Thursday, July 28, 2011

Flea Guy

If my husband, Bill, had his own TV show it would be called Flea Guy because he is a flea market junky.  Or maybe, more accurately, a garage sale fanatic.  I swear, he can smell a garage sale from five miles away and the car must have some secret built-in radar system.  Call me a conspiracy theorist, but I believe that there is a group of them out there with their radios tuned to a special station that picks up the radar.  You can spot them in their cars scanning the medians for the bleeding garage sale signs with the obscured arrows.  They're the ones that’ll do donuts on a dime in the middle of a congested highway, pull up to the curbside, leave their cars running and block five lanes of traffic.  They race out of their cars, skim the contents of a driveway in the blink of an eye, purchase a gold necklace buried in the bottom of a pile of shells, sprint back to the car in ten seconds flat and are on to the next garage sale before they realize that they left their family two garage sales back.  
When we go to flea markets, it’s much worse.  I’ve decided that I need my own Segway to keep up with Bill.  At the flea market, he’s the ten speed bike and I’m the three wheel trike.  He’s constantly leaving me in his dust; which is why I don’t feel a bit guilty about the pair of shrunken heads I purchased in his absence.  Anyway, he is the master of the bargain.  While my fifty dollar shrunken heads sit in the garage freaking out all the neighborhood kids and giving them nightmares, his ten cent book sells on the internet for four hundred dollars.  He is amazing. 
Not only does my husband haunt garage sales, flea markets and auctions, but he also frequents thrift stores.  Once, for his birthday, I made up personal gift certificates for him and delivered them to the local thrift stores.  Then I gave him a map with clues and sent him on his own scavenger hunt from one thrift store to another.  It was pure genius (if I do say so myself).  
Bill and I have been married for twenty-five years and I don’t believe he’s ever missed a Saturday morning garage sale and/or flea market. On one road trip from Florida to NJ with the kids (in the truck with the missing back window) he took a small detour and arrived at his favorite flea market a tad early - 3 AM.  It was frigid cold, so he bundled the kids in blankets and told them to get some shut-eye before the flea market opened at five.  Needless to say, that is one memory etched in the fabric of our family forever.  There’s another memory that I’m reminded of every time I walk into my closet.  
I admit that I am not a “cleaner outer”.  When I hang something in the back of my closet it is because I don’t plan on wearing it for at least the next ten years but I keep it just in case I lose that extra twenty pounds.  Anyway, something must have come over me about five years ago when I made a valiant attempt to declutter my side of the bulging mess we call a “walk in” closet.  It is more like a “trip in” closet due to the vast array of mismatched shoes and other sundries littering the closet floor.  Anyway, as I was saying, I was a decluttering queen.  I showed no mercy to the blouses screaming that I only had fifteen pounds to go; the tie dyed jeans that reminded me they were coming back in fashion; the argyle sweaters growing dust bunnies - they all got squished into the dreaded “thrift store” garbage bag where old clothes gasp their last breath.  
So, like I said, my husband has been known to haunt a few thrift stores from time to time.  Usually, when he returns home, he brings me out to the car to dazzle me with his finds.  He is always very considerate of my latest undertaking and frequently brings back some amazing one-of-a-kind treasure to enhance my project.  Once, he brought me an entire frog band made from recycled metal for my garden.  A few months after I cleaned out my closet he was off on one of his shopping sprees.   This time, when he returned home, he was especially proud of his find.  “Honey, you’re not going to believe what I found!” He said breathlessly as he grabbed my hand and pulled me to the car.  He was so excited - like a kid in a candy shop.  I couldn’t imagine what he found that excited him so.  He even made me close my eyes.  You can imagine my surprise when I was finally allowed to open my eyes and behold the treasure.  There, right in front of me stood my husband grinning from ear to ear holding a familiar item.  

“Can you believe it!” He laughed.  “I found a blouse just like the one you used to wear when we were first married!”  

I was speechless!  There it was in all it’s 1980’s glory - my old blouse that might cover one boob now if I positioned it just so.

 “Oh, honey!” I crooned, “How did you ever find the ‘exact same blouse’!”  

“I know, right!” He grinned, “Amazing, huh?”  

I just couldn’t bear to tell him the truth.  I lovingly took the blouse, kissed my husband and thanked him for his amazing find.  I made my way to the closet and hung the blouse on the very same hanger it vacated just about a month earlier.  I don’t know, but I think I might have heard it chuckle (kind of like the last laugh) as I placed it back in it’s empty spot in the closet.  
Some women have husbands that bring them diamond rings.  Some women have husbands that wine and dine them and cover their pillows in rose pedals, but I bet that I am the only woman who has a husband who not only remembers what I wore twenty years ago, but believes that I can still fit in it!  

Jersey Girl

Jersey Girl, our horse, derived her name from the home of our friends who are from Jersey.  I was describing our new horse to them when I commented that her color was similar to the brown in their dining room wall color.  My friend said that was the color they had in their home in New Jersey.  We were originally from New Jersey as well, so I commented that the horse must be a “Jersey Girl” and the name stuck.  
It is fitting that our horse decided to create some drama while we were away visiting our family in Jersey.  Jersey Girl is a sweet natured but high spirited quarter horse.  She frequently runs circles around our five acre pasture, maneuvering the palm trees and oak trees with swift, graceful turns.  Her incredible speed and ability to turn on a dime will someday make her a great barrel horse if we ever have the money to pay someone to train her properly.  
So, like I said, we were in Jersey visiting our family while our neighbors in the 55 and over trailer park were looking after the goats, dogs, cats and Jersey Girl.  I have wonderful neighbors who’ll do anything for us.  In fact, I knew that the entire neighborhood would be watching over our farm in our absence because they all loved to come over and hang out on the porch or in the barn.  Most of them grew up on farms and they often tell me that our farm brings back fond memories for them.  I knew that the animals were in good hands.
The phone call came in the early afternoon.  It was my neighbor, Anna.  She was speaking so rapidly I had to ask her to repeat herself several times.  
“It’s Jersey Girl!”  She yelled into the phone. “She’s down, Betty!  She’s down!”  My heart jumped a beat as I heard the words echoing in my ear (which was now permanently deaf).  I switched ears.  
“Anna,” I said as calmly as possible, “what do you mean she’s down?”  
“She’s on the ground.”  Anna screamed breathlessly into the phone, “We can’t get her up!”  
“Okay,” I spoke quietly hoping that Anna would get the hint.  “Is she laying on her side?”  
“Yes, she’s... on.... her side.... and Jacob..... can’t get.... her... up!”  Anna’s words were coming through the phone in labored breaths as if she were either running a marathon or giving birth.  
“Who’s Jacob?” I asked.  
“Betty!” She yelled, “I.... think.... your horse is.... dying!”  
“Anna!”  “Get a grip!”  I yelled back into the phone.  Both of my ears were ringing by this point and I could feel the beginnings of a raging headache squeezing the back of my skull.  
I asked again, “Who’s Jacob?”  
“My son!” Anna screamed. “He knows horses and he says she’s in bad shape.”  
“Can you put him on the phone?”  I asked hopefully.  
“Hello,” I heard a calm man’s voice come on the line.  “This is Jacob.” 
Jacob explained to me that he believed our horse might be colicing.  A colicing horse is a serious problem because it means that the horse could have twisted an intestine, but she would have been thrashing or rolling.  I instructed Jacob to watch the horse for a bit since, according to Jacob, she didn’t appear to be in any pain or serious distress.  I told him to call me back in about a half hour if she didn’t get up or seemed to worsen.
Fifteen minutes later my phone rang.  It was my neighbor, Maryanne.  “Betty,” She began breathlessly, “You better get the vet out here.  Your horse is colicing and we’re all here trying to get her up.”  
“Who’s trying to get her up?”  I asked.
“Well, let’s see.” Maryanne said.  “There’s Benny, Jacob, Sonny, me and Anna.  Joe’s here too, but he’s just watching.  Oh, and here comes Bill with Anne.  I think that Bobby is making his way over too.”  
I could picture the scene in my head: A gaggle of senior citizens swarming around Jersey Girl.  The pasture was probably littered with golf carts and three wheel bikes with Joe’s oxygen tank perched precariously on the edge of one of them.  I had no idea how they were trying to get Jersey Girl up but I bet it involved a golf cart which was worrying me immensely.  I could picture Benny, who consumes a six pack of beer before breakfast, stumbling over Jersey Girl’s hooves while directing everyone on the proper procedures for horse lifting.  All I could think of was one of them breaking a hip or something else in the process of attempting to lift a 1200 pound horse off the ground.  
I asked Maryanne the same questions I asked Jacob and got the same answers.  Jersey Girl did not appear to be in any distress.  She was just lying down but had her head up.  She didn’t seem to be agitated by all the commotion going on around her. Maryanne didn’t know how long she had been lying down but she reminded me that she was a horse expert having worked as a “hot walker” at a race track fifty years ago.  “I know when a horse is colicing!” She informed me in a very stern voice that did not leave any room for argument.  
“Ok,” I said. “I’ll call the vet.”  
I called the vet and the secretary said they just happened to have a doctor out in the area not far from our farm.  I told them to send him over ASAP because I was more afraid for the people trying to lift my horse than I was of the horse being gravely ill.
I called Maryanne back to get a report.  
“Oh, it’s bad!” she said nervously.  “Benny has his arm stuck under the horse!”  
“What!” I yelled into the phone.  I heard some commotion in the background.  Joe was saying something about getting a big piece of wood to use as a fulcrum.  I heard Benny moaning and Sonny telling him to lay down flat next to the horse.  
“Tell Anna to bring the rope...”  I heard a voice yelling.  
My brain was screaming at me; Oh God!  The horse is going to roll over on Benny and kill him!  

Then I heard someone yell, “He’s free!”  Maryanne got back on the phone.  “He’s free.  I think he’s going to be alright.”  
“Maryanne, please tell everyone to just wait for the vet to arrive.  He’s on his way.” I said as I rubbed the back of my throbbing head.
An hour later I got the report from the vet.  He told me that, upon his arrival, he wasn’t sure who he should treat first.  I was perplexed and told him that we only have one horse.  
“I know,” he said, “but there is a guy passed out cold right in front of the gate.”  
“That’s just Benny.”  I said (perhaps a bit too callously).  
“Well,” the vet continued, “Then there’s the guy with the oxygen tank that fell on the ground and isn’t working.  He’s looking a little pale.” 
“That’s Joe.  He’ll be okay.  He has more oxygen tanks at home.” I said, “Tell Anna to get him home right away!” 
“Is Anna the short skinny lady?” The vet asked.  “Because she has a big splinter stuck in her hand from the piece of wood they were using to get someone’s arm out from under the horse.  I’m going to get the splinter out now.  It looks like a war zone out here.”  He continued, “There’s all kinds of tools, rope, wood scattered everywhere.  I’m surprised someone didn’t shoot the horse!”  
“Speaking of the horse,” I said, “how is she?”   
“Oh, she’s fine.”  The vet said.  “I gave her a shot of muscle relaxer.”  “She’s up now and Jacob is walking her.”  I heard Joe in the background asking to speak to me.  The vet handed him the phone.  
“Hi, Betty.”  he began.  “You know we used to have a goat but I don’t think it ever got colic so I’m no expert on colicing but I don’t think your horse had colic.”  
“Joe,” I scolded “get home and get your oxygen tank!”  
I hung up the phone and pictured the scene that was playing out in my pasture.  The vet driving by Benny passed out in front of the gate.  The three wheel bikes and golf carts being loaded up with various tools and ropes.  Everyone patting each other on the back for a job well done.  Jacob walking Jersey Girl.  This will be something that the entire neighborhood will be talking about for years!  And to think that all the entertainment for the whole gang only cost me $350.00!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Tractor Pool

The knock on my door seemed a bit more frantic than usual, so I hurried to see who needed my immediate attention and why.  I opened the door to my sopping wet neighbor, Benny.

He skipped all the pleasantries, “I need a ‘pool.’”  He said with a sense of urgency that I seldom see from him.

It looked to me like Benny had already found a “pool, ” but all we had was a hot tub, so I was a bit mystified as to how I could help him with a “pool.”

“A pool?” I asked.

“Yeah!” he replied as if I was the dumbest person on the face of the earth, “A pool!  My lawn mower done took a swim in the pond down there at Sharon’s, and I need a pool!”

“A pull,” I said as understanding started to creep into my brain.

“Yeah!” Benny yelled at me, “Why do you think I’m so wet?”

I didn’t know why Benny was so wet.  Call me stupid, but I would never have attributed his sloshy appearance to his lawn tractor taking a swim in the pond.  Now, I might not be the brightest bulb in the tool shed and my escalator might not go all the way to the top, but I was able to correctly surmise that Benny must have also taken a swim along with his tractor.

“Where’s Bill?” Benny asked.

“Playing tennis.”  I replied, “Do you need me to bring our tractor down to the pond?”

“Sure 'nough!” He said, “You able to ‘pool’ the lawn mower out?”

“It’s me or nothing.”  I laughed since I was the only show in town.  No one else in our neighborhood lived on a farm or owned a vehicle with the towing power of our trusty Farm Pro tractor.

Benny wasn’t laughing.  He just hung his drowned-rat head, slumped his shoulders and squished off the porch.  “'Righty then,” he moaned as he swigged his beer, “We’s down by Sharon’s place.  See you there.”

I was hurt by the lack of confidence that Benny seemed to have in my tractor pulling skill.  I’ll show him, I was thinking as I quickly changed into proper tractor pulling attire; an old tee shirt, torn jeans and beat up sneakers.  I grabbed Lulu and off we went to man the tractor.  Just as we were driving the tractor around from the barn, along came Bill to save the day.

“Benny sunk his lawn tractor,” I informed Bill as he approached us.

“I know.”  He said in his matter-of-fact manner as if this was an everyday occurrence.  “Anna told me.”

He jumped on the tractor, and the three of us rode down the street with Lulu on my lap steering and Bill riding shotgun.

We arrived at the pond to find Benny, miraculously still holding onto his beer, up to his shoulders in murky water.  He was sitting on his fully submerged lawn tractor looking completely dejected as if he just lost his best friend.  A gaggle of geese swam off in the distance while a gaggle of people gathered on the bank.

“I wouldn’t have believed it if I didn’t see it with my own eyes.” Joe began, “Benny never spilled a drop of beer, even as the tractor slid in slow motion down the bank.  I swear he tumbled three times easy and never once did his beer go under water!”

As the neighbors were discussing Benny’s beer prowess, Bill was expertly maneuvering our tractor through the trees.  Then, he began backing it up along the steep bank.  I started to panic as the tractor leaned precariously toward the water looking as if it was going to join Benny and his ride at any moment.

I started running toward Bill when someone grabbed me from behind and told me to calm down.

“Calm down!” I screamed as I turned to see who had grabbed me.  “My husband is about to topple into the water and ruin our tractor, and you’re telling me to calm down!”

There was no one behind me, though.  All I saw was a bunch of senior citizens sitting in golf carts.  Mary Anne was the only one still hastily retreating toward her golf cart, so I figured she was the culprit, but I didn’t have time to pick a fight with her.  I turned my attention back to the drama unfolding before my eyes and saw that Bill had somehow gotten the tractor back on level ground, but then I noticed the rope they were preparing to use.

I might be a few bricks shy of a wheel barrel, but even I knew that ragged nylon towing strap which was tied to a fraying rope wasn’t going to pull Benny, let alone an entire lawn tractor, out of the water.  Benny already had the tractor hooked up and ready to go.  He was instructing Bill to put the Farm Pro in low gear when I heard someone from the crowd say, “That damn rope ain’t gonna pull notin’ outta that swamp!”

“Stop!” I yelled to my husband who couldn’t hear me over the roar of the engine.

He kept right on pulling.


The crack of the rope reverberated through the crowd sounding like a gunshot. Thankfully, the hook did not come flying back with the rope that was ricocheting through the crowd like an angry snake.  Miraculously, no one in the ever growing crowd was hurt by the ricocheting rope.  Benny, on the other hand, was screaming that his tractor rolled back on his leg.

Luckily, Benny was able to move to one side and pull his leg out.

“I’ll be damned if he still hasn’t spilled that beer!” Someone in the crowd observed.

As everyone was pondering the next move, Mary Anne returned on her golf cart with a chain.  She handed it to a big burly man in overalls.  He entered the pond and attached the chain hook to the tractor while Benny tied the remaining rope to the chain.  I couldn’t understand the wisdom in using the rope again when they had a perfectly good chain that was clearly long enough to reach Bill’s tractor, but I guess Benny thought this was going to work.  He signaled to Bill to start pulling.  You could have cut the tension with a knife as Bill slowly eased the Farm Pro forward.  Inch by inch Benny and his tractor began to move through the water.  The only problem was, he wasn’t getting closer to shore.  As Bill pulled, Benny’s tractor headed downstream.  Benny started yelling and then it happened again.


The little bit of rope gave way, and the chain bounced onto the bank.  It was a wonder that no one got hurt again.

Well, they say the third time’s the charm.  It took another agonizing attempt using only the chain. This time Benny, beer held high, rode his steel steed from the muddy waters as Bill confidently pulled him to safety.

“Benny,” I heard someone in the crowd laughing, “you ought not to try to mow the pond! You know that tractor of yours don’t float.”

Gosh, I thought to myself, I could write a book about my madcap neighborhood, but who would believe it!

Just as I was thinking this, Mary Anne and Anna joined me.

“What chapter of the book is this going to be in?” Anna asked.

“Chapter seven,” I replied. “I’m titling it, ‘Tractor Pool.’”