Me and Pooch and Daniel Boone

November 21, 2016

From “Never Met a Stranger,” due out soon-ish

 

Me and Pooch and Daniel Boone

Everybody has a secret soup bone.

Murphy had his Laws, Dr. Peter had his Peter Principle, and Pooch had The Great Soup bone.

Allow me to explain.

Years ago, I had this great dog named Pooch. I have not always been clever in the naming of my animal companions. In my own defense, I can tell you that he already had the name when I got him from a couple who couldn’t keep him anymore.

Pooch was friendly, happy without any good reason, and generally useless in a cheerful sort of way. He was a lot like most of my friends back in the day.

He was about one-third German Shepherd, one-third Weimaraner, and one-third marshmallow.

Like any other dog, Pooch’s ancestry went all the way back to the wolf. I think that’s pretty cool. I haven’t looked too far back on my own family tree for fear of what sort of termites and miscreants I might find.

Down inside, you see, Pooch saw himself as a Fearless Beast, a veritable Call-of-The-Wild wolf creature with fangs that would freeze the blood of a grizzly and a howl that would make a saint sweat.

Never mind that Pooch was a neurotic wreck. Never mind that he could let loose a marrow-curdling roar, but only if he knew the person at whom he was roaring.

I started thinking about Pooch today while talking with a friend about hunters. We were laughing about the not-really-very-funny fact that most of the deer hunters who die pursuing their sport do so from falling out of trees or from heart attacks.

Obviously, a person who spends 362 days of the year watching television or flying a desk is going have problems the other three days of the year when he tries to transform himself into Daniel Boone and go ridge-running after The Big One.

A friend and I were wondering why they do it, and I thought about Pooch.

I used to stop off on my way home from work and pick up a soup bone from a butcher I had befriended. Pooch loved to gnaw on the things and growl, and the cats looked at him with respect.

I guess I forgot to mention the cats. My wife and I had sixteen of them. We could not bear to give the kittens away and the females couldn’t bear to say “no,” and we had no money to have them spayed, so we had a lot. By the time the number got up to 24, I had left, but that’s another story, and it had nothing to do with the cats.

Anyway, Pooch would curl up in front of the fireplace and immediately six or eight kittens would curl up all over him. He would look at me as if to say “This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, is it?”

One day, my butcher friend gave me a real treat; most of a cow’s backbone, with one rack of ribs still attached. The doggone thing was about four feet long.

Pooch was cross-eyed with delight.

He carried the gory thing around with him, neck muscles bulging, eyes popping with the effort, now and then uttering fierce little growls. I think he was trying to convince the cats and maybe himself that he’d killed this monstrous, ferocious beast.

The fantasy was pretty easy to put up with for the first few days. But after a while the hapless backbone began to take on a nasty greenish look, and the smell was astounding.

Still, Pooch would pick it up four or five times a day and strut past us, reeking to high heaven, bragging to us in dog-talk about what a fight this thing had put up.

Finally, one day when he was off scaring the wits out of a chipmunk, I took the backbone, which now resembled a prop out of the movie Night of The Living Dead, and dumped it in the Oconee River, which flowed by my back yard.

Pooch searched the woods for that disgusting thing for days. I think he suspected me. He probably thought I was jealous of his hunting prowess.

So, I sit around and shoot the breeze and tell hunting stories, though I can’t even remember the last time I shot a gun. I still like to walk in the woods, but I confess that the hills are steeper than they used to be, and the wind colder.

But sometimes, when the air turns crisp, I find myself staring wistfully at the gun racks in the sporting goods stores, and fight down a desire to go slogging through some of the world’s untamed places. But then I remember Pooch, who carried his fantasy around until it stank, and became a pain in the neck.

Still, I wonder if I could find a coonskin cap in my size.

 

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August 12, 2014

By T.W. Burger

I found it, naturally, while looking for something entirely different.

 

In a box on a bottom shelf in my office, jammed in with some other mementos, was my old Mr. Trash hat.

 

It was filthy.

 

Of course, it was filthy when I put it away, sometime back in the early 1980s.

 

The grime is easy to explain. Mr. Trash was a “refuse removal business,” which most of us would still call “garbage company.” I was the field manager, though I’m not sure I had any formal title. I ran the crews. We started out with five trucks. I’m not saying the trucks were worn out, but their continued presence on the road had to be due to divine intervention. This was 1981 or ’82, and one of trucks was a Dodge. Dodge stopped making trucks any bigger than pickups in 1968.

 

I was in management in about the same way a staff sergeant is an officer, i.e., not much. Oh, I had a desk in the office and a pager (this was way before cell phones) and a pickup truck. But I also ran the crews and picked up garbage, usually by swinging by the homes of customers who had been missed by my crews.

Mr. Trash

Mr. Trash

Garbage workers never catch a break. Even today, I believe, people look down their noses at them, no pun intended. Which is a shame, because it’s not easy work, and if you don’t think their work matters, let your garbage men go on strike for a couple of weeks. In summer. We had a strike in Atlanta when I was in my 20s, I think. We lived 70 miles away and used to joke that we could smell it.

 

One clever fellow in the city figured out how to get rid of his own trash. He would put the bags in a box and gift-wrap the box. Then he would drive into the city and park his car for a while on a side street and go for coffee, leaving his windows open. When he got back, et voila’, the garbage was gone.

 

Anyway, it was a challenge balancing my crews and the company owner, who, I suspect, had never before worked with anybody who didn’t wear a coat and tie.

 

For example, I had prepared color-coded maps of the county for each workday, with different color on the map for each crew. The boss went to the trouble and expense of having color copies made for each of the drivers. He presented each man with the maps. The drivers looked a little baffled, but dutifully stored the maps in the cabs of their trucks and drove off to the day’s work.

 

“They didn’t look very happy,” Boss Man said. “Well,” I replied, “only one of the drivers can read. They know their routes from memory. Roger can’t even read house numbers, but he’s got a tremendous memory, when he’s sober.”

 

One of my crew was attacked by a pit-bull whose owner had failed to secure it in its doghouse. Larry heard a noise and turned to see this animal snarling and heading toward him like a surface-to-Larry missile. The dog launched into the air. Larry grabbed a one-gallon pickle jar from the trash can and killed it with one blow. I arrived about 10 minutes later to find the homeowner screaming about lawsuits and such, and berating Larry with all sorts of insults. I interrupted to point out that if I had just seen a man kill my pit-bull with his bare hands, I might be a little more circumspect in the way addressed him.

 

So, after about a year of similar adventures, Mr. Trash and I parted company. The hat went into storage with hats from other jobs. And yes, it’s smudged and smeared by various substances whose origins I don’t care to think about much. I can remember it being so soaked that sweat dripped off the hat’s bill. I wore it for awhile the day I found it, and I do believe I could still smell garbage.

 

Still, Sue asked me if I would like her to put it in the wash. She has a sort of hat-shaped cage thing she can clip onto it so it won’t lose its shape.

 

I think it’s a girl thing. Wash my Mr. Trash hat?

 

No way.

 

It’s an historical artifact.

 

 

 

 

Twist and Creak

August 27, 2012

We shuffled and limped into the theater in downtown Gettysburg, men and women of a certain age. Some waggishly wore hippy gear; head-bands, tie-dyed shirts and skirts, and so on. Frankly, the gear looked better on us all a few decades back, but we knew that. Everybody looked excited and eager.

Inside the theater our youth was waiting.

Well, as much of it as remains to us. A Beatles tribute band, “1964-The Tribute,” played at the Majestic, and I thought it would be a lark. It was much more.

When I was a kid, my dad would walk through the house at night, humming old Glenn Miller pieces, sometimes cupping his hands over his mouth and mimicking a trombone solo.

Inevitably, I would roll my eyes, embarrassed, and irritated, somehow. It was music from the distant past, ancient, meaning more than 20 years old. I actually liked Glenn Miller music, but I wasn’t about to admit it. It was of my parents’ world, and therefore not to be trusted.

The theater was packed. There may have been a couple of empty seats, but I couldn’t see them. Even the balcony was full. A sea of geezers, me included, all chatting excitedly. It was an Event.

I had never heard a tribute band before; there are plenty of them, for all sorts of defunct artists, from Mozart to, someday, I suppose, Justin Bieber, if they can find a 12-year-old who can sing. I was not prepared to be impressed.

After all, we live in an age when there is no “Yesterday,” (sorry, Paul). Not in the sense of media, anyway. Time, I thought, was safely tucked away in millions of little electronic pockets, in iPhones, computers, and compact discs, everywhere. Heck, I still have all my original Beatles LPs.

I got my first album from the lads from Liverpool when I was 14 and visiting relatives in western Pennsylvania. It was “With the Beatles.”

There was a record player in my aunt’s basement, and I spent a big chunk of the Christmas visit sitting in that dark space listening to that one album, over and over.

It must have driven the adults mad. But they let me have that.

I am no musicologist, but I have read critiques of the music, especially the tunes penned by Lennon and McCartney, extolling their talent and the impact their work had on music of many varieties from that moment on. If you weren’t around, I can tell you that American pop music just before the so-called “British Invasion” was nothing if not blah.

Though there have been a number of albums, many of them were mere mashups of previous work. According to at least one source, all of the massive effect the Beatles had arose from the core Beatles discography recorded during the 1960s roughly 10 hours of original music. Just 10 hours, a little more than an average American work-day. And only one of the group, George Harrison, could even read music.

Back at the Majestic, theater director Jeffrey W. Gabel came out and did the usual rah-rah stuff about the theater and its funding needs.

And then he introduced the band.

With the wigs and the suits they could pass, sort of, for the original Fab Four. They have been touring for 28 years, but they managed to look a lot younger than they probably felt at the end of the two-hour show.

But. Oh. My. God. The music.

Not exact, mind you. The playing was close enough, but the voices, naturally, not quite the same. Lots of Beatle-y banter in what may actually be a Liverpudlian accent, though the band members actually hail from places like Indiana and Ohio, for god’s sake.

But the difference between the pretenders and the real thing blurred by nostalgia and aging eyesight.

It worked. They started playing and time fell away, except for the creak in my knees when I stood to cheer, clap, and sing.

I surprised myself by knowing almost all the lyrics. I could tell because I was singing them along with everybody else I could see. The cheering at the end of most songs shook the rafters, or whatever is holding the Majestic up other than wealthy donors. “Twist and Shout” nearly resulted in a riot and, I suspect, a couple of coronaries.

Now and then I remembered that I am by profession and inclination an observer, and took time to look around: Row after row of friends, neighbors, people I flat don’t like, and people I just know by sight, all of us in various stages of decrepitude, all of us dancing and creaking in place, transported by a common joy, old faces lit by memory.

Suddenly, I was laughing and singing along, yelling at the top of my lungs, joyful. I didn’t even do that when I was a kid. It’s just that I had this happy energy in me, and there was nothing else to do with it but hurl it out into space, in joy and against time and all that dies.

I have come back to Earth, now. But changed, somehow. Not sure how to describe it. Cleaner, I guess, or at least buffed and waxed and shinier than I was. It’s a good feeling.

I’ve been walking through the house, humming Beatles songs for the past several days, now and then throwing in a Glenn Miller tune. Here’s to you Dad. I get it now.

 

It’s always SOMETHING

November 5, 2011

Some days, I wonder why any of us bother to get up in the morning.

It’s not as though we don’t have enough to worry about, what with the economy in a shambles in just about every place that has an economy. And of course there’s politics, speaking of shambles, with a president on one side whose opinion polls put him somewhere in the neighborhood of a fart in church, and the opposition party offering up a field of candidates who come off as a bad hybrid of Keystone Cops and extras from Night of the Living Dead.

With all this in the air, I go online to read some nature news, thinking that will get me out of the mind-set that the world as we know it is coming to an end.

Big Mistake.

On one website, I learn that a piece of ice twice the size of Philadelphia is cracking off from the Antarctic ice shelf. The crack so far is about 20 miles long and up to 200 feet deep, and growing at a rate of nearly seven feet per day.

And it’s not even caused by “global warming.” I forget just now what the scientific term for the effect is, but it basically means “s**t happens.”

The whole thing is supposed to break off and start drifting around in the open sea later this year or early next year. Earth on the rocks, shaken, not stirred.

Nobody seems all that concerned. Maybe I shouldn’t be either. On the other hand, having a chunk of ice the size of a small South American nation bobbing around in the ocean just doesn’t sound like good news. Twice the size of Philly? At least it will be cleaner.

And then there’s the asteroid.

The news outlets describe it as an “aircraft carrier-sized asteroid, a little over four football fields in diameter.” It will pass by our little old home planet, closer to us than the moon.

And the moon is only about 250,000 miles away.

That sounds like a far piece, but in astronomic terms, that’s like having a bullet pass by your head close enough that you can hear it buzz.

It’s supposed to pass us by this coming Tuesday. Just so you know.

NASA, known for calling the catastrophic explosion of a Delta 2 rocket as “an anomaly,” has classified the asteroid as a “potentially hazardous object.”

There was a time when if NASA said it would be a near miss, I’d relax. But not too long ago, the space agency aimed a satellite at Mars and missed the whole freaking planet, so, yeah, I’m gonna chew my nails just a little bit.

If this asteroid hits, it won’t be the end of the world, but it will bust things up pretty well. It would make a 4,000 megaton blast, (nearly 20,000 times the force of the bomb that fried Nagasaki), a magnitude 7.0 earthquake. If it hits the ocean, it could cause a tsunami 70 feet high. The tsunamis that hit Japan earlier this year were no more than a third that high.

One of the wire service stories said “Encounters of objects this large this close to our planet won’t happen again until the year 2028…” That one will be a wee bit closer than this one. Wonderful.

I closed the laptop and turned on CNN, only to see some goon in a suit dodging questions on his candidacy. I flipped over to the USA Network to an NCIS re-run. Give me over-the-top violence and improbable stunts any day. It beats watching a planet on the rocks and under fire, and anyway, I’d rather see the bad guys get blown away than elected.

A REALLY GOOD DAY

June 23, 2011

By T.W. Burger

It is hard to say just what makes one day more perfect than the other.

 

One day can be sunny and clear and in every aspect fine, but only run-of-the-mill fine.

 

The great thing about being a member of a species that lives longer than a mayfly, for example, is that most of us have an opportunity to have enough days and nights that we can compare one to the other, or at least note that one particular day has something that another lacked.

 

Or, maybe I just have too much time on my hands.

 

But, there it was. You just knew, in the way the rolling fields of timothy waved in the breeze on either side of Pumping Station Road, a scenic drive I normally would not normally take except as a detour.

 

The new bridge going up on the main road pushed me to this longer route, and most days I’m glad of it, except when I’m rushed.

 

I drove slowly, waving more impatient, and presumably more important, drivers around me, and ignored their scowls. I drove with the windows down, slowly enough to hear the breeze in the grass, and the rusty-hinge song of the redwing blackbirds.

 

Nearby, a man on a riding mower buzzed his lawn, an flying circus of barn swallows dive-bombing the bugs he stirred up. He seemed oblivious to the acrobatics of the birds, intent on making each row perfectly straight. There’s a parable there, I think; sometimes we pay close attention to all the wrong things.

 

But the day was too perfect for ponderous thoughts. Let the man keep his rows geometrical while a squadron of swallows filigreed the air. His loss.

 

Back home on the deck, a half mug of single malt at hand, I sat with my journal as the trees on both sides of the creek poured out cheeps and chirps, as their populations of songbirds held forth on their thoughts about the day’s proceedings, or on seed futures, or whatever they talk about at twilight, fidgeting from branch to twig, looking for a place to alight and settle as the shadows lengthen.

 

The leafy treetops flared in the setting sun, their green growing deeper closer to the busy ground below. Deer stirred in their thickets, preparing to make their clockwork trek from here to there on ancient paths now intersected with paved roads, and the predators slipped out, stretched, sniffed the air seeking prey that is not quite fast enough.

 

The leaves of the oak, hickory and maple waved coquettishly in the breeze, and I think I may have been a little drunk, but unsure whether it was the scotch or the day. I decided it was a little of both.

 

When it became dark enough that I could no longer see to write, I put away the pen, closed the journal. The trees across the creek had been reduced to jagged outlines against the pewter dusk, the air pestered by a convention of grackles griping about this and that, as they do.

 

Good smells drifted through the screen door from the kitchen, and I gathered up my things and moved indoors. The day wass gone, like thousands of others in my sixty-odd years. A real keeper, too.

           

 

© 2011 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.

Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:

https://burger2go.wordpress.com/

http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

 

 

Kicking Back

October 5, 2010

A new fire crackles in the Franklin stove, armor against the growing chill.

The writing-for-money stuff has been put away for the day. Time to relax.

This little working harbor with its tiny fleet of lobster boats and a few pleasure craft lie quiet under an overcast sky. The bell buoy at the harbor mouth tolls over and over, promising an unquiet night for those on the open water.

Out in the Gulf of Maine the sea tosses, never easy, and waves smash on the boney coast.

From here, it sounds like breathing.

It has been a vacation of small adventures. Nothing hair-raising. Nothing that would make the papers. Saturday night our friend and neighbor Bob brought over a blueberry pie he had made that afternoon. We dug out the vanilla ice-cream, and an evening of dietary mayhem and great conversation ensued.

Yesterday, we spent an hour or so up in Waldoboro with Nate Nickoll, an artist of endless imagination who has populated his property with dancing figures, dragons, giant ants and frogs and mermaids, even a yellow submarine, all made from scrap metal. Sometimes he sells his creations, if he can bear to part with them.

This morning, I created my first breakfast involving scallops. It was a big hit. There’s no telling what might happen next.

And, no, this column doesn’t have a point, not as it would if I was tackling economics, or man’s inhumanity to man, or my personal glee at the demise of the Hummer. It’s just me taking time to disengage, knock it into neutral, and just be.

You should try it.

==============================.
© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
https://burger2go.wordpress.com/
http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

I’ve seen a few houses fall down in my time. Demolition, fire, that sort of thing.

Never been in one while it was happening, though. Not until that night.

It was the last night of vacation for the year. It had started out calmly enough. It had rained heavily for the previous 24 hours, so we were ahead of the game. Instead of doing a lot of running around, we had sat in The Osprey, the little cabin on the Maine coast where we have vacationed on and off for the past 14 years, and had packed up most of our belongings.

I won’t say exactly where it is, because the people in that little community have so far escaped the worst of the thronging Maine tourist trade, and want to keep it that way. It’s on a working harbor, where almost all the boats moored there belong to lobstermen, and it’s common to awaken briefly in the pre-dawn hours to hear diesel engines muttering out toward the open water.

Not a bad way to start the day. At least for us. I’m guessing lobsterpersons feel the same way about their jobs as the rest of us do about ours: Some days, it’s fine. Most days, it’s just what you do to get by.

I’ll call the owner of the place Leo. He’s a retired school teacher on the shady side of 90, but still active. He and the live-in manager at the cottages, all of which are named after sea- or shore-birds, have been clearing several acres of woods for the past few years. It’s starting to look like a park.

I have a photo of Leo building The Osprey in the spring of 1950, a month after my first birthday. It was the first of a double handful of cottages that he would build over the next decade or so, perched on a long slope from the farmhouse where he was born and still lives, down to the saltwater.

People come to Leo’s cabins like they come to family reunions. Some have been coming for decades. Some who bring their children have been coming since they themselves were kids. Every cabin has a composition book sitting on one of the plain pine shelves, and just about everybody who stays keeps a journal in them about their time at the harbor. Sometimes the entries are about things to do, where to eat, tips about this and that. But over the years, some of the entries become more personal.

The writers are from New York, Maryland, Florida, England, New Mexico, and Texas. The entries were as varied as the people who wrote them, in penmanship neat and tidy or fat and loopy. Kathy A. and her dog Simon spent a month at The Tern every year from 1981 until June of 1987, when Simon, she noted, turned 12 years old. Then she disappeared from the record.

A family from Hartford, Ct., bring their cats Signe and Moussey, and spend their vacation time seeking landmarks familiar to their ancestors: “Traveled to Acadia – 3 hrs. – and got seats on the mail boat from Northeast Harbor out to Baker island….to visit the lighthouse that was manned in the 1800s by our great grandfather. It was a thrill to be the first relatives in all that time to return to the remote island.”

In September of 1987, a New Jersey woman named Nora stayed four days at The Tern with her 14-month-old son: “We are here because we have just suffered an intense personal loss and I, at least, am seeking restoration in Maine. My son is oblivious to the unfairness of life.”

So, coming to The Osprey every year is a respite, but something that is a part of other lives, indirectly, yes, but a dance, of sorts, a shared ballet with strangers and the ragged coast of Maine. I once researched the address and phone number for several families who stayed in The Osprey and, before that, The Tern. But I never contacted any of them. It would be out of step, a break in the dance.

So, there we sat, the last Friday night of the trip. Everything but what we would need for the trip home was packed, zipped, tied, rubber-banded or otherwise tucked away. I would have already loaded the car, but the night was very dark and the grass slippery from the rain. I thought to wait until first thing in the morning.

The stereo was packed, so there was no music but the soughing of the wind ‘round the corners of the cabin, and the faint slap of waves on the rocks below. Just about every light was on, because the night somehow wanted brightness.

In a bit, I thought, I would light a fire, read a bit before taking a shower, and then go to bed.

About 15 minutes later, the front door popped open. I started to get up to close it, and the house fell down.

No, really.

The Osprey dropped about three feet on the harbor side and started sliding. I sat down – hard – in my chair, and clutched my bowl of ice cream tightly to my chest and waited, wondering if we would hit the water. All the furniture and luggage in the room slid toward us. Sue sat in her chair, eyes the size of saucers. Lamps fell, flared, and went dark. Vases leapt from shelves, books and touristy gee-gaws followed. Then, everything was still except for Sue’s alarmed “Eek!”

I finished my ice cream, waiting to see if The Osprey was done fidgeting. I got up, and said: “Damn.”

The power was still on, though we could hear that a water pipe somewhere had broken. I was very happy that I had decided not to build a fire in the Franklin stove after all

I stepped to the front door. The porch lay at a crazy angle, and had come to rest several feet from the steps.

“Damn,” I said again, figuring if I couldn’t be useful, I would at least be consistent.

I climbed over the porch, and looked around.

The rain had so soaked the ground that the front piers had slipped out from under the cabin. The Osprey had dropped, and then slid toward the harbor bank about three feet. This was a matter of great interest to me, because the edge of the bank was only about five feet away to begin with. It was quite a ride.

It took a couple of hours to get us set up in another cabin for the night, and about as long the next morning to get the rest of our things out over the tilted, linoleum floor and busted porch.

Melinda, Leo’s daughter, told us the next day that the family was considering their options for what to do. The Osprey was actually in good shape….not even a window broken or a wall awry. But it was old, and at the bottom of a steep slope. One of the options, she said, was simply to do away with it.

That hit me later, halfway home, when I realized I still had the key to The Osprey. I emailed Melinda and told her I’d get it back to her. But inside, I knew there might not be any real reason to do that.

Whatever they do, I hope they remember the little stack of composition books somewhere on the floor of the old cabin. It would be a real shame to lose all those stories, all those steps in the long dance.

(Note: This column first appeared in late Oct. of 2007. I am happy to report that the Osprey is settled sturdily on a fresh concrete foundation, and in a few weeks I will be back in it for two weeks.)

==============================.

© 2010 Marsh Creek Media,

Gettysburg, Pa.

“Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.

Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:

https://burger2go.wordpress.com/

http://burger2goclassics.wordpress.com/

Over dinner with friends tonight, I was asked to post this. So, here it is.

Well, this Thursday is the big day. Turkey day. I used to have the figures handy that told how many turkeys die to make Thanksgiving possible, but I’ve lost them.

It’s a lot.

Not so long ago, things were a lot simpler. A lot of the people I knew forswore their store-bought birds and got a live bird from a farmer.

Trouble is, too many of the folks who gave this “old-fashioned” method a try were young people from the ‘burbs. Their experience with “nature” was getting draft­ ed by their parents to help fight the war on crabgrass.

My neighbors at a little mobile home park in Georgia are a case in point.

The couple, let’s call them Tom and Tif­ fany, were both raised in one of those towns squeezed like putty at the seams where New York and New Jersey are glued together.

They grew up in some development named after the trees that had been cut down to build it.

Tom was a sleepy, even lethargic sort of guy. It was hard to tell if he was awake or sleepwalking.

Tiffany was, well, perky, given to hare­ brained ideas and sudden enthusiasms.

Tom was at the university, studying to be a biologist. Tiffany worked somewhere as a secretary.

The way it was told to me, one Thanks­ giving, Tiffany decided she would surprise Tom with a turkey.

She purchased a big hen from a farmer who swore on a stack of Greenpeace pam­ phlets that he had raised the thing from a poult and had never fed it anything he could not pronounce.

Back at home, Tiffany, raised on painless supermarket turkeys, could not bring her­ self to apply the firewood axe to the bird’s neck. The brief stay of execution ended, however, when Tiffany found Tom’s supply of chloroform.

She put the turkey to sleep.

Triumphant and little nauseated, Tiffany got the big hen plucked after a fashion, but the idea of trimming off the head and feet was beyond her sensibilities, not to men­ tion the idea of moving all the turkey’s in­ side stuff to the outside.

So, into the fridge went the nude bird, awaiting the arrival of Tom. Remember, the turkey was to be a surprise for Tom.

Tiffany’s unflappable husband came home in the late afternoon, tired, burdened by thick books and reeking of formalde­ hyde. Tiffany told him she had a surprise for him in the refrigerator.

Tom opened the door.

The little light came on.

The turkey woke up.

Naked. In pain.

And really, really ticked off.

With a hellish gobble, she exploded out from among the beansprouts and leftover chili, straight at Tom. The now-streamlined and furious bird dug its claws into Tom’s sweater and began pecking and biting him on the face and arms.

Tom, as intended, was surprised. And more lively than usual.

Still screaming, the turkey dropped Tom and charged into Tiffany, knocking her backward, breaking the glass front of her china cabinet.

The bird bashed the portable TV off its stand, knocked a life-size poster of Elvis the King from the walls before it flapped through the still-open trailer door. A strange, pale apparition in the fading light, the turkey fled gobbling fiercely into the depths of the trailer park.

The next day, Thanksgiving, I dined on a properly quiet and immobile turkey with my mother and brother. Tom and Tiffany went out for dinner at a local restaurant that featured a large and placid salad bar.

The attack turkey, I found out later, met its fate at the hands of a little old lady down the street who had never heard of “Mother Earth News,” but who knew a dinner on the run when she saw one.

It was September in Key West, well past midnight and quite warm.

The pier on which we sat stretched out pale and luminescent under a clear sky and a full moon, far out into pale jade water. The lounge chairs creaked now and then as one or the other of us shifted our weight.

We rarely spoke, there at the southernmost tip of our country, while hell raked Cuba, 90 miles away.

The sky glittered cloudless overhead. The southern horizon, however, glowered an inky, impenetrable black, laced throughout with lightning. From east to west, as far as vision could follow, a constant curtain of lightning, a steady growl of thunder filled the air, a continuo under the quiet lapping of the water and sighing of the wind. We sat, transfixed, for hours.

I never hear thunder that I don’t think of that storm, and the eerie, jeweled spot from which I watched it.

This week has been one of storms where I live now. Some pretty good ones, too; lots of wind and rain, lightning and thunder. A little flooding here and there, branches and wires down.

Not the biggest we’ll get, mind you. Those will come mid-summer, real Old Testament howlers that come down from the Appalachians and stomp around like God in a royal snit.

I love storms. I don’t like the damage they do, but that sort of comes with the territory. I’ve been lucky over the years and avoided being injured or having a lot of property damage. Well, there was the time when parts of a mobile home I was living in wandered away during a big winter gale about 25 years ago. To tell you the truth, the morning after that storm, I was a little bit surprised when I looked outside that my home hadn’t changed ZIP codes.

As I said, I love storms. As a kid I used to climb a pine tree in our back yard and ride the wind-bursts. Obviously, my parents knew nothing about this. Just as obviously, the tree wasn’t in a place that attracted lightning, or this column would be a lot shorter.

I think I like being reminded that humans are really not as in charge as we’d like to think we are. Few things do that as well as extravagant weather. Simple-minded evangelicals like to use bad weather as proof of our iniquity, that God is punishing us for our sins. But they miss the point entirely. So much preaching comes down to ego, when you come down to it. The universe, in that world view, was created as a stage for us to conduct our little morality plays. It’s all about us.

We really need to get rid of that whole idea. Storms are random. Nature itself has its own purpose, its own dance to perform. And we’re caught up in it, an integral part, to be sure, but only a part. I am an atheist, but I sometimes like to imagine God up there, rolling storms down off the east slope of South Mountain like so many atmospheric bowling balls, just to see what happens.

© 2010 Marsh Creek Media, Gettysburg, Pa.
Burger to Go” is a product of me and my company, Marsh Creek Media and, as such, I am solely responsible for its content.
Check out the two “Burger to Go” blogsites:
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Note: This column appeared in the March 20, 2010, edition of The Patriot-News in Harrisburg.

Known for his coon skin cap, Fess Parker as Davy Crockett was an idol to many young baby boomers.

When I opened up the Web site for my hometown newspaper, out of the corner of my eye I saw a photo of Fess Parker in the far left column, the one reserved for the obituaries of famous or infamous people. I hesitated before I would let myself look.

Davy Crockett was dead.

“LOS ANGELES (AP) — Actor Fess Parker, who became every baby boomer’s idol in the 1950s and launched a craze for coonskin caps as television’s Davy Crockett, died Thursday of natural causes. He was 85.”

He got me drunk once. Well, a little tipsy. More on that in a minute.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember that tall, lanky figure dressed up in fringed buckskin, fighting his way across the mythic American frontier of the first half of the 19th century, wrestling bears, fighting or befriending Indians and besting bad guys.

OK, it was the frontier as imagined by Walt Disney, which had little relationship to reality, but never mind. Disney was all about imagination, and he gave us somebody bigger and better than real life — a hero, a straight-shooter (literally and figuratively) and a guy we all wanted to be.

Parker later sort of reprised his role as Crockett in a TV series about Daniel Boone, playing the title role and, for all appearances, wearing the same suit, expression and personality.

Back in the spring of 1997, I was in the Santa Barbara area on vacation with Sue. Her dad had worked for Disney for a long time and during an occasion where he and Parker were receiving Disney Legend awards, Parker had said if we ever got up his way, to stop in and visit his winery.

A few years later, we did. We went in, sent a message to the offices upstairs, and went to look around in the gift shop.

“He’s not going to come, you know,” I told her. “Somebody will come down and say Mr. Parker is tied up, but they will be happy to give us a tour.”

A few minutes later, I’m poking around wondering if I could live with myself if I bought a Fess Parker golf shirt, because I don’t golf, when a voice, THAT voice, called out Sue’s name as a question.

Sue, Fess Parker, and me, slightly inebriated.

I turned, and there stood Davy Crockett.

He looked about nine feet tall, with a mop of white hair, a cotton shirt and blue jeans. Solemnly, I shook his hand and introduced myself. I am a newspaper reporter. I have interviewed my share of famous and notorious people. I am cool.

In my head, though, a small blond boy inclined to chubbiness and wearing a coonskin cap charged forward to the front of my mind and squealed “It’s DAVY CROCKETT!”

It went pretty much like that all day.

It was like hanging around with an old friend. Part of that, for me, was because I had known him forever, had been him, in important ways, wearing my coonskin cap and slaying swarms of bad guys in scores of backyard battles.

He invited us to a private wine tasting. My memory is foggy, but it was from nine to a dozen wines. He was giving me a lesson in why wine lists use words like “earthy” and “woody” to describe background flavors in various wines. By the end of the tasting, I was pretty buzzed.

He piled us into his enormous old Mercedes sedan and hauled us into the village of Los Olivos for lunch.

On the way, he told a story about little Fess riding his dad’s mule into nearby Fort Worth. The animal got into the middle of an intersection and decided he had had enough traveling for one day, and simply stopped. Parker said his father had to come to town to jump-start the beast.

All the while, though I remained outwardly calm, that dumb kid in the coonskin cap kept running around in my head, issuing war whoops and being obstreperous.
Finally, I told him about that little hellion stomping around in my imagination.
“Don’t worry,” he said, with that lopsided grin, “I get that a lot.”

I’ll bet he did. Goodbye, Davy.