Saturday, December 31, 2011

Before the modern era

Way before DVD’s, Americans rented and bought 16mm films to watch and enjoy with family and friends.  The equipment was expensive, and while Eastman Kodak did its best to bring home movies to the mass market, you probably had to be a rich techno-nut to want and afford the camera and the equipment.  A 16mm camera cost two thirds as much as a new car!  Kodak introduced 16mm color photography in 1935.  In 1936, according to my mother, her father was taking color movies.  He was not rich, but he was a techno-nut, and I’ll bet he repaired a few clocks for jewelry houses, where clocks and cameras were also sold, in trade for his first outfit.

My Grandpa Rolf, who I never knew, left a couple of miles of 16mm film behind.  When I was a child the family movies were often brought out and were the conclusion to a fine day of visiting and eating.  We children looked forward to seeing the big reel of family movies that Uncle Hank had spliced together.  These started in the early 1930’s and went through the mid ‘50’s, with Uncle Hank’s 16mm home movies. 

Grandpa Rolf about 1936

Twenty years ago I had the movies transferred to video tape, and passed out copies to relatives.
When I was little the 1936 Great Trip West was booed down if anyone suggested loading it into the projector.  I watched the video tape once.  An hour or two of nothing but scenery to California and back.  When I sold one of the souvenir Apache baskets on EBay, the one and only tape of the Great Trip West went into the shipping box as a bonus.

In an absolute stroke of genius I had Aunt Flo watch the family movie tape with us and tell us what we were watching.  The recorded conversation was dubbed over the VHS.  Before she would come watch the tapes with us Aunt Flo made sure she wouldn’t have to watch the Great Trip West.

Aunt Flo in the late '40's

The tapes I passed out languished, as far as I know.  Jan and I watched ours once, including the great trip to you know where, and then they collected dust on a closet shelf.  Gathering around a TV to see their parents as kids wasn’t the wonder to a newer generation.  Or, perhaps the bigger than life movie screen in Uncle Hank’s family room was the magic ingredient. 

Joanne in 1944

Recently I had the tapes transferred to DVD.  It’s a two or three hour watch, and I must agree that people who were adults eighty years ago still aren’t fascinating.  But much of what was filmed still interests me.  My grandfather had people walk up and down the street as he filmed them.  His parade starts out as a small group of youngsters and grows as adults apparently come off their porches and join the line going up the street, across and down.  Adult subjects had to be set in motion.  Children were filmed at what they do best.  Most amazing of all, my parents and grandparents did not come with white hair.

Watching the DVD again and taking off some screen shots has given me a whole new project.  I must learn how to make video clips.  My brother Walt bounced himself up and down in the arms of whoever held him.  You have to see it to believe it.

Walt, bouncing Grandma Rolf, 1946

I'm working on the video!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

If they could have stayed a little longer


For several years Jan and I each had some additional local responsibility.  She was a member of the zoning commission and I was the fire board clerk.  Same Tuesday evening each, once a month.  This was back in the days before Tom retired, and he often wasn’t home before Jan and I went off to our meetings.  As the remaining members of the house were dogs and cats, no problem.  Angus andFiona’s job was waiting for Tom, they didn’t need us.

Come summer time, though, there were summertime grandkids in residence.  They were well accustomed to going with Jan to a quilt shop, or with me to work if there would be a shortage of adults in the house.  I can imagine them squealing with joy in a quilt shop.  At the township they settled in with sketch books or potholder looms.

The summer Emily and Laura were 9 and 7 was the year UncleTom’s Tuesday night schedule got extended.  The girls were quite used to amusing themselves when they came to work with me, so I took them to fire board meetings and they settled into the back of the room with whatever they brought to amuse themselves.  When Jan left her meeting she went right by the fire house, and if the board member cars were still around, she’d pull in and pick them up.

One night they could barely keep quiet leaving the room and were pouring their tale into Jan’s ear as soon as the three of them reached the parking lot:  The firemen got a new fire truck today and one of those men wanted the firemen to start a fire so they could put it out.  The man who is the fire chief said that probably wasn’t a good idea; what if they accidently burned something. That other man said “That’s why we have insurance!”  And then you came, Aunt Janice, and we can’t watch that man start a fire.

Little girls were in bed when I got home, so we could laugh over the story Aunt Jan told me about missing the fire.  They were so disappointed!  I told the fire chief the next day how sorry those little girls had been not to see a fire and the new grass fire unit in action.  “You missed it,” he said.  “They walked out of here backwards, eyes like pie plates.  I was almost sorry I couldn’t start them a fire.”

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

The real end of the line

I vacationed after my girls were off and gone, and had no problem “roughing” it, but didn’t want to deal for one minute with mom’s campers.  Dad taught me to back one neatly into a camping space, surrounded by adjacent male campers watching “the girl”, and I was damn good at it.  I didn’t want to be caught in the act of actually setting one up; I couldn’t.  And I had no heart for mom’s favorite vacation chore, unpacking and laying out all those boxes of essentials.  Teddy Roosevelt exploring the Amazon probably carried less on his twenty pack mules.

Driving home from work one night I saw a little house on wheels.  A Dodge Transvan in a driveway, with a For Sale sign.  I bought it.  We got several years hard use of it before we lost interest and sent it on to a new home.  It had captain and co-pilot seats, a table that seated four and a sofa that seated a whole lot of kids in a row.  No safety belts, of course.  After the seating area there was an ice box, a propane stove, a sink and storage cabinets.  Only children stood upright in the center aisle, adults bent over.  There was a step down area at the back to stand upright and use the stove or the sink. The table and the sofa converted to sleep four at night.

One of the last years both my girls were home Mom’s annual vacation with full complement of grandkids was to New England.  She and I drove, via ferry across Lake Champlain for her to have her ferry fix, and spent two weeks in a circuit of New England.  I loved the country and had to go back.  I also came to the resolve never to own a pop up camper unless I had plenty of grandkids to set it up and tear it down.  When I saw that little house on wheels I knew it had to be.

Jan and I took it on one of its first trips, back to New England.  No ferry, as mom was not along.  Jan and I both were deep in photography and went looking for the flora and fauna, the landscapes, the sunrises and sunsets.  We found out how early the sun rises on the east coast and how much before that one must set out to see it happen over the ocean.  We never made a sunrise.

We travelled the eastern side on the way up to Moosehead Lake in Maine.  I wonder if you can still get a lobster out of a pot along the road for dinner every night?  We set out one morning to get a campsite at Acacia National Park.  When we got to the entrance there was a several car line, and a Ranger.  We pulled up and learned that as one car came out, another was allowed in for camping.  We were three or four cars back from the turn into the park, so what the heck.  The Ranger went up and down the line, explaining the routine.  When we were the next car to turn right into the park road, the Ranger moved us all onto a service road at right angles to the road we were on.  Across from the road into the park.  As more cars came, he directed them to the end of line on the service road.  Jan and I were first in line, we’d been there an hour or so and no one had left recently.  We could also see a dozen cars before the gate, across the road.

The Ranger came up, leaned in the driver’s window and said, “Listen, I need to go chase some deer out of an orchard.  I’m putting you in charge of sending people to the real end of the line.”  Jan said to do that she needed to be official, and asked for his hat.  “No, no, not the hat.  I’ll give you my gun.”  It would have been worth it for the hat, but not for the gun.  We went back on down the road to a campground we’d passed. I remember we pounded chicken breasts flat on a rock, with a rock, to have chicken cordon bleu for dinner that night.  It was also a long walk to the bath house, uphill.  Mom probably had tools for the former, and I know she carried a portable toilet in her camper.

We took that trip in mid August, as I knew winter in New England begins September 1st.  We were in the Green Mountain Range on the way home, in a nice state campground.  Very early in the morning there was loud knocking on the door.  “Girls, girls.  I want you to get up and get on the road right now.  Big storm coming in and in an hour you won’t get over the pass.”  That ranger was right; we hit it as really bad rain not long after we got into New York.  I recall we stayed at Buttermilk Falls that night, which was a trickle over the cliff when we pulled in and a torrent when we left the next morning.

Not my last trip to New England, but memorable.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Mom’s can collection

Litter was less of a problem in my youth.  Perhaps there were fewer cars to toss from, and certainly no fast food wrappers to toss.  Kids scoured the sides of streets for pop bottles to turn in for two cents and leave with an afternoon of candy.  I remember my dad remarking on the cleanliness of English streets, parks and sidewalks when he visited, but I also can’t recall an appreciable amount of litter around me in my homeland.  When I was in college a friend routinely threw trash on the ground, explaining her motive was economic.  Someone had to be employed to pick it up, therefore she was contributing to the economy.  I could never square the moral principal with her economic theory and saved my candy wrappers for the corner trash bins.  On the whole, litter was a non issue. 

Then mother discovered recycling in the 1980’s.  She was a selective recycler.  She chose aluminum cans.  As there were no aluminum cans in her house, she had to pick them up along the road.  Perhaps Lady Bird Johnson keeping America beautiful sparked her imagination.  Perhaps it was finding an aluminum recycling station a mile from home, where her trunk load of aluminum cans could be exchanged for silver, and even folding stuff.  Mother did not need the money.  Mother was on a mission, and the money was an adjunct.  Even at a dollar a gallon, I wonder if it covered her gas.  She considered herself too practical to set out just for cans, so the picking had to be part of a larger errand.

I asked Jan about the events of the final chapter of can collecting, which she supplied in detail, and had a couple more details of the opening chapter in Tennessee.  Jan and Tom, Mom and I went to Tennessee to attend a friend’s wedding.  Way up a mountain, down a holler, and up a bumpy road, past grandpap’s.  Mom was beside herself at the can bonanza overflowing the ditches.  Jan, Tom and I absolutely refused to be involved, so Mom went off alone to pick up cans.  She made so many trips her trunk overflowed and she transferred her loot to Tom’s pick up.  Then the mother of the bride saw the back end of the truck overflowing with empty beer cans.  Shirley was a founding member of the little foursquare bedrock church down at the fork, and beside herself thinking about wedding guests parking by a pickup full of beer cans.  The father of the bride cast an appraising eye over the loot and told mom that most of those cans were steel and would not fool an aluminum recycling station.  Bob did show her how to tell the aluminum from the steel, so mom spent an afternoon sorting.    Shirley would not allow the steel beer cans to be left at her house to go to the dump, so mom worked out a deal with grandpap.  Tom parked his pick up down in the field on the day of the wedding.

As time went on mother became even more efficient in collecting cans.  She used grandkids.  There was no penny ante collection, either.  They gleaned highways.  State Route 224, on the way to Aunt Helen Rita’s.  Imagine a big, blue Dodge Polaris, emergency blinkers blinking, slowly creeping down the berm of a state highway while five or six children walked the grass and filled bags with cans.  State Route 21 on the way to Aunt Laura’s could provide passing motorists the same scene.  This was such a normal afternoon with grandma that my girls didn’t mention it until it became a postscript to the final can chapter.

Eventually the bulk of the grandkids grew up, went to college, joined the service, got jobs.  Jan sized it up and decided it was time for mom to get out of the can business.  She was out of grandkids who were close to the ground.  “No more cans, Mom.”  Of course, mom refused.  The final deal was, no more cans unless Jan went with her.  Mom was in her late sixties, and a pretty spry woman, but getting in and out, stooping, bending, walking down the road and back cut into her recycle pounds when she was on her own.  That was Jan’s convincing argument; she didn’t have to play the dangerous card.  So, trips to collect cans dwindled until mom couldn’t stand it and wheedled another ride from Jan.

She got Jan to agree to a can trip one great summer afternoon, and selected Ira Road, down in the Cuyahoga Valley.  Like all the roads that climb out of the valley, it goes up a hill and has a number of twists.  Jan’s instructions were to leave mom at the bottom, go up around the first bend, turn around and commence collecting downhill on the opposite side.  Jan went up the hill, around the bend, turned around, back around the bend…..and she saw mom sitting on the tailgate of a station wagon.  Jan wasn’t even up the hill when mom slipped in the gravel, fell, broke her ankle.  In fact, the station wagon folks saw Jan let her mother out of the car and drive off, leaving the poor woman to walk up the hill on her own and she tripped and fell!  Jan never got a word in edgewise as the irate couple berated her.  With clenched teeth and lips, she helped mom into the car and drove her straight to Akron General, and waited several hours for the ankle to be set.

But wait.  There’s more.  Returning home Jan pulled onto the front lawn in order for mom to use the front door and avoid the long walk up the sidewalk.  “Wait for me to come around and help you.”  “I can manage these crutches just fine!”  And mom fell flat on her face.  Jan got her up, in the house, into a chair and said “You will listen to me until this is over or you’re going to a nursing home to recover!”  Listening pretty much happened, although mom never forgot the threat of the nursing home.  But that’s another story. 

We miss her.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Screen shots and time capsules

Several times lately I’ve clicked on a blog and had an error message.  Too bad I didn’t think to try a screen shot.  The Google logo is accompanied by a sad, broken down repair robot and the message says 502.  That’s an error.  The server encountered a temporary error and could not complete your request.  Please try again in 30 seconds.  That’s all we know.  How can you not smile.  The next time it happens, I’ll remember to push print screen while I grin.

I walked over to my closet to see what I heard and did come back to get the camera for a shot.  Ryan (named for a fireman) is in the basket.  The entire top of my dresser is Ryan’s basket and Mr. Scaredy Cat can often be found there.  A neighbor just rang our door bell.  I’m used to Ryan zipping past me to the closet door and wasn’t surprised to find him.  I didn’t see Toby go past, but here he is, dropping socks on the floor, one pair at a time.  They have been moved to the highest shelf, out of his reach.  Or not.

The best of this picture is the tea canister.  Ann was cleaning off a counter when I visited, and asked if I knew anyone who could use the pretty can.  I had just told her about Caroline and her dad’s time capsule, and it all came together.  Her dad was fifty recently and I gave him a 1961 time capsule I found on Amazon.  Caroline was enchanted with the contents and wished she could get time capsules for her birthday.  And there was the perfect time capsule.  Ann and I went to several stores in several little Wisconsin towns.  She filled four advent calendars and I filled the time capsule. Those rocket boosters on the outside are candy filled straws that didn’t fit inside.  I can’t wait to see what her mother thinks of the pedicure outfit and the toe rings.   

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas past update

Jan read the Christmas Past post and flashed back to kindergarten, where she played with a refrigerator and stove and told the kids “These are mine.”  In reconstruction, she surely is right. 

The  kitchen goods, on thinking back, were given by Grandma Rolf.  Our house was small and toys we weren’t playing with had to be put away.  My brothers’ model airplane collection hung from wires suspended across their bedroom ceiling.    There would have been no place to put the refrigerator downstairs and upstairs would not have worked.  Our unheated bedrooms were too cold for play in the winter and in summer we were outa there.  Our ever practical mother would have schlepped the playthings up to Forest Hill Elementary School at the first sign of boredom.

Jan and I had a good laugh.   

The fridge AND the stove.  Same jammies.

Christmas past

Christmas gifts were not the big deal in my house when I grew up.  The day after Christmas we probably sported a new pair of boots, and we definitely had new underwear.  I do remember getting a wastebasket for my bedroom one year. A pretty green metal wastebasket, with open work around the top.   At Christmas the joint children toys such as Lincoln logs, Lego’s and the erector set appeared.  And one year I asked for and received a mohair sweater.  I was about fifteen.

We prepared for Christmas.  We put up the decorations and Mom baked cookies.  We didn’t anticipate the holiday for the excitement of gifts, but for spending the day with one set of cousins or another and having a wonderful meal with bits contributed by all the mothers, aunts and grandmothers.  One year Aunt Flo’s dessert included squares of vanilla ice cream with green trees in the center.  We could hardly believe it.

All the women in the kitchen distributed jobs among themselves.  Aunt Flo’s mother, Grandma Froelich, always shook the aluminum can with water and flour to make gravy because she was proclaimed the only one who could produce lumpless gravy.  Grandma Cox always made yeast rolls that pulled apart in three sections.  If we were at Aunt Helen Rita’s, dinner included wild game.  If we were at Aunt Laura’s, Uncle Frank played the organ.  And we kids did our best job, too.  We played.

Things changed a little my sister arrived, ten years after me.  If Christmas was becoming more commercial, we three older children didn’t notice.  I do recall my mom saying she’d never go downtown on the Friday after Thanksgiving as it was a “madhouse,” but I had no idea why.  Our change was a baby in the house.  Babe, as we called her, right up to that day she stopped in the middle of a supermarket aisle and said to my brothers and three aisles on each side of her, “Don’t call me Babe any more.”
Jan - 1955

I have no recollection of Santa bringing these gifts to Jan.  And, neither does she.  Our brother Walt tells the best Christmas story on her.  We guess she was perhaps five, and came downstairs when she knew she heard Santa.  She woke her brothers, who slept down there.  Melvin told her to go back to bed, but she only made it to the living room, where she sat down to wait for everyone to get up.

Jan - 1956 (Noteworthy jammies)
She was found in the morning, sound asleep in the red chair, right next to a doll as big as she.  Until the family woke her, neither knew the other was there.  Jan tells me she loved that doll and remembers her shoes fit her best friends’ little sister.

I can’t believe my Christmases were significantly different from the usual.  Our parents were children of the Depression and survivors of a great war.  There probably were no memorable holidays for my dad.  My mother’s memories were of family and friends and token gifts to acknowledge both.  Mom carried on exactly as she had before marriage, and those comfortable traditions surely pleased dad.  Our Christmases were never about the gifts, but family and food.  It was a warm, good, fun day.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

It’s been raining since spring

I was cleaning drawers a year or so ago (and not since!) and found a Vermont Weather Stick I hadn’t given away or put up.  I took it to work and gave it to the road guys.  The road super was skeptical, the assistant cynical.  “When it rains, the stick is wet.  When the sun shines, the stick is dry.  Ha Ha.  We get it.”  I had to nag them to hang it up, but eventually the super went out the door, around the corner, and nailed it to the window frame.

The weather stick is real science, but you have to take your choice among several theories.  My favorite is the balsam fir adapts to climate, drawing in when conditions are dry and reaching out for moisture when it’s wet, producing a layer of cells that do just that.  The best part of this theory is we hang them upside down so the stick points up in dry weather and curls down in wet.

I looked out the road garage window this morning at the stick, drooping, drips falling from its tip.  Drip.  Drip.  Drip.  “Poor thing,” I said.  “It’s hung down for weeks.”  “Actually,” said the super, “It’s been raining since spring.”

And it has.  I drive by a loop of the Cuyahoga River going to work every day.  It’s not a violent river down in the meadows, plenty of flood plane for the water.  One peninsula near the road provides good shelter at the tip and unless the water is out of control I often see ducks breasting the current, looking quite content.  Today the water is over the banks, spreading out in the meadow.  The mallards don’t have to hop to the top of the bank, they just  stand up. And, as someone else observed today, it could have been a foot of snow.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Angus and Fiona dispatch varmits

We live in the woods.  We have critters.  Enough chipmunks and mice outside to entertain Purrl.  Fortunately for him, he never had a chipmunk fasten itself flat across his face, velcroed on by twenty tiny claws, and take him for a merry run.  That happened to a cat of Patti’s.  Anyway.

We live in the woods. We have mice in the house.  We know the cats actually brought some, back when we still let them use the cat door, and dropped them off for future amusement.  But, there are enough cracks in our old house and mice hate wintering outside enough that an even larger population brought themselves in.

Poppy II was a terrier, but not into rodent vermin.  He once took on a contractor’s German Sheppard and sent it down the street, tail between his legs.  He considered that vermin.  Handle your own mice.  So we did.  We kept the mouse traps primed and in those mousie runways, and we probably kept even.  However, we cleaned mouse souvenirs from drawers often enough to know we weren’t ahead.

When Angus arrived he was interested in the mouse traffic, but otherwise clueless.  Like running after a ball.  He’d pick it up and then look around for an idea of the next move.  Fiona sized up the situation the first time a mouse crossed her path.  She barked.  She pointed.  She steered.  She flushed.  Angus watched.  Finally Fiona kicked his butt.  Listen, fool.  We’re terriers.  We have a job.  I’m going to flush that sucker from behind the dog food can one more time and you’re going to snap its neck.  Got it?  Don’t make me do everything!

Fiona would have preferred the neck snapping job herself, but she let Angie go into action when she had the varmit in the open.  It was to bolster his ego. You could read it in every muscle, tail up, front quarters down, keeping that mouse trapped right in the middle of the floor while she urged Angus to do it now!  Then she’d turn to him, standing there with his mouth in a little O before, pthooi, he spit the corpse on the floor.  Well, she’d say, I got another one.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Angus and Fiona hang out

In the beginning Angus’ separation anxiety was heart rending.  He would not be separated from Jan.  He was a lucky dog; Jan worked from home and he was seldom separated.  We were lucky people; because he needed to know where we were at all times, he never ran away.  Tom taught him the boundaries of the yard in one evening and that was that.  Even when the groundhog popped out from the culvert under the drive.  That was a game.  The groundhog knew Angus knew where he had to stop.  So, Angie wore a path across the lawn and pounded a hard dirt path in his skid down the hill to the culvert, where he braked and stopped on a dime while the groundhog hurried through the pipe and came out the other end.  On someone else’s property.  Flipped Angie off and ambled down the road.

Fiona was the brains of the pair.  She would have been the alpha dog except for the unfortunate fact of showing up second.  She grasped almost from the outset that terrier antics such as running off didn’t happen in Angie’s house.  In fact she did run once, for a half mile through the woods to the next street and terrorized herself so that when someone brought her back she admitted her mistake and never repeated it.  Running alone was scary and stupid, when you could run up the street with Mom every morning to Uncle Skip’s or Uncle Joe’s, accompanied by all the cats, get a biscuit from Uncle Joe and an amble around Uncle Skip’s field.

Tom and Jan went to Canton one weekend to visit Tommy T.  They took Angie and Fiona, who were always up for a ride.  At Tommy’s house they left the two in the back yard with Tommy’s dog, and went to see a ball game.  Coming back up the street hours later they could see the gate was open and there were no dogs in the back yard.  Tommy was beside himself.  Bad enough his dog, but his dad’s dogs too!  Jan suggested they not worry until they had to.  They pulled in the drive and saw Angus on the back porch.  They walked around the house and found Fiona on the front porch.  Jan figures Fiona went around to the front door because it was the last door she saw them go through.  Dogs and all, they piled back in the car and went looking for Tommy T’s dog.  When he hopped in, blocks and blocks later, Angie and Fiona gave him what for.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Cookie Elves

'Nuff said.

Angus and Fiona work the studio

At the peak of our weaving business we had ten weavers and three sewers.  It was win win for all of us.  It was a full time job for Jan and me and part time for those who worked with us.  We live in an arty little pocket of Ohio. Artists, artisans, and dabblers.  I was always proud that we could offer part time work to people who wanted only part time work, for a decent wage and a fun environment.  Or, as I used to say, it’s not a sweat shop, we have an air conditioner in the studio.

Waiting for weavers
Angus arrived here in 1999, Fiona in 2000.  Calling them people dogs is an understatement.  From the first morning, Hi, I’m Angus.  Let me escort you into the studio.  OK, I’m leaving now, I hear someone else coming in.  I’ll be right back with them, you just wait here. Fiona, of course, took her greeter responsibilities equally seriously.

Hard work

Angus never was a foolish puppy, but Fiona was, and led Angus on many memorable chases through the studio, squeezing through the narrow spaces between our back to back looms, and especially through the tiny triangle formed by 360 warp ends passing from the bottom of the creel over the back beams of the rug loom.  If only they could have warped looms and wound bobbins and shuttles.
Waiting for Sue
They had favorites, of course.  Angus loved Jeanie, who took him outside on smoke breaks.  But both of them adored Sue, and it wasn’t just the biscuits. There were two Siruba sergers, an industrial Singer (it went fast!) and a Consew.  Fiona and Angus climbed over each other to sit on Sue’s station.  Fortunately Sue wasn’t on piece work.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Turkeys redux

I asked Jan for more pictures of Angus and Fiona.  I got the contents of her bottom desk drawer, a haul I have spent the afternoon selectively scanning.  We have actual photos of the turkey invasion:

In the side yard, featuring the compost bin Bill didn't burn down.

In the front yard.

Possibly too late for bed check.

A true cat fantasy.  No, Purrl didn't do it.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Angus and Fiona

Angus and Fiona were once in a lifetime dogs.  After little Poppy II, the Yorkie, we didn’t have a dog for a awhile.  It transpired Jan was researching, and settled on a Cairn. She followed up on a newspaper classified and found Angus and his littermates living in a cage in a strip mall hairdresser shop.  With hairdresser kids tormenting them.  She sat down on the floor with the lot and studied them for some time.  Then she picked Angus.

None of us are dog behavior experts.  As when dog does this, human does that.  Somehow we’ve muddled through it, together with a little coaching from our dog rescue friends, Ann and Pat.  Angus was three or four months when he came home.  House training was an exercise in overcoming his extreme separation anxiety.  He stuck to Jan so fiercely he had no time to stop and do doggie business.  But, stuck to Jan, he never got into any trouble on the side.  Almost like the first kid.  Be quiet.  Look around.  See how it’s done and then make them proud. 

Well, scratch the quiet part.  He loved the weavers and the sewers who came to the studio.  He greeted each at the door with HAR-rrrooouuuu, and escorted them to loom or sewing machine.  He was always up for a biscuit from the jar and sat on his hiney to let you know.  “Like a Teddy Bear,” Tom said.  He had that Cairn lilt to his walk and tilt to his head.  Then those big brown eyes…..

Angie was so used to getting his biscuit at the bank drive through we almost lost him in the New York Thruway booth the first year we went to Syracuse to Linda’s for New Year.  Hi!  I’m Angus!  You know me!  Why isn’t there a biscuit for me?  To anyone in the car:  She must be new.  Set her straight.

He was little that first time to Linda’s, not a year.  Angus and Tom sat in the living room watching football.  Then Angus disappeared.  He’d followed his nose to the pot of venison chili and struck up a lasting relationship in the kitchen with Linda.  It didn’t hurt that Linda ate anise cookies in bed at night and Angie’s nose took him there, too.

Alberta, Joanne and Angus at Linda's, 1999
Fiona arrived a year later, to keep Angus company.  Jan wanted another Scott name and I suggested Fiona.  “Not if you call her Fi-Fi!”  That never crossed my mind.  Tom and I always called her Flony, or Fony.  She didn’t care.  She looked up with her big Betty Davis eyes and wiggled.  She was energy on wheels.  Trouble, too.  She chewed every table leg and a hole in the back door.  But we got over it. 

Flony went to Syracuse, the next New Year’s Eve.  Together she and Angus converted Alberta, who doesn’t quite like her own daughter’s dogs, but brags on those two little dogs “who know what you tell them and DO IT.”  That because at meal time Tom would say “Get in the room” and the two little beggars would retreat to the dining room entrance and lie there with noses on paws extended less than 1/16” into the dining room.  “Bring the ball” was another example of their post graduate education for Alberta, but to Fiona was her end of keeping the human tossing it.  She really got Alberta with the game of rolling the ball down the steps for the human to throw up to be caught at the top and rolled down again.

The stair games at Linda's
Angus was the best big brother.  He let Fiona get to the ball first, almost every time.  If he picked it up and stood on four legs with the ball in his mouth Fiona would feint and dart, snatching the ball from under his whiskers the instant he slackened his jaw.  Angus was so fond of Fiona he took her to the kitchen in Syracuse to make friends with Linda and venison, and then upstairs in the middle of the night when he heard anise cookie crumbs falling onto a bed. He knew the toll lady was too cheap to hand over biscuits and told Fiona, We don’t bother ourselves for her.



Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Poppy I and II

Poppy, Yorkshire Terrier.  Long ago, in the beginning, when Jan ran away from home and then lived with me, hopefully easing the mind of our parents, she had a friend who had a loveable little Yorky and who also knew the breeder.  I think Jan spent her first two or three paychecks on Poppy and the little terrier came to live with a couple of women, two little girls, some cats and a standard collie named Duke.  Poppy was the star.

Both dogs had access to the fenced back yard. Poppy followed Duke around and learned manners the first summer.  Talk about the odd couple.  Duke was an extremely large standard collie, 36” at the shoulder and over six feet on his back legs.  Poppy was, well, a dot on the ground.

That dog lived with Jan in her car, out with friends every night.  He went camping with the gang in their favorite field near Jamestown, New York.  The architectural feature of the field was a door frame, standing, with a working door.  “Hey, Poppy.  Want out?”  Someone would open the door, Poppy went through and waited on the other side for the question to be posed again.  If that amused them, he could play along.

The extended family vacation in 1976 was the Grand Bicentennial Tour.  We had all my parent’s grandchildren, plus a couple of spare kids, as usual.  We went first to Niagara Falls, not bicentennial, but on the way. 
Mom and some grandkids at Niagara Falls

Then Valley Forge, then Philadelphia, then Boston, Lexington, Concord…the Grand Bicentennial Tour. 

Dad stayed home that year; he was out of stamina. Mom drove the big Dodge Polaris, with Walt and Hazel and several grandkids and pulled one pop up camper.  It was a mobile living room.  Jan and I were in my Dodge Colt station wagon, with Poppy, the balance of the kids and the other camper.  Poppy sat on the front seat with me.  He’d noodge me a little to get more comfy.  I’d shift.  Later, another noodge.  Another shift.  By the time we stopped, I generally sat on the door handle and Poppy on the seat.
Poppy at Niagara Falls

Niagara Falls could have been a disaster.  Poppy was put down and charged straight into the river.  Jan had a firm grip thereafter.  Poppy was a pro by the time we’d toured our way to Philadelphia.  But he was stopped at the door of Liberty Hall.  No dogs.  Jan went to the park across the street and waited.  At the very next stop I purchased a book bag and letters to spell his name down the side.  We sat down and explained the bag to Poppy.  “Your personal conveyance, old boy.  Here’s the deal.  You can ride here for the rest of the trip and watch the scenery go by.  But, if we say ‘Get Down,’ you get down and wait for the all clear.”  That was agreeable to Poppy and he spent the balance of the Tour riding in the bag on a shoulder.  He toured buildings. He didn’t have to walk Concord to Lexington, he rode!  He went to restaurants, parked under a table.  A clean ashtray of water and tidbits.  What a life.  We were found out once, but only by the next several tables.  “Is that a dog?”  “Look at that cute dog.”  “Mabel, there’s a darling dog under that table.” “There’s a little nose and eyes inside that bag.”

Poppy was the grand master of tricks at home, too.  When Jan had to pack for a business trip, Poppy lost the use of one leg.  We almost fell for it the first time.  With that faint hope to buoy him, he found more and more serious injuries to feign when he saw the suitcase.  Jan moved back home in 77 to stay with Dad and Poppy took his winning way with him to Akron.  Sadly, too winning.  He discovered the next door neighbor would feed him just for the asking.  Nothing Jan said to Mrs. Smith made an impression.  Jan put Poppy on a run to keep him in the yard and the treats were tossed over the fence.  Soon the three pound dog was a ten pound lumbering caricature of a Yorkshire terrier.  In desperation Jan gave him away to a couple who kept him to the end of his life, returned to his original handsome self.   

Poppy did not know, of course, he was Poppy I.  Neither did Jan, until she got a new Poppy just before we moved here.  Poppy II was the spitting image of Poppy, but entirely more fragile.  Two knees had to be repaired.  He was a sweet little fellow, but accident prone.  Fell right off the deck one time, chasing a squirrel and went fifteen feet down onto bricks.  He was not deterred; he could chase any squirrel up the oak in the front yard and keep it there for hours, as there were no trees nearby to escape to. 
Jan and Poppy II

Perhaps we didn’t give him the opportunity to brilliant, but I think he really preferred being a sweet little dog who loved life, laps and people.  There was not a devious bone in his body; he would never have agreed to the bottom of the book bag trick.   He did hornswoggle mom into making him a place at the end of her bed and putting him there every night.  That would be the mom who trained every cat in the house, including the ones who loved her, to stay out of her room. On the other hand, he wouldn’t have hogged the car seat or jumped into the Niagara River.

Poppy II and Bekka enjoy lunch