Friday, December 31, 2010

New Years Eve - Gargoyles, Genghis Khan and Guns

It started on a grey, overcast winter day. Except it's 60 degrees. Even the friendly neighborhood gargoyle looked like he was ready to go out and celebrate the New Year with a perfect day to explore. With Tam and Roberta X as well as friend, blogger Turk Turon, we made a morning and afternoon of it.

After a drive around Northern Indianapolis with talk about all kinds of things, Huck the new cat, Roberta's new book, the latest news, which this morning was some guy arrested after exposing himself on an airplane to a young woman and then claiming to the arresting officers that he had spilled some hot sauce on his junk and was just trying to remove it. Me - "Would that be pleading the Dave's Insanity Defense?".

Soon we were at our first destination, a trip for Mongolian Barbecue.

Decorated in an urban Genghis Kahn motif, you started with a big bowl and the basic buffet of meat (which included scallops and rib eye).

Then you added all the veggies you wanted, and an assortment of sauces from sweet and mild to hot and spicy (throw in some extra spice if you want).

Then they expertly cook it on up on this giant sizzling hot table.

And serve with other goodies, in our case, three kinds of rice and tortillas to wrap it all up in.

The food was wonderful. When what you have in your bowl is cooked and consumed you have the option of a NEW bowl. Oh this is dangerous. After we were so full we could barely invade Turk's Mafia Staff Car, let alone a neighboring country, we headed over to Penzey's, a store whose products I've used in a lot of my recipes here on HOTR.

We wandered through their collection. Tam - "they have dill weed" (chuckle) and Turk - "Saffron!", we all walked out with a little something.

Then on to Gandor Mountain where we looked at outdoor clothing. Me -(holding up pink and green tactical hot pants) "Tam, if I ever try to wear something like this you have permission to shoot me." Then on to the guns and other displays. Like this one for the product you want as back up for your Pez Dispenser (and as scary).

After that we loaded up and went on to the amazing Artisano's for more spices, handcrafted gourmet olive oils and balsamic vinegars. Bobbie is a loyal customer and they had to show me the place, knowing how much I'd like it. They were right.! It's on 86th but back behind another business, you need to look for a Wendy's on the south side of the 86th and turn further south on the side street next to Wendy's and there it is!

The lady managing the store today was quite welcoming and let us try little samples of all kind of things while she showed us all the store had to offer.

Among other things, I brought home a bottle of 18 year old balsamic vinegar that made me moan when I took a little sip of it in the store. Awesome stuff. Bobbie loves their white truffle olive oil (she pops popcorn with it the old fashioned way) and blackcurrent balsamic vinegar and Tam got some Espresso Sugar, some of the flavored sugars they have, in addition to the wide assortment of unique fresh spices.

A wonderful little store off of the beaten path in Northeast Indy and one I will definitely be back to again and again. If you live anywhere in Central Indiana you need to check this little gem of a store out!

click to enlarge photos

Too soon, it was time to head home with my purchases. Barkley was not happy I did not bring home a Mongrel Hordes doggie bag but he was happy to see me. Tonight, I have a small party to go to with neighbors, just an informal gathering of friends and food and an early evening home.

What to bring? I have all these great oils and spices in which to make a dipping sauce. I think a loaf of homemade bread is in order.

click to enlarge Thanks, my friends, for a wonderful adventure. For my readers, for tonight, wherever your adventures take you, have a safe and wonderful New Year.

- Love , Brigid

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Look it's BACON !


Bacon Infused Venison Burgers with Bacon Coleslaw.

Venison, while very healthy, can be a bit dry, so to the venison burger I added bacon, and bacon drippings, some spice and seasoning and a couple other not so secret ingredients. Serve with your favorite toppings, cheese, lettuce, etc. or for a change of pace add a couple tablespoons of bacon coleslaw on top, which has chunks of pepper and lots of peppery, smoked bacon in it. Bacon a deux. It doesn't get any better.

It was dark when the photos were taken, but click to enlarge.

6 slices bacon, finely diced
1 teaspoon minced garlic
2 shallots, minced
2 pounds ground venison
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon Guinness
1 teaspoon McCormick Monterey Hamburger (or Steak) Seasoning
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 egg, beaten with a fork

Cook bacon in a skillet over medium heat until browned and crispy. Remove bacon, leaving most of the grease (there's not a whole lot for just six pieces). Add garlic and shallot to bacon drippings and cook and stir until softened on medium heat, about 3 minutes; then remove and add to bacon.

When cooled, mix in venison, Worcestershire sauce, Guinness, (oh look there's most of a can just going to waste), parsley, salt, pepper, steak seasoning and egg until evenly combined.

Refrigerate for 15 minutes while you heat up an outdoor grill to medium-high. Shape into six patties and grill.

click to enlarge photos

Monday, December 27, 2010

A Birthday Message - A Letter From a Daughter

The story I tell is as old as time, and something I only found the courage to tell in the last couple of years, as "pro choice" seemed to be the banner of so many politicians. And I am going to tell it each year at her birthday time, at the urging of a fearless, teddy bear loving young redhead who looks just like me. She sent me a poem called "two hearts" in the mail, and urged me to tell my story so that a young woman, perhaps reading this blog, might see it and make the right choice.

I was a teen, just starting college, when I found out I was pregnant. I remember hanging up the phone in shock and just opening up a book I was reading. Was it raining? Was the sun out? I don't remember, but the day was ordinary. It usually is when your life changes. Most people aren't really doing anything noteworthy when the carefully guarded and fragile pieces of their life shatter with something they never expect.

I was not the face of teen pregnancy. I was from a sound, middle class Christian home, with loving parents who had adopted me as an infant and provided time, morals and balance in my early formative years. My Mom left a career in law enforcement to be a full time mother, and did so with the values of generations. I was the girl who still wore dresses to school long after everyone wore only jeans, and didn't mind. I was a straight A student, a volunteer, an Honor Society member.

And I fell in love. With the breathtaking tumble that you think you'll only experience once in your life and grab onto like a lifeline. He was older than I. We'd met in a summer college classes I took in addition to my high school ones. We talked of my finishing school, getting married, taking on the world by storm. I didn't tell my family of my feelings. Did it mean that they were not there to listen? Did it mean they were too busy? No, I was a teenager, and at that age you don't tell your parents everything, nor do you make the best decisions, even with the best of parenting. And one night, just one time, I listened to him and not my upbringing. I made the wrong choice.

When I told my love I was pregnant, I expected he would marry me or at least offer. I would be legally an adult when the child was born. He did not. He very cruely and coldly shoved enough money in my fist to "take care of the problem" and then shoved me out of his life. I thought I was part of his dreams and plans and then suddenly I was alone and all that remained was huge question of where this new destination in my life would take me.

I expected a firestorm at home. But I did not get it. I knew my actions had created great disappointment but it was not shown to me. Only love, and support.They could have sent me to stay with relatives out of town to be more discreet about it. They did not. My Dad simply said. "I know you will make the right decision about this" and gave me a big hug.

I was only a teenager. I was scared and angry at myself as I first prayed "oh please don't let me be." I had not known with certainty that life itself lay embedded in each single, shiny moment. I had not grasped the mystery of how miracles duplicate, be they moments or cells, or of unforeseen healing - forgiveness flowing in to what had only held anger and hate. In all those years I went to church with my parents, I had sung a hundred old hymns and loved the music, but had not yet known that in my own flesh I would see that which is consecrated. I was, I am, we are all destined to die—but just as surely to participate in our role in the creation of hope.

And she was born. I had prayed that it would not happen. Now someone new and beautiful lay sleeping, dreaming new dreams all her own. I really didn't know how lacking in hope I had been until then. And the event that I had prayed would not take place became my greatest accomplishment and her small being , my biggest act of courage.

That act of courage involved a couple who had been on a waiting list to adopt a baby for 7 years, and had pretty much given up. When my doctor told me of them, the woman being related to one of his staff, the answer to my huge question was just a feeling, one of actual hope and a sense of meaning. When that is what's going on inside, you know you've finally seen your destination come into view.

It's almost never where you expected it to be.

Several months and 34 hours in labor later it's over. I called my love, not expecting anything, he'd already signed the consent for adoption papers, the decision was made. I simply wanted to inform him of the birth . I was told that he was in love with someone and was going to marry her and don't ever call again. At that point, tears drying on my face, one of the nurses came to my room to see me. I'm not sure what to say to her and she sits down and softly starts humming a little song.

If you go down to the woods today,
You're sure of a big surprise,
If you go down to the woods today
You're better go in disguise,
For every bear that ever was there
Will gather there for certain because
Today's the day the Teddy Bears
have their picnic.

I smiled and hummed along, her hands clasping mine. Then she leaves, with my life. I am determined to be strong, smile, not say goodbye. Never goodbye. The big beige door swing shuts behind them. Then quiet. My Dad comes and tries to talk to me of hope. He talks of being brave, and the past and a future and urges me to leave with them to the cabin for a few days. My emotions are rumblings, faraway thunder, eclipsed by the lightning bolt urgency of others You can't leave alone, no one told you that you could love anyone so much. You're going to gather up whats yours and go home.

But I'd made not only a decision, but a promise, and I leave with my loving and forgiving family, with my empty arms and heart. Some people are less than kind about my decision. Many thought I should be a single mother, when as a young student, I had no way in which to provide. It would be a two job, no father, kind of life that didn't provide for a child. If I left school, all I could probably get after our local employers massive lay-offs in the area, would have been a minimum wage job, even less of a future for us. The option of living off public assistance, suggested by several, was never considered. Surprisingly, many thought I should have had an abortion. Apparently abortion in was more acceptable than adoption for a few pro-abortion folks verbally vilified me for "giving your kid away like it was a puppy", harsh hurtful words.

But my decision was as difficult as anything I have ever done in my life, any such decision is, and for people to openly judge that decision was a cruelty that only honed my pain to razor sharpness.

In time there was a shift, a lightness, undetectable to everyone but me, and I could finally sleep without tears, and I knew I would be forever changed, but I would survive.

All I had was a faint memory from the delivery room of sweet baby smell and red hair. It was an open adoption so I knew where my heart was at. So many times I would have given my life just to just fly there and sit by their house, to watch and breath in that life. But I made a promise to them, and my word is my honor.

There is an imperceptible pause of a life in the moment between the event and the moment of the knowing. After it's happened but it hasn't been formed into words.The click between one life and another.The phone rings early and I'm sleeping so soundly I think it's in my dream. It's for me. . and it's a hesitant. . . "hello. . is that you?".

In talking, for hours, for days, we discovered that we are alike in so many ways. A mirror image of me but with her parent's heart and laughter. We love steak, macaroni and cheese and books. We loved "Princess Bride", "Firefly" and "Red Dwarf". She loves the outdoors in which I breathe.

We owned almost all of the same books.

As we went through the process of becoming friends with each other and I heard in detail the wonder of those happy, secure early years growing up, I was amazed of my role in this. When I met her Mom for the first time, she grabbed me in a big bear hug, openly crying and thanking me for my gift of "our daughter". Moments like that are what makes life real.

When she graduated at Boston University not so long ago, a National Merit Scholarship winner, I watched quietly from the crowd as a guest, with as much pride as any parent there. I treasure my family and her family is as dear to me as my own. But when holidays roll around and I am often alone, my joy is occasionally bittersweet and the reality of what I had to give up stirs in my heart. The mother daughter bonding, girl scouts, camping, that first prom, all of which I only experienced in my heart's longing.
But she is in my life now, with her parent's blessing. Small precious moments, sharing with someone so like myself, yet living her own dreams.
Some people may say I didn't do the right thing. But I did. For my precious child, I did the absolute best I could. But it is not society's or the media's role to judge my decision. And it certainly is no reflection on the kind of person I was at 18 or what kind of parents I had. We make our choices, we make decisions, good and bad, and if we have any strength of character, we own up to them, and try to make them right.

I have a letter from a daughter, wrinkled and stained with tears, that bears witness
to this truth.

Saturday, December 25, 2010


From wonder into wonder existence opens.
-Lao Tzu

Friday, December 24, 2010

It's a Scandahoovian Christmas

Def: Scandahoovian. A Hoosier whose ancestry includes that of Scandinavia.I'm Mostly Scottish (according to DNA tests) with a scattering of other more exotic bloods. Yet adopted and raised  by a Swedish/Norwegian Mom (and after her death, a Norwegian StepMom) I strongly relate to Luther League, lutefisk (as a science experience), the art of Norwegian seduction (yah, you have some nice snow tires, you betcha) and I have been trained in the art of making food that can be classified by the FDA as a sedative.

Like lefse, unleavened flatbread make out of mashed potatoes, cream and flour and cooked on a griddle. I eat mine a common way, adding butter to the lefse and rolling it up (lefse-klenning in the mother tongue). Other options include adding cinnamon, or spreading jelly or lingonberries upon it. We'd also eat it for lunch with thin sliced Danish ham and cheeses.

But most of Mom's Scandinavian Christmas dishes were of the cookie/dessert variety, mostly made at Christmas. One of those is Krumkaka which consists of a light sweet batter which is poured onto a hot mold and then quickly cooked and rolled into a cone shape while it is still warm. It's often served filled with real whipped cream, or just munched plain, while crisp, buttery and warm. (Note: photo was cropped to remove evidence of crime scene tape).

click to enlarge photo

Then there are the Rosettes. Also a batter in which a hot iron mold attached to a handle is dipped and the results deep fried and dusted with sugar. The cookie is light and delicate, almost like puff pastry, if done right. It looks easy. It is not. I've had many slip off the iron into the hot oil because the batter is too thin or the wrong temperature, only to resemble floating, fried .40 casings, and others that looked OK maybe, but would have ripped the dentures out of great grandma with their shriveled chewiness.
click to enlarge photo
But sometimes you get it right. Light, crunchy, perfection with just a hint of Cardamom.

Then there was fattigman, known as the "poor man's cookie", though our version was dressed up with a tablespoon of brandy to add to the heavy whipping cream, flour and butter. Like all of these recipes, it did require a special tool, one that is passed down from mother to daughter.

All the recipes seemed to call for lots and lots of flour. Why? Probably because my family could go through these cookies like locust on a summer day. Hours of work gone in minutes. I never knew how much energy, how much time, effort and love Mom and Grandma wrapped up in all those holiday treats until I tried to make them myself to share with coworkers and friends.
Only then did I truly appreciate the love that went into them.

These quiet times in the kitchen are my way of regrouping after a a long day or a long road trip. It's a time, wherein the faith I have, that can take a beating during the work week, is repaired, threads of hope and strength woven back into the areas that feel tattered as the leaves clinging stubbornly to the trees outside my window.

I love to cook for my friends and family. I've always spent at least one vacation week a year out West at my parents. There, I'd just give Mom a vacation herself and cook them three big meals a day, clean the house and do some light outdoor chores and keep them company while they got to put their feet up. Not much of a "vacation" for me, rest wise, but I loved how it made my parents smile and how good it was to hear them laugh.

I'll volunteer to take duty again  this Christmas to free up someone who has small children.  My Dad wants to be alone with his memories, not celebrating the holidays since my Mom died.  I understand.  There will be other Christmas's where I can cook and entertain. For meals here for my friends during the year, bring back memories of days when we had a family dinner table meal every night except the Saturday barbecue night. I can't recall so much of what we talked about or exactly what each meal was, memory being not just selective but discriminating, in the end only as reliable as we are. The dates and times and actual meals themselves are insignificant, but I remember the gathering, the smells of beef and fresh vegetables, of laughter, of stories from school, from work, a discarding of weighty thought and the simple gathering of those you love, for nourishment of the soul. I can't recreate that through what I cook, or who I serve it to, but I still can remember how those simple meals made me feel, the redemptive power of the communion of family.

For those of you who have that, treasure every moment.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Predator Hunting - Down on the Farm

This one is dedicated to my Indiana hunting buddies.. And of course, Frank W. James, for the generosity of his land. You guys are the best!

My first night time predator hunt. 1996. A small farm in the Southern Plains where I lived on about 50 acres. Coyotes were increasing in numbers, I'd found small fragments of remains of more than one small fawn, a cat or two, close to the house. When some killed a neighbors small dog after they had chased the terrified animal to the front porch in broad daylight, where his kids watched it being torn apart from inside the house, it was time to do something. Eradicate the coyotes and you are overrun with mice; I am well aware of the checks and balances in nature. Yet there were more coyotes around than there was small prey for and they were hungry enough to take prey on a front porch, it was time to cull the group a bit.

I'd seen them close to the farm house. Down in the south, we had predators, though none large. Though you more often hear a coyote than ever see one, they get bolder as they get used to living alongside we humans. I'd seen them trotting along the edge of the fields, through snow that clutched at their empty bellies, heads cocked, eyes forward, using instinct, tooth and sinew to find that one small morsel there breathing under the snow, trying to hide for its life, a small shivering rabbit, wishing as desperately not to be eaten alive as the coyote desperately wishes to consume.

I'd even seen them right at the edge of my yard, Just one, a scout looking at me from a tree line far away, and then leaving with a quiet yip of warning to his fellows. On his face, a canine smile of mockery. Not a smile that hints of internal laughter, but a laughter as mirthless as the smile of the Spinx, amusement as cold and hard as the ground. Was he alone? I was not to know. Only one had made itself known. Then one morning, right off the driveway as I opened the back door to take the mail out, a blurred commotion, a high pitched, soft pleading scream that broke the lie of safety. A cry that caused me to turn towards the sound as for just a second it sounded like a child, before I recognized the sound. I looked torwards the brush that lined the road on which the cars and school bus would lumber in the mornings. I saw something darting quickly, a dark shape, too small to be human, too quick for me to catch a good glimpse. There, in the ditch, a small white form, a jagged tear in it's furry throat, rabbity legs twitching in the remembrance of life.

After getting the supplies I needed, I got my Remington and alerted my neighbors as to my intent so there would no wanderers on my land that night, except for the four legged kind. I checked my local and state laws. The regulations for night predator hunting, and using spotlights vary. My husband was off crop dusting over in Arkansas, working the rice for a few months. Like most things on the farm, I'd need to take care of it myself, not knowing when he'd return. I had a husband, but I fought my own battles and cleaned my own weapons. I had to, out here away from the comforts of city life.

I had hunted in the past as darkness fell, during whitetail season, the sun setting just as I finished up in my stand, but I had never set out before to purposely hunt at night. This was a different type of hunt for other reasons as well. Not to put food on the table but to purposely take the life of something that took life from this land without remorse.

The sun was completely gone at this point, that slow sun of this area, reluctant to leave. I readied my gun in a land gone dreamlike, familiar yet strange, like dreams of falling by the surefooted. The field I had walked through many times was shadowed, darkness seeping into the corners of the small patch of land, as water into a lifeboat. When the first yips of the coyote echoed, I drew my jacket close around me and eyed the distance to my truck cab.

Now I knew I was in no danger from the coyote or his brethren, but I was in his world. To my eyes, his world was dark, every noise I make a threat or a promise. Where he could see, I was blind, where he could smell, my senses were mute. What he could hear eluded me completely. What drew him in, was as old as time and as uncaring. While I had intellect and size he had the grimness of infallibility, instincts honed through generations of survival in an ever dangerous land. Despite the scientific part of my brain telling me that logically I was in no danger there are primal forebodings that stir softly in our blood. Times, despite logic, that cause a less than subliminal sense of something lurking, watching. Something that stalks quietly, closer to our world than we want.

I'm aware of predators and prey. During a whitetail hunt way out in the wilderness, I got my buck right at darkfall. Even with a shot straight through the heart, he bounded out deep into the woods. I went to track him, knowing that those I hunted with would hear the shot and come to help. We'd have to haul him out with all terrain vehicles as I was near a mile from my fellow hunters and much more than that to the cabin.

When I finally got to where he lay, the white tail a small sign in the deepening pool of blackness, I stood, hairs rising up along my forearms, my breath hot in my chest, despite the snow and the cold. I wasn't alone. Something instinctual kicked in and I stopped in my tracks. There, crouching over the remains of that magnificent 12 point buck was a dark shadow, merged onto my kill, hunched over the ribcage, dark on darkness where I couldn't tell where one shadow began and another ended. Something uttered a deep throated growl at me. A warning. This was not some cute woodland creature from a television cartoon. The stench of something primordial was in the air, more than blood, less than my suddenly dry mouth, and I knew that I had somehow in that moment slipped a rung on the food chain.

Shooting at it in near total darkness would only have pissed it off, so I slowly backed away and let whichever predator had found my buck have its due. I'd taken something that, in the realm of his basic instincts, was not mine to take, therefore, with bigger teeth, he would take it from me. I carefully made my long way back to the safety of the house, the fear seeping out of me like the deer's blood onto the snow. For it was when I stared into the flat eyes of something wild, something bigger than a coyote, that I realized that this seemingly sturdy body, that serves me subtlety and so well, is only so much meat, and my thoughts and life history would only be a night's sustenance to some creature of the night. . . or to fate.

So years later, in the darkness out in my farm field, those thoughts came back unbidden. But my state had no large predators of the four legged kind so I settled down to wait. I'd have preferred a stand, but from the ground in this landscape that sloped down towards the creek I could see pretty well.

I knew they were in the area, in addition to the sightings I'd seen scat and tracks, so I needed to get set up quickly. Always a pilot, I knew which way the wind was coming from. A coyote’s sense of smell is highly adapted and they are notorious for circling downwind to gain scent advantage. so I positioned myself with the wind directly in my face. My face was covered with camouflage cosmetics. Human skin is highly reflective and coyotes will pick up on this, especially at night. My porcelain skin would look like a lighthouse to them. My clothing dark, my face a shadow, the flame of my hair, unscented, tucked under a cap.

The lure would be a rabbit in distress call. A call is the best way to go, but you'll want to practice first. With lungs 10 times bigger than a large jack rabbit, in my first attempt to use one I ended up sounding like a pig being water boarded. A lure to a predator is a small animal and a coyote can hear a small cry from a long way off. They are hungry but they are not stupid. The call is not constant, a long, loud, drawn out incessant wail might work for a spoiled two year old at the grocery but it does not work on Canis Latrans. But since I was alone, juggling gear, I used a tape that played in a small battery operated player, a recording well crafted and not just a constant bleat of animal in trouble.

There's a soft opening call. Silence, then another, more urgent, silence. Distressed wails and cries,.silence. I knew it would just be a matter of time before they moved in. The night was warm, yet my fingers were cold on the grip of my gun, blue steeled cold of a .223 Remington. Hunting predators with shotguns can be fun, but coyotes are tougher than you think and tonight I wanted more than my little Browning to shoot at the distance that might be needed.

The stars were bright, yet the only real light was the red lens covered light on my rifle. If you hunt alone, there are lights that mount on the scope and others that mount on the rifle itself. I'm not one for a lot of stuff mounted on my guns. None of my pistols have scopes or laser dots or anything, so I wasn't too keen on mounting a light on it. But I would be hunting alone, and juggling a light, call and weapon, at night, was going to be as awkward as a blind date. Fortunately, I found one by in Texas that was light enough that it would not hurt the scope.

As I waited, t
he only sound was the the piercing whine of insects playing in accompaniment to the distant percussion of distant thunder. A peek through the scope revealed only blackness, mocking me as I slowly and surely swept my range. There, in mid sweep, about 200 yards out, a set of close-set red eyes burning out of the night. There! Another set, as I got behind the optics. But I waited. Other farm and domestic animals in the night could be mistaken for predators. Shooting my neighbors cow would not be a good way to be re-invited for Sunday supper. During the daytime you can see your backdrop or what lies beyond the target. At night, this is normally not the case and I would not take off a shot until my target was clearly identified, though I was careful not to shine the line directly in their eyes, but just above.

There, a silhouette in moonlight, a third shadow emerging from the tall grass, along the creek line. I knew they would come in through there.
Coyotes will cross an open field, but only if there are not better options. There, under the light of an almost full moon, he turns away, all but disappearing, then turns back, the plaintive pleading of a dying rabbit too great a lure. He's not much more than a shadow on the ground but he is most definitely a coyote.

I hesitate for just an instant. Like the coyote, I am a predator, taking what I need to sustain. Doing what I have to to stay alive. Like him, I am alone even when I'm in my pack, dispossessed except for those times I am in the outdoors, for it is only the outdoors that feeds and nourishes me. I haunt the shadows of the wilderness that my own race continues to destroy. Yet, like the small field rabbits that are his prey, I just want to go about my way, unmolested, free to travel in sunlight or darkness without fear.

As deep blue shadows linger softly on the landscape, and my finger moves from ready to fire, I can't help but empathize for just that moment with both the coyotes survival mechanisms and a tiny animals cowering fear in this perilous world. A world we all could be snatched from at any time, seized from quiet survival into an explosion of pain. Our primordial past is closer than we realize. Watching us and waiting to pounce.

So I hesitate for only for a second, I drew up and carefully accessed what I saw through the scope, watch the movement of the eyes, their directing telling me which way he is going, a telltale slow drift to tell me he is still stalking, getting bolder. When he was 150 yards away, without movement, I slowed, and silently hit pause on the call, simply making a lip squeaking noise, kissing sounds through the mouth, using the back of my hand against my mouth for more volume, to coax him in. The kiss of death. 100 yards away, I touched the trigger and the Remington spoke for all of the small creatures of the forest, one shot broadside behind the right shoulder. I started the call again. Gunshots don't spook them. I got two more that night, before coldness took me back to my quiet country home.

Now, I no longer live on that farm, but the city is less than an hour away. Some say we are safer out here in the country, in these small towns of America. Despite the country setting, Mayberry-like town, and red white and blue speckled mailboxes, there is no truly safe place anymore, especially for a woman. Though there are certainly more crimes where more people live or where the the law-abiding are disarmed, the heart of evil roams equally at will through asphalt and country roads, through the bayous and in the blogosphere. Predators are among us, watching from a line at the corner market, waiting in the darkness of a rural parking lot, waiting for us to be human and make a mistake. Waiting for that sign, that manner, that tells them that you are un-toothed and un-fanged, a soft and tiny target for their cruel nature.

We think, as humans, we have dominion over the wild, especially when we are young and think we are immortal. But when we are in the wild places, be it a forest or the streets of a city, we are on the edge, an edge that is neither a humanitarian or lenient. The slow, the infirm, the trusting . . . perish. Those without sharp tooth or claw, those trusting of form, will always be prey.

On that night long ago, at least, there would a few less predators, on other days and evenings more would be hunted, until they moved back from our yards, away from our homes and pets. . . . but only for now. For they will come back. Predators will roam the roads and quiet plains of our earth as long as there is darkness, the derisive echoes of their voices carried on the harsh wind.

I looked around me, to make sure I am alone before heading back to the truck, the darkness cooling the blood, the field empty and quiet, except for the steady sound of a small wounded wounded rabbit, a ceaseless and unemphatic cry into the night.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Things Women Will Never Understand About Men

Men are a misunderstood lot. I have 3 brothers, which include my stepbrothers, all Navy. I spent a couple years motherless, with a Dad who was retired Air Force, before he happily remarried. I work with all men. So I understand them better than most women. Perhaps it's best though they remain mostly misunderstood for many women do not want to know that they drink out of the milk carton as soon as you leave the room and find the most romantic scene in a movie the one where Jimmy Cagney shoved a grapefruit in Mae Clark's face in Public Enemy. I find it rather humorous that women spend so much time trying to figure men out. Every ladies magazine I see seems to be a compilation of articles on how to GET a man while the other half is telling you that men are jerks. The same oxymoron that makes half of their non male articles about dieting and the other half recipes. This explains why the magazines on my kitchen table are woodworking, hunting, cooking and firearms.

So a quick HOTR explanation of the whys women ask.

Why men want to own the biggest, newest and most complicated version of everything.

I'm still confused by why women want to have a different pair of shoes for each outfit, but I'm not normal that way.

Marketing everywhere will quickly tell you that the male of the species has always had a compulsive desire to drive four wheel drive vehicles on suburb streets in Florida while opening a bottle of wine with something that resembles an off shore oil driller.

Men don't buy the cap snaffler, anything by Popeil or the simple. Men are drawn not by "easy", and "quick to use" but terms like "industrial strength", "tested in non nuclear warfare" and "will withstand 4,000 foot pounds of foot pressure!" because men contain some DNA within them that strives to be the best at every profession there is. A man isn't jut a man, with the right equipment he's fireman, paid assassin, grill chef, engineer, nuclear physicist, cowboy.

He doesn't make fun of you because you have 12 colors of nail polish in your drawer, so don't squawk when he has three different pipe wrenches. One of them of course, always has that special use that can't be done by the other two.

Why Danger is in their blood.

Men went from hunting Mastodons with big pointy spears to having to hold a purse in a mall. Totally understandable.

A man's idea of shopping is not the same as a woman's.
I admit it. I shop like a guy. I plan what I need to get, look at some reviews to see which is the best product and pick it. Then I walk into the store in a manner in which Clauswitz would be proud, cleverly avoiding people trying to spray me with cologne so I don't end up in sporting goods smelling like a Hollywood hooker. I see what I need, I grab it, (pillaging is in my blood), I pay for it, usually cash, and I quickly leave the scene of the crime.

So when you just surprise your mate with "honey would you go to the store and get eggs and milk" and he's sent into battle with no time for preparation, bombarded by countless displays that make no ergonomic sense and people shoving food and products at him with "want to try the new Kiwi Persimmon Pop Tart, now with antioxidants", he just wants to escape and as quickly as possible. Which is why he comes home with a case of beer, a bottle of olives and a birch tree.

Hardware and gun stores are different. Send him to one of those for just one small item and he'll come home with a vehicle packed tighter than the Clampetts truck on Beverly Hillbillies.

Why they don't want to talk about your relationship.

If you wake up in the same bed and say hello, women usually think they have a relationship. Men usually own up to it sometime after your second child is in school. What they don't want to do is talk about it and will dodge the bullet of any conversation that starts with "where do you see us going?" or "do you see us getting married?" at a speed approaching light.

A relationship is like a Ruger Mark III. If you have a good one, it's grand, but if you attempt to take it apart bit by bit, you will live to regret it.

For example -

It's an evening with Brigetta and Fred,  a Minnisota couple who met ice fishing. One night over dinner, Brigetta utters those dreaded words. "So, where do you think this is going".

And Fred - looking outside at the spitting snow says - "dang - it's going to snow and I've got the snow blower in the shop!

It's never shifted right since it sucked through that big chunk of something that I think was a moose. I don't care what those idiots at the  other repair shop say that they "can't duplicate the problem". Of course the (^#&'s can't duplicate it running it in a garage that's warmer than Abu Dhabi. It's on warranty. They have to do a better job than that. I paid $600 for that thing. with its "two year guarantee to start (my ass) promise".

Brigitta at this point  just gets up and as Fred is dialing the shop to get his "damn snow blower" running doesn't even notice the door slam.

Why men fix things and how.

Men can fix just about anything. Like gift wrapping, I think it's something in their DNA code. My Dad can build anything in the world out of wood. My brothers can rewire a house in their sleep. Men love to take anything apart and will do so gladly, whether it's a range top oven, a computer or a chainsaw. Men are genius at taking the things apart that I could only tackle with a sledgehammer. Unfortunately, sometimes, for a few of them, there is a problem putting things BACK together. Fortunately, those men are often happy with leaving the remains spread out for future autopsy while they go out to see if they can find an "Industrial strength" model to replace the piece of junk that would have gone back together if it had been built better.

Since it's Christmas - Men and gift wrap.

Men do not like to wrap gifts. I think it was Dave Barry that said the first gifts given were the gifts to Baby Jesus. "Hence the term "wise men". Men don't understand the point in putting carefully coordinated paper with oodles of expensive ribbon on a package just to rip it off. (lingerie though is a whole 'nother idea).

Give a women a 15 inch scrap of decorative paper and she can giftwrap a Sikorsky in less than 10 minutes. A man will carefully lay out the present, cut a swath of paper the size of Nebraska, and when he's done, there will be a gap in the back where you can see what the gift is. I realized in my anthropology courses, that the Pharoahs had to be wrapped after death by women, otherwise the back of the mummy would be held together by a big piece of Scotch Tape.

So my Dad and brothers would often give me a present in a Safeway grocery sack, stapled carefully shut so I couldn't peek. With a bow on it that they'd happily press on it to dress it up for me. This lasted until Dad bought the mother of all Christmas wrapping paper, a roll that was at least 3 feet thick. He still has it. You know immediately which gifts are from Dad and the boys. Thirty years later, the roll's diameter is only about 4 inches less.

But if you want someone to have some FUN with a gift, it's the men. From childhood on I've boxes that rattled that shouldn't have, been too large for the contents, as well as those with mysterious air holes bored in the side. The gifts oftened turned out to be something extraordinarily fun but not what we thought it was.

Mom - What's with the big lawn and leaf bag in the living room?

Dad - It's a gift. Did you forget it's your birthday? Can't you tell? See there's a BOW!Mom: (pulling it open and speaking in that tone that only women receiving applicances as gifts can actually utter with a straight face) It's a shop vac . . . .
Dad - But it has a six horsepower motor! And it comes with several small attachments!Mom (laughing) - Is one of them a divorce attorney?
Dad - Oh, look there underneath (looks like a jewelry box)

Mom - It's those diamond earrings I admired!! (sqeall, kiss, kiss)
So don't knock the badly wrapped gift ladies, it can contain wonders.

Men and Play - Playstation Version.

Maybe it's an age thing but most of my younger male buddies will spend an entire day playing video games. It doesn't matter if at work they perform surgery all day, at home they are only truly challenged if they can get to the next level in Lego Zombieland WII.

I've seen it. I could have come in to the room stark naked with a Colt Commander I just purchased in a holster on my hip and any male in the room with a game player in his hand would not miss a blink. So remember ladies. If you are seeing or married to someone under the age of 40 and they appear glassy eyed and seemingly uncaring, they did not stay out all night with that waitress from Hooters, they have the new copy of HALO .

Men and Food

I agree with the men here. I don't want anything served with a sprig of parsley, or made from organic tofuberries sauteed in arugula. I want bacon. Bring it on.

Men and television.
Men don't just sit down and watch the TV, they're a supporting player. Once in that groove and with the right choice of handyman how to, adventure and sports, they can watch for hours with an intensity usually reserved for brain surgery and strip poker. However, they will look up with "Honey did you see THAT" when there is a particularly good explosion on Mythbusters. OR they can change channels at every commercial and simultaneously watch Man Vs Food, Survivorman, and Top Gear, all while completely engaged in each show, including remembering direct quotes and scientific facts, ALL at the same time. Unfortunately for women, men cannot achieve this higher state without a firm grasp on the remote.

Men and illness.

Most men, on utterance of the first inkling have some woman tell them smugly "you haven't given birth, you don't know what pain is" and treat him like he's some big wimp just because he's never actually expelled an entire Buick from the recreational parking area. I can't speak for men, but I once had a tiny speck of tree branch in my eye that pierced the cornea while wrestling with the install of a tree blind and I can tell you that hurt worse than 10 pound 6 ounce Brigid. Jr. ever did with the whole natural "son of a )#(#*!" childbirth thing. I had a WHOLE new respect for pain after the eye surgeon fixed me up that day.

When a man says he's sick, he's rarely faking it. Actually when somethings going around work most of the men in my unit will suck it up and continue playing long after I take my whiny, sniffling self home for Jameson and honey laced tea and self pity. Men will always feel slightly under the weather just from carrying all that testosterone around unrestrained so it's only so you don't worry so much about him that works so hard, has a couple of beers and watches football when he's not feeling 100%. So have some sympathy. If your man says he's sick, pamper the hell out of him and remember that once he's asleep, the remote is YOURS.A man's sense of humor.

click to enlarge

I was driving through the Midwest a few weeks ago, and out ahead of me I saw a pink vehicle, a distinct shade of light pink I recognized. It's a Mary Kay car I thought. You know, one of those new and shiny fancy cars with the sticker on the back "I Won It, Ask Me How - Mary Kay."

But as I got closer I could see it was a very beat up Volvo, with the rust marks to show its age. But it was pink.

Pink, painted with a brush.With a fresh and flawless Mary Kay "I Won It Ask me How" sticker in the back window.

The man driving it looked like Red Green and the car was full of junk, likely a run from the farm to the junkyard or dump.

I laughed so hard I could hardly get a picture and got a huge grin from him when I waved at him as we drove past.

I told a gal I know and she didn't see why it was funny.

Some women don't like the Three Stooges either. I don't get it.

Why men look at other women.

A teenage female member of the Range household came home in tears one time years ago sobbing "my boyfriend was looking at girls at the mall when we were shopping". She was inconsolable. I asked. "did he make rude comments or act like a jerk?" "No", she sniffed, "but when he thought I wasn't looking he'd notice them".

I said "Take Grandpa and Grandma to the mall, Papa will drive and you can buy some ice cream with this $20" She came back an hour later, laughing, her tears dried "Grandpa looks at other women when he doesn't think Grandma is paying attention!" and we all had a good laugh.

It's in their genes, get over it. You are the one he wants to watch the Stooges with.

So there you have it, the HOTR top things that women don't understand about men.Now here's what we do understand.

We admire you more than you know, we like hanging around you. We like the way you smell, and laugh, and how you can make an old pair of khakis and a black T shirt look sexier than any designer outfit we own. When things go wrong, we look up to you knowing you will use all of those many talents you have to help. We like what you stand for and how strong you are. You might be our husband, lover, brother, friend, or Secret Squirrel back up. But though we might be able to fieldstrip that AR or paint the house on our own, we'd be lost without you.

Love - Brigid