Wednesday, November 25, 2015

In which Lulu Rubidoux returns with a brand new Skookum story

I started writing about the semi-fictional town of Skookum in 2010, and every once in a while a new Skookum story pops up in my head.  

So it was a few days ago, when I was struggling to stuff words into a new story about zombies, and was instead mowed down by a tale from my favorite town celebrating my second-favorite holiday (Hallowe'en is my favorite, but Thanksgiving is a close second).

I took a break from zombies, and wrote this down in one throw, and I'm loading it up on the blog as a gift to you, dear readers, from me and all the other semi-fictional people of Skookum, to celebrate Thanksgiving.  

I hope you enjoy reading it as much as Lulu and I enjoyed writing it.  

Please feel free to forward the link and share the story with friends and family. If you want to know more about Skookum and read more stories about Lulu and the other odd folk who live there, use the blog search box for the word "Skookum."  

Who knows?  Maybe, someday, reading stories about Skookum will replace football as a Thanksgiving holiday tradition.


Lulu's Fully-Fledged Plan

Lulu Rubidoux had a lot to be thankful for. 

She counted her blessings one sunny April morning as she walked the four blocks down the street to the Word-a-Day Café to order her favorite hot dark cherry mocha, with extra whipped cream and pink sprinkles on top.
She had so many blessings to count: her health, a good job, her loving boyfriend Reg (she waved to him through the big plate glass window when she saw him standing with a stack of paperbacks under one arm and talking to a customer in the Book Nook and Fill Dirt Emporium), good friends, and a beautiful town.  

She was still pondering the prettiness of the day as she waited in line at the café when her eye caught on a sign posted on the bulletin board near the cash register. 

“WHY NOT RAISE FRESH FOOD FOR US THIS YEAR?” blazed the bright green poster sporting the colorful Skookum Food Bank logo at the bottom, and a phone number that people could call for more information. 

“What a wonderful idea!” Lulu thought as she stepped up closer to the register.  

She peered at the poster, illustrated with drawings of carrots, tomatoes, zucchinis and pumpkins. The bottom of the page showed a wish list of items the food bank especially wanted the town’s citizens to grow, mostly fruits and vegetables.  But the last item on the list caught Lulu’s eye.

“Turkeys?” she said aloud, just as she reached the barista behind the cash register. Sunshine had seen Lulu in the line, and had already prepped the order in a sturdy cardboard cup decorated with her signature smiley face and sun rays.

“Turkeys?” Sunshine replied quizzically. 

Lulu pointed at the Food Bank sign on the board.  “They want turkeys?”

“Sure,” said Sunshine.  “You know that grocery store discount meats are full of antibiotics and GMO’s and stuff, right? So, the Food Bank is asking people to raise organic produce and meat to distribute during the fall and winter months.  Most people will donate their extra zucchinis in August, but if we can get even a few people to raise a small flock of chickens or turkeys, it would make a huge difference for the Thanksgiving and Christmas gift baskets.

Lulu knew all about the holiday Food Bank gift baskets.  After all, a few years ago she had substituted for Reg on Christmas Eve and dressed up as Santa Claus to distribute the baskets.  A few hours of lugging canned soup and boxes of pasta had changed her life.  She was was still a bit leary of Christmas, despite her astonishing night wearing the red hat. 

But Thanksgiving, now. 

Thanksgiving was a much better holiday to celebrate, in Lulu’s opinion.  Food.  Family.  Friends.  And thankfulness.  And with the thought , came a plan. 

A “fully-fledged plan,” she told Reg later.

And big-hearted Lulu was never one to delay a fully-fledged plan, called up Zeke at the Feed 'n Seed as soon as she got back to her desk with the hot dark cherry mocha still half-finished in her hand. 

“Zeke,” said Lulu.  “I want a half-dozen turkey chicks.  Can I pick them up on Wednesday?”

“Sure thing, Lulu,” Zeke told her.  “I’ll have a new batch of heritage bronze turkeys in by then.  Beautiful birds, lovely on the table.  You want me to put together a whole package for you—food and a water container and some bedding?”

“Yes, please,” Lulu told him, and hung up.  She googled “raising turkeys” from the computer at her desk, and spent most of the afternoon cooing at the pictures of turkey poults (as she learned young turkeys are properly called) and planning her triumphant delivery of six fat home-raised turkeys to the Food Bank in November.

That evening, Lulu and Reg made space in the garage for the new project.  Reg constructed a box for the young birds, and hung a warming lamp over it, and the next day, Lulu posted a Facebook selfie holding a tiny box with holes cut in the top.

Over the following weeks, Lulu and Reg spent time each morning and evening taking care of the poults.  The little birds grew with bewildering speed, seeming to grow taller and fatter with each passing day, and twice as fast on weekends.  They learned to peck the feed in their little container, and they cheeped with delight when Lulu brought them treats in brown paper bags:  dandelion leaves, cherry tomatoes, and bread. 

In June, the poults moved to a little pen in the backyard, where they nibbled the lawn and basked in the sunshine of summer.  Lulu’s summer Facebook selfies always showed turkeys in the background, their feathers shining with metallic brilliance in the sun and their homely bald heads peering uncomprehendingly at the phone screen.

And still, they grew.  The smallest female poult had a close call with a marauder one night—Reg said it was an opossum, but Lulu saw suspicious scratches on the nose of her old tomcat.  One of the larger males nearly drowned when it fell into the koi pool behind the dahlias, but Lulu heard the ruckus of flapping wings and splashing water, and rescued the bird just in time. 

Each night, Lulu or Reg would lure the poults inside the garage by shaking the brown paper bag filled with treats.  Each morning, they lured them back outside to enjoy the beautiful days of summer.

Lulu and Reg tried not to get emotionally attached, but the birds were so funny.  Their ugly heads and ungainly bodies were designed for comedy.  Lulu’s Facebook page was filled with turkey pictures, and featured running commentary about their awkward antics.

The males started posturing in mid-July, puffing out their feathers and strutting, shouting enthusiastic “gobble-gobbles” at the female birds—and also at the jets passing overhead, the doorbell, and the neighbor’s lawnmower.  The females were more inquisitive, always searching for new sources of food, as well as new escape routes from the backyard.

In August, Lulu learned that turkeys love fruit.  She shared snacks with them at lunchtime, delighting in their blundering greed for bits of cherry, plum or peach, and especially apples. 

In September, all six turkeys learned to abandon their posturing or exploration projects immediately when Lulu opened a brown bag of slightly dented and dinged windfall apples that the neighbor kids scavenged from the neighborhood trees for her.  The video she posted on YouTube of their bungling parades around the yard behind the treat bag went viral among her Facebook friends.

In October, the birds were slowing down, and walked with a ponderous dignity that spoke of tremendous weight carried on narrow legs. 

And Lulu began to worry.

She wasn’t sure that her birds would make good dinners.  They were too funny, too absurd. The whole town had subscribed to the turkey YouTube channel.  Nobody would want to eat these turkeys.  Would they?

The first day of November, Lulu told Reg that he and their neighbor Edsel Rabin would have to “take care of” the birds.  

She just couldn’t face it.  In fact, Lulu said, she was thinking that perhaps she might become a vegetarian.  Or a vegan.  Or something. 

Reg and Lulu had both grown up in rural Idaho.  They had seen animals butchered on their parents’ farms, and as a young teen, Reg had helped with the harvest of the family pigs and chickens.  Lulu, they both recalled, had hid in the family treehouse for the entire duration of butchering season. 

 Lulu had never harvested anything more sentient than a tomato.  Now, she decided, was not the time to change that.

Reg didn’t mind. He assured Lulu that he and Edsel were capable of butchering six turkeys and packaging them up for delivery to the Food Bank.  He suggested that she should spend the day downtown, maybe hang out with Sunshine at the Word-a-Day Café as she sometimes did.

Lulu agreed to the plan.  But first, she declared, she would give the turkeys a glorious last supper. 

She hailed the neighborhood kids, and promised two dollars for every full grocery bag of windfall apples they brought before dark. 

That evening, Lulu had no fewer than fifteen brown grocery bags full of soft, sweet brown apples to share with her turkeys. 

She upended the bags on the floor of their garage pen, and left them to feast.

The following morning, Lulu avoided the garage.  She put on her favorite pink sequined jeans and pink hoodie, and headed downtown to the café.  Reg had promised to call her when it was all over.

The call came much earlier than she expected.  “Honey,” her boyfriend said, “I think you should come home.”

Puzzled, she headed back to the house.

Reg and Edsel were in the garage.  Before them, a jumble of turkeys were heaped, still and unmoving.  But there was no sign of blood on any of them.

Reg tried to explain. 

“We came out here this morning to get the knives ready and this is how we found them.  I guess they’re dead?”  He sounded unsure.  But Lulu had never, ever, seen a stack of turkeys look less alive. 

“What should we do?  If the birds were sick, we can’t give the meat to the Food Bank.  It might make people sick.”

Lulu looked at the ugly birds who had so brightened her summer days, and sighed.

“Well,” she said, “you’re right, of course.  We can’t eat them. But it seems like such a waste to just throw them away.”

Edsel had a suggestion.  “We could pluck them,” he said.  “The feathers are pretty, and maybe people would want to make Thanksgiving decorations out of feathers?”

Lulu and Reg agreed that this was the best solution, and so the three of them spent the day carefully plucking the enormous birds, and setting the bodies carefully aside for burial in Edsel’s garden the following day.

That night, Lulu’s sleep was disturbed by dreams of turkeys returned to life, pecking and gobble-gobbling at the back door for apples. 

She was hardly well-rested, then, when she emerged from the house the following morning to see…her turkeys.


And alive.

And standing, a bit unsteadily, at the back door, and pecking half-heartedly at a mostly empty grocery bag of mushy brown apples.

Lulu stared at the turkeys. 

And then she stared at the grocery bag. 

And then she thought, “Apples?”

Lulu yanked the paper bag away from the birds, and looked inside.  The sweet smell of apples was overlaid with another odor from her childhood:  the smell of the apple moonshine Reg’s grandpa had fermented in the old family dairy barn. 

Lulu dropped the bag, and the turkey’s heads followed the motion blearily. 

Their scabby-looking heads could scarcely be more ugly, she had thought before, but now, the ugly heads were atop even uglier, bald turkey bodies. 

She sagged against the back door, and laughed.

She was still laughing fifteen minutes later when Reg came out to find her, a cup of coffee in each hand. 

He saw Lulu, laughing.  And then he saw the fat, bald, birds, wobbling ungracefully across the yard towards him. 

She watched him boggle for a moment, and she then whooped with the ridiculousness of the situation.  Together, she and Reg slumped on the porch stairs, coffee forgotten, laughing until tears ran down their faces at the absurd poultry careening nakedly around the backyard.

Finally, Lulu was able to speak. 

“Drunk,” she gasped, waving a hand at the apple bag.  “The apples I gave them were rotting, fermented, and they ate them anyway, and got drunk. 

“They weren’t dead,” she wheezed through spasms of laughter, “they were dead drunk!”

The laughing weakened their knees, until even breathing became difficult.  But after a few moments of quiet, the hilarity would overcome them again, and they would start giggling again. 

A few hours later, Edsel Rabin knocked respectfully at the front door of the house, ready to take the turkeys away in his big brown wheelbarrow. 

He was surprised and somewhat alarmed to find Reg tearing up a blanket in the living room, and Lulu assembling something with a sewing machine set precariously on the breakfast bar. 

“Clothing,” Lulu informed him, “for the birds.”

He quirked an eyebrow at her, wondering if the loss of the turkeys had tipped her mind too far, and she, still weak in the belly from extensive morning laughter, motioned him to follow her through the house to the back door. 

There, Edsel saw six turkeys, decidedly not dead.  In fact, definitely alive and tottering unsteadily around the dry stems of the flower garden. 

Two of the turkeys were plucked naked, flesh goosebumped from the chill autumn air.

The other four were covered in little red and gold and blue turkey-sized blankets, secured with straps and velcro.  

Edsel shook his head and turned curiously to peer at Lulu, who threw back her head and laughed once again, long and loud.

“Don’t you understand what we had to do?” she asked the bewildered Edsel.  “They’ll be too cold without their feathers now.  So we’re following the old tradition.”

Edsel shook his head, still not catching on.

“You know,” she said.  “The old Thanksgiving tradition, handed down for generations:

“Turkey dressing!”

Saturday, November 21, 2015

In which healing continues and I don't dawdle around about it

I'm not saying that all surgery recoveries 
are this quick and easy.

Brushing the Dragon in the driveway
THREE DAYS after total hip replacement

What I'm saying is what other people said I would say (about the first hip replacement, March 2014):

"I wish I'd done this sooner."

I still tire easily and run out of spoons pretty early in the day. But already there is so much less pain. 

I don't know how soon I will be back in the saddle, but if things continue the way they are going, it won't be very long. 

For now, I am content with short grooming sessions and lots of napping. 

It's good, y'all.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

In which Total Hip Replacement 2 is going pretty well so far

I'm not ever going to say that a Total Hip Replacement is fun.

But I will say that this time is going much better than the last time (and the last time was pretty remarkable in terms of fast recovery and getting me back on my horse).

Rolling out of the recovery room.
Epidurals are awesome.

I should preface by saying that I went into surgery this time with a much less-injured joint, and supporting tissues that were not nearly as "angry."  

I could have walked into the hospital on Monday without my cane, in fact. 

The day before surgery we hosted a firewood moving party at the farm.
Lots of friends showed up to process more than a cord of wood,
and then feast on homemade pizza.  I helped move wood for about two hours,
then they made me relax and drive the truck instead.

I had several advantages this time:
  • I wasn't as terrified.  Sure, still not thrilled at the prospect of deliberately subjecting myself to time in a hospital, plus the recovery time at home and not on my horse.  But my fear level was significantly lower.
I had plenty of visitors in the hospital.
Will and Lisa both stopped by to say hi
and catch me up on their gossip.
  • I wasn't as injured.  The doc wouldn't let me have the 2nd procedure at this time last year, 6 months out from the first hip replacement.  But I was having pain on the other side at that point, we knew that it would only get worse--and it did.  When I consulted with the surgeon two months ago, I pointed out that I was only getting fatter and more sedentary because of the pain, and neither of those things speed recovery.  Also, it's not like my hip was going to miraculously heal itself, and there are no "miracle cures" for this kind of arthritis hovering on the horizon.  It wasn't a question of "if" I needed a replacement.  We just needed to set a date.

Sirie brought Thai food and coconut water, bless her!
  • We learned stuff last time. The most important trick we learned:  Sudafed is my friend.  My biggest impediment in hospital is chronically low blood pressure (90/50 or lower) which causes me to turn grey and tip over.  Sudafed raises my blood pressure and keeps me upright, which makes everything better.  More upright = more activity = easier recovery. 

My forays around hospital hallways were much more
frequent and comfortable this time.

  • We learned stuff this time, too. The nurse on duty the first night usually works on the gastroenterology unit, so she pays closer attention to metabolic stuff that should sound familiar to endurance riders, especially the part about hydration.  Turns out that hydration is also related to that turn grey/tip over thing.  Dumping huge amounts of saline and lactated ringers fluid into me, especially at night when I wasn't drinking as much water, scared away even more of the wibbly-wobblies.  Taking Sudafed also made me thirsty and thus more willing to drink quarts of water on my own.
And yes, this does have implications for endurance, especially at the longer distances I want to tackle next year!

  • I had a lot less pain this time around.  Last time, my pain rated a 6 or higher (scale of ten, where zero = epidural and 10 = it couldn't hurt worse even if you punched the incision site) while lying still in the bed at the hospital. That kind of pain deserved some pretty major narcotics.  This time, my pain didn't spike higher than a 3, and was controlled down below level 1 using ibuprofen and Tylenol!  Less pain = no narcotics = fewer drug side effects.

They sent me home on the third morning
after surgery with no joint pain.
The supportive muscles and ligaments
are inflamed and sore, but not nearly as
bad as they were in 2014.

My assignment until the end of 2015 is to rest and heal. 

I will start physical therapy as soon as I'm cleared to drive again (surgery was on my right side, so I need to regain pretty good use of that leg before I can drive safely), and the surgeon has approved of riding as soon as I feel comfortable swinging a leg over the saddle.

Not immediately.

But soon.  

In the meantime, I think I'll take (another) nap.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

In which the rain pours down and I play Yenta for Duana again

Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Make me a match,
Find me a find,

catch me a catch
Matchmaker, Matchmaker,
Look through your book,
And make me a perfect match

Duana and Hana, February 2011

Duana and I like to tell the story about how I called her one day back in February 2011 and said, "I have your horse, you need to come ride with me."  

Almost exactly two years later, Du bought Hana.  That was a good day.  They've had lots of fun together so far, and they aren't nearly done!


Happy at the finish line, but Hana didn't pass the final vet check

Hana is done with endurance.  She's 19 years old, and the x-rays show concussion fractures in her front feet.  She's sound enough...for trail riding, for dressage, for working with the crew at Renegade and hauling tools up the mountain.

But sound enough is not sound enough for endurance.  Endurance is hard...and that's why Duana made the very wise choice to retire Hana from endurance while she's still sound enough to do other stuff.  


Duana and Hana, May 2015

Du loves endurance.


We're looking for another horse.  

This time of year is a good time to shop.  Lots of people are looking out the windows at the downpourings we've gotten lately, and thinking that they don't really want to slog around in the mud to feed an extra horse this winter.

Unlike poor lytha in Germany, Duana has a vast and helpful village to assist with the search.  Several of the Usual Suspects took the ferry over to Poulsbo a few weeks ago to check out a prospect.  

"Cute horse," said Dory.  And Patty agreed, "cute horse."

"Cute horse" = "No way, Jose."  Duana tried him out anyway.  And walked away.

Then somebody suggested that a friend-of-a-friend of the village had a horse that wasn't being ridden.

8 years old.  Arab/Appy cross, no spots.  About 14 hands.  Sturdy. Nice feet.  Smart, but not too smart.  Willing to learn, but he doesn't know much yet.

Dory has given the "all clear to proceed."  She likes the way he moves...which is no surprise.  The horse's sire is Dory's stallion Ballistik.

Du wanted me and Monica to take a look too. 

So yesterday we headed out in a drizzling downpour to meet Basalt.

We weren't looking for a show of skills.  

He has the basics:  walk nicely on a lead, pick up feet, accept being handled by strangers.  He's been backed some, but not ridden much yet.  

That's fine.  Our Village contains plenty of people who can add skills to a horse.

He will need to pass a pre-purchase exam, of course, but we don't expect any problems with that.

"But, will we like each other?" Du asked.

I greet you!

I don't think that will be too much of a problem.

I'll be going radio silent for a few days while I'm in the hospital for Total Hip Replacement #2. 
Santa Jim and the Usual Suspects will post updates on Facebook.  Plus, I've time-delayed a new Skookum story that will launch on the day before Thanksgiving.

See you soon!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

In which I'm not procrastinating. I'm going riding. Not the same.

My hip replacement surgery is scheduled for next Monday morning, 
and there are so many things I "should" be doing before that..., I'm going riding.

Here's a video to watch while I'm gone.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

In which I'm supposed to be writing a novel, so here are pictures

It's November again, in case y'all haven't noticed.  
And in November, I WRITE.

Sometimes the things I write are good.  Sometimes they are awful.  Two books drafted during the month of November have been published, another will be when I can wrap my brain all the way around the edits.

November is National Novel Writing Month, when all over the world, writers commit to composing  50,000 words:  the first draft of a novel.  NaNoWriMo is about writing, not about goodness, awfulness, or editing.  With only 30 days in the month, there is no time for quality.  December is the time to figure out solutions for character development, plot holes, and grammatical gaffes.

You can join us, if you want.  

My personal challenge this month is to write the book in two weeks, rather than a month, because on November 16th, they're gonna numb up my brain and take a hacksaw to my right hip joint.  I learned the last time around that, following surgery, creative thought doesn't happen for at least six months.

It's comforting to understand that this side effect is temporary.  But it means I have to get my main character safely into her treehouse and away from the zombies by midnight on November 15th. Wish me luck.

I'll be blogging through my recovery, as before.  I hope the redux will be boring.  "Interesting" almost always equates to "Thing Gone Wrong."

Here are some pictures I unearthed this week while I was supposed to be writing.

Profile picture of Fiddle, age 3ish

The first three photos were supplied by Greener Pastures, the adoption agency that facilitated the matchup between Fiddle and me.

early under-saddle training, 2005-ish

These three pictures were all I knew about Fiddle before she unloaded on a rainy night in December 2006 and they handed me the leadrope.

You can't tell from the photo that she was a true klutz as a young horse

I had never met her before that night.  It might have ended badly.

Our first training session.  She was unimpressed.  December 2006

Fortunately for all of us, it has not ended badly at all.

The klutziness is a little more evident in this picture.  January 2007

You might even say that,

In good weight, but lacking the muscles she sports today.
I worked her on the ground for 5 months before mounting up, June 2007


 Under saddle with me at last, she was very clumsy, but sensible.
July 2007

thus far,
Our first year on trails we did not compete.
At the Lakeview 2008 ride, we pulled ribbons
after the event.

Fiddle and I

We also marked routes and did some basic trail work together
at the Renegade 2008 ride.

are learning how

Just for fun: a costume ride in October 2008

to live

More costumes?  Why not?  Easter Sunday 2009

happily ever after.

Out of the boarding stable at last, we brought the horses home
in May 2009

We've learned a lot together

Fiddle and I went with our friends Sky and Cricket into the backcountry
August 2009

over the years.

Our first year of competitions was
limited distance only.
Klicitat Trek 2010

I've taken care of her,

Back to the mountains again in August 2010.

and she has carried me

Another week of trail maintenance before entering
(and finishing) the 50-miler at Renegade 2011.

to places

Profile, July 2011
Fiddle finally grew into her head.

I probably would never have seen otherwise.

A lot more muscles are visible in summer 2011.

When it was her turn

Legging up after a rainy winter.  April 2012

to take care of me

The day after the ride:  Renegade 2012

she taught me how

Sensible face mare.  HOTR 2013

to accept help from my friends

These days, she has a pretty face, and even
a bit of a smile for one of her favorite vets.
With Dr. Dick Root, 2013

(including her)

She didn't hurt anymore post-spay, but I was in pain at the
Cariboo Gold Challenge 2013

and that sometimes,

Hurting, but still riding at Jubilee 2013
She took good care of me.

it's okay

Back in the saddle and pain free again!
Renegade 2014

to let the horse

Hovermare does not need wings.
Mt Adams 2014

do the driving.

She carries me in beautiful places.
Jubilee 2014

We've had almost nine years together

My other hip hurt, but riding is still the best thing.
Klickitat Trek 2015
(so far)

Renegade 2015

and you know what?

It's mostly been really, really Good.