Wrong Way Driver

Yesterday i was driving along the highway headed to meet some friends when the car in front of me suddenly veered sideways. I had a split second to think, “what’s gotten into him?” And then i saw why he’d done what he did. There was a pair of headlights staring straight at me. His car was a foot into his own direction of traffic but mostly in our lane, drifting further over and traveling at roughly 75 mph straight at me. We were destined for a head on collision at highway speeds. There was literally only a fraction of a second to recognize the situation i was in. No thought happened. Muscle memory kicked in and i veered hard to the right, nearly flipping the car to avoid him. Behind me a chain reaction happened. I did not see the entirety of it. I was trying to regain control of my vehicle which was swerving wildly in a zig zag. Behind me i heard the screeching of brakes and the noise of tires leaving rubber on the road as they tried to execute an immediate stop from highway speeds. When i looked in the mirror behind me there was a gaggle of oddly faced cars left in the wake of this wrong way driver who just got so lucky that every one of us was skilled and alert enough to make decisions in a fraction of a second to avoid the threat that had been concealed by the view of the car in front of them. I wanted to get out of the car and relinquish the job of driving, check on the other drivers, hug the other drivers, thank the Lord for our lives, but this was the highway the sheep had been on weeks earlier. It was a one lane winding highway with straight stretches of it in between…best not to be idle on it for long. I dont remember if i stopped or just slowed way down. The next thing i remember is thinking, “this is not a good place to be idle…must get moving…must get moving.” I looked down and realized i was only driving 40 mph with my foot to the floor on a 75 mph road. I may have been stopped on the road before this point. I ended up half on the shoulder and half on the road when i finally regained control of the car. Then i just guided it back into the lane and focused on getting back to the designated speed and normal driving that other drivers headed our way from behind would expect. Everyone behind me did the same. I got about half a mile before i began sobbing profusely and had to pull off the road. I’m still not sure what exactly the crying was about. I couldn’t stop it. I called my friend and tried to tell her i was going to turn around and go home, that this encounter was too much excitement for one day and i wasnt going to make it to the gathering, but she couldnt understand me through all the crying i was doing, which again, i wasnt sure why i was doing. She thought i was upset because i couldn’t find the turn…which was also happening…i hadnt been to my friend’s house in a while, daylight savings time had happened, and i couldnt identify the landmark tree to the unnamed gravel road in the dusk light. She pulled her car out onto the edge of the gravel road and told me to look for her. I found her car and headed to the gathering. Everyone was hugging and smiling and i was just sort of stunned. My friend explained to everybody that i’d narrowly avoided a head on with a wrong way driver and for whatever asinine reason i began crying again. What in the ****? People told me, “well im sure that was scary honey!” I remember thinking at the time that they were right. I don’t remember feeling that way now. I dont remember that split second moment. Its like ive locked it away because i dont want to deal with it but i remember at the time of their questions thinking that this sudden giant object in the middle of my windshield with only a fraction of a second to react was the scariest thing i’d ever seen. It was concealed from view by the car in front of me so i only saw the danger when the automobile one car length ahead suddenly veered hard to the right and revealed a vehicle headed straight for me. When i say there was no thought im not kidding. I didnt even have time to think “oh shit!” All that happened was my finely tuned “always ready for shit to pop off” spidey skills kicked in and my muscles moved to avoid impact.

I’m sure that scared me because i remember answering the suggestion that it had with an emphatic head nod, so it must’ve but i think the absolute lack of control that is not having time to even form a thought about the situation before it’s over…i think that likely also contributed to the sobbing. I didn’t understand exactly how my body had pulled off missing the vehicle when my brain hadn’t computed the scene yet. I felt like the whole universe was out of my control in that split second, like i was in charge and in command of nothing. Most people would have viewed survival and maintaining the car as a win win in the situation…Success. However, the fact that my brain had not made a move by the time the situation was decided and executed…that was not a win for me. It was concerning and numbing. It made me feel very small, insignificant, and fragile. For a split second i realized that my control freak self was not in charge of any fraction of the universe and there were things outside of my power to think through or pray about that happened whether or not i wanted or intended to have a say in them. It’s a different concept to recognize on paper that you’re going to die some day than it is to feel it in your bones for a moment.

I was not myself last night. I tried to socialize but i lacked all my usual happiness and calm. I felt a bit raw and oddly emotional. I pulled it together to participate in our gathering and then when people started leaving i went with the early crowd. I slept like i hadn’t slept in years. I didnt turn the lights out, brush my teeth, or even put the food away. I crashed hard and woke up an hour before dawn the next day. I had put Sili in the bed with me to cuddle and that’s exactly what she did. When i woke it was near freezing and raining outside. It was dark and all you could hear was the pitter patter of rain on the tin roof. Sili was cuddled up to me. I pulled the blankets around her and buried my face in her fur. She was warm and smelled like unwashed dusty dog. She licked my face and nudged me with her nose. I snuggled down into the covers and pulled her closer. In Sili’s fur i hid from the world.

I wasn’t ready to get up today. I felt like i was in a computer game and had narrowly escaped sniper fire. I was now hiding in my bunker refusing to chance it again. I laid there and wondered why i hadn’t immediately given God the credit. Why did i not have the feeling that God had saved me? The fact that i had made movements in a fraction of a second before my brain had computed the sudden scene in the windshield spoke to the obvious reality that it wasnt me making decisions. Why did i not immediately feel like i had been rescued by a higher power? But i felt none of the well of faith i had been blanketed in when i spun the car out trying to avoid an axis deer and landed in a ditch facing an illuminated church sign. I felt no comfort, no holy spirit…just emptiness. It was as if my soul was filled with the same sensation that envelopes the hand when you touch cold steel. I couldn’t make sense of the experience or my feelings surrounding it and so i buried it in the depths of my memory and covered it with clutter never to be retrieved. This was probably not the most healthy method of sussing out my problems and so i remained in bed. How unsettling a moment it is when you realize exactly how little input you have on reality. We really are all just here until our bell rings and then we’re not. I am a deeply religious Christian and my faith that a higher power with a plan for all of us exists is unchanged but i’d be lying if i said i felt anything spiritual in that moment. I neither thought nor felt anything. It just happened, without me.

You Can Lead a Person to Logic but you Can’t Make them Think.

Directly following the incident with the sheep on the highway no visible change was made. Then one day i drove by and a herd of cows inhabited the field instead of the sheep. I thought that this meant the farmer had realized his fence wasn’t sheep tight and either sold or moved the sheep somewhere better suited to contain them. Then the sheep showed up in the field with the cows the following day. Ever since their return to the field i have noticed one or two of them each day, a twisted bloody mess on the highway. They are stepping through the wide horizontal spaces between the barbed wire lines of the fence that is not meant for small animals and getting hit by cars and trucks. It is troublesome for me to observe knowing how hard we worked to keep them all safe that day i found the whole herd standing along the highway. We stayed for hours and made sure the guy didn’t lose one single sheep. At one point i walked out onto the highway with another lady and dead stopped traffic because the stupid sheep decided to cross to the other side at that moment. Trucks and cars literally parked to avoid hitting us. According to the neighbor this has been an ongoing problem for years and the sheriff has been out multiple times to wrangle both sheep and cattle back into the field. It is easy to feel responsible for these animals when you see them in danger and know what the solution would be. If i was wealthy i’d buy the wire and modify his fence myself. It doesn’t have to be a professional job. Just place some vertical lines in there to close those rectangles they are simply stepping through to get out onto the highway. There shouldn’t be sheep sized horizontal spaces in your sheep fence. As much as i might want to help…the bottom line is they aren’t my sheep. It is not the job of myself, the other two people who stopped to help, or the sheriff’s deputies to keep them safe. That would be the job of their owner and if we were to step in and do what he seemingly can’t, well that would be felony theft. So, there’s nothing i can do but watch him decimate his herd one by one each day. It is sad and ghastly wasteful. This is what happens when a person owns land that he keeps animals on but doesnt live at. Accountability is difficult because the person that needs to fix the problem is not present. There was one walking alongside the road and 2 dead when i drove by this morning.

Personally, the only way i would put animals on land i didnt live on was if i built a little tiny house or cabin and stationed a person to live in it and look after the animals…there are so many things that can go wrong with livestock. If you want to see a return on your investment you kind of have to be there or have someone be there, to protect them from predatory animals, manage birth complications, constantly be checking for wounds or infection, and also monitor the fencing and make sure they’re not escaping or getting stuck in it. Chickens are a pretty low maintenance starter animal compared to sheep or cattle and i know that i’ve had to be vigilant about predatory animals, bumble foot, a mosquito born illness that killed one of my chickens and had me nursing the rest through it with electrolytes and organic veggies and fruit, poultry lice, keeping them safe from each other during molting…i monitor their stress levels (reflected in color and hydration state of their combs), their reaction to temperature, the level of pest management on any given month…. I am constantly checking their coop for venomous spiders and snakes. I monitor the social hierarchy within the flock and see if anyone is getting bullied, fighting, or getting pushed away from the food dispenser. I can’t imagine trying to do all this remotely. I am able to be this vigilant a caretaker because they are twenty feet from my front door. I purposely placed the chicken pen there when i was planning because i wanted it to be illuminated by the porch light, both to deter critters and so i had light to see what was going on if i had to check on them at night. This placement kind of rendered my laundry line problematic as you should hang laundry far away from chicken shit if you want it to smell clean but in the priorities list around here my little feathered dinosaurs are at the top and the location of a laundry line can always be rethought later. Come nightfall i don’t want the chicken pen off in some secluded area where i cant hear them fussing if things go awry.

The Eclipse

The first two pictures are photographs of the moon in the couple days leading up to the eclipse, right around sundown. The photographs below are a collective progression of the most recent lunar eclipse from around 3:50 am to 5:15 am.

I will make one note about the behavior of the wildlife during this eclipse. It is my experience that during each eclipse i have witnessed the birds, the toads, and the insects go silent when the moon is in complete shadow. This eclipse was no different. As soon as the moon was in complete shadow the yard fell into total darkness and all the crickets quit their song. It was eerily quiet and windless.

The eclipse ended with a stunning blood moon.

The Ongoing Struggle to Bring Laundry Units to the Homestead

So, there was a time when you could order appliances and have them delivered and installed fairly quickly. That is not this time. Due to the pandemic and the global political climate less resources are available and production of items is down. That means items are still available for purchase at this time, you just have to pay more money to get them and wait longer for them to arrive. I ended up waiting a total of 3 weeks for my washer and dryer after 4 attempts at purchase and delivery/install. I am scheduled to wait a month and a half for the refrigerator but given that i didnt obtain a working functional appliance until attempt number 4 with the washer and dryer i have to entertain that it may not arrive or be rendered functional when it is supposed to.

The ordeal began with me standing in the nearest home depot telling the employee what i wanted to buy. I did this because when i tried to buy the appliances online it said install and take-away wasn’t an option for these items. The customer service representative at the store said install and take-away was an option on all their appliances but you had to come into the store to choose this because when dealing with install they wanted to make sure it was done right and so would involve an employee rather than leaving it to the customer and the internet, especially since notes and gps latitude and longitude coordinates would have to be typed and sent to the third party contractor who was going to send a two man crew to do the install. I went into the store to let them handle placing my order not because i was lazy or entitled or didnt know how to put something in my basket and enter the credit card details. I put it in their hands because they told me that was how it had to be if i wanted install and take-away services. So, i didnt get to read all the product descriptions and order details before clicking “order”. I just kind of assumed they knew what they were doing. Looking back, the only way i could have avoided the mess that ensued was to demand the employee move aside from the computer while i proof read the order before she placed it. I don’t think i would have it in me to be “that customer” after all my experience in the service industry even now that i know the ending to this story. I am not the type of person to assume or imply somebody is incompetent at their job before i have evidence of this notion. So we did things the hard way, and i guess if i could go back to the beginning we’d be doing things the hard way again.

I walked into home depot having done my research and knowing exactly what units i wanted to look at. I had the details and prices of each contender in screenshots on my phone. I knew exactly what stacked laundry unit i wanted and i needed to choose between an LG and Frigidaire refrigerator. The first sign of trouble was when the employee could not figure out how to look up the item on the company website on her computer from the item number, price, or product details included in the screenshot. She scolded me for bringing her screenshots of the home depot website instead of actual pages of the home depot website. Having many pages open at once in the background of my phone drains the battery and so i had taken screen shots to save the battery life but honestly she should have been able to type in any number of details from the screenshot on her computer and pull up exactly what i was looking at when i took the screenshot from the company website in the first place. This detail is important so before i go any further i just want to say that when i walked into the appliance area i told the attendant, “i need to buy a stacked samsung washer and dryer unit and then also either this LG fridge or the Frigidaire fridge. I wanted to take a look at both, check them out, and decide which one i will go with.” Over the course of the next 40 minutes we had a lengthy conversation about how i lived in a tiny house and so the units had to be stacked, how the ones i was replacing were stacked, and how the units i was staring at were an inch or two smaller than my old ones, because i had side by side units to begin with but when i moved into the tiny house they had to be stacked. The attendant told me that this could not be because all the samsung stacked washing units were the same width and height. The only ones that were larger were the side by side units. I told her that i was aware of this and in fact i had stacked some originally side by side units which i was quite sure, and in the end accurate about, were a tad larger than the stacked units i was considering purchasing. I told her this would be a good thing because there was barely any room to scoot behind the unit in order to install it beside the water heater and i could use an inch more wiggle room for the install crew. So, the Home Depot was made aware that i intended to stack the units and i had no room to do anything otherwise in the dwelling they were destined for.

I was informed that i could have the laundry units delivered and installed in a week and a day but the refrigerator would be a 6 week wait. I agreed to each date and the woman asked me a series of questions, entered my payment info, and finished the order. She handed me a sheet of paper as a sort of receipt and order number packet. It was then that she notified me the washer, dryer, and refrigerator would all be arriving in 6 weeks. I shook my head in disbelief, “Wait a minute. You just said i could have the laundry units in a week and a day. Why are they coming in 6 weeks? Only the refrigerator was supposed to be coming in 6 weeks.” She shrugged, “Well, it looks like the company prefers to deliver everything to you at once so they dont have to come out multiple times. That’s just the way they like to do things i guess. Sorry about that.” I shook my head, “no, you told me i could have the laundry units in a week and a day. If i had known it was going to be six weeks i might have gone to another place or looked at a different unit. You cant tell me one thing, have it be another, and finish the order without giving me the option to make a decision. I want it in a week and a day.” I did not fancy using the laundromat for 6 weeks and i knew the banks around here were not going to give me any more quarters for those ungodly expensive machines. The woman pulled a coworker into the conversation and told him our predicament. He said, “Well yeah, that’s how they do it. What’s the problem?” She said, “well the problem is that it told her she could have the laundry units in a week and a day and she’s getting them in 6 weeks and she wants it when it said she could have it.” He raised an eyebrow and looked at her, “Well why’d you tell her that?” She said, “i didnt know it was going to do it like that.” He said, “the only way is to cancel the order, give her a refund, and then do the fridge and the laundry units in two separate orders. That’s the only way to get separate delivery dates.” So she cancelled my order and we had to refill everything out again to place two separate orders for the fridge and the laundry units in order to obtain two separate delivery dates. It took 7 business days for the $2,000+ charge to come off my credit card. They said it would take 2 business days after trying to convince me it was so fast it never even charged. I had to pull up my online credit card login on my phone and show them “recent activity” to enlighten them that they were not as lightening fast as they thought they were, it did in fact charge, and so i did in fact need a refund for the first order if they were placing the order a second time. So i walked away with two packets of paper…receipts for the appliances i had bought from home depot. I was bummed that i would be without a refrigerator for 6 weeks but excited that the laundry units would be arriving soon. I told myself this fact would hold me over and allow me to be patient about the refrigerator.

I will now take a moment to explain how the “window of delivery” works with home depot. They use a series of third party contractors to do delivery, install, and take-away services for their appliances. This means they do not actually set the window of time the delivery crew will be arriving in on any particular day. According to Home Depot the third party contractor has to contact customers the day before and notify the customer what window of time they should be home during to receive the delivery. According to home depot the third party company goes home at 7 pm every day, so if the customer does not hear from the company by 7 pm, they should call the home depot and the home depot will call the third party company (who has now gone home) to get the information for the customer. Call me crazy but i called at 6 instead of 7 to obtain the information from the guys that go home at 7. I figured there was a better chance of reaching them for comment if they were actually still standing in the building. Now home depot hates this because even though nobody ever calls me before 7 to tell me the window of delivery the day before, they feel one has to first give the company a chance to do so before calling to complain, and so one is jumping the gun in calling before the employees have left, because they havent not done the thing they are supposed to yet. This is where Home Depot and i cease to have a mutual understanding. Im not making a complaint. Im trying to obtain the information i need to go to work the following day. If the crew is coming in the morning i wont go into work until afternoon, but if the crew isnt coming until afternoon, i need to be at work before dawn. They dont seem to understand that im not just venting, im trying to function. On top of this you have home depot’s customer service employees under the impression that it is not their job to be the go between for the customer and the third party contractor that will do the delivery. I was told that they were busy with customers and i could call them myself. I asked, “great, with what phone number?” She seemed to think i had the contact info for whichever of the three companies they tended to oscillate between for deliveries, which they hadnt given me because the appliance section personnel told me to contact the home depot customer service desk and give them my order number and the customer service desk would call the third party contractor. If you ever want the worst customer service of your life and to be yelled at and told to hold up a bunch, just call home depot and need something. I was literally so polite to them but it always procured the same reaction; disdain and agitation.

So, delivery day. I waited eagerly in my rocking chair, a nervous wreck, thinking about all the words i would use to convince them and guide them when they called and said the gps took them to the wrong place and they were turning back to leave for the city. I waited the entire window of deliverability only to receive a text that the delivery couldnt be made and i should call the phone number to reschedule. I frantically dialed the phone number thinking foolishly if they were lost perhaps i could catch them before they got too far away and convince them to come back. The phone rang, rang, rang, and rang. After around 7 straight minutes of ringing i realized the phone just didnt have an answering machine and it was going to ring forever. Nobody was going to pick up. Enough time had elapsed that wherever the truck was it would be far away from here and all hopes of convincing it to return slipped away. I was immediately beyond furious, beyond words, beyond logic and reason. All my memories of handimen, roofers, plumbers, and repair men saying they were coming and then never showing because there were more jobs in the city and they didnt want to spend the gas money for just one job in the middle of nowhere so they never even attempted to come and just canceled repeatedly day after day bubbled to the surface and ran before my eyes in a whirlwind of rage. I dropped to my knees in the dirt and a visceral animalistic noise came out of my body. I wanted that truck. I’d waited all day for that truck. All day. I made sure that i was here, never left the house. There was no way that i was ever not here at a time that they came to deliver. I was here and ready all day. I paid for those units. I wanted those units. Today was delivery day. Here i was. Where were the units? Not here. And why? It didnt say. The text message was extremely vague. No human had called me to say, we’re lost or we ran out of gas, or the truck broke down, or one of our guys had a medical emergency, or we brought the wrong appliance. Nobody gave me any explanation as to why my house was still void of functional laundry units. For whatever reason they felt i didnt deserve to speak to a human or know the reason and a general text message stating that they couldnt come and i should call an unmanned phone number to reschedule would suffice. My house is 384 square feet. In order to ready the site for delivery and install i had followed the instructions. All my furniture was either in the yard, the car, or the shed in order to allow them an easy path to the units and room to work. Not only did i have to put this all back now, i would need to remove it again in order to give them access at some point in the future. I was so so so angry. It was the fact that they didnt tell me why they hadnt come and that they texted me and then had no one answer the phone when i called the number they gave. That was the part that broke my brain. I called the home depot customer service number. They called the third party contractor. The crew that had been scheduled to come to my tiny town to deliver my appliances had turned off both their cell phones and the gps tracker on the truck. Neither of their supervisors could reach them but their last known whereabouts were nowhere near my town and protocol was for them to call the customer, not text, if a delivery couldnt be made. I was additionally supposed to receive a text when they were two stops away, which i never did. Also, the phone number i was given to call to reschedule delivery didnt even belong to the contracted company. At first i was told the men would surely be fired for their behavior. I was satisfied with that outcome. They should. They lied. They never drove to my town and they knew they were doing something nefarious or they wouldnt have turned the tracker on the truck and their cell phones off. They just didnt want to drive all the way out here and instead of telling me that they made me waste my whole day and move all my furniture out and then back in. They deserved to be fired for their blatant disregard of my rights, efforts, or schedule. Good. Later i would be told the same crew was going to be sent out for the second attempt. I vehemently objected and refused. Wait a minute here. I thought these guys were going to be fired for their behavior. Not only are they still employed but you’re sending them here, to me?! I told the home depot customer service representative they had better not because if they came to my property to deliver the appliance and they were the same crew that pulled the stunt the first time i intended to hold a grudge and i would have a lot to say to them. Home depot would undoubtedly have to pay for a further delivery as if the guys even showed up they would not likely deliver and install with me giving them a piece of my mind for their antics. I suggested they send another two guys with one exception. I told the home depot customer service representative if they could produce for me a doctor’s note that proved one of the men was having a medical emergency that day and that’s why they were unable to make my delivery or spend any amount of time and effort explaining why or rescheduling, i would stand down and be courteous and hospitable during delivery. No such note was produced. They decided to send another crew. The third home depot customer service representative i spoke to said, “well obviously they dont work for home depot. They’re not home depot employees. We dont have any control over who they hire or fire. Why would you think they would be let go?” The first customer service representative also told me to call back after delivery had been eventually successfully obtained and i could speak to a manager about compensation because home depot would pay me for my time and troubles spent since i was having such a negative experience and it was primarily at the fault of home depot. Each time i called back i found that the previous woman who stated she was making notes in my file of everything made no such notes. The next customer service representative laughed at me saying, “why would you think you are entitled to financial compensation?” The third told me, “of course. We are prepared to offer you a full refund for your troubles. We’re really sorry we couldnt do business with you but we can get that all taken care of today and your order will be cancelled.” I put the brakes on that right away, “Hold up, hold up, i dont want to cancel the order. I need the units.” The woman said, “We’ll try delivering one more time and if it doesnt work we’ll issue you a full refund and you and home depot will have no current business dealings with one another.” I felt like i was being punished for the third party contractor’s behavior and the home depot customer service desk’s lack of charting skills. All that detailed info was reduced to “customer called; disgruntled.”

Two days later a crew calls to say they’re on their way…20 minutes out. I have removed all the furniture once again. The path is clear for them. I give them perfect directional instructions complete with landmarks. I tell them a chair will be outside with a paper taped to it that displays an arrow and says “delivery this way.” I tell them they can call if they get lost and i will guide them in. Im outside flagging them down. They arrive. They actually come to the property. I’m thinking, “now we’re cooking with gas!” Right? They back the truck up the dirt driveway and stop near the house. They open the back of the truck. They ask me how i am. I tell them im good and say, “boy am i glad to see you.” I thank them for coming. I lead them into the house and show them where the units go. The guy takes a look at the space and returns to the truck. He looks around the back of the truck. He jumps down from the truck and faces the house scratching his neck. He says to his partner with the clipboard, “hey she’s got stacked…”. The look on his face tells me immediately im not getting my laundry units today. He says, “Fuck man, every time in center point. Shit. The fuck man?” He throws the clipboard in the truck and climbs into the driver’s seat. I recognize that he’s now ready to go. I have to find some way to get him out of the driver’s seat and get this delivery back on track. The guy in the yard turns to me and says, “hey did you order a stacked unit?” I said, “yes.” He nods his head, “well they didnt give you one.” I immediately begin dialing home depot customer service. I told the crew to give me a minute to speak to home depot because i cant accept a side by side unit, it has to be stacked or i cant do anything with it in this space, so i just have to speak to home depot to see how theyre going to proceed before i know what to tell them. I ask them to give me a minute. The one guy yells to the other guy, “hey she’s not gonna accept delivery cuz its not a stacked.” I have one guy in the truck yelling, “let’s go man, im so f-ing done with this shit.” Im on hold for home depot’s customer service desk. Elevator music is playing in my ear. Im having a conversation with the guy who is now closing up the back of the truck. Im saying, “Hold on. Just give me five minutes. Five minutes is all im asking. Let me just at least talk to home depot and if they dont answer in 5 minutes you can go.” The guy in the yard takes pity on me. So the scene at my house when home depot finally picks up is there’s the noise of a now started truck engine, the one guy is yelling at the other guy from the driver’s seat to get in. The passenger is walking around my yard refusing to get in trying to buy me 5 minutes. They’re now arguing. The dogs are barking and snarling in the dog run. With the yelling, the barking, and the truck engine i can barely hear the home depot customer service employee when she answers. I would not say i was happy, speaking in a happy tone of voice. I would say my voice was probably a combination of frustrated and assertive but i did calmly explain the reason i was calling, that i had ordered a samsung stacked washer and dryer, the previous crew didnt deliver, the new crew finally came out and were here ready to install and they said the units were side by side and not stacked. The woman asked for my order number and i gave it. The one guy was out of the truck walking towards the other guy now trying to put him in the truck and he walks back towards my orchard a ways to get away from his comrade and buy me 2 remaining minutes at this point. There’s no way the woman doesnt hear all the yelling and barking and chaos going on at my end of the phone at this point. I thought she might have some sympathy for my predicament but she doesnt. Once again, she’s just mad that she has to deal with me in the first place. She says, “no ma’am. You were delivered the units that you ordered. Those are your units on the truck. None of our stacked units come in one piece. That’s why they’re called “stackable” because they are stackable. You just need the kit to stack them and it does not look like the stacking kit was purchased here on your order.” I responded in an indoor voice. It was a firm but not mean question. I was genuinely curious. I said, “well the lady that placed the order knew i wanted a stacked washer and dryer. why would you sell me a stacked washer and dryer without the kit to stack them?” At this point she began shouting at me, “Now you need to hold up and start yourself over. You can just start this conversation over again because i didn’t sell you any appliances and so i didn’t not sell you a stacking kit. I had nothing to do with that. You can start yourself over right now and come at me with a different tone or you can find somebody else to deal with you.” The one guy wants to go at this point and the other guy can tell by the way im holding the phone away from my head and the lady’s voice can be heard over the truck engine that im getting some sort of ratchet customer service from home depot. He unlocks the back of the truck and throws it upwards. The other guy stops in his tracks and gives him a look. He mutters through gritted teeth, “fuck you man”. He gets in the truck and slams the door. I ask the lady how we proceed in this situation. She says, “Well you will have to accept delivery of the units. They can take the old ones away and then at some point in the future when you possess a stacking kit home depot will send a new third party crew out to do the stack and install. I said, “okay and…” she cut me off and said in a loud and angry voice, “No i don’t have any idea when that will be ma’am.” I took a moment to collect myself, cocked my head, and found my voice, “okay, well you can just start yourself over because you said to me that i needed to start over and not be coming at you in any sort of way and so i’ll do you the courtesy of checking you when you do the same, because that was not my question. The question i was going to ask you was who pays for that?” She apologized and said i was right, she was going to start herself over. Then she said that i would obviously be responsible for the price of the stack kit and then home depot would pay for the new delivery. I was happy with this and joyfully exclaimed, “great. That sounds good. Can i have that in writing sent to my email?” Bitch went off….i dont even know what she said because i took the phone away from my ear once again she was being so loud. The bits that i got were that her word was good enough and she just fucking told me home depot would pay for it. When she was done with her rant she said, “im writing it all in the note right now.” I said, “you are writing a note?” She said, “YES!” I said, “okay, that would help.” She hung up. I turned to the man in the yard and he said, “so what we doin?” I answered, “turn the truck off, im accepting delivery, you’re gonna bring em inside, take the old ones, and im gonna tip you. Home depot will just pay for you to come back and install later once i have a stacking kit. Let’s go.” I motioned towards the house. The guy looked at me pitifully, “home depot’s gonna pay for us to come back out?” I said, “yeah.” He said, “they said that?” I said, “yeah.” He made a “psh noise with his mouth and said, “they aint gonna do that.” He said, “home depot done screwed you.” I said, “oh i know. It’s an ongoing process. They’re lovely. Every time i call all they do is bitch at me. They’re just wonderful to work with.” He shook his head. Later he would tell me he wrote down in his ipad note everything the lady screamed at me on the phone, including that home depot would pay for a second install crew and her word was good enough so i didnt need it in writing. He hollered to the guy hitting the side of the truck door saying, “lets go!” “Hey get out! She’s accepting delivery!” He turned the truck off and stepped out, fixing his disheveled clothing a bit, “really?” The guy said, “yeah.” The skinny guy then grabbed the dolly and got to work. They put the units in on the floor, took the old ones out to the truck, i tipped them each ten bucks for a 40 dollar install that couldnt be done and they were gone. I tipped the one guy because i appreciated all the interference he had run when i was on the phone with home depot. I tipped the other guy so he wouldn’t pull what the first crew did every time he saw the words “center point” on a delivery. I called the customer service desk again to give my credit card info to buy the stacking kit. It was the same lady. I know this because she answered the phone, “WHAT?! I just talked to you. You were the lady with the stacked washer and dryer what the f do you want now?!” Charming. I courteously replied, choosing to ignore her tone, “yes, the crew is gone now and i had a moment to think and realized i still need to purchase the stacking kit so ive called to provide payment details for that. She said, “oh no! You’re being extremely threatening and difficult and im not touching your credit card info with a ten foot pole. Ive put in your file that you are not to be helped with any purchases until monday. You’re gonna have to call back monday and speak to a manager to purchase that stacking kit because i don’t like your tone and ive deemed that you are disgruntled and must be handled by a manager for all further transactions.” I decided she needed some Jesus shoved up her butt but it wouldn’t behoove me to be the one to do it so i told her thank you for her help and that i’d call back on monday.

On Monday i called and the manager i spoke to told me she had a stacking kit for me to purchase and i could stack and install it myself. Apparently the woman had not written the note she said she would about home depot sending another install crew out and in signing for the units i had signed that i was acknowledging they installed them and there were no problems. She said home depot had no obligation to send out an additional install crew. I protested that the lady i spoke to on saturday had written a note. She said the only note written read, “customer called about washer/dryer; disgruntled.” She asked me to hold while she went and found the lady i spoke to on saturday. When she pulled me off hold i could hear the lady in the background ranting about what a bitch i was. The manager was telling her to go sit down and calm down somewhere, get a hold of herself, and stop dropping f bombs. She said that home depot would be paying for the third party contractor to come out and install my units, the earliest they could come was october 31, she had scheduled it for me, she put my name on the stacking kit and had it at the register, and wrote the phone number of the third party company on the box so i wouldnt have to speak to home depot customer service anymore. I could just speak to the company directly. I went and picked up/paid for the stacking kit. I met the manager. She was surprised how happy i was and said she thought i had a great attitude and she was sorry for all the inconvenience. She was happy i was upbeat about the october 31 date and would make it work. I thanked her and headed to the register. I left hoping october 31st would be the day things finally went right.

October 31st. Delivery crew came, stacked, installed, tested the machines, i tipped them well, they left. They were wonderful guys. They worked well together. They didnt tell me my house was dirty and i needed to clean it because of the amount of dust that had settled behind the laundry units (like the first crew did). They were quick, efficient, they showed up and had all the right tools with them, and they told me how to make the units last longer before they left. I really liked this crew. They were real people just doing their thing, making a living. No scams or nefarious things, no f bombs. The contracted company management read all the home depot notes and called afterwards to see if i liked the crew. I said i did. They were wonderful and efficient and on time. They asked if i would like them back for my refrigerator delivery in november. I said definitely. They said they’d send them. They apologized for home depot and told me they were glad i liked the two guys they sent and they’d send them for any upcoming further purchases. They said home depot would be sending a survey about their performance and that would be the only one documented but they just wanted to call themselves and see how their guys did since i’d had so many issues. I filled out the home depot survey. They got a good rating from me. I finally had functional laundry units in the house. I was happy. Happy, mesmerized, and exhausted.

Look at this mesmerizing sight:

Alden

Mid-afternoon on a Saturday, i was doing laundry at my friend’s homestead one town over when i heard the blue jays outside going absolutely mental. I thought maybe a cat had tried to climb a tree they had a nest in but as the minutes ticked on the ruckus continued. When i started seeing branches and sticks drop outside the window i decided to investigate what had these birds so frantic. I opened the front door and stepped out onto the porch. I could see the blue jays were flying back and forth through the branches of a huge gnarled old oak tree. I squinted to see what they were fussing about as they knocked sticks and acorns to the ground during their drive-by dives.

All of a sudden the words came out of my mouth, “That’s an owl.” There was a big horned owl just sitting on a branch in full sunlight waiting for nightfall i guess. I’ve never seen an owl during daytime. This owl stayed in the oak tree for hours and was still there in the same spot when i left for home. The blue jays went completely bonkers, lost their minds, tired themselves out, lost their minds again, tired themselves out once more, and picked back up for a bit. The owl ignored them. It sat on the branch and stared straight forward at the sun, eyes closed. It seemed unbothered by the antics of the bluejays. When my friend arrived home i pointed the owl out and she said she saw him swoop out of the tree the other night and thought, “that sure looks like the flight of an owl.” I said, “i think you have a new neighbor.” We dubbed him/her Alden. It means “old wise friend”. I thought it fitting for his/her response to the continued pecking, diving, and flapping of the bothered bluejays.

Perspective

I’ve placed the photos above near each other in order to demonstrate a point. The photos are virtually the same scene, separated by mere feet, and yet through various filters they look vastly different. Put 10 people around a table. They will all be looking at the same food in the same house and each one will see something different. Reality is a matter of perspective. They say beauty is in the eye of the beholder. So too is ugliness.

I was invited to a gathering by a friend. I had never been to the property it was hosted at so i typed the address into the gps and let the device tell me where to go. I had in my car a bag of potato chips to contribute to the potluck and i wore jeans, a plaid shirt, and tie dyed walmart slip ons. As i followed the little automated voice i thought, “Boy, you have to have money to live out here.” There were hundreds of acres of land, sprawling fields full of cows or recently bailed hay. There was just dry flat golden land as far as the eye could see. I knew i was getting farther from my world when the cows disappeared from view and were replaced by victorian style farm-houses and then straight-up mansions. I thought about turning around. I understood the predicament i had gotten myself into. My friend who had invited me shouldn’t have. This was not my scene. I couldn’t blend into this kind of crowd. I was not sophisticated enough. I was good at survival living…eating bugs, catching fish, pooping in buckets when necessary. I would not know what to do in this kind of situation where most items in the house would undoubtedly cost more than my car. I tried to calm my restless mind by staring at the cows. They stared back at me. I was early. I had a bit of time to decide if i was turning around. I stopped the car and watched the cows eat, nurse, and poop. They were big and hairy with moist noses and round ears. They watched me curiously while they chewed. I felt i would inevitably have more in common with the beautiful cows than the people i was going to spend the evening with.

Once i gained admittance to the gated property i had a moment to fully understand what i’d just stepped into…a situation i immediately wanted out of.

I could give a detailed account of all the times other guests reminded me that i did not belong here, put me in my place, or flat out asked how i came to be where i was standing and who invited me. I could describe all the times one particular distinguished guest addressed myself or another guest close to my socioeconomic status in front of the group to correct our behavior when really all we were doing was just being people who were unaccustomed to the expensive way of doing things. I could list all the times i was told like a child to not break things, destroy things, or hit anything with my car on the way out. I could spend time describing what the inside of a legit mansion looks like. I’ve come to the conclusion that none of this would be fair to the host. She opened her home to others.

what i will say is this: i have no business being in a mansion. The only three times i came in handy were when other people didn’t understand how to arrange kindling in a gas fire pit to get the logs to light, when the host got her jacket zipper jammed and my years of helping patients dress at work gave me the skillset to unjam it, and when the others forgot the way out of the house and i knew which door it was. I had a specific skillset that pertained to functionality and survival much more than charm and appearances.

I busied myself tending the fire as they had lit it hours before they intended to use it and they didn’t seem to realize fires required someone to tend them in order to be sustained and functional. it was a good task for me to get lost in. I rearranged the logs when they fell apart and added more in various places when the fire burned down. At supper one of the guests was alarmed that a flying thing had settled on her plate and i was able to tell her it was just a flake of ash.

I was told repeatedly that i was having the experience of a lifetime. It’s all a matter of perspective i guess.

This story will be rather disjointed and that’s because i’m leaving quite a bit out after coming to the conclusion that it’s not my place to speak on it. To understand the meat of what i’m trying to say return to the photographs at the top of the page. They are the same scene through different lens filters. We can all stand in the same room, look at the same scene, and see something completely different. For some, the scene was familiar, for others foreign. For me, the scene below will do just fine.

I did wonder whether the people who had attended had gone to eat food, enjoy each other’s company, or just say they’d seen the interior of a mansion. It seemed like it might have been a mixed bag. I decided that i did not inherently understand human behavior the way i did animals or fire and perhaps this was why i preferred to be a solitary creature.

A Rain Storm

As i watered the orchard and went about the evening chores the wind picked up and the air became cooler. The sky clouded over and nightfall drew ever closer. It felt as if the forecast for rain the following morning may come true. The weather was not producing at the moment but the atmosphere seemed ripe and moody and it looked as if we might all get our wish for rain the following morning. This year had been so dry everyone’s rain barrels were empty and the aquifers were low.

i did stumble upon some tiny deer turds and realized in all likelihood i was probably looking at fairo’s poop. It was fairly fresh which meant he was still up and kicking despite his death-wish antics. Well, good for him. I may have underestimated the incredible luck of the crazy little buckling.

The following morning i thought nothing of the sprinkles in the air and the pea soup fog. I figured it was just another tease, a substitute for the arrival of actual moisture. I drove to Fredericksburg in the dark, parked, took my ten minute nap, and entered the building to clock in. Five minutes later a huge line of storms developed into red on the radar and dumped buckets and heaping buckets of water from center point all the way to junction. Of course, fredericksburg was included in the line and the pouring rain began to make a rushing noise on the roof.

I found some of the patients up in the dining room looking out the windows. They knew there was a chance of rain and they had been up since 3 waiting to see if nature would deliver. The excitement was palpable. Everyone was quietly listening to the rain with giddy smiles plastered on their faces in the dimly lit room. I said, “It’s pouring!” Two patients nodded their heads and a third said, “i know! Isnt it wonderful?! Nothing like starting the day off with a good rain!” I clocked in and glanced at my patient list. It poured rain for a couple hours so each patient i woke up and said good morning to in the darkness got to hear the words, “It’s raining”. Each time i said it the patient sat straight up in bed and strained their ears asking, “is it now?” Or “really?” I watched them get dressed and go through their morning bathroom tasks with an urgency that they didn’t normally demonstrate. They were like children looking forward to a snow day. I took each patient out onto the porch in the darkness to finish up their session and they lifted weights under the roof covering while watching the trees thrash and the rain come down in torrents. They were ecstatic. It was some universal language in Fredericksburg. Weather was always exciting and rain was always a blessing. I realized that i enjoyed treating retired farmers and ranchers more than any other population because they seemed to pay attention to nature as much as i did. Treating this population was fulfilling. I was not hustling to get the full time hours i could between many towns and many companies but that was okay. There was something to be said for doing work that one cherished and watching old stewards of the land enjoy rain in the pre-dawn darkness while doing arm exercises on the porch.

Pushing Sheep On SH 27

I was finished working for the day and on my way home for an early afternoon of writing and hobbies and procuring something to eat. I had this whimsical carefree feeling that preceded free time but i was also sweating out of my skin in the car with the broken a/c stuck on recirculated interior air and an all black interior that seemed to be a magnet for the sun. All of a sudden i drove past a massive sea of fur. I slammed on the brakes and pulled to the side of the road to do a u-turn and head back the other way. I was fairly sure i had scene an entire herd of sheep out of the fence alongside the state highway. This was not good. This was not one or two young heifers that had climbed through a thin spot in the fence. This was, if i had seen what i thought i’d seen, an entire herd of sheep. I had the Kerr County Sheriff’s Office programed in my phone for livestock on the road occasions and i had cell service so i knew who to call. Now i just had to make sure i’d seen what i’d seen and then find some way to communicate where they were. As i drove back the other way i noted that i had indeed seen with my eyeballs what i thought i’d seen. There was an entire herd of beautiful brown and white sheep, babies and all, out on the side of highway 27. Now when i say “whole herd” i dont know if i can properly convey what im trying to say…this was not just 40 sheep hanging out in a cluster by the highway…i mean a whole field’s worth of sheep. I couldn’t even begin to guess how many there were, and part of that was because i didn’t yet realize this wasn’t all of them, but i’m getting ahead of myself there. I looked at the gps. The next instruction was to turn left on China st in 3.2 miles. I had just passed the sheep in the opposite direction, turned around, and come again. So, i needed to tell the Sheriff’s office that the sheep were out on SH 27 heading towards comfort, about 3.3 miles from where the highway is intersected by China st. As i sat alongside the road and called it in the woman answering the phone said, “you say what? Sheep are out? Okay please hold, let me transfer you.” Another woman answered the call and i told her that a herd of sheep was out on the SH 27 in between center point and comfort about 3.3 miles off from the intersection of China st. As i was telling her this i noticed that the herd was grazing and as they were grazing they were moving up alongside the edge of the highway in the direction of comfort fairly quickly. I told the woman this, telling her to be prepared to drive a bit further than the stated location as the sheep were on the move. She took details about the nearby house and herd of cows for reference and then had me describe the visual appearance of the sheep to try and identify breed. Then she thanked me for my call in and told me she’d be sending someone out. About 5 percent of me thought of leaving. I’d done my duty, called it in, and now it was time for free time and snacks. The car was hot and suffocating, especially while still. The other 95 percent of me had that 5 percent in a strangle hold and was screaming, “MUST SAVE SHEEP!” Now, a large part of being law enforcement in a small town is wrangling loose livestock, and i’m always amused when they send one guy in a uniform with gun and taser and some orange traffic cones…to wrangle a herd of animals by himself. I’d say most people do like i did and pull over because lets be realistic…how is one person going to herd anything without a livestock dog? When you watch old westerns, is there one guy on foot running around herding the cows where they need to go? No. There’s like 8 guys on horses and they shape the direction of the herd by blocking various directions the cows had pegged as an exit. I usually stick around to offer my help and am often told by the officer to get going and that my help is not needed. They end up standing nearby the cows to make sure they dont get hit or placing their flashing car where it can slow traffic while they guard the cows until dispatch can look up the phone number attached to a property on a land ownership grid and get the farmer out there so the cows have somebody familiar and food to follow back into an area where they go. I knew somehow that this situation was different. There were just so many of them and the speed limit on SH 27 was 75 mph. Semi trucks were flying through there at break neck speeds and as i soon realized, these fluffy numskulls had a frequent tendency to yeet themselves into the middle of the highway in order to cross the road….the whole herd of them. One would go and then they would all follow. The thought in my head was, “These are some beautiful, healthy, brown and white sheep. Some of them are stunning and so many babies too. To me, i saw a bunch of dollar signs walking around the highway. People sink a lot of money into livestock and they only get a return on that investment if it lives to produce or sell. A sheep soup on the front of a mack truck is like throwing money into the stock market right now or just flushing it down the toilet. That money is gone. Firstly, i thought if i were a farmer and these were my sheep, i would want anyone who found them out to try to save as many as possible, because i’d be financially ruined if they all became roadkill and because i’d be attached to the little fluffy buggers. I decided to go to a nearby farm house and ask if the sheep belonged to them. I let myself through a chain link fence and then knocked on what i assume was the back door. The front of the house was beyond a barbed wire fence. A bunch of dogs went ballistic inside but no humans answered. Dark floor to ceiling curtains blocked my view of the interior. I decided they weren’t home and stepped away from the property to head back to the sheep. I sat in my car and stared at them for a while. Two things were giving me anxiety. They were moving towards comfort at an alarmingly quick rate. How would the sheriff know where to find them if they werent where i said when he showed up? Also, the two sheep at the edge were always one hoof on the road thinking about it and when they got to thinking about it too much the whole herd crossed the road. I didn’t like this. I didn’t want all those sheep crossing the 75 mph highway. It seemed like they were better off staying put on one side until the sheriff arrived. I made a decision to stay and try to huddle and guard the sheep until help arrived. Firstly, i pulled my car up to highway 27 on the intersecting nearby dirt road. I pulled it right up to the highway so that it was blocking the grassy side area next to the highway in the direction of comfort texas. It worked. When the sheep hit my car they got spooked, turned, and went in the opposite direction…back towards center point. I would just have to turn them again somehow when they got too far in the other direction. I put my purse around my shoulder and locked the car. I set out on foot to keep the sheep against the fence. I figured out pretty quick that i could stay about twenty feet from them without them spooking. So, i stood in between them and the highway. In their effort to get away from me they huddled close to each other at the edge of the fence and grazed. I kept them like this for a long time while trucks and cars whipped past me at full speed as if i was invisible and all the sheep were invisible too. When they get too far towards center point i ran ahead of them a little bit and blocked the direction they were heading. They spooked and turned the opposite direction but a couple of them headed for the highway to cross. I knew the whole herd would go if i didnt nip them away from the idea so i ran to the side of them and they all pushed left towards the fence, away from the road, to get away from me. Once they were turned i stayed 20 ft away to the side of them in between the sheep and the highway the whole rest of the way as we headed back towards my parked car while we waited for the sheriff. An elderly couple stopped on the side of the highway to tell me to get back in my car and let someone else handle it as it wasn’t my job. Well i hadn’t lost a sheep yet and they’d stopped crossing the highway since i showed up, so until somebody else volunteered to replace me in the job, i wasn’t leaving my post of guarding the sheep. I’d already decided it was my duty to make sure none of them got hit. I wasnt going anywhere. The passenger pleaded with me to see reason that i was going to get hit. What she didn’t consider was that i wasn’t the only one in danger. With all these trucks running through here at top speed and the sheep mostly concealed by the tall grass, considering their briefly observed history of spontaneous ideas, we had the very real possibility of an epic multi-vehicle crash on our hands. Not only were the sheep in danger…so too were the drivers. I dismissed the people’s feedback for two reasons. One, they were offering no alternatives. They wanted me to “let someone else” handle it but they had no someone else to offer. Two, i was too busy herding my new charges to worry about them. They drove off and almost got hit by a truck going in one direction and a car going in the other when they decided to do a u-turn in the middle of 27 rather than pulling off the side of the road to turn the car. I hoped the sheriff would hurry up. We were nearing my car again and i wondered how many times i would have to turn them while keeping them flushed against the fence in order to have them located where i said they were when i called them in.

Here’s where things get more complicated. I see a car stopping on the opposite side of the road way ahead of me towards center point. I wonder if she is going to get out and help me with the herd. To my horror, i see the reason she has stopped up there. The animals i am guarding are only half of the amount that have escaped, as a whole giant ass group of them run straight across SH 27 before my eyes. My herd goes to join them as a semi’s brakes are squealing and its tires are bumping and hissing on the road as it tries to come to a choppy stop with the weight of its load pushing it straight for the sheep. There’s traffic in both directions. I don’t know if the truck can stop in time. I can’t look, but i know one thing, my herd is not joining the one that’s about to be roadkill. I hear myself say, “oh no you don’t, no no no no…”. I run alongside the sheep and jump on the asphalt 8 feet to the side of the sheep thinking about crossing, making a thud noise with my feet. This spooks the sheep and they run towards the fence, forgetting about joining the sheep that are crossing in front of the amazing semi driver who manages a complete stop mere feet before he would have hit wool. The sheep are super spooked and this new gaggle of them i had not known about crosses the road in its entirety. super impressed and grateful i ran alongside the stopped semi and waved to the driver, gave him a thumbs up, and mouthed the words “thank you!” I then went back to my group of sheep and continued guarding. In between cars whizzing past the woman that got out of her car on the opposite side of the highway yelled to me, “Did you call anyone?” I yelled back, “i called the kerr county sherriff’s office. They said they’re sending someone out.” “Who do they belong to?” “I have no idea.” She said, “i wish people would slow down.” I gave her a thumbs up and shouted, “yeah!” She said, “i feel like standing in the middle of the road.” I shouted back, “i dont think thats a good idea. That’s dangerous.” If they wouldnt slow for us now, who was to say theyd slow for us standing in the middle of the highway? It was a bad idea. I was reckless enough to guard sheep but not to stand in the middle of a state highway for them. That, you needed cones and blue and red lights for. People only stopped if they thought there was a wreck or a possibility of a ticket. Two crazy ladies in the middle of the road with a bunch of sheep probably wouldn’t meet the criteria. I should mention that this was my first time herding sheep anywhere but i get along with animals much better than people and it didn’t take me long to figure em out. I was surprised how much you could suggest to them as one person. The key seemed to be this 20 ft distance thing. If i got any closer the sheep panicked, split, and ran in every which direction…into fences, across the road…there was definitely a sweet spot distance where direction could be suggested without inciting panic and chaos. Well, at this point a young man joined us. I had my half of the herd flush against a fence on the one side of the highway and 100 ft away the other woman had placed her car in between the sheep and highway and had hers flush against the fence on the other side. We were watching over them and trying to flag trucks and cars to slow down while passing through when a young man arrived to triumphantly save the day. The first thing he did was run straight into the middle of her group in an attempt to get a look at an ear tag. The sheep were having none of this less than delicate approach. They splintered into two smaller groups, ran in every direction, crossed the road, and crossed back again. Traffic had to come to a stop or they’d be hit. I left my group to help her and both the lady and i stood in the middle of the highway with our arms up blocking traffic in both directions while the sheep moved and churned across the road in multiple directions like an ocean full of underwater rip tides. My full body moved when i threw my head back in frustration and then hung it in defeat. Though i was grateful for the effort to help the sheep, we had them all neatly organized and now all that work was for not. Men. Riding in to the rescue with no strategy or finesse…just walked right up to em and tried to grab a tag. So now we had a mess. When the sheep were done crossing we stepped out of the road and let the traffic resume. I was wanting to guard my part of the herd as it was still together and i felt the one he had splintered was now a bit of a job, whereas my half was still all together and flush with the fence. However, i considered that i should try to get this splintered group back together while my group was standing at the fence nicely as they might not always be. So all three of us worked to get the second half of the sheep pulled back together on whatever side of the highway they’d do. At this time i see a whole bunch more sheep coming out of this metal drainage thing, like pouring out alongside the highway and then just congregating together alongside the road. I pointed, “oh shit, there’s more! ****.” We now have the flush to the fence group on one side of the road, the splintered into two parts one on the other side of the road (one group sprinting towards comfort and the other trying to go through barbed wire into a fenced field) and a new group dangerously close to the road and pointed towards crossing. Sure enough, they go. They cross and join the group trying to go through the fence into a field. I put my hands on my head. This is chaos, just absolute chaos. How am i supposed to keep these beautiful wooly numskulls from being a bloody mess all over the road? It is about this time when i turn around and see the sheriff’s suv pulling behind me. I threw my hands up in two thumbs up and happily exclaimed to the others, “hey, its the sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office is here! This guy didn’t shoo us away. He was happy for the help. It would take all of us to get them off the highway. The first time we realized where they actually came from was when we witnessed a couple sheep just walk right through the horizontal strings of barbed wire on the fence around a field with two rams standing in there. It seems the rams couldn’t go through because of their giant curvy horns, but the entire rest of the herd had left them. I immediately said to the guy standing next to me, “What kind of fence is that?” We agreed, this was no fence at all if sheep could walk right through it. He ran ahead to tell the officer we found where the sheep belonged, mostly confirmed by the fact that the rams seemed to recognize the sheep and they fell right in together, not near as interested in the ladies as the rams should have been if they’d never seen them before. They were just standing over there eating grass together while the rest of this massive herd was on the side of the highway. The officer came and cut a hole in the barbed wire fence. Then i stood just beyond the hole, the lady to the side, and the officer pushed them from the back. The man had to go so he said goodbye and left us. The sheep came towards me, ran right past the hole, and then i stepped forwards and pushed em back in the direction of the officer. The lady kept them from going onto the highway by standing in between them and the road. Every time they passed the hole one or two sheep would jump through it. So, the officer and i took turns pushing them back and forth past the hole in the fence until half of them had gone in. The officer radioed for backup a while back and now it arrived. A second car parked, turned on its lights and sirens, and drove at the sheep. They all freaked the f out and sprinted past the officer in back of them, broke free of the lady, and took off at full speed towards comfort alongside the highway. I shook my head. People be thinking they can solve everything in two seconds with a show of force. These sheep were not having it. The first officer wiped the sweat from his head and took off after the herd to get ahead of them and turn them down a side street towards the river…away from the highway. It worked. He turned them. They all ran and the second cop car sped after them with lights on. As they disappeared from sight the first officer returned to his trunk to get a kit and said he was going to patch the hole he made in the fence. I skipped a part where a trucker stopped to give us his fence cutting tool but the officer already had one so he wished us luck and left. So officer 1 is patching the fence. Officer 2 is chasing sheep down by the river in a cop car with flashing lights. I turned to the lady and said, “i’m gonna go knock on that house’s door and see if they belong to them or if they know who owns them.” The lady said she had to go so i told her bye. I went on the nearby property and walked the edge of some fields until i found a way up a path to the back of a house that didnt involve crossing barbed wire. I came up through the carport area in back of the house and found an old man with a mustache and a faded button up denim shirt was coming down the hill from the house to greet me. I waved and he hollered, “i’m hard of hearing so hold on.” I interviewed him about the sheep. They weren’t his. They were his neighbor’s. However, the neighbor didn’t live there. It was just a field where he kept livestock. The neighbor said the guy used to own cows and the original fence was for cows, though even the cows had gotten out 3 previous times over the past few years. He said, “i worry about it because if they’re all on the road like that people cant see em when they’re going fast and some old gray beard is gonna flip a truck trying to avoid these guys. There could be a big wreck.” I told him, “yeah, i stopped cuz i was worried about the sheep getting hit and two others stopped cuz they were worried about me getting hit.” He said the guy needs to make his fence sheep tight if he wants to keep smaller animals. He showed me the fence for his herd of cows. He had a beautiful herd of brown cows i had admired for years on the side of 27. His fence had a vertical stick in it every 3 feet. This kept the horizontal wires pulled tight and the rectangular spaces between them smaller. A lamb could still get through but not a full grown sheep. Hopefully the lambs would stay with their mothers though. The fence the sheep came out of went around seven feet before each new vertical stick. This meant the horizontal wires sagged and had huge spaces for sheep to climb through as if they were hopping a jumprope. They just needed to step over the lower one and under the higher one and they were out no problem. I shook my head. I knew nothing about sheep but when i saw them climb right through the fence where we hadnt made a hole i remember my comment was “what kind of fence is this?” The old farmer in the denim said he was sorry he couldnt be of much help but the neighbor had ignored him and refused to get out of the truck every time he’d asked him for his number so he could call if his livestock got out again. The guy said that if he still had his truck and his cart he would pull it up and load em for us but he didnt have the cart anymore and he had a problem with his ticker. He looked forlorn and patted the left side of his chest with two fingers. I could tell what the guy was trying to say without saying in earshot of any law enforcement was that if he was younger he would have rounded up the sheep, put em in his pen, and told the neighbor he could have em back when he made his fence sheep tight. I liked this old farmer. He had a wonderful house with a wrap around porch that faced his field he had cows in. He had a beautiful herd of brown cows. His fences were well built and maintained, and he was fairly pleasant to talk to. I thanked him for his help and ran back down to road to update the approaching officer in his car. I told him what the old farmer had said. Then the farmer came down and spoke to the officer through the window asking, “Can you look at the land ownership grid and get a phone number for this field here?” The officer replied that this was what dispatch was working on. The officer thanked the farmer for the info and me for staying and helping. He asked if i wanted a ride to my car across the highway. I wanted him to go and help the other officer who was still trying to herd sheep with a squad car siren. So i said i’d just wait until there were no cars in either direction and then book it across. He smiled and said, “okay, thanks again for your help.” Then he drove off towards the river to help the other officer. The neighboring farmer went up his drive and back into the house. I waited until it was clear and booked it. Once i crossed the highway i got back in the car and drove home. By this time it was around 2:30 pm. Around two hours had passed. I was pretty proud that not one single sheep or lamb got hit on our watch. I was also highly disappointed in the owner who should not have the responsibility of owning sheep without making the fence sheep tight. The officer also reported that there was bedding and food in the culvert so somebody was letting the sheep sleep in there. Since this was one of the ways they got out i figured that should have been fenced off from them. I hoped that the officers would make contact and talk to the man about what his neighbor had said about adding more vertical components to the fence so the spaces jn between the wires arent so large and the sheep can’t get out. They were beautiful healthy sheep. It was a shame they were destined to climb right out again after we put them in. It is discouraging when you work so hard to wrangle and protect somebody’s investment only to find out they werent working very hard to secure their own investment in the first place. Animals are lovely additions to a homestead, farm, or ranch, but you have to make sure the fence you put up is suited for that type of animal before you obtain them.

High Winds

The wind began around sundown. Great heaving gusts that threw themselves against the house and caused it to snap and creak with every thundering rush. The dogs went ape sh*t. They lost the plot and ended up under my feet howling like banshees as they eyed the windows worryingly. I brushed my teeth, turned the lights down, and lifted each dog into the bed. They would sleep with me and we would all huddle together until the front had moved through.

Outside it truly did sound like the wind would rip everything apart. The mail bin was blowing across the yard. The chicken coop window had come unpinned and was banging against the coop wall repeatedly. The wind hissed and moaned ominously as it was funneled through the trees in the woods. It was easy to get caught up in the forlorn tragic noise and then be startled out of the trance by a wave of wind slamming into the house. Outside i heard the wooden chair moving across the porch and thought to take in the collection bin of filtered water for the chickens. I placed it in the kitchen on the floor for the night so sliding debris couldn’t knock it over. The potted plant swung wildly from the porch roof and the battered wind chimes clanged their two remaining metal sticks together as they swung around. Angry tree limbs bounced the laundry line up and down as they were whipped by the wind. I retreated to the house.

I sang to the dogs for a bit to distract them from the noise of the wind. It only works if you keep singing and i wanted to go to sleep…

I locked the door for the night and climbed into bed, situating Sili at the pillow and Cashew between my legs. This was strategic as Sili had discipline and caution of which Cashew had none. My legs were like bumper guards for her claws that would hopefully keep her from poking them into the sides of the mosquito net tent as she had such a frequent tendency to do. The many patches of medical tape on either side of the tent speak to the long standing issue. Eventually Cashew laid her head on the side of my foot and draped her paws over my left leg as she drifted off to sleep. Sili snuggled in against my shoulder and held my arm as she laid her head on the pillow beside me. It would have been fantastic if i could have just drifted off to sleep like Cashew. We were all cozy and warm and everyone was still instead of wild, no one was screaming like a banshee or poking holes in the side of the tent. However, i had a problem. The weather outside was murder on my arthritis and i couldn’t keep tart cherry juice in the house because i didn’t have a functioning refrigerator. My legs especially ached terribly and my instinct was to stretch or move them constantly as if i was somehow going to change positions to become more comfortable. I had told Cashew to be still and then here i was writhing back and forth while she was trying to settle and use my legs as a pillow. I tried to hold still for a couple hours to tuck them beneath the blanket and hold them during all the wind but eventually i realized my arthritis was not going to allow me to be there for them in the way i had hoped and i needed to get them settled elsewhere so i could have a restless night of writhing in pain because trying to hold still was making me crazy. I velcroed Cashew in to her thunder vest and placed her in her crate. I put Sili in between the freestanding closet and the wall at the back end of the house away from the windows. She curled up in a ball and tucked her head under her feet. I then climbed into bed and moved my legs all night, stretching and bending in an attempt to get some relief but there was none to be found. My knees were the main source of discomfort. Until i procured a working refrigerator i was going to have to live without tart cherry juice. November was going to be a pill.

When i woke for work at half past midnight the wind was still going in full force. I kept the dogs inside until the last hour before i would leave the property. They were terrified but they followed me to the dog run and went in. I bungeed the gate shut so Cashew could not jail break them and take off into the woods in the darkness.

When it came time to leave the property i made a decision to leave the cow gate open. I didnt want the wind ripping the hinges out of the wooden post they were in. The mailbox was still sliding across the property. There were tree branches down all over the yard and as i would soon realize the road as well. I left everything in the state that it was thinking that if i forced it to be where the wind didnt want it i would surely come home to busted things whereas if i did nothing they might just be out of place things.

As i drove off into the night i realized it was going to be a very wild drive to Fredericksburg. the shock absorbers had gone on the car, the tires were not great, and the wind gusts had a tendency to quickly shift the car 2 ft to the right mid propulsion. All this culminated into an experience i can only describe as flying through severe turbulence in a small airplane. When i was driving across flat ground in the valley i observed tree branches and strands of hay sliding sideways across the highway. It was here that the tendency to shift the car promptly to the right with each gust was most apparent. I was constantly course correcting to the left so that i would not run off the road. However, the gnarly bit of the drive was the winding roads that went atop the hills. As soon as i got up on top of the hill i felt very exposed to the wind and it was as if the car wanted to be airborne. Fighting the wind and driving without functioning shock absorbers lended an experience of transition from feeling glued to the floor mat which seemed to be coming up to meet me regularly to having the bottom of my stomach open up into an endless pit of vast and hollow nothingness. I was driving diagonally on a straight road in order to go straight and steering like a nutter on the winding roads. It was remarkable how much like flying through turbulence it actually felt. In my mind, logically, I knew I was not airborne, but my body said otherwise and in the darkness my eyes couldn’t see. There was a whole tree down on the road. I drove around it. There were branches and dead animals everywhere. Unfortunately i ran over two separate hunks of bloody meat which turned out as suspected to be deer pulverized previously by semi trucks. There were deer, coons, and porcupines on the road. It was an active night for the spooked critters. The problem was that when I had a car in front of me I couldn’t have the highbeams on and without them you didn’t see the carcass until it was under the car. When i finally made it to my destination i took my usual ten minute nap before heading into the facility. I put the parking break on, turned the headlights off, and locked the doors. The vehicle rocked back and forth from side to side with each gust. I felt like a tiny action figure in a toy car. I wondered if this was what babies felt like when rocked to sleep in a basinet. It was a restless arthritis plagued ten minutes before i sat up and put my mask on, gathered all my things, and headed into the facility. Once inside i recognized the same moaning noise i heard the wind make when whistling through the woods. It was squeezing through glass doors and whistling through the dining room of the facility. A few patients were up in their wheelchairs listening to the weather happen at 5 am. Old retired farmers never seem to sleep through weather. Even in dementia their bodies tell them they need to be up and alert to handle things when the wind gets to whistling through the doors.

Hours later the weather finally died down and the damage could be assessed. I learned that Williamson county got a tornado while austin had received all the rain. There was a tree down in Fredericksburg in addition to the one that fell across the road in Center Point. The temperature was in the low 40s in both towns when it finally moved on.