Monday, June 18, 2012

The Pigeon Chronicles Part Two

        Jonathan walked into the house with the sleek, black Remington air rifle casually resting on his right shoulder.  My first question was presented in a panicky, shaky voice, "Is it loaded?"
"Of course, not", my husband aka Clint replied. He proceeded to show me the pellets, how to cock the barrel and how to load it. We put the rifle in a corner for a while as we went about our evening routine, which is sip cocktails, prepare dinner and if you're me, chat on the phone. At some point Jonathan asked me if I wanted to fire the gun, just to see what its like, he added. Being the fools that we are, on the very first day of being gun owners we broke the first rule of gun use: Do not drink and use firearms.  But don't worry, the only thing we shot was a plastic bottle that we set in a tree for target practice. I guess I shouldn't say we shot it, because my shots never even came close to the damn thing. I tried to blame my lack of ability to connect with the target on my bad eyesight, or the fact that I'm left handed, but the real truth is that I just suck at shooting stuff. It's okay, I'm fine with that role. That being said Jonathan became the designated pigeon assassin for JEM Stables. Game on!

   The next morning dawned brightly, with joyous, June sunshine and alabaster clouds pasted against a sky so blue it looked artificial. After feeding the horses I headed down to the indoor ring to move the jumps, because we were borrowing our landlords tractor so we could drag the ring. The pigeons were perched on the roof, cocking their heads back and forth as I walked down the hill.

"Prepare to die, mofo's!" I said in a cheerful tone. "There's a new sheriff in town and your days are numbered!"

  I whistled as I heaved the rails into the middle of the ring, pausing only when I heard the tractor approaching. There was Jonathan, driving the glossy, orange Kubota, with the rifle at rest on his shoulder. Wow. I never thought I'd see Jonathan driving a tractor, with a rifle in his hands. The whole picture provided amusing appeal, but there wasn't time to take his photo. His steely gaze showed me that he meant business this morning.  There was killing to do and he was the man who had to do it.  Once the jumps were piled high in the middle of the ring, I excused myself to go find other chores to do. I admit that I wanted the pigeon problem to end, but I didn't need to witness the end with my own eyes.

  Jonathan returned from the ring roughly 45 min. later and here is his brief account of what ensued after I left:

  "I shot one dead from the rafters. And I nicked the other one, but it flew off and won't let me get a good shot at it again."

 "You GOT one!!" I gushed. Holy crap, he GOT one!! I was so proud of Jonathan's new found skill, but then at the same time I was sad for the remaining bird. It was now a widow, or a widower. I saw it fly off, soaring high over the trees, heading away from the farm, presumably to prepare some sort of memorial service for its mate. Our hope was the it would stay away from the scene of the crime, but two days later we had another sighting of the pigeon on the roof. That afternoon two of our boarders told us the bird was in the ring and up to its old tricks of fluttering around, flying from perch to perch and generally behaving like an asshole.

   {Here's where I'd cue the Good, the Bad and the Ugly whistle sequence}

   With the rifle at his side, Jonathan walked down the dirt driveway toward the ring, his footsteps causing small clouds of dust to trail his lone figure in the early, dusky light.  Again, I stayed up at the house, anxiously awaiting his return, full of hope that this miserable saga of carnage would be over this night.

    When he arrived back in the kitchen, his face was grim. He nodded slowly and I knew he'd done the dirty deed.  Apparently, the bird had flown towards him and hit him in the head after he shot it. Vindictive s.o.b.  It was like the Jason of pigeons, minus a tiny hockey mask. Relief flooded through me that the pigeon punks were gone. We had our ring back from those feathered menaces. Our kingdom was once again safe for all horses and riders.  And my man looks totally badass with a rifle.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

The Pigeon Chronicles Part One

     Last week two very stubborn pigeons embarked on a quest to set up their home in our indoor arena. Whenever they were locked out of the ring, they would perch on the roof, waiting patiently for someone to open the doors so they could fly back in and roost.  If they had just sat quietly in the eaves, we might have been inclined to ignore them, but these two didn't want to share the space with horses and riders. They flew through the air, dive bombed the horses, and moaned excessively while up in the rafters. It was obnoxious,unacceptable behavior and despite our persistent efforts to shoo them out with longe whips the two birds kept coming back. We resorted to consulting several parties on the best method to remove them from the property.
  The first and easiest option was to buy a plastic bird of prey to "scare" the pigeons. Our local Tractor Supply had a rather handsome hawk, who struck my fancy, so $10 later I was a plastic hawk owner. Remy, our blue merle Aussie, really freaked when he saw the hawk.

"Look," I said to Jonathan. "Remy wants to get it!"

   I took that as an encouraging sign that this was a realistic replica and we might have a chance at scaring the pigeons off with his presence.  I perched him strategically on top of a jump standard in the middle of the doorway and walked back to the barn to watch the show. The show consisted of the two f'ing pigeons flying off the roof and zooming in directly over the hawk's enemy position. WTF?  I went down and moved the hawk to another threatening perch, but it was futile. The pigeons and the hawk were becoming friends, so we had to face plan b, which was; buy an air rifle.

  We'd seen some rifles at Tractor Supply so off we went again. Having zero experience with bb guns, pellet guns, real guns, etc. we really didn't know what we needed strength wise to knock off these birds. I picked up a Red Ryder model and some pellets and headed off to find a knowledgable employee who might be able to help. After a lengthy search, I found a female employee, with a full on mustache (she obviously shaved it, but had a five o'clock shadow and it was revolting and fascinating all at once) and when I told her of our pigeon plight she looked pensive for a moment, then regaled me with a totally nonsensical pigeon story of her own. I had a gentle smile affixed to my face while I pretended to listen to her, contemplating if she and her husband shared shaving products when suddenly a voice piped up from the neighboring aisle. Glancing over, I saw a slight, grubby man with a thick, bristly stubble over most of his face, wearing a dirty"Coors Light" baseball hat and he was missing his top front teeth and eye teeth, leaving him with a grungy jack o'lantern-esque expression.

"I kin tell you right now, that ain't a powerful enough gun to kill them pigeons, " he stated with the wise knowledge of a professional redneck.

 I shifted away from the useless mustachioed lady and walked over to 'ol Gappy, who seemed all too willing to weigh his opinion in our problem.

 "What size gun to you think we need?"

  He rattled off a bunch of numbers, psi, blah, blah, blah. I was more focused on his missing teeth and how it affected his speech than I was on the information, but the one thing I got from him was that the gun we needed wasn't available at Tractor Supply.

"You're gonna hafta go to Wal-Mart and they'll git you fixed up there," ol' Gappy said.

 I thanked him profusely and as I was walking away thought to myself, well, buying a gun at Wal-Mart certainly hasn't been an item on my bucket list.  Jonathan digested the information I'd gotten from my new friend and consulted his iPhone for information. He found the gun we needed was available at Dick's Sporting Goods, so after dropping me off at home he headed to Poughkeepsie, with one thing on his mind: the pigeons must die.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

My Fifteen Minutes of Fame

   Three weeks ago Jonathan and I drove to Dicks Sporting Goods and bought ourselves two new tennis rackets. We had consulted with a tennis fanatic friend prior to our purchases, and Jonathan did some research on the internet, including reading reviews on each style of racket. He knows all the fancy details, but to me we bought a yellow racket and a green one. The day we bought the rackets it was about a thousand degrees out with five thousand percent humidity, but Jonathan insisted that we stop at the local court to hit some balls.

"We have to try them out," he said. "Aren't you curious about how much better the rackets will be?"

  Truthfully, I wasn't. However, I didn't argue, because he had that happy kind of 10 year old boy who just got a new toy look on his face and his enthusiasm was genuinely cute in spite of the weather.

  Once we hit a few balls we realized that the new rackets were basically machine guns compared to our old rackets, which were like cap guns.  It was going to take a lot of practice to get used to the supreme power of these new beauties. Of course, we really suck at the game since we haven't played in something like fifteen years and we weren't all that good back then, but we seem to enjoy the physical torture and mental anguish that tennis provides for an out of shape body.  Jonathan was having trouble with his forehand. I had absolutely no backhand, because I'm ambidextrous and I used to just switch to my left hand when I saw a backhand ball coming. Clearly, we had a lot of work to do to polish up our rust encrusted game.  Within a half hour we were soaking wet, Jonathan's shoulder hurt and my ankle was bothering me so we called it quits for the day.  There had been glimmers of good shots, which buoyed our hopes that the rackets would help us play a more competitive game.

"Think of how good we'll be by the end of the summer," I said once we were back in the car with the a/c on hurricane mode.  "We just have to keep practicing!"

  Jonathan's enthusiasm had been drowned in the heat, but he managed a weak smile and murmured, "Uh huh,"

  Fast forward to yesterday, which was about our fourth, or fifth practice session. We would be playing more, but there's this pesky barn full of horses that we look after, plus people who ride the horses and need instruction and bug us to go to horse shows all the time. If it weren't for the fact that we have to earn a living, we'd be ready for Wimbledon by now. Anyway, we arrived at the court to find out that we've come during recess time for the school whose property abuts the courts.  Gaggles of children were running, swinging on swings, shrieking and generally having a fabulous end of the year romp.  This meant one thing to me...I was going to have to watch my language.  When I hit a bad shot, I curse. Never the same word either, I like to mix it up. I took a deep breath and focused on my substitute swears, like "sugar", "son of a biscuit", "dang it", you get the picture.

   For some reason on this day, Jonathan isn't getting his groove on. I watch his face go from concentrated focus, to murderous, ax killing demon. He doesn't swear while playing tennis, but I'm beginning to think he should, because the faces he makes are downright evil and I think holding in that anger is bad for his blood pressure. I'm hitting okay, a few very good forehands, and Jonathan helped me with my body position for the backhands, so I'm feeling pretty chuffed in general.

"Maybe you should try to relax a little, focus on a straight trajectory for the ball, think of the position of the face of the racket when you hit the ball," I offer to the ax killing demon across the court from me.

"What do you think I've been doing?" the demon explodes back.  I swear his head spun around on his shoulders.

  Okay, I've been to this movie with Jonathan before so I know to just be pleasant and he'll figure it out on his own. We're batting a few good volleys, back and forth, with occasional wayward hits, when I hear little voices chanting a name. I look over toward the school yard and there are three little girls in a row, and when they see me look toward them the volume increases, "Brittany!!!!!!", they scream. What? Are they yelling that name at me? Who the fuck is Brittany? I'm totally confused.

"That's not my name!" I bark toward them. It doesn't seem to register with these little girls. More little girls appear and now there are ten, or so little girls yelling, "Brittany!!!" at me.

I look at Jonathan, who shrugs, shakes his head and serves me a ball. How the hell can I be expected to concentrate with a flash mob of 8 year olds yelling "Brittany!!!" at me?  I manage to hit some good shots, actually the little crowd causes me to step up my game a bit. Nothing like the pressure of small schoolchildren watching you to make you up your ante.  I decide to ignore the kids and just keep playing. Any time I glance in their direction, they nearly swoon and scream louder. What in the living hell is going on here?  Is Brittany a popular babysitter in town?  These kids are too young to remember Brittany Spears before she had kids, went crazy and shaved her head. They couldn't think I was Brittany Spears anyway. I have brown hair and my thighs are slim, with scrawny calves. These kids were really starting to get on my nerves.

"Maybe we should stop. I'm getting tired," Jonathan said.
"No, let's hit a few more. Sometimes you hit your best shots when you're tired," I reply.
   In all honesty, the kids were freaking me out and I didn't want to have to leave the safety of the chain link enclosed court. Who knew what those half crazed little buggers might do? They might attack me, pull out my hair and steal my yellow racket.  Finally, the school bell signaled that recess was over and my wee fan club grudgingly headed back to the building, yelling a few half hearted, Brittany's over their small, slumped shoulders.  It almost made me feel badly. Maybe I should've handled the situation differently? Should I have waved back and said, "Hi Kids!! Yes, I'm the fabulous Brittany! Have an awesome day!!"?  They might've all died of instant little heart attacks. Instead, I played the part of an aloof, spoiled star. In fact, I freaking rocked that part, I could totally be famous and pull it off.  I WAS famous for a few minutes on that parched tennis court in the middle of the village of Millbrook.  Except it wasn't for playing tennis, it was for being "Brittany, iconic figure to little girls, but for what we have yet to determine".  

"Let's go honey," I said to Jonathan. "Brittany's tired and needs a drink."  

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Happy JUNE!!!

   It's June! I've always loved this month, and my love affair with it started when I was a little kid. In my home town of Hampton Falls, NH, we had two important town functions that occurred in June which were run by the volunteer fire department. They consisted of a very special fair and a horse show. The first Saturday in June was the annual Village Green Fair. I LOVED the fair and I looked forward to it all year long. For me it was like a second Christmas, except the weather usually called for shorts and a tank top instead of a down jacket and knit cap.  The fair was held on the town common, a swath of land in the middle of town which had a tall obelisque monument surrounded by a granite border, with old cannons and piles of cannon balls at four corners.  The common is still there in all of its glory, in case you're curious. The Fair had a used book table, bric-a-brac table ( never really spent much time there so not sure exactly what bric-a-brac consists of...what an olde term!), rummage sale (lots of old, cool clothes), an art sale, an auction of old furniture, and whatever else the townsfolk wanted to sell,  a dunking tank (fun to watch, but not fun to be on the plank with random people throwing a ball at an ancient arm to attempt to dunk you in the murky water that the fireman pumped into a rusty metal tank that was coated with yards of poly paper the night before the fair), a frog jumping contest (run by my dad, yeah he was the presiding judge of frog jumps and he rocked that role for years),  hamburgers and hotdogs offered at the lunch table, and last, but not least, PONY RIDES! The year I was 9 yrs. old I took so many pony rides that the pony ride people started letting me take the ride by myself. I was a gold star customer! It was heaven for a horse crazy kid. Teeny Shetland ponies, clad in stiff western tack, cranky little cusses, but willing to take a kid like me for a stroll down the lawn and back equalled heaven to me. I think I spent a total of 8 dollars that day. It was a quarter per ride. Ahh, those were the days. My mom was working the rummage sale during the fair and she happily doled out quarters to her horse crazy daughter, oblivious of what kind of demonic equine love she created with each coin she sent my way. I know she doesn't regret it and neither do I. The Fair. Such golden memories. I can still feel the tingle of waking up on the morning of the Fair!!

   My second special June memory was the Hampton Falls Fire Department Horse Show. I believe it was held the weekend after the fair. My first memory of the show was when it was held just down the street from where I grew up. I would grab a bowl of Life cereal and perch on the rock at the end of my road by 7 a.m. to watch the horse trailers roll by on their way to the show grounds.  It was thrilling to watch the 70's trailers which were unique, often homeade jobs, cruise by me. Rickety rigs, pulled by station wagons, or old pick ups.  I would spend the day surrounded by quarter horses, appaloosas, morgans and arabians, smelling their fragrance, eating dust and watching the riders in their English and Western finery. Snow fencing created the "ring". It was a plain, old open field all year long, but during the show it was a place where horses were shown! Shown! I loved it! The Indian paintbrush flowers that grew there were beaten down during the show and there wasn't any special footing. But this was horse show! I knew it was part of me. And one day it I would be a rider. The show eventually moved to a more suitable venue in town, with a proper ring. Thanks to my fabulous parents, I ended up owning a horse that I showed in this special home town horse show a few years later. His name was Believer's Ten and he was a bay Quarter horse gelding that we'd purchased from good friends, the Titcomb family. We bought Ten as a 3 yr. old and god bless him, he was a good boy. I practiced and practiced on that horse, between bareback trail rides and lessons, we grew as a team. In 1985 we won the Hampton Falls Volunteer Fire Department Local Pleasure Perpetual Trophy.  Wow! It was such a great day! I have pictures of me smiling on that horse's back, so filled with the love of riding, my horse, my family and the town that I grew up in.  It was such a wonderful day. I remember it like yesterday.  I feel so blessed that I grew up in a rural town, with parents who cared and such special traditions. They all meant the world to me when I was a kid ( and to this day!) and I know that's why I feel so strongly about the month of June.  Happy June to all!!!