coyotes: that's native American
Tuesday, August 16 2011
location: Creekside doublewide, Stingy Hollow Road, five miles south of Staunton, rural Augusta County, Virginia
This morning's dog walk took us along Folly Mill's Creek and the boundary with the Vesseys, whose house I used to housesit and whose kids I occasionally babysat. (My mother has some sort of border conflict with them now, but it's hard not to have a border conflict with someone like Hoagie.).
The beavers have been gone from the swamp for over a year, though their legacy lives on in the general absence of trees on the floodplain and as a series of elaborate channels (which are best seen in the Google satellite view, now several years old). The beavers preferred White Ash and Willow over Black Walnut, which gave the latter a distinct Darwinian advantage. Now that the Alvarezian "catastrophe" they brought has passed, walnut is to the floodplain as mammals were to the Tertiary.
These days, the strongest selection pressure on the vegetation comes from the horses, who avoid most of the tall flowering plants and eat the grasses and sedges. This has turned the floodplain into a maze of pathways bordered by six-foot-high flowering walls. The horses have always kept it this way, but the general absence of overhead trees makes the herbal layer lusher than it's traditionally been. As we walked walked through it, a tsunami of fleeing grasshoppers sprayed out in front of us.
We walked all the way out to an old oxbow of Folly Mills, now a shallow puddle of pondwater at the south end of the marsh. I pointed out that this was where I would iceskate during one particular cold winter back in my childhood. In various summers, on the other hand, it was where I'd go to look at massive schools of black tadpoles, each the size of a pea.
At some point we realized we'd lost Sally, so we decided it best to head back to the house. On the way, Eleanor decided to go cross the creek and go for a romp through the Vesseys' yard. Gretchen, having seen a lot of ugly houses and trailers on this trip, was impressed with the Vesseys' house. It's an old farm house whose siding they replaced with rough-hewn vertical clapboards back in the early 1980s. They've also done a lot of pleasant landscaping, almost making their grounds seamlessly merge with the natural beauty of the nearby marsh itself, which Gretchen had already faintly praised as "the most beautiful thing I've seen on this trip."
Back at the house, Hoagie announced that she'd taken Sally out from amid the potentially-hostile horses and returned her to the doublewide at Creekside.
Today was my father's last day at Augusta Medical Center in Fishersville, and he seemed to be in an especially good mood when we visited. He regaled us with a story from World War II, telling us about the time he was guarding some Nazi prisoners in Germany and they asked him (in German) to turn them loose so they could show him to a place where stolen watches had been cached. So he let the prisoners out and followed them to the supposed watch cache. Sure enough there were watches (probably stolen from Holocaust victims), and he selected one for himself. Then he and prisoners returned to the internment and life went on. Unfortunately, my father later lost the watch, but the story is still in his 87 year old head.
My father also made a number of jokes that I found genuinely funny, culminating with a defecation into his adult diaper from which he hoped, he claimed, to "be saved." "Who will save me from this turd?" he asked at one point, adding, "I'm floating on a turd here!" (here he made rowing motions with his arms, as if navigating a kayak).
Before we left, Gretchen and I met with a social worker to discuss how much time my father had left in nursing home care before his supplemental Medicare would run out. Following a suggestion from my father, we made a call to inquire as to whether there were any special nursing facilities for veterans, but it seemed that to qualify for those, my father would actually have to be impoverished.
On the drive back towards Staunton, we were on the lookout for a place selling dog nail clippers (Sally's nails, Gretchen had realized, had become pathologically long). We found a veterinary place which had no clippers, but they referred us to a pet store on the western outskirts of Waynesboro. It ended up being the kind of pet store we'd never normally patronize, one having little cages of puppy mill puppies, birds, and fish. Gretchen was so disturbed that she almost didn't buy the clippers she'd selected. She even said something anti-puppy-mill to the guy in the front, who just watching the store while his sister-in-law was showing some puppies to customers. "There are so many dogs in shelters, and here they're breeding more puppies!" she moaned. It was a little embarassing, but it did make the brother-in-law think. He'd said something defensive about the dogs getting regular feedings, but now he had to admit, "Now you're making me feel bad."
Gretchen and I had a late lunch at Cranberry, the hippiesque grocery-cum-sandwich shop in downtown Staunton. They have free WiFi, so we could update our parallel cyberexistances.
This evening Hoagie and I made use of the above-ground redneck pool in the back of the Creekside doublewide. Tonight, though, it seemed to be plagued by millions of gnats that kept drowning on its surface. I spent something like a half hour manually scooping them out while my mother floated around on her innertube, drinking a mimosa and prattling repetitively about whatever a human-scale CNN based in a dilapidated hoard south of Staunton, Virgina would talk about. I'd been trying to drink a screwdriver, but I was so distracted by my work that it warmed up to room temperature. I drank it anyway. And then another one.
At some point I heard a pack of coyotes howling up on nearby Pileated Peak. It was only 6:30pm and the sun was still in the sky. Coyotes are yet another new thing around here that were not a part of my childhood. But they're unusual in that they're a new thing that is to be celebrated; they're like canine Native Americans, but they've been far more successful than human Native Americans have been. They've remained defiantly wild and are perfectly willing to sweep down out of the hills at a moment's notice to take advantage of the sprawl, sloth, and waste that typifies the average hyperdomesticated resident of Augusta County, Virginia, foul degenerate aliens from the Old World.
Hoagie took Gretchen and me out for Indian food at Taste of India, the newish place in downtown Staunton. I was kind of drunk when I drove us there, and I grew more so under the influence of a genuine Indian beer. At some point, Gretchen chastised me for loudly including the word "fuck" in my conversation. At another, she told me I was talking too loudly. That's always how I know that I've crossed the line. Anyway, I found the food really good, although Gretchen was underwhelmed, thinking it needed salt or something.
Back at Creekside, Gretchen has been taking advantage of Creekside's old technology to watch videocassettes of what a reader has told me is the best dramatization of Dicken's Little Dorrit (it was produced in 1988 and features Alec Guiness). I've been trying to watch, but when I find that when I'm sitting still watching something at Creekside, it's not long before I fall asleep.
The Baby (aka "Marie") in the doublewide at Creekside today.
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