ROOSTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

blog photo 181 rooster (2)WHAT IT IS

In high school he would think of them as aliens from a totally different world. It was as if they spoke in tongues, sure some students would get it, others pretended they understood but most just sat there, jaws open, listening to the mosquito noise coming from the stage. And there was no shortage of these soothsayers being paraded into assemblies, gymnasiums and classrooms with messages for the future. Jared Deakins was told to find and pursue his passion so he would never have to work a day in his life. They explained to Jared Deakins that if he really applied himself that nothing was out of reach. Jared Deakins could do anything, be anyone and accomplish everything he set his mind to.

Well into his adulthood he often pondered who did and who did not listen to the messaging: Should they have listened or was their destiny inevitable? He wondered if those of mediocre intelligence should even hear the message let alone act on it. As for Jared, he did not hear or did not execute what his high school mentors pushed on him, much to the chagrin of his father, Mr. Deakins, a successful advisor to the current governor of Pennsylvania.

Jared looked at his watch, in two minutes his most reliable rooster, Little Mr. Deakins, would start crowing and all the kids at Bayfield Camp would begin their day. Jared flipped on the kitchen lights, fired up the propane grills, swung open the refrigerator doors to check on breakfast supplies, all the while listening to the sweet sounds of Little Mr. Deakins.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Will Offley took both courses offered by the Alzheimer’s Association, spent many hours talking to counselors about Beatrice’s decline, hired a personal support worker to help out and rarely left his wife’s side as she spiraled deeper into the depths of the dementia. In the summer that just passed, her last lucid summer, Beatrice knew the disease was taking hold and told Will in no uncertain terms that he was to take matters into his own hands. They both knew what that meant.

Mutt Jefferson was over the moon with the fact he had a scholarly gentleman occupying the passenger seat of his big rig, a rarity as most of the time he drove the highways by himself. Cinder Willoughby like wise was having a blast as most of his travels began and ended in airports. The two were off to plot 82 in Missouri to check out the junco, but first Mutt had to swing by the Offley farm to check in on his old friend.

Pandemonium greeted Mutt as he pulled up to the farm, two police cruisers and  a couple ambulances were parked around the house as people scurried in and out of the house. Will was being loaded into one of the ambulances and Beatrice, handcuffed and disheveled, was being placed in the back of a cruiser. On top of the barn, a crow cried his lament.

 

JUNCO

blog photo 180JuncoWHAT IT IS

In a dark secluded area of the Devils’ Backbone in the Mark Twain National Forest a small dark-eyed junco darted out into a bright, sun bathed open meadow, grabbed at some white millet, then hopped back into the forest. The student Ranger’s camera and tripod was set up a few feet from the millet, the motor drive was on high and the student hoped her twenty or more photographs would reveal what she had been chasing all summer long.

Some years ago, two summer students from the University of Missouri were hired by Bayer Crop Science to observe results during neonicotinoid saturation experiments on plots of land owned by the company. Among their duties, the students banded dozens of song birds that frequented the area and over time it was believed all the birds died of extreme exposure to the pesticides.

Pouring over the photos did not provide Jill, the student Ranger, with the image she was looking for until she saw the last photograph she had taken. A close-up of the bird’s leg clearly showed a Plot 82 band. In the coming weeks the Mark Twain National Forest would be crawling with scientists from many disciplines anxious to see how this junco may have survived.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Swain had his distal bicep tendon sliced in hand to hand combat, had his knee cap shot off the same day with a P-64 CZAK handgun and endured constant ringing in his ears after his sergeant stepped on a land mine, killing over half the company. He and his best buddy, Jack Samson, made it out of Vietnam together but on Swain’s second day back home in Missouri, he died when the hot air balloon he was in caught fire and all aboard perished.

Now, every year on that anniversary , Jack Samson along with his sisters, Norah and Mary, take the trip to Joplin Missouri to pay their respects at the spot where Swain was laid to rest. This year Jack and his sisters decided to walk the distance and it was most fortuitous for Mary because a pair of mating juncos, flying recklessly down a country road, slammed into her, got caught up in her long curly brown hair causing her to panic and then tumble down a steep embankment where she struck her head against a large chunk of granite. When she regained consciousness, her sight was miraculously restored.

 

WATERFALL

blog photo 179 High Falls M.IslandWHAT IT IS

It lies near the center of Plot 82, a swift current, then a cascading waterfall culminating in a soft, swirling pool of cool water that attracted wildlife from miles around. The surrounding trees were often filled with hundreds of songbirds creating a symphony of short, sweet melodies that could be heard anywhere within the plot. A curious man by nature, Baines’ inability to access this part of the plot frustrated him greatly until he discovered a large pine tree whose sturdy branches allowed him to climb high enough to see the waterfall from a distance. Each morning after dawn, he would take his binoculars, climb the majestic tree and be amazed at the richness of life surrounding the waterfall. Over the fullness of time he also came to believe that the Land of a Hundred Women and what you might call the terrestrial world, intersected at this place.

During his second week of observations, Baines watched as two knights on horseback appeared at the base of the falls and a woman walked out from behind the falling water to greet them. One of the knights retrieved a small treasure chest from his saddle bag and offered it to her. Opening the lid slowly, she reached inside and took out an ancient looking key and held it up to the morning sun as if to verify its authenticity. A second woman appeared and placed a note into the chest and handed it back to the knight.

WHAT IT IS NOT

It all started out ok:  a strict perimeter was established and adhered to, a timetable was agreed to and enforced and all guests, visitors and relatives were vetted and scrutinized before gaining access to the property. Bearded dragons patrolled the area 24/7 and by all accounts the three munks were quite safe. Unfortunately, these munks were ornery creatures, ready to bend the rules in order to get their way.

The local munks told the three amigos of the delicious and innumerable white pine cones near a beautiful waterfall that were ripe for the picking. The munks formulated a plan to slip by their security guards in the dead of night and find this Shangri-La for themselves.

With new tires on their van, Johnson and Williams were glad to leave Ellwood City behind and continue on to Lake Springfield to meet with Graham and Smith. With Johnson at the wheel, Williams was basking in the wonderful Pennsylvania countryside when he spotted a robust waterfall down a side road. Williams wanted a photograph, so Johnson pulled a u-turn and within minutes Williams had his telephoto out, and among other things, had a clear shot of the munks gathering pine cones at the base of a large white pine tree. Johnson immediately recognized the munks, got his throw net from the van, and before the munks knew it they were trapped beneath the fine mesh net and quickly hustled into the van.

 

FROZEN

blog photo 178 snowmachine trailWHAT IT IS

It is not the thing one normally sees on a frozen lake, but there it was, a helicopter on fire, a large hole in the ice, some dazed individuals trying to stay warm and a column of black smoke rushing to the heavens, acting as a beacon for rescue crews to follow. CO Micheals was first on the scene, quickly followed by police and fire fighters. Word came from some local ice fishermen on the lake that a helicopter was flying erratically and within seconds of appearing over the lake had gone down at the far end.

Miles Hobbson, sporting minor cuts and bruises, was repeating his story for the third time to the lead investigator. Hobbson was a last minute fill in for a pilot friend who asked him to pick up a man and a dog, fly them to this small lake, pick up a Peter Lehman and a Melena Schulz, and fly all four to a lodge near Lake Temagami. A soon as Lehman and Schulz were aboard, all hell broke loose with the dog going for Lehman’s jugular,  and then,  as they struggled the door flew open and they both fell crashing through the ice below, the dog still in a death grip around Lehman’s throat. While all this was unfolding Schulz went for a handgun, but was shot by the dog’s companion with the bullet passing through her shoulder then hitting the helicopter’s console causing Hobbson to lose control .The helicopter spiraled out of control, slammed into the ice and burst into flames and as the fire spread,  Hobbson dragged the man out of the wreckage to safety but when he went back for Schulz, she had already gotten out and was snowshoeing across the lake.

Waiting to be rescued, the man confessed to Hobbson that he and the dog were retired police from the Boston Police Service and they had been on the hunt for Lehman for some months. Lehman had killed a prominent member of the Boston Canine Unit and his partner vowed retribution, and on this day the punishment was extracted, although the cost to the canine had been high.

WHAT IT IS NOT

The fairy of Ellesmere Island granted Feather and Hammer ten days of enlightened passage where all their travelling obstacles would be reduced to a mere pittance as they made their way from the mid Atlantic state of Pennsylvania northward to the High Arctic. Approaching the 50th parallel with winter coming on, meant the two knights would have difficult days ahead but they remained hesitant to use the fairy’s gift because the days nearing the final destination would be most brutal.

Hammer was supposed to be the tough, brawny one but his numerous diversions during this week’s travel only served to set them back. On Monday morning they broke camp early near Devil’s Mountain only to find a snowy owl snared in some barbed wire and a couple hours of painstakingly cutting wire was required in order set the creature free. Later that same week Hammer spotted a red fox staggering around the forest with an ice cream pale stuck on its head and not far from there he stopped to help a women with a gunshot wound to her shoulder.

LACE

blog photo 177 plant blue backgroundWHAT IT IS

His three piece worsted suit was perfectly tailored to his delicate frame making his lanky appearance stand out in the room. The thin black mustache complimented his manicured chinstrap beard and his bronzed skin made him a most attractive figure, to which many of the women in the room would attest. As he surveyed the ever increasing crowd, he was unaware of a personal habit he had acquired years ago, that of sliding his left hand through his thick black hair, then patting the top and sides of his head in an effort to improve what he had just done. Perhaps what made this man especially striking was his aqua-blue eyes, a rarity on the subcontinent and a feature that seemed to draw people to him.

While scrutinizing the main entrance for a particular face, his phone, located in his breast pocket, gave off a quiet murmur. Retrieving the device, he left the room and went outside where the chilly April air reminded him just how far he was from home. The conversation was over in seconds, but before going back inside he watched what he thought was last year’s Queen Anne’s lace swaying in the wind. It would soon be time for renewal he thought as he entered the building.

Adnan’s determined walk, caused in part by the cool April air,  brought him to the microphone at center stage where the sea of moving colors of the audience never failed to surprise him. He tapped the microphone, cleared his throat and told the crowd Miles Hobbson would be a few minutes late.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Baines Wainscot bargained his way aboard a Mississippi shantyboat leaving Baton Rouge heading north to Vicksburg. The skipper had close to a half million canned spam lids that a new aged sculptor in Monroe was willing to pay good money for and Baines was hired to act as a lookout on the busy river, keep the boat clean and help unload the treasure once docked in Vicksburg.  Baines  had gotten word on the street back in New Orleans that Leo Barnard made his way to Winnsboro in the Franklin Parish every year to take in the catfish festival, and he was hoping to find Leo and get his story.

Approaching the Port of Vicksburg, Baines could see what he believed was the sculptor pacing up and down the wharf. He was an interesting looking fellow, as wide as he was tall and as Baines was soon to discover, covered in tattoos of Queen Anne’s lace. The unloading of the lids went off without a hitch and soon Baines and the skipper parted ways.

Baines could have driven the sixty or so miles from Vicksburg to Winnsboro, but he decided to walk and hitch-hike the distance so he could get a feel for the area.    Had he taken any other route he might not have seen Leo Barnard and his small horse wandering the grounds of the Twin Oaks Golf and Country Club just off Hwy. 17. Baines asked the driver to stop, thanked him for picking him up, then scrambled out of the car in the direction of Leo and the horse.

In a small alcove off the fourth hole Leo stood uncomfortably close to a tall well dressed man in an expensive three piece suit. It was the aqua-blue eyes surrounded by smooth bronzed skin that Baines first noticed.  But, as he approached the two men, they quickly jumped into a nearby golf cart and drove toward the club house. Baines spun around several time looking for the horse.  But it was no where to be seen.

CAT

blog photo 176 CATWHAT IT IS

They drifted into a basement bar off St. Anne St. one at a time to indulge their shameful afternoon pleasures; the men with felt fedoras slung over their eyes in an attempted disguise and the women with their bucket hats and matching scarves sitting in small groups of twos and threes waiting for the show to begin. The crowd of doctors, engineers, mechanics, dock workers, waitresses, lawyers and many others grew anxious as the clock inched its way toward 2 PM and the start of New Orleans Celebrity, a local cable show featuring interesting people from New Orleans.

The first time Jaden looked at her watch it was 11PM.  Some two hours later she looked again and it was still 11PM, so she pulled at the accordion-style watch band, slipped the watch off her wrist, lowered the car’s window and was just about to toss it when Rene Boudreaux’s truck came to life a few blocks away and slowly made its way down the street. Jaclyn waited a few minutes before starting the cruiser and soon both vehicles inched their way down Basin St.

The popcorn stopped popping and was ready, a half dozen cold beer cohabitated with a block of ice in a cooler beside the couch and Tiny LeBlanc, with remote in hand, was ready for the 2 AM cable repeat of New Orleans Celebrity. Tiny was careful not to let the other Chaps know of his utter fascination with the show and the local celebrities that somehow gave him hope that his pathetic little life might someday become more glamorous. Of course, Tiny was also delighted with the 2 AM repeat, allowing him to luxuriate in his program while his motorcycle buddies were asleep or otherwise occupied. Tonight, a local veterinarian was the featured celebrity whose claim to fame was a complete restoration of a feline. Captured by the SPCA, the cat, close to death and mangled beyond belief, was on kitty death row when the vet stepped in and performed his magic.

A volley of semi digested popcorn followed by a heavy gush of Budweiser flew across the living room when Tiny realized he was looking at Kitty-kitty. Tiny’s jaw was still wide open when Rene Boudreaux burst into the house ordering Tiny to help him move four heavy pales from his truck to the van inside the attached garage. Tiny was told to wait five minutes, then drive the van to the airport.

Jaclyn thought she lost Rene and was about to radio in when Rene’s truck, tail lights broken and tires screeching, drove past her at high speed. The chase didn’t last long, as Rene pulled over and stepped  out of the truck.

 

WHAT IT IS NOT

Nine-lives is missing, not seen along the rural roads or near the farm houses in over a month. Nine-lives first came to prominence some years ago when Seth Miller’s pit bull tackled the cat near the compost heap. A classic dog/cat fight ensued and Miller’s pit bull was never quite the same. Word of the cat spread throughout the community, and soon sightings of the animal became common, with many folks putting out food and milk for the feline. Nine-lives never felt the touch of a human hand, he was standoffish that way, but still the good people around Wanapitei looked out for the feisty feline and the residents grew concerned with each passing day of his disappearance.

Sapphire got a call early on Saturday morning from her neighbour Harriet, Nine-lives was running frantically along the log fence at the back of the house and she didn’t know what to do. When Sapphire arrived, Nine-lives stopped dead on one of the upright posts and let out a series of throaty, blood-curdling sounds that only a cat can produce. He jumped from the post and baited Sapphire to follow. No more than a hundred feet away, Slim’s blue eyed horse was found stranded in a sinkhole, muddied but otherwise unhurt. With a few tractors, some ropes and slings and  Slim leading the rescue, the horse was soon on dry land none the worse for wear.

CRANE

blog photo 175 sandhill craneWHAT IT IS

He embarked on a jagged trip back to Canada, leaving Texas, crossing the Great Smokey Mountains of Tennessee, then north as far as Pennsylvania only to head southwest to see the fabled Plot 82 in Missouri. Buck-jimmy spent a month exploring the plot and demonstrating to the critters his phenomenal jumping skills, but as he grew restless for his Northern Ontario home, he decided to hit the road once again and make his way through beautiful Indiana and Illinois on his way to Michigan and finally Canada.

Leaving Illinois and entering Indiana, Buck-jimmy found a quiet pond to spend the night and just as he was settling in for the night a ravenous sandhill crane flew overhead catching Buck-jimmy in his watchful eye. The dance of death went well into the night with Buck-jimmy able to elude the clever bird until, on one of his extraordinarily long jumps, he hit an old piece of farm fence wire and tumbled helplessly to the ground. As the crane moved in, a wobbly jimmy saw an open treasure chest box close by, so he hopped inside and closed the lid.

Buck-jimmy sat perfectly still, listening to the crane outside scruffing around and only wondered slightly what the note on the bottom of the box meant…study hard…the rewards are endless! When all was quiet, Buck-jimmy opened the lid and took a look around and saw the crane was gone, so he hopped out of the box and headed for the pond. Reaching the water, he looked back and saw a translucent man pick up the box, climb up on a horse and disappear into the forest.

WHAT IT IS NOT

Mildred Duck’s Crane Hill Massacre tells the story of the indiscriminate elimination of most life forms during the years hard rock mine development in Northern Ontario. The whining of chainsaws, the rumbling of bulldozers and the incessant explosions of rock laid the environment a wasteland and those living there either dead or on the run. For authenticity purposes, it was now time to leave the tranquil shores of Lake Temagami and move the entire cast to the southwest where the barren landscape could be used in the next phase of rehearsals. Mildred sent out ten of her most loyal ducks to scout out suitable locations and after much debate, a heavy-metal laden pond surrounded by blackened rock and completely devoid of vegetation or life was chosen. The site was backdropped by an abandoned nickel smelter whose corroded  steel beams and rusted sheet metal would add the touch of reality Mildred was looking for.

It fell upon Mildred’s head of security, Mr. Crane, to quell dissent among the cast who had grown fond of Lake Temagami and had no interest in moving. Mr. Crane’s no-nonsense reputation preceeded him and within a few days the cast and gear was packed up and the entire production was in their new digs.