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This is a bl*g.

Contents:

ants

birdie

canoe

chipmunk

Ants:

08/07/01

disaster
determination
recovery

Last night we burned some junk. We threw a big log on the pile and ants ran out of it. Big old ants. Some were winged. The log was full of neat oval holes. Dad said how them critters must be mighty uncomfortable in there. That fire was HOT. What a way to go.

This morning I was stirring around the ashes where it was smoking. Dad had soaked everything good a couple times. The big old log was dead. I saw an ant carrying an egg away. I saw more ants staggering around. You ever seen an ant stagger?--I don't know--maybe I was imagining things. They were moving in and out of another log. It was the root end, probably from the other log. It was totally charred black. Something like black raspberries lay in the hollow. I looked closer. It was ants all melted together. Brown eggs lay spilled in the hollow. The roots reached out like they were protecting them. A big old winged thing hung in the hollow. The queen? I touched her. She was dead.

It was like Aliens or the Borg or something. Everything was black or blackened. Death was everywhere. The leader was strung up.

Those eggs had to be cooked. How had the ants survived? Did they run off or dig in? That fire was HOT.

The ants moved mechanically, weighed down by their loss. I walked away. I turned around and looked back. You could see movement from a distance. Little ants moving around. The sun was coming up. It glinted off an ant. I walked back to the log.

Did they know what they were doing? They seemed so human. Isn't that what we'd do if the house burned down?--run away till they put it out, then slowly pick through the rubble, looking for your things. Where were they taking the eggs? Were they all going to the same place? I imagined them dutifully getting rid of the eggs later when they didn't hatch. Ants are like that--They just do their job.

It was emotional, which is kinda silly, I guess. They're just ants. But they acted just like people.

Birdie:

4/19/05

Driving home in the dark and my headlights caught something brown flying around...darting around like a squirrel trying to miss your car. Looked like it went right in my grille. The car sounded different for a couple seconds, like something fragile was tearing up in the fan.

I thought about stopping at the Beverage Transportation place where there was some light, but a bat wouldn't fly into a car, would it? The radio was talking about the pope and stuff and there was a guy on my tail and I was driving pretty fast.

I got home and popped the hood and unlocked the house and turned the spotlight on where I park. I looked down the radiator and thought I saw something batty, but I couldn't tell, so I got my flashlight out of the glove compartment. Shined it at the radiator. There was something batty. It blinked. OK, that's really weird. It turned its head, and there was a beak - pretty long beak. Blink. What hit me? Blink. I reached down to grab it...but what am I gonna do with it? Isn't that awful hot there where you're sitting? I touched the car. No, it wasn't.

I stood up and walked around in the garage and stuff. I don't have time to nurse a birdie back to health. I grabbed a shoe and sniffed it and thought about a birdie sitting in it and walked back out to the car. Still there. His head follows the light. That's a pretty long beak. Wren? He's so tiny. A foot clinging to the radiator. OK, I'm gonna need both hands...why don't I set the light down here to birdie's right. He doesn't like that. He's moving his head a lot quicker now like a bird. Flutter! Birdie's gone. Wing's still work. Maybe I'll go look for him when the sun comes up.

Canoe:

09/15/02

Our vacation to West Virginia was fun. Dave and Dad wanted to ride the 4-wheeler, so they were looking around for it. No 4-wheeler, but they found a canoe. And the river was just down the hill.

Dave and I walked down to check out the river. I thought it looked pretty fast. And wide. Dave didn't think it looked too bad.

It rained for a couple days. Dad called up John and asked him about the canoe. John said they drive the canoe upriver to Durbin and float down to the house.

Dad asked if there was any life jackets.

Never needed 'em, John said.

That's the thing about life jackets. You never need 'em most of the time.

So we took the canoe up to Durbin one afternoon. We put it in the river and got in. Beautiful, peaceful, sunshiney river. Me in the front, Dave in the back, Dad in the middle. We each had a paddle. One of them was OK. One was missing some of the business end. One was sorta homemade. Dad discovered a leak and got a jar to bail. Mom was nervous. So off we went.

After a while the river got a little rough. Dave said wherever you see white water, that was a rock under there, and I was supposed to let him know what was coming because he was steering.

"Rock right.
"Straight ahead.
"Left.
"Rock middle.
"All across."

It got pretty dicey pretty quick. We looked up ahead and saw white water all the way across. The river turned and you couldn't see beyond. We debated whether to keep going. Dave said if you fall in the water, just stand up. I was pretty scared. I was still trying to call the rocks. I missed one or two. Hey, there's one right ahead. I may've said something. The rock scraped the canoe and threw us sideways. We laughed. What can you do? Whoops! There comes a tree. It had fallen toward the river and hung nice and straight about two feet above the water. I stuck out my paddle to stop us. Dave said, "Don't do that," in a very authoritative tone. I laid the paddle across the canoe. My mind went blank. I didn't know what to do. I leaned back as the canoe went under the tree. I guess we all did, because the canoe shot out ahead. My foot caught in the gunwale or something and pulled me down. Water rushed in like the Red Sea over Pharaoh. I was officially in the river. It was moving. It was wet all over.

My foot came loose. I tried to get my footing. I bumped a few passing rocks--couldn't stop though. I thought I saw Dad back there hanging onto something. Dave approached from the left, thrashing and gasping like a fish out of water. That was about the scariest thing I saw. Dave is my big brother. I stepped on something solid and stopped. The river kept going. I'll stand here and stop Dave. He crashed into me and I lost my footing. I thought he might pull me under, but we got stopped. We were wet.

Dave asked if I still had my glasses. I said yes.

"That's more than I have." Dave looked back at Dad. He was out in the river clutching a little branch. "Can you hang on?"

"I think so!"

He yelled that we'd have to go get help. Maybe a rope.

I crawled up the bank. "I think I see the canoe!" I yelled to Dave.

"Get the canoe!" he yelled. Actually he said forget the canoe. I ran off to get the rope off the canoe. It was terribly thick with rhododendron. And muddy. Quicksand? Dave was yelling, "Mark!"

I yelled, "What?!"

"What're ya doing?!"

"Getting the canoe!"

"Forget the canoe!"

I turned around and came back. I helped Dave out of the water. We ran back to Dad. There was a big tree hanging out over the water where he was. You had to kinda get down and look around the trunk to see him. Seeing him didn't do him much good, so we ran off for help. We found the road, and Dave ran one way and I ran the other.

I stopped running and started walking. I was exhausted. I walked forever. I saw some buildings up ahead across the river. It was our house. I stopped. I saw the canoe floating downstream, upside down. I took a breath. "Mom! Linda! Josh! Help!" Pause. "Mom! Linda! Josh! Help!"

"Help?!" Mom called. Thank God!

"Dad's in the water! We need a rope. I think you better call 911!"

Linda, "Are you serious?"

"Yes! Can you see me?!" She couldn't see me. Don't know what good that woulda done. I turned to go back. I looked back. A black Wrangler approached from our "neighbor's" drive. I started waving my arms. She rolled down her window and handed out a rope. "This is all I could find..." Hey thanks...Did I ask you for this?

She gave me a ride back to the crash site. Didn't drive too fast. There was a muddy little turnoff close to where Dad was. She dropped into 4-wheel drive and kept going. I grabbed the rope and jumped out. I plunged into the rhododendron and found the big tree. There was Dad. I woulda died if he was gone. I clambered up the tree and tied the rope fast to a branch. I tried to throw the rope out to Dad a couple times.

Then Dave got back with a couple rescue guys. One made a loop in the rope and threw it out to Dad. Somebody asked if the rope was tied fast good. Hmmm... good question. Dad struggled to get the rope around him. More guys came and slid down the bank one by one. They left their pagers and stuff on the ground. Half a dozen or so guys waded out in the river towards Dad. Dad let go of his branch and they grabbed him or the rope or something. They all struggled to shore one by one and climbed up the bank. The last guy out there almost lost his footing in the current. When they got Dad to the bank he said something about being beat and that he couldn't climb up the bank. We pushed and pulled him up.

There he was. He fell to his knees, I assume from exhaustion. I sorta bent down and hugged him. They brought some blankets and wrapped him up and walked him out to the ambulance. The black Wrangler was still there and a pickup or two. The girl that gave me the rope was standing there talking to someone. I walked up and thanked her. I bet I was a sight.

"Mark!"

Time to get in the ambulance.

We drove slowly down the road. Does everybody drive slow around here? There was a guy in the back with us asking Dad a lot of questions. It was nice and warm, but Dad couldn't stop shivering.

We drove by our house and reached the dead end at the swinging bridge. We turned around and started back. (You gotta drive halfway around the world to get across the mountain). I asked if I could get out and walk up to the house. They said yes.

I looked down as I walked across the swinging bridge. The river swirled by deep and brown. My tummy flip-flopped. We found out later that the bridge isn't really safe. No one wants to take responsibility for maintaining it. I didn't know any better.

I walked back the quarter mile or so to the house and reached the lower gate. The house sits up on the mountainside with a cow pasture in between. Peace and quiet. I thought Mom and Linda might be on the porch. I crawled over the fence and started slowly up the hill. Stuff don't happen as fast as you like in an emergency.

Mom came out as I came through the upper gate. I bet that was scary seeing just me and no one else. I told her what was going on. Ya gotta love that good news.

So that's about it. Stuff like this makes you think. What if my foot didn't come loose from the canoe? What if somebody hit their head on something? What if Dave wouldn't have run into me? What if Dad got tired of holding on? What if Dave wouldn't have found a phone? What if one of the rescuers woulda been swept away? If the Lord woulda directed things just a hair different, somebody woulda gone to heaven. I'm glad he was in charge.

Chipmunk:

07/02/01

or Unanswered Questions

I felt restless this morning. I didn't feel like going to bed. So I went out and sat on the doorstep by the tea. It was cool. I was thinking about [censored]. She sat next to me in Sunday School. Could I handle the responsibility of marriage? Could I love her? Does she like me? Should I talk to her?

Some tweetie birds landed in the bush. Be very, very quiet! They're beautiful little things.

Suddenly something is scratching around on the sidewalk behind the tea, just out of sight. No, there it is. It's a chipmunk. Oh my goodness! Little stripes. He disappears.

There he is over by the bush. I think. Or is it a bird? The birds flit around. The chipmunk runs up a branch. One bird shadows him. Is chippy stealing eggs? He jumps down. Does he have an egg?

Scratching. There he is--just in view this time--in all his savage splendor. He crouches, earnestly nibbling. His stripes don't look long enough. He can see me, can't he? Big black eye. Pointy nose.

He drops the leftovers. He's at the edge of the sidewalk. He's weaving in and out of the flowers like a snake. He's back on the sidewalk. I consider introducing myself. He's a foot away. He stretches toward me. Probably smells my feet. He runs back around the flowers and is gone.


mark@chiptape.com