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Saturday, September 26, 2015

Post # 40: Frank the Billy Goat?

We had two dogs buried in our back yard.  We had Katie, who loved to climb trees.  And we had Henry, our stealth dog who got into trouble in sneaky ways.  I think Frank was channeling both dogs.
One afternoon, early in June, I was outside grilling a steak for Wife and me.  PD started barking.  I thought PD and Frank were arguing over one of the toys.

I looked around to see what toy was being argued over.  I could see PD, but couldn’t find Frank.  PD was looking up at the trees, barking like he does when the squirrels are harassing him.  I noticed movement over the little hot-tub house in our backyard.  I looked up and found Frank scampering around on the roof!

I hollered for Wife to come out.  I told Wife to watch Frank while I got the ladder.  She was pretty sure she wouldn’t be able to catch him, but she agreed to watch Frank, anyway.

I grabbed the ladder and climbed up.  I called Frank to me.  I wasn’t even sure if Frank knew his name, yet.  I was both surprised and relieved when he came. 

I ran to the hardware store after supper to pick up a role of aluminum flashing and some screws.  Wife thought she knew which tree Frank had climbed.  I thought the climb was awful steep and guessed that it might be a different one with more of a slope.  When I got home, I began screwing the flashing in place around Wife’s tree so that Frank couldn’t get a toe-hold on the bark.  I covered the sharp edges with duct tape, since I was pretty sure Frank (Mr. Persistence) would probably continue to lunge at the tree and try to climb it.

As I stood back to inspect my work, PD started barking again.  Looked up, following PD’s gaze.  I guess you could call PD a tattle-tale.  Except that it was his barking a few years earlier that saved me from a deadly fall off the roof when he called Wife outside for me.  So I won’t call him a tattle – tale.  Instead, I think he just recognizes that some folk simply do not belong on tall objects.

In any event, I looked up, and there was Frank.  This time, Frank was walking across a narrow branch that hung about two feet above the roof of the hot-tub house.

I ran up the ladder and called Frank down.  I held my breath as he jumped off the limb and onto the roof.  He ran over to me and I brought him down again.

All of the trees in our backyard wore bright shiny aluminum collars before sunset.

We had bought a small house in Victoria as a place for me to stay when I was teaching.  The yard was tiny, but had a large tree.  I put an aluminum collar around that tree during my next visit.  Frank still thinks he is a Billy Goat, and I’m doing my best to convince him he’s a dog.

Did I mention he’s persistent?

Friday, September 18, 2015

Post # 39: Memorial Day Tributes

Frank had a chance to settle in and begin to feel like he was home once we got back from our Mother’s day camping trip.  One of PD’s favorite games was “chicken.”  We had a rubber chicken that I would throw in the back yard, and PD would fetch the chicken.  Sometimes he would bring it back to me.  Sometimes he would sit down at the far end of the yard with chicken and look at me expectantly.  I think Wife taught him the “sit, wait!” part of the game in order to encourage me to get more exercise.  I would walk over to PD pick up Chicken and throw it to another part of the yard.

PD was very possessive of Chicken.  When Frank tried to play, there would be raising of hackles and growling.  So, Frank learned to play with Bone.  I would throw chicken first to get PD going in one direction, and then I’d throw a squeaky Bone in another direction.  Frank would run off to the other side of the yard.

Then I would walk over to PD and pick up Chicken.  Frank learned from PD that he was supposed to wait with his toy.  So I’d have to walk over to Frank and pick up Bone.  Frank was still learning, and interested in making up his own rules.  So sometimes Pig turned into a game of “chase me.”  Once I had both Chicken and Bone in my possession, the games would start again.

Memorial Day arrived, and we honored our World War II veterans at church.  I thought about my father who had died recently and who served near the end of the war in the Philippines.  

George and William Hamilton

I thought about Wife's father and uncle, who also served.

Bill Allen

Don Allen

Bill, Gus (their father) and Don Allen

And I thought about my brother who died shortly after his services as a helicopter pilot in Vietnam.

Kirby Hamilton

Kirby Hamilton

I spent the afternoon digging up memories of loved ones.

Frank spent the afternoon trying to dig up Henry.

Wife looked out the window and told me that Frank was digging up Henry’s grave.  I had buried Henry pretty deep, and so I wasn’t too worried.  Henry was probably three or three and a half feet down.

I casually went outside to see what Frank was doing.  All I could see of Frank was part of his butt and his tail.  He was about half-way down to Henry and digging fast!

I took Frank inside and filled in the hole.  I put a couple of cinder blocks and bricks on top of the soft dirt.  Then we let Frank back outside.

Wife and I have really fond memories of Henry, and we miss him a lot.  But we did not want to see Henry again!

Did I mention that Frank was persistent?

I pulled Frank out of the hole again, and put a large #2 wash tub over one end of the site, and placed the concrete bird bath over the middle.

Frank finally gave up on his Memorial Day tribute to Henry.

I feel bad for Henry, though.  One of his pleasures was keeping the birds out of our yard.  And now, all of the birds would be coming to splash and play right over his head.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Post #38: Mother’s Day and Blessings of Grandchildren

It was 6:30 in the evening.  It was a Sunday.  It was Mother’s Day.  And we were in a campground, far from home, locked out of our trailer.  We should be roasting wieners (not our dogs) and marshmallows over a fire by now.

Instead, I was on the phone, talking to an RV repairman, explaining that the lock to our fifth wheel was broken, and we couldn’t get in.

Amazingly, he agreed to come out that night to help us!  Who does that?  Only an awesomely kind man who likes to help people.

The repairman showed up with a 14 year old grandson in tow.  He looked at the door.  Yes, the lock was broken.  He attempted to take it off from the outside, but could not. 

Then he asked if we had a laundry shoot in our Fifth Wheel.  If you are not familiar with Fifth Wheels, then you may not know that they have a “basement.”  The front of the fifth wheel is raised up so that you can back the bed of your pickup under it.  This is where the king pin is, that attaches to the hitch in the bed of the pickup.  The space over the bed of the pickup is where an extra room (usually the bedroom and bathroom) is.  Since a bit of ramping is involved in the construction, there is space under part of the floor which is used for storage.  Since it sits below the room, it is called the basement.  Some Fifth Wheels have a hole under the bathroom sink that can be used as a laundry shoot.  It may sound big, but trust me, it is not. 

“Yes,” I told him, “we do have a laundry shoot.”  We walked around to the side of the trailer where the laundry shoot was, and I opened the door to the basement.  We took turns sticking our heads in and looking up.  It was a mighty small hole.  An adult could not crawl through that hole.

But, maybe a seven year old girl would fit?  We just happened to have one of those.  Kathy took the truck, drove down to Jason’s campsite and kidnapped the girls.  Jason and Melissa were still working on setting up camp, and didn’t know that we now had plans for their daughters.

We brought Allie, our seven year old granddaughter over and showed her the hole. Did she think she could crawl up there for us?  She was a little nervous about crawling up into the trailer.  It was starting to get dark.  But she agreed to do it.

The repairman told Allie what he wanted her to do:  Crawl through the laundry shoot, push open the cabinet door, crawl out into the bathroom, go out into the hall and down the stairs, and then turn the deadbolt lock and open the door.  Allie did as told.  But the lock still wouldn’t open.  I started thinking about finding a dog-friendly hotel again.

The repairman had another plan.

There are two emergency exits in a Fifth wheel.  These are windows that unlatch from the inside, and are big enough for an adult to crawl out of.  In our trailer, one is upstairs in the bedroom, and requires a significant drop to get out.  The other is in the dining area, and is closer to the ground.  The dining table sits in front of this window.

The repairman asked Allie to crawl on top of the table, and described for her how to release the latches.  Allie did this promptly.

By this time, Jason and Melissa had arrived to find out what we were doing with their daughters.  And, it was time for dinner.  Of course, no dinner could be made.  Hot dogs and S’mores were supposed to be on the menu.  No dinner could be made until we could get into the trailer.

Now the window was open, but it was too high for old men like myself or the repairman to crawl through.  And then there was that dining table that had to be crawled across.

Fortunately, we had a 14 year old boy nearby, the repairman’s grandson.  We called him into action.  We boosted the young teen up through the window with a pocket full of tools.  He was able to disassemble the lock with his grandfather’s guidance.  At last, the door was open.

Kathy prepared dinner while the repairman installed a new deadbolt.

Allie was glad to be free of that trailer, which had quickly become dark.  Rachel (our four year old granddaughter) insisted that she be allowed to crawl through the laundry shoot.  With lights turned on, the girls made a game of going into and out of the trailer using their own private entrance.    

There is a follow-up to this story.

Three years later, Kathy and I stayed in an RV park in San Marcos, about an hour south of the other campground.  The water heater quit on us during this stay.  Not a big emergency, but an inconvenience.  Like all inconveniences, this one happened on a Sunday, when the usual places are closed.  I had noticed earlier that an RV repairman lived in one of the RV’s across the road from us, in the same park.  He had his name and phone number on the side of his truck.  I called his number and explained the problem.  I told him we would be OK until Monday, but I’d like to be put on his service call list.  The man came over right away, anyway.  How nice that I was able to find someone willing to work on a Sunday.  I thanked him profusely. 

I made small talk with him while he was making the repair.  I commented on how grateful we were that he was willing to come over and take care of this for us on a Sunday.  Then I launched into my story about getting locked out several years earlier, and how fortunate we were to find someone willing to work on Mother’s day.  He said the lock problem must happen a lot.  And then he began telling the rest of my story back to me!  We figured out that he was the same guy who helped me before. 

You meet a lot of nice people when you travel.

And sometimes, you get to meet the same nice person twice.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Post #37: Frank's First Trip with his New Pack!

It is probably not a good idea to take a new dog and start to travel with him before he has had a chance to settle into the routine of your home.  However, Mother’s Day was coming up and we had planned a trip to go camping with our Fifth Wheel at Canyon Lake before we met Frank.  Our oldest son and his family would meet us at the campground.  Since our son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughters were involved, we couldn’t just cancel the trip.

So, just a couple of days after Frank arrived, we loaded up the Fifth Wheel and took off for Canyon Lake.

Fortunately, Frank is a very good traveler.  He took his cue from PD, and settled onto Wife’s lap for the ride.  The trip was uneventful and we arrived at the campground in good spirits.  We pulled into a nice shady spot and set up camp.  

I don’t think Frank knew what to make of our trip or the trailer.  After we got the RV set up, we walked the dogs, and then went inside the trailer.  Frank was extremely nervous, and started showing some “billy goat” tendencies.  He jumped up on a chair, and from the chair he jumped on to the kitchen cabinet.  He walked up and down the cabinet a while, then jumped down onto the chair, across to another chair, on the floor, onto the couch and then up onto the table.  I knew that he had managed to climb our baby gate at home, but I had no idea he was such a jumper! 

I would have been amazed, if I hadn’t been so afraid that Frank would hurt himself.  We couldn’t stand losing another dog to a ruptured disc so soon after Henry.

We decided we had better put Frank in a crate.  Frank was not happy about the crate.  After all, crates were what dogs lived in when they lived in that noisy, lonely animal shelter.  He didn’t want to go back to the shelter.  We put him in, anyway.  It was sad for him, and sad for us, but at least Frank was safe.  And so was our trailer.

Son1 and his family arrived a short time later.

Wife and I got Frank out of the crate, locked up the trailer and took the dogs on a walk around the campground.We watched Son1 and Daughter In Law start the procedure of setting up their tents, then visited some with our granddaughters.

Wife took the girls and walked them back to the fifth wheel so that they could use the facilities.  I waited a bit with the dogs, watching the tent construction.  And then I started back for the RV, too.

When I got to our trailer, I found a frustrated wife and two anxious girls.  Wife’s key would not work on the deadbolt.  I tried my key, confident that Wife just wasn’t doing something right (guy attitude!).

Well, my key didn’t work, either.  I pushed, pulled, and lifted.  I couldn’t get the door open.  Wife left with the girls in search of the park’s restroom.  After taking care of the necessities, Wife took the girls back to their parents while I tried to figure out how to break into the trailer.

I called the office.  This was a Sunday afternoon, around 4:00 p.m.  And it was Mother’s Day!  No one answered the phone.  I used the search function on my phone to hunt down locksmiths in the area.  I found a locksmith referral site and found that the nearest locksmith was about two hours away.  I called anyway.  No answer. 

I was beginning to think that we may have to find a dog-friendly hotel nearby, and wait until Monday to get help.

Then I spotted one of the park workers driving by on a golf cart, and flagged him down.  He gave me the name of an RV repairman that he knew, and who did work in the park.  By this time, it was 6:30 in the evening.  I was pretty sure that the repairman would ask us to wait until Monday, but maybe at least he would come early enough that the entire trip wouldn’t be wasted.

Was the trip a bust?  I’ll elaborate next week when I write about how I learned some of the little known blessings of grandchildren.