Life's raining irony, and I'm knee deep in sarcasm.

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Re: My White Trashness

Archive of my
abject bloglessness:

June-August 2008
August-November 2008
December '08-March 2009
April-August 2009
August-December 2009
January 2010

Homepage the Diligent

They love me in print at:

Havre Daily News
Montana Woman

For permission to publish my weekly/monthly column, View from the North 40, or to reproduce any website content, written or graphic, contact:
Pam Burke (that's me) at pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com, or (406) 265-7338.

Day 170 of my Bloglessness
November 28, 2008

The other day I took this completely crappy photo of one of the "flares" on a sundog -- my very favorite natural phenomenon -- we had that day. Admittedly, it wasn't a very spectacular sundog in the first place, and it was even paler by the time I ran into the house for the camera, got my gloves off to take the picture, found something to brace myself against because the wind was pummeling me, double-checked the auto setting, and then *clicked*.

Sometimes even the simple things can be a drama -- made even more so because Xena stole a glove while I was picture-taking. She had to be chastised, and Cooper helped because he loves to bark at the big four-leggers, and he was mad that Xena thought of stealing my glove before he did -- one of his favorite scoundrel pastimes being glove thievery. Eventually the horse dropped the glove and the dog shut up and peace was restored in the White Trash Kingdom. But my photo is still crappy ...

So I drew this totally lame picture to illustrate my very favorite experience involving a sundog -- and perhaps because I'm hoping that two graphical negatives will make a literary positive.

One year when I was going to college in Havre I lived in an apartment that was completely surrounded by mature trees. When I left home for class one morning, I noticed this strange, ethereal glow in the sky, but couldn't pinpoint the cause. When I got out of my car on campus I looked up and discovered a stunning vision of not just the usual parhelion ring around the sun, but an entire cathedral of light that arced over my head and stretched 360-degrees around the horizon with rainbow-colored flares at each quarter mark. I stood there in the middle of one of the large yards on campus staring gape-mouthed at the sky.

The strangest part was not the sky, though, it was that no one else was looking. I kept glancing at people then back at this amazing sky and trying to do a mental inventory to see if I felt like I was hallucinating, having an out of body experience or turning into a wack-job. Finally, some other student (whose personal style could best be described as "most likely to be charged with drug paraphernalia possession") came along tripping over curbs and grass clumps and his own feet. He was staring -- gape-mouthed like me -- at the sky. "It's beauuutiful," he said as if hypnotized while he stumbled past.

"I know. I can't believe no one else is looking," I said.

"Weeeirrrd," he replied as he tripped out of earshot.

Given that my compatriot of the mystical moment was not entirely reassuring nor, strictly speaking, credible, I've been in search of another Super Sundog since then -- hopefully, with an operating camera at hand.

Reliable witnesses are appreciated, too, at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 169 of my Bloglessness
November 27, 2008

The tryptophan has kicked in and I am now half comatose. I have to use the spell checker every other word, but I am here to admit that I broke down and wrote my column about our friend the "Butt Bandit." Some topics are just irresistible.

For those of you here in internetville who don't know: The "Butt Bandit," 35-year-old Tom Larvie of Valentine, Neb., has been charged with nine counts of public indecency and one count of disturbing the peace. Yes, technically, he's the suspected "Butt Bandit," but he was caught in the act, greasy-butted.

Next week, I'm so getting over this butt-guy and writing about John's new ambition to become a Somali pirate. Aaaargh!

Today, I am a big girl. I made three pies for T-Day, and they all turned out! And I didn't drop any of them on the floor -- though one of them was dangerously close to sliding into the stack of clean dishes by the sink. That was a heart-stopping moment. I did not want to explain to John that I just undid all the dishwashing he had just finished. We would've had Black Thursday instead of Black Friday.

I. must. go. lie. flat. to. relieve. my. belly: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 165 of my Bloglessness
November 23, 2008

I just want to say two things this morning:

1) It takes all kinds to make the world go 'round, even the nut jobs, so to speak.

2) The people of Valentine, Neb., can now rest a little easier because the guy, aka the "Butt Bandit", who's been leaving imprints of his Vaseline slathered nether-regions on the town's windows has been ass-ertained.

OK, one more thing:

3) On second thought, I think the world will continue to go 'round safely even without that particular deviance because, dude, eeewww. Seriously. And totally. Eeew. Keep your nethers to yourself.

I've never even been to Nebraska, but I now want to wash all my windows at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 164 of my Bloglessness
November 22, 2008

I confess, I've been flirting with fiction writing. I know, my humor column faithfully pays for almost that week's worth of Diet Coke consumption, but then I go whoring around with pure fiction. Does that make me a slut? Ya think so? It's keeping me up at nights, that's for sure -- not from guilt, from all those words rattling around in the empty spaces of my brain.

I was brave enough to post a snippet from a rough draft onto a site called "Flogging the Quill." The site owner is a freelance editor who does a critique of the first 16 lines of a writer's first chapter draft. Then puts the entry on his website for others to comment on. It's exciting and harrowing all at once. Like a carnival ride or flushing your own sinuses.

Read mine here. Or go to his main page and look in the October Archives.

Don't be shocked by the fact that I don't sound anything like me. I apparently have dark alter egos struggling for a voice. Interesting comments by readers, and I learned a lot. The voting results show a strong "NO, I would not read on." That was a tich painful, but still a good learning experience all the same.

I did make a comment because, y'know, I just can't not talk, and, of course, there was a misunderstanding about my last point, but I didn't defend it because I wasn't sure if I was already breeching policy or etiquette by posting to my own comments section. Besides, I didn't want to get into one of those "I meant ..." "Oh, I thought you said ... so I said ..." "Oh, but you did say ... and I think ... " "Well, great, but I meant ... " conversations. I'd feel like I was cheating around on my husband, conversationally speaking. ha ha.

On the home front: The junkman-in-law and I replaced a couple gate posts up by the highway -- we got the second one done today. We were both glad to have two of us working together so we could trade work/rest periods. One digs, while the other stands there like a supervisor, aaaand switch. I kind of felt bad a few times as I was standing there leaning on the spud bar while the 82-year-old junkman was busting his hump with the digger. Not for the junkman, really, I just looked like a lazy ass while a lot of witnesses, er, traffic was whizzing by. To remedy the situation, occasionally during my turn at rest I'd take one of those big, gasping breaths, that way the drivers knew I'd just gotten done with my turn, and, phew, I needed the breather. What did you think I'd do, step up my share of the work? You're so funny. I did, however, stop short of making one of those theatrical "swipe of the forearm across my sweaty brow" moves. It was a little too cold and windy to make that claim seem realistic, and I'm nothing if not subtle.

Honestly, though, I am too dang soft these days. Middle-age and a desk job are cruel. The spud bar gets heavier every year and, since we were replacing posts that had rotted off, we were working extra hard trying to get the old posts broken up for removal. Ugh-o-mania.

I ate lots of chocolate tonight to make me feel better. I don't know if my shoulders hurt less, but since my bellyache has distracted me from thinking of my shoulder pain, I consider the treatment a success. With an aspirin and a Pepto chaser before bed, I should be good for the night.

Now hiring: brawny laborers who will work for food at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 160 of my Bloglessness
November 18, 2008

I hate making mistakes. Oh, sure sometimes mistakes are great, like when you trip and accidentally cram your chocolate candy bar into someone else's peanut butter jar and then that person's all, like, "Hey, you got chocolate in my peanut butter." And then you have to get all best-defense-is-a-good-offense on that person, so you say, " No, YOU got peanut butter on my chocolate, 'cuz you wuz too self-centered to watch where I was falling." And then you and the other person start a company that sells a candy bar that has chocolate in the middle wrapped in a peanut butter coating. Even though "they" say there's no wrong way to make a peanut butter cup, it just makes sense that the cup is actually made of peanut butter if that's what you're going to call it. So good on ya for that catch.

Mine wasn't that kind of mistake. It was a word denotation mistake. As in a nerd error.

Oh sure, in the world of me it was a relatively minor error -- say a .2 on a scale of 1 to 100 with 100 being the worst mistake, calculated exponentially. And we're talking actual mistakes, not potential mistakes, because this mistake wouldn't even register on the second scale -- given my huge potential for stupidity and all. And it might've rated a whole number-2 rather than a point-2, but it did happen in private so no one actually witnessed the length and breadth of the stupidly bewildered expression on my face.

The scenario:
I was talking to Baby Brother on the phone last night, for about twenty-four hours (yes, we had a lot of really important things to crack ourselves up about) and the conversation came around to his wife, my beloved sister-in-law Donut, who has a brand spanking new baby bump. I have, heretofore, been mum on the whole brand new baby-to-be because I hadn't requested permission to speak of this bizarre occurrence, er, blessed event. Right? They're called blessed events? We are all baffled and clueless and smiling. Plus, John and I have vowed not to use the same drinking glasses or toilet seats as either of them until the nine-month infectious period is over. You just can't be too careful.

In the course of the baby bump conversation, Baby Brother said, "Yeah, her belly button is kind of inverted already." To which I replied, "... ?" Causing him to ask, "That's right, isn't? inverted?" To which I asked in my infinite blondeness, "It's becoming an inny?" thus inspiring a roughly two-hour discussion about the proper terminology to describe an "inny" becoming an "outy" due to baby bumpishness.

And, no doubt, inspiring you all to say, "Inverted can mean that the belly button in question reversed position from inny-ness to outy-ness, so it's technically correct, you dunderhead."

Honestly, if my dictionary had been right there, handily opened to page 636, I would've looked up the full definition, but it was about two feet away from being exactly in front of me and, of course, it was totally closed. So no, I didn't look up the word. I just sat there on the phone twirling my hair and laughing with Baby Brother about alternative words, both real and made-up, as we speculated about this feature of the unexplored and entirely foreign territory of pregnancyland.

I confess it -- I was wrong. In my defense, though, you have to admit that it does seem wrong to refer to an outy with an "in" word. Plus, I really like the imagery and possibilities of calling Donut's newly outed belly button "extroverted." That was a stroke of genius Baby Brother. You win the word contest this round, man.

BTW, I just found this word on page 859: pasquinade (pass-kwuh-'nade) = "a lampoon posted in a public place; satirical writing." How awesome is that?!

Day 160 of my Pasquinade at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 158 of my Bloglessness
November 16, 2008

Annette the Editor, in all her fantabulousness, asked if I would write an extra North 40 column for a Christmas tab (insert) that the paper will be printing in the near future. I, in all my writeriness, agreed.

This requires me to write two North 40s this weekend and I have to be all Christmassy for one of them. And what I really want to be writing is a short story I can't get out of my head.

So when torn between duty and desire, I chose delay, thus I am blogging.

My sistah, The Brunette, uses the word "mizzle" to describe that gloomy weather combo of mist and drizzle. We are currently experiencing a snow/drizzle combo, so I propose the descriptive term "snizzle." Go ahead and sound it out for a bit. I'll wait. ... Nice huh? It has a hint of onomatopoeia to it, eh? I likey. Let's take it for a spin.

Today is not a good day for snizzling because yesterday the high wind only lasted long enough for me to get the leaves partially raked from the yard.

(My countrified system of leaf removal being that I wait until the first high wind after all the leaves have fallen then rake the leaves out into the open where the wind will carry them away to pasture. It's one of my eco-friendly contributions to the world -- Nature's flora requires mulch, the landfill doesn't. And yes, of course, I'm all perked up on the system because it's easier and cheaper than bagging leaves, plus it gives me one reason not to complain about a windy day.)

Meanwhile back at the half-raked leaves. I always start at the west end of the yard and rake east with the wind. I got the southern edge of the yard done -- that section I rake around the front of John's shop because that's where the wind goes. For the rest of the yard, by far the largest portion, I have to rake everything through the dog's pen (between the house and shop) and out the driveway. I got the "lawn-like-area" under the cottonwood raked through the back gate into the pen and the western edge of the pen raked clean before breaking for lunch -- leaving about a one-foot deep layer of leaves in a 17-by-25-foot pen and all the leaves around the front side of the house/east end of shop.

Then the wind died out at lunch time. So I went horseback riding until dark. And then the snizzle hit in the middle of the night. The weather site is predicting the snizzle will be with us for most of the week. Drat!! Now that ginormous pile of leaves and all their cousins littered around the house and shop will get too soggy to blow away easily. I will have to labor at the leaf raking. Ack!!

On the other hand, I did get to go riding. I used the Petulant Princess Jilly to pony the Warrior Princess Xena up into the pasture. This was our second, and by far our longest, ponying excursion and it went pretty well, all things considered. All things encompassing the fact that Jilly figured out that I couldn't do anything about her throwing a hissy fit while we're leading Xena.

I was feeling an eensy bit bad that maybe the western saddle I had on Jilly was too small, making her temperamental from a sore back, but after the umpteenth hissy fit, each one bigger than the previous fit, I didn't care if she hurt. She didn't need to be THAT big of a shit. I dismounted and found a tree where I could tie Xena in full sight of where I was going to ride a little bit of "yes, ma'am" back into Jilly.

When I remounted Jilly, she stood rock solid still -- clearly indicating that her back didn't hurt one little bit. I put her to work and in less than 5 minutes, she's giving me that, "I don't know what your big problem is. I go whatever gait you ask, I turn, I bend, I stop, I yield. Get over yourself, blondie." That horse child has a Varuca Salt streak in her that could drive a sane person crazy -- and me too.

Now the full-disclosure over my snizzle distress: I'm actually more disappointed in the weather that I can't ride Jilly again today. Girlfriend needs a few sweaty saddle blankets to get her mind back in the middle, and I'm game for the training.

Ah well, I need to be writing columns today anyway ... oops, forgot that for a moment. Maybe I'll drag out the Christmas tree lights and drape them around my desk for inspiration.

Or maybe I should spike some nog at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 154 of my Bloglessness
November 12, 2008

A post about nothing and something ...

I cut myself with a kitchen knife trying to take the rind off an uncooked squash. (Is that what a squash has -- a rind? or a Kevlar coating?) Nothing much of a cut. Doesn't hurt. Barely got past the third layer of skin. Sucker's bleeding like I hit a mainline to an aorta. All because I didn't want to fire up the oven for half of a squash, therefore, was trying to peel and chunk the squash so it would fit in a dish in the microwave. Whatever.

I love knives, but I can't seem to keep from cutting myself with them. Dad gave me my first pocketknife when I was 5 years old. I cut myself within 5 minutes and lost it (the first of many times) within a day. I pretty much haven't changed ... except I'm now smart enough to always use locking or fixed blades so I don't fold the blade shut on my fingers prying in the wrong direction. That's scary.

And that's as far as I've progressed up the learning curve.

I finally got a call through to make my annual Veterans Day phone call to my personal WWII veteran, Grandpa. I thank him for risking his life and putting up with an entire adulthood with PTSD so that I can have a holiday and some kick ass sales. Then we laugh (yes, every year, some jokes don't get old).

This year was a special treat because he stayed on the phone longer than his normal 30 seconds. In fact, I'll bet we talked for 30 minutes. I rate this year!! Not only that, for the first time ever he said an almost nice thing about "the Japs" against whom he's held a grudge for over 60 years. There is no reasoning with his prejudice and little reason behind the prejudice given the history of the war and the fact that he fought mostly in Europe, especially Italy. These days I just change the subject. He's old and I love him and I know he's haunted by his war experiences.

It took having our government commit billions of taxpayer dollars to the three major US auto manufacturers to budge his opinion a little fraction, though. When he told me the bailout was coming or the US auto industry would be dead in two years. I replied that part of me thinks that would be tragic and the major part thinks the CEOs and stockholders deserve to crumble. Grandpa said, "Yeah ... Lee Iaccoca tried to warn everybody." Sure he commented that at least a white guy predicted the downfall of the US industry and the success of the Japanese auto industry, but for that brief moment of "yeah" he broke with 67 years of staunch, Irish-German grudge holding. There is hope for the world

Anyway, bless my grandpa and all the veterans and our current soldiers for their sacrifices I would hate to make. You are heroes.

And a healthy dose of vibes to all from: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 152 of my Bloglessness
November 10, 2008

Oh, I so wish I had more time to blogify you all today. There's such raucous and inane stuff in the neeewsss ... OK, you talked me into blogging, but only for a few minutes, then all good bloggers have to go back to work.

First on the Pamville News Roundup is Monks Gone Wild. A fight broke out between two monks in a clash between Armenian and Greek Orthodox monks "in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, revered as the site of Jesus' crucifixion, burial and resurrection."

That's funny, right there. I mean, monks fighting? I know, logically, a monk could be a welter-weight champion boxer or a mountain climber, but I always conjure an image of either Friar Tuck or some sallow bent-back wimplette. Plus, they were fighting in a church. AND right there in front of Jesus and everybody. Literally.

As if that weren't funny enough, the article reads like a report on gang wars with special emphasis on

--gang colors: "A bearded Armenian monk in a red-and-pink robe and a black-clad Greek Orthodox monk with a bloody gash on his forehead were both taken away in handcuffs after scuffling with dozens of riot police."

--gang turf: "The Greeks objected to the march without one of their monks present, fearing that otherwise, the procession would subvert their own claim to the Edicule ... and give the Armenians a claim to the site."

But wait. There's more. "The monk, who gave his name as Serafim, said he sustained the wound when an Armenian punched him from behind and broke his glasses."

--Serafim? As in your momma can't spell Seraphim, one of the order of angels? What would Jezuz think?

--Broke your glasses? Nerd fight!

But wait. There's more! "After the brawl, the church was crowded with Israeli riot police holding assault rifles ... where Jesus is believed to have been crucified, and ... the place where tradition holds his body was laid out." OK, guys, take a deep breath and think about this for a second. What would Jesus think?

But wait! There's more! "A ladder placed on a ledge over the entrance sometime in the 19th century has remained there ever since because of a dispute over who has the authority to take it down." Dispute? I say it's just proof that monks are guys afterall, and they hate to put their shit away, too.

And finally, a totally unrelated news item: Has anyone else noticed the inordinate number of news article about the Obamas' possible puppy choice as the new "first dog" when they move into the White House. I had to hunt for an article speculating about Obama's possible Cabinet and staff choices, but we have puppy articles swarming the internet like fleas. Americans know how to get to the heart of the issues, don't we? Perhaps my way of approaching life from the most trivial direction possible is catching on out there. I feel so trendy.

Thanks for reading the Pamville News.

We're so twisted that we're bent at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 150 of my Bloglessness
November 8, 2008

Although I have my preferences for genre, I'll read -- or try to read -- just about anything. Every September the Havre-Hill County Library has a used book sale. They sell some books that they pull from the shelves and a whole lot of books that are donated to them from the public, businesses, and a few organizations.

For a dollar you can get a grocery bag crammed full of books. It's a little moment of heaven on earth for the bookish types.

This year I scored some classics -- Hemingway, Faulkner, Byron, among others -- reference books galore and assorted fiction. One of the fictional books I grabbed was a historical romance, Rosehaven, by Catherine Coulter. I believe that Coulter is a NAME in the Romance writing business -- at least I've heard her name. Uhm, I just googled her and she's prolific. She would write a year's worth of my columns in about two hours. Whatever.

The book, Rosehaven, is your classic soft porn with a larger than life, beat your wife Lord and a stunningly gorgeous, spitfire Lady ripe for the conquering. The book was, for the most part, what I expected. No harm, no foul over the time spent escaping in it.

Except for this one thing.

As I waded through its shallow waters last night, I realized that the story's reappearing goat was nagging at my conscious thoughts. About the third reference in I noted the implication that one goat was a prolific enough milk producer to keep an entire English lord's castle-folk calcium fortified. Hmm, that is a little outlandish, but still, this goat is the equivalent of a Hollywood horse which can run all day without need of rest, food, or water. So I let it go ... a willing suspension of disbelief.

And I got beyond the issue until the next reference to this same goat which brought to light my nagging problem: the pronoun "he." You, my Readers, understand.

I did a quick search of the book and found no pronoun/gender comments when milk production was mentioned, but the other references used male pronouns ... thus we have a male goat that produces gallons upon gallons of milk ... in a time long before hormone treatments and sex change operations (which are exceedingly expensive, even for goats). Hell, I'd be impressed with a billy goat who could produce one gallon of milk.

More amazing than the he-goat-milk-machine, though, is that I actually finished reading the book. It wasn't just for the soft porn either. I was anxious to find out if the Lord and Lady would end up together, happily ever after and all. I mean, the goat thing was pretty progressive, so there could've been a surprise Romance ending with the Lord beating his wife to death and running off with his squire. Just saying. It was a nail biter.

Nothin' more useful to plot than teats on a billy goat at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 148 of my Bloglessness
November 6, 2008

I am happy to report that I've arrived at a milestone in my back re-injury recovery: I can reach my toes. Yes, indeed folks, this morning I was able to wash, dry and clothe my toes with nary a worry. For the past two weeks I've stood in the shower staring pitifully at my feet and then squirming those little piggies around while I dribbled soap suds onto them. Drying them constituted flapping the towel at them -- unless the furnace was running so I could stand on the heat register. That was always a bonus moment. Don't even ask me about the grunt factor in putting socks on.

But not today. Today I scrubbed the piggies pink, after my shower I put each foot up on the edge of the tub, bent over and swiped those piggies by hand, and then I put socks on without a thought to whether or not that act would be the ruination of a tendon or joint. Ah!! It's the little things that satisfy.

And, in honor of Maria Esther Castillo of Oswego, N.Y., who was recently bound in duct tape for being unruly during a flight aboard United Airlines Flight 645 from Puerto Rico to Chicago, I give you another article on the Samples page. It's an article that I wrote sometime back after inspiration from another passenger/duct tape incident.

Tape 'em, Dano, at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 146 of my Bloglessness
November 4, 2008

Hopefully, I'll get back to doing more entries now that I'm coming to the end of what's been a two-week run of back lameness -- an old injury to the SI joints that the yoga has exacerbated, and part of the aforementioned crabbiness that I'm working on fixing.

As a positive spin on the back issues, I've had the opportunity to take more walks with our dog Cooper. That's him in the picture, showing off at my in-laws'. Cute, huh?

I've got a bone to pick with him, figuratively speaking of course.

At 3 a.m. Sunday I had to get out of bed and move around. Since the weather was pretty nice, and we had a little moonlight, and our living room floor squeaks loudly, I decided to go for a walk.

Cooper decided to join me -- surprising because he's totally afraid of the dark. The farther I walked from the yard, the more I had to call his chicken-liver butt back to me so he wouldn't run back to the house and wake up John to get back into the safety and comfort of our home. He survived the darkness, but the look on his face made it clear that he was not happy about having to "risk his life" to stay with me.

Later in the day -- the real part of the day when I didn't feel so bad about being awake, and the sun was shining so Cooper wasn't "a'skeert" of the "boogerman" -- we went on another walk. This time we walked back to the southwest corner of the property. But the distance was a little too far for my back, so I laid down on the ground to ease the muscle pain and Cooper came right over to pant extravagantly in my face. I liked this, well, not the breath necessarily, but I read somewhere that if your dog acts concerned when you fall to the ground it means that he's in-tuned to your well being.

How sweet.

About 30 seconds later a coyote started barking from across the coulee. Yeah, I'm sure you guessed it, Coop's afraid of coyotes, too, so he abandoned my injured self out there. I found the little chicken-liver in the front yard staring at me like "Whoa, dude, I thought you were dead for sure!" Apparently, he knows that old joke and that he doesn't have to outrun the coyote, just the person he's going to leave for bait.

What a pal.

I just went into the house, started a movie and proceeded to do all the physical therapy things I'm supposed to do: a few light stretches, alternating cold/hot/cold packs, the TENS unit, and resting in a perfectly supported position. When the movie got over, I realized that Cooper hadn't asked to be let in, so I went in search.

I found him at a rack of old pipe material behind the big shop where he was harassing a cottontail bunny sheltered up in one of the pipes on the ground. "Fine," I thought. "I'll chase the bunny out of the pipe." Then Cooper (who's too slow to catch bunnies) will give up and come home. We've done this many times.

But, no, that's not how the scene played out. Somehow, Cooper managed to catch the bunny. He killed it like a very efficient hunting terrier and crammed his head back into the pipe where there was actually a second bunny he was trying to reach.

Shocked and disbelieving, I went over to see if the bunny was just stunned, but Coop kept grabbing it and placing it farther out of my reach under the pipe stand -- as I was telling him to bring it to me. I finally got ahold of him by his snout, scolded him with the "big voice," the "angry face" AND the "you're naughty, shaking finger." He retrieved the bunny, and it was, in fact, dead.

I felt awful.

So the list of dog offenses from Sunday are 1) attempted abandonment, 2) abandonment with the intent to recklessly endanger his human, and 3) first degree bunny murder. Oh, and let's not forget the one health violation because we both got fleas from the poor, damn, dead bunny.

Much head shaking and no yoga at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 144 of my Bloglessness
November 2, 2008

I've turned into a whiner. I know this is true because everyone around me (and that's almost the literal truth) keeps saying all these irritatingly positive things trying to counter my negativity and to glad-up my foul temper. I hate that when I'm in anti-Pollyanna mode and, apparently, enjoying it. I don't want to be glad about anything. I don't want anyone's ray of perkiness shining down on my pity party. I'm pissed off at the world.

I have a list of why I'm pissed -- and depressed, don't forget about that -- it's a very thorough list that can counter any positive point made about me and my life. I can recite the details in a nasally twang too, just in case you don't realize I'm being a big downer while I'm going on ad nauseam about my terrible misfortunes.

And just when I'm on a roll thinking I'm the poster-child of tragedy and misery, I get an email from my friend Deb about her daughter, Josi, who has severe traumatic brain injury from a wreck a few years back and who is currently suffering from serious side-effects.

Now I can't stand my attitude, my self. I'm ashamed, and henceforth I'm all about keeping my stupid, ungrateful mouth shut. I've vowed to expend considerable effort rechanneling my energies into more positive contributions to the world -- along with the good vibes I send to Josi and her family who are accidentally superheroes in the fight against despair.

I'll take the cheese, but skip the whine at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 138 of my Bloglessness
October 27, 2008

I am so depressed today. Reporter Nicholas Paphitas has written an article, distributed by The Associated Press, that details a Neolithic archeological dig in Greece.

I was first attracted to the story because one rarely hears about the abundant Neolithic digs in Greece, home of the world's largest collection of temples and armless stone statues. I was blipping along through the info, nodding my head at appropriate points, and then I got to this little bit of a heartbreaker: "The rectangular building, which covers some 624 square feet, was discovered during work to lay water pipes earlier this year at the village of Sosandra near Aridaia, some 360 miles north of Athens."

Excuse me? This 6,000-year-old prehistoric farmhouse, occupied by people who were essentially one, small, evolutionary step removed from their cave-dwelling, horse-eating, grunt-speaking forebears, is essentially the same size as my Singlewide Mansion.

Yep. The only difference between me and thee, oh people of the Neolithic dwelling, is my indoor plumbing. Take away my water pipes and the square footage of areas that exist for influent and effluent purposes, and we have the same home -- a 624-square-feet, long, rectangular structure made of sticks and mud.

I could take a brisk hike back to the Neolithic era and start scratchin' my ass

and blendin' in with the grunters at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 137 of my Bloglessness
October 26, 2008

This is the view of the wind generator (that powers the high speed "recepticators" and "transmitifiers") and the wireless antenna (with assorted color coordinated accessories) as seen from the "backyard" (which is in quotation marks because I didn't want you to get the impression that it's anything more than "that area behind my singlewide mansion that has been cleared of junk parts, but does have all the leaves and branches from the recent fall winds").

For the technologically minded: The propeller and generator are about 21 feet off the ground. The prop is 33 inches wide with 11 degrees pitch. Right now we're using three motorhome batteries, but will upgrade to specialty batteries in the near future. The generator produces 8-10 amps at full capacity, but is turned down at the moment until John gets a regulator put on it. The current regulator is actually a "regulating process" in which John hikes to the top of the hill once or twice a day and checks the voltage on the batteries to make sure they are charging, but not over-charging. So far the voltage has remained steady at 12-point-something.

The following pictures have nothing to do with the generator and the wireless internet, I just liked the series of photos because they show the past three weeks' progression of fall across my favorite view.

The hurrier I go, the stupider I get at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 136 of my Bloglessness
October 25, 2008

Did you hear the cosmos open and the stars sing a little ditty to honor our new high-speed internet access? What?! Indeeeed. We have slipped the surly bonds of 18,000 bps internet access.

John couldn't be prouder if he were twins. Really, the last two mornings, he's gotten up early to turn the computer on and admire his handy work. I wanted to give you a picture of the whole wireless apparatus as it sits up on the hill, but it seems that the cable for the camera is a casualty of the high speed conversion, and I can't download the image just yet. I have my computer and my email back so it's only a matter of time before I'm fully functional, technologically speaking.

But this is the whole dealy-whopper as it sat in front of the big shop. The white box at the bottom is, yes, a refrigerator that holds the batteries connected to the wind generator -- obvious for its propeller way up in the air. The smaller wood-lined metal box houses technical widgets (uhm, John just filled me in that "widgets" = the wireless receiver and transmitter) for the high speed. And the other pipe holds the antenna (not installed here) for the widget thingy. It's all very technical, and I'd explain it to you, but then I might have to understand it myself. And we can't be having that.

Since this feels like a good day to include pictures, I present to you a lovely bit of fall foliage that we had a few weeks ago. I see this tree every morning as I pull up to our approach to Hwy 2, and every year that we don't have an early frost it gets this beautiful foliage.

And then there's this picture of a sign posted on the edge of a little neighborhood on the edge of town -- just to prove that I'm not the only one in the world with a twisted sense of humor.

I feel a renewed anticipation of blogfullness invading at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 133 of my Bloglessness
October 22, 2008

I don't have internet access at the moment because we are in the process of switching to wireless high speed(!), but I'll write this in anticipation of being able to post it soon. (And when I say "we," I mean John. And when I say "anticipation of being able to post it soon," I'm just asking for a major technological disaster to strike us dumb for two weeks.)

I had to report in that I did get Xena doctored today -- and it was all fun and games until I got my eye poked out.

She would let me insert the plastic tip of the syringe into the drain hole, but then she'd bob her head making the tip slip out. We rinsed and repeated this procedure with me trying different options for holding her head, all with the same success -- for her, that is. So I trooped up to the shop and got my father-in-law to come help. Which ended up being a counterproductive move because Xena didn't like having two people working on her, but we persisted. We are human and, therefore, slow to train.

Several big-horse hissy fits later, we moved Xena to the corral and kind of snubbed her to a post. And I say "kind of" because when she hauled back for hissy fit No. 6-or-so the rope slipped enough that she was out about 5' along the fence sitting back on the rope pressure and wagging her head around. I might've been a little more unhappy with this, except, if the rope hadn't slipped, I would've been between her big body and the fence. As it was, every time she flipped her head to the right I got clothes-lined. It was the slapstick highlight of the doctoring event. Then I finally got a hold of the rope and ducked under it -- unfortunately, she flipped her head to the right as I was ducking under and this caused me to jab my thumbnail into the skin under my left eye.

We tried a few more things without success, then I just "twitched" Xena with my hand -- basically just grabbed a handful of her nose/upper lip and squeezed. And once she decided that she couldn't get rid of me and I wasn't killing her, she stood as quiet as a little angel and let me do the doctoring. Doh.

This "hand twitch" technique has worked like a charm each day since. And Xena's perfectly fine with the whole process. I, on the other hand, will be sporting a good-sized scab under my left eye for a while longer. The first day my under-eye was a little swollen too and I had a red knick on my eyelid to go with it. I looked like I was one black-eye short of a barroom brawl ... so I couldn't let a golden opportunity like this escape me.

Co-worker Teresa knew I was going to be doctoring Xena and I told her the story, but when we were on break after deadline, Annette the Editor did that glance then really look maneuver as she realized I was injured. She looked a couple more times as we were all chatting, so I piped up:

"Yeah, the eye. (shrug) John and I couldn't agree on what movie to watch last night, then push came to shove and I got this. A one-armed guy is a lot harder to beat up than you'd think." Then Teresa joined in and we played up the domestic fisticuffs scenario until both of us were crying with laughter. Well, we thought we were funny, anyway.

It's aaaallll part of the shooooow at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 132 of my Bloglessness
October 21, 2008

I was going to have dramatic picture for you from Xena's scheduled "nose job" today. But the "polyp thingy" I thought would have to be surgically removed was just a "cyst thingy" that only had to be drained. No stitches. Still, it was exciting in a gory, goopy kind of way -- if you go for that kind of thing.

Poor Xe was blowing and shaking when I unloaded her from the trailer, but very obedient. This was a big deal. She's 3 years old, but the only places she's ever been are her birth place, her "new" home at my place, and now the vet's office. And she's only been hauled twice, once to get her here, and now to the vet's, so yeah, I was impressed with her willingness.

My vet's office has this little covered walk-through doorway with a funky jog/cornered approach to take horses from the outside into the exam/procedure room. Xena was blowing and trembling, but going forward all the way (well, a one-second pause to peek into the building, then in). Of course, then the vet doped her up and she was ready to dance naked on the bar.

Shave my nose with a vibrating clipper? Whoopee!! Stab my nose with a needle and squishy things around? Right on!! Lance my nose and squishy me some more? I think I LOVE you, man!! Give us a kiss. smoochy smoochy.

For the next four days, I have to insert a plastic "flusher thingy" into the lanced hole, squirt some xenadine (ha ha) into the "cyst thingy" and then drain the fluid back out. Without benefit of drugs. For either of us. That ought to be a rockin' rodeo.

And me without a video camera at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 130 of my Bloglessness
October 19, 2008

Current and former teenagers are now officially vindicated for placing so much importance on looking just right -- a.k.a, pitching a holy-hell fit about not having the right clothes and the right look This article on is about the great lengths that some schools are going to regulating student's clothing choices. Some schools are requiring uniforms and others are issuing lists of disallowed clothing items and styles.

Among the outlawed clothes are hooded sweatshirts, jackets in the classroom, specific colored clothes, lettered or numbered clothes, certain logos, rosaries, and in one instance, the American flag printed on a t-shirt.

Apparently school administrators are just now figuring out that clothes help define a person, help kids fit into a group, and act as symbols of personal style and class. I believe the only appropriate response is one of my niece's favorites: Du-uh!

Talk amongst yourselves on the effectiveness of the schools' clothing crack-down policies. Some day we'll be able to share here.

On a lighter note: "pottle" is a word in the dictionary. It means half-gallon, or a half-gallon container. Which is absolutely not what I would've guessed. At all. Some day when I'm a big girl blogger and Readers can comment, we'll play "Real Word in the Dictionary" together because I just can't open on of them without getting lost, if even for a moment.

Cow-flop is in the dictionary at work.

But my Webster's prefers cow-pat at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 126 of my Bloglessness
October 15, 2008

For the first time ever, in which EVER = 5 lessons + 1 at-home session, I have lost my karmic link with my newfound yoga skills. I am damaged. Not broken, but damaged, like one of those dimple-inny car dents that you can suction a plunger onto and *pop* right back out. But until that's done, there's still a dent.

After Tuesday night yoga I walk two blocks to where John is with our niece who is participating in rifle club (awesome little Annie Oakley that she is). So I was fine on the walk. And then I felt a little twinge in my left shoulder while watching Dead-eye Oakley blast the black off her last two targets. And on the way home after dropping off Dead-eye the shoulders really cramped. Within 30 minutes I was wearing my shoulders at my ears, and my arms looked like the world's largest dangly earrings.

I couldn't get the muscle cramps out of my neck, shoulders and collar bones area by bedtime. I resorted to drugs -- which either didn't do much for me, or they worked great, but I needed to take two or three to really help. Or maybe alcohol would've worked better. Lots of alcohol. I think I woke up once every hour to gingerly roll over and ease the latest cramp. Somewhere around 1:30 a.m. I realized what killed me.

Yoga lesson #6: When the yoga instructor has you lay on your belly and your face -- with toes pointed and arms stretched out above your head -- and then lift and hold your arms and legs off the floor (repeatedly), don't use your forehead for leverage to keep your arms up. Apparently, this puts a strain on you neck's muscles, tendons, vertebrae, disks, etc. until these body parts feel the need to extract their evil revenge on you.

Yoga is dark and Darth Vader-ish at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 125 of my Bloglessness
October 14, 2008

Monday morning, I'm working hard and on a roll(!), getting my article out on time, but the "hit send and get your butt to work" time is looming -- 6 minutes and counting (*tick*, *tock*) -- and the phone rings ... Aaargh!! ... and I answer.

It's my father-in-law who wants to know if John needs him out here first thing in the morning. I poke my head around the corner and tell John it's his dad.

"What does he want?" Are you kidding me? You want me to play go-between?

"He wants to know if you need him out here this morning." I invite John, by gesturing at him with my phone, to pick up the cordless which is sitting on the coffee table not two feet in front of him.

"Just tell him I blah bla--" and all of a sudden I am the official go between.

"How 'bout you tell him." More phone gesturing.

"I don't feel good."

"Well, I'm on deadline!" I fire back.

Now, I understand that it's probably just me, but I think that's hilarious. I imagine important writers saying something like that. "I have a $400,000 book deal on the line and I don't have time for this nonsense -- I'm on deadline!"

In my current self-syndication status, if I didn't make my deadline then I would either a) finish the conversation as official go-between/translator, then finish my article, then show up to work a few minutes late, or b) walk into work and tell Annette The Editor, I didn't get my article done today and she'd have it for the next morning. But noooo, I have a deadline in my brain, mister.

Oh, well, if I didn't take my humor business seriously who would then, huh?

I told this short tale to my co-workers at the paper, and they got a laugh out of it because one of us comments about deadline almost every day before the paper goes out. AP Man (aka, Crack Head-Reporter) asked if I apologized later. What is he really on drugs? I don't have that kind of marriage, man.

I told John about AP Man's response later, and he said, "Hunh, I don't even remember you saying that." Apparently my phone gesturing spoke in greater volume.

I bought new sweats for yoga class. I'm stylin' now in black low-rise (which, with my short pelvis, fit at the waist) with little pastel hearts by the hem of one leg. I think I can live with that embellishment, especially since it fits my inherently sweet demeanor. ha ha

Just don't call before deadline at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 123 of my Bloglessness
October 12, 2008

For your reading pleasure (and to clear the random thoughts from my head so I can actually finish writing my column today), a grab bag of news:

I put the bedding, towels, etc. back into the linen closet. Wish me luck.

We went to parts of the Sugarbeet Festival in Chinook yesterday. I can't believe I've never been before -- Doh! -- because they had a lot of cool stuff happening, for which we didn't have enough time. But next year ... We did catch part of the car show -- both beautiful and funky vehicles everywhere. We ate at one of the barbecue stands -- and had a quick snack at another barbecue stand where one of the area's migrant Nicaraguan ranch hands was feeding people marinated beef on a stick. mmm-mmm good. He was bundled up for the cold and when I asked if was staying through the winter he gave me a hearty laugh, with just a touch of fear and ice formed at the edges. I'm guessing he's heading back toward the equator any day now. We toured the Chinook Museum, which is a very impressive museum. It was also way cool to see some of John's grandma's butter churns and bowls in one of the displays. I highly recommend the museum to anyone in or passing through the area. It was closing early for the parade so we're planning another visit already to catch the prehistoric display that we missed. We also heard that the wildlife museum in Chinook is of national quality and deemed a "destination attraction" so we're going there too.

On the news front, John Q. Republican is scaring me with the violent anti-Obama stuff. And then Rep. John Lewis started comparing McCain's political campaign to George Wallace's racist activities in the 1960s. This is getting ugly. I can't believe that folks in the U.S. are so hostile. I can only guess that it's a sign of the times -- people are stressed and scared. I am glad to see that both McCain and Obama are trying to keep their campaign responses on an even keel. To the rabble rousers: hey, tone it down, you're scaring those of us who are just trying to navigate the flood waters of the mainstream without getting bashed on the rocks or eaten alive by a hungry bear market.

And on the bear market note: "Forbes" magazine recalculated the standings of some of its Top 400 rich people in light of the extreme market changes in the past month. I now want Warren Buffet to manage my retirement portfolio. That poor Bill Gates lost $1.5 billion along with 16 other billionaires on Forbes list who lost more than $1 billion. To add insult to injury, Gates and his $55.5 billion are now second to Warren Buffet whose worth increased by $8 billion despite the Wall Street trouble -- and he didn't even get a loan from the U.S. government taxpayers. I'm guessing there will be a Treasury Secretary position opening up in D.C. in a few months, wonder if he'll apply? I'd gladly serve on the hiring committee. Of course, I'd also let Buffet adopt me, then I could afford upgrading to a Doublewide Mansion.

The last note of the day: Since the quicky site-change-over attempt didn't work, we (meaning John because hell if I know what I'm doing) are going to wait a few weeks until we have high-speed (oooh, aaaah!!) to do the website switch to the "real" blog. In the meantime, I split this cumbersome site into two pages. If I could show you the Vanna White hands, you would see me gesturing with grace and elegance at the new link at the top left of your screen. Please note that the "fasten your seatbelts" sign is now on for the duration of this flight. We will be serving more complimentary mixed metaphors in a moment. And we sincerely hope you continue to enjoy your experience on PamAirExpressFlightLines.

As a final note, in the event of a crash in water, your seat may be used as a floatation device at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 120 of my Bloglessness
October 9, 2008

Did you see the little glitch I warned you might be coming when the master of my technological universe, John, tried the quicky switch-over of my site? Neither did I ... it happened before I blogged that it might happen. I am a woman of impeccable timing and near-psychic ability to sense what is going on around me. Yeah, that's what I am.

Actually, I'm rockin' on outta here to groove on some holistic yoga vibes in a few minutes, but I wanted to give you the update on the mouse situation. We still have it, but apparently one of the four(!!) mice I've caught (including the one today) was the Sherpa guide/acrobatic ringleader who was leading the rodents on their wild adventures to the hinterlands of my closets and shelves (and inside my computer -- yes, the freakin' CPU box thingy!!).

I will brave replacing my bedding, towels, etc. in the linen closet tonight when I am in a peaceful, yoga-ish frame of mind. Oooooommmm ...

Omigawd! I just remembered I have to find something eye-catching to wear! Gotta go -- wait! Almost forgot again! Go read this: about this woman with a whole other set of problems. She's my new laugh a minute that's put my tragedy back into perspective.

Gotta go! Gotta go! pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 119 of my Bloglessness
October 8, 2008

Yoga class #3-lesson #5: Yoga instructors don't care if you didn't "practice your yoga" over the weekend, because you figured out that "practice" is just a euphemism for that dirty word "exercise" (which you are allergic to). They will make you "practice" harder the next session.

Life lesson #65: Don't wear embarrassing clothes in public, because someone will recognize you and stop you to talk.

OK, I knew better, but I swear it started out innocently enough. I wore the loud blue/red/yellow "Miller High Life" sweats to yoga class. Yes, I know they're loud, I just said so, stop rubbing it in. I swear the light blue T-shirt tones them down ... but I just couldn't stop there could I because it was cold, so I added a kind of blue/white speckly sweatshirt that, well, wasn't a hideous combination is all I can say. Then I realized I needed more insulation from the cold wind on my walk from yoga class to where John would be, so I added the black-with-white-piping down vest. Yes, I know the ensemble looked awful, but my other choice was a two-tone olive green jacket and that would've been worse. Unfortunately, it got even worse all on its own when I realized that as a last-minute choice we had taken the pickup town, but my floor pad was in the car. I had to grab the white/gray/black "Navajo" blanket out of the pickup to use as a floor pad.

Ensemble inventory: blanket and vest went together ... hmm ... nope, everything else clashed in bright colors. Good job, Pam

So of course after yoga class was over, a very nice fellow student, and apparently a fellow Pam, asked if I'm the person who writes those articles in the paper. I love to hear from people, but as a socially retarded person, I always run the risk of making an ass out of myself in this type of spontaneous interaction and looking less than stellar ups the odds of my failure.

At least this time I didn't make that squealing/braying sound while saying thank you, like I did the first time someone recognized me -- in the grocery checkout line, on a day I thought I'd scrape my fingers through my hair in lieu of a real comb and sneak one little errand in town.

I think, this time, I managed to use appropriate tonal sounds while saying appropriate words even though my first thought was: "I got caught in these damn sweats again!! Why couldn't she've said hi last week while I was wearing the black and blue Batman sweats! I looked cool in those!!" Yes, of course they were cool. It's Batman!

By the by, Pam the nice Reader commented that my husband must be a great guy for letting me write about him. I certainly couldn't let something like that go by without comment. The first thing I said to John when we met up was "Hey! I make you look good!"

Someone's gotta look good, eh?

Wardrobe inspector needed, apply at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

PS Some time this week we're probably going to try this whole conversion thing to getting the "real" blog site set up so wish me well, and don't freak if you stop by and things are wonky. If all goes well, I will achieve Big-Girl Blogger status. If not, I'll remain in Big-Whiner Web-builder limbo.

Day 115 of my Bloglessness
October 4, 2008

Okay, so now we have this $700 billion dollar bailout wailing on our budgets. I wish I were smarter to know just whose ass I need to kick over the financial fiasco that caused the problem in the first place. And I wouldn't mind if it were more than one person. At all.

But I'm not smart, so I settled for doing some simple math to put things in perspective.

According to the 2007 Census statistics (and, really, I would love to use 2008 statistics, but the Census Bureau prefers to deal in actual facts which can only be calculated looking into a statistical rearview mirror. Anyhow ... ), there are about 301,621,157 people in the U.S. (I think it's funny to see the actual number rather than the typical "over 300 million" because I can just picture the bean-counter nerd with a tally sheet, counting up the little clumps of "four lines with a slash = 5," making his way to the exact number. And then he gets a call "Mr. and Mrs. Latkovado-Jones in Chicago just had a baby girl, so add one more!" "Right. One more line and that makes ... (mumble mumble 52 carry the 5 mumble mumble) three hundred and one million, six hundred and twenty-one thousand, one hundred aaaand fiffftyyyyy-seven. Exactly!!")

Where was I? Of that total, we have about 236,416,572 people over the age of 16 working. (This includes almost 19.4 million workers between 65-74 years old and another almost 18.5 million workers over 75 years old. It also includes just over 20 million workers who still live in poverty despite their employment.)

What?! Oh! So if the workers are the ones paying the taxes that pays the $700B that keeps the world spinning on its axis, then each of us needs to write a check to Congress for $2,960.88 to cover this bailout -- that does not include the taxes we are already paying, and keep in mind that the amount will go up as we pay on the interest -- so write your check early.

To put this into perspective at the White Trash Estate, John and I paid $1,050 for the Singlewide Mansion 19 years ago (did I mention that it's a 1965 model, and at the time of purchase we had to cover a big, gaping hole in the side and the bathroom had to be gutted, re-floored including the sub-floor and re-plumbed to make it livable?). We would've only paid $950, but the guy let us, the poor college students, make payments so we threw in an extra $100. Still cheap by bailout standards.

(Did I mention that we were only going to live here a year, maybe two, tops?) Considering the fact that the abode is now 19 years older and factoring in the current rate of inflation, I would now have to pay twice the purchase price, or $2,100, just to have the thing hauled off and burned.

According to author Theo Francis in his article "Wall Street Bailout Could Crimp CEO Pay," the "average total pay for a CEO at one of the 500 biggest companies last year was $12.8 million, double what it was a decade ago." Some of these people were instrumental in creating the crisis. And their share of the bailout money? -- they could pay off with less than one hour's work at that yearly salary.

I would work five and a half months at the newspaper to do the same.

I so wish I were smarter at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 114 of my Bloglessness
October 3, 2008

Yoga class #2, lesson #4--If you breathe deeply enough for long enough, that will make you hurt, too.

No kidding, the yoga class is beating the crap out of me ... in a way. I'm not sore all over in the muscles normally worked out during exercise. Mostly, the problem comes from the rearrangement of my spine and that makes the bad discs feel every bit of their deterioration. Some of my other joints don't appreciate their rearrangement either. And I actually have a bit of a belly ache from the damn breathing. It's pitiful! I am pitiful!! I can do 60 good crunches without resting -- slow, thorough crunches -- and then go straight to doing 15 guy-push ups. No problem wouldn't feel it the next day -- wouldn't feel three sets of this. But one skinny, little yoga taskmaster makes me hold this stretch "like this" and breathe "yoga-ish" for an hour and all of a sudden I cry uncle.

John took his dad to Great Falls today and left Cooper at home. Well, not at home exactly because we couldn't just abandon our dog that way, can we? On his way through town John dropped Cooper off at the car. Then after deadline I grabbed him and brought him into the office. He was a big hit, being cute and all. Everyone raved about how good he is and then tried to pet him, but he's not into strangers. Coop either stares at them with an obviously distrustful look or ducks away. He's brave enough to be there, but too timid to relax, thus he's good because he's sure that some monster around the corner is going to get him if he strays. But then, maybe the monster is the person approaching to pet him. He's lived the after school special and read the literature -- he knows that bad people can look like anyone. There's a Bruce Willis movie called "Mercury Rising" with an autistic boy character played to a tee by a kid named Miko Hughes. When Willis' character tries to befriend the kid, the kid keeps saying, "You. Are a straaaanger." That's Cooper. The only difference is that Coop looks into the stranger's eyes with an intensity that borders on psychotic. I wouldn't even want to pet him, but they do. After about every third walk-by petting incident he'd lie down under my desk for a while casing the joint for more monsters.

Because Coop was in the pound as a bitty puppy, and had some other baggage from his first home, I took him to obedience class when he was young to get him out in the world in a structured environment where people wouldn't freak if he did something bad. He was quiet and intense and his feet sweated so much from nervousness that his tracks were still visible in the cement by the time we circled back around the room during leading exercises. My sweet little neurotic mutt. The only thing he did wrong, really, was to squirrel out of the way for a few steps every time we changed direction and he had a new dog behind him. Possible monster, of course. At one point the trainer asked if she could use Cooper to demonstrate something and walked him on the leash about 20 feet away then returned. He was quiet and dignified and very intense. When she handed the leash back to me, he launched himself into my arms, wrapped his front legs around my neck and licked my face all over, tailwagging. I think he'd been worried that he'd been given away again. I was sure we'd get into trouble, but even the trainer thought he was adorable.

Yes, we are hopelessly smitten with our own dog. What has the world come to.

Charged with two counts of pitifulness at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 111 of my Bloglessness
September 30, 2008

Yoga class lesson #1--Breathe inward, deeply, through your nose. You should feel your stomach distend with the downward pressure of air. You will look like a puppy after gulping a grownup size meal and this is unattractive.

Yoga class lesson #2--Exhale noisily through your mouth until you grunt out your last molecule of breath. You will look better, but sound worse.

Yoga class lesson #3--Continue breathing in long, gusty, but soothing breaths throughout the exercises. When the stretches seem to be tearing ligaments from muscle fiber, do not switch to the short who-hoo-hoo-hee-hee-hee breaths of the Lamaze birthing method. You will be admonished. Suffer through the torn muscles in quiet meditation.

In with the good air at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 109 of my Bloglessness
September 28, 2008

Feces and Loathing in Montana: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the Mouse Damage

So I haven't caught my mouse (mice?) yet. I've had to do even more laundry and clean out cupboards as the critter ranges farther. At this point I'm almost in tears of exhaustion and frustration, and we are on hanta virus alert -- at the first sign of flu-like conditions we'll rush to the hospital for treatment. Sadly, I'm not really kidding.

Remember that I cleaned my tack shed last week? Mouse droppings -- everywhere. Totally expected, disgusting, but expected. Found some more in the linen closet. Remember? Didn't expect that. I cleaned out the shelves that were affected and started laundering the assorted linens. And set a trap. Well, the mouse didn't care one whit about my bait and attacked the linens still remaining at the top of the closet.

Not only that -- and this is so gross, those Readers with a weak stomach will want to skip to the next paragraph because it even gives me the willies -- last night before going to bed I checked the linen closet to see if I'd caught the devil rodent and noticed what looked like water droplets on the shelves. I thought it was a little weird that they weren't necessarily where I'd expect them if John was reaching in with a wet hand to get a clean towel or something, so I stuck my finger in a wet spot, it felt oily. More weirdness. Smeared the oily substance between finger and thumb, viscosity. Weirder still. Sniff. OHMIGAWD it's mouse pee!!! I sterilized my fingers then had to snort water into my nose to rinse the memory of mouse scent out of my sinuses, and stayed up late dumping linens in the laundry room and cleaning up the mess ... and re-sterilizing my person.

Now today, I've washed 9, yes NINE, loads of laundry and only the last one had clothes for me to wear to work. Unfortunately, the quilt I stuck in with my pants and a table cloth BLED all over the rest of the load. I ruined two pairs of tan pants. That just makes me want to snatch my head bald in frustration. I would gladly, personally, run down on foot and strangle to death any mouse right now, even Mickey Mouse.

All the towels have to sit out on the bench in the bathroom and all the mounds of bedding on the kitchen table and chairs until I catch that mouse (mice?!).

I also washed two sinks full of dishes -- one with the dirty dishes and the other was all the cooking utensils because I found a mouse turd in that drawer. I'll finish with the other drawers tomorrow and leave all of that stuff on the counter top and have to sterilize each pan I use until the culprit is found and it's worth my while to clean the cupboards.

AND we went through a bunch of receipts, old checks, etc. in the office today because we'll be reorganizing the office this week and thought it would be a good time to put some old stuff in storage. I was going to store all of this paperwork ... then discovered that the @#$%*! mice had been in the drawer with the old checks, too! Shredded several years worth and, of course, left excrement every where. So we just burned everything from before 2000. It felt weird to burn decades worth of documents.

I've been reflexively coughing ALL day! Psychosomatic, I know, I'm a freak about that, but I feel like I've practically been wallowing in mouse excrement. I am not a happy camper, no, not at all.

Because the mouse isn't (mice aren't?!!) attracted to the peanut butter in the traps, I added granola too as a grain enticement. If I don't have a mouse by morning I'm getting sticky traps. I don't care if they're inhumane. Have I mentioned lately how much I hate mice? The weird part? I haven't seen one mouse, and only heard one once in all this brouhaha.

Exhausted and humorless at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 106 of my Bloglessness
September 25, 2008

In fact, I am still here. The lottery winnings have eluded me. Apparently you don't win millions for matching only one number, go figure. However, I did have one other thing from the article come true, so I haven't lost my cosmic link -- but apparently the connection is to the largest cosmic joke in the universe of which I am the butt. I'm having to do a bunch of laundry (which is what the article was about in a way). It's fall, the time for pests to find winter shelter, so an effing mouse came into the White Trash Mansion and got into the linen closet. The linen closet for crying out loud. Indeed, I'm washing all of the towels, three sets of queen-size sheets, two large table cloths, three drop cloths, a king-size blanket, a table runner and a partridge in a pear tree.

I have been known to make up words just because no real word I know is funny enough, I can effectively swear like a drunken longshoreman, I love words so much I get lost in the dictionary almost every time I open it, but I really try to avoid one word, and rarely even use it in jest. The "H" word: hate. However, I do hate mice. I truly do. No "oh eek" here. I see a mouse, and I'm out for blood with a compassionless vengeance. Normally, I'm all about living in peace and harmony and not killing things. No so much with the mice, who are nothing like those cute and clever chaps in the cartoons.

Next week, I'm going to vet the article and make sure I only mention things I want to come true.

By the by, I was reminded today that next week is National Banned Books Week, so everyone head down to the local library and check out one of those disturbing books like "Tom Sawyer," "The Givers," or a Harry Potter. While you're there, kiss a librarian, one of the underrated warriors for the First Amendment.

Let's ban mice at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 105 of my Bloglessness
September 24, 2008

Wooo-ooo! Look at me with my Cosmic Vibe connection. Allow me to introduce you to my new rationale verificationators:

Exhibit A: I wrote that article about fleas a few weeks ago, and then my dog actually gave me a flea. Remember? Well, one of my friends, who will gladly remain nameless in this matter, was inundated with fleas at the same time. Weird, huh?! (And kind of creepy gross, I know.)

Exhibit B: The next week I wrote about the federal duck stamp/phone-sex farcical romp. Remember that? Well, ahem, let's just say momma's got it aallll goin' on and leave it at that. (If the mojo worked with my friend, she's been keeping that smile to herself, so I have nothing to report there.)

Exhibit C: While writing this week's article on Sunday, I added this little one-liner jab about how John would rather pump the septic tank than clean house ... then Monday we had the whole sewer fiasco that I ended up incorporating into the article. I mean, really, something like that is handed to you on a rusty old steel platter, ya just gotta make the most out of it. Right? Right. (We'll just hope for the best for my friend on this one.)

Amazing isn't it? This overwhelming load of scientifical evidence of my fateful connections. I haven't looked in a mirror lately, but I probably have a glittery aura -- like rainbow speckles swirling in an effervescent cloud of opal around my physical being. I haven't seen such a thing. I'm just sayin', I feel it. Y'know?

Well, it just occurred to me that I also mentioned winning the lottery in this week's article, and y'know, today is Wednesday, a.k.a. lottery day. What do you think, huh?

Now, don't get too excited, I don't know if I can make two items from one column come true, but I'm telling you now, if it happens, I'll remember all of you, my peeps, who were here from the beginning. Of course, I'm ditching this whole working-stiff life and I'll be riding horses on the beach and drinking margaritas into the sunset, baby, but somewhere in there, I'll remember y'all.

Friends be damned, the winnings are mine at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day 104 of my Bloglessness
September 23, 2008

I've been laid up because of The Cold, but this weekend was Festival Days in Havre so I rallied my energy to attend my three favorite events: the used book sale, the parade, and the quilt show. And because John is my Hero** I had time to download pictures off the camera, for you, the Readers. With my column finished, I am now prepared to give you the low down right after this brief interlude to explain the asterisks above:

** The sewer in the Singlewide Mansion decided to act up, requiring immediate attention -- and me without my HazMat suit or chemical/biological air filtration system. John was the Hero of the day doing most of the, uh, crappy work. So I only had to clean up the mess in the bathroom including the stain (which I refuse to think of as residue) from the back flow (which I dubbed poop soup) that temporarily collected in OUR SHOWER. 'Nuff said. Let's get back to the festivities because with my amazing photojournalistic powers I am able to bring the weekend to you in both writing and color images.

I was, as usual, enthralled with the book sale buying too many books, none of which I need. But for a buck a bag, and they encourage you to stuff bags to overflowing, what else was I to do? And, as usual, I was a little disappointed with the parade. I love parades, but apparently, I only love the parades of my childhood when people made real floats. You know, when a motorized conveyance or the trailer it was pulling was transformed into a work of art and parade-goers were awed by the creativity, time and care put into entertaining them. Now I'm supposed to be satisfied with Jimmy's uncle's pickup and flatbed decorated with one streamer and a hastily scrawled sign made on poster board with an ink pen that skipped roughly because they found it on the floorboard with dirt and old spilled pop stuck to it. Sigh.

These guys were there, though, from Canada, and I love a good bagpipe band. It gets the Irish blood a pumping. The parade was held up for a while with these guys in front of us, so I got a treat. See the people at the right of the picture who are entirely engrossed in stealing candy from their kids' stash? And the guy at the left of the picture intently wondering if the bagpipers are wearing underwear? I'll bet he was wanting to ask if his matching plaid shirt qualified him as an honorary member so he could march commando in the parade. Ka-chow, baby.

There weren't very many horses either. Thankfully, this kid brought his registered "Danish Warmblood" which is obviously not broke enough to ride or pull a cart -- a worry for the kid in front of him who's thinking the critter is intent on trampling, or eating, small children.

And my first place pick: this White Trash Wonder-Mobile! John thinks it's a Ford Falcon on a pickup or Bronco frame. It comes complete with fifth-wheel hitch in the trunk and a homemade horse trailer behind. This would totally fit in here at the White Trash Estate! I was so enthralled with this outfit that I almost didn't get a picture before it passed -- and my only photo op had a passerby in the middle. Hey, kid, get outta the way!! Photojournalist at work here, duh!

Which also brings me to what caused the temper tantrum at the beginning of the parade -- that would be my temper tantrum, did I forget to tell you about it? We got there in plenty of time for the parade to begin, but not in time to pick good seating -- as in some place where my view was not obstructed by the city's fattest telephone pole that you can see in the picture above and where I didn't have to sit facing the sun which is hot and painful to my eyes and makes for piss poor photos. Photojournalist here, hello. People don't understand art any more than they understand artistic temperament.

I could've gone somewhere else, yes, but the dilemma is that this general area is a traditional favorite of the in-laws. (See the three heads in front of me like Mystery Science Theatre 3000? Those belong to some of the in-laws. The head at the left belongs to the junk man-in-law -- I wish you could see that his hat is covered in black dirt/grease for which he caught a lot of ribbing from friendly passersby.) The in-laws got to the parade route first and picked their favorite side of the street -- the sunny side.

I could get out of the sun under a tree (a rare miracle which the in-laws had to share in by the end of the parade) but, as you can see, sitting in the shade also put me right behind the world's largest city telephone pole. Aaargh! I couldn't move left because vehicles were parked there, and I couldn't move right because the Girl Scouts had a cookie booth ... and I might've ousted the scouts (they didn't look that tough) but I was infringing on their lawn and their shade tree already, so I let them have the choice spot. Noble, I know. Plus, they also got there before we did.

I had to settle with making a few crabby comments to John and noisily flopping our lawn chairs out like a 5-year-old who didn't get the right treat at the grocery store while the in-laws politely ignored my outburst. Maybe someone understands the artistic temperament after all. But next year, I will solve the problem by getting there early enough to be IN the parade, and I will take snappin' good pictures with the sun at my back.

The next day came photojournalist challenge numero duo: the quilt show. I am in love with quilts. I couldn't make one, mind you. I sew like a drunken B-circuit race driver smuggling moonshine and pot down a dirt backroad. Very fast, sliding all over the place, and occasionally totally out of control. But isn't this quilt lovely? It was so eye-catching that my friend and I stopped our perusal of the vendors' wares and gawked. I smartly pulled my camera from my purse and snapped this picture, and then carefully put the camera away again until we got to the quilt show part of the displays.

Yeah, OK, that picture was the only one I took, because I totally forgot that I had my camera with me. In fact, at one point we were staring at and discussing the details of a quilted centerpiece so we could remember the way the blocks overlapped and maybe reproduce the design. It was a long and intense conversation. And at another point my friend was using my back as a drawing table so she could sketch onto a scrap bit of paper a lovely quilting design from another quilt. Yup, camera there in my purse the whole time.

Unbearably blonde at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Ninety-nine of my Bloglessness
September 18, 2008

I still have this stupid cold. It's evolved to producing waves of fluids draining from my eyes and my sinuses -- and by that I mean that without notice my eyes will gush a half-cup of tears and my sinuses will instantly open floodgates to drain the other half-cup out my nose. Both will occur at the most inconvenient moment, like when I'm next to someone and my head is bent forward, say proofing the newspaper roughs or perusing books laid out on a table at the book sale. My apologies to all who had to witness that today.

I am, of course, not miserable enough to stay home, but not well enough even to make par. I prefer being so sick that when I walk into the room, everyone backs away and then begs me to go home to curl up with a fuzzy blankey and a hot tea. I'm rarely that fortunate.

As per my usual modus operandi, I've tried to cure this cold with food. It's not working. For the more scientific of Readers, here's the list of ineffective treatments (in no particular order): Regular meals of FDA and AMA approved food groups in approved proportions plus varying quantities of dark chocolate, black licorice, peanut butter cookies, popcorn, McDonalds fries, Cheetos, pop, fudge bars, cinnamon fire hard candy and tea. I am currently experimenting with a lemon/cream cheese pudding with no signs of success thus far. Someone suggested cold medicine yesterday. I'm still debating the validity of that course of treatment and may try more chocolate first.

Ineffective activities include: work, buying books at the annual library used-book sale, shaving the dog, website design, training horses, doing laundry, trimming hooves, cleaning spilled pop off the car's floor mats, cooking, sitting, staring, sleeping and blogging. John has suggested that I try sex, which he claims is a cure-all for anything ailing a male. I'm still debating the validity of that course of treatment and may try more chocolate first.

Replenish fluids and the chocolate bowl often at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Ninety-eight of my Bloglessness
September 17, 2008

Regular readers here know that I don't normally include my column in the blog. I think it would just be too boring for the, what, two people who read it in the paper who also come here. But today I'll make an exception because My Editor at the Havre Daily cracks me up so completely when she's willing to go out on a limb in this small town paper with some of my topics and my humor -- like the article about the moose poop incense in which I got to use the term "craptacular" twice.

Honestly, I thought she'd be compelled to save the public from me by nixing the paragraph about the phone-sex convention presentations (how's that for a teaser!) because if you don't get SPAM it probably just sounds like sexual inuendo pulled out of thin air (or my ear or something). But nope. She printed the column, about the recent federal duck stamp mishap, as is. (I'm taking bets, though, on whether or not the publisher actually read the article all the way through.)

With kudos to My Editor, and appologies to those who've read it already (who can skip to comments and alternate endings at, well, the end):

Call 1-800-what?!

By Pam Burke, humor columnist (extraordinaire)

It's week-old news by now, but I just can't build a bridge and get over it ... or put a stamp on it and mail it away: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service printed the wrong phone number on the self-adhesive 2008-09 federal duck stamps.

Whoa! That's bad!

I know because one time I mistakenly put my personal phone number in an ad in the local paper for my employer at the time. It was awfully embarrassing even though my supervisor was understanding, and my husband was good about redirecting calls without explaining to every caller that his wife is a wee bit of an idiot.

That was the same year Donald Trump fired a contestant from "The Apprentice" for putting the wrong phone number -- but still an actual Trump contact number -- on a fake brochure advertising one of his many obscenely extravagant Trumped-up businesses. That poor sucker was sent packing for one teeny-weeny phone number error on a one-off, tri-fold handout that was never going to be clamped under a BMW wiper blade in a mass parking lot advertising blitz anyway.

Imagine the horror and torture of whoever made this $300,000 phone number error on 3.5 million 75th Anniversary commemorative duck stamps. Specifically, someone transposed the duck stamp ordering phone number of 1-800-STAMP24 to spell 1-800-TRAMP24 -- successfully directing the entire U.S. duck hunting population to a phone-sex line that suggests callers "talk only to the girls who turn you on."

Right on!! said all the U.S. duck hunter dudes, along with the worldwide population of English speaking males who have read any one of the gazillion print and internet publications which released the sex line number. Like I just did.

Those TRAMP24 people had to be excited for reals about this free advertising, which you just can't buy, y'know. They'll be the hit of the next phone-sex convention, giving presentations on "business expansion techniques" and "how to make overnight success last longer." Gloating will be in order.

However, if the TRAMP24 people had been thinking, they would've immediately hired a pack of guys for the female duck hunters' listening pleasure. Shoot, I would've called to hear a guy talk sexy to me: "Oh! I did the laundry, just the way you like it." "Supper's ready, babe, and I'll clean up afterward so just relax for the evening." "Yes, yes, your butt looks perfect in those jeans." Yeeah, baaaby!

Pamville News reporters have uncovered a rush of copycat 800 number applications from various entities, like Donald Trump, who wants TRUMP24, and these other organizations:

  • Midol wants CRAMP24
  • A senior men's advice line wants GRAMP24
  • A major real estate firm in hurricane-prone coastal areas wants SWAMP24
  • And the Lehman Brothers investment firm is arguing with Merrill Lynch over who called dibs first for SLUMP24, a donation hotline for failed financial businesses -- the only option left for the two mega-firms after Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG hogged all the federal bail out money. The loser of this dustup has to take ALUMP24, and like it.

**Alternate final point -- which plays out much funnier in our house on the prairie where I came from the mountains of MT and my husband is missing an arm: And the North American Loggers Association is arguing with the U.S. Amputee Advocates over who called dibs first for STUMP24. The losing organization in this dustup has to take ALUMP24, and like it.

Some days we wander beyond the comfort zone at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Ninety-seven of my Bloglessness
September 16, 2008

We are back from the Draft Horse and Mule Expo in Deer Lodge -- just spectating. A grand time was had by all -- save for me, who had a partially grand and then somewhat miserable time because I developed a cold. Of course, I probably gave it to every one of my family members and friends that I came in contact with because I was at peak contagiousness as we all hugged and kissed our greetings. Bummer ... I live so far away from everyone that my misery has no one to keep it company (since everything I've read about colds says that you can "share" them but not, technically speaking, "give them away" as I wish I could). Just kidding. I don't want anyone else to be ill like me. Really.

I thought I was boring before, now I'm extra boring with a side of watery eyes and a large sore throat.

I always feel betrayed by my body when I get an illness or an unexpected pain. Like, hey, I feed you, clothe you, drink filtered water, take you for walks and horseback rides, and wash my hands with borderline compulsiveness when I'm around ill people -- why would you do this to me? You're ungrateful, body. It's not like I decided to do another foolish thing to injure you, like the time I stabbed the avocado pit -- even though I had the premonition that this wouldn't turn out good -- and then the pit split in half causing me to stab the knife into my hand, your hand. I was being GOOD to you. I took you on a vacation! Whatever.

Here are some pictures from the draft horse/mule show to entertain you, the Readers, while I go tend to the betrayer's needs.

Sleep may be involved at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Ninety-three of my Bloglessness
September 12, 2008

When fiction becomes fact

This week's column was about fleas. It finished out at 607 words. I was still OK on my 400-600 word range, with the Kentucky windage factored in. But then I slept on it.

Somewhen about the time I was supposed to be dropping off to sleep I thought that I needed a reason for writing the article so it didn't just infer that I'd pulled the topic out of my ass-toundingly scattered brain. Maybe because this is generally true enough to be scary, I feel like the articles need a context. Anyhow, I could've written the truth: a friend emailed about the "great birthday" she was having, but the story started with her discovering fleas in her house and then her husband coming to the conclusion that he'd brought them in from the tall grass. I thought it was really funny, y'know, her husband having fleas rather than her cat (see -- irony! -- plus she did write it better than I just did), and it was even funnier that she thought this was a good start to a great day (more irony, me likey). It inspired me to share a story with her that ended up being the heart of my article. But this, the real context of my inspiration, took too much set up and was a little off the point of the article so I thought "Hey, I'll add just eight words starting with: 'I got a present from my dog today. ... '" And the present was, of course, a flea.

Yeah, right, I know. The dog hadn't given me a flea. That was a lie -- those things happen sometimes in fiction writing, even fiction that includes real life accounts. And it was patently unfair to accuse him of this crime that I knew he didn't commit, but it will give him something to talk to his analyst about. However, it's near enough the truth because when you live in the country -- especially where there's lots of cottontails and assorted wild and feral critters running around -- the occasional flea is common. And I've discovered our dogs' flea problem plenty of times this way. Thanks for the blood sucking parasite, mutt, now hold still while I toxify you. (Wow, I'm on a roll, four made up words in one entry!)

Now -- after an excessively long set up -- here's the punch line, the ironic, cosmic joke on me: the dog got his revenge last night. He did give me a flea after all. Thanks, mutt!

We're mangy and lousy too at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Ninety-one-and-change of my Bloglessness
September 10, 2008

Have you ever been doing something totally benign like waiting for a gigantic website to download while operating with the. slowest. internet.. connection.. in.. the... free... world ... and then suddenly had a mind-bending thought that makes you sit there thinking, "hunh," even though the rest of the world is whizzing along ... even the website?

I had a random thought that I need to write next week's article, like, before next week arrives. That lead to the thought, "I have nothing going on here that's lighting a spark under Ye Olde Muse." And this was followed by, "My life is sadly boring." And then BANG! The Zinger: "My life is boring because, in fact, I am boring."

Oh! Oooow! Now that hurts. Wounded, betrayed by my own evil psyche. And then for some obscure reason I thought this would be an appropriate thing to share, y'know, in case ...

anyone can offer a tissue and a puppy-dog bandaid at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Ninety-one of my Bloglessness
September 10, 2008

I told my dog who's been staring at me for the last half hour, bored-bored-bored, because it's raining: "Sorry. I have nothing for you." But then, I did throw him a bone. So if you folks in Readerland have been staring at this screen for the past half hour thinking, "Hunh -- she has nothing for us," here's your bone.

From "Beer drinkers sue to stop InBev-Bud merger" -- Apparently, "10 angry beer drinkers" from the St. Louis area are trying to stop the brewery takeover with an antitrust lawsuit ... Right. Because we can trust 10 angry beer guzzling guys to come up with even one sound and logical thought. It's my experience that we couldn't get 100 happy beer drinking guys to formulate a coherent thought. Not that this is a bad thing, I'm just saying that these boys ought to lay off the brews for a bit -- y'know, give it a little (dare I say) sober contemplation -- before this goes too far and they end up doing something to inspire a Coen Brothers movie in the vein of "The Big Lebowski" or "Raising Arizona" or "Fargo."

Stop now, I say, while you're only a Ben Stiller or Larry the Cable Guy madcap caper.

They won't listen to me at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Eighty-five of my Bloglessness
September 4, 2008

My favorite Reader (which is to say -- because I'm fickle and easy -- the last person to email me with some version of LOL ;) Renee -- who has the most normal kids, and I'll swear she said that of all of them -- gave my milk van/garden shed conversion kudos. And she commented that all I need now is a green one ... Silly, sweet, naive Renee, this was a topnotch junkyard with loads of useless stuff, not some run of the mill salvage yard specializing in, say, sellable auto parts.

Of course I have a green one!! Beautimous, eh?! It will be moved to grace a lovely patch of chokecherry trees and used as a shed and, one day, a green house of sorts with that windowed cab.

We have many Preciouses at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Eighty-three of my Bloglessness
September 2, 2008

Today we'll make this a two-fer Tuesday in the "Why?!" department.

Why? Why? Why do I think I can work outside in any ol' attire and not get caught? I got home from the paper and a fair bit of errand-running, slipped into what I will admit is a fairly typical writing "uniform" in spirit, if not actual items, and started plinking away at the keyboard. During a little break, I glanced at the weather site and realized that we had some chance for more rain in the afternoon/evening.

Being the diligent horse trainer I am, I quickly put away my keyboard and ran right out to work my one resident horse-in-training. Of course, I couldn't pause even a moment to consider that I was wearing a powder blue T-shirt; a red/black plaid flannel shirt; my gray/orange, ratty, chore tennis shoes; and the glorious focal point of the ensemble: lightweight sweats/pajama bottoms I got at a smackin' good sale at Kmart -- ultramarine blue background with vibrant red/yellow/white "Miller High Life" labels plastered all over them.

So, of course, the horse's owner shows up out of the wild blue yonder right in the middle of the training session. With a friend. They are both staunchly cowboy. And I am obviously a circus clown pretending to be a serious horse trainer. Gentlemen, I shall have the horse juggling bowling balls and wearing a red-bulb nose by next Tuesday. We will take the act on the road and send you postcards from exotic locales where nobody knows our names.

Why? Why? Why do people not show up at my house when I'm dressed like a regular human being?!!

I want some answers, people!!

It's probably some cosmic joke, and I'm living in the swirling epicenter at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Eighty-two of my Bloglessness
September 1, 2008 -- Merry Labor Day to one and all

I'm trying to get my article finished today (which seems to require that I start it), but I popped over to for a news update (a.k.a., a grown up sounding reason for avoiding a responsibility), and what did I see? This headline: "Palin's teen daughter pregnant."

So when I think my life is tough, it's nice to be reminded that it could be worse. I could be living it like a petri sample squished between two glass slides in the public microscope, newly appointed to the task of self-promoting my way into the position of second-in-command of the nation. If I were Palin and facing the cadre of frenzied news media desperate to feed the rabid public, the scenario would play out thusly:

"Thank you ladies and gentlemen for attending this press conference on such short notice. I would like to make a brief statement and then will be happy to answer your questions. As most of you have already heard -- Oh no!! LOOK!! I think that New Orleans levy just broke!!!" And then I'd run for my life.

Chicken livers, 12 for the price of a dozen, at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Eighty-one of my Bloglessness
August 31, 2008

I wasn't having a very good day on Friday. No, not at all. So I would like to send the Republican party a great big "Thank You" for giving me a laugh despite my personal trauma -- and my fender bent car (no, I don't want to talk about it, yet, I'm too busy angsting). As I was struggling to be a big girl proofreader, I got to the AP article about McCain choosing Palin for his running mate and there it was -- an indelicate snort.

How clever of the Republicans to come up with the perfect response to the Democrats' choice of Biden for Veep. Democrats get their McCain-insider look-alike, and Republicans trump them with a Obama-Clinton double-whammy-replica. Take that, you scalawags.

Democrats found their own pasty-faced elder statesman to add "experience" to the ticket without the greasy side order of big business, and the Republicans found a charismatic, newbee pol to add that fresh scent of "change" with a hint of youthful estrogen.

I'll give the Republicans one thing (one very pertinent thing at the very heart of the matter), Palin's more attractive than an Obama-Clinton lovechild. (Ack! Sometimes my own jokes make ME want to throw up a little. Just now when I typed that I pictured an unfortunate baby with the Hillary scowl and jowl paired with those Obama taxi door ears -- come on, you have to admit that those ears don't even work on Will Smith or Clark Gable. You know he got teased mercilessly for them as a child.)

Later on Friday, I cracked myself up with this: It's darn sporting of the two parties to match each other Veep scandal for Veep scandal, what with Biden's plagiarism issues and Palin's Troopergate problem. Apparently the new age of politics has moved beyond sex and drugs.

What a relief, I say. Agism, best real-life enactment of a soap opera storyline, copyright left -- these are the new good old days, folks.

Politically uncorrectable at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Seventy-nine of my Bloglessness
August 29, 2008

Did anyone else laugh, or ask themselves "Are you crazy?", or conclude "You are so totally White Trash ... ," after reading my last entry in which I didn't even flinch or add a self-deprecating, humorous aside to these statements about the junked milk vans: "We like them" and "I thought they looked pretty." Oh My GAWD!! I almost laughed myself stupid(er) this morning when I re-read those statements which I made straight-faced and from the heart. I like junk, and I think broke-down junk is "pretty," and I am demented.

There is no hope for me. Truly.

There ain't no class but low class at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Seventy-seven (Part II) of my Bloglessness
August 27, 2008

Just wanted to share pictures of a couple milk vans we're going to keep on the place. I don't know why we're keeping them, except that we like them, and they're actually functional -- this one we use as a garden shed during our 1 out of every 3 years attempt at gardening.

I thought they looked pretty, and very pink, in the late evening light. John saw the photos on my screen and laughed because he didn't recognize the vans as "art."

But we "Got Milk" from the store at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Seventy-seven of my Bloglessness
August 27, 2008

"Dave Freeman, co-author of '100 Things to Do Before You Die,' a travel guide and ode to odd adventures that inspired readers and imitators, died after hitting his head in a fall at his home. He was 47." (The Associated Press)

Man, I feel bad about this. When I first heard this book title a few years back I thought, "Dude, don't tell God your plans!" And now look what's happened. Friends reported that he'd gotten about halfway through the list. 'Nuff said, except rest in peace.

There's a reason we fly by the seat of our pants at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Seventy-six of my Bloglessness
August 26, 2008

I had this totally out of body experience at the newspaper office yesterday when I turned around to find that someone had flowers sent to me -- to me!

And I found a sweet note attached from a 10-year-old guy whom we'll call here, the Tan-Man, and a second one from his little sister. Their grandma was having me train a miniature horse for the Tan-Man and Little Sister to ride. All of the taming/desensitizing/"sacking out" work had been done by grandma, but the mini, Magic, needed to learn how to steer, or rather be steered. I put in a few days' work on him and then grandma and the Tan-Man came out. We helped him tack up Magic and hop in the saddle, then the grownups took turns manning the lead rope as Tan-Man learned to steer, and Magic learned what the heck that kid was doing on his back pulling on the reins. Things went exceptionally well because both the mini and the boy are good-natured, smart and willing learners. At the tailend of the first lesson, Little Sister got to take a spin. Partway through the second lesson we turned the Tan-Man and Magic loose together in the corral and they did fabulously.

Tan-Man is one of those really awesome kids that make me wish I had a few bike-motors of my own if they could be like him (and his sister). He's sweet and intense with a lot of try -- even during the lessons when he was being inundated with new things to learn. We also had a few deep discussion during the course of the lessons and the post-lesson BS-ing. I just really felt good after being around him and working with him. Apparently, the feeling was mutual because after our last lesson, when he and his grandparents were hauling Magic home, he told his grandma that he would like to do something nice for me to show that he appreciated all the time and consideration I'd given him. They discussed some special options and on Monday I got the flowers and note from my new best buddy, the Tan-Man.

How CUTE is THAT!! Everybody say aaaaaawww! And take a tip from the Tan-Man: go do something special for someone you appreciate. Everyone should feel as good as I do right now ...

and I smell like a bouquet too at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Seventy-five of my Bloglessness
August 25, 2008

I know why you're here. It's because you're asking yourself why -- Why? Why? Why does the blonde chick in the junk yard know how to say "Mr. Potato Head" in French?

The short answer is: because I'm not a nice person.

The long answer is what I know you're dying to hear.

In college I was forced to take one quarter of French -- and I say forced because I have a thing about speaking in foreign accents. The thing is that I can't do it. When I try a foreign language, I suddenly develop this horrible, B-movie southern accent and say: "Pahrlay voo Ahn-glay?" and "No ob-law Es-pan-yole." It's like some Xtreme Hick version of hooked on phonics: the simple syllable breakdown.

Under duress as I was in the French class -- the only foreign language class available -- my sarcasm reflex was in overdrive and the dang thing would redline daily. Why? Because this geeky nerd of a Francophile guy who was auditing the class (because he'd already taken a full year of French and just hadn't gotten in enough teacher ass-kissery in the year) would compulsively open his yap every day to answer questions and converse in full French sentences. And he did this with a tone, you know, one of those tones, which clearly explained that the rest of us were a pack of no account morons.

Fortunately (for me), this guy was born with a remarkably large head -- larger even than my big, square meat box of a cranium -- and shaped, yes, like a potato which he accented with a crew cut, though I thought a neon sign would've been more subtle.

Of course, I said "Mr. Potato Head" in my mind so many times that during a study session with a couple friends the name easily slipped out of my mean-hearted mouth. Which meant that we snickered for a couple class periods every time the guy inserted his tone into the oral answer box. Of course, again, that just encouraged me to perform the hardest studying I did for the class ... to learn how to say "Mr. Potato Head" in French. But I couldn't find it -- and this was so long ago that I couldn't Google the answer with my stone tablet -- therefore, I was (of course) forced to ask the instructor.

And I did. Out loud. During class. To the delight of my study group. Right after being flogged by a tone from the geeky guy.

Don't mess with a hick chick with 'tude, "Meh-shzurrr. Pom deh Tair leh Tett"!

Phonetically French at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Seventy of my Bloglessness
August 20, 2008

Just so the people who don't get to read my North 40 column know, I got an article published today in which I wrote about a guy selling dehydrated moose poop as incense, inferred the use of the word "shit" 20 times in its various grammatical forms (without ever saying it or using a graphic like this: "sh*t"), discussed stinky pot (yes, that pot), and used the word "craptacular" ... twice.

I don't know about you, but that just cracks me up.

I wonder if the folks in the 'hood are wondering what the heck as happened to their nice local paper. Obviously, it's fallen into the crapper since I arrived, but apparently if it's a moose-crapper we'll be fine -- and earning a few extra greenbacks.

Laughing my way to a better mood at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Sixty-eight of my Bloglessness
August 18, 2008

We are in the process of "upgrading" our trashiness from "White Trash" to ... what? Simply "Trailer Trash"? I don't know about the degree of trashiness, but I do know this: by the end of the week we will no longer be a junk yard, literally anyway.

For the past 28 years, John's dad has operated a salvage yard here that has spread its way across all the low-lying ground on the property (except, thankfully, the irrigated field). Even when we purchased the property some years back, it was with the stipulation that my father-in-law could continue to make a living with the salvage yard -- and the gravel pit(s). These pursuits paid his bills, and everyone was cool with the arrangement.

This is our property (circled in yellow) from the air a few years ago. The junk vehicles are obvious, the blue-circled area is the coulee, now almost junk free, pictured below.

I was asked on more than one occasion how I could possibly want to buy a junk-filled property and always I've answered that I don't see the junk, I see the land. Which is essentially true. I admit that sometimes I would despair over the junk -- usually when I was trying to get a nice picture because I would see all the "crap" in the background or when I've been working on getting an area cleaned and realize just how many little parts and broken pieces have found their way into the ground and will have to be scrounged out somehow.

But I didn't realize until this summer as we've started to clean the place seriously -- because scrap iron prices are up and because my father-in-law's gradual steps toward retirement have gained momentum -- just how much the junk yard has become a part of our lives and our identities.

I was at a horse function once when a group of us were talking about being cautious about introducing new horses into to our herds. I commented that I had to be extra careful because my place is a junk yard, and one of the women piped up about how she "knew" what I meant because they have a few old trucks and some falling down buildings. When she heard my two friends snort and saw my smile, I had to elaborate that I sympathize, but my pasture functions as an operating salvage yard that held about 300 vehicles of various types at that moment. She just stared.

Yeah, what do you say to that? Beside, most horse people don't believe me when I say that the horses (a species with negative self-preservation instincts) generally get hurt on the fences or by attack from a herd mate, just like other domestic horses. In the 20 years I've lived here we've had only one injury that we know was from junk, and two others that were probably from junk, but could be otherwise. The others we know came from fences, horse trailers, etc.

But honestly, it's more than saying out loud to people that you live in a junk yard that creates the identity. It's that the junk becomes a feature of the landscape over the years and I walk along the coulee behind the house, pictured here:

and I miss the familiar features. I'm not a creature who's comfortable with change, so even change for the better is discomfiting. I'm glad that the skanky piles of crap are gone, but my eye is still drawn to where they used to be. I could give tours of this ghost yard. That's where someone stripped 10 parts off an old Chevy to get to one part and left all the bolts, nuts, broken pieces, and assorted crap to deteriorate in the soil. That's where someone used a tractor to shove a wide assortment of metal scraps into a jagged-edged and mangled heap. Right over there sat the skeletal and discarded remains of an old city bus that was scavenged for its aluminum. I don't miss those things in that I want them back, but my eye and mind reach out to their old familiarity -- like grabbing for a railing to save yourself from a fall ... and finding only air.

And I also mourn that old Ford pickup with its round fenders. The collection of funky Corvairs at the end of the coulee. The way the chokecherry sprouted from the otherwise empty engine compartment of that Plymouth. The stray parts that caught the eye with an artistry of form and a suggestion of another use. Valves look like stems on champagne flutes. The flywheel could be a trivet with bolts for feet to keep it raised from the table surface. Some abandoned piece of cast iron off I-don't-know-what whose compound curves drew the hands to admire with a touch which then felt the better mix of alloy than in modern parts.

Then there's the practical: I need a temporary wind break, so let's grab the side boards off that old flat bed box. I need three stout two-foot lengths of angle iron. I need a U-bolt. I need a thingy to kind of fit in here and hold these two parts -- I'll know what I need when I see it -- I'm going for a walk. And in this way the junk yard provided for our needs and made us think outside the box and be "self-sufficient" without need to run to town to purchase a something.

We've been cleaning up junk and scrap metal since late last winter and now, it seems, with increasing frequency we are discovery that we are left wanting. The parts we need are not there. The serendipitous finds that encourage the imagination are not there. We are clearing our way to revealing the clear rolling land, the safe pasture, the beautiful photo backdrop. The lost feeling.

We've received word that the car crushers will be here this week to flatten and haul away the last 60-some vehicles -- maybe they'll take the three old combines and that green and yellow, early-1950s cement truck that shelters the tallest stand of wild onions I've ever seen in eastern Montana.

I suppose it's odd beyond eccentric to mourn the passing of what some would describe as "dangerous" or "an eyesore," but that junk yard has been with me for almost half my lifetime. I can't seem to find a way to laugh it off,

so I will persevere into my new life at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

Day Sixty-two of my Bloglessness
August 12, 2008

I am creatively handicapped, cut off at the research knees, technologically repressed, traumatized and insanely jealous. I don't have television reception. To be truthful, I never have television reception, and I rarely care about having/not having it. However, this is one of the exceptional moments.

I am missing the Olympics.

I love watching the opening ceremony. I love watching the competitions -- especially the more obscure ones (as if we needed more evidence that I'm off center). I love watching (about 30 percent of) the dramatic back-stories. I love that the major TV network with the bid for televising the games is forced to show footage of eventing (speaking of obscure sports), dressage, and show jumping.

And I'm missing it. ALL.

I might be relatively OK with it, but my eventers e-list group keeps writing about all the dressage and jumping, who had great rounds, who should've made better choices, how the jump courses rode, blah blah blah. Friends who know that I would love to be eventing again and that I love horses and riding English have been telling me about all the horse coverage they've been viewing. It's like they're all purposely being mean to me ... the TV-less, redheadedest stepchild of the world.

Oh -- yeah -- and to make matters much saltier in my wounds, I could be getting streaming video of even more footage on my high-speed internet -- if only I had it!

Oh woe is me! Oh, cursed Fates that leave me bereft of adequate technology in back of Beyond in the barren plains of Montana with the. slowest. internet.. connection... in... the ... free ... world . . . ! *sniff*

I shall dry my eyes and try hard to be a brave little toaster at: pam(at)viewfromthenorth40(dot)com

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