Not the good kind. The horse kind.
One of our horses has been limping around on a lame front left foot for a couple of weeks. During the weekly meeting of the Saturday Stable Drinking Society, it was tabled, voted and approved that the problem is a hoof abscess. In between rounds, the Chairman of the Hay proclaimed a steady diet of foot soaking, followed by rest and drugs would be in order.
I think she meant all those items for the horse, although one can never be sure before checking the meeting notes.
An abscess is a small boil or blister that grows under the horse’s hoof, the big toenail situation down there at the end of the leg. Sorry to so technical, but, as I mentioned, I have been a doctor.
This build up of fluid usually finds its way to the surface in a matter of days. In this case it’s been a couple of weeks and the horse is not too happy. So, after a plan of action was tabled and approved by the Saturday Stable Drinking Society, it was put into action.
This morning, with the wife at work, the doctoring was left to me.
Trust me, if there had been anyone else…
The trick is get a horse to place his front foot in a bucket of warm water, mixed with Epsom salts and keep it there for fifteen to twenty minutes. To help the patient relax, we’ve acquired a tube of Phenylbutizone, a horsey downer. Get him to open his mouth, squirt some in, hope he doesn’t spit it into your hair and get on with the doctoring.
The process of feeding the horse his tranq, I have estimated, creates a situation whereby I could ingest a small amount, say, if my mouth was open when he spit his dose out.
If I wanted to use that excuse.
So far, I haven’t, but...
Bute ingested, pale filled, I got the big boy to pick his foot up and place it into the bucket. By telling him many tales about all my odd friends and relatives, I got him to stand still for nearly fifteen minutes.
Just like when I did stand up.
The audience fell asleep.
After the soaking, Madge the beautician alerts her customer she’s been soaking in dishwashing liquid and we all have a big laugh. Then, I dry his hoof, coat it top and bottom with a rancid black goo nemed Ichthemol, which feels and smells like it sounds, and wrap his foot in a diaper.
Yes, a diaper.
His hoof has to stay clean and relatively dry to allow the ichthamol to do its thing. The best way to achieve this, so the Saturday Stable Drinking Society decided, was to swathe the babe in a Huggies.
So there I was, in the grocery store, staring at the immense selection of disposable diapers. I am not a father. I have no offspring. I have never changed a diaper. I have, in fact, never been in the diaper aisle.
I must have looked the part, because as I was staring at the, literally, dozens of choices, a woman rolled her cart beside and offered some advice. “Need some help?” she asked. I said sure. She offered help. “How old is he?” she asked, then caught herself and added, “I didn’t ask. Boy or girl?”
That was a tough one. Technically, he is a boy, but his main boy attributes were lost some time ago. I almost said “gelded”, but then decided to make my life as simple as possible and answered, “He’s a boy.”
“Well,” she said. “How old is he?”
“Ohh,” I answered. “Eleven or so.”
She rolled away, quickly.
I wondered what she would have done if I’d told her his weight.
Deciding on some Luvs that looked big enough to wrap a horse’s foot, I made my way home. Thanks to the pull tab, peel and stick, idiot proof design, I’d pretty much covered myself in black, sticky Ichthamol by the time it was time to put the big boy in his stall.
I threw the old diaper into the trash, and, seeing a pile of used diapers, each smeared with black tar-like goo that smelled of an oil refinery, I imagined the bag breaking as the trash men hauled our remains away the following morning.
“My God,” the guy would comment. “What on Earth are they feeding this kid?”
Hopefully, in a few days, his abscess will show its ugly head, it will drain and he’ll be able to run around like it never happened. In the meantime, if you need anyone to show you how to put a diaper on a horse’s foot, you know where to turn.
I said “foot”.
I don’t think they make disposable diapers big enough for the other use.
Back in the 1980’s someone in charge of the restaurants decided the cool thing to do would be ransack every attic and barn in America, haul truckloads of crap back to the main office, distribute the crap to individual eating establishments and nail it all to the wall so we could all make small talk while we waited for our deep fried tater bites.
This trend got so out of hand that soon there wasn’t a dining room left that didn’t feature a plow, a rusted no parking sign and a canoe. Bens were left bereft. Attics empty. Junk stores junkless.
“Hey,” we’d say to each other as the waitroid fetched another round of Steak and Tater Finger Fajitas, “What is that thing? Looks like a corset. Nope. It’s a bean strainer. Wait a second. I think it’s a strut spring stabilizer from a ’47 Hudson. Gosh. Makes me hungry. Where’s my deep fried tater bites?”
The worst (or best, depending on your positivity factor and drug usage) place to gander at dusty old junk on the walls was (and still remains) Cracker Barrel.
I love Cracker Barrel, from its rocking chairs to its Nehi soda. There’s a store based on old fashioned values of food your Mom cooked to clog your Dad’s arteries. It’s a place I like to go when I want to rent some chicken for an hour or so, play that annoying golf tee table top puzzle, stare at bins of candy I thought nobody made anymore and buy an Amos and Andy cassette.
In addition to anvils, washboards and pages from Life Magazine on the walls, Cracker Barrel also features family photos. I don’t mind, and sometimes, frankly, enjoy seeing other peoples’ possessions on the wall as I’m choking down a stack of lard cakes and fat back.
For me, the line gets drawn at photos.
The dead people who once owned the Flexible Flyer sled, the Sambo doll and the twelve foot two man saw don’t give a hoot about me staring on as I sip my chicory coffee. However, I do get a feeling that, from the beyond, Great Aunt Irma does not like me slurping while ogling her seated portrait.
It’s just sad.
At one time, that portrait sat atop someone’s mantle. Now, after being snatched from the dust bin, it sits atop a chain store’s four-top, next to the corner booth, near the baby booster seats.
There is no factory turning out old looking portraits. They are real, old looking portraits. Those were people, once. They had lives. They had relatives. They had someone to give a wedding portrait. And, unfortunately those relatives eventually ruled that photo to be unwanted. It took up too much room. It got tossed.
And ended up next to a pair of 19th century snowshoes at T.G.I. Friday’s.
I was reminded of this creepiness this week when I came upon a story originally printed in the local Owensboro, Kentucky news. A waitress at the Cracker Barrel there was having one of those waitress days, the kind of day when babies throw up on you, old ladies constantly bark for more sweet tea and nobody leaves a tip. She was taking a break when the photo above booth nineteen caught her eye.
It was of a woman and a baby.
It was from the nineteen forties.
It was her Aunt and great Aunt.
The story of how the photo went from family possession to wall decoration in a chain restaurant was not passed to me via the internet, but the result of the waitresses’ keen eye was – she ended up taking it home.
Don’t worry. They’ll fill in that temporary hole. In the back room, where they keep the junk, there’s a shoetree, slightly rusted, not used since the Great War, ready to be of service.
The waitress claiming the photo sets a precedent, one I intend to test next Sunday, while I’m munching on some pepper onion popper tops at the local Swizzles Munchstop.
“Hey!” I’m going to tell my server. “See that sled up there? The one next to the Laurel and Hardy boxing gloves, down from the St. Louis Exposition pennant? That’s mine! And I want it back!”
As we sat, waiting in the emergency room, I thought of several good stories to tell the doctor. I had been defending my wife against a knife-wielding attacker. Coming upon a wrecked school bus, I had no choice but to break the windows and pull the kids to safety. I had a run-in with mafia.
None of those stories sounded right, because they were all lies. I didn’t defend anyone, rescue anyone, or make a promise to the mob I could not keep, resulting in them coming for my finger. Instead, I had done what I do best – I had been extremely clumsy with a sharp object during a major holiday.
I wanted to come up with a better story because I know the doctor very well. I wanted him to think this was not just another holiday-inspired visit. We see each other in the emergency room nearly every major holiday.
Laugh if you will, but it’s not easy carving a pumpkin into a Jack O-Lantern. Eleven stitches later, we returned home to clean up the bloody mess. The kitchen resembled a pumpkin murder scene. At any moment, the cast of True Blood would arrive to begin filming.
Other people look forward to holidays by planning get-togethers, wrapping gifts or decorating the house. Not me. Each time a major celebratory holiday nears, I make sure my medical insurance is up-to-date and my coverage card is readily available.
It all starts at Christmas, when they allow me to work outdoors with a chainsaw or stand in snow while holding electrical wiring. Although it should be obvious to most that I am not a man who is safe anywhere near sharp or electrified tools, I am handed the saw and pointed in the direction of the woods. Hours later, I return with a tree that is too big to fit into anyone but Lebron James’ house. If it’s a good year, I will have all of my appendages intact. It’s not always a good year. During most years, I will wait until the next day to rig the lighting for the outside of the house. You want to wait until your stitches set before you return to the E.R. to be resuscitated, due to electrocution.
New Year’s Eve brings many more chances for personal injury. It began long ago, when I was a child. As most children do, I experimented with alcohol by walking around at a New Year’s Eve party, taking sips of everyone’s drinks while they weren’t looking. The result was a horrendous case of induced vomiting after I took a sip from what I thought was a can of beer, but was actually Uncle Vinnie’s spit cup.
Easter is a time for religious reawakening, or falling off the roof. It all depends on who the subject of the story is. Why people need to decorate their houses at Easter is a question that has never gotten a satisfactory answer. Why I accepted the offer to help the neighbors place their giant light-up Easter bunny on their very steep garage roof is up for discussion. It could be that I wanted to be a good neighbor. It could be that I was drunk at the time. It’s your choice. After the bunny was secured and ready to light up the night sky, we all decided we’d get off the roof and have a celebratory toddy. My neighbor used a ladder. I did not. I wanted to. But gravity has a way of making these types of decisions for me.
The fourth of July is the king of injury-related holidays. It was me they were picturing when they came up with the phrase, “You’re going to poke someone’s eye out with that”. One July night, while working the all-night shift at a radio station, myself and some other fun boys got into a small fireworks battle. As we were shooting bottle rockets at one another, a stack of teletype paper ignited. Before the entire building burned to the ground, your quick thinking disc jockey sprang into action, grabbing the fire extinguisher from the wall. I aimed it towards the smoldering paper and promptly sprayed myself directly in the face. I was holding the extinguisher from the wrong end.
That brings us to Labor Day, when once again, someone, somewhere, annually thinks it would be safe if I am placed in charge of the gas grill. I can be forgiven for wanting to play with fire. No matter how many injuries I incur, I always believe “I’ll do better this time”. I never do. Burned skin is a familiar smell to me. No one is ever surprised. Yet, no one stops me from being the cook for a day.
Ah, the holidays.
As we sat, waiting for the doctor to finish reattaching my pinky, he asked how my family was. The emergency room doctor on duty and I are on a first-name basis. He knows most of my family members, because one or more of them has had to take me to see him during a holiday. We’ve grown so familiar that I send him a card at Christmas. Actually, I handed him a card last year. I grabbed it on my way out to the car, careful to not drip blood on the envelope.
“What are you going as this Halloween?” he asked.
“I haven’t decided yet,” I told him.
It was then that he snipped the last stitch and said, “Why don’t you go as a klutz. You can just wear what you have on.”
Farewell, Jason Kendall. Goodbye Brian Giles, Kevin Young and the rest of the “good old boys” network of the 1990’s that made the Pirates locker room a cancerous, exclusive cesspool where young talent was derided. May the aspirations of teammates who dare to dream be given a place to grow and never be suffocated again.
Farewell, Cam Bonifay. Goodbye, Dave Littlefield. May we never have to trade Jason Schmidt, draft Bryan Bullington, sign Pat Meares, hire John Russell or pop champagne for NOT losing 100 games. May the words “five year plan” never be uttered publicly again, whether or not a plan exists.
Farewell, losing. Goodbye to 7 double plays turned against you (June 16, 1994: Cardinals), being on the wrong end of a 20-0 game (April 22, 2010: Brewers), dropping 105 games in one year (2010) and 13-game losing streaks (June 15-28, 2006). May losses only serve as rare lessons, never to return as accepted results.
Farewell, two ugly decades. Welcome, new era.
The Pittsburgh Pirates.
Say it loud. We’re back. And we’re proud.
It was a nearly perfect morning. The sun was up, the birds were chirping and there was a brand new box of Apple Jacks in the cupboard.
I have been eating cereal for more than fifty years, consider myself to be somewhat of an expert on the subject of Apple Jacks, Sugar Smacks, and Cocoa Puffs, and take joy in those mornings spent in a death row t-shirt and a pair of gym shorts, contemplating the world a spoonful at a time.
A death row t-shirt, by the way, is whatever t-shirt one feels most comfortable in, meaning it contains the most worn spots, holes and stains. I call these shirts death row because they are under the watchful gaze of my wife, the warden. She has seen them. She has planned their executions. They are on death row. They will soon be cut into square rags to clean, torn into long ribbons to tie tomatoes or unceremoniously sent to their end at the bottom of a plastic kitchen trash bag. I wear them, knowing that any bowl of cereal could be their last.
It was a morning that made me feel like I was seven years old. I was alone with my bowl of Apple Jacks. The only thing missing was Saturday morning cartoons. Instead, I read the comments section on my favorite website, which, frankly, was nearly as funny as Josie and the Pussycats. So, I didn’t miss the cartoons that much.
Cereal is junk food to the highest degree and I have been feeding my growing body with it for nearly my entire life. It is the first meal I learned to prepare on my own. After getting past that tricky “milk goes in second” step, I became quite a cereal chef.
I ate cereal before the boxes came with any wax paper or plastic bag or foil liner, when it was just raw Rice Krispies scraping up against non-sterilized cardboard. There were no charts or graphs on the side of the box telling you how far from the daily minimum requirement of Niacin you will be after eating one serving, according to your government. In the days before the cereal manufacturers injected their product with more chemicals than an Olympic weight room, there were only crunchy, sugar-coated pieces of glom and prizes inside. The glom came in many shapes – wagon wheels (Honey Comb), letters of the alphabet (Alpha-Bits), orange stars, green clovers, yellow moons and pink hearts (Lucky Charms) – but it was the prize inside that attracted me as a seven-year old.
The prize inside a cereal box, like the prize inside a box of Cracker Jacks, or the comic strip that came with Bazooka bubble gum, was much more than an extra added surprise. It was the reason children chose that product over another. Sure, we may have liked Count Chocula’s taste. But, really, it was the same chocolate filmy sludge we got in Cocoa Krispies, or Nestle’s Quik, or Fudgsicles. It wasn’t real chocolate, like a Hershey’s bar. It was chemically produced chocolate-like taste. Did we care? No! Why did we carry the box of Cocoa Puffs back to our Mom’s shopping cart, rather than that box of Cookie Crisp? Because Cocoa Puffs had a glider inside and all Cookie Crisp had was a ring. Who wants a stinky ring?
It was cereal that started me on my downhill slide to shoplifting. I found, at age seven or eight, that I could successfully open a box of cereal, jam my arm inside and dig out the one-thirty-second scale Ford Mustang without being noticed. It made sense to me. I hated Corn Flakes. But I really liked Mustangs.
So, there I was, sitting at the table in my death row t-shirt, eating what could have been my 12,000th bowl of cereal, reading in the paper about how "PapaBaddd126" of Ford City would run things if he was in charge of the Muslims. I reached for the box of Apple Jacks to top off my bowl.
As I poured, I noticed some writing on the inside of the box. Was it a secret message that only my Apple Jacks decoder could decipher? Was it a fun puzzle to attempt as I wolfed down another bowl of glom? Was it a rescue note from some poor Kellogg’s factory worker? No. It was advertising. Someone paid to have an advertisement for an amusement park chain printed on the inside of the box.
I pulled the bag from the box (another case of waste) and got out my rounded edge, you-can-run-with-these-if-you-like safety scissors. Cutting open the box, I found not one, but two full-sized advertisements on the inside of the box.
I went to the cupboard and looked inside the other boxes of cereal (it’s always good to have a variety on hand). Every one of them had ads printed on the inside of the box. Only one of them had a prize. It was a good prize – a Spiderman wristband that glowed in the dark – too small for my wrist, but I’ve got tools. What genius advertising executive sold the inside of a cereal box to a client? What imbecile company would be so hard-pressed for advertising space that they’d buy the inside of a box, hoping that someone would run to get the rounded edge safety scissors, just to see what it was that was printed on the inside of the box? Well. It worked. This is like a NASCAR advertiser buying space on the inside of the gas tank.
Take some advice from a long-time cereal fan. If you want your advertisement to be effective, don’t waste your money buying the inside of a box people will throw away before they read. Place your ad in a small, sealed plastic pouch and shove to the bottom of the cereal. Treat it like a prize. That way, people like me will jam our arms inside the box, right there in the cereal aisle of the I.G.A., and yank your ad out of that nest of Cheerios before our Moms notice.
Would you like a second piece of advice? Make whatever you put in there glow-in-the-dark. That’s always big.