grandma and Grandpas house.)

One night it was -42. I took a picture of the old, analog thermometer that hung in the mudroom. The one with the lead you ran out the window and it had the red liquid in it. And I remember thinking it’s a good thing it’s this style because the electronic ones only go to -40. And that same night an owl came into the garage and perched in the rafters. Somewhere is a picture of that too.

I’ve always thought, below -20 it just really doesn’t matter anymore.

Even at that, a barn full of cows is about the coziest spot in the world. I miss that.

What’s your favorite / worst cold weather story?

Perfect

Today’s post comes to us from Port Huron Steve.

I recently posted about discovering several hundred scanned slides from trips my erstwife and I took in the United Kingdom in 1974 and 1975. Most of the original slides were good, but the company that converted them to digital files did poor work. After being scanned the images were badly underexposed and had harsh tones. I spent five weeks editing the slides, making each image look nice, or at least much nicer.

Last Friday night my daughter invited me to her home to deliver a marathon slide show. I presented about 500 edited slides and explained the circumstances of taking them. I talked so long I lost my voice. As my daughter drove me home I realized, with some surprise, that I had just experienced a “perfect” evening.

This surprised me because I am not comfortable calling anything perfect. That is such an absolute word. My experience of life keeps showing me that everything we experience is good or bad in relative terms. I am skittish about absolute words and absolute judgements.

And yet the slideshow evening could not have been better. For a storyteller, an ideal moment involves telling stories to an adoring audience. For a photographer, sharing images with people who are thrilled to see them is total joy. For an old storyteller/photographer what could be better than an evening sharing old images and their stories with family members?

Actually, I learned that there is a way that such an evening could be even better. Something already “perfect” can become nicer.

On our first British Isles trip my erstwife and I spent three days in the Cotswolds. The Cotswolds are a region of England where the countryside and the villages are unimaginably charming. Visiting there feels like stepping into a Beatrix Potter storybook. Perhaps the most appealing Cotswold town is Bourton-on-the-water. Its homes and shops were built centuries ago with locally quarried rock. The architecture is consistent, dating to the same period, and perfectly charming. A little stream runs through the heart of town, with stone bridges arching over it. The honey-colored stone used for all buildings is offset by many by countless lush flower gardens.

Bourton has a famous model village. Local craftsmen created a perfect model of the town that includes all the homes, churches and shops just as they looked in the 1930s. Each building was recreated with meticulous detail at a one-to-nine scale. Topiary trees and shrubbery line the tiny stone buildings. The stream is there, of course, along with those cute bridges. While the model town is accurate in scale, a few buildings have been given big windows so visitors can peer inside to appreciate how perfectly the interiors have been duplicated.

Because the model village occupies a significant area, logic dictates that the model village has to include a miniature model of the model. And it does!

The cherry on top of my perfect evening was watching my grandson grasp the concept of an infinite regression of models within models. “Wait, Grampy,” Liam cried. “So the tiny town has a tiny model of the town in it? Whoa! That’s awesome! And does the tiny model of the model have its own tiny model?”

Yes! Of course it does! Liam’s smile improved an evening I thought could not be better.

What kind of day or event would be perfect for you?