Sunday, February 26, 2006

On driving, maniacs, and the DMV

We had a little "winter weather" here in north Texas over the weekend, which consisted mostly of some sleet and freezing rain. We were also told to expect "freezing fog" overnight, which I've never seen, so I wondered if I would find our turkeys in a state of suspended animation in the morning, or if I would need a pickaxe to make my way from the house to the backyard. Turns out freezing fog isn't a giant atmospheric ice cube, but rather drops of moisture that freeze on anything they touch. But I think my concept of freezing fog would make a good special effect in a movie like Star Wars 7: The Prequel to Parts 4, 5, & 6, which were the prequels to Parts 1, 2, &3, unless you consider the first three movies to be parts 4, 5, & 6, in which case this film is the prequel to Parts 1, 2, & 3, which, of course, are now parts 2, 3 & 4 since this film is now Part 1.


Anyway. I elected not to go out yesterday because north Texas drivers are notoriously bad on good roads, let alone icy roads. I've given this a lot of thought, and I think we have bad drivers here for three reasons.


1) We have a lot of people here from other countries, like New Jersey. In New Jersey, the rules for driving are very different. For starters, the only thing you need to get a license is proof of insanity and a thousand dollars, because New Jersey's state motto is, "Hand Over Your Money." Folks have left the state in droves. The only person who actually can still afford to live there is Bruce Springsteen, and I heard that he's selling salt water taffy down at the shore just to pay the taxes on his bandanas.


2) Southerners don't have a clue how to drive in inclement weather. The only water & ice they're familiar with comes out of a refrigerator door. So when moisture actually falls on their Dodge Ram 9500 (800 horsepower, so you can get to the Dairy Queen and back in record time), they slow down to 8 mph and still manage to end up in the ditch.


3) The Department of Motor Vehicles is a family-owned business, I think. See what you think after this conversation:


Sixteen year old boy enters DMV: "Hey, Aunt Murvaleen! I come in to git my driver's license."

Clerk: "Well, howdy, Jimmy Joe Bill Bob!"

Boy: "So whatta I gotta do?"

Clerk: "Well, shucks. I know you bin driving that tractor since you was 8 months old, so you don't have to take no drivin' test. Jest stand thar and let me take your pitcher."

Boy: "Thanks, Aunt Murvaleen!"

Clerk: "Now you be careful. And remember, you really gotta floor it to get through them yeller lights down by the Beer Barn."

Clerk: "Next!"

Me: "Hi, I need to renew my license."

Clerk, eyes narrowed suspiciously: "You're one o' them crazy New Jersey folks, ain't ya? Cletus, put the cuffs on this one - we're gonna need a week, at least, to check out her entire history and then take a really bad pitcher of her."


Tomorrow I'm going to rant about some of the most common mistakes made by north Texas drivers. In the meantime, I'm going to pray that Aunt Murvaleen doesn't know how to google her own name, or else I'll never get a driver's license again.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

Well, I guess we could call it physical education.

Here in Texas, when most folks have to round up a stray cow, they jump on their horse, grab their rope, and go get the critter. It's a technique that's worked well for generations. But, at my house, we never go for what works well. Noooo, we like to use the most inefficient means necessary to do a job, which in this case means chasing the cow, on foot, over 10 acres, and finally wrestling it to the ground.


It happened like this.


Yesterday we noticed that our neighbor's new little bull calf (less than a week old) had wandered over on to our property. Now, when you want cattle to move, you have to stand where you don't want them to go, and hope that they will run in the opposite direction. Well, my 15 year old son was helping me, which means we were destined for disaster.


First, he approached the calf from the wrong side. Then, apparently thinking that the calf was an overgrown house cat that was going to crawl into his lap, he stretched his hand out and said, "Hey, little buddy." The calf got a look on his face that said he wasn't interested in being anyone's buddy, and furthermore he had better things to do than stick around in our weedy pasture. So off he ran, toward the 100+ acre ranch of our other neighbor.


Up until this point, our black lab had been watching us with moderate interest. But now she kicked into full retriever mode and started chasing the calf & barking, with the helpful effect of making the calf run even faster, with my son bringing up the rear of this strange parade. As I watched them all run over the hill, I thought, "Wow. That calf is going to be in another time zone by nightfall."


After a prolonged chase that was reminiscent of a Three Stooges movie, the calf finally ended up in a fenced corner of the field. There he stood, exhausted, with his head down and bawling for his mama. I felt sorry for the poor little guy. I knew just how he felt - I do the same thing every night around ten o'clock, when my kids won't go to bed.


We got the calf back over to our place, where I held him steady until our neighbor arrived in her little Kia Sportage. The calf thanked me by peeing on my foot and dripping ropey cow drool on my pants. We loaded him into her vehicle and sent him home. I wish I'd had a camera. It's not every day you see a cow in the back of an SUV.


I heard that the calf got away from his mama again today. When he goes to the butcher, we need to save his hide. He's going to make a great pair of running shoes.