Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Chicken & Dumpling Eve

Sigh..... another week of work. Another day, another 33 cents... And even though I got Monday as a holiday and only have to work 4 days this week, it's going to be a bitch because the Powers That Be dumped Monday's workload onto the rest of the week. So we'll do 5 days of work in 4 days.... aaaaarghh!!!

So come along with Bohemian Knitter as she tours Redneck-Land in the Jeep, visiting various and sundry places to see her beloved patients.

First visit today-- a small brahman cow farm. Now, these people are smart--they know how to keep an intact fence, thank the Lord. Unfortunately, they don't separate the house area from the pasture---so to get from my Jeep to their front door, I have to WALK THROUGH that herd of cows! And ever since The Incident At The Rickenbocker Ranch, I have been very leery of walking through herds of cows. Because I never know when there's a wayward bull around. Now, these people claim they keep their bulls penned behind the barn out back, but you never know.....there's always that sly neighbor Hereford that roams around trying to unionize other herds..... (although Brahmans are known for their snobbishness and probably wouldn't listen to a simple Hereford.) But yet, my friends..... there is a silver lining on the cloud, as you can see from the picture below.... Yep! You guessed it! I told you that Wednesdays are Chicken & Dumpling Days!

YEE-HAW!! And if I know this place, there'll be BANANA PUDDIN' for desert, DOUBLE YEE-HAW!!!! And here I thought it was really going to be just stupid ole Pork Chop Day. But I was wrong, hee hee!!! Tomorrow it's dumplings! Tomorrow it's dumplings! (Dang, I bet I'll have to be rolled out of that place after lunch...) So the week is not a total loss afterall.

I stopped in there and told them to save me and Amber a seat tomorrow--we don't want to have to wait behind those big ole PO-leece men or the Firemen. (Hell, if those boys get in there before we do there won't be nary a dumpling or thighbone left...)

And, thankfully, usually nobody on horseback comes through to hold things up. (Although there Was That One Time.... when a county jail prisoner escaped when the deputy let him take out the trash and the whole posse went looking for him but stopped into the Dumpling Place for what they called "strength for the ride". (Now, understand, in small Texan towns a posse isn't just a gang of friends---it's REALLY a POSSE!! Where a bunch of idiot, yay-hoo PO-Leece men have an excuse to jump on horseback and ride through the town yelling stupid stuff like "Yippee-Yi-Ki-Yay!" like they were Bruce Willis in Tombstone or something..... and they never did catch that durn criminal because he turned his own self in when his wife got a loveletter from his former cellmate, and so the pissed-off escaped criminal showed up at the jail house demanding to be let back in just so's he could whup the guy's butt..) (And Deputy Jimmy-Jack Hinton hollered at the escaped criminal for 2 hours saying things like: "And you spilled TRASH all over the damn alley and they made me clean it up after you ran off--so I'm givin' you Trash Duty for the next 3 MONTHS, so how do ya like them apples??!")

Oh yes, the dumplings....Ahem... So anyhoo, on Wednesdays me and Amber don't even bother lying to our boss about where we are on the road when we sneak off to the Dumpling Place for a "too long" lunch hour (when we're really only supposed to take 30 minutes for lunch) -- because when we get there we'll see our boss and her cronies sitting there, big-as-you-please, having their own selves some big ole bowls of chicken & dumplings!

So we all just pretend not to see each other. Except I almost got busted one time because there was a big smear of dumpling juice on my shirt when I got back to the office--and my irritated boss whispered: "Were you raised in a barn? You're supposed to be discreet about Dumpling Day! You trying to ruin it for everybody else or what?" Anyway, with dreams of tomorrow's dumplings on my mind, I finished my day of work for today and came on home to do some relaxing knitting. I cast on for a pair of socks for "Socks for Soldier's". I'm using some Wildefoote sock yarn and some bamboo Crystal Palace needles. I decided to join "Socks for Soldier's" to continue knitting to show support for troops because I have a lot of friends at work and in my personal life who's sons and daughters are serving in the armed forces.

So here's my Big Black Sock that I cast on for tonight. (If you'd like to join, the link is at the bottom of my blog.) Hey, do you know how I finally figured out that I'm not a spring chicken anymore? When I started knitting with the black yarn tonight and I started thinking about Ott lites....... (aaargh!...black yarn is hard on the old eyes!!....)

(SSHHH.....I'm going to bed now--and I'm going to dream about DUMPLINGS, hee hee!!!!!)

Friday, May 26, 2006

Stop! The Socks You Save May Be Your Own....

In honor of Memorial Day, I am hereby going to make a salute to my departed father, who was a veteran of the United States Army and a 20-year career diplomat with the United States Foreign Service, by showing a picture of my mother's handmade Texan Star Flag Quilt. (Mumsy always called him "Big Daddy".) And as my father always told me: "Sugarplum, Texas is God's Country."

Anyhoo, I'm very glad for the holiday weekend because I'm bone-tired or, as my mother says, "TARD". Frazzled, worn-out, dead-tired, beat down.....none of those words suffice for the week I've had. I bet I've seen and tended to every sick person in the tri-county region. And their brothers. And their sisters. And their uncles. And to top it all off...

All the animals are mad at me.

All of them, I tell you, all of them! Even Mrs. Priddle's weeny-dog, Scooter, is mad at me. Little Taffy the calf is mad at me, too. And for God's sakes, now the Lisks' SHEEP are pissed off.

And what I want to know is: WHAT DID I DO?

I am innocent, I tell you. I haven't done a dad-gum thing to the animals and yet every animal I came into contact this week has been rude or downright confrontational. (And I'm not even going to THINK ABOUT the Incident at the Rickenbocker Ranch--I'm trying to bury that little episode into my subconscious....) (But the Rickenbocker bull was a perfect example.)

The sheep are mad at me. They're mad at me because I'm using acrylic yarn on the sweater-coat. Sigh.... like I told you, in a small town everybody knows everything about you. So somehow the sheep found out. And the reason I know is because when I innocently drove up to the Lisk Farm today, every durn sheep in their side pen suddenly woke up out of their afternoon nap and started bleating their heads off.

I thought maybe it was just because an arriving vehicle had disturbed their mid-day siesta underneath a shade tree. But no, it was me, alright -- because the minute I climbed down out of the Jeep, they all jumped up and ran over to the fence, looked me right in the eyeballs, and proceeded to begin a complete cacaphony chorus of loud angry bleatings. The NERVE of those stupid sheep, I thought. Afterall, it's a FREE COUNTRY. They were so noisy that all the other animals on the farm started in, too. Even some roosters, two paint ponies, a nanny goat, and the family dog joined in with their own brou-ha-ha.

(Now THAT really hurt--I've always been on good terms with that dog.) But the sheep had started the whole thing. I stood there in amazement, wondering if the sheep had taken leave of their senses. I mean, these are lazy sheep. Very lazy. They rarely leave the shade tree once the temperature gets to the 70's. And it was HOT today. It was at least 98 or 100 degrees in the shade. It was so hot that I saw the neighbor dog chasing a cat and they were both walking. And I was burning up myself and in no mood for the stupid sheep's antics. So I hollered at the sheep: "What in the hell is the MATTER with you? If it's about the sweater-coat, just remember that I can use any damn yarn I feel like using, including acrylic, and don't you forget it." But they kept on with their bleatings, with the ponies now stomping in the dirt, the nanny goat running in circles, the dog barking, and me arguing with everybody, until Farmer Lisk came out the screen door and hollered "What in the Sam Hill is going on out here?" So I shut up and they all stopped their noise and we all returned, sullenly, to our previous activities. Sheesh, stupid touchy sheep, I thought to myself. In fact, they're starting to get as uppity as the paint ponies.

I get plenty of "tsk- tsk's" from fellow knitters for using acrylic yarn, too. And it's not like I use acrylic all the time. Hell, I use every kind of yarn there is under the sun. Wool, alpaca, silk, you name it--but yes, sometimes I use acrylic. It's getting to where when I go to my 12-Step Meetings I have to add "...and I use acrylic yarn" when I announce my name. (I've learned to accept the hushed, horrified silence that greets my announcement.) So I am going to have to take a stand here about my use of acrylic yarn on the sweater-coat. Listen, I like expensive, beautiful, soft wool yarn just like the next knitter. (As a matter of fact, I'm saving some beautiful, handpainted Urugayan merino wool for an entrelac project after the sweater-coat.) But sometimes a project just requires a good, basic, acrylic yarn--something like Red Heart, my Walmart salvation.

For one thing, I just can't afford to use expensive wool yarn on every single project, nor would I want to. And I'm in the boondocks here--if I want to use anything but Walmart's Red Heart, I've got to order it from afar and pay shipping. And, like I said--there are many projects that are suited only to a yarn such as Red Heart. I think that Red Heart is an unsung hero. Just like all the redneck and cowboy guys around here are called "good ole boys", I think that Red Heart is a "good ole yarn". And you know, there are some very important points to make about Red Heart yarn. I will list them here and give a good ole Memorial Day salute to Red Heart yarn: Why Red Heart Yarn is A Good Ole Yarn: 1. It's CHEAP. Hey, you can't go wrong with the price. Let's say you're knitting along and you make a huge goof on a cuff and you don't feel like tinking back. Or you're unwinding a skein and you find a horrendous knot in the middle of the skein and you can't stand the thought of having to sit there for hours to untangle it. Well you don't have to tediously tink back...and you don't have to sit there and gnash your teeth while unknotting the knot....simply throw the offending mess away and start with new yarn! Heck, I've thrown entire sleeves out before and just started over with another skein. Red Heart's so cheap that it doesn't hurt a bit to sacrifice some.

2. It won't felt!

Hey, I live in Texas--we have rainstorms here that would rival Sri Lankan Monsoons. If I were wearing a sweater-coat made out of wool during one of those storms (while dodging chickens and cow-pies)--well you can imagine the consequences.

3. It comes in every color of the rainbow and then some. Solid colors, varigated colors, Christmas colors with glitter colors... it's great. For example, I like to knit worsted weight Red Heart into hearty, sturdy "House Socks" for the winter. I purposely make them as hideously mis-matched as I can just because I can! And I make them knee high for warmth and coziness. "House Boot Socks" is a more apt name for them. My friends clamor for me to make them pairs for their own--they like to use them to sleep in. These House Boots keep your toes and legs toasty all winter long-- and you can even use them to hang over the fireplace on Christmas Eve--because they're so long that you're bound to get more stocking-stuffer gifts than anybody else.

Unfortunately, I wear my House Boots so much that they end up looking like this:

Hideous, aren't they? (And true to my habits, the fair isle patterns don't match.) But I do such things on purpose. Remember I told you that my rebellious motto is: Show me two colors that don't match and I'll knit them right next to each other. The above particular pair of House Boots have definitely seen better days--as you can see, I've worn a huge hole in the heel of one and am about to on the other one. Think I ought to darn them? Well that brings me to another great point about Red Heart yarn: I made these socks 2 years ago and if I go to Walmart today to get matching yarn to darn them with--IT'S STILL IN STOCK!! Yee-hah! I don't need no stinking dye lots! Walmart's dye lots all look the same! What a beautiful system!

(Okay, back to the reasons Red Heart is a Good Ole Yarn)....

4. Red Heart yarn is virtually EVERYWHERE that there is Walmart. On the road at a motel and wished you'd brought a knitting project and don't know where there's a yarn shop? Got Walmart? Flying to Tupelo and forgot your knitting? Got Walmart? Realize you're going to have to wait at the mechanic's while you get new tires and you're wondering what you're going to do while you wait? Got Walmart? In fact, Walmart is a double boon for getting your car worked on and needing some yarn---because if you're getting new tires or something at the Walmart Tire/Auto Center, they'll tell you to go shop while you're waiting. They'll send you through a hidden side door with a shopping cart and a nice little wave, and you'll find yourself near the fabrics & crafts--and the YARN. You can shop your head off and they'll call you on your cell phone when your vehicle is ready. And for some reason they always know just when to call--right after I've loaded my cart with 18 skeins of Red Heart for my next gift afghan project. I usually end up at the Tire Center check-out register paying for Red Heart yarn along with some Armor-All, my new tires, and a car-cup holder. This became a disaster one time when I rolled my shopping cart out to my newly-tire-bedecked Jeep in the parking lot, which happens to be a very slanted and unevenly paved parking lot. Now, I have my Walmart Parking Lot Driver's Certificate and it IS up-to-date, mind you. I happen to be an expert at navigating the treacherous conditions in Walmart's surrounding parking lots. I can circle those parking lanes with the best of them, all while talking on the cell phone, avoiding running down innocent elderly pedestrians, swerving around top-heavy shopping carts loaded with plasma TV's, missing by inches children selling cookies, and even stopping reluctantly to allow tattooed teenagers with IPod earphones glued to their ears stroll by as if they hadn't a care in the world--and all while STILL getting the closest parking space to whichever door I'm aiming for (usually the one closest to the Eyeglasses Center and the Customer RestRooms). I can swoop into a free parking place front-ways, back-ways, or side-ways depending on the wind speed, the slant of the sun in other drivers' eyes, or whether it's lunch break at the Walmart police sub-station. So it wasn't my fault that day in the Walmart Tire/Auto Center that I let go of the cart to get my car-keys and to my horror the cart started rolling away from me towards a brand new Lexus..... as it picked up speed (with lawsuit visions dancing in my head) I ran after that cart like a madwoman yelling: "Runaway Cart! Runaway Cart!"

The Walmart PO-leece man, who'd just gotten off his lunch break, came running out there thinking there was a crime being committed. He managed to grab the cart just before it collided with the Lexus, preventing disaster. "I oughta give you a ticket for reckless driving!" he yelled. "Oh calm down, Earle," the Walmart Tire/Auto Center manager retorted. "That durn Lexus is illegally parked. Everybody KNOWS that new Lexuses have to park 600 yards away from the main parking lot if they don't want to get themselves scratched. That's on page 56 of the New Owner Lexus Manual, I've seen it myself."

Oh yes...back to the reasons Red Heart is a Good Ole Yarn:

5. And last but not least, it doesn't stain and you can throw it in the washer.

I spill stuff on me every day while driving--because the roads to the ranches and farms are bumpy and perilous. (Okay, and sometimes I have been known to not pay very good attention to my driving & eating while driving pass the town's fire station.... because I'm looking at.... uh....the firemen standing around outside the station....and I can't help that some of those guys are just downright gorgeous, like the guy on the TV show "Rescue Me", and I have a secret fantasy that my Jeep would burst into flames right when I drive by so that they would have to come and rescue ME and.....) Oh..sorry. Uh yes, I spill stuff on myself while driving. I usually arrive at my destinations looking like a toddler's high-chair placemat....

So anyhoo, there you have it. It was definitely a rough week. I saw my last patient, Ms. Rickenbocker at the Rickenbocker Ranch, and then drove homewards, dying of starvation, but promising myself that I would NOT cook. I was too tired to cook. And I was still feeling somewhat irritated at Mr. Rickenbocker because of his flimsy excuse about the Incident at The Rickenbocker Ranch the other day, where his bull almost killed me.

"The reason those cows got out," he stated defiantly, "was because that stupid neighbor Hereford taught my cows how to get out. She comes from the Bustering Ranch and gets into our land somewhere down by the water hole. She walks right through the cat-tails, big as you please, like she owns the place."

"She taught your cows how to escape by the water hole?" I asked incredulously.

"Yes," he continued heatedly. "Not only that, but that dad-blasted cow comes from a ranch that has chicken houses-- and those communist chickens give her ideers. She's always trying to get my cows to unionize. But I got news for them. They think the chickens have it bad with the Chicken Plant over in the valley? Well I'll tell you WHAT-- the first time I hear even a WHISPER about unionizing is the day I truck them all to the Oscar Meyer Balogney Plant in Houston!" But I didn't argue with him. I know how neighbor animals can be. I once had a neighbor cat who would sit outside our window daily and taunt my cat till he flung himself into the glass and knocked himself silly. Anyway, after ending my work week, I was TARD. DANG TARD. Since I didn't want to cook I decided to stop at McDonalds and grab me a Happy Meal so that I could give the toy to my buddy Amber's daughter, Chloe. Upon arriving at McDonalds I was exasperated to find that when I pulled into the drive-thru lane I found myself behind two people on horseback. For crying out loud, I thought. Horses don't belong in the McDonald's drive thru! Around here, McDonalds provides a tie-up post for just such riders. But do they use it? Nooooooooo. So I waited patiently. Finally they got their hamburgers and galloped away. But not before each horse paused in a lovely syncronized motion to lift their tails and deposit two giant Horse-Pies directly in my path. I told you all the animals were mad at me. Ah well, such is life. But I have plans for relaxing thise weekend.....I plan on continuing my work on the sweater-coat. The ACRYLIC sweater-coat, dammit. I finished the third version of the collar and am happy with it. So now I can concentrate on the sleeves. Here's a pic of the collar:

Happy Memorial Day, everybody-- and I mean everybody from every country.

Here in Texas we're old-fashioned and we still call it "Decoration Day". We go to the graveyards and place flowers and flags to decorate our fallen soldiers' graves.

I feel like this is a pretty universal holiday and so I'm also wishing a Happy Memorial Day to anybody from any other country who has lost their own loved ones to the armed forces. My heartfelt prayers are with you -- and may there come a day for all of us when there are no more wars....

* * * * * * "I am his Highness' dog at Kew;

Pray tell me, sir, whose dog are you?"

(Engraved on His Highness' Dog Collar, given to His Highness by Alexander Pope)

* * * * * *

(Note--Iput the pattern for Worsted Weight Socks, which can be used for "Hideous House Boot Socks", "Hunting Socks", or "Soldier Socks", on my web site to save space on the blog---see links section.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Not again.......

Although I am knitting on the third version of the collar of the sweater-coat, I did pick up another project to work on for awhile as a break. This garment is also going to be another "coat-like" deal. It's going to be kind of like a "Joseph's Coat of Many Colors" garment. I'm using really nice quality cotton yarn, working it in flat pieces, treading carefully as working fair isle in cotton is always a dicey endeavor. After knitting half of each front panel on the bias, I cast onto their edges to complete each front by knitting towards the center in a side-to-side fashion. After finishing the front pieces I started on the back and I've got it about 3/4 completed.

I need all the knitting-relaxation I can get. It's been a stressful week and I had yet another encounter with a bull--way too close for comfort. I think I'm going to have to ask for combat pay....

Speaking of combat, here's a pic of some of the stuff that I sent (when it was colder) to some of my friends' boys who are in the war. I tried to use the desert camouflage yarn for the socks but I'm disappointed it turned out stripey instead of pooling (when camouflage looks best.) It all depends on the stitch number, but I wasn't going to rip out at this point since I'd gotten the size right. I did some in the green camouflage that turned out perfect (but didn't take a pic.) I used to participate in operation ToastyToes way back when. (Pattern for the worsted weight socks is on my web site--see links section).

Anyway, what happened this past week is that the other day one of the new nurses, Bonnie, arrived back at the office to tell me that she couldn't get up to the Rickenbocker Ranch to see a patient because "the gate was closed", which irritated me no end because that is the second time she has left that ranch without seeing the patient. The first time she was assigned there she left because she said nobody answered the door--which I told her is because everybody is out on the ranch working with the cattle. (Our understanding with that family is to just go in and make your way to the back bedroom to the see the patient, the elderly mother of the Rickenbocker clan.)

So I made the decision that I was going to take Bonnie out there myself, to show her ONCE and FOR ALL, that it's not that difficult to make a visit to the Rickenbocker Ranch.

So off we went, she following my Jeep in her Rav4 as we drove the 23 miles to the ranch. I got mad all over again on the way because we had the misfortune to get behind a slow-moving tractor. As we wound our way over the hills and down the gullies of the farm country behind that darn tractor, that silly song "Over the River and Through the Woods, to Grandmother's House We Go!" got stuck in my head and I got irritated all over again. I didn't want to sing that song. I wanted my Jeep to have taser guns like the "Millenium Falcon" space-ship had in the movie "Star Wars" so that I could blast that tractor out of my way and into a new galaxy.

Finally the tractor got out of our way and I speeded up, thinking that now we could get somewhere. We hurtled along, finally reaching County Road 2340 where we could gain access to the Rickenbocker Ranch. And then suddenly we were forced to come to a screeching halt. And I couldn't believe my eyes.

At least 25 cows were standing in the road. And they all had Rickenbocker brand-tags hanging on their ears. What in the hell, I wondered. A bunch of Rickenbocker's cows were out! And I couldn't believe it. HOW had so many cows gotten out of a fenced ranch? The main gate had a serious cow-guard built into it, so I knew they hadn't gotten out that way. So I deducted that Rickenbocker's fence had failed somewhere, letting these cows walk to freedom, right onto a public road.

I tried to call the ranch on my cell phone but only reached their answering machine-- and I didn't know the number to the main barn. Now I was in a quandary. I couldn't reach anybody by phone and the cows were blocking the road, making it impossible for me to drive up to the ranch in person. Deep, rock-filled gullies on either side of the road prevented me from trying to 4-wheel it around the cows. I sat there, idling the Jeep, watching the cows, wondering: "What's a Road Nurse to do?"

And then a possibility entered my mind. Ahah! I thought to myself. How hard can it be?....

I decided to herd them back to the ranch with the Jeep. I knew that near the main ranch gate there was a smaller gate, and that the cows could use that gate to get through since that particular gate did not have a cattle guard under it. And I knew that if I were able to get them up there, that I could simply walk through the main gate and then up to the ranch house to let the Rickenbockers know about their errant cows.

I started beeping my Jeep's horn and inching forward, knowing that Bonnie was probably having a hissy fit behind me. But she followed along bravely, helping to herd the cows. Sure enough, the stupid cows started to run down the road. Yes, they actually RAN. Brown cows, black cows, big cows and calves--all running down the road, mooing--towards the Rickenbocker Ranch entrance.

Wheeee! I was herding cows!

In fact, as I herded the cows, I started to feel a self-satisfied thrill. I, Road Nurse, was making the cows run. I, Road Nurse, Master of My Jeep, was herding Texan cattle just like the real cowboys. And I didn't even have a herding dog, I thought gleefully--I was doing it MYSELF!

I even allowed myself a daydream or two while I drove....

I imagined myself in a Marlboro TV commercial, cigarette dangling from my lips, cowgirl hat perched on my flowing, butterscotch-colored hair, saying to the audience something "rugged" like: "Yep, folks, it ain't easy being a Marlboro Nurse, but sometimes a cowgirl's gotta do what a cowgirl's gotta do....."

But soon enough my "rugged" Marlboro Nurse daydreams gave way to "LOOK AT ME! YEE-HAW! I'm herding cows! YEE-HAW! If my friends could see me now!!" (I may have even yelled a "Yee-Haw" out loud, but thank God Bonnie couldn't hear this from her vantage point, following madly in her Rav4.)

I was thrilled no end when the cows turned obediently onto the dirt road leading to the Rickenbocker Ranch's main gate. The cows "came home" I laughed to myself. And then I saw the main ranch gate--and it WAS closed, just like Bonnie had said, dammit. No matter, I thought stubbornly. I could simply slide through the fence to get through. Mr. Rickenbocker did not electrify his ranch's fence. It would be an easy matter to step through the wires and then walk up to the ranch house.

I pulled over to the side of the road and motioned for Bonnie to do the same. She pulled over and parked by me as the last few cows ran by. Soon the entire herd was gathered up by the main gate, mooing and shuffling, trying to get into the ranch. They knew where they belonged. I got out of the Jeep and went over to Bonnie.

"Look," I told her. "I'm going to slide through the fence and get on up to the house to let the Rickenbockers know they need to come out here and get these cows back in. You stay here and beep the horn at them if they try to head back towards the main road."

I walked over to the 6-foot high fence and bent over, stepping over the bottom rung of the wiring, trying not to get my shoes and pant hems too muddy. I was wearing the dratted pinks and I knew they'd look a mess after this whole episode was over. And then my pants caught on a wire. Dang it. I gently tugged on the spot that was caught, trying to pull it free without ripping a hole in the fabric.

Stupid pink uniform, I thought. I tugged a little harder and accidentally ripped a hole in my pant leg. Cursing, I stepped back from the fence. Oh well, I sighed. I would simply pick another location to slide through the fence. I stood there in the hot sun, pissed off, wondering: Could this day get any WORSE?

Yes... it could.

All of a sudden I heard a familiar bellowing.....

NOOOOOO I thought with dread. Oh no no no no.....not again........

Sure enough, a big, black, mean bull emerged from the center of the herd of cows which were milling around the gate, directly ahead of me about 25 yards away.

What in the hell?

Where had he come from? I hadn't remembered seeing this bull while we were herding them all with the vehicles. My confusion was interrupted by the panicked realization that I was a sitting duck, standing right in front of him--this time with NO steel fence to protect me!

The bull stood there eye-balling me. Then he bellowed again, loudly. Female cows answered his calls with obliging moo's. Oh Jesus, I thought, now he thinks he has to protect the females. So I began to slowly, ever so slooooo...ly, back away, wanting to reach the safety of one of the vehicles. I knew I had to move slowly and not do anything that would spook this bull, because I knew that anything might aggravate him and cause him to charge.

Unfortunately, he WAS aggravated. He continued to bellow, lowering his head into "attack mode", and began to stomp the ground, throwing dirt into the air. He was working himself into a lather. And in a flash I knew why. Bonnie's Rav4 is colored a bright red---and it was right behind me!

Suddenly the bull charged. I turned on my heel and tore-ass towards the passenger door of Bonnie's vehicle, the bull thundering towards me. I stumbled and almost fell into the dirt, my pitiful life flashing before my eyes, a sobering realization dawning that I was going to DIE by being mauled by a pissed off bull on the Rickenbocker Ranch.

And let me tell you, of all the ways to go, I sure as heck never wanted it to be Death-By-Bovine on County Road 2340.

If I had to be killed on the job, I always wanted it to be something glamorous.... like where I selflessly and bravely enter a prison to take care of dangerous felons and am taken captive by the felons in a prison-riot whereby they offer to exchange me for a fueled jet to Cuba or something......and then I get saved by Dog-The-Bounty-Hunter or something......and Dog-The-Bounty-Hunter is single and asks me to marry him or something....and in this daydream I'm really skinny and I'm wearing an attractive, cleavage-revealing, sequined-bedecked western rodeo outfit instead of my pink uniform.....or something.....

(Hey, I happen to LIKE Dog-The-Bounty-Hunter, okay?).....

Meanwhile, back at the ranch.....

(Get it? Really, get it? I always wanted to say "Meanwhile, back at the ranch" for real....)

Anyway, meanwhile, back at the ranch, the stupid bull was after me! I had to get to safety!

I tore-ass towards Bonnie's Rav4, hollering for all I was worth: "BONNIE OPEN THE DOOR BONNIE OPEN THE DOOR BONNIE OPEN THE DAMN DOOR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

A stricken Bonnie reached over and shoved open the passenger door just in time. I dove in and slammed it behind me just in time. The bull stopped short and stood there panting and snorting, eyeing us, continuing his stomping and bellowing at intervals. Tiredly, I realized that we were still not out of danger--this bull could very well kick the vehicle. We were both trapped in this vehicle by a mad bull. I forlornly wondered how ridiculous this episode would look on an "on-the-job injury report":

LOCATION OF INJURY: Rickenbocker Ranch, County Road 2340.

METHOD OF INJURY: Bull Stomping.

COULD THIS INJURY HAVE BEEN PREVENTED IF SAFETY MODES HAD BEEN UTILIZED PROPERLY?: Yes, if Rickenbocker could keep his damn fence repaired better so his stupid bulls can't get out and terrorize brave and selfless Road Nurses who should be bravely and selflessly tending felons in prison riots instead of eating dust on this stupid ranch...."

Wondering why Bonnie hadn't done it sooner, I grabbed her cell phone and dialed the only other number I could think of that could help us--the Sheriff.

"911, what's your emergency?" the operator answered.

I stuttered for a few seconds, wondering what on earth to say, and then I simply started babbling incoherently: "HELP! We're home health nurses and we're trapped by a pissed off bull on Rickenbocker's Ranch because his stupid cows got out and we tried to herd them up by the gate with the Jeep and I tried to go through the fence to go get the Rickenbockers but I got stuck in the fence and tore my pinks and then this stupid bull tried to kill me.. and...and...we are TRAPPED IN BONNIE'S RAV4 and would you pleeeeeeze come help us??!!"

"Do WHAT?" the operator replied.

I breathless tried to explain it more coherently. She said nothing for a moment. Then I could hear her put her hand over the phone and yell to someone: "Hey, Frankie Joe--would you go on out by the Rickenbocker Ranch? Some idiot nurses have got themselves into a tangle with one of Rickenbocker's bulls. And do me a favor--bring me a Peanut Buster Parfait from the Dairy Queen on your way back. Jimbo just wants a hamburger."

So the sheriff deputies came and saved us. They did get ahold of the Rickenbockers and they came, too. They all ended up waving the stupid cows through the side gate with their cowboy hats. The Rickenbockers had brought their herding dogs, who rounded up the mean bull without further mishap. Most of the men were laughing so hard that they couldn't hardly speak a full sentence without breaking into peels of laughter again. Harrrumph, I thought to myself. Bet they wouldn't laugh if they found me stomped to death by that damn bull, my pink uniform hanging in tatters around his horns.

After the situation was under control, I tried to regain my former composure. "Heh heh," I chuckled weakly at Bonnie. "Told ya it wasn't so very difficult to get into the Rickenbocker Ranch."

"Whatever," she replied. "Did you know that your pannies are showing through that hole in your torn pants?"

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

We Interrupt This Program to Bring You an Update on the Dang Sweater-Coat.....

What was it that Kamikaze soldiers used to yell? Something like....AIIIIYEEEEEE!!!!!! This sweater-coat is NOT going properly. The collar is so blah that I won't even insult your eyes by posting a pic of it. I will most likely rip it out again, dang it. And I don't like the first sleeve that I knitted so I will most likely rip it out as well. Sigh.... The only things I'm happy with so far are the facings that I knitted for the front closure area and maybe the Peri's Parasol edging on the bottom. About the facings: I want this sweater-coat to have hearty, "firm" edges since I intend to wear it on-the-run while working in bad weather, but I've got to admit, too, that I'm a "facing fanatic". I will knit a facing at the drop of a hat. I'm positively obsessive about inside edges being neat. And I get a thrill out of blocking this kind of stuff, don't ask me why. By the way... as you all know, I belong to a 12-Step Program--and it suggests that I be perfectly honest in all things. So I guess I will have to admit here that......AAAARGH....AAARGH.....(give me a minute)..... I will admit here that my waistline does NOT go in as far as I have demonstrated in the picture. There, I feel better now....

Anyway, it's back to the drawing board regarding the collar and that darn sleeve.

* * * *

"We will now return you to your regularly scheduled program"....

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Land O'Moon Pies

As far as being rebellious, it may be more of a state of simply not being "disciplined" that is really my problem. Although this quality was never allowed in either school, my university, or my current profession, I can, however, be "un-disciplined" to my heart's content in my knitting, yeehah! Here is a pair of my "Non-Matching-Fair-Isle-Extravaganza" Socks:

Alas, though, I live and work in a small town where things are pretty conservative. Especially in knitting and crocheting. Nobody would ever dream of using anything but Red Heart yarn. In fact, nobody even knows that there exists any other kind of yarn BUT Red Heart.

(They know that Caron exists but they think it's the generic brand of Red Heart....)

Living and working in a small town surrounded by vast, rural ranch and farm lands is like living on a different planet sometimes......in fact....

You Know You're a Nurse in a Small, Texan, Town When...

...a patient calls you on the phone to tell you she's having chest pain and you keep her on the line while you call 911 on the other-- and the paramedics call you back to ask: "Where's County Road 2043? Is it back behind the chicken plant or yunder by the lake?"

(Translation in hick-ese: "yunder" means "over by".)

...you actually reply to the paramedics: "No, it's about a mile down that curvy road by the water plant and then you make the first right past the tractor dealer into a trailer park and she's the pink single-wide with 2 chickens in the front yard---oh, and the yard dog doesn't bite..."

...the single most dreaded thing any human being could ever hear is getting called by every single one of their first, middle, last, and nick- names, all in a row, loudly, by either their mother or grandmother...

"Jamie Lynn Bodeen Pickering-Luce Jinny-Jo Lu-Lu Baker!!!" (The party of which has just turned a deathly shade of pale, standing stock-still in mortification, wishing to High Heaven that just this one time the Lord God Almighty would reach down and snatch her from the jaws of disaster...)

..."cussing" is considered saying things like: "Where in the Sam Punchinelly is that man?" or "My pharmacist wanted me to sign a whole bunch of papers for this new Medicare balogney and I told him I wasn't giving him diddly-squat!"

...nobody would ever dream of saying "Sam Punchinelly" or "diddly-squat" in front of the preacher...

...you visit a patient for medical reasons but you stay an extra half hour to help her figure out where her stitch-count error occurred in a crocheted ripple afghan and you find the mistake for her and fix it...

...you're a nurse and get sick yourself, finally dragging yourself to the doctor, and you find yourself standing with others in a waiting area, half naked in a gown, confused, meekly holding your urine specimen ---and then you realize that all the other patients you're waiting with are your own patients

...one of your patients then politely whispers: "Nurse, honey, you're supposed to put your pee-cup in that little room over there and then you wait here till they call you for your X-ray"...

...the next day it's all over town that you have a tattoo...

...on Wednesdays you go to lunch at Charlie Ray's Smorgasbord and half of your patients, all the town cops, all the firemen, the mayor, most of the lawyers, and a sprinkling of ranchers are there also because it's "chicken and dumpling day"...

...the bail-bondsmen don't really have to work very hard because they know exactly where their fugitives are because they're usually related to them. They usually just make a phone call and say something like: "Okay, Bubba, time to give yourself up. But the judge is on his lunch hour so meet me at the feed store first to help me load some sacks of deer corn"...

...you get behind in your day's work because you spent an extra hour at a patient's house swapping various tips for making chicken and dumplings -- there's the roll-them-out method, the Bisquick method, and then there's always the little-known "country secret" method of piling the dumplings on top of the chicken in a sheet-cake pan and then baking it in a 350-degree oven until the dumplings are browned...

...you can also get behind in your day's work because you stayed a little too long at a patient's house to watch "The Price is Right" and you had fun yelling "ONE DOLLAR!!" along with the rest of the family--and then you stayed a bit longer because of course everybody wants to see who wins The Showcase Showdown...

...you're out visiting a patient and you have to call 911 for them to take the patient to the emergency room. Forty-five minutes later, on the way back to your office, you get into a fender-bender with a pickup truck pulling a horse trailer, and the same fire truck that previously came for your patient comes in reponse to your own accident...

...you finally get back to your office after the accident and everybody already knows who hit who, the angle of the jack-knifed truck and horse trailer, and exactly how loud the old coot who caused the whole thing hollered at the police officer: "Sir, she knew DANG WELL that I was gonna back up in the bank drive-thru because any FOOL could see that I'd pulled in TOO FAR!"

...half of your patients are related to people you work with...

...the most dastardly "price-gouging" theory you ever heard whispered was that everybody is pretty much POSITIVE that the local pharmacist raised the price of Pepto-Bismol during the last flu season...

...you hear comments in 12-Step meetings like: "My wife and I got into a scrap and she got mad and peeled outta the driveway in my brand new pickup --and so I shot the tires out from under her -- but then CAN YOU BUH-LEEVE IT but the durn PO-leece locked me up for that!?! What kind of world is it where you cain't even SHOOT YOUR OWN TIRES OUT??"

...you hear comments in 12-Step meetings like: "The PO-leece pulled me over and asked me to walk that white line and I told that officer 'now looky here, I've got ear problems that affect my balance and so I couldn't even walk that dang white line even if I WAS SOBER!'"

...the PO-leece spend a lot of time wondering what to do about senile elderly drivers... like the time when old Mrs. Hattwell came home from shopping at the "Walmark" and an irritated cop knocked on the back door a few minutes later and announced: "Junior, I'm here to let you know that your mother just ran Mr. Picketts off of County Road 2133--and I think this time it's time to take her driver's license away, I surely do!"

...you go visit Mrs. Hattwell the next day and she tells you indignantly: "I was pure-dee mortified when that PO-leece Man came to the door like that--because I just know Elma-Lou Cotton saw the whole durn thing."

...a 16-year old girl can still get a whuppin by her mama for lying about her report card. (Actually, I think it's the law in Texas that ANYBODY can get a whuppin from their mama or grandmother for lying, no matter HOW OLD they are--it's not considered assault but rather "good upbringing")...

...there's still "bag boys" in the grocery stores to help women carry their groceries to the car...

...sometimes in an office meeting, if there's an employee going through a particularly difficult personal experience, someone will suggest prayer for that person and the others agree and say: "Yeah, and get Shirley to do it cuz she's a Sunday School Teacher and knows how to pray real good"...

...sure enough, Shirley says a long, beautiful, thought-up-at-the-moment, prayer and asks for Help not only for the person in trouble but for every single other employee of the company, and you feel good for the rest of the day because you figure that God SURELY answers the prayers of Sunday School Teachers.....

...your co-worker's child is in the hospital, you stop by there every single day to check on them both and take the child a Barbie Mermadia doll or something just to see her smile.....

...that same child's scribbly crayon drawings pinned to your bulletin board are considered more beautiful, precious, and important than any medical chart or calendar of conference dates---and your boss agrees...

And I made a rural pen,

And I stain'd the water clear,

And I wrote my happy songs

Every child may joy to hear.

(William Blake, "Reeds of Innocence")

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Where's a cape when you need it?.....

I finished the collar on the sweater-coat, which looks a little blah, and I'm toying with ideas to dress it up a little. I was a little depressed this morning after getting a whole day off yesterday to knit and play with the computer and stuff because I knew today would be tough, having to catch up with both Tuesday's and today's work all in the same day. But I figured I could handle it if I skipped lunch with Amber and just powered down in the morning cranking out the never-ending paperwork, leaving my patient visits for the afternoon.

When I arrived at the office, I found a nice surprise-- another present for "Nurse's Week", this one from a medical supply company, a brand new stethoscope in a gift box. Great gift, I thought, fiddling with my new scope. It was a very good quality scope, almost as good as a Littman. Usually we don't get this nice of gifts from the medical supply companies--just pens and post-its, usually---so this scope definitely brightened my day. I settled into my office for a morning of heavy-duty paperwork, trying not to stray off into daydreams of how I am going to tinker with my sweater-coat's collar.

Things went well for a couple of hours. I pointedly shut my office's door to discourage interruptions so that I could zone out and put out the reams of paperwork that are the only negative part of the job of a home health RN. And then I heard it.....

There were "authoritative voices" coming from the halls. "Important people" were arriving into the building. Ooh and ahh, ooh and ahh....

So I ventured forth from my office, pretending to fax something in order to check the scene out. It seemed that the Big Cheeses were here for a Marketing Meeting. As I faxed a blank piece of paper to our Medical Director's office (not caring a fig that his secretary would be wondering why in the heck my company had faxed them a blank piece of paper) I checked out the action and noted that the Grand Poobah, his minions, the PR Reps, and my boss had all gone into the conference room--and then shut the doors behind them.

Durn! It was a private deal. I hate private meetings. Enquiring Minds Want to KNOW. And it was going to bother me that I didn't know.

(I can't help it, I'm nosy.)

Anyhoo, I returned to my office to continue with my work, making a mental note to be on my best behavior while the bigwigs were here. (You know, like not saying any words in anger that start with an "s" or an "f"--you get the picture).

As I scribbled, my mind was churning with curiosity. Why would the Grand Poobah and his minions come hold a Marketing Meeting here at the branch office when they have a perfectly good administrative building with a conference room a few blocks away? Why, I ask you, Why? And just WHAT were they talking about that was so private that they had to shut the doors? I thought and thought....my mind racing with the possibilities. Hmmm....since the PR people were in there, it must have something to do with PR, which isn't a big secret. We nurses participate in their PR events all the time. It's never been a hush-hush deal. So WHAT was it, then????

And then I realized that since the company had recently decided to expand, adding 4 or 5 new branch offices in some other towns in this region, there had been an awful lot of job postings put out, with encouragements for "promotions from within", and I knew that a lot of people were applying from various branches of this company for these jobs. I wondered if this meeting had to do with any of that? Hell, I, myself, have applied for one of the Director jobs. (Ouch--didn't mean to admit that.....)

I thought to myself, "Self,wouldn't YOU just LOVE to know WHAT or WHO they were talking about-- and to know WHO might be promoted and who might not?

I could hear heir muffled conversations through my wall. I could hear one of the PR rep's voices, my boss's voice--and the Grand Poobah's voice.... IT WAS DRIVING ME CRAZY. WHAT WERE THEY TALKING ABOUT?????

I fidgeted at my desk, finally getting up to put a new CD into my boombox... And then a lightbulb went off in my sneaky little brain and I turned the sound down....and then I turned the sound off. I realized that I could hear their voices better if I didn't have my boombox on... I moved closer to the wall where the voices were coming from.

Yet I still couldn't hear anything definitive. It was still a maddeningly muffled buzz through those stupid cement walls. So I stepped a little closer to the wall. Yes, the sound was clearer here. I stepped so close that my head was just a few inches from the wall.

Yes, clearer....clearer... Okay, I put my ear to the wall. I flattened my entire head to the wall, trying to hear what was going on in there. I could now hear snatches of conversation. Not enough to know what was being said but just enough to tantalize me!!! DANG IT, I thought. These dratted concrete walls.

And then I noticed it. The brand new stethoscope. Practically a Littman in quality, yessiree. Brand new, just sitting there in the molded foam in the gift box it had arrived in. Just itching to be used... Okay, so I grabbed it. I placed the ear pieces in place. Perfect fit for the ears, CHECK. Tapped on the bell with my finger to check the tone, good quality sound, CHECK. And then I put it's bell to the wall and listened hard. Hmmmm....... Voices were becoming clearer, I could make out phrases, and I could tell when the Grand Poobah was talking to the whole group. Being the well-trained RN that I am, I knew that you have to check different areas, so I moved the scope around on the wall to see if the sound quality was any better anywhere else. (I almost said: "Take a deep breath" but remembered myself and didn't.) I kept moving the scope around on the wall--I didn't want any pipes or electrical wiring causing interference. Ahh....yes.... I finally found the spot. NOW I could hear some good stuff. I had just heard something to the effect of ".....and so I really think that our goal at this point should be...." when the door to my office burst open and a secretary rushed in with some papers for me to sign. She and I both froze. I'm sure my shocked eyes were so bug-eyed that I looked like a gigged frog. My God, I had just been caught by a secretary sneakily listening with a gift stethoscope to a Marketing Meeting through my own office wall. Oh Sweet Lord Have Mercy, I thought. If I've ever begged The Lord for a favor it WAS NOW. Because in a nano-second I realized that there was NO GOOD EXCUSE for this particular predicament. Now, don't get me wrong--my sly mind is pretty quick....BUT...there are not that many good reasons for listening to a private meeting through a wall with a stethoscope. In fact, I can't think of a single one. Uh....but my Evil Twin could think of one. Because I never say die. I'm stubborn to the end. (My very end, sometimes.) My motto is, "When faced with dire situations, one must sometimes have to come up with equally dire excuses." I quickly figured that in this particular situation, the only method for escaping disgrace was to use the old "act like that's EXACTLY what you were trying to do in the first place" routine. "Gee," I said to the stunned secretary, "These new scopes are pretty good. You can hear all the way through this wall into the conference room. Huh. Imagine that. I'm going to have to try this little baby out this afternoon on my patient visits--give the old Littman a run for it's money, eh?" and I straightened up and sauntered over to my desk and sat down as if nothing had ever happened. She stood there for a few minutes, probably wondering "what in the hell?" But I could sense that she was confused. Good, I thought. Maybe my desperate ploy had worked. She stood there stunned for a second or two, probably wondering if she should say something or not, maybe wondering if I was really as crazy as everybody says behind my back that I am.... In the end she just came over and handed me the papers to sign and I signed my name several times, giving the last one a flamboyant wrist-motion flourish before I returned to my work. She left without saying anything else. After this little adventure I was in a sour mood. Not only had I missed hearing what the damn meeting was all about, but I dare not try this behavior again. Sigh. It was time to go see my patients anyway. And I was looking forward to seeing a particular patient, Ms. "Brown", because she lives alone way the heck out on the longest country road you've ever taken and I always worry about her living way out there like she does. I'm always glad to go see her and see that she's alright. Ms. "Brown" lives in a little house on a piece of land which is surrounded on three sides by the parameters of a large cattle ranch. Only a dirt road divides her property from the ranch's property. And the reason I worry about her so much is that she has the bad habit of falling and not being able to get up. Which is bad enough when she falls inside the house, but three times last year she fell down outside while trying to walk with her walker to her mailbox. Each time, she just sat in the ditch until someone drove by and rescued her. Fortunately, she didn't injure herself those times, but I always worry that the next time she won't be so lucky. I've told her umpteen times that I want her to stop going for the mail and to just let her family pick it up for her at intervals but she's stubborn. "I can git my own mail, nurse", she'll say, "and there's a good shade tree by the mailbox--so if I fall down I'll just sit there till someone comes on by." "But last time that happened, you sat there for 6 hours in the rain," I reminded her. "You could get pneumonia if you didn't break a hip--or both." But she is stubborn and always assures me that she'll be alright. Anyway, I left the office and took off in the Jeep. It was a pleasant drive on a sunny day, and on the way I daydreamt of how I was going to fix the collar of the sweater-coat and also gabbed on the cell phone for 20 minutes with Amber. No, I told her, it wasn't true that I'd been seen listening at a wall of the conference room with one of the new stethoscopes. Lord, how those secretaries make up rumors. Sheesh. I parked in Ms. "Brown's" small driveway which is directly across the road from the southwest corner of the neighboring ranch's back pasture. There was a group of about 10 cows milling about right smak dab in the corner of the steel fence. Stupid cows, I thought. Everybody knows cows are stupid. A hundred miles of pasture behind them--but they come to a fence and think the world has stopped. They don't even know that they can turn around and go back to the pasture. Nooooo, they just stand there like idiots. They don't even know when to come home--HAH! (Get it?) (Really, get it?) Anyway, I got out of the Jeep and went round to the passenger side and opened the door. I could hear some moo-ing as I gathered my things from the passenger seat but paid it no mind. And yes, I had the dratted new stethoscope with me to see if it was really worth all the trouble it had caused. Then I heard some more insistent moo-ing. Really stupid cows, I thought, turn around, dummies--the rest of the pasture's behind you..... And then I heard BELLOWING. That's no regular cow moo, I thought with dread. I turned around slowly. And I saw him--a big mean bull right in the center of that group of cows. And that big mean bull was standing with his nose pressed up against that fence, staring ME right in the eyeballs-- and he was actually STOMPING his feet at me! He bellowed again! That damn bull was bellowing at ME! That stupid bull! And, GOOD NIGHT IRENE-- he was stomping the ground so hard that he was throwing dirt up! But do you know what? Let me tell you, after the morning I had had, I was in NO MOOD for a mean bull at this point, okay? And there was a steel fence between me and him, afterall. And I must admit, when I am irritable, and there's a steel fence between me and an adversary, I can be a rather tough customer myself. "SHUT UP!" I yelled at that bull. "JUST SHUT THE HELL UP!!" No bull was going to get the best of me. I briefly thought about waving my cranberry lab coat at him like a matador, just to mess with his head, but then I remembered the stethoscope incident and decided not to, because Ms. Brown's back screen door was open and I didn't want to chance getting caught at bad behavior again. The bull actually looked stunned. So while he stood there reviewing his options, I simply stuck my tongue out at him rudely, turned around with a flounce, and went about my business. And the moral of the story is....... Well, I don't know what the moral of the story is, but it sure FELT GOOD to tell that damn bull to SHUT UP.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

A long time ago, in a hicktown far, far away........

Man wonders but God decides When to kill the Prince of Tides. (Pat Conroy, "The Prince of Tides")

I don't know why I've always loved that poem. Maybe it's because it's so dramatic, and I always wanted to be "dramatic". I always wanted to be a beautiful maiden with long, flowing, butterscotch-colored hair, wearing a beautiful white gown, who ran along a misty seashore, the waves crashing around her as she held a delicate hand to her forehead calling out to the Prince of Tides: "Townsend? Townsend!"

Unfortunately, I am not that girl. Instead, I'm an average sort who lives in a tiny little podunk town in Texas near an Interstate and a Dairy Queen, where the largest structure in town is the SuperWalmart. (No kidding. The courthouse comes a close second and they're right next door to each other.) There's no misty seashores to run along here. And if I ran down the Interstate calling for Townsend I'd probably get run over or arrested. And the irritated cowboy cop who arrested me would drawl: "What in the Sam Hill are you doing running down the highway like that? And where's this fairy Townsend?--we shoot people with names like that."

This is red-neck area. The men wear cowboy boots, the ladies wear Cruel Girl jeans, and the children wear camouflage. And everybody's very patriotic. There's flags all over the place down here. Everybody is loyal to their country. Some are loyal to America in general.... and some are loyal to er...the former South. There are still people around here who are positive that the South will win the next skirmish. They think we're just in a very long half-time.

But back to being patriotic--here's a camouflage baby sweater I knitted for a veteran buddy's grandkid:

As for being "dramatic", I have been accused of many strange behaviors but not that one. My parents thought me ill-mannered, my friends think I'm strange, and my sister just thinks I'm an asshole. A nun at the convent nursing school I attended once tried to be kind, stating that she believed that I am (and I quote) "er...uh...eccentric?" I once had a boyfriend who called me brilliant. I lived ecstatically on that compliment for a few days until I did something idiotic and he changed his mind and stated that he now believed I was simply a "looney toon". Most people just roll their eyes around me.

I basically do three things in my little life here in the far country. I work as a home health nurse, I knit, and I attend 12-Step meetings. Really.

It's a little different being a home health nurse here than it is in urban areas. Here in Texas ranch country we "road nurses" drive Jeeps loaded with medical supplies. Sometimes we might carry a dozen eggs or some milk to someone who had forgotten those items when they went to the "Walmark". We might stop at the local pharmacy and grab Mr. so-and-so's rheumatism medicine so he won't have to make the trip. We meet at our office in the mornings, laughing and joking around as we jockey around the giant assignment board to see what our assignments are for the day. It is not uncommon to bargain at this point. "Lord, I can't stand doing Mrs. so-and-so's medicine boxes," someone will gripe, "She whines for so long about who she's mad at at her WMU that it always puts me behind all day". Another person may make a tentative offer: "I'll trade you her for Mr. so-and so's blood draw--his veins roll and he yells before I even stick him", and the deal is struck. And then there are the "secret coffee breaks" to meet up and gossip..... One sly nurse whispers to a pal: "I'll meet ya at the Bar-Be-Que place and we can talk--I'll call you on your cell phone when I'm done at the so-and-so's"....and another deal is struck.

And then we all jump into our SUV's and roar out of the parking lot like it's "Ladies, start your engines" time. And out we go to the cattle ranches, chicken farms, donkey farms, and the occasional goat farm.

I don't like the donkeys. They stare at me rudely. And they know they are being rude. So I am rude right back. A farmer's wife once accidentally witnessed me saying: "What in the hell are you looking at?" to her donkey, who was staring at me over a fence. "Take a picture, it lasts longer," I continued belligerently. I was going to really get into it with this donkey when I noticed the farmer lady. "Oh don't mind him, sugar," she said, flapping a dishcloth at a fly. "He's just mad because I put that paint pony in there with him. He thinks the paint takes on airs."

I just don't like donkeys.

The sweater-coat I am knitting, pictured up top (bunched up at the waist to show that I intend to knit a belt for it), is made in the colors of the uniforms my company allows. I've ripped out that collar and am now doing a different one. I make up my patterns as I go. It needs sleeves. I knitted it in circular, cutting steeks for the front and sleeves, and I knitted facings for all the raw edges so that the inside would be neat.

But about those colors of our uniforms. It's a sore point with some of our nurses. Now, some people might not think it's a big deal to get into a snit over uniform colors. It's the very fact that the colors are dictated to us. In the big city the nurses can wear any scrubs they want, even wrinkled ones. They can wear wrinkled scrubs with Harley flames all over them if they wish. But not here. Not with this company. So if you had to wear starched, creased, scrubs with your name embroideried on the breast pocket (yes, our company actually has them laundered, starched, and embroideried for us) out to dirty ranches and farms, in little bitty towns where everybody stares at you in amazement because it IS unusual for country nurses to wear such crisp uniforms, you'd have some preferences, too.

Now don't get me wrong, because I like some of the colors. The sage green is my fave, and there's the hunter green. I'm even fine with the cranberry. But the "pinks" have GOT to go. You should see me in those horrid things, trying to get out of my Jeep at a cattle ranch, juggling my nursing bag, navigating my way carefully through the pasture to the farmhouse-- while a yard dog has his jaws clamped onto the hem of my pantleg. "Just kick him!" the rancher will always yell. With WHAT? The dog's got one leg and I'm using the other leg to try vainly to step around the huge cow-pies. I do not like stepping in cow-pies.

Sometimes I get knitting inspirations out on the ranches. Here's some leopard socks I knitted once. What? You don't think there are leopards out here in Texas? It took me forever to graph out my own leopard pattern on knitters graph paper. I used a number 2 pencil and I marked and erased for days till I got it the way I wanted. A fair isle pattern with no floats longer than 5 stitches. (Several people have asked to use the leopard graph and so I've put it on my website--see links section. Although my graph is copyrighted, I don't mind if you use it for a knitted project. I haven't published the socks pattern yet because these socks were the "mock-ups" to see how the graph worked-- and I haven't perfected the pattern yet--but I will some time and stick it on the website.) I named a rancher's new calf "Taffy" once and it completely irritated him. "You don't name CATTLE" he stated, as if I were the stupidest city-girl he'd ever come across. "But he comes to me when I call him," I persisted, petting the little thing on his ear where they'd stapled that big ID tag. The calf bleated at me just like a goat. The rancher just rolled his eyes. One day I went to that ranch and witnessed that damn dog bite that poor little calf right in the hindquarter. Then I DID try to kick the dog. But I slipped in the mud and sat down hard right in the middle of a giant cow-pie. Fortunately, I was wearing the hunter greens.

Actually, I am a stupid city girl. One day I pulled up a farm house and stood stock still in the drive way, transfixed by what I saw in the distance. There were these huge, strange-looking horses grazing on a hillside nearby. The farmer's dogs were all barking at me but I just stood there stupidly staring at the animals. The farmer's hired hand came out of the back door (nobody in this area uses front doors--it took me months of futile knocking to find that fact out) and called out: "Hey, are the dogs scaring you?"

"No," I replied. "But those are the strangest looking horses I have ever seen."

He turned to look at what I was looking at and his face took on the most shocked expression I've ever seen. "Do WHAT?" he exclaimed.

(Translation: in hicktown USA, the expression "Do WHAT?" can mean various things, from "You're kidding!", or "No Way!" to "She didn't!!" Sometimes it can mean "Why in the name of the Great Jee-Hose-a-Phat did you say a dadblame thing like that for?")

Anyway, in this case it meant that the guy thought I had said something extremely stupid. He finally just started laughing and said "Them's not horses!" They're not?" "Naw....them's camels."

But in my defense, a one-hump camel bent over grazing in the grass CAN look similar to a big horse in the distance, okay?

But back to the horrible pink uniforms. I did include that color in the sweater coat but only minimally. The pinks are the bane of my existence. One of the most horrible moments of my life occurred last Christmas when I was forced to wear them while riding our company float in the town Christmas Parade, waving my hand in the perfect imitation of a prom Queen (which is also one of my secret dreams). I was thrilled when I spotted the town newspaper photographer honing his camera in on me. I cocked my head in what I thought was a coquettish look, purposefully causing my Santa Hat's silver pom-pom to dangle darlingly, imagining myself on the front page of the next day's newspaper, riding the float to glory.... And then suddenly my co-worker next to me looked at my butt and her face went a deathly pale. I looked down and was mortified to notice that I had accidentally chosen bright purple paisley underwear that morning, completely forgettting that anything but white shows through those damnable pink pants. I didn't make the town newspaper but I did make the company's publicity shots, which strangely never made it to our monthly newsletter like they usually do....

(By the way, here in redneck country nobody uses the word "underwear" for ladies' undergarments. They're "pannies". Not "panties". "Pannies".)

Anyway, so I'm a road nurse. What I really hate are the chicken farms. This area has hundreds of them. The big, long, barracky-looking structures remind me of chicken concentration camps. And many of the farms lie in the valleys surrounding huge chicken processing plants, their smokestacks visible for miles. Whenever I see those horrid chicken trucks carrying hundreds of chickens to their doom, I want to liberate them. I want to throw open the back door of the truckbeds and yell: "Run for your lives!!! Remember 'Chicken Run'?" (Although the truck driver would most likely be mystified at how in the world anybody could goof up the slogan about remembering the Alamo, thinking I was just a stupid city girl who didn't even know the proper local slogans......)

Seriously. I want to do that. If I could save one chicken it would be worth it. Um...I just remembered that I had Kentucky Fried Chicken for dinner tonight. I'm sorry. That was rude. Forget the chicken thing.

Knitting is my hobby, and my passion. I love to knit! I love fondling yarns and mixing/matching the colors. And I'm a very rebellious knitter. Show me two colors which don't match and I'll knit them together just for spite. Tell me I can't use a certain technique with a certain type of yarn and I'll knit a pullover using them.

And the third thing I do with my days is that I attend a 12-Step meeting. Last night I even took a knitting magazine with me to one. I carry knitting magazines with me as sort of security blankets. I wouldn't dream of opening one in a 12-Step meeting while somebody was talking, though. The meetings are way too interesting to miss even one minute. They are usually raucous affairs where we crack ourselves up for one hour. Some of the best stories I've ever heard were at a 12-Step meeting. (Remind me to tell you the one about the speeding pickup truck pulling a boat with gallons of soap suds trailing behind it like smoke and knocking over a road divider, a 'Catfish King' sign, and an Interstate Exit marker.) Funnest hour of the day. It's the only place I know of where I can go and be my absolutely strangest self-- and I fit right in. And my 12-Step meeting keeps me sane, truly it does.

(Yes, I'm sane, truly I am.)

I don't know why I worry so much about fitting in around here, though. This place is the complete back-40 of the State of Texas. I mean, this area is not just "southern"--it's "suthern", if you get my drift. Nurses here are country girls. Once, one of our nurses couldn't open a door to a helpless patient's room one day when the patient's son was way out in the barn and had accidentally left that particular door locked. So the nurse simply got a screwdriver and unhinged the door.

And the nurses here talk "suthern". You don't say "Thank you" around here. You say "thank YEW!" When I first started working for my company we were sitting in a case conference one Thursday afternoon and our manager was droning on and on with the usual weekly announcements. Don't do this, don't do that, DO do this, DO do that, etc. etc. "And oh yes," she remembered. "When faxing messages to the doctors, please try to use better grammar, okay? No phrases like 'he harked up a lot of stuff' or 'Ms. so-and-so says her husband has a risin'--you know what I'm talking about." But nobody did. So she elaborated. "Just try to clean up your grammar and don't sound so redneckky. Don't use the word yall for gosh sakes." Now THAT did shock everybody. One of my co-workers, a corn-fed country nurse who wears Cruel Girl Jeans when not in company uniform, looked straight into the eyeballs of our manager and exclaimed: "Lord Jesus! And just WHAT would an alternative word for 'yall' BE????"

Our manager couldn't really think of one so we still use the word y'all in our faxes. The doctors write that word on their doctor notes in the hospital. "Y'all give Ms. so-and-so a milk & molasses enema every night or she says she cain't go in the morning."

I like to crochet, too. But I like to be rebellious there, too. Once I threw caution to the wind and crocheted a granny-square scarf out of cotton and metallic yarn and then sewed applique's onto the squares. Don't laugh--because I sold that scarf for $50 in a boutique. Here's the pic:

Well, perhaps I'll sign off for today. I'm just learning how to blog. Perhaps I bore you to tears. But it's the only way I've figured out to share pictures of stuff. So I'll leave you with another Pat Conroy quote from the "Prince of Tides" poem:

I blaze with a deep southern magic, the bombardiers taxi at noon.....

(I'll tell you what the bombardiers do another day. )