Baby Steps



Using

her hand to wipe her nose,

she wobbled; unsure on her feet.


 

Elizabeth and Richard

TBP



She set the knife back down and looked at him earnestly, “Oh, I’m sorry,” she said, “do you have a problem with this?”

“Maybe just a small one, Elizabeth,” Richard replied as he struggled with his bonds.

“Small being the operative word, eh Richard?” She picked the knife back up, tested the edge, ran her eyes up and down his body, and grinned at him. He noticed that her eyes didn’t smile though. That worried him just a bit.

He had woken, when she poured the cold water on him. He was lashed to a chair about three feet from the foot of their French Provincial mahogany dining table. The one Elizabeth had had to have. Coils of rope held his legs to the sturdy front legs of the chair and his arms were strapped to the back legs and back. His leather “Harley Davidson Belt wrapped around his chest and the chair back to keep him from leaning forward. He was effectively immobilized and his chair was sitting on the shower curtain. The one from the guest bath. It was torn where it had been ripped from the rings.

“You’ve had your way for years, Richard and I was too weak to stand up to you. I just took it because I was trying to be ‘The Good Wife’. Today, that all ends.

“I drugged your single malt last night you know, but I must have used too much. You were out a lot longer than I thought you would be. Sorry about the pan of water, I was getting desperate. I was afraid you wouldn’t wake up before our guests arrived. This is something we don’t want them to see.”

She set the knife back down at the head of the table and turned, pushing through the swinging door into the kitchen. He took the opportunity to look around him. Today was Thanksgiving and the table was set for 12 with the fine china and the good silverware. Linen napkins were rolled and cinched with the pewter napkin rings that she had bought at Crate and Barrel.

The old Regulator wall clock told him that it was 10:30. Her parents and her sister’s family would be arriving soon. So would his brother and sister-in-law. The kitchen door swung open again and Elizabeth was right behind it. In her hands was the turkey, a 27 pound masterpiece, roasted to perfection. The skin looked golden brown and juices were pooling up in the platter. She set it on the sideboard and then removed the setting at the head of the table. His setting, he thought. He was worried. Elizabeth smoothed her apron down and picked up the knife again. She came around the table and checked that he was still secured to the chair.

“Elizabeth,” he begged, “let’s talk about this. You don’t really want to do this. I know you don’t. This is something that men do. It’s expected of us.”

“Shut up Richard,” she said calmly as she studied her reflection in the blade. “You have no idea what I want or don’t want and, I don’t think it’s something you’re ever going to do again. You’ve never done it right anyway. You never took the time to learn to do it properly, or listened to suggestions.” She continued her circuit of the table and when she reached the head she pointed the knife at him. She didn’t speak. Then she lifted the turkey platter and put it where his place setting had been.

“I’m going to carve the turkey today, Richard. I’m going to do it. You make a mess of it every year but not this time. No, not this time, and you’re going to watch. Don’t you dare look away. Try to learn something.”


 

Porter

TBP

When have you been in awe of food or drink? Did you prepare it, or did you eat this awesome dish at a restaurant? What was it about what you ate or drank that made it so fantastic?



I stepped through the door and shuffled to the side so that the people behind me could get in too. Get out of the rain. I waved to Nikki, behind the bar, took off my Mac and put it on a hook. By the time I got to the bar Nikki had wiped a spot clean and was setting a pint of Porter down for me.

“Bless ye lass,” I said, “yore an angel!”

She flashed her crooked smile and spun away to finish what she had been doing when I came in, and to see to the group that had come in behind me.

When she got back my beer was about half done and I was holding the glass up to the light admiring the clarity and the dark, reddish brown colour.

When she leaned forward over the bar I was momentarily distracted. “Look up here Mike,” she said pointing at her face. She smiled again and her blue eyes twinkled. High cheekbones, a small nose, and a full mouth were framed by soft blonde ringlets that spilled down past her shoulders. When she smiled she was the most beautiful woman in the world. And to top it off she worked in a pub. Not only was she the most beautiful woman in the world – she was the most perfect woman too.

“You know your phony accent isn’t getting any better.” She announced.

“Are you sure?” I asked, dropping the pretense, “I’ve been watching the BBC a lot. I’m trying to work on it.”

“I think you’re getting close to a hybrid between South Island Kiwi, and Irish.” She took off again to help her customers and I pondered my drink. Nikki had been the one to introduce me to this beer.

“Here’s one that will fill yer mouth when you take a drink,” she had told me when she drew my first, and she had been right.

A Porter is a robust, full bodied beer. I’m not sure where the name came from, unless it’s from the trains or the dock workers, but I did know that Porter was first brewed in the 1700’s and was the first engineered beer (not my term but an apt one), brewed as a blend of three different styles, old ale, mild ale and pale ale. The original brewers called it “Entire Butt”. When I first heard this I giggled like a young boy until I learned that a “Butt” was a unit of measure equal to half a tun. That makes it three barrels, 12 firkins, or 108 imperial gallons. Put in terms I understood this was about 490 liters or 130 US gallons of beer. I wished I had a “Butt” of Porter. I figured it would last me a good long while.

Savoring the full body of the beer and the smoky aroma I watched Nikki work the room, taking care of her customers. She glided effortlessly from table to table, taking orders and delivering orders. She knew everyone’s name. She knew their husbands, and wives. She knew their kids. She made them feel at home. I wondered if it was really the beer I liked or if it was the pub.

I knew what it was though, it was Nikki. She was the reason I liked the pub. She was the reason I liked the beer.


 

The Art of Fencing

Kudos and applause for Tish Farrell whose generosity and photo made this post possible.
Tish- coil of wire



Buddy is a fence guy. He wears a black Stetson, leather chaps over denim jeans, a leather coat (or a vest in the Summer) covers a long sleeved blue work shirt and his heavy gloves are either on his hands or tucked into his belt. This is his uniform.

When I first met him, a number of years ago, he was working as an independent contractor in Lincoln County New Mexico. Buddy would take down old barbed wire and replace it with new. The life span of barbed wire is approximately 80 years. Sometimes more, sometimes less, depending on the climate where the fence is located.

Buddy told me that he “figgered” In Lincoln County a fence was “prob’ly” good for 100 – 120 years. That’s a pretty good Return on Investment, there. When Buddy restrung a fence he would lay a coil of wire atop every fifth post. The coil would have enough wire to respan a single course between posts (usually a rod, 16.5 feet) on that particular fence-line. He did this as a courtesy to his employer and anyone who might have to repair the fence in the future. This ensured that there was always a bit of spare wire handy if needed, or if rustlers cut your fence.

Buddy, working by himself, could replace as much as 5 miles of fencing in a day. This could, and most certainly would, decrease if posts had to be replaced, braces, had to be replaced, or corner posts had to be rebuilt. But, if only new wire had to be strung then 5 miles was a realistic number. He worked long days. Typical fencing in those parts had three courses of wire. These were usually replaced with four. You see where I’m going with this, right?

At the end of a day Buddy had 15 miles of rusted old barbed wire to dispose of. That’s over 8,046 meters, about 8,800 yards, or 79,200 feet of barbed wire to be disposed of. How do you get rid of that much old wire? You can’t burn it. You can’t fit it in a trash can. You can take it to the land fill. You can take it to a recycler. Buddy chose to sculpt with most of it.

Buddy lived in an old Quonset hut outside of Capitan. He had a pack of maybe three dogs that worked with him. He had a big truck, a trailer, horses, stretchers, pliers, hammers, spools and spools of wire and a good supply of replacement posts. His home was surrounded by incredibly realistic; life size, or larger than life, sculptures of Elk, Bison, Long Horn Steer, Horses, Jackalopes, Coyotes, Mountain Lion, and Rattlers. He would build an armature of old rebar and wrap it with wire; around and around and around until his subject appeared. Phenomenal, Life-like.

I acquired three of his pieces. I have a Kokopelli, a rattler, and a yucca cactus in bloom featuring a nervous and hungry hummingbird.

Kokopelli is a Southwestern fertility god; the god of the harvest. He is normally depicted hunched over Quasimodo-like and playing his flute. My Kokopelli is more celebratory in posture. He has his head thrown back with his antennae whipping around in the breeze, like dreadlocks, his flute pointing skyward. One foot is planted firmly on the ground and the other raised in front of himself, as he highsteps in time to his own music. The rusty, barbed wire he is made of was likely new, and had been recently strung on a fence around the same time that Billy the Kid was making a name for himself as a gunfighter and regulator in the Lincoln County War of 1878.

If I stretched the snake out he’s about 6 feet long but he’s coiled up. His tail is raised and the forward half of his body is reared back as if he’s been threatened and is prepared to strike; his mouth is open, fangs are bared. Frequently, we have to reassure children who come to visit that he is not real. His body is almost 5 inches in diameter at its widest and as he has no armature to add stability, his pose induces motion. The old, rusted wire that he is made of allows a slight breeze to cause him to undulate as if he is deciding where exactly to strike his aggressor. If you touch him on the head he will bob and weave, like a prize fighter, for several minutes.

The yucca is the only example of plant life I ever saw in Buddy’s work. It is highly stylized but easily recognizable. The trunk is strong and brown. A nest of single strands, representing the leaves, extend bowl-like from the trunk about two and a half to three feet above grade. Rusted wire rises from the center of the bowl and changes gradually to new wire, silver in colour and not yet rusted (even though the piece has been outside at my house for more than 15 years) shaped as the blooms. A small wire hummingbird circles around the leaves tethered to the trunk by a single strand of wire about three and a half feet in length. The wind will cause the bird to dance around the sculpture. Kinetics! Bring these sculptures to life.

The point I was trying to make wasn’t about Buddy’s art. The point was about the man. His chosen line of work dictates a nomadic lifestyle. He goes where the work is. One day without a word to anyone, Buddy was gone. No one knows where he went but this photograph depicting the coil of wire on the post reminds me of his fence work. It makes me think he might be in the countryside around Wenlock. Y’all got any larger than life American Buffalo appearing around the countryside? If so, Tell Buddy, I said Hello.


Gracias Tish

Melba’s Idea of Fun



Lisa clutched Steve’s elbow, “Oh, not again.”

“What?” he asked.

She pointed and Steve looked to see the gazebo rising from the garden. A pillow of black smoke seemingly lifting it skyward. The children each beamed gleefully from a window.

“Looks like Melba’s experimenting again!”

They both smiled, waving to the kids.


Steve and Lisa
Photo courtesy of Grammar Ghoul Press

3rd Place – WhooHoo

Down East

TBP



“So? Yah really gonna sell this place Wahd?” Crete asked.

“Ayuh, reckon I am.”

“Damned if I can unnahstan’ that. ‘s beautiful. Right on the watah and all; an the trees! Yah got the goddamn trees.” Crete waved his arms wide, as if to point out all that Ward was giving up.

“Yah can buy it yahself then, Crete. I’ll make yah a good deal”

“What’s wrong with it, then?”

“Well, Mahgie and I came up heah ‘cause we wanted to be treashah huntas, and theah’s ‘posed to be a sunk ship close by. We kept that paht mum when we bought the place. Didn’t want Claude tryin’ to outbid us, ya know.”

“Ayuh, Claude can be a right bastahd sometimes and, I oughta know I’m married to his sistah, all these yeahs.”

Ward cocked his head and looked at Crete with one eye all scrunched up, “Yea, well – be that as it may, we looked fer that sunk treashah ship fuh ten yeahs an foun’ nuthin’. Nuthin’, searched the whole damn lake. Weese dun. Givin’ up and headin’ down east. Someplace we can still get a decent bowl a chowdah, an’ catch a Red Sox game on the TV.”

“Ayuh,” said Crete.

“Ayuh,” said Ward.

“Watcha gonna do with yah pots, then. I could take ‘em off yah hands.”


 

sunk ship
Photo courtesy of The Blog Propellant