Friday, September 23, 2016

The Legend of the Swamp Buck

Now everyone who knew my mother well knew there was never a penny she couldn't pinch. I don't think she was naturally miserly, but was of the generation who had to survive the Great Depression. Mostly it served us well, though there were frustrations growing up. I mention it here merely to give the proper emphasis to the family story I'm about to relate.

I was in a conversation with my middle son this afternoon when he started talking about trapping and butchering rabbits. He's currently in a survivalist phase. Or maybe not just a phase. Time will tell. Anyway, having raised rabbits to eat, I had a few tips to pass along about the butchering process: where the meat was, what to avoid, etc. I cautioned him that when splitting the pelvis he needed to use extreme care not to cut the bladder or urethra. Tends to spoil the meat, you know.

That led to my asking him if his grandfather had ever told him - say, 30 times - about the swamp buck he shot years ago. Rich hadn't heard the story, so I filled him in.

Back in the early 50's, the family lived on a resort in central Minnesota. Times were still financially challenging, and hunting grouse, pheasant and deer, as well as keeping the fish we could catch from our and surrounding lakes were a regular way of filling the larder. We'd also head out into the countryside to pick bucketfuls of blueberries, raspberries, chokecherries, and lowbush (swamp) cranberries. I have great memories of these trips, except for freaking out over the tiny spiders that made their way to the top of the berries and tried to get loose in the car.

One year when we kids were very young, my Dad killed himself what has come to be known in family lore as the swamp buck. He was a big old thing, way out in the swamp, and my dad had a heck of a time dragging it back to the car. But it would be worth it with all the meat it would bring to the family.

It went to the local butcher to be made into the usual various cuts of meat.

It was the wrong butcher.

Rather than carefully remove the meat from the bones, leaving them intact, before cutting or grinding up the venison, this fellow cut through the bones, just as if it were a cow. In case you don't know it, deer marrow has a very strong flavor. Very. I mean nasty. This method of butchering spread that marrow flavor into all the meat. Since we were already starting with an old, swamp-fed buck, what was already strongly gamey meat was rendered inedible.

Thanks to Mom, we tried. For several meals we tried. The final straw was when it was offered to the dog and even she refused to eat it! After that final rejection, the meat rapidly disappeared from the house, and the legend began.

By the way, we still all love venison. We just make sure it's butchered properly.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

The Birthday Present

It was all great fun until Steve wound up throwing his Coke in my face. And since he only drinks the sugared stuff, I still have sticky bits to take care of before bed tonight.

But let's back it up a bit. I was getting a serious attack of Cabin Fever. Only partly the knees, I was feeling entirely cooped up other than trips for groceries or prescriptions. Steve, of course, was getting out fishing every few days, weather cooperating, either down at Franconia Landing on the St. Croix, or one of several lakes he and Les fish via Les's boat.

Of course I was envious.

I wound up getting fairly grumpy, and finally let Steve know what was going on. I would have loved to get out on a boat somewhere too. Not to fish, particularly, now that I'd have to pay the cost of the out-of-state permit, and I didn't think it worth the expense. We'd gotten such a late start on summer this year after my knee surgeries, that even before we'd arrived summer was half gone. The pressure to enjoy it was on, and I wouldn't get my money's worth from a fishing license that might get used once or twice.

What I was getting to do was cleaning the house, dishes, and on a rare day, pruning weed trees  that had sprung up in the yard. In other words, one of us was enjoying summer.

Even my actual birthday wound up being filled with joining in on other people's stuff. A friend held a birthday party for her kids. It seemed too tacky to mention it was mine also. Evening was dinner with my daughter and her husband. It was the one day all schedules matched for getting together. Nobody mentioned my birthday then either, and I wound up with the restaurant bill. Don't get me wrong: the company itself was a real treat. It just wasn't a birthday.

Steve had listened to me vent about my cabin fever a couple weeks earlier. As a result, with his friend, I was taken out for a several hour boat ride today as my birthday present from the both of them. I not only had a great several hours on the lake, I came away with a few scenic shots, photo proof of the northern each of them caught, plus the fish Steve reeled in that we laughingly referred to as "bait". Even with him pulling the trick of holding it way in front of himself to make it nearer to the camera and look bigger, it was still little larger than his hand.

They fished several different areas of the lake and were in the process of discussing where next to fish and how. One of them asked how I was doing and I decided to confess that my butt had been cramping for the last couple hours. I hadn't even taken a water bottle out so there'd be no excuse on my part to shorten the excursion. However, it was decided it was time to get me back to the car where I'd have a comfy seat and could leave to do some needed shopping. Their plan was to head back out after dropping me and fish till they dropped. Win-win.

They put the rods away, pulled anchor, and started back to the launch at top speed: fun ride plus more fishing time for them. There was just one little hitch. The wind caught Steve's fishing hat, and as he attempted unsuccessfully to keep it on his head, he jerked the other hand which was holding his opened Coke. Most of it landed in my face.

The hat was not lost, however. It floated, and the boat did a u-turn in order to pick it up. Steve put the wet hat on his head, holding it in place both to keep it on and try to preserve its shape. Of course he was sitting upwind of me, and the boat's renewed high speed drove the water running off the hat all over me as well!

Good thing I have a sense of humor.

For the record, both guys helped me step down into the boat safely before our trip. For the return, three extra adults were involved! Those are high steps on an unsteady platform, and I'm sticking with that excuse.

But excuse me. It's time for a wash-up.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Finally Found

For those of you who have moved out of state in the last - what? 27 or fewer years? - and have missed the news, young Jacob Wetterling's body  has finally been found. As most of us have always assumed, other than his mother and possibly other family members, he was murdered nearly immediately after his abduction and buried in a farm field. His murderer finally led the authorities to the spot. Identification has been officially verified.

For those who have no idea who he was, he was a ten-year-old boy out bicycling on an October afternoon  on a rural Minnesota road with another young boy when a vehicle pulled over, grabbed him, and sped away.

We were never allowed to forget him. His adorable picture and his story reappeared regularly, his mother got very involved with missing children organizations and even ran for political office. She also very publicly never gave up hope. That word was made into a sign across the front of their house, where the family still lives.

There are so many ways to look at this tragedy. Start with the relief that it was never your child - or the horror that it was also yours but without the press coverage. Whether you applaud the mom who refused to lose hope or, while understanding, held absolutely no nope yourself for any kind of good outcome for Jacob, one can still appreciate the courage and determination to spend all those years fighting for all those lost children.

The unthinking catch phrase now that he is found is "closure". There is no closure, there is only loss, and grief, and finally the knowledge of what happened with imagination filing in all the horrible missing details for as long as people are still alive who remember him. Or just heard about him. The pain remains, the hope has ended. Someday, given enough time, perhaps for those who knew Jacob, the love may become the strongest part of the legacy left behind. The rest of us can put our hope in that.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Enough BCBS BS!

Good ol' Blue Cross. Lovely Medicare supplemental insurance plan to cover those extra things that Medicare doesn't quite cover. Like that 20% of the 80-20 plan. You get to sign up at the first of the year for a price of .....

Oh wait. Did we tell you that? Silly us! The real monthly premium will be about an extra $80, but hey, no big thing, right?

Oh, and you remember that thing about signing up the first of the year because it's for a year's coverage? Well, we changed our minds about that. Your renewal date is now in mid-April, and of course we're bumping the premium for your new year up accordingly, say, another $50 a month. But hey, no biggie, right? Your fixed income will adjust somehow, eh? Fewer steaks and luxury shopping, eh? We hear there are some great peanut butters out there, and some actually come from clean factories. Lucky you. Oh, and the nicest part? You don't have to fill in any new forms or anything. You're automatically enrolled in our new plan.

Wait! What? You're having a birthday? You scamp, you, going and getting older on us. According to our tables, at your new age, your premium bump will be another $15 each month. But hey, nothing to sign to authorize it, no new forms, we'll just take it out of your account like we always do. And hey, Happy Birthday! So nice of you to hang around for our new increase!


E.N.O.U.G.H!

Stop, already!

There's another plan out there. Because I already have a Type F supplemental plan, haven't had any surgeries for 90 days or other in-hospital events, have no impending surgeries, and haven't quite yet hit that latest point of decrepitude, my next birthday, I qualify to transfer over. My kidneys are fine - their biggest question - and I've never smoked, their next biggest. I don't need to wait till next January. I didn't qualify before my knees were replaced, but that's done now. I just squeak in under their deadline.

So Blue Cross? No more of your BS!

Bye Bye.

We're done now.

Go screw somebody else.

The forms are in the mail. No more of BCBS's BS. Not only is there a much cheaper price, there's a lock both on it and on how much it can increase for the next several years.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Daily Vocabulary: H. Pylori

So the good news is Steve doesn't have gall stones. No surgery necessary. But what he does have is a bacterial infection in his gut. It can cause anything from ulcers to cancer. It gets treated with a cocktail of multiple antibiotics and antacids. After a couple weeks, he goes back in to make sure it's gone.

Its source is a mystery. As much as he eats out, it's likely somebody preparing his food who caries the bacteria neglected proper hand washing. We will probably never know. It doesn't really matter. What matters is properly treating it and, should it happen again, getting my stubborn I-can-take-the-pain guy to go in and deal with it.  Quickly.

Oh, and I can probably still kiss him in the meantime, as long as I don't try to inhale his tonsils.

Oh wait, does he still have those? Maybe I better find out....

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Race Issues: Just This Week

Twice I have married "white" men, meaning the kind who "passed" or would have had to a hundred years ago, but in the lingo of the times back then would have been referred to - and denigrated - as "breeds". Or put another way, as proud as my own family of origin is of its origins on this continent nearly 400 years ago, we're definitely in the category of new immigrants. Primarily northern European. White. Blond, blue-eyed. Can't tan even when it's popular. Get skin cancer and that pesky Scandinavian allergy to nickel.

Of the two husbands, the native ancestry was treated differently. In the first case, it was the dirty little family secret, still denied by some.  I was told it gleefully by my fiance Paul (now Sr.) as a way of demonstrating his credibility as a liberal, back in the 60s when the country was mostly trying to abolish Jim Crow laws, which had little or nothing to do with our native Americans. Because it was a dirty little secret, proof had to be presented while at the same time hidden. It was in the family bible, in the lists of marriages and births through a couple centuries. A French fur-trapping ancestor "took himself a wife". Being a "heathen" her name was not allowed to be recorded in the bible, and the marriage likely was only recorded to give inheritance legitimacy to the couple's offspring. To differentiate, every other marriage was listed along the lines of "George married Elsie Smith" and where and when.

The bible disappeared, a minor scandal involving a branch of the family who wanted to review it, especially comparing family ancestry records. It is presumed they less-than-accidentally swapped the copy they left behind with the "true" copy in the family. The only history left is the whispered stories and the presumption of this however-many-greats grandmother being from some Canadian tribe since that was where the ancestor (male) was at the time. I have seen an old family portrait where the mom in the family was indisputably native American/Canadian, unless you're from the part of the family that manages to refuse to see it.

In the second case, I have always knows Steve is part Cherokee, 1/32 in fact, enough to be included in tribal rolls should he wish. He does not. A great-grandfather provided a lot of oral history to him, including tales of "The Trail"passed from his own mother. Steve was raised white, identifies white, and unless he told you otherwise, and if for some reason it mattered to somebody, is white. Spiritually his beliefs come close to native beliefs, which seems to be the only bit of that part of his heritage he truly values.

Our various children know what is discoverable about their heritage. Nobody seems to care, beyond bringing it up casually in conversation once in a while, given about the same importance as "we used to live in that state", or perhaps a bit more when who can tan and who needs more sunscreen comes up.

I have for years not thought about my own "white privilege" as I have gone about my life. Years ago I started hearing tales of people being pulled over by the cops for DWB, but having no experience nor referent for it, filed it away back in the "it's unfortunate but rare" part of my brain. Probably right next to Tooth Fairy stories. Recent news has made that impossible for me to keep myself unaware of the racial disparities in this country. Even moving to Arizona have made me very aware of my need for extra identification as I go out and about, especially with a name easily assumed to be hispanic, and even more especially travelling anywhere close to our southern border. I store my original birth certificate there, keep on hand not just my drivers license but my voting card too. If I want to fly again I'm gonna have to dig out documentation of my name change, paperwork I hoped to never need again.

Returning to Good ol' Minnesota, liberal bastion of blue-state hood, that racial awareness hasn't gotten tucked back in a neglected corner somewhere. Let's start with Sunday night. Actually, it was Monday morning as Steve and I were heading home from the hospital, the eastern sky just beginning to tinge orange on the horizon. It was one of those emergency runs, the upshot likely being gallstones. His, not mine. More tests necessary. We dumped everything we were carrying into the hatch of the car as we left the hospital, and I idly wondered if that was actually wise. Even more so as the flashing red and blue lights on the police car across the street lit up his u-turn  as he suddenly became interested in us. A quick check of the speedometer showed I hadn't exceeded the 25 for this Wisconsin town, and I imediately pulled over, hoping we merely needed to clear its way for some important business.

Turned out we were that business. Now I'm very aware of the location of my ID and trying to figure out what is the safest way to ask the officer exactly how he would like me to dig it out of the back of the car without threatening him. Of course, being white, and perfectly sober and polite, I wasn't really concerned. But I was really aware.

Turns out, once I asked if there was a problem, he kindly pointed out that my lights hadn't been turned on, and suggested perhaps we had just left some place really well lit? Yep, the hospital parking lot. Once the lights were on and my apology offered, we were free to go.

But had we been black?

This morning Steve and I were again in the hospital, this time waiting for one of those tests he needed. So was another guy. He should have kept his mouth shut. He started bitching about "Black Lives Matter" (out of the context of TV Olympics coverage I should add), went on to liking Trump, and I started thinking I was absolutely not going to be able to continue to sit in the waiting room to keep Steve company no matter how much he might need my emotional support and how much I wanted to be there with it. Lucky for all of us he was called back for whatever his own procedure was. A scene was about to be caused. I had already warned Steve I needed to leave and why when the ignorant jerk was pulled out first.

Mother would have been so embarrassed. I wouldn't have cared.

Much.

Anyway, the test results will have to be read and "they will call you." Meanwhile Steve is tolerating a fat-free diet fairly well for a few days.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

The Evidence on Flossing

Do I floss? Of course I do. I never tell a lie. I've never stolen anything. I wouldn't think of cheating on a test. I weigh 10-30 pounds less that that broken scale claims. I'm still as tall as when I was 18. I were doing the speed limit officer, honest! The house was just cleaned this morning: it must have been the kids/dogs/neighbors. I have no idea how that page showed up on my computer. Where did that spot come from? It wasn't there when I got dressed. No I haven't seen what happened to your 25-year-old favorite fishing shirt, honey. So yes, I not only floss daily, I brush twice each day as well.

What's ambiguous about that?