Thursday, February 24, 2011

Why Skunks Love Me - Part Two

I decided to do this series after my first post about camping where a friend freaks out over a few skunks. I didn't think they were a big deal. Then I thought I should explain why I don't think skunks are a big deal.

This is part two of my explanation. If you have not read part one, you should do that first.

This part of my skunk history happened many years later. Once again, no idea how old I was...let's just say I was thirteen for the sake of the story and for fun.

My dad decided to take me and my two younger siblings camping. My sister and I packed some basic survival stuff into a backpack. You granola bars, water, a pocket knife, a few flashlights, and not much else. My dad threw food and sleeping gear into the back of his car and we took off for the mountains and adventure.

We picked out a campsite and then the three kids wandered off to hike and explore. We came across this gully, steep sides made of clay and sand on both sides higher than our heads.

Not the safest route to take in a place known for flash floods, but we didn't see much else. Even this gully turned out to be rather dull, but we hiked on.

After several minutes, my little brother turns to me.

Brother: I have to go to the bathroom.

Me: Okay. Go around the corner and just go.

Brother: No.

Me: Okay. Climb up there and go behind some sagebrush.

Brother: No...I have to go number two.

Me: Let's head back then and you can go in the camp bathrooms.

Brother: I'm not going to make it.

Me: Great...

I scramble up the bank of the gully to see if there is any good place for him to go. What I find is a perfect stone toilet at the crest of the gully it was meant to be, like it was waiting for him.

This spot looks down on a stretch of the wash below, but we hadn't seen another soul the entire hike, so I figured it would be fine. I did a quick check for scorpions and snakes before I let him sit down though.

Then I gave him some tissues from our trusty backpack and climbed back down. My sister and I started walking back the way we had come...had to give my little brother some privacy.

We followed the curving gully down maybe ten yards, well out of eye and ear shot, when we heard voices ahead. People were coming up the gully. My sister and I looked at each other and started giggling. It sounded like the people were several minutes away, so we turned around and started heading back up to warn my little brother.

Turns out, those people weren't hiking. They were mountain biking. They flew past my sister and I as we hurried to help my poor brother from the embarrassment. My sister and I gasped in surprise. There was nothing we could do. My little brother would be traumatized for life.

We started running, trying to keep up with the bicyclists. They sped around the corner. We didn't hear the shouts and screams we expected.

"Hey. Hi."
"Hello there."
"How's it going?"

We come around the bend and find my brother sitting on the edge of the gully, greeting the mountain bikers, waving, smiling, with his pants on.

Me: Oh. Thank goodness. You finished then?

Brother: Nope. Still going.

Me: What?

Sister: Eeeeeeewwww!

My little brother had heard voices, pulled his pants as far up as he could, leaned forward, and acted like he was just resting, waiting on his slow brother and sister to catch up.

I know. You are all wondering why I shared this. You think I'm disgusting. You think my little brother will never forgive me. You also wonder when the skunks will come in.

I shared this because it happened. I am a little disgusting at times. My little brother will forgive me because this is one of the moments that made me love and respect him. His resourcefulness, quick thinking, and calm under pressure impressed me deeply. I love my little brother for these things and more. Seriously, he rocks. The skunks come in soon.

We made our way back to camp, started a fire, and ate dinner. My dad's dutch oven beef stew is one of the best things on this planet. He dumped the leftovers into the fire pit and got out our sleeping gear. My dad was a boy scout, in the army, and eventually in the CIA. So, you would expect him to be prepared. Turns out he packed a tarp and some bedsheets for us to sleep in. I don't know what he was thinking.

We laid down the tarp and pulled the sheets over us, shivering and clutching the linens to keep siblings from pulling them off.

I shivered myself to sleep, but then something brushed against my face. I pushed it away. A few minutes later something brushed my face again, something soft and fluffy. I thought my little sister was playing games, opened my eyes, and looked toward her. Her eyes were open too, but with terror, not the evil-torment-my-brother-for-fun look I expected.

The creatures crawled over us several times, continuing to brush tails across my face. They were drawn to the leftovers in the fire pit, digging and scratching to get every bit. For some reason they seemed to think crawling over the sleeping humans was the best route. Once none were on us, my sister and I scrambled away and threw bits of gum to keep the skunks away from us and our slumbering brother and father.

Skunks like gum. Bet you didn't know that. They raced each other to check out each little glob we tossed into the forest. We kept this up most of the night and made four or five new friends. Just one more reason skunks love me...I give them gum. Still jealous? I know you are. Quit trying to deny it.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Why Skunks Love Me - Part One

This is going to be a three part series. Look forward to more to come.

Nearly thirty years ago I had my first experience with a skunk, but not my last by any means.

We were at a ranch near Duck Creek, Utah. For those who have never been to the area, you are missing out. Green pine forests with outcroppings of aspen, pink bluffs rising out of nowhere, ice cold streams full of fish, grass bending in the breeze as dragonflies flit around the reeds.

I love my family reunions. We used to do them annually, but as the families have gotten larger and more spread out, we now do them every other year. Makes me sad, but I understand the reasons.

This is one of the earliest family reunions I remember. I don't know exactly my age. I have no concept of time. Really. Ask my wife. I remember events without a framework of dates, years, and other such nonsense. My memories are vivid. I can pull up smells and sensations from when I was two or so, but dates and my brain are like oil and water. They just don't mix. I can sometimes place an event in a rough timeframe due to location. We moved around a lot, so I know Hurricane events were between ages 0-6, while Lousiana events were 6ish-10ish/14ish. I am going to guess I was between 3 and 5.

I have always been an odd kid. I know, big surprise, right? I have learned to interact with people publicly without them seeing the crazy bubbling and seething just below the surface. This was not always the case as a child. I made up stories in my head and talked to myself. I would wander off, captivated by a bit of fluff floating on the breeze. I would sit for hours making up worlds where I was the size of an ant and had to cross huge deserts of tile or forests of shag carpet. Poor weird little Charlie, but I had fun.

Anyway...way off track now. Back to the ranch and my family reunion. I spent a big part of the day climbing rocks and playing with sticks or watching the water strider bugs glide so easily across one of the pond's clear surface.

Seriously, have you seen these things? They stand on water and flit around in all directions in seconds, like humming birds, leaving little ripples in their wake. I could watch them forever, my mind rolling around the grace of their impossible movements. I imagine that there are similar creatures gliding along the thin membranes between realities, unseen, but for their ripples of energy that seeps into our cosmos. Yeah. I'm a nerd and a scifi writer. Deal with it!

I came back to the main hang out area in front of the largest cabin after such adventures and found no one there. I wondered where everyone would go in the middle of a perfect day.

Apparently a skunk had wandered into the middle of the ranch. My family skattered, cousins screaming, adults herding them to safety, a great panicked mess. They gathered in the kitchen and dining room indoors to weather the storm and wait out the little creature.

I wandered into the cabin after the initial panic. Someone had noticed that I wasn't amidst the refugees, so, as soon as I entered, someone asked where I had been and if I had seen the skunk. No doubt they hoped I would tell them that the skunk was gone.

Me: I was outside, petting the kitty.

Them: What kitty?

Me: The black and white kitty that lives under the cabin.

Them: *shocked silence*

Me: It was nice. Why is everyone inside?

Them: Do you mean you pet the skunk? *everyone backing away from me like I'm diseased*

Me: No. It was a kitty (I don't think I knew what a skunk was).

Them: Charlie pet the skunk! Did you get sprayed? *further backing away*

Me: No! It was a kitty! A nice little kitty!

Them: Sure it was...

 *some brave soul stepped forward to sniff me and make sure I didn't get sprayed*

Brave Soul: Sniff. He's good.

Them: *everyone sighs in relief and then begins to torment me for petting a skunk for the rest of my life*

I'm very good with animals...and babies. For some reason they love me. I have heard "she never likes strangers, he never warms up to people that fast, she never holds still for anyone, he usually only does that trick for me, I've never seen her smile like that with anyone she didn't know" and similar stuff a million times. I don't know exactly what it is, but babies and animals just seem to connect with me. I once talked a kitten off a telephone pole by meowing to it. I've calmed crazy dogs down and gotten them to sleep on my lap when their owners said they wouldn't even let me pick them up. I do this one handed clapping thing that is like hypnotism for babies. They can't get enough of it.

The point is I've denied that I pet the skunk for years. I used to get so angry as everyone teased me about it. I would yell and scream that it didn't happen.

I deny it no longer. I am proud of my connection to animals and small humans. I did it! I pet that skunk!

I'll scream it to the world via my little blog. That's right. I'm a freaking rock star in the animal kingdom!

When Tom Riddle turned to Dumbledore and said, "I can speak to snakes, too. They find me... whisper things..." Yeah. I'm like that, but with skunks...and without all the evil intentions to take over the world and murder some gangly scar-faced boy.

 I pet a wild skunk and didn't get sprayed! Can you say you've done that? I doubt it. Jealous much? I think so.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Camping Trip I Ruined

The sun sat low in the Western sky as we sped down dirt roads in the Southern Utah desert...not to be confused with dessert which usually turns out much less dry or sandy. Twilight fell, not full of sparkly vampires, but full of difused sunlight from behind the mountains and more stars than you could ever dream of counting. We were running late, so we raced the Blue Cantelope (my car) out to the Spot.

The Spot was a beautiful stone outcropping that jutted up from the fairly flat desert in the middle of nowhere. My friend, Adam, would spend hours driving around looking for the best places to camp. To get to the Spot, you had to drive out of town through miles of farmland until you came to the last house, then you made a left and drove through sand dunes and empty nothingness until the Spot rose out of the dust before you. It really was a great place to camp, do bonfires, and hang out thinking deep teenage thoughts, you know about like life and like stuff.

On the way out there, speeding through the dunes, kicking up dust, we spotted a bunny.

Out here bunnies are vermin. They are shot on the spot by farmers, hit by cars, and publicly mocked in makeshift tribunals. My friends immediately shouted out, "A bunny! Hit it!" They took up a chant.

Did I want to hit the bunny? No. I don't like killing things, it's not in my nature. If you ever spot me walking down the sidewalk when a colony of ants happen to cross at the same time, you will see me break out into a strange game of hopscotch as I jump, skip, and ninja/twister my way past without stepping on a single one. I like ants. I used to feed them when I was a kid, crumbs of doritos, drips from my popsicle. They discover the prize, call their friends, and seconds later nothing is left as they trundle the gift home. Amazing to me still. But, this is not about that...back to the bunny. I caved to peer preasure and hit the gas, knowing that my chances of hitting the bunny were still slim.

Bunnies are fast, dodgy little things. I had never hit one before this and I have never hit one since. Don't worry. I didn't hit this one either. As we sped toward the furry thing, it mutated.

The very manly boys in my car screamed in confused terror as the bunny took to the skies.

It was an owl. We laughed, pretending the initial screams hadn't happened.

A few minutes later "another" bunny dodged out in front of my car, this time a real one, no owl. I locked up my brakes, skidding to a sliding halt in the sand.

Adam mocked me. "I can't believe you locked up your brakes for a jack rabbit!"

I turned to him and very seriously explained. "The last one had WINGS!" We then laughed until we cried.

That was the good part of the trip, then we made it to the Spot. Other friends had already made it out there. A few more showed up shortly after us. We had a decent gathering. We built a fire and then climbed to the top of the rock overhang by firelight and dim flashlights.

As we sat on the rock, watching the last vestiges of the sun wink out in the distance, someone mentioned ghost stories. I said, "I don't tell my ghost stories."

That was the wrong thing to say. It just piqued their interest and everyone began jumping up and down, begging and pleading me to share them. I caved again.

Something you should know about me, I do not scare easily. I will walk through a haunted house giggling. I laugh hysterically through scary movies, making comments like, "Really. I am sooooo scared. The tooth fairy is gonna get me. Ha haahaahhaa!" or "When a creepy dead girl crawls out of your tv, you grab a baseball bat and knock her butt back in. When she tries it again, you knock her butt back in and say 'Keep trying, chick, I can keep this up all night.'" I walk through supposedly haunted cemeteries and lay down on the ground in order to figure out the mysterious ghost light (a neat trick of the light due to trees, landscaping, and a pefectly shaped hill that sends blue light from passing cars to bend and crawl across the grass without any obvious source). I DO NOT scare easy, but I have seen things that scare me. My ghost stories are not about some man with a claw for a hand who attacks unwary campers. My stories are REAL!

Don't ask me to share them. I won't. The idea of committing some of the things I've seen and heard to the hard lines of our written language gives me chills. It is not going to happen.

Anyway. I shared them that night. I started small, talking about the UFO's I've seen. I don't think they were aliens. I'm weird. I'm not a crackpot. I'm pretty sure the first one I saw was my childlike imagination turning a low flying plane into the ship from The Flight of the Navigator. The second one looked very much like some early military testing of the stealth bomber. The last one I saw might have been an actual weather balloon as it fell back to earth, silver disk flip flopping in the sunlight. Then I moved on to stories I've gained from others, things that may or may not be true. Then, I moved on to my own stories from houses I've lived in, places I've been, things that stick with me. The group fell silent, stopped asking questions as I went into details about the sound a light made or, not gonna talk about that.

I finished my tales and this is what happened.

The last little group of friends looked at one another and didn't even have to say it. No one would be camping in the dark desert that night, especially as our group had dwindled down to nothing. My friend, Adam, made me give him my keys. "Don't want any bunnies getting us killed." I handed them over.

The trip home took half the regular amount of time...and we were followed by a blue ghost light.

I promise, for good or ill, that thing hovered over the desert off to our right until we made it safely back to the city.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My wife is weird and I am Hat Eye!

I love my wife. She is quirky and odd. Can you imagine me with anyone who isn't? The funny thing is most people don't see that side of her. They see her with her nose in a book or with a stack of papers to grade. I am going to take advantage of my blog stardom and expose the real Jazzy to the world.

Here is a conversation we had on IM. I was at work. She was home. I teased her about something. I can't remember exactly what, but I probably called her stinky or made fun of her inability to cook. I scribbled down everything that came after, thinking I would remember what instigated the conversation. I should have known my memory doesn't work that way. Here is what came right after the teasing:

Jazzy: i hat eyou/

Me: I hat eye you too dear

Jazzy: and i can't type

Me: Hat Eye, the Avenger!

Jazzy: Are you coming home to help me make dinner?

Me: Nope. You make dinner. I am avenging the wrongs with my haberdashery super powers of sight!

Jazzy: I have no idea what that means.

Me: Haberdashery? Google it.

Me: *waiting like three seconds for her to google it*

Me: Besides clothing, they made hats.

Jazzy: Why do you know these things?

Me: Because I am Hat Eye! Pay attention.

Jazzy: I do. You are just weird.

Okay. I know what you are thinking. This makes Jazzy look normal and me like a weirdo. But, would a normal person put up with me? I think not.

I've got a better example. I sat in the bath, playing with the bubbles and patting the water like usual. My wife wanders in as she does sometimes. Don't worry. This is not in any way dirty.

Jazzy: *wanders in singing* Lalalalla're a firework.

Me: I'm a firework?

Jazzy: It's a song...

Me: *ignores that it's a song* What kind of firework am I?

Jazzy: Like...pfft pffft...*she puts her feet shoulder length apart, raises her hands, and shakes her fingers like sparks*

Me: So...I'm a lame firework?

Jazzy: *laughs and walks out of the bathroom*

Me: *bubbles are suddenly less fun*

See that. She is funny and goofy. You still don't believe me? Yes, you need more proof. One more funny story about my wife:

Me: *sleeping soundly and happily in on a day off*

Jazzy: *jumps on bed and tackles me* (I know you can't tackle someone who is laying down, but she still tried.)

Me: ummmffftt *half asleep*

Jazzy: Wake up, it's 8:30!

Me: *stretches and bumps her in the forehead with my elbow*

Jazzy: Ow. You smoke me in my pants! (I heard 'smote', but she claims she said 'smoke') *falls over laughing*

Me: Did you say 'I smote me in my pants'?

Jazzy: *rolls around the bed next to me laughing*

Me: *laughing* What is wrong with your brain?

Jazzy: *gasping for air while laughing* I don't know.

Odd, definitely odd to have those words come out of her mouth when she meant to say "Ow, you poked me in the face." I give you unavoidable proof that my wife's brain does not function. I was the one half asleep. She had been up for at least an hour. Jazzy, I love you. Stay weird. I need it to keep me sane.
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