Monday, February 26, 2018

On Being a Hermit

Hermit is defined by Merriam-Webster as: One that retires from society and lives in solitude

Last March, 100 years (+ one) after his birth, the National Parks Conservation Association ran an article about Dick Proenneke who lived for 30+ years on his own in a cabin he built himself on the remote shore of Upper Twin Lake, (Now part of Lake Clark National Park on the Alaskan Peninsula) right up until he was 82.

Dick never claimed to be a hermit, in fact quite the opposite, but being reminded of him again (Dick kept journals and filmed himself quite a bit. Over the years these have been turned into books and a couple movies.) got me to thinking about the logistics of living a solitary life.

In Dick’s specific case ‘solitary’ included the pilots bringing in supplies a couple times a year, friends, hunters, the National Park Service rangers and researchers he often worked with, tourists coming by to check him out, etc.

Frankly, I’m pretty sure that now days it’s a lot easier to be a truly solitary hermit while blending into the faceless hordes of modern society than it would be out in the wilderness somewhere.

Despite it's remote location, Dick hosted a lot of visitors at his cabin

A ‘wilderness’ hermit is outstanding, noticeable, by the very nature of their environment, what with having no crowds to blend into. Whereas for the ‘civilization’ hermit, the one living among the faceless hoards, going unnoticed is more likely. And, no matter how self-sufficient the loner is, they won’t have the skills and wherewithal to produce everything they need. That takes a community with diverse skills and resources. Which means the wilderness hermit is forced into interaction with others on some level to obtain things like tools, clothing, pans, books etc. For the wilderness hermit, faced with complex transportation and communication issues, that usually means face-to-face interaction, whereas the hermit living within the constructs of today’s ‘civilization’ has resources available which can be used to limit, or virtually eliminate that face-to-face interaction.

For instance, once a year we have our annual supply of meats (which frankly isn't all the much anymore since we are down to eating red meat once or twice a month) delivered to us from Omaha Steaks. We place and pay for the order from the faceless comfort of their web page and the UPS driver leaves the coolers, which we’ve been tracking from our laptops, up by the gate where we collect them after he is gone. Not once during that transaction do we have any direct contact with another human. (Not that I’m saying we’re hermits, though if it wasn’t for The Wife keeping me on track, I suspect that I could easily fall into that life.)

I can order clothes from Duluth Trading Company, widgets from Amazon, RV parts from PPL, and prescription drugs, all on-line, and have them delivered into my hands with no direct human-human interaction.

I can do my grocery shopping from the computer and limit any face-to-face encounters to the person that brings my bagged groceries out to the car, or, if I lived in a the anonymity of town, even have them delivered to my door so I don’t have to go out at all. I can pay all my bills and do all my banking, renew my driver’s license and vehicle registration, make charitable donations, manage magazine subscriptions, and pay my taxes, all from behind my keyboard.

I can also drive from one end of the country to the other, filling the fuel tank every 300 or so miles, and never once have any human-to-human interaction; as long as I stay out of Oregon and New Jersey that is.

In fact, lately I'm running into more and more filling-stations with pumps but no building or attendant.

When on public lands, and not boondocking, most campgrounds now use iron-rangers for fee-collection. I can even stay at private campgrounds without the need for direct interaction by making on-line reservations at KOA’s, pre-paying and specifying late arrival so I can pick up my site-assignment from the after-hours box and leaving before the office opens in the morning. I can get all the information, maps, pamphlets, and brochures I need for visiting just about any place in the country off of my smart-phone.

If I do need to do any traditional brick-and-mortar shopping along the way I can slip inside along with the rest of the faceless crowd, get product locations and price checks right on my smartphone, pay for my purchases at the self-checkout station, and slip right on out again without having made eye-contact or saying a single word to anybody.

Though I’ve always been enchanted by stories of mountain men, wilderness explorers, and the likes of the Dick Proenneke’s of the past, maybe the real golden age of the hermit is right now. . .

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Tonights Entertainment Brought To You By Elmer

Let'sstart here, in the parking lot of the Pizza Hut in the little town of 'E' where we are meeting Elmer for lunch. Elmer has just driven up and parked next to us.

Elmer: (before any hello’s, hugs, or handshakes [Elmer is of that generation of progressive he-men that can hug his daughters but can’t quite bring himself to hug me]) You guys – (he is a midwesterner so the gentler y’all isn’t in his vocabulary) – you guys need to take me back to my trailer after we eat.

Huh?? His appointment to leave his car, the lightning-struck car with erratic dash lights, no ABS, or windshield wipers (that the local garage couldn't fix after a couple days of trying which they didn't charge him for) with the Ford dealer here in 'E' isn’t for five more days, so up until that moment our understanding of the plan for the day, a day carefully picked to be rain-free from the coast to 'E' and back again (see bit about Elmer’s car having no windshield wipers, then add in having only one eye, and that one questionable) was to meet Elmer for lunch, transfer The Wife’s care-package over to him, then we go our respective ways.

Except that Elmer dropped in to the dealer on his way here this morning to inquire about a rent or loaner car (I hope nobody in their right mind would be giving a one-eyed 90 year-old man a loaner car!) and the dealer said (in addition to no loaners or rent cars available in town) just leave the car and if we can get to it earlier we will. Apparently Elmer has taken him up on the offer.

Getting this information involved standing in the parking lot and shouting at Elmer because:  Dad, DAD, DAD, where are your hearing aids? – (True, he lost his fancy hearing aids weeks ago but has since found an old set that 'work better anyway') Oh, they’re on the table in the trailer. I don’t need those things.


By the way, do NOT try eating at the Pizza Hut buffet in 'E' between 11:30, when it opens, and noon on a school day. Seems this particular Pizza Hut is within daddy-bought-me-a-car-because-he-owes-it-to-me distance of the High School. High School kids are dangerous enough in twos and threes, but when they are in herds,hungry herds, the little shits are downright vicious!

It takes two of you to get any food at all. One, with knife in one hand and fork in the other, to fend off the perennially-hungry and supremely-disdainful-of-others teenagers while the other, with spatula in one hand for scooping slices and fork in the other for stabbing at the hands of any strays that got through, snatches up the few slices he can get to.

There are not many culinary choices there in 'E', but we won’t make that mistake again!!


Anyway – bruised, bleeding and still hungry, we limped back into the parking lot, dodging squealing tires, (I guess daddy also owes them periodic new rubber to replace the prematurely worn tires) bypassed mufflers, and ear-bleeding base, and proceeded to unload Elmer’s car into ours. Of course this includes the omni-present fishing pole that poked me in the eye every time I looked to the left on our drive down to the coast, and since it was rigged with a lure ready to go, threatened to add additional piercings to my ear with every bump in the road.

This transfer process almost included two plastic bags of fish-guts (don’t ask!) but The Wife noticed and stopped him, pointing to a dumpster and telling him to drop them in there on his way to drop the car at the dealer's.

Elmer tossed the bagged fish-guts back into his car, almost fell back out the door as he was getting in, and finally backed out and headed for the Ford dealer, driving right past the afore-mentioned dumpster without the slightest hint of slowing down.

While Elmer went off to deal with paperwork at the dealer The Wife had me take her just up the street to the Whataburger where she got a custom-grilled hamburger patty with onions and mushrooms to add to the cooked egg noodles that were one element of Elmer’s care package.

By the time we got back to the dealer Elmer had finished checking his car in and was standing on a knee-high terrace at the back of the sale’s lot. The existence of this terrace is kind of strange because anybody that thinks Kansas is flat has never been to the Texas Coastal Plains. The only thing to trip over for 50 miles in any direction down there is man-made, such as curbs and abandoned hoes.

– Well, I was thinking of the garden variety, but I suppose, under the right circumstances, one could trip over the other variety as well –

Even though Elmer was fiercely watching the road like a kid beginning to think that he’s been abandoned at the little-league field,  he didn’t see us (you know, what with only one eye, and not a very good one at that) as we pulled into the service area behind him. He did, driven by abandonment-issues anxiety, call The Wife as we rolled to a stop in the parking lot behind him and she told him we were here and all he had to do was turn around. At which point his head, which I could see over a couple of parked cars between us, promptly disappeared.

Because there was still no Elmer a minute or so later, The Wife got out to go see what he was up to, you know, in case he got lost or something. It seemed like it was forever (OK, so maybe I have my own abandonment issues!) before either one of them came back to the car. Turns out it took that long to locate and collect all the parts of his phone, which scattered everywhere, including way under a few of the parked cars, when he dropped it. But eventually they did return.

In addition to a handful of phone parts (once all the parts of Elmer's phone were put back together it still worked!) Elmer also came with those two bags of fish-guts in hand which The Wife snatched away from him just as he tried to climb into the back seat of our car.

Back at the car after an extended-arm, hold-em by the fingertips, trip to the dumpster to get rid of the bags of fish-guts The Wife twisted around in her seat and asked: 'Dad, DAD, DAD, did you fall off that ledge?'

Elmer: No, no, no, I didn’t fall off that ledge, but I did drop my phone when I fell off that ledge. . .

The Wife and I: (simultainious eye-rolls) 

Here’s a tip about having Elmer in a car with you: Don’t do it!!  I wasn’t kidding when a couple of posts ago I said Elmer smells like a stale ashtray, and when you cohabitate a confined space with him I swear that multiplies to more like a half-dozen wet, stale ashtrays! (I have this fantasy about turning him over and shaking him out only to discover butts from 1942 falling to the ground.)  And even though he’s very good about not smoking in other people’s cars, because of the ghosts of ciggarets past, the only way to survive the trip is to roll down two windows regardless of the weather, one up front and the opposite one in the back.

And the trailer, the trailer we spent days scrubbing the yellow nicotine haze off of every surface and de-scenting with $40 worth of Fabreeze not long ago so Dale and her husband could stay in it during a visit, is no better. The best way to deal with what passes for air inside the trailer is to not go in it at all, but if you do have to go in, hold your breath and make it a short stay. Unfortunately that’s not always an option. . .

While The Wife helped Elmer stash his care-package in the fridge and freezer (No Dad, you don’t want to freeze that. No Dad. DAD, DAD! Take that back out of the freezer!!) I installed two curtain rods complete with manly-looking curtains. (There were lots of frou-frou choices available but I didn’t think Elmer would appreciate that!)  I’m not a fan of mini-blinds, especially trailer-grade mini-blinds, and apparently Elmer isn’t either as he has ripped a couple of them down off the windows a few too many times! I got tired of unsuccessfully trying to explain to him over the phone how to put the damn blinds back up, hence the curtains.

By the time we finished our respective chores both of us were feeling pretty woozy from breathing Elmer-air too long, so before we had to call the paramedics on ourselves we left Elmer and started the unexpected two hour trip home, gulping in lungful’s of glorious Elmer-free air for the first ten miles.

But wait! The “entertainment” isn’t over yet!!

The next morning:

Elmer (on the phone): It took me forever to find the trailer keys this morning. (When we left him 14 hours ago they were sitting on the corner of the counter, right where he had put them, and he was so discombobulated by [not] falling off the ledge at the dealership, he had fallen asleep in his recliner almost before we left and didn’t wake up until this morning so he hadn’t gone out anywhere in between.)

The Wife: But you did find them??

Elmer: Yeah, but now I can’t find the goddamn phone.

The Wife (confused): What phone?

Elmer: My cell phone. I can’t find my goddamn cell phone! (When Elmer is agitated he reverts to his truck-driver vocabulary)

The Wife: Dad, the phone is in your hand.

Elmer: I’ve looked everywhere but I can’t find the goddamn thing

The Wife: DAD, the phone is in your hand.

Elmer: I don’t know what I did with it. I guess I’m just going to have to tear this goddamn trailer apart to find that goddamn phone!

The Wife: DAD! The goddamn phone is in your hand!

Elmer: Oh – yeah (embarrassed chuckle)

We are taking one good thing away from all these Elmer-isms though.  The Wife and I have begun compiling a list of things we’re going to do to The Daughter in a few years, still early enough in our aging process that we can properly enjoy driving her nuts!! After all, she deserves her turn too. . .

Monday, February 19, 2018

The CO Detector Got Old

You can’t tell in this photo of the CO detector in The Van, but the green light is actually alternating between green and red.

I know the 12 volts feeding the detector isn’t low so the dang thing must be telling me it’s ready to retire.

These things operate off a heated platinum wire which is a catalyst for this chemical reaction:

Sensing: CO + H2O -> CO2 + 2H+ + 2e- 
Counter: ½O2 + 2H+ + 2e- -> H2O 
Overall reaction: CO + ½O2 -> CO2

Cool huh!!! (Oh man, what is wrong with me that I like figuring things like this out????)

And eventually that wire is going to have had enough with all this reacting and quit.

Because of this, and in order to play it safe in our litigious society, the manufacture prints right on the front of the detector that it is to be replaced 60 months after installation, but that reactor inside there knows when it isn’t reacting well anymore, hence the alternating red/green light when it really goes bad.

As always, the first step in the replacement process was to disconnect the power.  I could have pulled the fuse when I started this replacement but it’s easier just to flip the 12 volt disconnect switch

As you can see, my old detector was manufactured the last day of July 2009, but not installed and heated up, which is when the clock really starts, until sometime in early-2011.

Because the detector is mounted up high, clear of the worst of dust and other contaminants, my little platinum wire lasted about 12 months longer than the stated 60 months.

If you look close at this photo you can also see where I've cut the power-leads off flush with the case. I’ll get to that in a moment.

I found it difficult to find a replacement detector that just does CO.  Since most RV’s also have a propane system on-board it’s not surprising that the combo-detectors are much more popular.

No big deal, it’s not going to hurt to have a propane detector as well as the CO detector.

I made sure to buy the replacement from the same manufacture as the original so it would have the same footprint. In fact the old and new detectors share the same case, just different printing on the front.

The Van’s detector is mounted above the electrical panel in an enclosure above the kitchen counter-top.

Despite there being loads of room for wire-slack up there in the enclosure, when Sportsmobile installed the detector they kept wire-lengths to a minimum which meant the barrel-splices they used were buried inside the enclosure and difficult to reach.

Also, since everybody knew this detector was going to have to be replaced at some point, I’m not sure barrel connectors were the right choice.

So I dug up some spade connectors to use on the new detector instead. Fully insulated spade connectors since right there next to the electrical panel is not a place you want bare electrical connections hanging about!

I could have used standard spades and wrapped them in electrical tape but during the summer around here it can get pretty dang hot up there just under the metal roof. Just the kind of conditions that weakens adhesives and lets electrical tape unwrap.

The new detector got the male spades on the ends of its leads.

Then, in order to have enough wire to work with comfortably, I cut the leads off right at the case of the old detector and crimped on female spades.

Technically I should have put one male and one female spade on the detector and the corresponding mating-spades on the power leads, that way even a complete idiot can’t screw up and connect the power backwards. But when buying insulated spades in small quantities (Remember, I’m going to need spades for a new detector in 5 or 6 years) they come packaged as either males or females. By using males on both leads of the detector, now I only have to buy one small package of males when it comes time to replace it, rather than one small package each of male and female, only to use a single spade out of each package and have the rest sit around until I’ve forgotten where I put them and have to buy a set of new packages all over ag—well, you see where this is going.

Besides, complete idiots should not be messing around with electrical stuff anyway.

Anyway – the new detector slipped right back into the slot the old one came out of and I even used the original screws to hold it in place.

After turning the power back on it took about 10 minutes for the little platinum wire to heat up to operating temperature. Not because the wire gets that hot, but because the current though the wire is so low (remember, battery powered detectors can run for a year on one small battery) it takes that long for it to heat up. Once the green light was burning steady I gave the ‘Test’ button a push to make sure the detector was working.

It was. . .

I did this without thinking of hearing protection beforehand so it was several hours before I could hear The Wife calling me to lunch.

The last step was to replace the old detector’s paperwork in The Van’s folder of – well, paperwork and manuals, with the new detector’s.

Good for another five or six years!

Thursday, February 15, 2018

Today Time Was Driving A Mack Truck

Time mostly just marches on, but once in a while it breaks-step and folds, bends, mutilates, spindles, and, as I found out today, sometimes just plain runs you over!

The first time I got spindled by time was a good 20 years ago when another Vet and I were standing outside the computer-room talking about Vietnam. Some just-out-of-school computer operator wandered by, stopped, and said "Vietnam? I think we studied that in history!"

The next time I was mutilated by time was years later when, for the first time ever, I was given the senior discount without asking for it.

And today time ran me over with a Mack truck with my name on it!

As is our custom, when we make a city-trip for supplies we eat out somewhere. We had just sat down at our table when the waitress walked up and said " Oh! For a moment there I thought you were another elderly couple that eats here. . ."

Now to be fair, this waitress was a very young slip of a thing and her understanding of age hasn't yet fully formed, so to her most everybody is old, but once you've been run over by the Mack truck there's no taking that back. . .

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Changing Of The Guard

There comes a time when even the most < frugal, cheap, persistent, thrifty, stubborn > (choose your adjective of choice) of us must admit it’s time to let go.

On the left are my shop boots, the ones I wear around the property and – well, shop.
In the middle are my combination hiking/Sunday-go-to-meeting/out-in-public/dress boots.
And on the right are the boots I just bought today. A little more expensive than I usually go for but they're wider in the toe, have a little more toe-protection, and are American made. Ask me in a couple years if they were worth it.

The new boots will become my hiking/Sunday-go-to-meeting/out-in-public/dress boots, after I remove the 54” laces that came with them and move the 72” laces from the middle pair of boots over to them. There's a little bit of fraying where these laces have sawed against the metal eyelets, but they're perfectly serviceable for now. (Just don't tell The Wife!)

The reason I use the longer laces on my hiking boots is because I wrap the extra length around behind my ankle and back to the front again before tying them off. This not only gives a little extra security and support at the ankle, but I also find that when done like this they are much less likely to need retying before the day is over.

But not to worry. Those brand new 54” laces don’t go to waste. I use them to lace up the eyelets of my former hiking/Sunday-go-to-meeting/out-in-public/dress boots, (On the right above) which will now become my shop boots. Having laced the eyelets up I tie them off securely securely, ensuring they stay that way with a little heat from a lighter, then cut the excess off.

Now these boots have been converted to slip-ons

As for my original shop boots, (On the left) alas there’s not much left to do with those faithful old dogs other than to toss them into the trash, laces and all.

I don’t know if it was coincidence or not, but the same day I got the new boots and permanently retired my original shop boots, I was compelled (By The Wife)  to retire one of my shop-shirts too.

The Wife tells me this particular shirt is at least 10 years old. I don’t know for sure, but I do know that it was originally one of my work shirts – you know, back when I had a real job. After years of serving me in the office I cut the arms off and used it in the shop. That was at least 5 years ago and I have to admit that the fabric is getting a little thin lately.

Clearly shop-work has been hard on the shirt, adding permanent stains from paints and glues, and wearing it through where I lean against my workbench, (Shop-shirts are never tucked in!) but if it was left up to me, I figure that shirt has a good 12 to 18 months left in it. But if The Wife catches me wearing it again she will stick her fingers through those worn spots and rip the shirt to shreds right off my back. (I know this because she’s done it before. . .)

Sunday, February 4, 2018

Conversations With Elmer

(For those that just stumbled onto this page, [though from my page-hit counter I can tell that never happens] Elmer is my nearly 90 year old father-in-law who's spending the winter on the Gulf Coast a couple hours away from where The Wife and I live.)

This is just a random smattering of Elmer-isms

But first, to fully understand a conversation with Elmer you need to be aware of a couple Elmer-idiosyncrasies:

“Never” as in “I never do that!” means at least not in the past few hours

“Oh, no, no, never!” means not in the past few minutes, but you can be sure he will do it again soon!

"I don't want to do that, or go there, or any other similar 'I don't wana's', means there is a 73% chance he will change his mind in the next few hours.

Elmer tends to parse out his stories in pieces, never quite repeating the same story twice. Afterwards, to get the full picture, or at least a more complete picture, the three daughters have to confer with each other to pass on the bits they were told but the others weren’t, and to get the bits they were not told but the others were. Often this results in conflicting details as Elmer tends to modify his stories as he goes, and then it’s up to the three daughters to pick through the mess and decide which one, if any, is the most likely truth.

For something technical, like cleaning fish or nuking his Jimmy Dean breakfast sandwich, or mopping the trailer floor, or the best way of tying a lure onto his fishing-line now that he's more blind than not, Elmer will give you the step-by-step procedure in excruciating detail, then he’ll repeat the telling of those steps every time you see him, and sometimes twice in the same sitting. So go ahead; ask me how he prepares his Jimmy Dean egg, cheese and sausage muffin in the morning, right down to scraping the melted cheese off the plastic wrapper with his teeth. I dare you, go ahead!!

Telling Elmer not to do something is - well, counter productive. ( Don't touch that plate, it's hot - Dang! That damn plate it hot! Leave the settings on the TV alone - I don't know why but the TV isn't working anymore! Don't pick that up, it's too heavy - Oh damn, I think I just hurt my knee!)


The ending of pretty much every phone-call with Elmer (Unless he has something of his own he wants to do, such as watch The Wendy show, then you’re lucky if he doesn’t hang up on you in mid-sentence.)

OK dad. Well you have a good evening and I’ll talk to you soon.
                       Ok dad, by.
                                Oh really?! Well by dad.
                                                Love you too dad, by.
                                                                Well I’ve got to get dinner on the table dad, by.
                                                                              You have a good night too, by dad.

Because he won't stop talking, on average from the first “by” to actual hang-up takes 2 minutes and 43 seconds, 8 “by’s”, and 4 eye-rolls.


Elmer (on the phone): Just wanted to let you know I drove over to ‘B’ ( Because I’m such a security freak I’m leaving out the actual place names ) and picked up that prescription you called into the Walmart there. ( Elmer has clearly lost track of which daughter he’s talking to as it is Dale, not The Wife, that handles all of Elmer’s medical stuff. )

The Wife: Did Ike drive you over?

Elmer (Somewhat defensively now that he is back on track as to which daughter he is actually talking to): No, Ike was busy so I drove over there by myself because I needed the prescription. It’s just around the corner anyway.  ( ‘B’ is 30+ miles one way and The Wife reiterates her concerns about Elmer driving any distances.)

Elmer: You’re just going to have to get over this concern about me driving. Your sisters both accept that I’m fine to drive places on my own, you should too.

The Wife: Dad, it’s not that I don’t think you can drive. If you would put both hands on the wheel and pay attention you can drive just fine, but instead you’re always messing around with cigarettes, dropping lighters under your feet, flicking burning butts out the window, leaning over and messing around in the glove box, talking on the phone, and just generally not paying attention.

Elmer: Oh no, no, no! I don’t do that stuff!  ( Yeah right! But to be fair, Elmer’s style of driving isn’t an age thing. The first, and last, time I rode in a car Elmer was piloting was nearly 40 years ago, back when he had two eyes and fairly normal blood-flow to the brain. Even back then pin-balling wildly between the white lines and panic stops were the norm, not because he can’t drive, but because his attention is everywhere but on the road.)


Elmer (On the phone the next day): I got a stone-chip in my windshield yesterday. Right now the cracks aren’t blocking my view ( Not saying much since he only has one eye to view with! ) but I’m going to have to get it replaced here soon.

As is Elmer’s way, we heard about this stone chip repeatedly over the next couple weeks. The one he got during that illicit trip by himself to ‘B’. All that time I’m thinking no big deal, stone chips are not unusual around here, but when I finally had an opportunity to make a personal inspection – well Holy Crap!! This so-called “stone chip” was a section of windshield the size of a quarter that was pulverized into glass fragments and dust with a half dozen cracks radiating out that had nearly engulfed the entire windshield. It would have had to have been a pretty damn big rock to cause that kind of damage! And rocks that big generally done lift off and go flying around.

The only thing that kept the windshield from caving in altogether on impact was that the “chip” was located in the very bottom-right corner of the windshield where it’s glued onto the car and backed up by the passenger-side A-pillar steel.

After looking things over I walked away pretty sure that someone, somewhere along that drive between Elmer’s trailer and ‘B’, came out that afternoon to find their mailbox mangled because Elmer clipped the corner of it on his way by.


Elmer (On the phone): I’m still at the trailer, but I’ll be leaving to meet you in ‘E’ for lunch in just a few minutes. ( Since, when it comes to food, Elmer is usually there a half hour before the appointed time and impatiently calling to find out where we are as if we’re late, I’m pretty sure he got distracted that morning and forgot he was supposed to meet us for lunch )

The Wife: Well take your time and stay off the phone until you get there.

Elmer: Oh I never talk on the phone when I’m driving

15 minutes later the phone rings and I’m thinking ‘oh crap, he hasn’t even left yet and we’re already here waiting for him.

Elmer: I’m just passing through ‘M’ now and will be there soon! (Yep, “Oh I never talk on the phone when I’m driving!!” He also told The Wife, as she chewed him out over that that illicit trip to ‘B’ a few weeks ago, that he never drives over 50 MPH anymore. Well ‘M’ is 20 miles away and he pulled up 15 minutes later. . .you do the math. . .)


Elmer: I really want to call Elvira over in Florida but I can’t find her number. I’ve torn this trailer apart and looked everywhere. Do you have it? I really need to make this call!

The Wife: I thought we put that number in your contact list. Oh wait, I forgot, your contact list went into the bay along with your phone. (The Wife walks over and flicks on the switch that powers up our WIFI and satellite internet modems ) Let me look up our Friends and Family list on the Verizon account. The number is in there. I’ll call you back in a few minutes. (of course by the time this call is actually finished [ see the first conversation ] the modems have had plenty of time to do their start-up things)

Only when The Wife pulls her laptop out it won’t connect. We walk out into the barn to use my laptop, (The Wife’s is very old and cranky. Mine is just old) except mine won’t connect either. The WIFI is working but the internet connection isn’t, despite what the lights on the satellite modem say. This happens sometimes but rather than waste time screwing around with it I pull out my phone and connect through our one-to-two bar cell signal, though it takes a couple tries to get into the Verizon account because apparently I screwed up the password once and the security question another time.

Verizon makes it difficult to find your Friends and Family list at the best of times, trying to do it on the tiny phone screen only makes the process more difficult. After quite a bit of frustration, many fruitless screen-taps as we worked back and forth through the menus with both of us trying to huddle into the same space over the tiny screen at the same time, and just before we admitted defeat, we finally find the list and get the phone number.


That was me waving my hands and hollering at The Wife just after I handed her my pen.

She was already not in the best of moods and this didn’t make her any happier, but you see, she has a habit of writing on any randomly available surface ( we often go shopping with our list written in spiral fashion in the blank spaces of advertising flyers and Netflix mailers or even ripped off cardboard box flaps ) because she was about to tear a corner off our newly arrived 1095-A tax form to write the number on.

The Wife: Hey Dad, I’ve got Elvira’s number for you.

Elmer: Oh that’s OK. I had the number after all and have already talked to her.

The Wife: (after politely, and carefully, hanging up the phone) Aaahhhhh!!

The Wife’s phone rings Wednesday morning. She checks the caller ID

The Wife: HEY DAD, EVERYTHING GOING OK FOR YOU THIS MORNING? (Elmer has graduated beyond forgetting to wear his fancy hearing-aids that used to blue-tooth right to his phone – you know, the phone that mysteriously jumped out of his pocket and into the bay a month ago –  now he’s lost the hearing-aids altogether.)

Elmer: Well I went out to go fishing around five this morning (Over the past couple months he has repeatedly, [ and believe me, nobody can repeatedly like Elmer can repeatedly! ] told us that he has quit fishing in the dark anymore. . .  Well last time I checked, on Wednesday sunrise wasn’t until 0716. . .) but the car was broke. It started just fine but every light on the dash lit up, ( he told one of his other daughters only one light lit up )   the headlights wouldn’t turn on, and the windshield wipers wouldn’t wipe. I don’t know what’s wrong with it!   ( a few days later he eventually admitted to yet another daughter that he had been out driving in a terrible storm the day before –  “But don’t worry, I pulled over and waited for hours for it to pass!” which means that at best he slowed down for 10 minutes during the worst of it. –  and the car was apparently struck by lightning.)

The Wife: Did you drive it? (Cringing at the thought of him creeping though town in the dark with one eye, no headlights, and a dew-covered windshield with a fishing pole sticking out the side-window like a Knight’s lance ready to spear something .)

Elmer: Oh no, no, no! I wouldn’t drive it like that!
                             – (23 seconds later)
                                                 I’m not real sure what’s wrong with the car, but when I drove it around the block the brakes felt funny too.

The Wife: (Exasperated eye-roll)

Elmer: I guess I’ll drive it up to the Ford dealer in ‘E’ and have them take a look at it. (‘E’ is 37 miles of rice-paddies and cotton-fields away.)

The Wife: I’d hate for you to get stuck alongside the road for hours until I can get there. Why don’t you take it over to the garage the fixed your stripped oil-drain plug a couple weeks ago? (A garage that’s 4 blocks away and drops him back at the trailer while they’re working on the car )

Elmer: I could but I do have that prescription waiting for me at the ‘E’ Walmart and I really should get that picked up soon.

Well there’s a reason that prescription is still sitting there in the Walmart and not in Elmer’s collection of drug-bottles sitting on the dining table in the trailer.

For various reasons Ike is not available to chauffeur Elmer around right now and ‘E’is about the only place The Wife is semi-comfortable (OK, least terrified.) with Elmer driving to on his own since there’s little traffic and Elmer has been making that drive for 20 years so knows it pretty well. So the prescription was sent to the ‘E’ Walmart instead of the ’V’ Walmart which is farther away but has better restaurants nearby. But it has been sitting there for a week now because Elmer keeps blowing us off while he plays with his girlfriend.

Not the Missouri girlfriend mind you, this is his Texas girlfriend we’re talking about!

I just don’t get it. I’m under no illusion about being a pretty-boy, but I never have women buzzing around me, yet Elmer. . . well, it’s just not good for my self-esteem to see Elmer effortlessly collecting people that end up wanting to be around him while I sit here ignored by anybody that’s ever known me.

I mean just what the hell is the attraction of a nearly deaf, one-eyed old-man that smells like a week-old ashtray from a 60’s era cocktail party, shuffling along in the slippers he wears everywhere with the cuffs of his old-man saggy-butt pants dragging the ground at his heels (Except when he’s wearing his girl-jeans that “fit him just right”. Those end 4 inches above his shoes)???!!

OK, enough; because if I keep thinking about Elmer and his collection of girlfriends I’m going to end up in therapy, and since I could most definitely benefit from it, for a variety of reasons beyond Elmer and his octogenarian bevvy of beauties, I really don’t want to go to therapy. After all, why risk ruining a good collection of psychosis?


So that’s a sampling of conversations with Elmer – at least so far, but stay tuned since he’s still ticking along down there doing Elmer things like he’s got energizer batteries up his butt.