82


The Endocrinologist looked over my chart and said, "Your turning 82, congratulations!" - I guess anybody with type 2 who makes it that far is an exception.  At this advanced age guys like a set routine, even a visit to a physician with good news is a bother.  I feel not unlike the prisoners in the Bastille on July 14, 1789: they were irritated for being disturbed by their liberators.  Each morning I rise at 6, after many nightly bathroom interruptions, and brew a  single cup of coffee soon after the face washing, tooth brushing, and hair combing. Next, after checking the path for serpents, and this morning looking up at the Pleiades and Orion, I  make my way to the detached office where the computer waits.  In the computer a nice lady from California guides me through five minutes of  Ti Ji, then the news: WSJ, Drudge Report, Arkansas DemGaz and finally I must know what the mentally deranged segment of our society is up to: I read the  NY Times...as usual, they hate Donald Trump.  Rome redux, "let the games begin"-  the impeachment circus is on, the national media and the Dims want Trump blood.

At 7:30 I head to the gym, 15 miles and a dozen log trucks away. The log trucks are on their way to Domtar, a giant paper mill that turns logs into fiber used to fill baby diapers. The mill must consume  600 loads of logs each day to keep the infants of the world dry. But that is another story. At the gym, an old building that once housed a wholesale grocery, I walk a mile on an elevated track - easy on my old joints. When there is rain the manager places plastic buckets around the track. American builders, even after several centuries,  have not learned that flat roofs eventually leak or maybe it is short sighted investers who want to save a few bucks.

Breakfast at Wendy's consist of a sausage biscuit, grape jelly, and half a cup of coffee. I place my dollar and eleven cents on the counter and Mary or Debra call out, "Good morning, Mister Jim!"  The Macdoo next door is always full, here most mornings I am the lone sit down customer. The large TV is permanently fixed on the Weather Chanel and the sound is mercifully muted.  After breakfast I join other old guys at the break room at the bank. Our ranks are thinning, a few years back D.,after flashing a wad of bills once too often, was hit over the head in the parking lot of a honky-tonk, robbed, and left to die.   Mr. G. who would enter the room and say, "Good morning, Gentlemen, (if there are any present)" made it his 89th year.  J's stories once started in the middle and wondered to and fro, now start in the middle and die there.  Now, Dr L. at age 88 is back in the Krankenhaus. I am now the senior, more or less intact, member, shudder - ask not for whom the bell tolls.

Back home I fix a tuna salad sandwich, take a 10 minute nap,  then, weather permitting, get on the "velocipede", a golf cart, and check the cows. Once in a while I find a limb has fallen across a stretch of barb wire fence, so I keep a fence stretcher, fencing tool, and a bit of barb wire stored in a jury rigged box attached to the back of the velocipede. If there is a problem with a cow, I call my partner. A cow needing help calving, K. is the designated vet...I use my advanced age as an excuse. K. also feeds the cows each winter. My main job is to get the cows and calves into the corral when they need to be worked. Years ago we used horses to do roundups, so romantic, like the old west we saw in the movies. That romance is long gone.  Now I simply holler Woooeeee, rattle range cubes in a plastic bucket, and the cows stamped into the corral where I have placed more cubes in a feed trough. I close the gate, mission accomplished.  

The vegetable garden, once half the size of a football field, is checked daily and has shrunk to a container garden. The large plastic tubs containing protein for the cows when emptied make great containers for growing tomatoes and herbs. Simply bore holes in the bottom, line with dry cow plop and add rich soil and you are ready for spring planting. A dozen containers are placed near a water spigot by the barn produce all the tomatoes and herbs we need.  That is until August, when the tomatoes give up.

Afternoons, especially between 2 and 4, can be difficult; I often become bored, but don't want to do much. The gutters need to be cleaned, the hedge clipped, or the barn door repaired but I don't wanna. Often a book will hold my attention, usually history, but just now novels by Olga Tokarczuk. If there is no book, I might drive to a nearby town (Hope, Nashville, or Ashdown) and walk about the Walmart to observe the customers. Hope has the most fat folks. Some are so morbidly obese they cause my eyes to widen and my jaw to drop. Ashdown shoppers are mostly proletariat; sad, tired folks who work at the giant paper mill. They drive pickups with fishing boats or four-wheelers in tow. The Nashville bunch seem the happiest and are friendly, taking time to visit in the aisles. But when you do spot a strange one there, they are very strange...covered with ink, blinged  and multi-colored hair...."Meth, anyone?"

At the end of the day I swim. The lap pool provides an excellent place for exercise without pressure on the joints. The pool does require some maintenance. Daily the baskets of debris, dead frogs, and bugs must be empted and chlorine tablets added. The Polaris sweeper always needs attention and the system requires back flushing. After the swim and shower, Victoria and I walk to the end of the driveway and close the gates before repairing to the porch for a glass of wine and bird watching. By the end of September almost all of the humming birds are gone. The normal pattern for them is arrival with the Vernal Equinox, males first, then much excitement until the females select mates and nesting begins. In early September keeping the feeders full is difficult as they are  tanking up for the long flight to the Texas coast, where they wait the arrival of a big thermal to ride on down to the Yucatan. By the Autumnal Equinox they are gone. Only a few migrants from further north stop in for a few days before moving on south.  This year is different.

The humming birds that nest here were gone by early September, no tanking up. The blue birds, mocking birds, red birds, sap suckers, and jays were gone by early August. I especially worry about the blue birds. There are a dozen or so nesting boxes for them scattered about the place. Each box guarded from snakes by wound barb wire and normally five or six boxes are occupied in spring. This year only one or two were used and we saw few fledgling blue birds. Last evening, we could spot only three hummers, all female and all migrants, larger birds with long beaks. I trust the winter flocks of finch and snow birds that arrive in November to dine on sunflower seeds will be normal.

At dinner (in summer, mostly vegetables) we watch TV, but never the national news, usually one of  local channels that provides a weather report and shows mug shots of individuals arrested for having done something incredibly stupid. I did watch Ken Burns production of country music, until he got to Garth Brooks.

Soon the eyelids become heavy and lights out. And so it goes.