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Savage Survival



Darrell Bain's Newsletter

October 2008

This newsletter may be copied and sent to both friends and enemies with the stipulation that the source www.darrellbain.com is noted and the copyright notice is noted and included as follows:
Bainstorming: Darrell's Monthly Newsletter.
Copyright © October 2008, By Darrell Bain

Responses to subjects brought up by this newsletter are welcome. I can be contacted by e-mailing me from my website.

  Subjects this month:

Bain Muses, Bain Boners, Figgling and the Invisible Man, Plato on Political Oratory, Hurricane Ike and loss of power, What I Believe, Newsweek copies me, Medical forms insanity, Book Reports, Twaddle definition, Progress Report, Excerpt From "Life on Santa Claus Lane".

Special Notice
Until the end of the year, copies of Bark! bought at the following link will be discounted 20% if you use the special code DACHS:

Bain Muses
The devil didn't make me do it but I wish he had. Then I'd have an excuse.

"It was coming, Dad said, sure as politicians will steal and lawyers will cover for them."

That's a quote from my forthcoming book, Galactic Frontiers.

Bain Boners
Leave it to me to flip the wrong breakers on when we got power back and almost ruin some things. If we'd lost power from my boner after being without for a week Betty would have either divorced me, killed me, or most likely both!

Figgling and the Invisible Man
I re-read my own books sometimes. Both tidbits below are from my stand-alone novel Prion Promises, which has some of the same characters as Strange Valley.

What is Figgling? It's a group of females giggling.

Suppose you went around talking to an invisible man in public? If you called him anything but God you'd be locked up for psychiatric evaluation. Call him God and you're home free.

Plato on Political Oratory:
"There are two kinds of political oratory, one of them is pandering and base claptrap; only the other is good, which aims at the edification of the souls of the citizens and is always striving to say what is best, whether it be welcome or unwelcome to the ears of the audience. But I don't believe that you have ever experienced the second type."

Hurricane Ike and loss of power
The following are some random notes about Hurricane Ike and the aftermath:

We live about 50 miles NW of Houston. The eye of Hurricane Ike passed almost directly over us and there were hurricane force winds for hours and Gale force winds for hours more. The damage in the area was great but it would have been much worse had we not already experienced Hurricane Rita three years ago. That storm toppled lots of trees so there weren't that many left for Ike. Nevertheless, we were without power for a full week.

We did have a generator though, and lessons from Katrina and Rita had been learned. Gas was available, if scarce, only 24 hours after Ike had passed.

Most of the media coverage of the big storms is always centered in the cities. Most of the instructions and locations for help are not known to many rural residents until days after it's available.

I never could find a single thing about which roads were blocked and/or where the roads were blocked except for Houston or Galveston.

It is impossible to adequately describe the enduring sensation of being without running water and electricity for prolonged periods. Or to adequately describe the damage from a storm as big as Ike. Once we began watching TV from the generator we felt the networks did a poor job of reporting it. They concentrate on human interest and almost ignore the bigger picture. I did feel like they did their best to report during the hurricane.

Most rural roads like ours are cleared enough to drive on by local people with their chain saws. I can no longer operate one easily because of my back but I bought a new one the week before the storm and our son-in-law and his nephew helped us clear around the house, tote gasoline cans and get the generator wired up (see Bain Boners for my part in that last process) and do the heavy chores.

We had stocked up on food beforehand but still began running out because others didn't think they would need food for so long and there were more people in our house than planned for.

The media kept talking about MRE meals being distributed everywhere. In some places, ours in particular, they were NOT "Meals Ready To Eat." They turned out to consist of packages of Cheetos, peanuts, crackers, Oreos and a small can of chicken and dumplings, and all 48 meals were exactly the same. We got enough of them for five adults for two days near the end of the ordeal, thinking we were getting the Meals Ready To Eat. Instead we have what looks like a jillion cans of chicken and dumplings and packages of peanuts because the power came back on the day after we got them.

Before that, Betty and Pat (Betty's daughter) cooked bacon and other items on a grill until we ran out of charcoal and then we would have used sticks if necessary. We sure had plenty of kindling dropped on our doorsteps!

We had a plague of love bugs, those little black bugs that swarm everywhere and get into everything, before and particularly after the storm. They were very annoying. We've swept and swept and still not got rid of them all.

We were extremely fortunate that a cold front came in on the backside of Ike and dropped temperatures to the 50s and 60s at night and 70s and 80s during the day. At least we didn't suffer from the heat like we have the other three times we've lost power from hurricanes. We slept good at night and were comfortable during the day.

We've learned that when threatened by hurricanes to put aside four 50 gallon cans of water to use for flushing and non-drinking purposes. That came in handy this time because the storm lasted so long and afterward took a while to get the generator up and running and hot wired to our well.

Water from deep beneath the earth is cold! Try bathing in it sometime and see.

When the lights came on the evening of the seventh day Betty screamed "Lights!" in a voice loud enough to wake the dead. In fact, getting power back after being without for a week feels somewhat akin to rising from the dead! She also said the sausage biscuit from a McDonald's about 20 miles away on the sixth day tasted ambrosial.

In our opinion, running water is the single most important amenity. Lights are second. Then if you have lights and the well operating, fans and food are next. Our first hurricane we had no idea of what was coming because we live a hundred miles from the coast. We didn't put up water nor did we have a generator. I hauled water in a five gallon bucket from a stream about a hundred yards from the house. We learned from the first one 25 years ago, unlike many other people who continue to repeat their same mistakes.

Ike was such a huge storm that the devastation was widespread. Television mostly showed destruction in Galveston. It was the worst there but there were trees toppled on houses and roofs ripped off and roads blocked and flooding and debris strewn everywhere for hundreds of miles inland.

What I Believe
During the political year I've written a few short pieces on what I believe. This time I'd like to write about economic policy. Is there something about politicians which prevents them from understanding simple math? For instance, governments shouldn't spend more than your income and they should never borrow. Why? Because politicians also apparently don't understand the idea of interest payments. This year we will spend 500 billion dollars on interest payments on money our congress critters have borrowed with no thought of every paying it back. How much is that? Only close to $2,000.00 for every man, woman and child in America each and every year. Is that obscene or not? That isn't money spent to run the country, folks. That's money out of taxpayer's pockets spent to pay interest on money your congress has borrowed. And they add to it year after year. Occasionally you'll hear a politician talk about balancing the budget but they aren't serious because they keep spending more than we have. What's really galling to me is that they never, and I mean never talk about paying this money back. Nope, all they're gonna do is borrow more. It can't go on. Any housewife or househusband knows you can't continually spend more than you make without suffering dire consequences. So what's the solutions? Never vote for a politician unless they not only talk about limiting spending but begin telling you they're gong to pay back what they've already spent just like the rest of us have to. Then if they don't do it, hold them to account.

Do I expect politicians to change? Nope. I'm just venting. It's not in them. Politicians are inherently incapable of not spending and borrowing in a democracy because the people vote for them to do it. Proof? Would you vote for anyone who says , "Okay, enough is enough. Beginning when I get in office I shall vote to cut every single benefit, such as Social Security, Veteran's benefits, Medicare, etc. by 5% a year and eliminate every unnecessary budget item, such as farm subsidies, special tax breaks, etc. until the budget is not only balanced but we are beginning to pay back that ten trillion we've borrowed in the past to fund things we didn't really have to have. If you want those things you shall have to accept a hefty tax increase. A very hefty one, because we've spent and borrowed so much in the past that we're broke. B-R-O-K-E, broke! As in bankrupt. Ask any banker if we're not. Hell, show them the figures and ask any housewife if we're not.

Note: The above was written before the giant proposed bailout of our financial system. Apparently the banks are as guilty as the politicians. They forgot basic banking principles and began going for easy profits without a thought of possible consequences or investigating the source of those profits. See where it got us.

Okay, that's my piece for this time. I hope you all write your congressmen or women and tell them the same thing. Don't expect them to do anything, though.

Newsweek copies me.
I saw an article in Newsweek about a forthcoming e-newspaper, somewhat similar to the one I said was necessary to save the newspaper industry in this newsletter not long ago. I hope it comes in time.

Medical forms insanity
I'm getting ready to see a new doctor for back surgery. I'm already dreading having to fill out all the patient history forms. Why, oh why, can't the doctors agree on a standard form and transfer the information from office to office? It's not rocket science. We do live in the computer age. I've watched patients struggle for an hour trying to get those damn forms filled out and you have to do it all over again at each new doctor's office, emergency room, MRI center, etc. They all ask for the same information. I really resent having to go through it again when it wouldn't be necessary if they all came out of the stone age and used their computers.

Book Report
Note: As always, the only books I report on are ones I've read and belive would appeal to a wide audience.

Bone Deep by David Wiltse deals with a serial killer and an FBI agent whose mind set is dangerously close to that type of criminal and thus able to figure him out. Wiltse draws some extremely good characterizations. I found myself skipping paragraphs because I couldn't stand the emotional distress of the agent when the killer makes him think his wife is having an affair. Wiltse's characterizations are that good. I'm going to order some more of his books.

Tom Kratman's Caliphate is a scary look at a possible future where Islamic immigrants have taken over Europe through prolific breeding and inaction of the present governments to openly avowed intentions to use any means at all, including terrorism, in order to spread their religion. In addition, Jihadists have managed to set off three nuclear bombs in the United States, leading to a repressive and jingoistic government. During the book Kratman quotes some statistics and other information that no one is paying attention to. In today's climate I recommend this book. Everything in it may not come to pass, of course, but Kratman sure tells a good story of how it might very possibly happen. If it does, you can't say we weren't warned. The radical Muslim Imams are very explicit in what they preach and exhort their followers to do. This book is highly recommended.

I read Papillon by Henri Charriere again. It is a grand story of adventure, a true to life tale of a man who will live free or die. It is also a revealing look at the horrid conditions on France's Penal system in South America during the last century. You've heard the phrase "Devil's Island" haven't you? That's where it derives from. If you haven't read this book, you've really missed a great one.

David Baldacci's Stone Cold continues the adventures of The Camel Club and this book is the best yet. It clears up a lot of things about the central character as the adventures go to nail biting highs and almost unbearable tenseness. It is not necessary to read the previous books in the series. This one stands alone and stands very well!

S.M. Stirling continues his Dies The Fire series with Scourge of God. My only complaint about this book and the previous ones are the way Stirling leaves you hanging at the end of a book. It's almost as if the publisher took the first part of a book and published it, then went on to publish the second half later. Nevertheless, once you start this series of a future where chemical reactions are very muted because of what is thought to be alien interference, it is almost impossible not to keep reading and to eagerly await each new book. He must have done a tremendous amount of research and the writing shows it. The series is great but you really should start with the first book to get the full benefit of a great tale.

I re-read one of my own books, Medics Wild. It is a fictional account of my two years in Vietnam. I've been asked many times if all the incidents in the book are true. I'll say this much: every incident but one is based on a real event. Some are exaggerated for dramatic effect but all happened except the one I made up. I'll let you guess which one. Reading this book again brought back all the memories, both the good and the bad. I'm pleased the reviews have been so positive. If you liked M*AS*H or Catch-22, you'll almost certainly enjoy Medics Wild. It is available in both print and e-book. I put a lot of myself into this book and a lot of my brothers who were there with me. I'm glad I wrote it. I believe I did a good job.

"To Twaddle" is 'to walk like teenagers do nowadays to
avoid tripping on their trouser bottoms, or the trousers falling down'.

That's a quote from one of the group at CliffordPickover@yahoogroups.com

Progress Report
I just finished a new novel, Galactic Frontiers. It will be published by Double Dragon sometime within the next month or two in both print and e-book editions. Galactic Frontiers is a bit of a departure from my usual style according to Betty, my wife and always my first reader. She and a couple of other readers insisted I re-do part of it and I did after some thought. Some will say this novel is space opera and so it is, to an extent, but I personally see nothing wrong with space opera. I like it! If you like coming of age novels and adventures on other worlds you'll probably like this one.

The Focus Factor is now in print in a trade paperback edition, available at Amazon.com and book stores. I wrote this book with Gerry Mills. It is a political novel, as much in the thriller as the science fiction category. One reviewer stated ".should be required reading for everyone of voting age."

From Michael LaRocca's Newsletter:
A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the
support of Paul.
--George Bernard Shaw

Thanks for reading.

Darrell Bain
Shepherd, Texas
October 2008


Excerpt From Life On Santa Claus Lane

I'm now known more for my science fiction than humor but that hasn't always been true. Some of my first books were humorous, drawing on incidents from my life. Life On Santa Claus Lane is a loosely associated series of funny incidents from mine and Betty's life as Christmas tree farmers, a profession not for the weak willed. In fact, I have come to believe that any kind of farming is designed for people like me, who have more persistence than sense. Herewith follows the introduction and first story from Life On Santa Claus Lane. One of the first reviewers called it "One of the funniest books I've ever read!" Laugh hard and buy the book. We need the money. DB

To my wife Betty. I'll shovel anything for you.

(Note: You'll have to read the book to understand the dedication. DB)


It took a lot of real hard thought before I decided to make a book out of these stories I have been writing for our family and for our friends, both live and on the Internet. The narratives describe a lot of odd, funny and occasionally downright hilarious things which have happened to Betty and me since we started a Christmas tree farm. One of the funniest was when the Postal Service notified us that the private road we and some of our kids live on was now officially named Santa Claus Lane. Our daughter-in-law Linda failed to see the humor of it and switched to a Post Office Box number.

"I'll be derned if I'm going to be laughed at every time someone asks for our address," she declared, as if every one of the 1,812 inhabitants of our little village didn't already know where she lived.

Linda isn't the person I'm concerned about though. My wife Betty has never seen some of these stories and I'm sort of careless about going off and leaving the computer screen lit with whatever I happen to be working on at the time. She's bound to catch one here and there as I put them together that sort of...well, read for yourself. I really don't think she would object to most of these little tales but you never really know, do you?

"No you don't," My wife said from behind my back.

Ulp. "What are you doing here?" I asked. Betty was standing behind my chair, reading over my shoulder. I don't know how she got there so suddenly but women can be sneakier than cats when you don't want them to be.

"I live here, remember?" She answered.

"Of course I remember," I said. "In fact, I can remember the first night when we moved into this place. We christened the sofa because the bed wasn't put together yet."

That was the wrong thing to say. "You're not going to write about our sex life are you?"

I grinned to myself, remembering a funny episode. "There's nothing wrong with our sex life," I said.

"There will be if you start writing about it," Betty responded. "Besides, it wasn't a sofa; it was a lounge chair out in the garage. Our furniture hadn't even gotten here yet. And the mosquitoes were terrible."

"I don't remember any mosquitoes."

"That's because you were drunk and they wouldn't bite you."

That's a canard. I hadn't had more than a dozen or two beers the entire day and all of them were well deserved. After all, we were taking a momentous step then, moving from a townhouse in the city to a farmhouse in the country.

"Can I write about us moving out here?" I asked.

"You can write about anything so long as it's truthful and it's not about sex," my wonderful wife informed me. So right then I made a vow: I will not write about our sex life. And I will at all times be truthful. I wrote both vows down right then and looked over my shoulder at my spouse. She raised a cynical eyebrow, tousled my thinning hair and walked over and sat down at the sewing machine, crossing her shapely legs. I shifted my gaze before I got carried away and started writing about our sex life.

The sewing machine, computer, my desk and a million or so books all live in peace and harmony in the garage we converted into an office. In fact, I'll bet Betty doesn't remember, but her sewing machine is sitting in the exact same spot where the sofa--or lounge chair, maybe--sat, lo these many years ago on a certain memorable night. But I promised not to write about that.

We have lived, Betty and I, on this East Texas farm for over twenty years now, along with a succession of various sized dogs and an interminable and ever-changing number of cats, kittens and chickens. We had cows at first but I found out pretty quick that I wasn't a real cowboy. We sold the cows and began growing Christmas trees. There isn't much money in them but at least they don't break through fences and eat the neighbor's garden or get out in the road. Besides, for most of those twenty plus years Betty worked full time away from the farm, and resented having to herd unruly cows back through the gate in her business suit and high heels every few days as she arrived home from Houston, while I hollered instructions from the safety of the pickup truck. I'm scared of cows.



The crooked-shooting, pistol-packing, unhandy man and

his hoe-armed, chicken-raising, snake-battling wife

Betty and I were in our early forties when we married. We were working at a hospital when we met, or rather when I first spotted her nursing a patient that I was getting ready to draw blood from. Right then I knew I had to meet her, and it being the season, I set a mistletoe trap at the entrance to my laboratory. She fell right into the trap. Or perhaps she knew it was there all the time and I was the one who got trapped. Whatever, we wound up kissing for the first time under the mistletoe and were married a year after our first date. We have lived happily ever after. Even moving to the country three years later didn't spoil things. That's really when the fun began. And perhaps that mistletoe meeting was a harbinger of our future on a Christmas tree farm.


We have a friend in the same business as ours by the name of Skip, growing Christmas trees for customers to come out and cut. He decided on getting into the business about the same time we did. He went about setting up his farm in a methodical, well-planned, well-researched way; with goals set, farm layout written up, money to be invested itemized, equipment to be bought listed, projected profits by year calculated and so on. He got the idea of farming by passing a Christmas tree farm while out for a drive with his wife, wondering how to occupy his time now that he was retired at a relatively young age.

"Heck, I can do that," he said. As you might guess, he is very successful.

We, on the other hand, read an article in the Houston Chronicle about Christmas tree farming in Texas, an industry just getting off the ground back then. Our planning consisted of, "Let's go order some seedlings and grow Christmas trees and get rich!" Without a lick of planning, only a hazy idea of what we were doing and with more energy than sense, we planted a few thousand seedlings to go with our cows and began our new life. Christmas tree seedlings take a while to grow, so in the meantime, we began adjusting to our new life in the country, and to our new home. And that's when we began to get an inkling that strange and funny things happen on Santa Claus Lane. When the aliens land, I figure they will come down right smack in the middle of our driveway.



In the city, about the only animal one runs across is an occasional dog or cat. Ah, but the countryside is different. Very different, as we learned. Especially on Santa Claus Lane. There are varmints everywhere here--in the most unlikely places.

We had no problems with our house for the first 365 days we lived in it. Not a one. Now for anyone who doesn't suspect where this story is going, 365 days equals one year, which is how long the warranty on our house lasted.

On the 366th day, Betty began complaining to me. "Honey, we have a leak in the kitchen."

Fortunately, although not very much mechanically inclined or talented, I knew what to do about a leak. "Call the plumber," I said.

"You're the man, you call the plumber," Betty answered.

(Betty grew up in the old school as you can tell from that remark).

I called. The plumber promised to come out the next day.

Next day. No plumber.

I called. The plumber promised to come out the next day.

Next day. No plumber.

I called.........repeat several more times.

"I want that leak fixed!" Betty told me in no uncertain terms one night in the bedroom. Orders from bedrooms are serious business. It doesn't take a man long to get a message that's put in that particular way.

Lacking a plumber, I decided to tackle the job myself. After all, somewhere in my library of a couple of thousand books there must be something about fixing a simple leak under a kitchen sink. But first I decided to locate it.

I crawled under the kitchen sink, no mean feat in a space cramped with drain pipes, coils of copper tubing, wooden bracings and odds and ends and bottles and jars and cans of things Betty keeps in that space, most of which I didn't recognize except for a jar of vinegar that I promptly tipped over and broke, thereby delaying the job for several more days until the fumes abated. (Men, take note: keep a convenient jar of vinegar anywhere you don't want to have to work, especially during football season).

The vinegar only postponed the job that once since Betty didn't replace it, a smart move on her part. Eventually I had to crawl under the sink again--and by this time I could sympathize with Betty's concern. My knees and hands got wet. I did discover where the leak was coming from, though: behind the wall.

"The leak is coming from behind the wall," I announced as I backed out.

"What are you going to do?"

"Tear the wall out," I said, gathering up a hammer, saw, crowbar and other implements inherited from my father, which I had never used, mainly because I always placed them in the category of things which might cause work, and secondly because I didn't have a clue as how to operate them.

"Maybe you should call the plumber again," Betty said, knowing my limitations.

"Plumbers don't exist. They're only a figment."

"They're listed in the phone book."

"The phone book lies. All the plumbers in Texas have migrated to California where they have unions."

"What do unions have to do with it?"

"How should I know? I'm not a plumber."

"Then why are you going to fix that leak?" My wife asked.

Maybe some men would have answered that, but not me. I crawled back under the sink and proceeded to wipe out the wall as if fixing the leak had been all my idea in the first place. Actually, tearing up the wall was sort of interesting and kind of fun. There was a layer of linoleum, then some sort of plywoody stuff, then a bunch of pink panther insulation stuff, then a mice nest, some stray nails the carpenter had left in the wall, a few two by fours going this way and that, and everything under the sink was intertwined with copper pipes and PVC pipes and electrical lines and finally a heavy, immovable support beam which appeared large and solid enough to hold up the Leaning Tower of Pisa. And naturally, the leak was coming from somewhere behind that beam. I backed out, or rather tried to. I couldn't move. I had torn out so much of the wall and piled the debris behind me, blocking my exit.

"Help!" I shouted.

Several more shouts brought Betty, sloshing through a small river of water Then she started shouting. "What have you done to my cabinet! What did you do to the wall! Why are you tearing our house down?" This while shoveling away debris so I could back out of the cabinet.

"I'm fixing that leak, just like you asked me to, remember?" I said, as soon as I could stand up.

"No I don't. What I remember is asking you to call a plumber!"

"I did call a plumber," I said virtuously. "In fact I called several of them."

"Well, where are they?"

"They have gone to wherever plumbers go when they say they are going to come out the next day; that is, if in fact plumbers really exist. I'm beginning to have reason to doubt it lately."

"Well, all right. Did you fix the leak?'

"No," I admitted. "I can't get to it from this side. I'll have to go through the brick wall from outside."

Betty looked at my simple tools. She grinned. "Ha! You can't go through a brick wall with that little hammer and saw and crowbar. You better try calling the plumbers again."

I had given up on the plumbers but since I had to go to the building supply store anyway to buy sixteen tons of materials to replace the wall inside the cabinet I had torn out, I picked up a handy dandy brand new sledge hammer while I was at it.

As soon as Betty felt the house shaking from me pounding a hole through the bricks from outside, she screamed and ran for the phone. Amazingly, a few hours later a real, live plumber showed up. I have since concluded that they will only and always show up when a woman calls, assuming women know nothing of plumbing like me and other men do, and figuring they can rip unsuspecting women off easily.

Not me. I proved that easily. The plumber worked a toothpick around in his mouth, shook his head at the pile of bricks displaced by the new hole in the house, that ran through the bricks into the cabinet where the leak was. We went inside and he shook his head again when he saw the pile of stuff I had ripped out looking for that stupid little leak. He pulled a little gadget out of his pocket, knelt and reached in under the cabinet and two seconds later stood back up.

"It's fixed," he said.

"What was wrong?" I had to ask.

"Carpenter got careless with a nail when the house was being built. It was in the pipe, then worked loose. Here's my bill."

I paid the man $457.63 for his two seconds of work, glad he hadn't come when Betty was by herself or he would surely have overcharged her.

Well, the leak was fixed. I headed for my easy chair and a well-deserved rest. Fixing leaks is hard work.

Betty come over and stood in front of me. "What about that hole in our house?"

"I'll fix it after the football game," I told her. However, this was the height of the season and it seemed as if there was a football game on every day for the next two weeks.

The hole stayed open, but heck, I didn't see where it was hurting much of anything, especially since we could keep the cabinet door closed. However...

One day while I was busy watching football while laying on the couch with my eyes closed (this is something only men can do), I heard Betty shout from the kitchen .

"Honey, come quick!"

"How about at half-time?" I asked.

"How about now!" Betty said, in a voice I knew well. Something was dreadfully wrong. I got up and came to look.

"What is it?" I asked.

"Just look!" She said. Betty pulled open the cabinet door. She had moved some of the stuff back into it, in particular the garbage compost bucket. I bent over to look--and saw what she was talking about. Right there beside the bucket, some critter had gone potty.

"Uh oh." I said.

"Uh oh, my hind foot. You get that varmint out of there."

I looked closer. "I think it must be a rat that got in while the house building was going on."

"Well, if that's so, what has it been living on all this time?"


"Mice! You get that thing out of here right now! And take its mice with it!"

"It's not that easy," I told her. I had had some experience along these lines, having had to exterminate mice in another house. But from the droppings I saw, this was obviously a rat, not a mouse. A big rat, too."

"I'll buy a rat trap pretty soon," I said.

"How about right this instant?"

"I would, but it's Sunday. Besides, what's more important, a little old rat or a football game?"

I guess I don't have to tell you what the response to that statement was, but I promised faithfully that I would go to town the next day and get a rat trap, and I did.

However, the next day also happened to be when we had invited a few couples over for dinner. Nevertheless, I baited the rat trap with a big piece of cheese and set it right by the compost bucket. And by the way, if any of you city folks are wondering what a compost bucket is, just imagine a home without a garbage disposal in the sink and without regular garbage pickup service--and a little woman who loves to feed her chickens all the kitchen scraps the dogs and cats don't like.

The dinner went well and afterward, we were sitting around talking when there came a loud Snap! from the kitchen. Everyone stopped talking for a moment. Neither Betty nor I said anything, not wanting to admit that we had a rat and possibly mice in our new home. However, after the Snap! came a series of Crash! Bang! Boing! Klunk! noises impossible to ignore. I knew that the rat had tripped the trap!

"What's that?" Someone asked.

"Uh, maybe branches falling on the roof?" I suggested. Who wants to admit they have rats in their kitchen?

"I didn't notice any trees by your house," that someone said with a grin, obviously seeing my discomfiture and not wanting to let me off the hook.

"Maybe the cat and dog are feuding," Betty said, a poor excuse since the cat was sitting in her lap at the moment and the dog was outside barking at the moon.

"It sounds like something is loose in the kitchen," one of the ladies said.

"Impossible," I said. "It's just a plain old kitchen."

"Let's go see," one of the other men said.

I hate curious people, especially dinner guests, but the idea took hold. Everyone got up and trooped into the kitchen, then we all stood around, with Betty and I holding our breath, hoping that by this time the rat was laying down dead in the trap. Our hopes were in vain. Another series of crashing, thumping noises came from beneath the sink.

"Something is loose in there!" One of the ladies said, backing up a bit.

"Sounds pretty big, too," the curious man said.

"It's just a rat in a trap," I said, finally deciding to confess and end the suspense.

"It's my husband's fault. I told him he needed to fix that hole in the wall." Betty has always been very supportive of me in front of other people.

"But it's football season!" I said.

The men nodded sympathetically. The women stared at me as if football and beer were my only occupation. Betty didn't say anything, maybe because at times it sort of approached the truth.

"Well, anyway, it sounds as if you caught it," one of the other men said.

Some more crashes and banging sounds came from the cabinet beneath the sink, not quite as loud as before. In fact, the noises sounded almost purposeful. Now I was curious. I stepped forward and gingerly pulled open the cabinet door.

I guess I'm a slow thinker. Everyone else not only cleared the kitchen but the house as well, while I stood there stupefied, watching a small black animal with a white stripe down its back struggling with its neck caught in my rat trap.

Now a rat trap is designed to break a rat's neck when it snaps on it, but perhaps little skunks have stronger vertebrae or something. Anyway, while I stood watching and trying to decide whether to run for my pistol, try to stick my foot in and stomp the skunk or just close the door and hope for the best, the little skunk went about determinedly figuring out how to get the trap off its neck--and finally it did. It placed both forepaws on the edge of the trap then very slowly, exerting all its strength, gradually raised its neck and began to slide it out from under the steel band of the trap.

That decided me. I hurriedly closed the cabinet door and simply hoped I had been hallucinating. I wasn't about to stand there and wait for the skunk to work itself loose then turn its attention on me!

About that time Betty crept cautiously back into the kitchen. "Is it dead?"

"No," I admitted. "In fact, I think it's loose from the trap."

"You mean I have a skunk loose in my kitchen cabinets? No more football for you, mister. Get that skunk out of my house!"




"You let him in, you get him out."

"I know, I'll call a plumber," I said.

If I remember right, Betty decided at that point to go visit her mother for a couple of days, leaving me with the skunk in the house and instructing me to call her when it was gone. I went and turned on a football game so I could think the situation over. I thought and thought and finally something occurred to me: the skunk hadn't smelled like a skunk, not even a little bit. Obviously, it wasn't grown up enough to operate that infamous skunk defensive/offensive system which repels all enemies, foreign and domestic. The Dallas Cowboys' coaches should take some lessons.

Now that I had young Mr. Skunk figured out, I got up and went and opened the kitchen cabinet again with a big hammer in my hand, no longer afraid of the consequences should I whap the skunk into submission with it. I peered inside. The skunk was gone and the trap was empty. I looked closer. The old piece of plywood I had stood up against the house to sort of cover the missing bricks and interior wall had been knocked over. The skunk obviously had decided that getting caught in a rat trap was no longer worth living in happy proximity to a compost bucket and a leaky pipe, even though judging from the potty piles it had subsisted on both for several days.

I blocked off the hole in the house temporarily then bought some cement mix and plugged it back up. For some reason it didn't match the rest of the exterior of the house, perhaps because I don't know much about brick laying. I bent a convenient Azalea bush over far enough to hide my work and went back to watching football. When Betty called I told her the skunk problem was cured and she could back home.

"How did you get rid of it?" was the first thing she asked.

"Easy," I said. "I just laid a trail of compost out to the chicken yard and it followed."

"You mean now I have a skunk in my chicken yard?"

"Just kidding," I said.

I don't think Betty believed me. From that day on, I not only had to carry the compost to the chicken yard, I became the designated egg-gatherer for evermore. Which shows that it is dangerous to kid around with your wife, no matter how much she loves you.

I know Betty loves me.

I'm still watching football, aren't I?


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