Amanda Hopper Writes

A writer's tale of living and working in the country.

Month: November 2011

A Roll in the Hay

Anyone who thinks “a roll in the hay” is a good idea has obviously never worked with hay before. One hay splinter lodged in your hand for two days will ensure you will never aim to have one lodged anywhere else.
Forget the splinters! Hay in Texas is filled with small burrs! These spikes-of-evil ride on everything they touch and are the reason that you will hear muffled cursing in our home at any given moment. An innocent stroll to the basement can turn into an impaled-fall-down-the-stairs in an instant with those blasted balls of mutilation lying camouflaged in the carpet.
Strange how hay can determine if my day will be good or bad…
I was so distraught when we couldn’t find it, so happy when the Hayman delivered it. So elated when we found a hay spike for the tractor to move said hay, then so destroyed to discover that the tractor wasn’t big enough to haul it. And that is where we have been stuck for two months, with hay that we cannot move to the back pasture.
I knew if I waited long enough, my brilliant husband would come up with some absurd plan.
I was right.
I waited excitedly as Andy finished his bite of cereal after uttering,”I think I have a way to get the hay to the cows.” I would have bet my left little toe that he was going to build some amazing contraption with wood from trees that he pulled from our brush pile. Or better, he would finally learn how to weld and would design something that would have sparks flying for days. I leaned in closer as he swallowed and said, ” I think we can roll it down the hill.”
I waited for the rest…
The rest never came.
“Are you crazy?” I balked.
Roll. It. Down. The. Hill.
This from the man that had birthed the deer stand of Babel, the tower to heaven, house wiring that could light up the world, the man who drove a vertical refrigerator across the Metroplex during rush hour!
So guess what I spent last Sunday doing?
Rolling a 1500 pound ball of grass down a dirt slope.
Well, I mostly sat in the tractor. I was commanded to keep the hay from rolling out of control into the fence at the bottom of the hill. So I drove backwards with the bucket raised, slowing the bale while Andy pushed from the other side.
The cows were about to come unglued as they watched us struggling for 40 minutes. Their precious dinner inching painfully toward them. They must have felt sorry for us because they didn’t even try to make a break for it when we reached the open gate and… Andy gave up.
The gate was wide open, the girls were stomping their feet and a snake-like line of drool hung from their mouths to the ground. I jumped off the tractor and ran to join Andy behind the hay and threw every ounce of strength I had into pushing that small planet into the pasture. The combined force sent the bale rolling into perfect position and Grant was able to swing the gate closed as the cows began head-banging the bale to loosen some strands for munching. We turned the hay ring up on its side and rolled it like a giant hamster wheel until it was able to be lowered over the hay. We stepped back and admired our work.
Ya know, one year ago I could not tell you how a happy cow face differed from a sad cow face.
Now I can.
I just hope they eat slowly….

They’re waiting!
Still think this was a good idea Honey?

Where did Grant go?
Happy cow faces!

Would You Be a Deer and Pass the Salt?

November has arrived and every able bodied person in North Texas is dressed in camo. What does that mean?
DEER SEASON!
And what do Andy and Grant do when there are hunting licenses burning holes in their pockets and dreams of deer sausage overflowing the freezer dancing in their brains?
Build a deer stand of course!
It all began about eight weeks ago. I would occasionally find Andy and Grant hunched over a table with pencil and paper in hand. I had my suspicions, but I had no proof until I unfolded a discarded drawing that had missed the trash can.  Then came the day that all of the discarded lumber from the building of the house was moved from the pasture to the garage. I began to find Lowe’s receipts and little bags full of screws and nails. Then one day I found them…carriage bolts the size of my forearm.
By now you must know that anything Andy and Grant build will not be average, because Andy’s life motto (which has been adopted by his eldest son) is, “Average is for losers.”
Two weeks later, I awake to hear the screeching sound of a table saw greeting the morning sun. Piece by piece, a small wooden shed took shape on our driveway. Grant would race home from the bus stop on week nights and speed through his homework to be ready for construction duty when his dad came home from work. I spent my evenings walking around the house turning on the outside flood lights so they could continue working on their masterpiece after dark.
One Monday night, about 9 pm, it took me fifteen minutes to find them to report that they had better come and eat dinner ’cause the kitchen was closing. I finally found them sitting in camp chairs inside their little domain, trying to determine the best placement for the windows so that both Grant and Andy would have the perfect perch for their guns when a target was spotted.
I have learned over the years that I must stay away. I am the practical one, the one who asks the question, “How are you gonna get that thing in the back pasture?” And the one who gets the evil eye because someone (Andy) hasn’t thought that far ahead yet.
The finished deer stand resembled a large outhouse. I must admit that I was impressed, the guys built it with only lumber we had leftover. Big enough to comfortably hold two men, with plenty of head room for men well over six feet tall to stand. What I didn’t know was that it was not going to sit on the ground. It was going to be raised high enough to survive another world-wide flood.
My brother and father were called in two weeks ago to take part in the transport. Somehow, they managed to lay the small cottage on it’s side on the trailer without serious bodily injury.
What I hadn’t realized up to this point was that the legs, the size of full grown giraffes, still had to be installed. The boys got them bolted on and shored up, then called up to me and my mom.
“Let’s go put this up in the back pasture!”
My mom was game, she has more trust in Andy than I do apparently. My dad was giving me the there is no way this is gonna work look while telling us out-loud that it would be great. So we all followed the trailer as it groaned under the weight past the back gate and wide-eyed cows that seemed to believe no good was going to come of this endeavor.
My dad and Andy set to chaining the stand to the tractor, which by the way is worth more than our cars put together, while I watched with a grimace on my face as Grant took the driver’s seat. My grimace turned to more of a scowl as my mom and I were told to brace out feet under the two legs that were now perched on the ground while the tractor pulled the beast up and the men lifted from the back. I kept envisioning the thing coming up and then with too much momentum, continuing it’s course and falling on top of our shiny new tractor.
But you can’t reason with crazy genius. You just close your eyes and hope the ambulance remembers to bring the cooler to keep your detached limbs cold so that they can be reattached at a later date.
With my eyes still closed and my boot wedged under the back leg of the stand, I heard the tractor engine fire up. I silently begged God to keep the pain at a minimum as the chains stressed the wood into audible protest. I mistakenly opened my eyes just in time to see the tie-downs refuse to take any more and rip free, rocketing into the sky and barely missing the guys standing at the back of the trailer.
Now, my brain is screaming at my mouth to tell them that this will never work. And my teeth are grinding together with enough force to gnaw down a small tree trying to keep the words inside. I watch with wide eyes as the guys reattach the tethers and yell for Grant to begin slowly backing the tractor up once more.This time I keep my eyes open in case I need to duck from flying chains, ’cause last time I checked they can’t fix decapitation…
As usual, Grant exhibits perfection behind the tractor wheel and the slow upward progression of the deer stand resembles a perfectly executed barn raising. The second attempt went smoothly and I roll my eyes as I join everyone else in congratulating Andy on his lucky brillance.
The only negative comment was from behind me as Sam, who had been standing very far away observing, said “The wind is gonna knock it over.” Andy gave him his famous, I’m smarter than you silly boy look and set to removing the chains and tie-downs from his enormous work of art.
This should be the point where I sign off and you have a good chuckle about our continuing saga, but alas the story is only half over.
After everyone went home and we settled in for the night, a big ‘ole Texas sized wind storm blew over North Texas. The next morning after arriving back home from dropping the boys off at school, I inadvertantly glanced in the back pasture and saw it…
The deer stand that we had spent hours erecting the day before was now laying on it’s side under a perfectly clear blue sky. I raised my eyes and told God that this was not funny but I could almost feel Him chuckling at my predicament. I stumbled out of the truck and began the long…long walk to the site of devastation. I shakily raised my cell phone and took a picture of the catastrophe and almost choked as I pushed send.
The answering text from Andy was,  Is that from today?
My one-word answer did not receive a reply.
That afternoon when I pulled down the drive with Sam in the backseat, I paused in front of the back pasture and waited. It took only moments for the air to be sucked in from behind me and then the words, “I told him! I told him the wind would knock it down!”to assault me in the driver’s seat.
Needless to say, Andy will be consulting Sam with future endeavours. As for the deer stand? Andy and I spent an hour the next Saturday afternoon pulling it back up with the tractor, with yours truly behind the wheel. Then we took another hour and anchored the daggum thing to the ground in six places. 
Andy says he’s completed the project. Only time will tell. But I would like to wager that in one year’s time I will be sitting in this chair once again writing about how Andy and Grant spent the last month trenching cable, electrical, and plumbing lines out to their stand and how we have yet to actually have any deer sausage in the freezer. 

                 
Movin’ on out!    
Notice the size of the people in comparison to the deer stand…

 

Next morning.

Hon, I don’t see anything about this in the tractor manual…

Moving Sale

House and entire contents for sale!

That is the sign I made after a home invasion. Yes, we were robbed of our sense of well being and our love of the house that we spent so long building. How could it happen? How could the perpetrator decide that he had the right to invade our home? We never invited him. We never hurt him or any of his kind.I gleam some small sense of justice that he died in the infiltration.
I have never been one to smile at death, but what is the loss of one tiny scorpion?
I have no problem with them on the outside of the house. They kill other unwelcome insects and our land provides a feast of those on a daily basis.
But place one tiny pincher on my shiny wood floors?
The fiery pits of hell have no wrath like a woman mindin’ her own business sweepin’ floors findin’ your crunch body inside her domain!
Of course I sounded more like a screaming crazy woman at the moment of discovery, but now…now I am decided.
Three days after the first incursion, the boys awoke to another dead scorpion in the kitchen. I soon figured out that they had probably followed the long line of ants that had marched themselves into the house. I believe this because I had sprayed the ant path the night before, and finding the dead scorpion meant that it had indeed eaten poisoned food.
Is it wrong that I smiled upon realization that he had died by my hand?
So I pulled the for sale sign and began strategic deployment of Operation Crop Duster. I sprayed every nook and cranny inside and outside the house.
But it’s not enough.
No, I must procure every defense imaginable to defend my home!
Luckily my neighbor called with an answer! She found a kitten on the side of the road, crying. When asked if we would take him? A little light bulb literally popped on over my head. A memory of the mention of outdoor cats killing scorpions in one of the thousands of online tips I had scoured filled the bubble.
Sure he only fits in the palm of my hand…
But he will grow! And I will give him hundreds of plastic scorpions to begin practicing his terminator technique. They will never hear him coming. He will be the panther of panic, the tiger of terror!
We named him Spock, ya know…for the pointy ears.
Don’t laugh! Those crafty Vulcans only look docile. Patiently waiting with hidden emotion until the right moment, then WHAM! You’ll never know what hit you until you look in the corner and see him gently wipe away what was left of your lunch from the corner of his mouth.
Yes, that tiny ball of fur that currently thinks his tail is chasing him will be the big fish in the pond of perpetrators outside our doors. And hopefully the dogs will protect him from the even bigger fish that will most certainly want him as a midnight snack…