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Friday, August 15, 2014

Oh, Snap! He Came Out Swinging More Than His Towel

Everyone who is tired of reading and hearing about the stereotypical danger breeds of dogs, raise your paws. Aha!

I suffered through a true story that proves just about any type of breed of dog may be hazardous to one's health--and in this case, one's modesty.

At one time my husband and I lived in a small apartment about our landlord's house. The landlord's family owned an English bulldog. I'll call the bulldog Max. Max, of course, is not his real name, since I wish to save the pooch and his family any embarrassment. But come to think of it, it was my family that suffered some embarrassment.

It was a hot summer day and we had our front door open since there was no cooling system in the apartment. Can you say slum lord? I can--but they were actually nice people just trying to make an extra buck. May came galloping up the stairs into the living room. He did that every so often just to be friendly.

This time it was different. The landlord allowed no pets. Why, I have no idea. They had a pet. And the apartment was, well, just a touch dumpy. We had two dogs that we boarded with my mother in the country. Every couple of months, we'd bring our favorite dog, Guido (his real name) to the apartment to visit for a few hours.

Guido (long gone to dog heaven) was a small mutt, who though full-grown, looked like a puppy. Max ran through the doorway and pounced on Guido. I don't believe Max was on a killing mission; I believe her was simply shocked that there was a dog in our apartment when there had never been one there on his previous, impromptu visits. But the attack was a bit scary.

I tried reasoning with Max--then yelling. Just as I was panicking, a teenager, the girlfriend of the landlord's son, came bounding up the stairs after the missing dog.

She, too, screamed and attempted to separate the snarling dogs to no avail.

I yelled to my husband who was in the bathroom taking a shower. He couldn't hear what I was saying, just the semi-hysterical tone of my voice.

He was so intent on rescuing Guido that he didn't notice the girl in our living room. Yep, he came out of the bathroom swinging more than his towel. He snapped his towel and bellowed at the dogs, which startled Max enough to let loose of Guido.

Apparently swinging more that his towel shocked the girl enough to run out of our living room, bulldog in tow, without a word to either of us.

OK, at the time I was a writer for a small-town newspaper. I might have mentioned this incident in my weekly column the next week. Of course, I changed all the names.

This was in the days before the Internet, but it didn't take long for reaction to come in. People started stopping by the newspaper office giving me the thumbs up, leering and chuckling. So far, the response was 100 percent positive, until THE GIRL showed up at the office hinting my head needed to be pounded into the pavement.

We were standing outside the newspaper office, since she requested I step outside. I had no idea she wanted to step outside into the alley so there would be no witnesses.

Her: Why the f--- did you print that? she screamed.

Me: Because it was funny. And I hate to tell you this, not much happens in this town, or my life for that matter, and we are always looking for newsy tidbits to fill up the paper.

Her: Well, the story NEVER F--ing happened.

Me: Well, it did. I was there. You were there. But I didn't even mention your name--or the dog's name for that matter.

Her: FOR GOD'S SAKE! The whole town knows you. They know where you live, so they would figure it out, you dumb...

Me: Oh! Well, I do apologize. You see, I never did complete my degree from journalism school and...

Somehow I got her to calm down and she left the alley without breaking my fingers. I went back into the office. My phone was ringing.

It was my towel-snapping husband calling from the restaurant where he worked. He was gasping. "I just got a phone call that Jamie has been calling people all over town. One or two, or maybe a whole bunch of them, came in the restaurant today, and said she was coming after you!"

"It's too late. She already did."

"Are you OK?"

"Yep, for a sweet-faced girl with those adorable cheeks ya just want to squeeze, she curses like a sailor and threatened to kill me."

I didn't tell Jamie, that at heart I am a chicken. But the next week, column deadline rolled around and for some reason I could NOT think of a thing to write about. Then I got to thinking that Jamie really had a lot of nerve thinking she could threaten my fingers and the freedom of the press. After all, if one lives in a Podunk town, just about everything more exciting than the farm report will end up in the paper.

I wrote another column--no, not about corrupt politicians, but errant pooches and unfortunate towel placement. After the column was published outlining her thuggish tendencies, we never heard from her again.

Barely out of my teens myself, I learned that the pen is indeed mightier than the sword. And that a man's voice and a snapping towel are indeed mightier than two girls screaming.

Right after the girl ran out of our apartment, my husband, red-faced and mortified, commented that now this girl--a virtual stranger was only the third person to see him naked, besides his mother and me.

I had news for him--make that only two people. I close my eyes.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Florence, Colorado: Welcome To My Mayberry-- Pack Rats

Welcome To My Mayberry

                                                                       The Rural Life

Apparently only about three out of ten Americans know what it is like to live in a rural area or a small town. I am one of those people.

I've lived in areas of all sizes, from the New York area to a small town in California. By choice, I now live in another small town--this time more in the geographical center of the United States.

Welcome to my Mayberry. The stories are true, but all names and certain details have been changed to protect privacy.

We used to live in a small town in California and I used to complain that everyone knew everyone's business. It was my goal to get to a bigger city, which we did. And as maturity set in, my goal was to get to a smaller town where most everyone knows everyone's business and watches everyone's backs.

My Mayberry is quaint. There are 1800's buildings lining the small main street and many antique shops and art galleries. But the town is not touristy, even though perhaps it wishes it was.

I occasionally work at one of the town's many antique shops. That sounds rather dull. And sometimes it is. But usually it is not.

In my Mayberry most everyone knows everyone. In the real Mayberry, of TV fame, Mayberry had it's dark side. There was Otis the drunk. And rebel hillbillies. And con men.

Why did we move to our Mayberry? Lower real estate prices. And lower crime.

In many small towns, the weekly newspaper runs the police blotter. This week there was a report of an unknown robber stealing a bag of donuts, for the second time, from a convenience store.

There is something about donuts and small towns. I once read of a female police officer, also in a small town, who got the heck beat out of here by an elderly woman who was angry that the store was out of her favorite jelly donuts.

There are no doughnut shops in my Mayberry--so local law enforcement is safe. Perhaps one doesn't really know what goes on in a small town until one is sitting on the main street. In my last Mayberry, many years ago, my job involved being all about town. This time, my job involves sitting in a staid antique store.

I can't go looking for action, it comes to me.

Local stories have it that my Mayberry was a ghost town of sorts about 20 years ago. Abandoned buildings lining the main street. When the sun would start to set, travelers down main street would see lines of snakes leave the cooler side of the street to go to the warmer side.

The snakes are mostly gone. But now there pests of another kind invading the town.

Every antique store I've ever worked in, or was a customer at, attempted to present a decent facade. Soft music. Tasteful arrangements. Even if the store was dusty and piled with junk and some treasure, there was a certain gentility.

Now, in my Mayberry there are those types of stores. But unfortunately the stores or antique malls I work in or have my merchandise in, lacks a certain gentility.

The other day I went in to stock my booth and discovered that all my bouquets of dried flowers, harvested from my own yard, had been ripped to shreds. At first I thought it was human caused. But when I took the bouquets home to repair them, I noticed many had been chewed.

When I went back a few days later, I saw the real evidence. Poop. Big poop. In piles all over my booth. The size of the poop, mouse-shaped, was so big that I couldn't imagine there would be rats that big outside of New York City.

The booth next to me had baskets of dried corn that was shucked and piles and piles of poop.

So, I went to the store where I work to tell my co-worker, who also has items at Poop Antique Mall, about my discovery.

But Ruby was too excited about all the excitement at our antique store, which I will call, Brand X Antiques.

One of her friends, a male in his sixties, was visiting at the store. That's way it is in our Mayberry. People drop by to visit and stay for hours. Her friend, Len, let out a bloodcurdling scream. I believe it was akin to a schoolgirl howling, Ruby said.

Ruby went running to see what could make a grown man shriek like a schoolgirl watching a horror movie.

Now Ruby is a  woman who has been around the block a few times. But sometimes those type of folks are pretty soft underneath with hearts as big as, well, as big as a New York City rat.

She followed Len's screams and came to a screeching halt at a $200 waist-high  glass vase, circa 1960's. The vase is hideous in my opinion and is about three-feet tall. But the vase was even more hideous when she followed Len's finger, pointing to the inside of the floor vase.

Now, I am no expert on rodents. But Ruby noted there was a "pack rat" in this grotesque vase. He apparently was close to a foot long. Now, if I had heard her story a few hours earlier, I would have written it off to exaggeration. But I had seen the ginormous size of the poop at Poop Antique Mall.

I'm no expert on rodents, but I thought it was hilarious since most people in the antique trade are pack rats and, ahem, hoarders.  What kind of mouse or rat could be trapped in an antiques store other than a pack rat?

I'm pretty sure Ruby could take any man down in a bar fight, but she got on the horn to the local Humane Society.

The Humane Society was not interested in coming over and dealing with a rat.

So, Ruby called one of those rid a critter outfits and they said they wouldn't come over unless it was something like a raccoon that was causing a problem.

Hmmm. Where I grew up, there was an expression: " Welcome as a turd in a punch-bowl."

It seems to me that a rat in a $200 vase in an antique shop would be even less welcome that a turd in a punch-bowl or piles of poop and corn and shredded flowers in a classy antique display.

Ruby didn't think to call the police. But I am sure the police were busy trying to find the doughnut bandit. Perhaps the doughnut bandit was really a pack of pack rats that are plaguing our classy Mayberry.

So, Ruby's tale of woe didn't make it to the newspaper's police blotter. You'll only read about things like this in My Mayberry.

Ruby did the next logical thing. She ran to the antique store next door and told the owner. It so happens the owner's grandson was there. He was very excited to be given the job of "humane pack rat relocation."

But the grandson, age 13 or so, was in no hurry, to free the pack rat from his hideous retro glass prison. He made Ruby wait until his friend arrived at the shop for the excitement. So, the two boys, carried a bizarre three-foot glass vase several blocks to the railroad tracks and set the grateful rat free.

Ruby paid them a small fee for their services, which delighted them. But I have it on good authority, that would have done it for free. You see, teen-age boys love stuff like that.

So, next time you go into an antique store and purchase a  mid-century modern vase for $200--make you sure you wash it out. You never know what might have been in there.

Mayberry Dweller--USA

photo courtesy of