The Long Wreck

it looked something like this

On the way home from Knoxville today we encountered a wreck that had traffic backed up for 6 miles.  At that point in time.  I’m sure that distance stretched out as the minutes passed and more traffic flowed up from behind.

One of those informational signs read,

“Left lanes blocked after 640 exit, merge right.”

Did anyone merge?  A few of us did.

Far too many camped out in the left lane (because it was moving faster than the right lane) until they bumped into the flashing blue, red, and yellow lights, THEN they were in an all-fired rush to be let in by the lanes to the right of them.

I let several in ahead of me while we were back in the “Merge Now” area. Afterward I became a real jerk about it.  I do get SO aggravated by self-important people who want to race up to the front of a line that is obviously forming, then force their way in ahead of everyone else.

When we finally got up there 3 lanes of traffic were mooshed over onto the shoulder because a half-dozen fire trucks, a couple patrol cars, some kind of blockade vehicle with lots of flashing lights on it, and two wreckers were trying to clean up a big truck: Ford Excursion I think, that had been pulling a large box trailer.  The truck had obviously rolled over at least once – probably more.  The trailer was on its side 30 feet or so further down the road from the truck.  The firemen were using shovels to scoop up bits of glass, plastic, and metal and toss them back into the truck, turning it into a dumpster.  Which was about all it was good for now.

Once we were past the wreck and the road was wide and clear again, many people stomped the pedal and went immediately to Ludicrous Speed.  I just stayed over in the right-hand lane and poked along at 70 MPH  La, De Dah, De Dum, I’m just a little turtle, pay me no mind.


The Imposter

Last Thursday I noticed a piece of heavy black plastic hanging down from under the siding along the back of our house. Just 6 or 7 inches long and maybe 2-3 inches at the widest, like it fell or was pushed out from under the siding. “What the heck,” I said to myself, and pushed the plastic back up under the siding. Maybe it was mice. I’d better toss some bait in the crawl space this week.

On Saturday I was walking along with a dog on a leash and this brown head pops out from under the siding and peers at me: Oval, 1¼” long, color of milk chocolate, soul-less black eyes, flicking a forked tongue.

“What the hay fork is this?” I yelled. We stood there staring at one another for a few moments, me trying to decide if I should grab the thing and yank it out of there. Not knowing what it is, that might end badly. Before I could decide, it ducked back up under the siding.

I slept fitfully last night, envisioning going out at 4:30 to turn on the coffee maker, in the dark, and stepping on a snake. I mean, if mice can get into the house around the plumbing through the floor (and they do occasionally) so could a snake. And I don’t have any snake poison to deal with that possibility.

As I finished up with the mid-day dog play session and Sarah Sue Tinyshep and I were heading for the back door, a snake was crawling down from that spot in the back of the house. About 4 feet long. It flumped onto the ground and it had the familiar two-tone pattern of a copperhead. I hurriedly took Sarah out of the way and confined her. I grabbed the poop scraper I use in the kennels – which is not as long as I’d like and not nearly sturdy as something like a shovel, but it was all I had on hand. By this time it was trying to crawl back up the foundation.

snake climbing a wall
Not my snake, not my wall, but you get the idea.

It amazes me how well snakes can grab onto stone, brick, stucco, with their belly plates and climb a vertical surface.

I nailed it just behind the head with my pooper scraper and pushed as hard as I dared without buckling the light weight handle.

A mighty battle ensued.

As it struggled, it was opening it’s mouth and I could clearly see the lack of fangs.

Chocolate colored head not copper, and oval not triangular. No fangs.

This is some sort of imposter snake. Maybe a corn snake, although they are more reddish than this. A yellow bellied king snake looks similar to a copperhead too.

It was still struggling, wrapping itself around my scraper blade trying to … well, I don’t know what it was trying to do. But I decided to use the scraper as a trebuchet and launched it about 50 feet up into the woods. Maybe it will survive. If it does, hopefully it will go hunting elsewhere. If it doesn’t — well, it should not have come slithering around my home in its copperhead pajamas, pretending to imperil me, my wife, our dogs.

It was probably eating mice that were staging for an assault on our home (it IS fall, they do that as winter comes on), so I feel kinda bad about that. But … stepping on a snake in the dark. Nah, not taking that chance.

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?”
“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.

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.

Drinking Coffee Through a Straw

Yesterday I was treated to a new experience. I tried flying. Unfortunately I had no wings and the landing was poor. Let me explain…

Luna the Large Lab

We have a foster dog named Luna, who is a Black Lab-Great Dane mix.  She’s almost 70 pounds now (will be 80 to 85 at proper body weight) and quite strong.  I’ve been taking Luna out of the yard and along the edges of the woods to cater to her “need” to potty in the underbrush. Someone (probably someone with children) has trained her not to defile the family play yard.  But the increasing number of Feral cats around here has made that problematic because her need to chase cats has smashed me into more than one tree as she takes off suddenly after spotting a fur-blur in the woods.

She spent Friday in her kennel because every time I took her out to potty she got distracted by tracking a cat and forgot why we were out there. Having done nothing towards emptying out made her dangerous to take in the house. Although she did nothing in her kennel, either: this girl can really hold it!  But she had to be getting uncomfortable.

Saturday I resolved that we would stay in the yard and she would learn to use that, like all the other dogs. Late in the morning I had her out on her 20 foot lead – believing that if I wasn’t hovering over her on a 6 foot lead, she’d be more likely to avail herself of the grass. We walked around and around the yard with no results. At one point we were standing on the walkway beside the house, looking out over the play yard and the other dogs playing in the yard.  Something (probably one of those Feral cats) aroused the attentions of the other dogs and they went charging across the yard to investigate.

Luna decided to join them.

Had I had her on a 6’ lead I’d probably have been able to stop that charge with nothing more than a painful jerk to my arm. But because she was on a 20 foot lead and I was unprepared, she hit the ground running and had both traction and momentum on her side. She jerked me clean off the walkway, I went heels over head crashing to the slope below the walkway, landing on my right shoulder and the back of my neck. I did at least one complete rolling somersault down that slope before thinking to flatten out to stop that roll. Had I not thought to do that I might have continued rolling down the slope like an old tire.  I came to rest flat on my back about 25 feet from my starting position, Luna still trying to tow me out into the yard.

I laid there for a few moments, unable to move at first, then slowly, carefully wiggled things to be sure all the parts were still connected and nothing was broken. There was a good deal of pain, but everything seemed to be in working order, so I slowly got to my feet and put Luna in her kennel.

My right shoulder and neck hurt A LOT, and continued to do so that whole day. In fact I could not move the shoulder of my coffee drinking arm at all without intense pain. Everything I did the rest of the day was done via elbow and wrist alone.

Normally day two and day three of an injury are actually MORE painful than day one, so I was not looking forward to Sunday. But, probably because I launched into an aggressive campaign of anti-inflammatory pain killers immediately after the injury, I’m actually feeling better this morning. I am able to get my arm up on my desk to type, at least. So I think I’m going to be okay. And I am really grateful that I didn’t land any more on my neck than I did, because that could have resulted in life altering injury. They say God watches over saints and fools, so “Thank you God for watching out for this old fool.”

Oh, and Luna and I wandered the yard (on a SHORT lead) for a looong time last night, with her going from gate, to gate, to gate, until she finally relented and “did her business” in the yard. There is hope I’ll get that penchant worked out of her yet.

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My truck died this evening.

dead truckIt’s been running fine. At least it has since the last time I had it towed in and repaired.  That’s been a few weeks.  I moved it so I could mow the driveway (yes, I mow my driveway) and when I went to move it back it started up, started to move then went completely dead. I mean big blue rock dead. Nothing at all, not even an idiot light lit up.

To make this short(ish) I fixed it. But what I found to be wrong is SO bizarre I have no idea how it got that way and was running at all.

It is running now. I told my boss that I do plan to be at work tomorrow after all. But if I don’t make it, check for reports of alien spacecraft sightings! Continue reading “Weirdness”

Tale of the Toolbox

Last week there was a fence/gate repair job that needed doing at work.  A co-worker, Bobby, and I were asked to take a look at it and see what we could do.  The boss had some parts that might help.  They even had a toolbox … of sorts.

Bobby had recently been assigned the task of cleaning out several junk drawers, finding all the tools and putting them into a donated toolbox, sorting through the rest: toss the detritus and sort the usable “stuff” into big plastic bags by category.  So our task now was  simpler.

However, the toolbox consisted of 3 hammers, a half-dozen badly abused screw drivers, and a pair of pliers.  We decided to bring tools from home and do the job the next day.  Bobby wasn’t there the next day, so I accomplished the job with the tools I brought.  All I was missing was a set of deep sockets (which I didn’t have but Bobby did) and a ratchet.  But I did the job with a crescent wrench.  The sockets do the job faster and with fewer bloody smears on the fencing, but a crescent wrench will do in a pinch.

I wanted to double the hinge at the top of the gate (which is at least 8 feet wide, maybe more) to keep it from twisting the hinge again.  I lacked one part and a couple of bolts to do that.  I picked up the hardware on my day off.  I also decided to assemble a usable toolbox.

My Toolbox History

Continue reading “Tale of the Toolbox”

Adventures in Dentistry

Another article from my moldy-oldies file, but when originally published folks did find it entertaining, so I’ll pop in in here.

Yesterday I renewed a relationship that has for many (many) years been neglected.  No, not neglected: avoided;  stringently and purposefully avoided.  I made a trip to a dentist.

You see when I was a wee lad, long (long) ago, my parents would take me to the dentist every year for a check-up.  And it seems he would always find a cavity or two to drill out and fill.  Early on they used Novocain and I don’t remember it as being particularly torturous – not fun by any means, but not like being stripped naked, covered with honey and tossed into a fire ant hill. Continue reading “Adventures in Dentistry”