Saturday, August 7, 2010

Crunch... crunch... *pause* ... crunch

There's a saying that 'when the cats away the mice will play', yes? It does hold some truth. Generally speaking, some of my weirdest experiences have happened while I was home alone. For example, when we were living in a motor home outside our earthquake damaged house, my sister and parents went to a friends house for dinner. I stayed home because I wasn't feeling good. They leave. It got quiet. Then the storm blew in, and the next thing I know there's a bay tree leaning on the motor home, which is up on blocks to keep it level. Visions of the home on wheels going over the side of the embankment with me inside did not fill me with the glee one finds on an amusement park ride. Rest assured the sturdy little box on wheels stayed right were it was, but my parents did get a slightly panicked phone call from me.

There was also the time that the kitchen nearly caught on fire due to someone turning on the wrong burner on a stove. That was NOT me. Someone wanted tea and turned on the burner under a pan full of bacon grease instead of the burner under the tea kettle. Ah... please note that when you do as you were taught by very serious firefighters in grade school "You can use baking soda to put out the fire by dumping the box on it.", that what they do NOT tell you is that when you have a fire shooting three and a half feet into the air, and you dump a box of baking soda on it, that the fire briefly and surprisingly, shoots out three and a half feet to the sides before being extinguished. Yes... That would've been handy to know. Earlier. ehem...

But I think the 'home alone' instance that tops all others (so far, that is) was when my parents were visiting my uncle in AZ. This was the year that we'd had out first trouble with a critter getting at the chickens while in their hen house. Right at the beginning of summer we'd forgotten to close up the door before it got dark, and of course, the one night we forget is the one night something decides it wants chicken for dinner. And of course it isn't something small like a fox or a bobcat. Nooooo. We end up with a yearling black bear in the hen house. We lost two hens to the bear eating them, and one just plain vanished. That's still a mystery. No feathers, no nothing. Bears are messy eaters, and would have left some evidence behind. I'm wondering if the bear had been accompanied by a fox that night. Fox are often seen puttering around near bears. Anyway, that was a first... actually there were a couple of firsts. First time we lost chickens to a predator, first time we forgot to close the metal door on the chicken coop, and the first time I've ever seen my father grimly loading a revolver to go shoot whatever it was that was in the chicken coop. Actually that was the last time I've ever seen that last one.

So, here we are later that same summer, while my parents are out of town, and I'm left home to take care of the raptors, and the dogs. Not a big deal because I couldn't get out of work anyway. It was hot that night so I had all the windows wide open so we'd get a breeze. No central AC of any kind here in the boonies. I prefer it that way, considering AC dries out my nose something fierce. The dogs were sacked out on the floor, sprawled really and attempting to pretend that panting wasn't a necessity. As for myself, I had plotzed down on the sofa and was watching some show on TV that has obviously done bad things to my brain cells, as I can't recall what it was.

The volume wasn't up high on the set, because the house is a lot quieter with just one human and two dogs in it. This made it easy for me to hear anything going on outside. I'd been half listening to a couple of Western Screech Owls call back and forth to each other, and there was the general faint noise of neighborhood dogs barking.... and there was the...

*Crunch* *Crunch*.. pause.. *Crunch*

...noise of something approaching the house through dried leaves. .... which failed to register completely on my radar until the dogs both sat up with ears perked. Growling ensued. Alrighty then. They don't do that for deer. Being paranoid my first thought was "Sh!t! Someone's going to rob the place." Except the dogs weren't barking in a "There's a HUMAN we don't know out there!" They were growling in a "We're not sure what it is, but its not pleasant." sort of way.

The sleepy part of my brain that only wakes up to tell me I'm being a dolt for not seeing the obvious, clobbered me with a mental pillow before rolling over and going back to sleep, saying,"Its the bear you exquisite fool." Don't ask me why I smiled. The Bear, I thought. Well! Its not getting the rest of my chickens! NOT TO-NIGHT!

Muttering highly unflattering remarks about said bears heritage and upbringing, I went out on the porch and made a lot of racket with two metal dog pans. The bear, (yes it actually was a bear; the sleepy hind brain is rarely wrong), was already in the driveway, halfway between the house and the chicken coop, and it didn't seem to care one wit about me and my noisy shenanigans. It paused in lazy fashion to stare at the strange creature making all the noise, then turned again to pursue its late evening snack.

I was incensed! How DARE he ignore me. So, I threw one of the metal dog pan at him, and of course I missed. He didn't even pause as he looked over his shoulder at me with a grade school smirk as he mosied towards food. I'd been trying to spook him, but now I was pissed. My second throw was hard and aimed with precision... the rim of the dog pan smashed into the bear's head, and made a sound like a gong. The bear stood still for a second, then sat down and weaved a little bit. After a few seconds he got up, shook off, and started for the hens again. This bear was WAY too used to people, and I didn't have anymore dog pans to hurl at him. I ran back in the house and got my car keys. The chickens were locked up, but he'd easily peeled back a couple of sheets of thick plywood the last time he'd visited to get at the chickens. I had no illusions about the wood surrounding the metal door. He'd go through it like butter.

I stormed out of the house and across the driveway to where the car was parked, my hind brain pointing out lazily that the bear could easily run me down before I got to the car. "Shut UP!" I said, and got into the car. My car at that time was an 1981 Oldsmobile Omega. Basically an 80's commute car. It was old, and not terribly pretty to look at, but it made a hell of a lot of noise, and its actually made of metal instead of spiffy, shiny plastic! And I'd learned through experience that cranking it over while little old people were walking past tended to scare the hell out of them. I couldn't see why it'd be any different for a fearless yearling bear. And it wasn't, especially after I chased him all over our 3 acres at speed, with headlights, and horns, and a blasting radio and me behind the wheel laughing like a madman. When I couldn't find him anymore (I lost him in a cloud of dust as I wheeled hard into a magnificent spiral... He must have jumped the fence in a panic) I drove back to the hen house and idled in front of the door for an hour. When I got back in the house the dogs eyed me warily for the rest of the evening. My evil streak was showing that night I guess.

It dawned on me later that my neighbors must have thought someone over here had lost their mind. It turned out that the neighbors who would've had a front row seat weren't home that week, and the other was also away. I had a laugh though. Never had another bear on the property that went after the chickens. Now we don't have any bears to speak of at all thanks to an international poaching ring. Nor do we have cougars, bobcats, otters and most of the fox are gone too. The fact that we've had a fox eating our chickens this spring and summer is a GOOD thing. I'm glad they're not gone completely. I haven't seen a bear up here in two years, and that's just sad.

Thursday, August 5, 2010


No novel today. Just some pictures I took over the last couple of days.

The first one I took out in the little garden beside the house. Its nice in there, full of little birdbaths, false stream beds and a couple of rose bushes. Actually I'm not sure if this is a rose or not. It may be something that looks like a rose and is masquerading. In any case, I snapped a picture of it as soon as I noticed it. Flowers in that little garden tend to dry up pretty damned fast in the summer.

You can see its already starting to burn in the sun. California sun might be some of the best, but up here in the mountains it tends to fry more than anything else.

And here we have a couple of little critters that I received as a gift while at work. The library has been getting a bunch of books on knitting and crocheting little animals and creatures of all sorts. I would love to be able to knit or crochet, just so I could make some of these creatures. It looks like it'd be a lot of fun. Alas, I am more likely to get tied up in the yarn than create something cute and wonderful like this young lady did. She showed me an entire family she'd made using the mysterious art of crochet. Then she handed me these and said they were for me! I LOVE them!

I'm told that the white one is an alien, from the planet Crochet. He's very cute, and I'm going to have to figure out how to hang him off my backpack. Next to him are a set of cherries. One is happy, and the other is sad, like theatrical masks. The cherries came complete with stems and leaves. I love it. Maybe I can hang them in my car. :)

I really need to learn to crochet. There was an entire book on how to make everything from monkeys to zombies. Looked like a lot of fun. *sighs* Yet another thing to learn before I expire. In due time of course.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Saw and Heard

Once again, I'm going back to Arizona to tell of a trip to one of the more internationally known museums for Native American history and art. The Heard Museum. Just to give a quick background, the museum was originally built as a mansion for a wealthy couple. The Heards. Actually the husband married into money; is wife being the daughter of the family that opened and still owns Ace Hardware. They moved to Arizona for the husband's health, and ended up becoming a patron of sorts to the native peoples of the region. The Pueblo, Pai, Navajo, Hopi, Apache, and others I'm sure I'm forgetting. Arizona is a desert, and most people are amazed at how many native peoples inhabited this arid and seemingly barren area. I'm not so surprised, but I think that has to do with my own background of being a docent for a Natural History museum. The training for which was intensive, and thorough. My brain is still crammed with knowledge, such as before the Spanish arrived in CA, there were 800 distinct dialects (this means that the languages had diverged and remained separate for several thousand years) spoken by native peoples in CA alone. I can't begin to imagine how many there would be if you factored in for the rest of the country. AZ was obviously no different in diversity.

I digress. The Heards decided to leave their entire estate, and extensive Native American items collection to the Native Americans of Arizona. Inside their mansion is housed one of the finest collections of pottery, arts, dolls and other things of that nature in the world. And having been there, I can tell you that this is not a case of gradeurized boasting. The collection is extensive, especially where pottery is concerned. Much like a car museum, you can see just about every make and model from ancient to recent, from every tribe that had anything to do with carrying something in some form. Other rooms offered exhibits on famous Native American Artists, such as Allan Houser whose work I really enjoyed. I would not mind getting a reproduction of some of his works (best way to see some of his work, is to use Google Images search). Another room was filled to capacity by Hopi Katsina (kahts ee nah) dolls of every type that I'd ever seen, and some I'd never seen before. They're beautiful, whimsical, solemn, frightening, and altogether powerful as they represent benevolent spirits who visit the Hopi twice yearly. Generally they are the spirits that bring the rain, and are given into the care of the little girls until they're around 10 years of age. Please don't take this as gospel, as I'm dragging up possibly misheard information from a tour I took nearly three weeks ago.

On the second floor there is a room dedicated to the American government's attempt to "educate" the Native Peoples. For those of you who don't know, this was the work of a combination of good christian ethics (sighs. Some of the worst events in history have been done because someone thought God wanted them to.) and money/land hungry government and business people. Basically schools were built (they called them schools, but they were more like military boot camp.) for Native American children, which were in many cases ripped from the arms of their family, loaded onto trains like cattle and shipped off to parts unknown. I wish I could say they weren't treated like cattle, but they were. Their clothing was taken from them, their braids were shorn, and then kerosene was poured on them because obviously they must have lice. (never mind that they almost certainly didn't because of the way they cared for their hair) They were also beaten or reprimanded if they spoke their own language. America stopped the practice in 1960s, which in itself is sort of appalling given we're supposed to be one of the most accepting and tolerant of differences, although I still meet extremely small minded people from time to time. Most of these schools are gone, and only two still operate, and only because they're the only school close enough for the kids to get to. Needless to say the curriculum and treatment has changed dramatically. This room really brings it all home though, because the stories of these kids, now grown and elderly, tell of their experiences of being forced from their family, their home, the train ride, the schools... Made me sick, and then angry. I don't have a high tolerance for blatant stupidity.

It's a beautiful museum, and it is a must see if you ever go to Phoenix, AZ. Just don't expect a terribly friendly reception. This was my interpretation at least of going there, but maybe they were just having bad day. All of my museum experiences in Phoenix were strange come to think of it. One was closed. Another was way more money than I was expecting, and not what I would've paid for once I got inside. Too many exhibits were broken, inoperable, or simply closed. It's sad to see museums being run like roadside tourist traps, which is essentially what they were. I must be spoiled. I'd never had that experience before, but then most of the museums I'd been to were in CA, and while CA is NOT doing well by any means, the museums were/are ... fun, inviting.

At the Heard museum I had the unpleasant notion that I was seen as a thief. Leave large backpacks at the door lockers, wear your purse around your front so we can see it, don't take pictures if you intend to use a flash.... By the time they got done with all the rules, I felt guilty just standing in the lobby. And I took maybe 4 pictures inside before I stopped, because one of the staff was there staring at me. "I wasn't using the flash." I said quietly. The woman stared at me for about 15 seconds (trust me, 15 seconds is a LONG time) before saying,"Good." Then she walked off down the hallway. I'm not normally intimidated, but by the time I left I felt like hiding in a corner and crying for a while. My friends didn't seem to have the same feeling, but then again I didn't tell them that we were followed through the whole place by at least one staff member, and not always the same one. The gift shop was nice. I mean Tiffanys nice, and way the hell out of my price range. I didn't get anything, but my friends got a bracelet and some CDs.

So, there are really only two pictures I took. One because I loved the artwork on the pottery, and the other because it got a rare smile out of me on an otherwise nerve wracking experience.

I'll apologize now for the photo, because of the poor quality, but I was shaking a bit when I took it because I had someone drilling holes in my back as soon as I took out my camera. This is Pueblo pottery style, with a painting of who I think is a representation of Koshari the Clown. The Pueblo and Hopi share many of the same spirit legends, so its not unusual to see him on pottery, but Koshari is usually seen as a Hopi Katsina. Koshari was a spirit joker of sorts, like Coyote is in other Native American cultures. He taught social traditions through tricks and humor to keep the peace in the community. I've seen him before, but I hadn't known his name until now. He was always one of my favorite characters in paintings and carvings.
This one had me smiling. If you can't tell what it is, its another piece of pottery by a Pueblo artist and this one must be quite recent. Its a Harry Potter bowl! I guess everyone really DOES love Harry Potter. In it you can see Harry's broom and suitcase. The car that Ron Weasley crashed, Mad-Eye Moody's all seeing eye, and the escapee toad. There was even more chuckling because of 'Potter', pottery, etc. But I thought this was cute, and this made me feel a little better for a while. A really little while, because this was the last picture I took before I put my camera away for the rest of the excursion.

I would love to go back and really look everything over when I'm by myself, and perhaps when the staff isn't quite so... attentive. Everything about this place was beautiful. Balsa wood wraps the walkways, and walls, providing very few hard edges to the place. It is dark though, sort of like the Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum in San Jose, Ca. Dark, with well lit exhibits. I used to go there with my grandpa when I was little. We'd go every time my grandmother went to have her hair done while I was visiting, because it generally took her an hour. I can't remember how many times I went through there, but there was always something new to see, and it was quiet. It's another place I'll have to go back to. :)