High(way) Husky Adventure

About 10:00 last night Marie and I were traveling west along I-40 taking a pair of Huskies to meet their transport to NJ when the truck’s engine died.  Timing chain (belt) broke, I think, but I’ll leave that to the professionals at Eastport Exxon to figure out.  With cloudy skies it was really dark out there, a Thursday night: heaviest night of the week for semi traffic, which were whooshing by just feet away from us, rocking our truck with each pass.  The Huskies were scared and screaming their heads off.  If you’ve been around Huskies you know what I mean.  It’s a Husky thing.

What do we do now?

Marie started praying.  Always a good place to start.

I called the Cocke County Sheriff’s Department.  Although they were short handed and quite busy, a Sheriff’s car came up behind us to run flashing lights so no semis smashed us.  Deputies Alex and Heath turned out to be dog lovers and were not gruff with us at all for asking for their help.  In fact I think they enjoyed getting to see the inside of a rescue transport vehicle set up so animals can be taken in and out easily yet ride securely.

That transport, which we were supposed to be meeting at a truck stop on I-81, came to us (which meant going on to Newport, turning around and coming back to where we were) and we transferred the dogs.

The driver of this transport, Melinda, was having a horrendous night before I complicated it further.   Before she got to Nashville a tractor-trailer truck went off the road and burned, closing I-40 for an hour and a half while crews got that put out and cleaned up.  Then she hit another traffic snag in Nashville, so the rendezvous that was planned for 8:30 pm got shoved back to 10:30.  There was another wreck that slowed traffic after she left here and headed north, so it was a rough run for her.  We work with a couple of other transport services, and I’m not sure they’d have been so accommodating if all this had happened to them.  So, Thank you Melinda!

Hartford Towing sent a rollback right out there to snatch our truck from the roadside.  And Tim Holt came out, even as late as it was, to give us a ride home.  All coordinated perfectly (thank you God) so the rollback did not show up before Melinda got there, which would have left us standing alongside the Interstate with Huskies on leashes in the dark, being buffeted by tractor-trailer wakes.

Huskies in NJ
Adam and Cyrus: bewildered, but safe

Our truck is out of commission until it’s repaired, which might be a couple of weeks: they’re backed up too and I didn’t think to schedule this event ahead of time.  But no one was hurt, the dogs got where they were going, we met a couple of nice Deputies, and … it WASN’T raining!

Almost A Wonderful Story

Marie and I were at the Wags-to-Wiggles store (over towards Gatlinburg) for our weekly check-in.  A vehicle pulled up out front and a young woman in a bathing suit got out, ran in, and said; “Can you help us, PLEASE?”
The short version is: they found a parakeet wandering the parking lot at a McDonald’s in Gatlinburg, it is very friendly and obviously someone’s pet.  They called the local Police, Animal Control, Sevier County’s animal shelter, all said they could not help.  These folks were from Georgia, here on vacation, and on their way to go white water rafting.  They can’t keep the bird and don’t know how to help find it’s owner.
Gwen, the store manager, gave us a wicker picnic basket from store stock to put the cute lil feller in.
She also called Stacy, the Manager at the Friends Animal Shelter in Newport, to see if she could take it.  Stacy asked, “Is it orange and green?”
“Yes!”
“I have a lost bird report on him.  His name is Arty.  His owner’s number is …”
“Gwen called the owner.  She lives in West Tennessee and lost Arty 17 days ago while on vacation in Gatlinburg.  She put up fliers, and notified shelters, but had to go back home.  She was coming back out next Monday to search some more.  She has a good friend who lives in Newport who can care for him until she arrives.
We’re all boggling!  What are the odds?
So Marie and I took the bird-in-a-basket back to Newport and into the shelter where The Friend was to meet us.  We were especially careful to not let “Arty” out of the basket because there are several shelter cats who wander the halls and sleep on beds or chairs.  Supposedly they are on vermin patrol, but I never see them hunting.  I think they’re scamming the shelter.
When the friend showed up she was ecstatic that Arty had been found, but asked to see him before she took the basket.  She peeked inside, “Oh … that is NOT Arty.  That’s a parakeet.”
“Yeah …”
“Arty is more of a parrot – much bigger.”
We all glared at Stacy.  “What?  I didn’t know?  We don’t even DO birds here, I put up the flier as a courtesy.”
The friend left to give Arty’s mom the bad news.  A shelter volunteer set Not-arty up in a cat carrier with some water and bird seed (the finders bought him a small bag of seed) and Stacy began calling people who might have birds, or know someone who has birds, or might want to have a bird.
Turns out Stacy hates birds … ever since she watched Hitchcock’s The Birds, she’s had a deep fear of birds and wants nothing to do with them.
Well … it was almost a wonderful story to tell.

When Frustrations Rise

I’m grumpy this morning.  My body hurts all over.  Sinuses are running and the decongestant I took is making me sleepy.  I’m on my 3rd mug of coffee.  If it’s helping, it’s not enough.

NOT Wilton Springs Hdwr, but similar.

I went to fill a propane tank yesterday, so I could keep Scout and Camden warmer at night. It’s supposed to be down in the 20’s at night all week.  I took an empty tank to Wilton Springs Hardware, went inside to let them know what I needed. They made me prepay. That’s new, but understandable. The way things are laid out, it would be easy for someone to just drive off without going back in to pay.

Paul hooked the tank up to their pump and turned it on. The rolly-gauge thing did not roll up. To save time in the telling of this story: he tried a variety of things, including turning the tank upside down and banging it on the concrete, but each time the read-out stayed on zero.

“The valve in your tank is jammed, I can’t get gas to go in.”

This was the first time this winter that I’d tried to fill this particular tank, so it’s possible it corroded. I have several, so I went to get another tank.

I returned with a tank that was not quite empty. Paul was busy helping a customer in the store so a tall, young fellow (Justin, I think they called him) came out to help me, and we got a repeat performance.

I seriously doubted that this tank was bad because I had been using it before I put the last freshly-filled tank on the furnace. Gas flowed through that valve just fine. But … if they can’t get gas to go into it … they can’t.  Another fellow drove up to have a tank filled.

I loaded mine up to go get a refund. I was thinking I’d drive out to JCCUD and see if they could fill the tank. That’s way out the other side of Newport, but I need propane to keep the doggos warm in this cold.

While I was working on loading and strapping-in, this other fellows tank was pronounced “bad”. Three tanks in a row, just like that? No way! The other fellow agreed, said there was nothing wrong with his tank.  The owner came out and checked the pump and the hose. The pump was producing pressure and he could send a plume of propane out the end of the nozzle. Not clogged. He stood there scratching his head as I drove back over to get my refund.

While I was inside doing that the young fellow came running over, snatched the 40 pound cylinder (which weighs more than 40 pounds, especially when it still contains some propane) out of my truck and ran off with it. Mitch, the owner, came in and explained that the cogs on the meter wheel were stripped. The wheels don’t roll, but gas is flowing and they can go by weight instead of gallons.

The cashier quickly aborted my refund.

So I drove back over to the filling station and backed in again. The strong young fella hoisted the now full tank up into the back of my truck for me and I strapped it in, then drove back over to the main building. They still owed me money because I paid for a full 40 pounds and there was a little less than 1/4 tank still in this one before the fill-up. So they calculated it out and gave me back the difference.

I left a little frustrated by the wasted time: I had several other errands to run that morning and needed to be back home by 1:00 to connect with Marie. As it turned out, I made it.  But only because the other stops went exceptionally well.  I’d say God was smoothing the path for me.  So I’m glad I didn’t grouse at anyone about the issues. I remained pleasant and cordial, even though I really wanted to choke someone. But it all worked out and Da Boyz were warm last night. And now we all know that when the wheels don’t roll, look at the scale to see if the tank is getting heavier.

Before I started typing this I went to get another mug of coffee. I just picked it up off the mug warmer to take a swig and … it’s EMPTY!

“Alright, which one of you dogs snuck in here while I was typing and drank my coffee?”

White Oak Lumber for Canine Comfort

900+ B.F. of white oak lumber

We have @ 900 Board Feet of rough, flat sawn white oak lumber for sale.

  • 8 and 10 foot lengths,
  • various widths,
  • mostly 5/4,
  • some 9/4.
  • Sticker-stacked indoors and air dried since Dec 2007.

The hardwood Store: https://www.wood-database.com/white-oak/ lists rough, white oak, in 300+BF quantities as $3.45/B.F. I’ll take $1,800.00 for the whole stack. That’s about $2.00 per B.F.  Can you pass up that bargain?

The building this lumber is in is being converted to a dog kennel for Piney Mountain Foster Care. We need the space to build kennels, and all of the money will go toward materials for those kennels.

If you need some good white oak, give Doug a yell: Doug@PineyMountainFoster.org

Head Games

I’m getting into playing games.  Not board games, not even computer games, but head games … with telemarketers.

I have been using the technique of just not answering the phone if I don’t recognize the number.  That’s fine as long as no one you don’t know is likely to be calling you, but recently I’ve been on the other side of that fence and have had to answer calls that were potentially important.  And, there is the fact that a no answer just seems to keep me in their dialing queue so they just keep calling for ever and ever.  So I decided to take them on and see if I couldn’t get them to take me out of their listing because they know it’s a waste of time calling this number.

Last night was a fella selling burial insurance.  He had a fancier name for it but that’s what it was, and we chatted a for a bit about the high cost of a funeral and internment.  Then he asked me how old I am.

“147 years old, and I never felt better”

He said some angry things in what sounded like Russian and hung up.

This evening it was a fella named Tom from GE Home Security Systems.  He talked about what a dangerous place the world has become and asked if I was concerned about my home’s security.

“No, not at all.”
“No?  Why is that?”
“I have eight large pit bulls living with me.”

He hung up.

I’m starting to like this.  I’ll keep track of who calls and see if they call back.  If not, I’ll just keep on with this program.  It’s kinda fun.

No Left Turns

This is a wonderful piece by Michael Gartner, editor of newspapers large and small and once president of NBC News.  In 1997, he won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing.  It is well worth reading, and a few good chuckles are guaranteed.  Here goes…

My father never drove a car. Well, that’s not quite right. I should say I never saw him drive a car.  He quit driving in 1927, when he was 25 years old, and the last car he drove was a 1926 Whippet.

“In those days,” he told me when he was in his 90s, “to drive a car you had to do things with your hands, and do things with your feet, and look every which way, and I decided you could walk through life and enjoy it or drive through life and miss it.”

At which point my mother, a sometimes salty Irishwoman, chimed in:
“Oh, bull—-!” she said. “He hit a horse.”

“Well,” my father said, “there was that, too.”

So my brother and I grew up in a household without a car. The neighbors all had cars — the Kollingses next door had a green 1941Dodge, the VanLaninghams across the street a gray 1936 Plymouth, the Hopsons two doors down a black 1941 Ford — but we had none.

My father, a newspaperman in Des Moines , would take the streetcar to work and, often as not, walk the 3 miles home. If he took the streetcar home, my mother and brother and I would walk the three blocks to the streetcar stop, meet him and walk home together.

My brother, David, was born in 1935, and I was born in 1938, and sometimes, at dinner, we’d ask how come all the neighbors had cars but we had none. “No one in the family drives,” my mother would explain, and that was that.

But, sometimes, my father would say, “But as soon as one of you boys turns 16, we’ll get one.” It was as if he wasn’t sure which one of us would turn 16 first.

But, sure enough , my brother turned 16 before I did, so in 1951 my parents bought a used 1950 Chevrolet from a friend who ran the parts department at a Chevy dealership downtown.

It was a four-door, white model, stick shift, fender skirts, loaded with everything, and, since my parents didn’t drive, it more or less became my brother’s car.

Having a car but not being able to drive didn’t bother my father, but it didn’t make sense to my mother.

So in 1952, when she was 43 years old, she asked a friend to teach her to drive. She learned in a nearby cemetery, the place where I learned to drive the following year and where, a generation later, I took my two sons to practice driving. The cemetery probably was my father’s idea. “Who can your mother hurt in the cemetery?” I remember him saying more than once.

For the next 45 years or so, until she was 90, my mother was the driver in the family.. Neither she nor my father had any sense of direction, but he loaded up on maps — though they seldom left the city limits — and appointed himself navigator. It seemed to work.

Still, they both continued to walk a lot. My mother was a devout Catholic, and my father an equally devout agnostic, an arrangement that didn’t seem to bother either of them through their 75 years of marriage.

(Yes, 75 years, and they were deeply in love the entire time.)

He retired when he was 70, and nearly every morning for the next 20 years or so, he would walk with her the mile to St. Augustin’s Church.
She would walk down and sit in the front pew, and he would wait in the back until he saw which of the parish’s two priests was on duty that morning. If it was the pastor, my father then would go out and take a 2-mile walk, meeting my mother at the end of the service and walking her home.

If it was the assistant pastor, he’d take just a 1-mile walk and then head back to the church. He called the priests “Father Fast” and “Father Slow.”

After he retired, my father almost always accompanied my mother whenever she drove anywhere, even if he had no reason to go along. If she were going to the beauty parlor, he’d sit in the car and read, or go take a stroll or, if it was summer, have her keep the engine running so he could listen to the Cubs game on the radio. In the evening, then, when I’d stop by, he’d explain: “The Cubs lost again. The millionaire on second base made a bad throw to the millionaire on first base, so the multimillionaire on third base scored.”

If she were going to the grocery store, he would go along to carry the bags out — and to make sure she loaded up on ice cream. As I said, he was always the navigator, and once, when he was 95 and she was 88 and still driving, he said to me, “Do you want to know the secret of a long life?”

“I guess so,” I said, knowing it probably would be something bizarre.

“No left turns,” he said.

“What?” I asked.

“No left turns,” he repeated. “Several years ago, your mother and I read an article that said most accidents that old people are in happen when they turn left in front of oncoming traffic.

As you get older, your eyesight worsens, and you can lose your depth perception, it said. So your mother and I decided never again to make a left turn.”

“What?” I said again.

“No left turns,” he said. “Think about it. Three rights are the same as a left, and that’s a lot safer. So we always make three rights.”

“You’re kidding!” I said, and I turned to my mother for support.
“No,” she said, “your father is right. We make three rights. It works.”
But then she added: “Except when your father loses count.”

I was driving at the time, and I almost drove off the road as I started laughing.

“Loses count?” I asked.

“Yes,” my father admitted, “that sometimes happens. But it’s not a problem. You just make seven rights, and you’re okay again.”

I couldn’t resist. “Do you ever go for 11?” I asked.

“No,” he said ” If we miss it at seven, we just come home and call it a bad day. Besides, nothing in life is so important it can’t be put off another day or another week.”
My mother was never in an accident, but one evening she handed me her car keys and said she had decided to quit driving. That was in 1999, when she was 90.

She lived four more years, until 2003. My father died the next year, at 102.

They both died in the bungalow they had moved into in 1937 and bought a few years later for $3,000. (Sixty years later, my brother and I paid $8,000 to have a shower put in the tiny bathroom — the house had never had one. My father would have died then and there if he knew the shower cost nearly three times what he paid for the house.)

He continued to walk daily — he had me get him a treadmill when he was 101 because he was afraid he’d fall on the icy sidewalks but wanted to keep exercising — and he was of sound mind and sound body until the moment he died.

One September afternoon in 2004, he and my son went with me when I had to give a talk in a neighboring town, and it was clear to all three of us that he was wearing out, though we had the usual wide-ranging conversation about politics and newspapers and things in the news.

A few weeks earlier, he had told my son, “You know, Mike, the first hundred years are a lot easier than the second hundred.” At one point in our drive that Saturday, he said, “You know, I’m probably not going to live much longer.”

“You’re probably right,” I said.

“Why would you say that?” He countered, somewhat irritated.

“Because you’re 102 years old,” I said..

“Yes,” he said, “you’re right.” He stayed in bed all the next day.

That night, I suggested to my son and daughter that we sit up with him through the night.

He appreciated it, he said, though at one point, apparently seeing us look gloomy, he said:
“I would like to make an announcement. No one in this room is dead yet”

An hour or so later, he spoke his last words:

“I want you to know,” he said, clearly and lucidly, “that I am in no pain. I am very comfortable. And I have had as happy a life as anyone on this earth could ever have..”

A short time later, he died.

I miss him a lot, and I think about him a lot. I’ve wondered now and then how it was that my family and I were so lucky that he lived so long.

I can’t figure out if it was because he walked through life,
Or because he quit taking left turns. ”

Life is too short to wake up with regrets. So love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one’s who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason. If you get a chance,take it & if it changes your life, let it. Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would most likely be worth it.”

ENJOY LIFE NOW – IT HAS AN EXPIRATION DATE!

Note To My Fellow Dinosaurs

I was at my veterinarian’s office and I quipped that if they were an airline I’d be getting frequent flier miles as often as I find myself going in there.  The lady behind the desk said, “We have a rewards program.  You need to be on it, it will save you a lot of money.  Just go to our website and download it.”

I went looking for Cedarwood Veterinary Hospital’s rewards program.  I found it and was sent to the PetDesk web site where I found:
.      What devices does the app work on?
.             PetDesk is available on IOS and Android devices (Mobile or Tablet).

Not available for a Windows laptop.  Rats!  I felt like lodging a complaint for discriminating against us dinosaurs who don’t have a smart phone.  I decided instead to gripe about it to my best bud: Electro-Man Mike.

Mike is a retired network engineer who knows computers, networks, and security stuff inside and out.   Mike told me that Android emulators are available to run Android aps on a windows machine.  He even gave me a link to a web page that listed and reviewed a fair number of them.  I went with BlueStacks, the top rated emulator.  Top rated and free … can’t beat that!

I installed BlueStacks, booted it up, went to the Google store from within the emulator, located the PetDesk ap, and installed that.  When I booted up PetDesk it asked for a small amount of information and WHALA: my veterinary records were sitting there in front of me.  It was kind of spooky how easy that was.

So if you encounter any other of us dinosaurs who don’t have a smart phone but want to use one or more aps made for an Android phone, tell them to Google “BlueStacks Android Emulator”.  And try not to get stuck in a tar pit.

Mustang Memories

It’s funny the tracks our minds take sometimes.  I don’t normally sit around thinking about the Mustang automobile, but today is has been on my mind quite a bit.

It started with a discussion with artist Donna Gregg about the artwork she’s doing for the Dogwood Days event coming up in May.  That event is centered around a classic car show.  I sent Donna a picture of a 1953 Skylark to use in her drawing.  She asked if a ’65 Mustang would work — she learned to drive in her dad’s ’65 Mustang and  it has always had a special place in her heart.

That got me thinking about the 1964, ’65, and ’66 Mustangs.  And the article I wrote about the 1967 Mustang Wagon.   Then I remembered my most recent encounter with a Mustang.  It was late on a dark and chilly night, at a truck stop on the edge of nowhere.  And I was given the opportunity to help some people out of a pickle.

The Mustang’s Tale

Marie and I were to meet the HEARTS LLC animal transport truck at the Pilot truck stop on the edge of Bulls Gap Tennessee, about an hours drive from us, to put one of our foster dogs aboard for his ride to New Hampshire.

Their instructions said that we should arrive at the meeting place early in case they caught a tail wind and were running ahead of schedule.  They would wait at each stop no more than 10 minutes.  We left home a little extra early in case we encountered any problems along the way.  There were no problems and we arrived in time to watch a group of young men push their snazzy Ford Mustang up the road and into a parking spot at the McDonalds which serviced the truck stop.  The driver got out and they all went inside.  Tough way to go out for a burger!

We were still waiting when these guys came back out.  They stood leaning on the car, one of those modern-retro Mustangs, talking and joking around.  I figured they were waiting for someone to come with a gas can or something.

After a little while one of the fellas approached our truck, I rolled the window down, and he politely asked if I had a set of jumper cables.  Pah!  Do I?  I always carry jumpers, a tow chain, flash light, small gas can, basic tool kit … I’m old school.

“I sure do.”

“Do you think you could give us a jump?  Our battery died.”

I checked my watch, we still had about ten minutes before the time the transport was expected, “Yes, I have time for that.”

So as I backed the truck out, they pushed the car across the drive so it was nose-out in a parking spot and I sidled up in front.  I got out a flash light, we hooked up the cables, and they gave it a try.  No go.  That battery wasn’t just dead, it was necrotic.

I revved up my engine a little, they waited for a couple of minutes and tried it again.  Their engine turned over a few times then caught and a throaty growl burst forth as the engine flared to life.  A cheer went up!

We cleared away the cables, buttoned up the hoods and I got out of their way.  They wasted no time getting on the road home.  Probably a wise move.

That transport truck never did arrive.  They’d had a flat tire and sent someone in a car out to retrieve their passenger and bring him to them.  As it turned out, we were going to go right past the place they pulled off the interstate and could have met them there.  But we didn’t know that until she was already there to get Spartacus.

So it was a late night of multiple adventures that all turned out well … as long as those boys got home okay.

Years End

It is that time of year when folks tend to wax reflective: looking back over the past year and forming lists of accomplishments (or failures, depending on your mental set) reviewing lists of top movies, songs, memes, and popular people. Or most unpopular people, depending on your mental set.

I’ll not do that this year.  In years past I have catalogued successes and failures with the intent of using those to chart a course into the new year.  Forging out a plan of action to get me and my affairs where I want them to be by the end of the coming year.  But in truth, that doesn’t work.  Things change so fast that any course I set has to be kept general; sort of a “Let’s go over yonder”sort of thing.  Pick a direction, but don’t try to schedule ports of call and dates.  They won’t be there.  Keep the spyglass at hand to help see what lies ahead and keep to a general compass course, but be equally as prepared for storms as you are for smooth sailing.  Provision where you can.  Enjoy what ports of call offer.  Be vigilant for pirates.  But don’t get hung up on timing.

For the past seven years Marie and I have been involved in Canine Rescue.  Each year that effort has grown in size and complexity.  This year we built a new kennel building and took our mom-n-pop operation to a new level as a 501(c)(3) non-profit charity.  This was not easy.  It may be easy if you hire a lawyer who is familiar with the ins and outs of the process, but we couldn’t do that, that’s expensive.  I spent months researching the process, then taking it step by step, patiently and in the order they must be taken.  And in October of 2019 we were awarded 501(c)(3) Public Charity status by the IRS.  Not only that, but we also achieved tax free status with the state.  Not all non-profits do.  This allows us to buy supplies for Piney Mountain Foster Care without paying sales taxes.  In our location, that means saving almost 10% on our costs, right there.

As we go into the new year my biggest challenge is going to be remembering that I am no longer the commander of this ship.  I’m more of an engineer, tinkering away to keep the machinery working smoothly.  At the helm is a Board of Directors –good people all, people I know and trust.  But it is no longer just Marie and me bare boating it around the sea of life.

Together we have pointed the bow in a particular direction and together we will go, “over yonder”,  wherever that may end up being.  That is up to God: for He determines the wind and waves and has arranged the islands and continents that we will discover on our journey.

I will, as a rule, not be writing about Piney Mountain Foster Care here on Random Thoughts.  PMFC has its own web site and its own mailing list.  If you are interested in that, please pop over there to look around and sign up for the emails.  Thank you and may you enjoy clear sailing in the year ahead.

Assaulting A Battery

I was shopping for a replacement battery for my cell phone last night.  Not that my current battery is obviously bad: it holds a charge for 5 or 6 days easy, unless I use it a lot.  But every once in a while my phone just shuts off completely without so much as a by-yer-leave to me.  This is a problem because I’ve missed several calls from people I did want to talk to.  I don’t know it’s turned turtle unless I pull it out to check the time or something and find the screen blank.  No, I hardly ever make outgoing calls. Continue reading “Assaulting A Battery”