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I know it looks suspicious but, no, I have not been on a traffic massacre of increasing proportions and regularity.

Earlier this summer a semi truck and trailer rolled on its side into the ditch near our approach — no injuries, but the cargo and trailer were a total loss. A few weeks ago there was that motorcycle vs. truck collision a few yards away from my property line, sadly resulting in a loss of life and the motorcycle.

And yesterday there was this train wreck a mile from our place.

Don't let the uniform fool you. I think, maybe, this guy did it.

Two train crewmen on the walking injured list, three engines on their sides in the ditch, at least 16 cars in various states of “off the track” (most of them very off the track) and the tracks mangled for a quarter mile. The very good news is that this wasn’t an AmTrak train. The bad news is that all the lumber that’s scattered on the ground and all the stuff neatly wrapped in white plastic and still on the cars (seen here at both right and left sides of photo) is sitting bulldozed into a ragged heap at the edge of a field. I could just cry at the loss of resources.

Can’t figure out how to rescue the lumber without getting caught.

Because, apparently, that’s mislabeled as “stealing,” whatever, at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

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Driving to work and home has been an exercise in patience this summer with the road construction. Just recently we’ve been able to drive 70 from our approach all the way to town. Odd the things that seem like a “treat.” Odder still that after all the complaining about going slow, it’s taken concerted effort to make ourselves actually drive as fast as the speed limit. But me and my trusty cruise control have persevered.

So imagine my chagrin yesterday at having to stop along the scant 5 miles to town — twice — because I can’t drive and be skeeved at the same time.

I had just gotten up to speed and put the cruise on for the next 4-plus miles of open black top (sunlight at my back, blue skies ahead) when I felt a scratchy sensation on the front of my left shoulder. Oh great, I thought, I’m such a hayseed I can’t dress myself without bringing half a bail of hay with me as an accessory.

I scratched around with my left hand to find the offending vegetation and realized there was a little lump under my shirt. A suspicious lump. A lump that crawled—buuuug! Bugbugbug in my shirrrrt!

It’s not that I’m particularly afraid of bugs, I’m this way about my personal space with every stranger. And frankly, if I discovered some skeezy guy pawing around inside my shirt I would’ve reacted with a great deal more creeped-out, panic-fueled force. Someone would’ve gotten a knee to the slats, and it wouldn’t have been me. So I think my reaction to the unidentified bug in my shirt was appropriate and rather subdued, all things considered — including consideration of the number of sinister-looking bugs we have around here.

I firmly pinched the bugbugbugbug! in a fold of fabric (without squishing it, I was heading to work after all, and trying not to be a big panicky freak about the bugbugbu-u-u-u-g!) with my left hand, which ended up tangled in or around or with or otherwise impeded by the seatbelt. I finally got my hand out of that fiasco, without losing the bugbugbugbugbug in my shirt! and tried to push the pinched material and bugbugbuuug to the right far enough that I could flip it out the open collar. But my effing arm was, y’know, still in the sleeve and I yanking harder was only managing to cloth burn my armpit.

Mind you, thanks to my cruise control and the gods of construction, I was still traveling at 70 miles per hour down the road with a bug in my shiirrrt. So I wedged my thigh into the steering wheel and tried reaching my right hand into my shirt to grab the bug-bug-buuaaaaugh! but, in an amazingly clear flash of foresight, I imagined the uncontrolled and spastic flailing about that would result if A) I actually managed to get a hold of the buginmyshirt! with my fingers and it turned out to be a biter, or B) I actually lost control of the bugbugbug! and it went on a wild rampage further into my shirt, up my right arm, or into my face (and really, fates forfend that last one should happen).

I decided to pull over, but I was still trying to be, y’know, not a crazy person, and that meant I had to go another 3/4 mile to the next safe turnout with a freaking bug pinched between my freaking fingers inside my freaking shirt. Not happy.

I sanely pulled into a driveway entrance, put the car in park and unhooked my seatbelt (in case I needed to dive out into the middle of the westbound lane of U.S. Highway 2 during morning traffic to get away from the bugbugbug BUG in my SHIRT. Still sane). I steeled all my resolve, reached into my shirt, grabbed the damn bug and pulled it out. Hah! Huh?

Plain as can be, the only thing I had in my right hand was a grasshopper leg.

Despite weighty evidence to the contrary, I am not completely lacking of wit. My brain fired off a quick systems check to the surface nerves of my entire upper right side, and I felt nothing. The rest of my brain was a little embarrassed about freaking out over one solitary grasshopper leg, while being a tad confused about how said grasshopper leg got into my shirt.

I mean, it was safe to assume that the leg didn’t walk there all by itself, right. I reasoned that maybe one of those random hoppers that has managed to find its way into the house died before I could catch it, and its corpse was on the bed where I set my shirt momentarily while getting dressed that morning. That’s not such a bad thought, I mean aside from the fact that there might be a grasshopper carcass in my bed. (And lord knows I’ve had worse.)

Just to be on the safe side, I half exited the car and shook my untucked shirt and patted down my torso but didn’t feel the rest of the grasshopper. I was pretty satisfied with my logic, my rather calm response despite the fact that I had a bugbugbugbuu-uugh in my shirt and the reasonably benign outcome of the event.

Down the road again, still on time enough for work, up to speed, cruise control—and the spiny-legged mother-fucker was in my sleeve crawlingonmyarm! Buginmyshirt! Buginmyshiiiirt!

Honestly, I don’t normally get wound up about grasshoppers, but by now I was kind of, pretty well, juiced up on adrenalin because, in case you hadn’t heard, I had a bugbugbugbugbug crawling around, freakin’ in my shirt. No, not happy at all.

And those grasshopper feet are creepy, clingy, scratchy. Just so you know, in case you’re wondering about whether or not you should invite one to just hop on into your own shirt some day.

I knew there was a good turnout into a business parking lot a mile ahead, so I just held that grasshopper pinched into a fold of my sleeve and cussed him every last yard of the distance. When I finally got parked, I had to fight the urge to jump out of the car, tear my shirt off and hop around flapping it in the wind, leaving bra-clad me and my fat rolls on display for the gods and any passerby with video capability.

Sanely, I simply reached up inside my shirt and halfway down my sleeve, and I yanked that little three-legged bastard from whence he shouldn’t have been creeping around anyway.

He gave me a crabby look and started dribbling brown juices down his chin, like that was going to endear him to me, change my opinion about his recent activities.

“I hope you get hit by a car, asshole!” was the last thing that grasshopper heard from me before I flung him out the window toward the highway and drove off to work.

Two minutes late.

Friends don’t let friends drive skeeved at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

*”Beginning of the End” (1957)

Last weekend we went to Saturday Market for some fresh veg, maybe a little pig on a pole (which is barbecued pork kabobs, so get your mind out of whatever trash heap it was wallowing in — I know what kind of people hang out on this blog). I took my camera to capture there and share here a little slice of my Americana pie.

Totally forgot the camera in the car. Buh-rilliant, yes, but the fresh foods were calling me — I was deliriously hypnotized by their siren song.

But later in the day I realized I could make it up to all you lovely readers when I discovered baby beaks sticking out of the barn swallow nest in my horse shelter.

I really did put in an effort to get cutesy-pie, fuzzy-wuzzy baby bird pictures. I love the little birdlets all nestled in their downy home, squawking for supper from mama, and was eager to share. I climbed my tall fence and perched on the top rail, wedged under the shed eaves, getting slivers in my ass on one end and in my forehead on the other.

I snapped photos (ignoring the message from my camera to turn the stoopid flash on). They all turned out not so good. So I took a few more with the flash enabled. They turned out much more almost discernible.

Crappy creepy barn swallow photo No.1.

As luck would have it, the only time one of the little beggars poked its head out of the nest was when I was starting the muscle twitch to bring fingers around to the flippy-uppy flashy-thingy. Yeah, I was so excited, and uncoordinated from changing my mind, that my effort resulted in this bizarro piece of double exposure. I’m holding my breath waiting for the Pulitzer announcement.

After raising the flash, I waited, and I waited, and I waited, and I waited for one of the little cretins to raise its head again. No. But the nice thing about digital cameras is that you simply cannot take too many crappy photos. Even with the flash, I got a couple dozen photos that look like this gem on the right below … and even more that make it look really good by comparison.

Crappy creepy barn swallow photo No.2.

I chose this photo to share because it’s one of the more betterish ones, and it also clearly illustrates just how disappointingly creepy these baby birds were. Where is the cutesy-pie downy softness? What happened to their fuzzy-wuzzies? I do not feel an urge to koochy-coo these homely birdlets.

Yes, I understand, they’re probably spankin’ fresh newborns — they probably deserve my pity — but I had chickens as a kid and their chicklets popped out of the egg, fluffed their matted fuzz in a warm breeze and phoofed out into an instant urge to be scooped up for a cuddle. I don’t mind saying that I was disappointed in these three baby barn swallows. Can they even hope that their mother loves them?

Go ahead and tell me that you feel any different looking at these practically bald, eye-bulging amoebas with their mama’s down humped up behind them. … And what in hell’s hand basket is that spindly black thing on the left? A wing? Nu-uh, looks like a giant creepy spider leg to me.

I was convinced, within moments of my first viewing of this photo blown up full-sized on my big, uber-resolution monitor, that what we’re seeing here is a genetic mutation experiment gone horribly awry.

This creature, I thought, is the newly formulated, three-bird-headed, downy-backed tarantula, escaped from a secret lab near you. Its bite is venomous, from all three heads, but the one on the left will also eat you (starting with your squishy eyeballs). It can wrap a grown human into a cocoon in under 7 minutes. It travels at speeds up to 44 mph over short distances. It sees in the dark, and it knows where you live.

The face that will haunt your dreams tonight.

Then I saw this last photo. And I haven’t slept well for days.

WTF is that fourth creature at the left of the photo?! Seriously, it can’t be a baby bird. Can it? No way.

That — that thing — must be what’s wrong with all the rest of the picture, and I don’t mean this snapshot. I mean the bigger picture that should be the lovely tweety-bird, zip-a-dee-doo-dah life of the three baby swallows. That thing is some kind of succubus draining the life, the cuteness, the very soft downiness from their beings. I fear now that the little tyke in the first photo was crying for help.

I want to save them, I really do, but I’m afraid to go out there in case that thing is ready to attach itself to a larger, more succulent banquet.

Such as myself at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

of scaring my expected company away:

Does it mean that I have made profoundly poor lifestyle choices if I write up my to-do list to get the house ready for company, review it, then ask John: “Hey, hon, the next time you go over to your shop tonight, could you bring back your fumes respirator?”

And then he says yes without even needing to ask why at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

I hit “publish” on my other entry of the night, just as I realized its title wouldn’t make sense without the incredibly blah blah blah story I ended up deleting out of it.

So toast one in honor of the blondes, the BS, and the blah blah blahs that make the blogoshere a more confusing place to dwell.

You’re welcome at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

 

Gone for the weekend.

Miss me? Totally thought I’d have Internet connection while I was away, but no. It was like being in a black hole in which all things technologically oriented are sucked up and obliterated. Kind of like my house, before the magical wi-fi tower came to life. Though, that wasn’t making much magic today either. Or rather, it might’ve been, but that was prior to the electrical storm that shorted out the Internet antennas and the phones, and tried to gift exchange them with a grassland fire started by a lightning strike about a mile from the house. Luckily, a backdraft blew out the fire before it could get to raging.

OK, I say “luckily,” but I really mean “sadly” because without a wildfire threatening homes and lives, I got nothin’

Even though it was a very exciting and rush-filled first morning back, I just deleted a giant entry about it because, well, typed out on the screen, the morning didn’t seem filled so much with funny, or even anything one might consider mildly interesting. Stupid backdraft.

Just friggin’ writin’ at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

While on a camping trip with her boyfriend on Mt. Hood, 28-year-old Oregon teacher Pamela Salant up and fell from a 50-foot cliff while searching alone for a choice camping spot on Mt. Hood. She gashed her leg open and broke her tibia during her fall and spent the night alone and broken at the base of the cliff.

Upon waking in pain in the morning, she decided to scootch herself on her backside to water and make her way down the creek to the Columbia River. In the article on msnbc.com, Ms. Salant is quoted speaking quite eloquently about scrounging for berries and deciding to eat a few caterpillars and slugs to ward off starvation. She eluded her rescuers three nights in the wilderness before being found and taken to medical attention.

Ain’t that just like a Pam.

She injures herself in a spectacular, and quite possibly a little bit stupid, accident. (I mean, who looks for a campsite next to a 50-foot cliff?); goes to great measures to save herself, but foils her rescuers’ efforts with every reasoned decision she makes (e.g. she parked her scootcher next to a waterfall, so she had water, but the crashing water drown out the sound of the rescue helicopters); and in the end, waxes most poetic about her freaky food choices on the lost-girl mountain menu. Apparently, Pams the whole world ’round do not like to be hungry.

It totally could’ve been me out there, fail-hiking on that mountain.

One of my first thoughts about her misadventure was: “I’ll bet the view from up on that cliff was awesome.” I mean, before the fall and, y’know, everything after that … except the waterfall. Yeah, that crystal cascade was probably breathtaking. Noisy. But spectacularly noisy. Right?

I’m all about being Pamtastic here at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

Roadways are dangerous for animals and people, so I don’t know if our stretch of U.S. Highway 2 is any more dangerous than other roads in the state or the country, or if we just think it is because we see the carnage as we drive each day and reside here less than a quarter-mile from the center line.

Yesterday at 7:30 a.m., a man traveling eastbound on a motorcycle crashed into a road construction water truck that had been pulling a loaded flatbed westbound and had turned left across the motorcyclist’s path. The 61-year-old Wisconsin man died not 350 yards from the point at which my driveway meets the highway.

I did not know the man.

I do not know where he had been or where he was going, why he was traveling alone, what happened in his last moments or hours or days to bring him to that point and time, who loves him and who will miss him, if he had time for his life to flash before is eyes or if he enjoyed the replay if it did.

If he had passed by my north 40 just fifteen minutes later, I might have seen him as I waited to pull out onto the new black top. I probably would have thought no more about the encounter than where and when I would be able to pull into the flow of morning traffic. At most I would’ve noted favorably that he was wearing a helmet, or tssked at his speed, or wondered if he was going to Sturgis for the bike rally.

And that truck driver, then, might have been going about his work day on the Highway 2 construction site. I might’ve seen him on my way to the office or my way back home. Maybe he’s worked this construction project all summer and I’ve waited for him, or cussed him for the dust, or thanked him for the moisture, or followed behind him, or waved at him already. Maybe he had nightmares last night.

A man died, another man’s life changed.

If not for their meeting, that moment, that crash, I would not have given the men a total of two minutes’ thought in all my days. Virtually none of the thousands or tens of thousands of people they would’ve passed by, or met, or followed, or led along the highway that day would’ve had reason to give them any more pause.

Then that man died less than 50 feet from the northwest corner of my property. I didn’t know him.

But I had to write just one of the hundred-something things I’ve wanted to express about his death.

I noticed.

pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

What I didn’t tell you about yesterday’s rattlesnake incident is that Cooper is now on high terror alert about walking out the front door. Getting ambushed from below is very demoralizing for little doggies. Especially when it happens while you’re standing atop the perch you consider to be your safe haven, your special he-manly place from whence you ratted out the last interloping snake to be espied on the premises.

Last night Coop stood at the front door in the universal stance of “Let me out, now, servant,” so of course I got up and opened the door. He stood there about two feet back from the door sill surveying for possible hazards, and decided, “Nope, ain’t going out there alone.” Then he briskly trotted in a little circle that put him behind the door where he jumped up against the door and slammed it shut.

Guess we know what Coop thinks about snakes at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com

Four rattlesnakes on the property in two weeks. Three of them within 12 feet of the front door. Today’s had wedged itself into the space between the house siding and the front steps, so it was at the front door but, technically, also two feet down.

In some ways it seems like I’m splitting hairs to point out that the snake was two feet away when it was directly below the doorway … and normally I would love to jump on the drama of the snake being at the front door … but since we’re talking about a poisonous rattlesnake, I think two feet away from where your feet are and wedged into a pretty tight spot is very significant.

Not quite a mile away, but it was a lifesaver.

John and Cooper walked out onto the landing, heard the snake, and launched into a clear space to reconnoiter. John figured out what was going on and opened the front door to tell me about the snake (unnecessarily at this point because —WTF?! — I could hear it buzzing) and enlist some help. Cooper wanted nothing to do with the front steps at this point, so he was let into the little shop to find a happy place in the nether regions of that clutter. John and I used a broom handle and an aluminum rod, that he produced from who knows where, to herd the snake from its hidey hole, so I could kill it with the weed whacker. (Which is, apparently, my snake-killing weapon of choice since we didn’t put a shovel by the front door until after this latest snake.)

I hate to kill things. I really do. I would have to be pretty hungry before I would kill animals even to feed myself. But somehow killing a rattlesnake that is virtually at my front door doesn’t bother me so much.

Nope. This is the real rub: We have all these frickin’ rattlesnakes here AT the house, and I’m still getting mice?!

Lazy bastards at pam[at]viewfromthenorth40.com