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I put the warning there because I have some friends who think as highly of spiders as I do of monkeys. I, on the other hand, elevate spiders above things like monkeys, ticks, fleas, and dogs that growl at me. I have been known to allow a spider to live on the outside of the plate glass window, dining and sleeping. I have been designated the official spider killer at many a place of employment: just scream and Jaci will come kill the spider for you.

Weenie.

My fist introduction to spiders that I recall was the myriad Black Widows that would try to gain entrance into our home in the fall. My mother would take a can of Raid and carefully hunt down every giant black abdomen hanging out in the basement windows.

BLK WIDOW

BLK WIDOW

(Photo courtesy the Orkin site).

Black Widows were probably the only spiders my mother hated as I got my love for spiders from her.

Terry and I bombed every square inch of Dad’s house after he died and before we began to go through the remnants of our parents’ lives. Widows are a fact of life in the high desert.

But Widows aside, I find most spiders benign. They bite you sometimes in the night and the bite festers and itches like a mosquito bite, but it was probably a defense mechanism as you rolled over and crushed the life out of them in your sleep. So be it. Irritating, but not a reason to hate them.

Spiders kill more insects – bad insects like grasshoppers, leaf hoppers, stink bugs, and flies – than any other predator, and probably more effectively than any pesticide out there. Spiders are our friends, especially in the garden.

Tonight, Don told me there was a huge spider in the dog watering trough. I took a photo.

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That’s a quite useless photo for identification purposes as the camera chose to focus on the bottom of the tub rather than on the actual flotsam. It’s easily 2″ long and slightly submerged. My husband said it had been floating and he wasn’t about to rescue it (which I totally would have down without thinking – offer it a free ride on a board to the lawn).

Don thought it was possibly a Brown Recluse and… having never seen one, I thought it could be, too.

But the Brown Recluse is about the size of a penny. And when I blew up the images of the Brown Recluse and compared it side by side with our drowned specimen, the markings on the back did not match.009

Our spider.

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Giant house spider.

In short, our floating behemoth of a spider is what I refer to as a “funnel-web spider” ( a non-scientific term describing the sort of web it creates in the grass and in the murky corners of the foundation. A spider I prefer to let live.

It is the spider nemesis of the hobo spider.  That is a very GOOD thing.

Crushed my husband’s hopes of a Deadly Catch, but totally justified my fishing it out of the water with a piece of paper. Don’t worry – Don had already finished his sudoku puzzle on the other side.

My mom would be proud of me, I’m sure.

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1967. Badlands. The little girl on the left dressed meticulously in her favorite colors: pale blue with matching shorts. She was between Fifth Grade and Sixth Grade and the summer was the only pleasant part of those years.

She weighed 64 tons that summer. Yes, I wrote 64 tons. She bragged about it in the car as the family traveled from Winnemucca, Nevada, to Durand, Wisconsin, for the oldest cousin’s high school graduation (and first Melrose Family Reunion). No amount of crying “No, no, no, no! I meant pounds!” (through fits of giggles) would ever change that weight. It was recorded by the kid in the middle. 64 tons.

That little girl got out of the Worst Year in School (so she thought) early. Family vacation. Trip to Wisconsin. “We’ll make it educational.” Her cousins wouldn’t know that she peed her pants in the 5th Grade because the teacher wouldn’t let anyone, no matter how desperate, use the bathroom during classroom time. (That teacher was lucky to keep her job after the little girl’s parents found out that their daughter had been humiliated in front of the entire 5th grade.)

Lesson #1: how to advocate for your child. Notes taken.

Her girlfriends at school got their ears pierced (YUCK!), started dating (double YUCK!), and some girls even started wearing nylons. Not panty-hose – those hadn’t been invented yet: you had to wear a garter belt to hold up the nylons. She still wanted to grow up to be a wild horse and her best friend was two years younger than her.

Vacation was wonderful. We pulled a camp trailer to Wisconsin, but we also stayed in motels and swam in motel pools. When we got to Wisconsin, all the cousins had gathered. Cheryl was the Belle of the Ball, graduating from High School (she was SO Old). Pegi was almost too old to be bothered with us little ones and at one point, she locked us all out of the house. Patti and Terry conspired to torment the rest of us. Janis and I were close. Valerie and Deni. Then the little ones who got locked inside the house with Pegi: Wendy and the Holy Terror, Vicky, who ran around saying “Shit!” and “HAHAHA that’s MY — (insert name of item)”.

We ran next door to the Dairy Queen and scored on free Dilly Bars. Make mine lime.

The trip home was a denouement. The car started over-heating with the trailer. We couldn’t go to St. Louis to see the Budweiser horses. The Black Hills were out of the question, with the visages of four presidents. We managed the Badlands and the memorial for Custer’s Last Stand. I was already a nerd: I knew how the battle happened, that the united Sioux Nation was retaliating for earlier murders, and the only survivor of the U.S. Cavalry was a horse named “Comanche” (ironic, eh?). I was fascinated to see the lay of the battle – Custer wasn’t on top of the hill, but his men were spread out on the side of the hill. The Indians came over the top and swarmed them. Mutilations were mere retaliations for earlier mutilations committed by the 7th. I was only interested in the horse that survived, and we drove by his museum without stopping.

In Yellowstone, Dad embarrassed the entire family by pulling up behind someone feeding the bears and laying on the horn. Other people just stopped and took photos or drove around the bear feeders, but not Dad. He had to make a scene out of it. “Gee, Dad, why’s that guy waving at you with his middle finger?”

We had magazines at home like “Sports Illustrated”, “Field and Stream”, and “Outdoor Life”. Recent articles on grizzly bear attacks in Yellowstone dominated the articles. DON’T FEED THE BEARS was a huge campaign. Dad was a federal Officer on vacation and he used his clout (the horn) to save many a tourist from an unprovoked bear attack. Yay Dad.

The 1964 earthquake shook up the geysers, Old Faithful was off schedule and only rose to a mere twenty or thirty feet in the air. Bust. (Years later, when we revisited Yellowstone, the geyser was back to herself – impressive!)

We camped in Yellowstone. There was this bear. It was huge, cinnamon colored, and hump-backed. It dragged a bag full of trash behind it as it ambled through the camp ground and people took photos.

Remember the little girl in the photo? She was a budding environmentalist. She happily followed the bear, picking up the trash, humming to herself about what a good little environmentalist she was. When the bear settled in a small grove of trees and started to munch on its treasures, the little girl continued to blissfully pick up the detritus. Cameras clicked.

Out of nowhere – and I mean NOWHERE – the vacationing Forest Ranger appeared. He was moving at speeds that would put Superman to shame. He grabbed that little girl by the waist and tucked her under his arm before retreating – quickly – back to the camper. He didn’t say a word, didn’t spank her, didn’t have the breath to speak. She cried because she picked up on the fear.

That night, the family lay snug inside the camp trailer, listening to the same grizzly bear toy with the huge logging chain on the garbage can that was buried in concrete and locked down. In the morning, the garbage can, lid, and chain had all been pulled out of the ground.

Lesson#2. Grizzly Bears are real. Grizzly Bears are superhuman. Dads are faster.

The family returned to Winnemucca, unscathed. The little girl was disappointed about all the missed horses (Clydesdales and Comanche). She called her school friend, Trudi, to tell her all about the trip. And that was when she found out about the rest of the school year that she’d missed – fortunately.

That 5th Grade Teacher was so strict and so mean, but she made one mistake. She allowed the students to “grade” each others’ workbooks. Workbooks were passed front to back or back to front, where a friend usually sat. And said friend would “miss” some of the mistakes on a test, thus ensuring a higher grade. Of course, if it was an enemy who sat before or behind you, all bets were off.

Said teacher discovered the cheating during the last week of school and a riot act was read. Hearts sank into stomachs. Grades couldn’t be changed, but a loss of trust was just as devastating to some of us. We actually idolized that teacher (for reasons still unknown to me, except she was pretty and young, and she had her nice moments). Caught red-handed (or not, because I couldn’t bring myself to succumb to the cheating), we all felt this huge wave of guilt…

Funny – as an adult, I think it was her just desserts, but at the time… I just felt shame and more embarrassment than when I peed my pants in class. Maybe it was because the teacher really tried to make that up to me after she nearly lost her job over it. Maybe it was because it was her first year teaching and she didn’t know what to expect out of a class of 5th graders. Maybe it was because she was pretty and young and my school friend, Trudi, adored her.

Lesson #3 – Cheating never pays. Even when the teacher brought it on herself.

Present Day.

I took today off, in part because I wanted to spend the day wandering all the yard sales that go with the big McLoughlin Neighborhood annual yard sale, and, in part, because I just wanted a day off. Don was home, but he wasn’t interested in the yard sales, so it truly was a day off – all by myself.

I had high hopes – the annual even has never failed to provide me with some treasures. Sadly, this year was just ho-hum and I spent a total of $13.50, five of which went toward my lunch. I walked the entire McLoughlin Neighborhood on the south side of 7th Street, and drove to a few yard sales on the north side.

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My first treasure was a set of earrings (only one in the photo, but there are two). Something to wear to work.

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I picked up this truly funky, fuzzy, zebra-striped light jacket. I think it could be used for costumes.

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Feather earrings to go with the funky zebra jacket. Or some other cosplay outfit. They’re not my style for work.

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This was a find: a new pair of flats that fit, are comfy, and are cute. Never worn.

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A magazine rack. It’s dusty & needs to be revarnished. It is not an antique by any means. It’s just cute. Make Offer – I paid a whole dollar for it.

I paid about $1.41 per item by the end of the day.

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This was my last find – a barely used Pampered Chef baking stone. People buy these and then forget how to use them.

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The black one in the foreground is my well-used Pampered Chef stone, slightly smaller than the one I bought for two bucks today. It’s supposed to be black after so many uses – that’s the natural seasoning of a fine baking stone, much like the fine seasoning of a good set of cast iron pans.

Disappointing in that I found so little to impress me, but… I had a lovely day by myself, wandering the streets of historic Oregon City, admiring gardens, and I only spent a little bit of money. Sometimes, a soul just needs that kind of quiet day.

And I kind of like that funky, fuzzy, zebra-striped jacket thing.

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Jaci n Butchy

Terry says that Butch had a home before he came to live with us. I was much to young to remember – we still had Mom’s ankle-biter, Squeaky. Butch was all black except for a white streak on his breast. He was some sort of accident between a big dog and a little dog – part Lab, part Cocker Spaniel, part Gordon Setter, part — well, we never knew. He was just an odd-looking dog close up.

He moved in with us when we still lived in Elko and his owners soon ceded him over to us, as he obviously preferred the company of three rowdy children to whatever their household offered. He had a number of bad habits and I sincerely doubt he was neutered – people didn’t go around neutering their pets in those days. Dogs and cats were lucky to get rabies vaccines, let alone distemper. There were no laws requiring licensing of pets until later, and no dog leash laws until Butch was already an established roamer.

No one worried that he’d wander off. He was devoted to us kids. Where we went, he went. If the Coffey’s brought their loose dog along, Sox, we’d have to keep them from fighting (Sox had it in for Butch), but that was the biggest worry we had about Butch.

That, and the fact that he chased cars. He hated cars. He devoted his life to catching a car.

We moved from Elko to Paradise Valley to Lay Street in Winnemucca, and finally, to Minor Street. Butch made every move with us. He tolerated the invasion of Jacob, the cat. He permitted us to dress up the stray red tabby that would come visit. Cats weren’t Butch’s thing.

Snakes were.

He killed snakes. Bull snakes, rubber boas, rattlesnakes, garter snakes. If it was a snake and Butch got wind of it, it was as good as dead. If he ever got bit, we never knew. Terry theorizes that the long hair protected Butch from the fangs of many a rattlesnake, and he might be right. Whatever the case, snakes were always on the losing end with him.

Rocks. Never was a dog so enthralled with playing “fetch”. but “fetch” had to be done with the rock of his choosing. he wasn’t interested in balls or sticks. He always came back with the same rock you threw, even if you threw it into the Humboldt River. Sometimes, he’d be under water for so long, you’d think he had drowned – but then he’d pop back up to the surface, rock in his jaws, and swim back to shore. We tested him on it. We memorized the rock we’d throw: how many jagged edges, the color, the size, the texture.

He always returned with the same rock.

The move to the house on Minor Street happened at about the same time that the city council decided that dogs needed to be licensed and restrained. A new leash law went into effect. We could collar Butch and license him, but he quickly scaled the 8′ high chain-link fence and trotted off on his daily errands.

There were a few dogs that were “grandfathered in” on the new leash law – dogs known to be reliable, friendly, and unrestrainable. Bidart’s collie. Thompson’s Norwegian Elkhound (Nipper, who was an old friend of mine). Lawrence’s Gordon Setter. The extremely dumb black lab, Kelly, who loved to run out and bark at kids, but if you bent over as if to pick up a rock, retreated quickly, tail between his legs. Butchy. I used to know all of their names, but can only recall a few of them now.

Once upon a time, there was a Hoover Vacuum Salesman who cornered my mom. He came by once and she entertained him, but she didn’t want to buy a Hoover from him. He kept coming back. She kept hiding from him. At one point, I recall him walking up to the house and mom ducked behind the picture window. “I’m not here!” she hissed to us kids.

We answered the door and told him our mother wasn’t home. He didn’t believe us: the car was in the drive. We insisted, trying not to look sideways and giggle at the sight of Mom curled up in the fetal position under the window, hissing at us to “get rid of him!”

We didn’t have to get rid of him. He walked back into the driveway in time for Butchy to see him. Butch must have known how Mom felt about him, because Butch laid his chops into the salesman’s ankles. The salesman roared that he’d sue, but us kids were laughing so hard (and Mom was rolling on the floor). Butchy chased that salesman out of the driveway and out of our lives forever.

1965, February. I was 9 years old and in the 4th Grade. Sunday. We went to church – all of us except Dad, who never went. Home again, and a usual Sunday day – except that Butch didn’t come around. By Monday, we kids were beginning to get worried. Butch roamed, but he never spent days or even a night away from home.

How many days did we wait before we began to ask the questions? How Mom took each one of us into her bedroom, separately, to tell us the tale. How many tears?

Dad heard the yelp, heard the brakes. He got up, looked out, and there was Butch – killed by his favorite hobby: car chasing. We were at church, Dad had time. He loaded him up, drove him into the desert, and buried him – tears streaming, a show of emotion Dad would never acknowledge in front of us kids.

We all cried, but I cried so hard that I got the worst case of tonsilitis I had ever had. It was time, Doc Hartoch said, for me to have my tonsils out. So I was off to the hospital where I breathed in that awful elixir of ether (“10-9-8-” out) and my tonsils were removed. I puked blood upon my recovery. I was sent home with a prescription for an ice cream diet (lime sorbet, as I recall).

I think it hurt Terry more as he was older and remembered more, but that didn’t diminsh my pain. Dad never spoke of it. It was an awful month.

Originally posted on Jarbidge to the Oregon Trail:

This one falls under Stupid Things I have Done. It is a classic tale told around the world by different authors and, unfortunately, in this tale, I am the author.

We lived in a little trailer park with a gravel road. Seven trailers, all small children about the same age. I was the stay-at-home mom to several of the working mothers. This did not involve babysitting in so many words and I want to quantify this with my opinion on leaving young children at home alone.

I was a latch-key child in the 1960’s, before “latch-key child” was a buzz phrase. It was not cool for mothers to work outside the home and nearly all of my friends had stay-at-home mothers. My parents agreed that my mother could work outside the home. She was light years ahead of her time and probably one of Gloria Steinem’s most ardent supporters (sans…

View original 1,343 more words

I succumbed to a weak and unwise purchase when I was out yard-saling this weekend. It had everything to do with November of 1963. I had just turned 7 years old and was in the 2nd Grade. Mrs. Butts was my teacher. She came into the class after a brief absence, ashen-faced and red-eyed. We were being sent home.

I don’t know if I grasped the gravity of the situation at school or not. We left quietly, that I remember. There was none of the usual happy celebration of an unexpected holiday, only a somber feeling in the air as our young minds tried to take in what had just happened.

The strangest part of the day was that Dad was already home when we got there. Dad was never home in the middle of the day, and on a Friday. The television was on and the somber tone of the newscasters as they replayed the day’s events over and over and over again was unmistakeable. Something horrid had happened.

We were young, but we zeroed in on the heroine of the times, the woman who refused to ride in a bullet-proof car but who chose, instead, to walk along behind the hearse with her young children. She would not bow to terrorism. She would not give a terrorist the satisfaction of making her afraid. She was Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy, wife of the late President, mother of his children.

I am not a Jacqueline. My name is Jackie, after my father, John (aka Jack). I am almost a year older than Caroline Kennedy. I have a life-long fascination with the lady who walked out of the White House in November and into the hearts of the American people. I know she was flawed, blind in some respects, and extremely private. She was betrayed, disparaged, and the subject of many a tabloid – yet she remained a lady, always. She had grace.

So it was when I found this porcelain doll for $5, that I thought I couldn’t live without her. Well, I could, but I would regret it.

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“Any particular reason she is $5?” I asked the people at the yard sale. They looked suspicious. Should she be more? I admitted that I had no clue: I was only interested because of my age when her first husband was assassinated.

I brought her home, confessed to my husband, and then we debated her actual monetary worth. We decided it was around $30. She’s not an antique – there are bar codes on the box she came in.

I did look her up. She was sold by Publisher’s Clearing House and can be found on eBay and other auction sites for $37. One Goodwill site lists her at $10 (but with some damage). I’m confident that $30 is close to her actual worth – now.

I will keep her in the original box (or – if I find such a thing – inside a plastic tube to keep the dust off). I’m not interested in displaying her. She doesn’t actually look like Jackie O., anyway. I’ll put her in a carton with all the newspapers about the assassination – true, vintage newspapers. I kept everything from that day.

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Royalton Collection 1960’s Bride Jacqueline

I have followed her, cut out articles about her, mourned her when she died, and read her biographies. She was an enigma, a lady in the face of the most trying moments, and a lady in the face of the paparazzi.

I don’t really mind having spent $5 on her.

Jasper came into our lives the spring I was 11 (going on 12). My friend, Trudi, lived on the very outskirts of Winnemucca. Their yard backed up to miles of sagebrush, dusty dirt roads, and Mt. Winnemucca. She could watch wild horses from her bedroom window.

The downside to that location was that people dumped unwanted animals along the dirt roads. Such was the case of the starving, blind, newborn kittens that Trudi and her brother rescued. The kittens’ eyes were caked over and they were much too young for anything besides a thin gruel of baby cereal and warm water. They couldn’t even eat from eye-droppers because there were four or five of them and no one had the patience to try to feed them that way. They lapped the gruel from a bowl, caking it in their fur, on their faces, and on their paws. One by one, they opened their eyes – and one by one, they succumbed to death.

It took everything in me to present my case to my mother, and then wait with bated breath while she presented my case to my father. To my surprise, he said I could have one of the kittens. I think he thought it would die.

She came home with me, then – the only tabby kitty in the litter, and ultimately, the only one to live longer than that summer. She was a tortoiseshell tabby, red-brown, grey, and stripped. I named her Jasper.

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She bulled her way into our hearts and even the schnauzer put up with her.

We moved the following autumn, just before my 13th birthday, and Jasper came along with us.

004She loved our new home: close to the sagebrush hills and a peak that rose stiffly above the ore train tracks. She used a culvert to travel from the back yard to the sagebrush to hunt. She even fended off the next door German Shepherd and the Gordon Setter mix. Jasper was in heaven.

She had three lives, not nine. Her first life as a kitten that ended in a dump along a dusty road, her second life with us that ended when she was hit by a car – rolled, really, but it did some internal damage and she wasn’t quite herself for months, and her third life which rolled into the summer before I turned 15.

I had a day job as a babysitter (the cute little girls next door who belonged to the big dogs), but I had to sub-let my job to my sister when I traveled to Reno for Rainbow Grand Assembly. The little girls greeted me when I came home with an announcement about my cat.

My family was waiting for the right time to tell me; the little girls spilled the beans. Jasper, still reeling from the car accident, had wandered up the hill and across the tracks. Only – she didn’t make it across the tracks. The ore train came. My sister and brother buried the two halves of Jassy Cat under a sagebrush, and built a rock cairn to mark her grave. I was crushed.

A few months later, a little black kitten wandered in to our lives. My brother coerced Mom to let him stay in the garage until Terry had built up his nerve to broach the subject with dad. Dad noticed that Mom wasn’t parking in the garage, however, and the subject came up after only three days of hiding. Dad knew he’d been had, but it didn’t make him happy. Speckos was allowed, BUT NO MORE CATS DAMMIT.

Specks had a few white hairs on his chest, but “Speckles” was just not quite the right name for him, hence “Speckos”.

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November 2, 1972. I rode to school with my brother, in his pink Willys Jeep. I met my best friend, Janet, outside the school. It was my fifteenth birthday, cold, and there was this adorable little black kitten mewling around. I wanted to put him inside the Jeep and keep him, but my brother put his foot down. Dad would kill us.

The kitty was gone after school and I returned home, a little sad that I couldn’t have a kitten for my 15th birthday.

MEANWHILE, the kitten was picked up by a group of grade school kids and carried off to the nearby grade school. My mother worked as a receptionist for an engineering firm next to the grade school, and my sister attended the grade school. What happened next was typical of my sister. She wasn’t very big, just a mite of a girl in the 7th grade.

A group of mean little children were tormenting the kitten and devising ways to torture it when my sister waded into the middle of them, arms flailing, voice raised, black eyes burned over. They would NOT torment any kitten on her watch!

She hauled the rescue over to Mom’s work and tearily told Mom what had happened. “Well, what do you plan to do with this kitten?” Mom asked.

“I’m going to give him to Jaci for her birthday.” Mom melted.

Dad hit the roof. I dug my heels in and moved outside. Alligator tears ran down my face as I hugged that dear little cat close. He was all black with amber eyes. Speckos had green eyes. I even named him: Buddie Jacopo.

Dad relented, and until my brother and I went away to college, we had two black cats.

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Buddie is on the left, a leaner cat with a long tail. Speckos was bulkier, with a shorter tail. They got along as if they were littler mates, although Speckos was older.

I don’t remember what happened to Speckos. Terry probably does. I think he just died of old age. I do know the rest of Buddie’s tale.

I went away to college and moved out on my own. Buddie took it upon himself to replace Jacob, and adopted Dad. Dad even taught him how to sit up and beg for treats. Buddie became the last cat Dad ever loved (although he tolerated Mom’s alley cat stray that he nick-named PITA). Buddie lived a full and normal cat life, dying of old age.

Footnote: Mom’s alleycat stray was never very tame and was originally named “Bob Cat” because of the bobbed tail. When Bob Cat had kittens, she became Roberta Cat. Dad just called her PITA (Pain In The Ass). Roberta disappeared shortly after Mom died in 1995.

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