High Hopes

Yes, I know I whine about squirrels a good bit, like I think people in other areas don’t have similar problems.  Oh no, those folks have my sympathy, especially Natalie, my Canadian blogger friend who says they’re in the walls of her house.  Gulp.  Even Britain has squirrel problems.  Our squirrels somehow showed up over there and liked it, so now they’re considered a serious nuisance.  I wonder if some devious American took a couple over in retaliation for the starlings which are nuisances over here.

Hmmm.  Or maybe the starlings were retaliation for the squirrels.  Truce!

Having said all that, I’d like to point out that the scientific name for them is Sciurus Carolinensis.   Must translate to “scourge of Carolina.”

Remember the latest damnsquirrel episode that I wrote about a couple of weeks ago?  The one where a cheeky little tree rat climbed up onto the table on our second story deck and yanked out the boxwood twig I was attempting to root?   I figured that the “something” I saw him surreptitiously stick in the small planter was an acorn.  Was he hiding it for food or planting a mighty oak where he thought none of the other squirrels would venture.

Hard to tell what a sneaky squirrel is thinking.

Today I noticed something growing in the planter.  It sure as heck wasn’t my boxwood twig.  It wasn’t an oak seedling either. Mr. Squirrel wanted bigger nuts.

Image 4

The pecan he’d stuck in there had bigger plans, too, which didn’t include being lunch for a squirrel.  In just a couple of weeks, it had already rooted into a seedling of six inches or so.  There are no pecan trees on our street, so Mr. S. had to go some distance to procure the nut, probably traveling via our squirrel-chewed cable line.

I brought it in to show to Dearly Beloved.

“Are you going to plant it?  he asked.

I don’t know.

“You almost have to, don’t you?”  

I reckon.

Image 5

I’m wondering if I’ve fallen into the squirrel’s trap because it wanted a pecan tree.  All the pictures of nut-eating squirrels show them munching on acorns.  Maybe this one wanted something bigger and better.

I’ve read that without predators, the little turds can live 20 years or so.  Heck, he might even get some pecans from it.  Hmmm.  Now that I think of it, I might not.

It’s now planted in a deeper pot so the root can uncurl.  Although I have no idea where I’d plant it, I’m going to see how it grows.   As DB says, they’re messy trees, but they’re beautiful.  Nothing is better than the shade of a Southern pecan tree.

Provided there’s not some jackass squirrel up there, dropping nuts on your head.

 -   –   –   –   –   –   -

If I’m pushed, I’d also have to admit I don’t like people with allergies. They just annoy me. There seems to be something far too self-centred about it. ‘No thanks, I’m allergic.’ Why not just say ‘No thanks’? I wasn’t asking for your medical history, I was just passing around the nuts. Trying to be friendly, that’s all.
Jack Dee


The Damnsquirrel Chronicles: The Invasion Continues

Sometimes I feel a little guilty about the mean things I say about squirrels.  Friends send me pictures of them in oh-so-cute situations.   Am I charmed by such?   Not a chance.  Image 1I’ve also received books on how to get rid of them,  articles on critter control, and videos of contraptions to stump or terrorize them.   One video showed a pricey bird feeder which begins to spin if a squirrel climbs on.  If I had one, the tree rat would spin off and land on my back, or I’d get plastered with squirrel vomit.

These things happen; don’t fool yourself.  Just because I’m paranoid doesn’t mean the little bastards aren’t out to get me.

Look in the neighboring yards and you’ll realize that all the squirrel action is in ours.  They’re running through my azalea beds, digging up the lawn, or chasing each other up the oak tree for gawd knows what deviate purpose.  The goodies we put out to attract birds have transformed our yard into a 5-star rodent restaurant.  It isn’t unusual to see more squirrels than birds hanging around.  Not the plan when we put out all those feeders!


I’ve pulled up all my strawberry plants and have no plans to set out tomatoes this year.  I’ve given up on planting colorful pots of annuals because the squirrels climb onto the pots and yank the plants out like they heard a rumor I hid a sack of peanuts in the bottom.

I’ve resorted to putting anything that might be of interest to them on a table on our second story deck.  My pitiful collection currently consists of a lone tomato plant in a clay pot and a single twig of boxwood that I’m rooting.  Bless pat, I looked out yesterday and damned if one of those varmints wasn’t sitting on the table with the boxwood twig in his paws.  Why, why, why?  Was he using it as a toothpick?  The holes in my tomato plant soil must be precursors of a coming oak tree crop which will root-wrestle my tomato plant into oblivion.

And get this: I came home to find a cable repairman at the back of our lot recently.  When I asked, “Are you improving our service?”  he shook his head.

“I can’t fix this.  They’ll have to send a crew out to put up at least ten feet of new wire.  The squirrels have chewed this one worse than any I’ve ever seen and I’ve been doing it for ten years.

Nothing is sacred around here.  Not on the ground, not in the air.

It isn’t that I hate the damnsquirrels, but I do feel myself sliding in that direction.

Have you watched this amazing video?  

Just so you know, I still rooted for the squirrel.

* * * * * * * * *

“Aunt Prune was holding one of the squirrels in her hand. ‘And once a day, we have ta clean their little private parts with a Q-tip, so they’ll learn ta clean themselves.’
That was a visual I didn’t need”
― Margaret Stohl, Beautiful Creatures




Boxing Lessons

Fed-Ex and UPS trucks stop in front of our house quite often, but they’re usually making  deliveries to the condos across the street.  When a driver headed toward our door with a very large box recently, I threw open the front door in anticipation of a big surprise.  The guy ignored my greeting and shoved the box in on its side. The address label side was against the wall and when I bent over to turn it to see who it was from, the guy mumbled “thebottomcameopensignhere”  and stuck the electronic scanner in my face  for my signature before I had a chance to look.  He hurried back to his truck.

The bottom was indeed completely open–he’d been holding it closed with his hands, so I reached in and pulled out the contents:  a lovely, HUGE basket containing several bottles of wine, nuts, crackers, dips, spreads, and chocolates, the whole wonderful assortment wrapped in that crinkly cellophane that is used only for good things.  Jackpot!

There was no card.  I turned the box over and yanked off the label envelope.  Sure enough, there was a printed note from someone, saying Thank You and how much they’d enjoyed their stay at our mountain home.  Uh oh.  I yanked back my hand which had been ready to dive for one of the chocolates.  A  couple of issues popped into my head:  (1) I didn’t recognize the names on the card and (2) we don’t have a mountain house.

Dang!  Don’t you hate it when that happens?

I looked at the address label.  Not our name, not our house number.  The driver had transposed the numbers, like reading 4139  as 4319.  Since he was long gone,  I decided that rather than trying to contact the company at 5 PM, I’d simply take the basket up the street to the correct address.  I shoved it back into the box and when I picked it up, I realized that I wouldn’t be able to walk up there carrying the box.  Dearly Beloved took it out to the car for me.  I drove up to the correct address. . . where no one was home.

I walked around the house and found a covered porch at their back door, so I left the package there.  Immediately, I started to worry:  What if they’re out of town for two weeks? I went to the house next door and the lovely old gentleman who answered assured me that the people were not out of town.  He gave me paper and pen so that I could leave a long, convoluted note (the only kind I know how to write) about why the box was opened and how I came to have it.

A couple of hours later the rightful recipient called to thank me for my delivery.  I told him that I thought the devil had made the carrier do it because it contained such a tempting basket of goodies.

I was in the bathtub when the doorbell rang a couple of hours later and I couldn’t get decent in time to answer it. When I looked out front a few minutes later, I found a pretty gift box by our front door.  I opened it and recognized the chocolates that I’d seen a few hours earlier in the large gift basket.  Ahhhh!

Yes, honesty is its own reward, but chocolate sweetens it considerably.  I called him to say thanks.

A few days later, as Dearly Beloved and I were heading out for a hamburger, I noticed two large boxes of gift-basket size on our next door neighbors’ front porch.  “STOP,”  I yelled.  “They’re out of town. We need to do something with those packages!”Image 5

DB backed up and pulled into their driveway. He went up to get the boxes and put them in the trunk of our car, but he examined them and came back empty-handed.

“They were delivered to the wrong house.  They belong to Larry up the street.”

Once again, the carrier had transposed the numbers.

DB contacted Larry and told him the whereabouts of the boxes.  Larry was thrilled because the boxes contained speakers that he’d been watching for all week.  He rushed up to get them.

Every time I see one of the trucks on our street, I have to resist the urge to run over and make sure the package has reached its proper destination.

What do you think?  Coincidence?  Dyslexic driver?  Or are our suspicions correct that yes, we really do live in The Twilight Zone?



Mary Lee is WHAT???

BroJoe sent me the first headline a couple of years ago, something about Mary Lee hanging around the Outer Banks.  Huh?  Since then, I’ve received a stream of fun headlines from friends.  I prefer the ones that refer to “rock star Mary Lee” instead of words like “massive” and other references to weight.

Mary Lee prowls East Coast

Mary Lee Has Come For a Visit

Great White Mary Lee passing by Charleston coast again

Great White Mary Lee Moves Back North

Mary Lee is back in North Carolina

Mary Lee checking out St Helena sound

You do know Mary Lee, right?  Rock star?  Also a Great White Shark.

This one was left at my front door a few weeks ago:


Tagging a Great White Shark was a big deal.  The SPOT  (Smart Position and Temperature) tag attached to her dorsal fin sends data to the nearest satellite and it is passed on to the research team.  When she was tagged, she was christened (so to speak) Mary Lee, after Ocearch scientist Chris Fischer’s mother.  Still, I feel a connection.  Other sharks will always be asking her, “. . . now,  is Lee your middle name or your last name?”

The SPOT gives location, water temperature (GWS like waters around 50-70 degrees) and water salinity.  Usually they stay in salt water, but Mary Lee entered brackish waters around Cape Cod.  That’s close!  She has also pinged within 200 yards of the Carolinas coastal areas.  Mary Lee prefers her summers around the Cape, winters farther down the Atlantic coast.

A crew of Ocearch marine biologists followed her when she headed down to Jacksonville, Florida, where she began swimming with a smaller, Great White Shark there.  That’s how the crew discovered Lydia, who was then tagged and released.

Mary Lee has her own Pinterest and Facebook sites.  Google her and you’ll find over 1,000,000 links.  See?  Rock star!  

Here’s a video of how she was tagged:

With the crazy, cold winter we’ve had, I worried that she had checked out for South American or Africa, so I was pleased to learn that she was in the Savannah area.   Mary Lee may prefer the Atlantic coast,  but her more adventuresome friend, Lydia, headed out to sea.
A couple of days ago, my blogging/Facebook Irish friend Steffi Walsh posted a Look Who’s Here blurb announcing that Lydia was nearing the waters around Ireland.  Amazing!   I e-mailed to ask Steffi to tell Lydia that Mary Lee said Hey.  She refused.
I’ve read many fascinating facts about great white sharks, like their favorite foods:  sea lions and seals.  One article speculated that if they attack a human, it’s because they’ve mistaken the human for a seal.  Over 70% of humans attacked by a great white survived  because, it is believed, that they realize their mistake and let go.  Hmmm.
(See, Steff, you could do it!  Just try not to look like a seal.)
A good meal can last these sharks up to three months.
Recent articles about Mary Lee say that she may be pregnant. Yowsah!  Gestation period is 11-18 months, so it’s an educated guess  right now.  If it’s true, Fischer’s mother will be pleased.

 “Mary Lee is a sweet, sweet woman. This is a sweet, sweet shark,” Fischer said. “Now she keeps asking if it’s pregnant, saying ‘I want grand-sharks!’”

Lydia, who has been tracked for more than 20,000 miles, is also rumored to be pregnant. She could continue to swim toward Ireland or she may turn toward the Mediterranean.  There is a favorite shark birthing spot near Turkey.

Both of them pregnant?  That must have been one heck of a Spring Break in Jacksonville!


Sharks are as tough as those football fans who take their shirts off during games in Chicago in January, only more intelligent. - Dave Barry


Whose History?

When Dearly Beloved and I went to Oxford, Mississippi to attend an Ole Miss football game in the fall, my cousin took us to see the statue of James Meredith, the first black student to be admitted to the University of Mississippi.  The year was 1962 and the Supreme Court had ruled that he had a right to be admitted.  He was 29 years old, an Air Force Veteran and had every qualification for admittance except for the color of his skin.



Three times he arrived to register for his classes and found the entrance blocked by state troopers, there under order of Gov. Ross Barnett, who had appeared on television to declare that Mississippi “will not surrender to the evil and illegal forces of tyranny … [and] no school will be integrated in Mississippi while I am your governor.

Politicians showed up, too, to gin up votes and emotions among the gathering protestors.  After the angry crowd grew to a mob of 2,000, additional US Marshals were brought in, bringing the number to 500.  Washington sent in 3,000 US Army, National Guard, and Border Patrol personnel as backup to help control the situation.  They had permission to  use tear gas to disperse the crowd, but were ordered not to fire and they didn’t.

The rioters did fire.  Two people were killed, 160 of the Marshals were injured, as well as a number of the military support groups.   One of the dead was a British journalist found, shot in the back, behind the Lyceum Building.


The stately old Lyceum building, the first one built on campus, was completed in 1848.  Union Troops took it over during the Civil War and used it as a hospital.  Bullet holes in the columns and over the door reveal evidence of racial strifes a century apart.   A life-sized statue of James Meredith was erected near that building in 2006, a permanent symbol of the  turning point for the University, the push toward equal opportunity for everyone.

After graduating from the University of Mississippi, James Meredith continued his studies and earned a Master’s Degree from Nigeria, a law degree from Columbia University.  He wishes the university would remove the statue.  The school refuses.  Meredith does, however, wear an Ole Miss cap on occasion and has attended football games.  He became an active Republican.

The University of Mississippi has worked long and hard to move beyond those ugly images and has advanced the cause of equal rights and race relations, not just at the school, but in the entire state and beyond.  President Barack Obama and Senator John McCain held a nationally televised debate there on a historic evening  in 2008.  Member of a dwindling Ku Klux Klan showed up to hang around– without their white hoods and robes–handing out brochures and membership applications.

When the statue of James Meredith was discovered this month–Black History Month– with a noose around its neck and an old Georgia flag with its battle emblem of the confederacy, reaction was swift.  After it was determined that two 19-year-old members (not pledges) of a fraternity were involved, their fraternity brothers immediately reported them to the University and expelled them from their chapter.  Even so, the University has suspended the entire fraternity pending further investigation.  A third member of the fraternity is also prominent in the investigation.

The school has turned over evidence to state and federal officials.  “These individuals chose our university’s most visible symbol of unity and educational accessibility to express their disagreement with our values. Their ideas have no place here, and our response will be an even greater commitment to promoting the values that are engraved on the statue — Courage, Knowledge, Opportunity and Perseverance,” Chancellor Dan Jones said in a statement.

An alumni association offered a $25,000 reward for information. The FBI is looking into the crime.   All three men have retained lawyers and refuse to speak to University officials or law enforcement unless they are formally charged.

A short time after Meredith’s entrance into Ole Miss,  Harvey Gantt became the first black student to enroll at Clemson University in South Carolina.  My Dearly Beloved attended Clemson during that period.

Harvey Gantt graduated with honors, obtaining his degree in Architecture there, then on to MIT for a degree in city planning.  He returned to Charlotte and served on the City Council and later, two terms as mayor.  A Democrat, he ran twice against Jesse Helms for US Senate and lost each time, gaining 47%, then 46% of the vote.

Ironically, James Meredith served on the staff of Jesse Helms.

The men took different paths, but went on to distinguish themselves in the cause of equal rights.  Mr. Meredith declares he works not toward the cause of civil rights, but equal rights of citizenship.

There are discussions now as to whether or not the “frat boys” (as they are referred to in news articles) committed a hate crime.  What do you think?  It was certainly a hateful one.

February is Black History Month.  Sadly, it’s White History Month, too.


Walkin’ the Line


The snowfall we had here last week was more than enough to close schools and screw up traffic.  I didn’t rush out for bread and milk like the crazies.  Instead, I pulled out sugar, vanilla, and a can of Carnation evaporated milk, scooped up a large bowl of snow and made snow cream, like my mother and my grandmother used to.  Dearly Beloved always laughs when I do that.  He wouldn’t touch the stuff.

At 10:28 AM, the electricity in our neighborhood blinked about a dozen times, then went down in a final gasp.  After about 30 minutes, I phoned Duke Energy, knowing that I wouldn’t reach a human.  I was right, of course.  Voice informed me that a power outage in our area had been reported at 10:30 AM and they were investigating to have an approximate time when power might be restored.

I’ve always assumed there was some huge, high-tech interactive map on a wall at Duke Energy whereby alarms beep and lights blink to alert personnel of any neighborhood outages, but apparently they’re more like the Maytag man, only without the guy waiting by the phone.

As DB puts it, the power company doesn’t seem to know much unless someone tells them.  In fact, let DB tell you about it, since he had most of the dealings with them for the rest of the day.  He insists on telling things so they’d hold up in court, so believe it.  This is what happened.

The Written Testimony of Dearly Beloved:

About 2:00 PM, the snow has stopped and the weather has been clear for several hours.  I think this should be a simple problem for the power company to identify and solve, so the dog and I walk outside to see what’s going on.  Ambling down the middle of the street comes this guy with a hard hat and a neon vest.  

Howdy”, I say.  Howdy seemed to fit the mood of his gait.  It must have, because Howdy,” he says back.  My conversation with Hard Hat guy went something like this:

Me:  What’s going on?

HH:  Nothing much.   How’ya doing?

Me:  You with the power company?

HH:  Yep.

Me:  What are you doing?

HH:  Walkin’ the line.  Got any power?

Me:   No.  What are you guys doing about it?

HH:  Walkin’ the line.

Me:   What does that mean?

HH:  Lookin’ to see where the line is down.

Me:  Any luck?

HH:  Seen another guy like me?

Me:   No, what’s he doing?

HH:  Walkin’ the line.

Me:  Don’t you know where he is?

HH:  Not exactly.  He’s around somewhere.

Me:  When do you think you’ll find the problem?

HH:  Not sure.

Me:  Good luck.

MML: If I can interject here. . . the utility lines on our street run between poles along the back property lines where our houses and the ones on the street behind us meet.  The same applies to the residences across the street from us.  Their lines run between their homes and the ones on the street behind them, so it’s not unusual for us to be in darkness while the neighbors across the street are cooking, watching TV, and opening their refrigerator with impunity.  

The utility lines have probably been like this ever since the neighborhood was built.  So have many of the trees and shrubs that homeowners planted to hide those ugly utility poles; now they’re growing into the power lines.  Wind and ice break the limbs and snap the wires, a decidedly un-21st century situation.

 I took this picture from a back window.  See the lines?  Imagine trying to see them from the middle of the street, with houses and more trees blocking the view.  


Okay, back to DB’s report:

I waited around for an hour or so, then decided I’d “walk the line”.  Down a couple of  blocks I saw four guys standing beside an orange truck.  Other than two smoking cigarettes;  there was no other activity.  One of them was the Howdy guy.  We all gave each other the “guy” nod.  

Me: Find the problem?

HH:  Yep.

Me:  So what’cha doing?

HH:  Waitin’ on the power company.

Me:  That’s not you?

HH:  Naw.  We just cut the broken trees out.  The power guys ground the lines first.  Waitin’ on them.

Me:  When’ll that be?  

HH:  Not sure.  They’re finishing a job behind the college.  

Me:  That’s not far.  So after they ground, how long will it take you to get the trees out?

HH:  Maybe an hour.

Me:  And how long for them to get the power on?

HH:  Maybe an hour.

Me:  So around 5:00?  My wife wants to watch Curling.  It comes on at 5.

HH:  Sounds about right.  We’ve been watching some of that curlin’ stuff, too.

Me:   Good luck.

HH:  Yeah, thanks.  We drove up from South Carolina.

Me:   Thanks for making the trip.

At almost exactly 5:00, the power came on.  Across the street.  The four guys obviously hadn’t walked all the line.  But once they found each other, they did have the orange truck to guard.

We were still without power at 9 PM, so we went to bed because by then, it was 59 degrees inside.  

The electricity came back at exactly midnight.  We know that because the lights came on and simultaneously, the power surge set off our next-door neighbors’ burglar alarm, which screamed just outside our bedroom window for ten minutes.  I walked around, turning off lamps and appliances which had been on in the morning and climbed back into bed.  We couldn’t do anything about the alarm; the neighbors were out of town.

Then the phone rang.  It was an across-the-street neighbor, wanting to know what was going on over here.   I assured her we were okay and climbed back into bed a second time.  A few minutes later, the police, answering the alarm call, walked around shining their spotlights all around.  That set off our alarm:  Scout the Wonder Dog.


A couple of days later, the power company announced they had made $4 billion in profit, much of it due to rate increases.  The article didn’t mention anything about technological investment and advances in outage identification.  Made me wonder how much of the rate increase and profit margin goes for “walkin’ the line.”



That was DB’s report.  I figure I’d better have some photos to go with my part, or you might not believe it.

Sometimes when they repair a line, the guys leave parting gifts, like these logs, which have been balancing on the wires for several years now,  a rustic sword of Damocles,

See that bottom wire that looks like it’s so low that I can touch it?   I can.  I don’t, of course, but I wouldn’t even have to stand on my toes to do so.

In the 20 years or so that we lived in the Midwest, I don’t think we ever experienced a power outage.  They’re far too frequent here.  

But what can we do?

We’re powerless.

Kudos to the Weather Forecaster

It’s a snow day here and it’s lovely, a fairyland of white.  Our Southern yard is a winter wonderland, except for a little yellow snow-writing compliments of Scout-the-wonder-dog, and even that will be covered soon because the snow is still falling.

Thanks to Accu-weather, we knew it was coming.  Schools were closed, appointments were changed.   Forecasters are saying we could get 6 to 10 inches.  It’s definitely stay-at-home weather.

Like most areas of the South, our city doesn’t have enough snow plows to keep traffic moving.  They salt the bridges and the busiest streets before the snow starts, then the machinery they have is concentrated on the bridges and the main streets.  They won’t get to the residential streets.  Smart people wait it out.

The weather forecasters gave us plenty of notice, so folks were able to head to the supermarkets to strip the shelves of bread and milk.  Our neighborhood hardware store reported that they sold 300 sleds in 45 minutes yesterday morning.

Dearly Beloved and I made our preparations well in advance of the storm.  There was no urgency for bread and milk.  I baked cookies.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Each of us had our own priorities for survival.

I heeded the call for a Cab and headed to the store:


Dearly Beloved chose to order his survival gear via Amazon.  The package arrived today, just ahead of the storm:


No joke.

I should have baked more cookies.

-    -   –   –   –   –   -

“He was in a fairy kingdom where everything was possible.
He looked up at the sky. And the sky was a fairy realm like the earth. It was clearing, and over the tops of the trees clouds were swiftly sailing as if unveiling the stars.”
― Leo Tolstoy