31 December 2020. Friday
I have decided, that on this last day of a very lo-n-n-n-g year, that I shall do absolutely nothing beyond this blog. I will do nothing except drink coffee in the morning, sweet tea in the afternoon and vodka in the evening. I’ll do this without the slightest bit of guilt knowing that I have worked my ass off for the past 364 minus a few days of unadulterated laziness. Maybe not laziness. Both the mind and the body need respite from the ongoing aggravations that seem to, like apparitions becoming solid, rear their ugly heads just when you think all is well. “What can possibly go wrong now?” is a question I have ceased to ask aloud or even think. The very thought or utterance of those words invariably gets a very quick and inconvenient answer. When the weather started getting to below freezing I plugged in all of the heat tapes for the various plumbing pipes. One heat tape failed immediately. The drain pipe burst in the downstairs bathroom. Now the bathtub and the hand sink are unusable. I may have told you this before but I’m having to shower upstairs and brush my teeth at the kitchen sink. Fortunately, the downstairs commode still works. Well, it worked right up until it didn’t. One ot the heat tapes on the main drain line failed and it froze. That it did not burst is a blessing. I ran the jet heater under the house all day to no avail. Suddenly the temperature outside went above freeing for a couple of days and it cleared the line. I suspect that the line was not completely frozen. Likely a layer of ice collected at a low spot and the trapped debris flowing down the line. That debris then froze and so on until the line was completely clogged. The solution to this problem arrived a couple of days ago. It is an inside the pipe heat tape. I’ve been going to install it but the weather has been totally weird. Yesterday, for example, we had a blowing snow blizzard in the early part of the day. Then we had sleet, more snow, then rain and sleet, then sleet and snow, then snow and, finally, the sun came out and we had blue skies and puffy white clouds. Because of the oddly warm weather (NO man-made Global Warming comments, please) the entire yard seems to be covered in an inch or more of ice. You take your life and health into your hands, if you set foot outside without ice cleats. ICE CLEATS!! I’d never heard of such a thing before I moved here. Now I have two pairs of shoes with them semi-permanently installed. The only entities allowed outside of the house without cleats are Taco and Betsy Boo and, occasionally Suzy. Even with four feet on the ground, they often find the going, in the backyard, a little tough. Anyway, crawling under the house is possible just not recommended. The ground under the hose is now mud. Made so by the warmer weather. The snow and sleet melting off the roof and the rain is dripping out of the broken gutters. Gutters are another of the myriad of lesser projects yet to be completed.
Just finished off the pot of coffee and was planning a glass of iced tea. A minor problem arose. The tea pitcher was near empty and there was only about a half of a small cup of tea inside. That it when, like so many of my British Isles ancestors, decided I’d have the balance as hot tea. Way back in the history of the USA, before there was a USA, King George put a heavy tax on tea. This drove our ancestors to drinking coffee because there was little or no tax on coffee. This points up a valuable lesson that politicians have yet to learn or maybe they have. If you tax a product at a high enough level people will either stop using the product or find a substitute. King George whose intentions were to punish tea drinking colonists made coffee drinkers out of the majority of those colonists. His actions had an unintentional consequence. This is something our politicians haven’t learned.
Spent some time yesterday evening trying to look up old acquaintances lest they be forgot. I’ve, apparently, reached the age where most of my oldest friends, old friends, acquaintances are dead. I am still in contact with some of the people from my home town (Brighton, Alabama) and some people with whom I attended Hueytown High School during the Jurassic Period of my life. My closest friends of the past 50 years, including my late wife, are all dead. The move to Alaska did not improve my relationship with the few new friends that I made when living in Florida. As i’m wring this, whatever this is, I am watching the disc turn on the record player that Summer gave me for Christmas. What I was watching the record turn and a question came to me. Does the inside of the record turn faster than the outer edge. If it, in fact, does why is the music not in warp speed sounding like Donald Duck on steroids? Another mystery that I really don’t have the care to solve. Some things are just better to be left as a mystery.
One of the sad things in 2020 was the need to put our old friend down. Gandie was a flea bitten rescue by Summer when we lived in St.Petersburg. He was a terrible mess. Matted hair, skinny as a rail and eaten up with fleas. I don’t think anyone but Summer would have adopted him. He was leading a miserable life even fo a dog. He turned 14, we think, this year. All his get up and go was gone. He, mostly, just ate and slept for the last two years. The Vet looked at him and pronounced him “OLD” a couple of years ago. I the last couple of weeks before we had to put him down, the Vet looked at him again. There was nothing she could do for the old fellow. He was whining in his sleep, he could no longer climb the stairs to take his rightful place on Summer’s bed. At that point, he was in pain, his stool contained blood. The time had come. We just couldn’t let him suffer any longer. We took him to a Vet in Soldotna who put him to sleep while we petted him for the last time. After we left the room, he gave Gandie the fatal dose and his pain was over. A couple of weeks later Summer drove back to Soldotna and picked up his ashes. We have picked a large rock surrounded flower garden where he will come to his final resting place along with the late Cookie. Cookie was part Beagle and something else. She was a good substantial dog that Summer had adopted as a puppy when she was attending Auburn University. She, too, had lived a long and happy life of good food, excellent care and a loving owner. Sometimes, I wish I was some nice person’s dog. Nothing to worry about for all of your life and then a calm and peaceful death when you become critically infirm. Neither Gandie nor Cookie seemed to recognize anyone of us at the last weeks and months of their lives. The had, in the last stages of their lives, what in humans would be Alzheimers or what we once called Senile Psychosis. Good Bye, Old Friends.
Another friend died up here this year. He will be missed by his many friends here in Fritz Creek. He was the best friend of both Dan (Summer’s significant other) and Dave, Dan’s older brother. They had known and been friends with him for most of their lives. For me, he was more of an acquaintance but he was Summer’s friend. Steve Pelletier was a wealthy younger, mid fifties guy. He was one of the nicest people I have ever met. Had a pile of money but you’d have never known it by the way he acted and dressed. No fru fru, no flairs just an everyday guy that I liked. I have made a life of not liking anybody very much. Those that I do like can have my wallet, my car keys and the clothes off my back, if necessary. Those people have been few and far between. ANYWAY, They found Steve lying in his driveway dead. I did not hear anything about the cause of death but I surmised that her had a heart attack. He did have some heart problems with which he and his doctor were dealing. I suspect that they same thing that very nearly killed me at 58 years old, was the cause of his death. My doctor referred to it as”The Widow Maker”. It is a blockage of the artery on the heart that feeds blood to the backside of the heart. If it clogs solid you are dead with in seconds. A significant number of men in their fifties are just going along minding their own business with no apparent symptoms. Then on that fateful day they simply fall over dead. No warning. One minute you are alive and well the next your have gone to meet your maker. Probably not a bad way to die. A moment of sudden pain then nothing but a funeral.
This week has been a complete bust as far as getting any work done on the house. For the last several days the temperature has been at or near 40F during the day and barely below freezing during the night. The completion of the house leveling has been postponed due to the ground not being frozen solid. I could jack it up by putting concrete or wooden blocks under the jacks. With the ground so soft the blocks would just disappear into the ground. I did that last Summer and I really don’t want to, unintentionally, bury any more wood or concrete blocks. I did get a few things done: I made a dump run; cleared off my work bench in the conex; cooked beans and rice for the critters (That’s another story): Sharpener all the axes, the chainsaws; swept the floors; rearranged the hallway we are using for a pantry; sanded the driveway; hauled in more wood’; moved wood in the tent where the hole was allowing the rain in to a dryer spot; picked up items in the snow that the rain had exposed; damn near walked into a very big cow moose and dozens of other things that I cannot remember as they were done so quickly or of such little note to even register as some task done. One thing i can say for a certainty is that I did not expect “rain delays’ at the end of December. I guess 2020 is simply not going to quit be the hellacious year that it has been.
This year has been just one unaccomplished thing after another. Like the old saying in the Robert Burns book ‘To a Mouse’ and John Steinbeck’s book ‘Of Mice and Men’. “The best laid plans of men oft time go awry” has been a substantial understatement in describing 2020. Summer’s Garden Store was completed two weeks too late for the fall bulb planting season. She only had two weeks before the ground started freezing and precluding the planting of all of those beautiful flower bulbs. Now she is holding over inventory until Spring and hoping that the mice won’t destroy them. I did not get the tractor repaired. It continues to leak gear oil all over the place. When I park it I am placing a coffee can under the leak so as to collect the expensive gear oil. The green house was to be recovered with plastic. That didn’t happen. All we had time to do was pull a tarp over the missing panel locations. The permanent chicken house and run didn’t get built. Neither did the permanent Goose enclosure that we had planned. The Land Rover started making some weird noise on the back axle and a mechanic deemed it necessary that we should spend $800 on a $1500 car. It didn’t happen as we are crazy not stupid. He was a nice guy and when I went to pay him for his trouble he said “Merry Christmas”. That was an unusual bright spot in 2020 and I’ll be taking him some business in the future. It took me from February until late October to get any response from my auto insurance company USAA. I was trying to file a claim for the fender I damaged and for the other fender someone at Home Depot had so graciously smashed along with the rear bumper. In early November, they sent a couple of checks, which I, somehow, managed to throw in the stove to build a fire one morning. I am assuming that the fire was their fate, as I have yet to find them. I called their Rep in Anchorage. He had them reissue the checks. By this time it was almost December. I found a local auto body shop and gave them the checks, they ordered the parts necessary one of which was a complete fender. The fender arrived bent. pretty much, in half. They had to reorder the fender and as of this date we still don’t have a fender. That bent fender was the only one in all of Alaska. I, now, have no idea when the truck will be repaired. I’m selling the damned thing as soon as it is repaired. I can sell it for nearly as much as I paid for it in Florida 3 1/2 years ago. I might be 3-4000 down but I drove it for 3 1/2 years. A $1000 a year doesn’t seem an exorbitant price to pay for using a Dodge 3500 Double Cab Dually with a 8′ bed. It is a big truck that I no longer need. Seems a waste to haul trash to the dump and pick up a bit of lumber from Home Depot in it.
For those of you on the East Coast you are either drunk or getting drunk as it is a bit after 9:00 PM your time. Only just after 5:00 PM here in Fritz Creek, Alaska. I’M CALLING IT DONE. Stay safe and DON’T DRINK AND DRIVE.