The last of the old automobiles…

Well happy September to you. It sure came in with a chill around here as a storm turned the air from hot and muggy to crisp and dry overnight with a powerful storm that knocked out the power right as I was finishing my last freezy pop and the end of a chick flick.

Let me know how “Easy A” ends will ya?

Anyway, enough with the weather because I tell you, the dog days of summer are moving on out and shit is happening around here.

See I am not what you call a patient woman. Not at all. When I get an idea in my head this girl wants to see its pretty little face…like NOW! Which is the very reason I find myself in situations where I am waist deep in rhubarb jelly with not one canning jar in sight. It seems I am not much of a fan of the preparation phase. Idea phase? I’ve got plenty experience in that. Planning phase? Oh, I have plans. Finished product? Yes please.

Preparation? Well, I guess that’s why I married this guy. I mean, he looks like he can handle it.

Anyway, I know this about myself because I’ve had practice. And as our new plans are coming to fruition, I was reminded that it was at this time last year that we were finishing up a major remodeling project in order to get the first house we’ve ever owned out on the market. I was also reminded that we haven’t been leaving much space between major life decisions in the past five years of our marriage.

“Oh well!” says the impatient maiden to her noble and ever so patient husband.

“Onward!” (I envision the maiden with a whip).

So we ordered our new house last week. And I know we are technically just a little under schedule, but this maiden is jumping around in her stretchy pants singing some sort of rock version of a song she made up titled “Finally!”

Big. Sigh. Of. Relief.

followed by.

One. Thousand. Calls. To:  insurance lady, bank lady, electric lady, propane guy, dirt guy, basement guy, road guy,

and junk removal guy…

Yup. He’s one of our guys.

Because you know how on every farm or ranch there is an old car graveyard? You didn’t? Oh, well on every farm or ranch there is a place where old cars, pickups, tractors, augers and lawnmowers go to their semi-final resting place.

And I say semi-final because eventually, even if it is nearly sixty years later, some naive relative of the home place will want to build a house in that grave yard…and then, if they don’t want old car lawn ornaments, it is their responsibility to find them a forever home.

So in between frolicking, chasing cows, thinking about flooring, working, eating freezy pops and watching bad chick flicks, a made a few calls…

Turns out it’s not so easy finding someone to drive to the middle of nowhere to pick up old stuff you don’t want anymore. But I found someone. He’s coming on Monday.

And in the meantime we had to clear way for the road.

So out came the old red tractor, that, by some miracle has avoided the junk pile yet another year…and out came the nostalgia.

Goodbye old brown Dodge Ram. I remember when pops brought you home. I remember when you were our fancy pickup. I remember how I used to scream in frustration at your sticky gears as pops walked away from our red faced stick-shift driving lesson. I hated you then.

But loved you so when you took me to my first high school rodeo, the one where I rode pops’ ranch horse through the barrel pattern and then tied her up to the trailer only to find she got loose and was running down the highway. I remember when pops retired you to bale-loader pickup when he purchased his fancy blue and white Ford with the tiny back seat. I remember when he took the box off you, geared you up with a winch and took you off road to feed calves and go fencing. I left for college and you were running like a champ.

I came back and you were here.

Rest easy brother.

Goodbye replacement Dodge. In my life you never really did run very well. I remember watching as pops’ head popped up over the hill, walking home after you stranded him in the field. He was determined to get you running, but somehow the only way was to keep you revved, floored, and never stop.

Pops would get your motor started again by some act of God and take off over the bumps and clay buttes whooping and hollering with the windows rolled down, only to find that you failed to start the next morning. You brought him to such lows and such highs, but I see it didn’t end well for you. You will be taking your last trip up the hill tonight.

And you. The old International. You are from a different time.

I never heard your gears grind or your engine rev. I never saw the way  you could dump a load with a switch from inside the cab. I only knew you as a relic, a symbol of my great grandfather’s presence on this place, a load of wood waiting in your box, as if someone was sure to come back for you, to finish their work for the day and put you back in the shop. I find it hard to part with you, in fact, I haven’t quite decided if I will. It seems you’ve earned your place here. Maybe one day I’ll find someone to fix you up. Maybe one day you could run again?


Oh, and I guess I could talk here about pop’s first riding lawnmower and how he was so excited about it that he tried to mow the entire coulee in front of his house. I could tell you how funny he looked sitting on that thing in his cowboy hat among the grass that reached up over his head. No wonder that little machine died before its time. That will be leaving us too. Along with the old augers my cousins and I used to pretend were dinosaurs, the combines that acted as ships on a sea of clover, the car with wings…

But what really struck me that night as we hauled the last of the old automobiles, my grandparent’s old town car, up to the top of the hill to await their destiny was this:

Here we are taking little pieces of this place, the history and stories, up from the coulee where they might have sat until they rusted away and got lost in the grass and mangle of brush, up and out over the hill. Here we are making changes, making new roads, making decisions and promises to ourselves…making  room for our forever home…

I am not worried. I am not wondering what we are going to do next, where we’re going to be, how long this is going to last. I’m making plans, yes. But plans to stay, like those old cars, through blinding winters and scorching summers and clover and burdock that reach up to my ears. We will stay. Through rusty gears and chipped paint and plans that fail I will plan to stay.

Because it’s my semi-final resting place too.

I just hope I weather time as well as these old beasts…

A hot, hot redneck mess (Prize Alert!)

It’s Friday and it’s promising to be hotter than the blazes of the underworld out here this weekend. As the cool morning springs back up after a monsoon style rain last night and the sun pushes its way toward the middle of the blue sky, I feel like shedding layers…layers of blankets from my comfy bed, layers of clothing, layers of worry and layers of work on my to do list.

And what’s #1 on my to do list?

Cleaning out the damn garage. The damn garage that has been home to what some people thought was important stuff for a good twenty-plus years. I think it has been cleaned before, but with a leaking roof, crumbling doors and muddy floors, it’s time for the thing to go to its grave.

Not the garage, but a more pleasant view of the ranch. I can't bring myself to scare you with the actual evidence. You're welcome.

But some things don’t go down easily.

Oh, we have been shooting at it for a good long month, walking in there to start to tackle the process and then promptly walking out convincing ourselves there are more important things on that list: a horse that needs riding, a lawn that needs mowing, a weed that needs whacking. Once I even turned my butt around to tackle the laundry pile instead…and you know how I feel about laundry.

Yes, this is what we’re dealing with here people. It’s a disaster zone of old microwaves, bed frames, dressers, ice skates, thousands of unidentifiable tractor and truck parts, my dad’s old lunch box, swallow nests, spiders, deer antlers, gears, wire, a Christmas wreath, scrap wood, a jeep and a partridge in a pear tree.

I would like to blame this situation on my relatives, the ones who built this little specimen of disaster in the first place, but as we opened the door last week and began organizing piles of stuff into “keep,” “toss,” “give away,” and “what the hell is this?” it became quite clear that the problem did not lie in past use of the facility.

The problem was my husband…and a little bit my pops.

The culprits. Don't let their calm, cool and collected demeanor fool you because under those hats are plans that have spawned a monster...

Yup. I blame it on the boys. Because I refuse to take responsibility for the following:

One hundred coolers that seem to go missing when we are looking for a cooler…so apparently we have just purchased a new one…every year for the last five years.

A mini, yellow, homemade boat that has been out on the lake approximately four times, once involving me, husband, a fishing hole in the wilderness, a pickup stuck up to its nuts in gumbo, no cell service and a hike in flip flops up to the top of the nearest butte.

A microwave given to my mother as a proposal for marriage in the early 80s that was just recently exchanged for a newer model and placed in the garage, because…well, forget that it weighs all of 110 pounds, it still works, someone might use it someday and it has sentimental value dammit.

Three pairs of cross country skis from the same era as the microwave and one pair from the beginning of time.

A three-wheeler that showed up at our doorstep from the depths of a landfill somewhere. It might work someday. It. Might. Just. Magically. Work. One. Day. Until that day it will continue dying a slow death in the garage.

A dirt bike purchased by a handsome sucker who is certain that one day he will acquire the skills of John Travolta’s character in Phenomenon and breathe some life into what was, at one time, a fine machine. Until said sucker gets struck by lightning, the dirt bike will exist propped up against the garage.

A jet ski that “isn’t broken” but has served as the world’s largest lawn ornament for a good year now, waiting, too, on that lightning strike.

Five ladders that I am not about to climb.

Two washing machines whose motors are waiting to be attached to a grinder, inserted into another washing machine that doesn’t work, rigged up in a go cart or maybe applied in some way to help get that damn jet ski out on the water again and out of my life forever.

Help. Me.

Ok, ok, I will take responsibility for some of it. I mean among the rubble I did find 103 flower pots, six pairs of ice skates and my old purple, ice cream cone sleeping bag. But in my defense, if I remember right, at one time I had aspirations of landing a triple axel and heading to the winter Olympics like my good friend Nancy Kerrigan, and a girl needs back up skates for that. Also,  I have full intentions of filling all of those pots some day with gorgeous, Martha Stewert approved flowers…and that sleeping bag was useful in protecting pops’ not yet out of the box 2004 Christmas gift meat smoker.

Shit. The quaint mystery and charm of the Flea Market loses all of its wonder when said Flea Market is in your front yard.

Actually I think it might turn into another term all together…one that begins with “Red Neck” and ends with “Ville.”

Sweet Martha where are you when I need you?

So I’ve decided in order to lift my spirits on this 90 degree cleaning day I would like to give something away. And I’m going to refrain from trying to convince you that you all need a new pair of ice skates, and old cooler and an almost working jet ski.

No, I love you too much (and I’m afraid I’m not that good a saleswoman). So instead I wanna give you a chance to win your choice of one of the following three metallic 8×10 matted photographs that celebrate the finer scenery in my backyard:

Wild Prairie Rose

North Dakota Badlands

Grass and Moon

All you need to do is cheer me up by sharing your own cleaning woes. Tell me I’m not the only Redneck woman. Tell me you too have two non-working washing machines and an old ice auger in your crumbling garage. Tell me I am not married to the only man hoarder, aspiring mechanic.

Tell me I’m not alone!!!

Share your story and I will put all of the names of the participants in one of my 103 empty flower pots and pick the winner on Monday.

And then say a little prayer to the junk gods that they will send down an angel to take this hot mess of a garage to heaven.