Monday, June 24, 2019

Oh, deer

Although we live in the suburbs, we live among all kinds of wildlife.

It’s a peaceful coexistence for the most part, and I have a fondness for most of the animals, except for squirrels (because they destroy my bird feeders; have gotten up in the engine of my truck and caused hundreds of dollars’ worth of damage; and got in our attic once); and the occasional snake (hate them all). And of course I’m not crazy about skunks for obvious reasons.

Last Friday we had an interesting incident with a deer. It was early afternoon and Wife had been out for a while. When she came in, I was working, and she beckoned me to come look out the window. There in the front yard, in a little crevice where the water meter is located, was a tiny fawn, obviously recently born, curled up in a little ball. I could hardly see him (or her, but I’ll use the masculine pronoun for consistency), but his little ears were barely sticking up above the grass.

We had witnessed something similar about 20 years ago when we lived in another house and a fawn much like this one was snuggled tightly up against a tree, in a little indentation at the roots.

When that happened, Wife called our local Animal Control office because we were concerned the fawn had been abandoned by its mother. The person to whom Wife spoke, however, told Wife that in almost all cases such as this, the mother placed the fawn there and will return for him later, usually within a day or so. We were instructed to not interfere.

Sure enough, within 24 hours the fawn was gone. The mother had obviously returned and herded her little one to a safer place.

With this situation a few days ago, we recalled the similar incident from long ago. We couldn’t stay away from the window, however, and later that afternoon we watched and held our breath as a band of turkeys practically did a dance around the little guy, but never directly approached him. He was obviously scared and a couple of times got up and wobbled a bit, only to hunker back down in his makeshift bed.

That night we had terrible storms here with heavy rains and high winds. We were out to eat and waited out the weather a bit in the restaurant. We wondered about our new yard tenant. When we pulled into our driveway about 9 p.m., we could see his ears still just above the grass.

Saturday morning I started on a walk at 6:30 and he was gone. Mom had returned.

I’m fascinated by nature and how animals function, even right here among we humans. (But I still detest squirrels and snakes).

Monday, June 10, 2019

On the road again

Those of you who have adult children have likely, sometime in your past, helped said child or children move.

Maybe it was the move from home to college. Maybe it was a move back home with you. Maybe it was simply a move from one location to another and you helped out of the goodness of your heart.

These moves often involve loading up a truck, a van or a car, or some combination thereof.

I’m just coming off one of those moves, this time with Younger Son.

He graduated from college four years ago. He stayed in Auburn, his college town, and worked that first year out and pretty much still did college-type housing. In August 2016 he took a job in South Bend, Indiana, writing for a publication that covers sports for the University of Notre Dame. A few weeks before he started, Wife went up there with him and helped him find a place to live.

As I recall, he had a fishing trip to Wyoming planned a few days before he started his job. So in true “What’s wrong with this picture?” fashion, Wife and I drove his pickup truck and another borrowed one to his new home and unloaded his belongings. Somewhere during those few days he flew into Chicago from his fishing trip and we picked him up there, then deposited him into his new place to start his new life.

That move wasn’t terrible. We took his clothes and a few furniture odds and ends from here, but he bought the bigger  items like a bed, sofa and desk after he got there.

Fast forward to just recently. Younger Son accepted a job with a marketing and public relations firm in Birmingham, AL about 2.5 hours south of here. We are thrilled he will be closer to us, and the job appears to be a good one for him. But of course this means another move.

I told him we were available to help, with some conditions, and he took us up on the offer. This time I was not interested in our going to move him while he went fishing. So my conditions were his being involved in all aspects of the move and getting the packing done before we arrived to help him load.

This past Friday morning Wife left to drive to South Bend in her car and I followed several hours later in a rented truck. I had reserved a cargo van, but the rental company called me on Wednesday and said they had overbooked, but they would let me have a truck for the same price. I told them this was not my preference as I didn’t relish driving all that way (about 1,000 miles round trip) in a big truck, and they said they would try their best to have a cargo van.

I don’t know how hard they tried, but a truck it was. When the guy helping me drove that mammoth vehicle from behind the rental agency building, I almost told him to forget it. I drove a 15-passenger van up and and down a mountain when I worked in Colorado many years ago, and I drove a small rented truck to my dad’s house in south Arkansas one time to get some furniture. But I had never driven anything this big.

I must say, however, that other than it not being very comfortable, driving it was not difficult. You have to depend on side mirrors to watch what’s behind you and you have to be constantly mindful of how much space you’re taking up on the road. But once I got used to it, I did OK.

Younger Son had done his part and was completely packed. He and I got everything loaded and we left him with an air mattress, a couple of sofa cushions and a TV. He’ll take care of a few last-minute things there and leave in a couple of days.

I drove the truck back here yesterday and I hired some young guys to unload it for me into our garage this morning (which I do not apologize for). Younger Son starts his job June 24 and still has to find a place to live, and may be doing something temporary at first, so he’s storing his stuff here in the interim.

The move from here to Birmingham will be on him and although I’m willing to help some, I expect him to show up here with a truck or instruct the movers he hires to do so.

He had a good run up in Indiana and he knew when he went there that it would not be a career-type job. Three years was a good stint and he got some valuable experience. He got to do some cool stuff and saw different parts of the country. Other than moving him in and out, we only visited once, going to a Notre Dame football game which was a lot of fun.

Now a new chapter begins. I’m advising him not to plan a fishing trip around move-in time.

A picture of the vehicle I drive is shown here. I must say I’m a bit proud of myself.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

A great trip

I am finally getting around to writing about our recent European vacation. It was as delightful as I expected it would be, maybe even more so.

I still don't care for air travel and on the way over, by the time we landed I felt like I was about to come out of my skin. We flew from here to Newark, and Newark to Milan. We can't afford to fly business class (which I think is what used to be called first class) where you can recline your seat, get all kinds of great food and drink, and essentially go to bed, but we forked over a few more dollars for "premium economy" which put us closer to the front of the plane and gave us a little more legroom. I think it helped a little.

On the return trip, I flew home from Vienna and Wife flew from Vienna to London where she met Younger Son and they spent a week in England and Ireland. They flew home together from Dublin to Chicago, where Wife caught a plane back to Nashville. My flight home, although longer (ten hours, vs about 7.5 for the flight over), was more tolerable. I did the premium economy thing again and was also on an exit row.

It certainly helps that the airlines have those little screens on the backs of the seats so you can watch movies or even some TV shows. It's just the confined space for such a long period of time that gets to me.

But here's the thing: the destination makes it all worth it. I told Wife I was going to have a better attitude about it next time, and I will.

From Milan, we took a train to the Cinque Terre, which is a group of five villages on the northern Italian coast and is a national park. It was simply charming and we loved our time there. From there we went to Venice, where we met our Arkansas friends. Venice has to be one of the most interesting cities I've ever visited. I knew it was on the water but I guess I had never understood that it is ON THE WATER and the only way to get anywhere while you are there is by foot or by boat. People who live there don't have cars. They have boats if they have anything at all.

From Venice we went to Florence, which Wife and I had visited in 2009 when we did our Mediterranean cruise. We had a beautiful Airbnb apartment just a couple of blocks from the Duomo, the beautiful cathedral there that is probably the main landmark of the city.

We left Florence on Good Friday and went to what would be my favorite part of the trip -- the Tuscan region of Italy. We stayed in a B&B owned by two American guys who lived in Arkansas for a number of years, one of whom our friend Mike, who we were traveling with, knew. They were incredible hosts and their place was lovely, as were the people in the little town where they live. We spent Easter weekend there and enjoyed seeing the quaint villages in their area.

We left them on a Monday morning (Easter Monday, a holiday in Italy) and went to Lake Como. There we had our only bad weather of the trip. It rained off and on most of the two days we were there, but we made the most of it. In fact, the low clouds over the lake and mountains created a unique kind of beauty in itself. Some of the best food we had was during this part of the trip.

We took a train back to Milan from Lake Como and parted company with our friends who we had been with for a week. They went south to Rome and the Amalfi Coast, while Wife and I went north to Austria.

Our first Austrian stop was Salzburg, where much of "The Sound of Music" was filmed, and on which Salzburg has definitely capitalized. We did a cheesy Sound of Music tour and loved every minute of it. After a couple of days in Salzburg we went to the tiny and beautiful village of Hallstatt, where we spent one night, and from Hallstatt we went to Vienna and I flew home from there.

I came home on Day 16, but Wife extended another week to fully celebrate her recent retirement.

Our main mode of transportation, which I described in my column I linked in my last post, were the trains. While not intuitive, we eventually figured them out and we had a lot of fun on them.

I have not even scratched the surface of the things we did, but as I said earlier, it was even better than I expected. I loved the beauty and I loved meeting people -- both locals and fellow travelers. I enjoyed the food and drink. As I wrote in my column, the wine was so light and festive, I could let it get out of hand before I knew it (but I didn't, most of the time). The beer wasn't bad either.

I am again indebted again to Wife, who takes the time to plan these incredible trips for us. She studies guidebooks and websites to get the best possible deals for us, and enables us to truly have the maximum experience, with just enough sightseeing and relaxation. If you ever want travel trips, send me an email and I'll put her in touch with you.

Pictures are below.

The Cinque Terre

From our room on the Grand Canal in Venice
St. Mark's Cathedral in St. Mark's Square in Venice
In our B&B in Tuscany
Sound of Music Tour in Salzburg
"The Hills are Alive"
Another refreshing Austrian beer