Wednesday, December 4, 2013

'Twas the night they'll remember . . .

Just what is it that inspires poets? Well, lots of things, including the occasional jaw-dropping miracle. Take this little gem that's been making the rounds, for example:

'Twas the night they'll remember
      by Chuck Porretto

'Twas the night after Auburn, and all through the land
Not a "Roll, Tide!" was uttered by a Crimson Tide fan.

They used to be boisterous, they used to be loud,
they used to be boastful, and cocky and proud.

But they lost all their swagger, they lost all their swing,
For one little second had changed everything.

The score it was even, the clock had run dry,
When Nicholas Saban then started to cry.

He demanded a second be put on the clock.
The worst that could happen? A miss or a block.

But fate it is fickle, and greed has a price,
And what happened next just wasn't too nice.

The previous kicks, wide left and wide right.
So he put in a rookie--'twas not very bright.

The kick was a boomer of 56 yards,
But the extra yard needed was not in the cards.

And back in the end zone a lone Tiger stood.
He caught that ol' football, he caught it real good.

He started to run, he heard the cheers grow.
The Crimson Tide offense? Too fat and too slow.

One hundred and nine he ran for a score.
If needed he could have run one hundred more.

The crowd it erupted while storming the field.
The Crimson Tide's season was settled and sealed.

A cry of 'War Eagle!" soon echoed the plain.
Nick Saban's expression was one of pure pain.

And up in Ohio they shouted "Go, Bucks!"
It gave hope to many except Gators and Ducks.

And in Tuscaloosa you could hear a pin drop,
And in Tallahassee a tomahawk chop.

For the night after Auburn the Tide does not roll.
The new boss in town wears garnet and gold.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Buddy's Football Follies

If you care to know how Mike's beloved Florida State Seminoles ended their 12-game football season yesterday, I'll let quarterback Jameis Winston help me give you the executive summary:

The 'Noles whupped the University of Florida Gators 37-7, finishing the regular season undefeated. Next Saturday they'll play the Duke University Blue Devils for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship. If they win that game, they'll get to play for the BCS National Championship in January. I don't know who their opponents would be--possibly the Ohio State Buckeyes, currently the only other undefeated team in the Top 10. Yesterday morning another team was also undefeated, and in fact was ranked number 1, just ahead of FSU. That team is the University of Alabama Crimson Tide.

But a funny thing happened last night, which illustrates an old saying about being careful what you wish for. The Tide was playing their arch-rivals, the Auburn Tigers. As time ran down in regulation play, the score was tied 28-28, and it looked like they'd probably have to go into overtime until somebody won the game. But Alabama was driving for a score in the last few seconds. Just as the game clock appeared to reach zero, an Alabama player carrying the ball stepped out of bounds.

That ended the run and should have forced the overtime. But the Tide's head coach asked for "further review," as he thought his player went out of bounds with one second left, which would give his team enough time to try to kick a 57-yard field goal and win the game by three points. The officials looked at the tape of the play alongside another one of the clock winding down, and sure enough, it turned out they still had one second left to play. So instead of going into overtime, they lined up to try the field goal.

What happened next brings to mind another famous principle that M calls the Law of Unintended Consequences. (Click here for the original clip on YouTube.)

M says that somewhere in a parallel universe, the Crimson Tide could be celebrating a 31-28 victory right now. But in this one it's the Tigers by six.

I'm not going to try to predict whether FSU will win or even play for the National Championship next month. However, I'm pretty sure Alabama, the champs for the past two years, won't be going for three in a row.

By the way, I could have caught that guy.

Just sayin'.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Big Hair for Halloween

Jenny came to visit Halloween night wearing a costume she had worn to work that day. She was dressed up as an artist named Bob Ross, who had a television show called The Joy of Painting and was known for painting landscapes with "happy trees" in them. Here's a picture someone took of her at the office. The girl on the left is another Jenny who went as Rosie the Riveter.

And here's "Bob" in our living room:

And finally, not to be outdone, your faithful blogger as THE LION KING!

Old news is good news!

Mike says that FSU's 41-14 victory over Miami last Saturday night was partly due to his cheerleading:

I'm glad it worked out for him.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Happy birthday, Auntie Julia!

Wow! Has it been a whole 'nother year? Today we wish an especially fine birthday to my Auntie Julia, Mike's baby sister. Here's a little surprise for her: a picture of them taken when they were kids in Jacksonville, soon after the camera was invented. (Just kidding about that last part, but it is a pretty old photo!)

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gracie says, "I don't know much about art, but I know what I like."

What she likes, apparently, are cat pictures. Mike caught her checking out this one of two kitties relaxing in front of a place in Key West called the Ernest Hemingway Home.

M thinks this is a step in the right direction. He says now if we can get her to like real cats, we can have some peace in the valley. But I think she's sitting there wishing that all of our other cats were just pictures on the wall.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

For those who don't believe in reincarnation...

. . . consider this:

Mike says the resemblance is even more startling when you look at their elementary school pictures:

I rest my case.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Big XLIX

Today is Mike and Jeannie's 49th anniversary. If they were dogs it would be more like their seventh. Have a happy one, dear peeps! If you go anywhere delicious, please remember my Buddy Bag!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Ella's killer has been caught!

In my post of August 6, 2013, I asked, "What kind of soulless numbskull would kill a creature like this?"

We now have the answer: A 19-year-old twit named Phoenix M. Vankirk, who lives right across the street from Kansas City's Elmwood Cemetery, where Ella, a gentle doe, had peacefully wandered the grounds for over two years. In this picture I found on his Facebook page, Phoenix "Stand-Your-Ground" Vankirk is second from the left with his arm around his homie, using his right hand to flash the international gang sign for "I'm not too B-R-I-T-E, yo."

In an article in The Kansas City Star dated August 30, 2013, Matt Campbell and Tony Rizzo write, "A tipster provided information about Vankirk to a deputy with the Jackson County sheriff’s office . . . The deputy set up a meeting between an investigator with the Missouri Department of Conservation and the tipster, who could be in line to collect $6,500 in reward." Vankirk, they further tell us, has been "issued a ticket for taking a deer out of season, a code violation punishable by a fine of $1,000 and a year in jail." Other sources say the fine is just $275,* but may be increased to $1,000 plus a year in jail if Vankirk wants to contest the lower fine in court. (M was beside himself when he read this tidbit. He says that whatever violated "code" Campbell and Rizzo are talking about, it sure as heck isn't the Code of Hammurabi. Must remember to Google that.)

Reporter Campbell has followed the story of Ella since at least last December, when the deer's dog companion and BFF, a stray named ET, was removed from the cemetery to an animal shelter where she would be better able to survive the harsh winter.

In March, the news coverage continued on an upbeat note as we learned of how ET, under the new name of Moxxie, had found a permanent home with a local family. Hopes were voiced by cemetery officials that ET/Moxxie could return soon to visit Ella. But that reunion was not to be. Early last month it was Campbell's sad duty to inform us of the doe's despicable murder by an unknown assailant.

In addition to stories in The Star and other print media, TV news teams have heralded the recent arrest of Vankirk as well. Here's a link to a short video report by KCTV* that was picked up by CNN.

And here is another worth watching.*

*Note: Both of these reports give the initial uncontested fine as $375, not $275. Whichever amount is correct, it's an insult to Ella's memory.

The Missouri Department of Conservation Agent who interviewed Vankirk on August 29th was Mr. Travis Goreham. Shortly after the interview began, according to Agent Goreham's Statement of Probable Cause, Vankirk admitted shooting the deer. He said that on the evening of August 3rd, he was grilling on his front porch when he looked beyond the cemetery wall and saw her standing in the grass. He went inside his house and got his .45 caliber handgun, crossed the street and scaled the cemetery wall, then hid behind a tree until the deer approached him. Vankirk shot her once and watched her as she ran a short distance before falling to the ground. When he was sure she was dead, he climbed back over the wall and drove his truck to the cemetery's gate, only to find it locked for the weekend. Realizing he could not carry the deer over the wall, he left her there, where she was discovered the next day by cemetery workers.

Vankirk told Agent Goreham that he was unaware of Ella's long history with Elmwood and did not know she was tame. He expressed regret that he killed her and said he did so only to put food on his family's table. I have serious doubts that he'd never heard of Ella. Come on--how can he live across the street and not know of her story? I may have been born at night, but it wasn't LAST night! Cemetery officials also dismiss Vankirk's claim of ignorance (though he is obviously ignorant in many other ways, IMHO).

After Ella's murder, her story blossomed and spread, and public outrage grew. A $1,500 reward was offered by In Defense of Animals for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the assassin. Soon People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) offered another $5,000, bringing the total to $6,500. And a petition was started to encourage prosecutors to charge Vankirk with animal cruelty. If you'd like to sign it, go here.

I have to wonder why they don't also suggest that this little weenie be charged with carelessly shooting a firearm in an urban area--perhaps within the city limits. I also notice from the Fox4 TV news report that because of public blowback, Vankirk is now sorry he confessed to his crime. What was he expecting--the key to the city?

There is also a "Remembering Ella" Facebook page which you may wish to join.

One final note: According to the Campbell-Rizzo article, "Ella was cremated, and the ashes will be interred during an 11 a.m. public memorial Sept. 14 at the cemetery. Kids who had learned about the deer at a summer camp with the Great Plains SPCA will be invited." I sincerely hope that someone also thinks to invite Ella's beloved canine companion, Moxxie. As for Phoenix M. Vankirk, he can watch from his front porch.

Read more here:

Saturday, September 7, 2013

How 'bout these 'Noles!

Last Monday night in Pittsburgh, FSU's Seminoles gave the Pitt Panthers, as Bobby Bowden would say, a dadgum whuppin'. 'Noles freshman quarterback Jameis Winston racked up five touchdowns, four by passing and running one in himself, on the way to a 41-13 victory. Three of the TD passes went to golfing legend Jack Nicklaus's grandson, tight end Nick O'Leary. Here are some game highlights from YouTube:

The Seminoles have this weekend off. Jameis spent a little of his leisure time getting to know an FSU senior, Mike Taylor, as well as Mike's dad, Fred, and their dog, Ginger:

Looks like Jameis was in such a hurry to meet the Taylors, he ran right out of his dadgum shoes. Dadgum!

Saturday, August 31, 2013

The Naming of Cats is a difficult matter...

For my final post of August, I'm pleased to present our new cat. We call her Ruby Tuesday. On Wednesday we call her Sophie. On Thursday, she's Rita. Friday, Rosie. Today we're trying out Peggy Sue. (Peggy for short, and actually we're re-trying it.) Obviously the issue is not quite settled. T.S. Eliot was right: Naming cats isn't as easy as you'd think.

Someone suggested we call her Coco, as in Chanel, since she's number 5. (Had to Google that one. Ha-ha. And yeah, I know--who needs five cats? Believe me, you are preaching to the choir!)

Peggy's obviously not feral, since she walked right up to Jeannie on the hillside behind McDonald's last week for some laying on of hands. A true feral wouldn't do that, not right away, and probably not ever. No, like Rocky and Gracie (our numbers 3 and 4), she was a "dump-ee" who was dropped off by some dunderhead. J had gone there to feed the regular residents, who were no-shows that day. When Peggy appeared, J thought it was Penny, the first feral she ever caught, but soon realized it was a newcomer. Peggy was starved for food and affection and got plenty of both. As J left the colony site to come home, Peggy followed her all the way down to our car. So J called Bob, one of her cat-catching comrades, who brought over a carrier. A short while later Peggy was in our garage, fussing about her new temporary accommodations.

At first J and M were going to name her Rainy (maybe spelled Raney), because just as Jeannie put her into the carrier to bring her home, the sky opened up. But soon that name struck them as overly gloomy. Next they thought about Emmylou, since her voice reminded them of Emmylou Harris's, if Emmylou Harris had laryngitis. Then Mike came up with Peggy Sue, which is the name of a song from the 1950s. It was written by a guy named Buddy Holly and was one of a number of big hits for his band, The Crickets. Buddy Holly is also remembered for his distinctive glasses, which looked a lot like mine:

My sister Jenny likes the name Peggy Sue, since it sort of rhymes with Gracie Lou, the extended name of our other girl cat, and also because she says my extended name could be Buddy Holly. Looking at the picture above, I tend to agree with her. (For more about famous humans named Buddy, click here.)

But other name possibilities kept flitting through M and J's heads, and it wasn't long before they were second-guessing themselves. In addition to Rainy (Raney), Emmylou, Peggy Sue, Ruby, Sophie, Rita, and Rosie, they've thought about Gigi, Gina, Annie, Pippi, Maggie, Dolly, Amy, Carmen, Janis (M says that would be a good match for our second cat, Arlo), Ivy, Jessie, Lydia, Lolita, Mimi, Zelda, Sasha, Fiona, Norah, Dinah, Dixie, Winnie, Minnie, Gabby, Carrie, Hannah, Loretta, Nellie Belle, Sadie, Patsy, Iris, Doris, Milly, Tilly, Ziva, Savannah (maybe Vanna for short), Stella, Willow, Sheila, and Olivia. Oh--they also mentioned Eartha Kitty, apparently inspired by another famous singer with a rather distinctive voice.

My other sister, Bonnie, says we ought to consider Elsie, too, because that was Grandma Grace's first name and it would be a good match for Gracie. (That's true. But unfortunately Gracie can't seem to stand Peggy and won't have anything to do with her, except for hissing and growling at her.) Do you have a favorite from this bunch--or can you think of another good name for Peggy? Or does Peggy Sue sound okay? Please let me know, as the name game is making me nervous. M says it's wearing him out, too. Just for the heck of it, I asked him if any names are off the table, and he said yes: Tabby Turdstockings.

J brought Peggy home a week ago yesterday, just before dark. The next morning she took her to the vet to see if she had a microchip that would identify her owner. Also J was concerned because she thought Peggy looked pregnant. The doctor said no, there was no chip, and that he didn't think she was pregnant, but that she had recently had kittens! This threw Jeannie for a loop, because if there were kittens wandering around on the hill behind McDonald's, they didn't need to be without their mama for three or four days. So she and Mike took Peggy back up to the hill and let her out, to see if she'd head for her kittens.

Peggy just stood there by the feeding station, winding around J's ankles. J fed her and then started walking around looking for kittens. And just like the day before, Peggy began following her, but she didn't act like she knew where any kittens might be. Mike had a camera with him and recorded the event:

Finally, once M and J were sure there were no kittens nearby, they put Peggy back into the carrier and brought her back to the kennel in our garage. On Monday J took her to the Pet Vet Cruiser, then it was back to the garage until Thursday. (By the way, the Pet Vet doc said Peggy had never been pregnant, but that she apparently showed signs of false pregnancy!) When M and J finally brought her into the house, they put her into a small kennel and introduced her to cats 1 through 4 one at a time. Here she is meeting Arlo.

Willis tiptoes cautiously past. Peggy looks pretty bored with the whole thing.

Once she had the run of the house, it didn't take Peggy long to find the chow hall.

 Relaxing with yours truly and showing off her bodacious owie:

Our friend Bonnie brought over a mysterious contraption that has something living in it. Here's a YouTube video of Peggy and Willis giving it a pretty good workout:

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A dog walks into a nursing home . . .

That sounds like a setup for a great joke, doesn't it? (A dog walks into a nursing home. The guy at the front desk says, "Why the long face?") But according to Mike, it's the title of a great book by a lady named Sue Halpern.

The book is about the author's dog, a Labradoodle named Pransky, and how Ms. Halpern trained her to be a therapy dog. It goes on to describe the adventures they had visiting people in a nursing home called County. On a deeper level, it's about valuable lessons that Pransky taught Ms. Halpern through their visits with the nursing home residents--lessons about seven things called virtues. In fact the book's subtitle is: "Lessons in the Good Life from an Unlikely Teacher," though I'm not sure what makes a dog an unlikely teacher. I've been teaching M and J all kinds of valuable stuff ever since I let them rescue me from my life in the jungle almost three-and-a-half years ago.

I'm glad that M enjoyed this book and that he told me about it, because I've been interested in therapy dogs for some time. Regular readers of my blog may remember that I was once mistaken for a therapy dog when I went with M and J to visit my Grandpa George in a hospice. As we walked into the lobby, a lady was leaving with a group of children and said, "Oh, look, kids, it's one of those feel-good dogs!" I wasn't sure what she meant at first. But as soon as M clued me in and everyone there started talking nice to me and a nurse gave me graham crackers and another one said I'd make a good therapy dog--man, I was stoked! For a while I thought about trying to become a real therapy dog or maybe some other type of service dog, tempted by glamorous pictures such as this one. But in the end I thought I'd best leave that to dogs with more energy and focus, like Pransky, and stick to what I do best. Things like holding down couches.

Me & Arlo

Because Pransky worked in a nursing home, where the residents usually spend the last part of their lives, it's not surprising to learn that a key player in the book is death. That doesn't mean it's an overly sad book, but rather a realistic one.

I guess one part that is pretty sad from a surviving loved one's viewpoint is where Ms. Halpern talks about how people who love dogs will probably outlive several of their own. This puts them in a more-or-less constant state of "grieving in anticipation of grief." Strange, she says, but love will do that. As a dog who outlived his first owner, I can sort of relate to that feeling, but not completely, since I didn't expect my person to die. But afterwards I was very sad for a long, long time. I'm glad, frankly, that dogs don't have to go through this very often. Some, possibly most, never do. For this reason, I think that dogs who are lucky enough to have good, loving homes are luckier than their people.

Mike says what he liked best about A Dog Walks Into a Nursing Home is its positive message of how the seven virtues of restraint, prudence, faith, fortitude, hope, love, and charity can lead to a fulfilling life, even if it doesn't turn out to be as long as you'd like. And he says Ms. Halpern tied things up nicely when she wrote, "Of all the things I learned going to County with my dog, this was the most valuable: though we are made of memories, we live only in the here and now."

M definitely gives the book two thumbs up. I would, too, if I had any thumbs.

Sue Halpern & Pransky

Friday, August 9, 2013

I'll go back to Tara . . .

. . . and as God is my witness, I'll never have to wear window curtains again!

Mike had to explain this one to me. It's a book/movie/TV comedy show allusion to the fact that Bonnie and Fred are moving. They're leaving a place M says is in the Land of the Wind Chill Factor and returning to the Old South. Not the Deep South, however, but someplace called Virginia, where he says it still gets pretty cold. I don't know why they don't just come on down to Florida, instead.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the kitchen . . .

Every now and then, when our cats are in the kitchen looking for food, which is almost anytime Jeannie or Mike go in there, J or M will say that they're "sharking around." I never quite got the gist of the term until I saw some recent TV coverage of hungry sharks feeding on smaller fish. (This week, it seems, is Shark Week, so . . . um . . . Happy Shark Week!)

Then today someone sent J a video clip that puts a whole new spin on the cat-sharking-around phenomenon. Check this out:

Let me make a couple of observations: First, that is one clean kitchen floor. The cat in the shark suit must drive the wheels off of that little vacuum to keep everything so spotless. And we know the vacuum really works from the way it finally sucks up the piece of trash lying just in front of the far right cabinet. (Though in this case it appears to drop it again in practically the same spot.)

But second and more importantly, notice which critter very appropriately gets the kiss at the end of the movie. We have that same pecking order in our house.

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

What soulless numbskull would kill a creature like this?

Ella the Cemetery Deer is dead, shot by "someone with a hard heart and a confused mind," according to Elmwood Cemetery board member Bruce Mathews.

Ella's body was found Sunday, and the details and shocked reactions were reported yesterday by Matt Campbell in The Kansas City Star. Mr. Campbell has followed Ella's story--which has mostly been a happy one--since at least early last December. On December 6th The Star published this article that tells of Ella's growing friendship with a stray dog that had taken up residence in the cemetery.

A follow-up piece on December 11th told of cemetery officials' decision to have the dog, then called ET (short for EpiTaph), taken to an animal shelter for medical treatment and to await adoption, since she would have a hard time surviving the winter outdoors. Both of Mr. Campbell's December articles were the subject of my New Year's Day blog post called "The True But Unfinished Story of a Deer and Her Dog."

On March 14th of this year, television station KCTV5 continued the Ella-and-ET saga by reporting that the dog had been adopted by a local family and renamed Moxxie. (Note: In the original TV news transcript, and therefore my post about it, the name was spelled "Moxie." But a shelter spokesperson tells Mr. Campbell that "Moxxie" is the correct spelling.) The story also said that Ella was still thriving in the 43-acre cemetery despite having been attacked by wild dogs. (It's unfortunate, but just as there are human ass-hats with more bullets than brains, there also dogs that don't know how to behave.) Cemetery board member Mathews expressed hope that Moxxie could come back to Elmwood in the near future to visit her old friends. These events were passed along to my blog followers in my "Good news!" post of March 26th.

And now "The True But Unfinished Story of a Deer and Her Dog" is finished--at least the deer part. Unless, as Elmwood supporter Anita Gorman says in Campbell's latest article, someone with information on the shooter comes forward. Please, Mr. Campbell, try to find the information that will nail this dirt-bag to the wall. Don't let him get away with it.

PS - For a wonderful slideshow of Ella and ET, most of the pictures courtesy of Bruce Mathews, follow this link.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Nettie Price is my kind of artist!

There's a lady who lives just up the road from us in a town called Palm Coast, and she's a very talented painter of dogs. Here are two of her pictures that were in the newspaper the other day. I like these especially because the dogs in them remind me of yours truly.

The first one is called "Hoss in Heaven":

See the resemblance?

And this one is "Khaki Shorts Goes Fishing":

Pretty cool stuff, huh?

Her website is called "Nettie Price: Sparkling Art for the Young at Heart." Check it out.

Keep up the fine work, Nettie! And if you ever need a well-behaved model, just give me a jingle.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

A Whale of a Tale, Wrapped Up in Some Doggone Fine Music

If you're looking for a "story" song about two guys who are trapped in the belly of a whale, and one of them wants to kill the other one to avenge a wrong the second guy did to the first one's mother long ago, and the first one has been looking for the second one for at least fifteen years plus twenty months, well then, "The Mariner's Revenge Song," written by Colin Meloy and performed by his band, The Decemberists, is your best bet.

Truth be told, I had some trouble following the lyrics at first, because there are a lot of them. (Sometimes when people are talking to me, all I'm apt to hear is blah, blah, blah, Buddy, especially if I'm tired, which I was when I first watched this video on YouTube.) For your convenience, here's a link to the song's words if you need to see them. And here's a useful Wikipedia article about it.

While I ended up liking the story, after doing my research, what I enjoy most about the video are the sounds of the instruments and the singers' rather strange voices, and especially the drummer's driving beat, which reminds me of eating French fries. What I mean by that is once you get started, you don't want it to stop.

Check it out. (For the wide-format version, go here.)

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Who's a good soldier? Who's a gooood soldier? Who? Who? HOOAH!

COL Fred P. Taylor, that's who! He's also the most awesome adoptive brother-in-law a pup could ask for. And I want to be the first true "dogface" to congratulate him on his retirement from the U.S. Army's Judge Advocate General Corps. Here's a recent family picture of Fred with Mike, Annabelle, and Bonnie:

In honor of Fred's retirement and to celebrate his 27-year career, Luisa Santiago put together this great slideshow. (For the bigger-format version at YouTube, go here.)

Thank you for your service, Fred. You and your whole family are way cool!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Say goodnight, Gracie. Please!

Meet Gracie, a new feral kitty who's come to live at our house.

She's not really "feral," but a "drop-off" that some crap-for-brains human left in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Still, the doc at the Pet Vet Cruiser (AKA "the bus"), where Jeannie and her merry band of cat catchers had her spayed about three months ago, clipped off the tip of her right ear to mark her as a "free-roaming" female, feral or not. (Males get their left ears tipped.) So J says her full name should be Gracie van Gogh. (I'll admit I had to Google that one!)

Gracie's free-roaming days were supposed to be over in March, but they had to return her to her camp near Wal-Mart instead of sending her to a cat shelter. This is because the doc said that Gracie had recently had kittens! So back she went, and sure enough there were two, and they were glad to see her. J and Company continued to feed Gracie--and her kittens--at Wal-Mart until the babies were old enough to make their own trips to the bus. The kittens are now living together at the shelter, and Gracie is here with us.

During the weeks Gracie remained at Wal-Mart, it became obvious that she loves human contact. She can't seem to get enough petting, which is a sure sign she was a discarded pet and not a true feral. So M and J bonded with her and decided that she needed more of a home than a shelter could provide.

The reason for the title of this post (which Mike says is perfect, but which I also had to Google!) is that last Thursday, Gracie's first night with us, she was locked up by herself in the bathroom and just about drove us bonkers with her crying. The next night she had the run of the house with me, Arlo, and Rocky--everyone except crabby old Willis--and there were a few noisy disagreements in the wee small hours. Basically she put the fear into all of us--even Willis, when  he finally got the chance to give her some attitude. Jeannie thinks there's something about Gracie's having been a mother that lets her take charge, even though she's the smallest critter in the house. Her little voice seems to get the word out: If Mama ain't happy, ain't nobody happy!

Since that second night, things have settled down pretty well. Everybody's been able to sleep calmly through the nights. And much of the days, too!

Here are a few more pics of Gracie van Gogh, the new sheriff in town. This first one's called "One more step, Willis, and I will knock your block off.":


Oops! How'd that one get there? Mike says it ought to be titled "The Culhanes of Cornfield County." That boy sure likes to keep me Googling!

Monday, May 27, 2013

I. "Leader of the Band"

Today is May 27th, one of those twice-a-year "best-of-times, worst-of-times" days when we celebrate a loved one's  birth and also remember the passing of another. Actually we remember the passing of both of these two particular loved ones, not just on this date, but on the other one as well.

Mike's dad, my Grandpa George, would have turned 91 today. But he died last year on March 7th, which would have been Grandma Grace's 88th birthday, except as some of you know, she died two years ago today. So on each of these days we are happy to mark the birth of one of them, but at the same time saddened to be reminded of the deaths of both of them. In death, it seems you just can't separate these two. (Even though in life, according to M, they'd been divorced for many years! Go figure!)

This first post today is Grandpa's "Happy birthday!" shout-out. Grandma's "I still miss you like the dickens!" post will follow.

One of Mike's favorite songs is called "Leader of the Band." It was written a long time ago by Dan Fogelberg. During Grandpa's last year with us, as it became clear that his time was running out, Mike found himself listening to this song more and more, for a couple of reasons. First, it reminded him of his own love of music, which he knows he got from both of his parents. But he was also drawn to the song because it echoes one of Grandpa's finest musical achievements: He was the leader of a band. In fact, during his early years, he'd been the leader of two of them!

When he was a teenager in Tampa, just before World War II, Grandpa was the drum major of the H. B. Plant High School Band. Then for almost three years after his wartime service, he was the first drum major of the U. S. Army Ground Forces (AGF) Band (now called the U. S. Army Field Band). He also played clarinet in the concert versions of both of those bands. (M says that Grandma played clarinet in the high school band as well. In fact, that's how she and Grandpa met!)

Here's a picture of Grandma and Grandpa playing their clarinets along with two of their high school bandmates. Grandma is second from the left, and Grandpa is standing beside her, second from the right:

And here's one of Grandpa in his Plant High School Band uniform, with his drum major baton:

And here he is in June of 1946, playing clarinet in an AGF Band concert on the lawn of the White House, for President Harry S. Truman. Grandpa is in the second row of clarinets, the second seat from the end:

This is one of Mike's favorite pictures, his dad leading the AGF Band in Philadelphia's 1946 Fourth of July Parade:

Mike was proud of his dad's musical accomplishments and said so in his eulogy at Grandpa's burial service last year. Here's an interesting tidbit that he was able to share with Grandpa just a month or so before that. It was true then and it's still true as of this morning: If you do a Google image search (M says he had to stop at this point and explain to Grandpa what Google is, and what a Google image search is, because he wasn't exactly an "online" kind of guy) and you type in the search words "drum major poster" (with or without the quotation marks), the very first picture you'll see is this one:

It's an advertisement for a 1947 concert by the AGF Band. And the drum major in the poster is taken from a photograph of Grandpa. I think that's pretty awesome: Grandpa didn't know Google from granola, and yet he's a #1 hit on it!

We thought it would be fitting today to show a clip of Dan Fogelberg singing "Leader of the Band," to thank Grandpa for his own music, as well as the love of music that he and Grandma gave to Mike. The video we liked best was made from a live concert performance, and M says that the sound is a bit "muddy" in spots. If you have trouble understanding any of the words, here they are for quick reference (click to enlarge):

Happy birthday, Grandpa!

II.  I still miss my most loyal reader!

Grandma Grace has been gone for two years, but I still remember her, thanks to her sweet comments on this blog and to a YouTube slideshow made from a bunch of her family pictures. I first posted it four months after she died and have decided to show it again today. I don't think she'd mind, since she loved to watch reruns of old TV shows.

Some of you knew my Grandma. But for those who didn't, here's the 4-1-1 just as I described her in that earlier post:

Grandma was such a great human--kind and generous, cheerful and helpful, and talented in so many ways. She could sing and dance, knit and water ski--though M says she hadn't done the latter in quite a few years. She played piano and ukulele, and when she was in high school she also played the clarinet. And she knew how to improvise in more ways than one: Mike once saw her catch a bass on a fishing lure that she made out of the rubber strap from a bathing cap and a chewed-up piece of chewing gum. At various times in her life she flew airplanes all over the country and sailed a big sailboat called Night Train. M says she was a great cook, too (especially chicken pot pie!), and that she could underwrite insurance policies. (I have no idea what that last thing means, but it sounds pretty hard.) She could even touch-type.

More than anything, Grandma loved her family. She loved her parents, her sister, her kids and grandkids and great-grandkids, all four of her husbands, and her many other relatives, including cousins, aunts, uncles, in-laws, and outlaws.

The music we chose for her slideshow is a song called "When You and I Were Young, Maggie," by George Washington Johnson and James Butterfield. It was one of Grandma's favorites. The pictures date from October of 1924, when she was a baby, to September of 2010, when she was . . . not. Most are from her own big collection of albums, but some are from Mike and Jeannie and other kinfolk. I hope you enjoy it. In fact I hope you've enjoyed this whole humongous post. If you did, feel free to share it with your own friends and loved ones.

Please note: I've been having trouble now and then getting the video to load to its full length, which is 4 minutes and 37 seconds. If it comes up short for you, try reloading the page or go to the original here at YouTube. In either case, if your computer will support it, you may want to use the "Full screen" mode, which makes it easier to read the captions that are on some of the pictures.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Annabelle Taylor, Oh Lawdy!

This just in: Mike and Jeannie watched the Leavenworth High School Class of 2013 Graduation live on the internet. It concluded just a little while ago. Congratulations to their granddaughter and my adoptive niece, Annabelle, who will head for college at the University of Rochester this fall.

Mike captured a few screenshots of the ceremony, which was supposed to have started at 6:30 Central Daylight Time but was running late. For about a half-hour all they saw was this:

Then the Class of 2013 started filing onto the school's football field:

Once the students were assembled, the JROTC Color Guard marched up to the front:

Some gentleman in the platform party gave his nose a little pick:

The school's principal gave a little speech:

A student named Ariel sang a nice song:

Then not to be outdone, two of her classmates sang a duet:

There were some more speeches. And then finally, as their names were called, the graduates filed across the stage to get their diplomas. There were a lot of them, or maybe it just seemed that way because we were all waiting for them to get to the T's, and Mike was starting to wonder if they ever would. But eventually they did, and then some. We think the second student in this picture is Annabelle. But we aren't a hundred percent sure, as the live-picture feed was a bit grainy and there was a fair amount of time between when they'd call someone's name and when that person finally came down the ramp.

At the very end of the ceremony the principal had everyone move the tassels on their caps from one side to the other, to show that they were now  graduates and no longer students. But I'm not sure what that accomplished, because the next you know, they were all throwing their caps up into the air. Man, I wish I'd been there to catch a few of them.