Small Town Dog Owners – 5 Observations

There a few things that quickly come to mind now that we have ventured back into life with a puppy in our little town.

1 – Don’t dare bring home a new dog and not immediately introduce it to all of the neighbors and shop owners in town. They don’t have dog teats in their pockets and behind the counter for nothing. (I’m still working on smoothing things over at the Coffee Shop)

2 – Dogs are not pets here. Neither are they simply members of a family. They are an extension of the whole community. (I’ve sometimes wondered if they get included in the census.) Farm dogs … town dogs … big beasties … little yappers … everyone knows whose dog belongs to whom, their names, their favorite type of treat, their birthweight, their barking decibel .. . okay … I exaggerate … but I do think many of us know more about each other’s pets than possibly about each other’s kids.

3 – Photos are a must. If you have a cell phone, you’d better have a picture of your pet especially if you use the word “puppy”. Even dog haters seem interested in puppies. Puppies are immune to the loathing created by grown-up barkers, garbage hounds, growlers, whiners, cat-chasers, poop-in-the-neighbor’s-yard leavers.

4 – People in our community don’t feel compelled to give you advice about your pet unless you ask. Well, usually. I was surprised at a restaurant (not in my town) how quickly the waiter jumped into advice-mode, grilling us with questions when we mentioned that we were considering a puppy. “Do you have a fence?” “How big of a dog?” “Are you home during the day?” “You know they’re a lot of work, right?” The person didn’t even know us or our past experience with dogs yet seemed compelled to dive into what was wrong or right with breeds we were considering and with our living conditions.

We only mentioned that we were thinking about a puppy, yet out poured the interrogation.

“He just loves dogs, Honey,” My Guy said later when I aired my irritation. “I don’t think he meant it personal. He was excited for us.”

Still … it seemed over the top.

It’s been a little of the same on social media too … people jumping in with their advice and loaded opinions about dogs once they learned we have a puppy. Thankfully, it doesn’t seem to happen overly much in our circle or in our rural town where dogs are a staple of farm and small town life. The dog-loving souls here assume that if you’re getting a dog you know what you’re doing or will ask for help if you need it. And if you don’t, there’s always our local code enforcement officer who will clue you in upon a couple of complaints. (Wink wink)

5 – Yes, it’s certainly a “more the merrier” feel around here. Until … 1:00 in the morning on a hot summer’s when windows are wide open, an invitation to cooler air. That’s when we all become aware of just how many pooches are in residence. It takes about a day for the disgruntlement to wear off as folks air out their frustrations at the coffee shop or in front of the post office the next morning …

“Did you hear that 101 Dalmations mess last night? Gawd, every dog in the county must have been yacking their heads off .”

“Who didn’t hear it, except my wife who turned off her hearing aids. What a racket … the neighbor said he heard coyotes first tho’. That’ll get everyone started. Coyotes have been moving in closer and closer … people are losing cats, someone said.”

“That so? Well, I guess all those mutts are just doing their job. Gee whiz, tho’. Between the heat and the mutts … how does a body sleep?!”

I guess we don’t sleep on those hot summer nights … but at least we have faithful companions to wag their tails at us the next morning and remind us of how cute they are. How worth it … right?

So far, Tillie isn’t much of a barker except when playing.
Bonus observation … a Pandemic is both a good and rotten time to get a new pet.

Good … because the extra companionship in a world of social distancing and isolation is nice. Life feels a little more normal with a playful puppy. Puppies aren’t aware the half the world has seemed to lose its mind in one fashion or another. They just play, poop, and make life a little more fun.

Rotten … because I’m now more confused than ever about what’s in my pockets. Face mask. Hand sanitizer. Glasses. (Face mask on … glasses off and visa versa.)

And NOW, doggie doo-doo bags and dog treats. Life wasn’t complicated enough trying to maneuver all of the COVID rules … now I have to maneuver puppy protocols too.

I sometimes tuck some chocolate covered almonds in my pockets (for me) … but after almost chowing down on a dog biscuit instead, the human treats are not for pockets any more.

I may have to resort to a doggie back pack to carry all of Tillie’s goodies around. Guess there’s bigger problems to worry about in the world, so I’ll end up my complaining with some cuteness. Wishing my readers a bit of hope as we come upon one year of craziness. Hope you are well and that life is settling in good ways for you and yours.

And not to be forgotten … we still love our cats. Sophie is making sure of it, so I’ll let her have the last look.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I write.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Angels Among Us

They say there are angels among us … a recent walk in the neighborhood proves this to be true where I live.

I’m not sure when this little cherub first arrived or who put her there, but I first noticed her in the fall. She’s positioned so she seems to be keeping watch over the town. This week she’s facing the south ends of town … a few weeks ago she was facing north … guess she’s got all of us under her watch.

The pandemic has been tough on our little town, and as goal posts in our state have shifted around, it feels recently that people are losing optimism. That’s why walking does me good. On my walks I’ve found …

Peace …

Serene neighborhood views …

And beautiful sunsets.

While the news is often bleak, the scenery reminds me of an area that produces hardy people … we’ve proven in the past to be made of sturdy stuff around here.

And with angels looking over our shoulders, pandemics can’t have the upper hand forever. Right?

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Wind and Floods and the People Who Get Us Through Them

Offta! It can storm around here.

Two weeks ago it was a combined wind and rain storm. Winds whipped us around at 30 miles an hour ALL. NIGHT. LONG.

But what really got us was the 75 mph gust that hit the town and surrounding area from the south at 4:14 in the morning. (My friend insists that was the exact time. I was awake for so many hours … I hate wind … that I lost track of time, so I’ll take her word for it.)

Whatever the time, I know I felt it. The rain suddenly threw itself against the bedroom window like one of those FB bucket challenges that was all the rage for awhile. I momentarily thought the water might break the window, it hit so hard. Then, in the next breath, our 1910 house did a little dance, swaying to the north and back to the south.

The ol’ girl hung in there and from the Post Office Gossip the next morning (with all the Covid shutdowns, the sidewalk in front of the PO is about the only way to catch up with the news around town), I found I could be glad that all I felt was a little swaying.

Neighbors lost roofing. Farmers discovered buildings that had caved in on vehicles and equipment. Large trees were cut down to size as giant limbs broke free … I didn’t think we had many left to come down after the early snow we had in October. Trampolines were crushed like tin cans, and I found one badly mangled and lonely several blocks away from its home. Crazy.

It would have been more interesting to write about the storm in real time. However, I wasn’t planning on writing about the storm at all, but then I came across this picture in a library newsletter earlier in the week. (The photo can be found on the Whitman County Rural Heritage collection.)

I glanced at the photo and thought, “That must have been some storm.”

Then I read the caption and found that this was taken in 1948, in my home town (just a few miles from where I live now), and the man is Theodore Fisher, my grandma’s first cousin.

The photo is remarkable to me for many reasons. First is Theodore. I loved him and his wife Katherine. Grandma lived only two blocks away, and she took me often to sit in their yard, drink lemonade, eat cookies (Katherine always had cookies … a family trait), and listen to Theodore’s squawking menagerie of geese, ducks, and exotic birds.

When he wasn’t busy digging himself out of a flood … sadly this was far from the only flood his home suffered over the years … he built pens and labyrinths for his collection of birds. I couldn’t wait to race from the school (the large building in the background) to see if Theodore had let the ducks out. Often he timed their swim in the creek (“crick” in our parts) just in time to greet us on our way home.

I always thought of Theodore as a cheerful, kind man … for all the floods he had to dig himself out of you’d think he’d be a bitter, miserable type of soul.

The second remarkable thing about this photo was already mentioned … the Farmington school. Behind Theodore’s head is a ghosted glimpse of the original Farmington school. By the time I came along, it had been replaced by the modern brick building (built in 1912, I believe) and the ghost-building was converted into a gym.

The other ghost in the picture is the Lutheran church … the over-exposed building barely noticeable on the right. My great-grandfather and his brothers built it, and it was attended by Fisher’s until Katherine, one of the last of that generation, watched from her kitchen window as the cross was taken down and the doors closed. The town had dwindled and no pastor was available to preach any longer. Today, the building is a private residence.

I attended first grade in the brick school the last year it was open. Two teachers … 13 kids … six grades … all those empty rooms … you can bet I have some stories. Some of them I’ve written, and they’ve been published in a town history that I will have to dig up and add to my blog one of these days. Suffice it to that I loved this building and felt my heart break when I heard that it was torn down while I was at college.

Rural Heritage Collection

The flood picture above brought to mind a ferocious winter storm and flooding that last year of the Farmington school. Every day at noon, we grabbed metal lunchboxes (with cool cartoon designs on them) from our cubbies and raced downstairs to the cafeteria on the bottom floor. The flood waters drowned Theodore’s place again that winter but this time kept on going. It crept over to the school and into the basement.

We were banished to our classrooms at lunch time which wasn’t so bad. The big adventure was getting to the only bathrooms … in the basement. 2×4’s and sheets of plywood were fashioned into a wobbly “bridge” and the whole place smelled dank and moldy. We weren’t allowed to go downstairs on our own during the floods should we decide to go puddle stomping through the flooded rooms. (Someone must have done it once … hence the rule.) The hero of the floods was our janitor, Mr. Felker, who steadied the boards with his foot when we walked across and slipped us sticks of Black Jack gum when the teacher’s weren’t looking. He gave us a wink and nod that meant, “Our secret.”

Rural Heritage Collection

This … the original Farmington school was our gym. A balcony had been fashioned high along the sides and one of my most excitable childhood memories was the year we were allowed onto the balcony to watch a game of donkey basketball that took place on the hardwood below. Big stuff for a small town.

Back to the wind storm I opened with … found out yesterday that part of the roof in the library I manage came off in that storm. How did I miss that! Granted it is a large brick building with a flat roof. I’m just glad our town workers saw and took care of it … the building belongs to and is managed by the town … but still, you’d think I would have noticed something.

I’m just glad that our that K. and D. (our town maintenance team) were on top of things (literally) and had a roofer come and put a temporary repair in place the very next day. When I thanked them for all the time they put into fixing old building around here, they laughed and said, “No worries. It’s what we do.”

That’s what I love about living here … we get plenty of storms and set backs, but there is a good core of people (and yes … a few complainers … I’ll be real … and sometimes I’m one of them) who keep us moving forward … one storm at a time.

Finally, I’ll wrap up with photos from a few other stormy days we’ve experienced since being back. Isn’t it amazing how even the darkest of clouds and most dreaded of winds are usually sandwiched with snatches of unmatched beauty?

Hope your are weathering your winter storms well … wherever you happen to be on the globe.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

The Little Christmas Liar, Part I

People often ask me if I do any “real” writing … “besides your blog, I mean,” they add. 

I do … mostly short stories … most of them tied into my childhood and rural upbringing. This piece was intended for a Memoir Writing Contest, but with all of 2020’s curve balls, I set it aside and didn’t finish it up by the deadline. Somewhat ironic, given this is a year for being locked inside … a perfect formula to force writers into finishing up projects … apparently that formula doesn’t work on me tho’. (Smiley face)

The timing for getting back to this does have the perk of falling into the right season. And it’s been therapeutic right now to compare the rural life I was raised in to the one I’ve recently returned to.

Note: Some names have been changed in this. Also, I’ve decided to divide it into two parts because it’s so large for a regular blog post. Hope you will find your way to Part II (the true meat of the story)when I post it in a couple of days. A two-parter lines up with my childhood experience of listening to radio programs like The Cinnamon Bear at Christmastime … having to check back the next several nights to hear the whole thing. Promise … I won’t drag it out that long … just two parts. Enjoy … I’d love to hear your thoughts and your own memories.

Part I

Grandpa was a lot of things: handsome, a dependable farm worker, an avid hunter, and a binge drinker.  He was both likable and crusty.  When sober, he was respected by all, sought after.  When drunk … well … my Grandmother locked him out of the house

The Christmas morning of these memories, I recall him as a smiling, laughing man.  Uncharacteristically giddy, even.  It was he who burst into the bedroom I shared with my sister and hurried us down the stairs, but not before stopping across the hall to lift my baby brother, stinky diaper and all, out of his crib.  My older brother had much earlier made his way to the fought-over, fat, cushy, purple chair next to our tree. The tree created a great mystery because overnight it birthed a room full of sparkly wrapped packages. Julie Andrews carried on about Three Ships of Christmas morning from the record console in the corner.  My brother grumbled that if “the babies would ever get up, we could get on with presents and the good stuff.

My Grandmother owns part of the memory too. At 5’4, she was a plump little round ball next to Grandpa’s half-a-foot-taller, lean mass. Like Grandpa, she was a mix of many things: a good cook, a fair gardener, fond of quirky riddles, fond of anything sweet, and a bit of a mouse. “Mouse” understates her.  Whenever she was nervous she started sentences with her pet phrase, “Aren’t you afraid?”  “Aren’t you afraid no one will come to the party?” “Aren’t you afraid we’ll run out of money?” “Aren’t you afraid you didn’t study enough?”  “Aren’t you afraid of … well … everything.”

I can think of only a few times that Grandma appeared determined without apologizing.  She insisted that she’d take any piece of chicken except “the one that went over the fence last.” Then, there was the story passed down from my mother where Grandma locked Grandpa out of the house for coming home too late and too tipsy.  He had managed to drag a ladder from their shed and teetered his way to the second floor. There he found an unlocked window and passage into one of the sneezy rooms used only for storing furniture and canning jars. She locked the door to the stairwell too, and he had to bang on it the next morning, mumbling forgiveness before she let him out for his toast and coffee

This Christmas morning was one of Grandma’s “so determined” days.

“Breakfast first.” She stood unmoved at the stove with a wooden spoon in her hand

Grandpa clearly didn’t have breakfast on his agenda.  He stood in the doorway between the kitchen and room full of presents, looking towards the tree with longing eyes. Grandma shifted only to move back on her heels as if they were suddenly nailed into the floor, and she tapped the spoon against her palm.  I’m not sure what that signaled to her husband, but he slumped his shoulders like a pouting boy and told my brother, “Hurry up now. Wash your hands and eat something.

Oatmeal … thankfully heavily doctored with cinnamon and raisins  … I hated oatmeal …and orange rolls dripping with butter frosting … the hungry yeastiness of them filling the room with such ferociousness that we forgot about unopened gifts for a moment … this was the breakfast of Christmas champions.

My parents were there, but faded into the pale and cracked plaster-coated kitchen walls.  Mom took over and changed Baby Brother’s diaper, but otherwise let her parents fuss away. Dad sat in the corner, folding and unfolding lanky legs, mindlessly rotating a steaming cup of coffee with one of his hands, waiting for it to cool.  He didn’t drink coffee unless he first watered it down with cold tap water, but he wasn’t going to say anything to my grandfather who had served him without his asking. With his other hand, he toyed with the button on his shirt pocket, wanting to pull out one of his hand-rolled cigarettes – a habit he’d picked up in army days –  but must have figured my mom would scold him. When my grandparents weren’t around, he smoked all day long.

Photo by Olenka Sergienko on Pexels.com

I don’t remember how we got into the living room, but suddenly Grandpa was in charge again and we were there, in front of the crooked pine, hauled down from the nearby Idaho forest back in the days when permits weren’t required.  Plump red and orange and blue and green and yellow bulbs peeped out between the branches, throwing happy shadows of light around a room still gray at the edges from the cloud-frosted morning outside.

Toys. There were so many toys. Dolls. Metal trucks. Coloring books. Water colors. Wooden airplanes that you had to snap together. Handmade doll clothes.  A two story dollhouse, open on one side so that we could reach in and arrange the little painted rooms with little plastic furniture. Building blocks. Stuffed lions and monkeys and bears. Cap guns.

And candy. Candy cane shaped tubes filled with red and green M&Ms. Ribbon shaped suckers. Red and green jellies. Foil wrapped chocolates formed into the likeness of Santa and reindeer. A box of pink peppermint bark … but this was for Grandma alone … to share only if she chose, which she always did.  Round peppermints with red stripes, wrapped individually and destined to be the last candies we would eat in the weeks after the holiday, and only then, if we were desperate for something sweet.  The strong peppermint scent reminded my nose of medicine.

And there were peanuts at the bottoms of our stockings.

And oranges, fat and juicy.

“You’re spoiling them, Daddy.” This was my mom to Grandpa, but the softness of her eyes said it was okay.  My own dad worked hard at two accounting jobs and repairing machinery for various farmers, but money was always scarce  He had talked of a slim Christmas this year, but Grandpa had other ideas.  Dad shifted uncomfortably, like he wanted to say or do something, but he finally slumped back in the square-backed wood rocker and more or less relaxed. He even smiled throughout the morning, especially when he unwrapped a can of fresh tobacco and a new pipe.  He looked pleased, too, when mom ooo-ed and awwww-ed over a terry cloth bath robe and lilac-scented body lotion.

Grandpa glowed like a gas station sign at midnight, arms still folded but a grin on his face. Grandma scurried around the room, crinkling her nose as she reached for the wrapping paper around our feet.  “Sorry, but please, don’t rip the paper … we can use it again.” She then smoothed the rescued pieces into tiny neat squares.  It was a room with three adults who had lived through something they called the Great Depression – this included my dad who was a lot older than my mom. Wasting anything became a personal insult to them.

It’s only as I write, that I realize that there were no presents for Grandpa and only the candy for Grandma, at least that I remember.  Yet they seemed happier than anyone.

My mom with her parents in the earlier 50’s. One of the few pictures of my Grandpa. Grandma looks so tall here, but then, she always said she shrunk a little with each passing year.

But this memory isn’t really about Grandpa or Grandma or those gifts … at least I don’t think it is.  It’s about a little Christmas liar lurking outside of our door and her big, fat, Christmas lie that tried to ruin that wondrous Christmas morning.

To Be Continued … Part II is found here.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs sites that I keep.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever you are ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Wordless Wednesday – October Snow

Snow in October was not what anyone had in mind, but then … this is 2020.

Snow in October was not what anyone had in mind, but then … this is 2020. Sadly, many trees in town suffered greatly from the weight of snow and leaves. This was one of the more fortunate.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever your ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Wordless Wednesday

Harvest of days gone past. This relic is found in the Ghost town of Elberton, WA. See previous Wordless Wednesday post.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever your ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Wordless Wednesday – Family Time

Who knew beavers were so affectionate. I’ve been watching this little family all summer.

Who knew beavers were so affectionate. I’ve been watching this little family all summer.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever your ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly

Wordless Wednesday (A Little Late)- Stare Down

Who’s watching who? Sometimes it’s hard to tell.

When you thought you hit the “schedule button” but didn’t, you get to choose between having a tardy post or waiting until next week to look all organized. I’m going for the tardy, product-of-an-eclectic-mind approach. Enjoy a little Wednesday on Thursday!

Our cats invest hours of each day observing the doings at the bird feeder just outside the window from their perch. One day, I caught the birds staring back.

Thank you for reading “Small Stuff”.  This is the second of two blogs.  You can find more on my thought&faith blog at rashellbud.wordpress.com. Wishing you a beautiful day full of the Small Stuff that transforms life into BIG STUFF.

A note to my “silent” readers … thank you for taking the time out of your busy day to read my work. I’ve learned that many of you are shy about commenting or hitting the like button, but I want you to know that I appreciate your visits and invite you into the conversations whenever your ready.

Wishing you peace in all things … Shelly