Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Part II

You know in cartoons, where Wile E. Coyote peers around a brick wall or something and his head pops out on the other side a ridiculous distance away while his hind end is still where should be? It’s a classic gag, and usually ends with him lighting his own rear end on fire.

Keep that in mind.

So there I was, phone lifted, taking pictures with my right hand while clutching a full tankard of post-lunch tea in my left. I was also, for the record, chanting oh dear oh no oh dear under my breath like Bilbo Baggins clutching a bobbing barrel.

Around the trunk of the Venerable Fir, the combatants circled. Only they didn’t know they were combatants yet–as far as Boxnoggin knew, there was just a strange sound he was ambling after, not very interested but he’d just peed so he might as well.

Travis, however–I’ve decided that’s this particular squirrel’s name, for reasons that will become clear frightfully soon–was circling the Venerable’s trunk a few feet up, blissfully unaware of the dog. In fact, Travis thought he had more to worry about from yours truly, and headed around the trunk deosil as Boxnoggin tended the same way.

I wish I’d been able to get a shot of Boxnoggin’s ass on one side, Travis’s head on the other, just like the Wile E. Coyote gag. This takes a lot more time to tell than it did when it happened–each time they circled the Venerable I thought that’s it, we’re gonna have a Moment, but Travis juuuuuust managed to stay out of sight. Two whole times they went around the tree, and I decided that while my luck was holding, I’d better get down there.

I stuffed my phone in my pocket, decided not to take a scorching sip of tea, and headed with utterly fake casualness down the stairs, my heartrate rising. I began to baby-talk Boxnoggin, hoping I could entice him up the stairs and away from the tree-rat.

You see, Boxnoggin is part terrier. A large part terrier, and they were bred to chase (furry, rodent-adjacent) things of a certain size, grab them, and shake the stuffing out of them for their masters. The chase-and-shake drive is stronger in some than in others, and poor Lord van Der Sploot got a double dose.1 It’s not so bad–with a larger prefrontal cortex and the advantage of opposable thumbs, it’s usually super easy to see trouble coming and redirect him.

There I was, on the stairs. I had Boxnoggin’s attention for a few precious seconds as he completed his last circuit of the Venerable and was coaxing him towards me. I was even hopeful we’d get through this without any screaming, tea intact.

And then I heard a sound. A ratcheting, spinning sound that for a moment I didn’t recognize.

Then I did recognize it and my heart sank like the fucking Lusitania.

Because, you see, every week I’d been testing the Yankee SquirrelFlipper to see if the battery was still good. (And, not gonna lie, because it makes me giggle to press on the thing and hear it start up.)

Boxnoggin’s ears perked so far they almost separated from his foolish little head. He turned, and what did his wondering gaze behold but a dangling Yankee SquirrelFlipper, working as intended, and clutching the spinning circle at its bottom was something glorious, something wonderful, something even I would have enjoyed seeing if the situation had been otherwise?

Because Travis, you see, had decided fortune favored the bold, and after circling the Venerable several times and finding the coast clear (because Boxnoggin was always just out of sight and Miss B was occupied at the north end of the yard having semi-conversation with Miranda) he had decided to take his shot, make his move, and get himself some sweet sweet sunflower seed action.

Now his front and back paws were clamped reflexively tight around a spinning wheel of death, and even a squirrel’s tiny brain would figure out things were not going well. So he began to yell. “MOTHERFUUUUUUUUU–“

For a moment Boxnoggin could not believe his eyes or his luck. He paused, one front paw hanging in midair because he had forgotten it, his entire body quivering with longing, excitement, and the deep instinctive imperative to get that shit and shake it like a Polaroid picture, man.

I dropped my tea, scrambled down the last few steps, and lunged for Boxnoggin’s collar. But… well, long story short, he wears two collars when out in the yard, don’t ask. The inside collar sits a little lower on his neck, and I thought if I could get it I had a chance of controlling the situation.

I damn near teleported. My fingers closed. I had the collar! Sweet success!

But not really.

I had his inside collar; the collar, in fact, that tends to pop open when one applies pressure. In the heat of the moment, I’d forgotten to grab for the catch instead of the strap.

And so it was I was bent over, my tea somewhere behind me flooding some volunteers from the hop vine since thankfully the tankard hadn’t landed on concrete, and I was beginning to swear. Something like, “oh no, nonono oh fuck me Batman–“

Of course, Travis was making a sound too. Not quite as Sam Kinnison in a blender as a certain one-eyed lord of my former backyard, but a dizzy chittering of high speed squirrel obscenities splashing in every direction with flying sunflower seeds.

Boxnoggin’s haunches tensed, his inside collar came free in my hand, and I was left staggering backwards holding an empty strap because I’d expected to be hauling a dog and my ass, a glorious counterweight in any hauling situation, was a distinct impediment to keeping my balance when momentum had already been achieved.

So to speak.

And Boxnoggin flew.

That’s another thing about this dog–he can catch some serious air. A little less now that he’s at fighting weight (i.e., almost round as a partridge and glossy as a raven’s wing) but if you get the hose out on a hot evening and let him chase the spray, you’ll see a display of gymnastics that would get a 9.9 from everyone but the East Germans.

The deep buried courage of Lord van der Sploot had been lit, and now he was afire with the berserker rage of his people.

“SHAKE IT!” he howled. “SHAAAAAAAAAAKE IT FOR MY LADY’S HONOR!” And he was airborne.

And all I could yell was “OH FUCK NOOOOOOOOOOOOO–“

Because, you see, he was aimed right for the spinning, dangling SquirrelFlipper. And any fool–including yours truly–could see he was going to catch it.

to be continued…

Boxnoggin, Travis, and the Venerable, Part I

When I think about it, I believe the squirrel was determined to get into the Yankee Squirrel Flinger, which seemed to be doing its job. I mean, no squirrels had been flung, not that we’d seen, but the black oil sunflower seeds inside had not been pillaged by anything other than avians. So that’s good, but afterward my throat hurt for two days and I am just grateful Boxnoggin didn’t break one of his damn legs or even his fool head.

…Perhaps I should back up.

SO. Remember way back when the Princess bought (with her own debit card! and her own money! that she got from her own job! THEY GROW UP SO FAST!) a Yankee Squirrel Flinger? We charged that mofo up and hung it from the Venerable Straight-Backed Fir (the tree Odd Trundles kept headbutting for various reasons) to await developments. And so far, not only has it kept a charge for a ridiculously long time, but it also appears to be working, although a squirrel had not been flung into the side of the house yet.

For which I was grateful, yet because I am human I must admit slight disappointment. The upshot is, the product appears to perform as advertised, and the damn squirrels cannot plunder, pillage, or otherwise make a mess of it the way they have with every other feeder I’ve tried. (Like the SQUIRRELPROOF 5000 DEATHRIDE. Long-time readers will remember that debacle.)

Anyway, lately I’d noticed a squirrel or two on the Venerable Fir every time I was on the deck. They’re a bit brazen once they get a certain distance up the trunk, and they all seem to be eyeing me with furious disdain. I think they know I’m the monkey responsible for the treats hanging out of reach in the Flipper.

So. The other day I buckled Boxnoggin’s Outside Collar (long story) on him and let both dogs out, then wandered in their wake, blinking. It was just after lunch and I was in somewhat of a post-prandial stupor, clutching a fresh mug of tea to get me through the afternoon. It was a hot day, cicadas droning fitfully since they haven’t had much of the temperatures they like, and yes, I was wearing shoes.

I am slow, yes. But I can be taught.

Anyway, I shuffled for the stairs and paused upon hearing a strange scratching noise. Which meant I stopped dead at the top with a fine view of the entire yard. Normally I would have continued downstairs, enjoying my tea and the sunshine, but not that day, dear Reader.

No, not that day.

For I saw before mine wondering eyes a situation that could only lead to panic, terror, screaming, and anarchy.

…oh, NO.

Boxnoggin had just unloaded his bladder on the other side of the Venerable, and was heading to investigate the rhododendron to the far right, as he usually does every day after lunch, being a Creature of Habit.

“Oh, Lord,” I breathed, and did the only thing I could.

I set down my tea and reached for the phone nestled in my back pocket. Because I was going to get proof of this if it killed me, and I suspected it might. At the moment my fondest hope was that Boxnoggin would continue unaware and the squirrel–oh, let’s call him Travis, that’s a fine name–would have the sense to turn tail (literally) and continue up the Venerable Fir.

It… did not quite work out that way.

TO BE CONTINUED…

Rock Possibilities

I saw this little fellow again while on walkies with Very Excited Dogs yesterday. The painted rocks move around the neighborhood in odd patterns; I half suspect someone knows I’m keeping an eye on them and moves them just to say hello. Or, you know, the rocks are moving of their own accord.

Of course the real reason is that the people who paint them are trading them, and people who like them are moving them around like goods in an economy. But I wouldn’t be much of a writer if I didn’t consider the other possibilities.

And, of course, there’s the fact that this particular stone seems to be following me. While I’m not sure about the “stay positive” message–unfounded optimism tends to give me the hives, not to mention the willies–I can get behind the “laugh” bit.

I’m waiting for everything to reach the pitch of absurdity that makes me break down in helpless laughter. That’s generally when I know I’m going to be all right. It’s taking a while, though–there’s nothing laughable about current national events, and indeed there rarely is. Rather, I start laughing at the absurdity of my own personal life.

Sooner or later I’ll get there, I’ll hear that peculiar internal snap, and the giggles will flood free. It’ll feel like lancing a boil, a painful relief, and I’ll know I’m going to be okay.

It might even be the next time I see this damn painted rock, so I suppose I’d best get out the door with the dogs soon. Whoever daubed it knew what they were doing.

And, since this is a Friday, I’m curious. Do you get the giggles when you snap too, dear Reader? What happens when you reach the end of your rope and fetch up against the knot? When do you know you’re going to be okay again? Tell me.

I’m all ears. And, apparently, amusement.

From Coffee to Flinger

I’ve switched back to the Moka pot for morning coffee; the Chemex, while pleasant, wasn’t doing enough. I suppose if I had two and poured the results of first brewing through the filter in the second it might, which would be a fun experiment but not one I’m going to try right now.

Of course, with all the caffeine I’ve ingested in my lifetime, my adrenal glands are probably the size of pinpricks. Yesterday I found out the tea I thought was herbal actually had green tea leaves in it, which explains why I was almost vibrating in place with an aching head after a couple cups.

Caffeine is a funny thing. I cut my coffee and black tea with heavy cream, but with green tea or herbal that won’t work. Consequently, there’s no buffer when I drink green tea, and I come down with giant flaming headaches most of the time I ingest it.

It’s a quiet, rainy morning. Miss B will like her morning walkies–she is an all-weather dog–but Boxnoggin is going to complain and high-step the entire way, shaking his wet paws mournfully and giving me reproachful looks. You’d think a dog born in Texas would be fine with our much more temperate weather, but all he does is complain it’s not hot enough, what’s with all this moss?

The stress nausea in the mornings is going down to a low grumble instead of a rollercoaster plunge every few moments. I might be adapting to the continuous stress, or all the housecleaning I’ve been doing lately has worked off any residual feeling and left me drained. Six of one, half a dozen of the other, I’ll just be glad to eat breakfast.

I keep telling myself none of this is normal, it’s absolutely reasonable to feel beside oneself, and that the reaction shows I’m in fact conscious and firing on all cylinders. It feels like I’ve been in training for this catastrophe my entire life. Maybe if the disaster ever rumbles into the distance I’ll find myself standing bruised and shaken by the tracks, able to return to some kind of normal functioning.

Maybe.

In the meantime, we’re having a little fun Chez Saintcrow. The Princess, bless her dear heart and quirky sense of humor, invested in a little thing that’s supposed to bring us hours of joy. Curious? So was I when the package arrived.

Look upon this work, ye mighty rodents, and DESPAIR.

That, my friends, is what’s known as a Yankee Flipper. It is battery-powered, a game-changer in our ongoing war (well, not quite a war, more like a fond wish or two) against the damn tree-rats in the habit of plundering our bird feeders. The birds have already found it, and their weight doesn’t trigger any motion–but when a squirrel tries to hop on and help themselves, the bottom part is supposed to spin like the dickens. (I’m sure you’ve all seen the gifs.)

I had my office window open almost all weekend, hoping to hear the thing go off. I am a little worried that it might fling one of the fuzzy little thieves against the house or the tree, which would mean I’d have to take the entire thing down. I don’t want to hurt the fluffy-tailed fauna, I just want them to let the birds have their meals in peace.

I know they’ve been trying to suss out what the hell, because every time Boxnoggin goes out his presence drives a scout–occasionally even Barda!Squirl, Wild Explorer of the Backyard–up the massive fir you can see the entire contraption hanging from. Should there be a dazed or flung squirrel, Boxnoggin stands ready. I don’t think he wants to schnorgle them like Trundles always did, though.

Even Miss B is nonplussed by this turn of events. She’ll eye the hanging feeder for a few moments, then look at me with her eyebrows up. She’s not moving as quickly as she used to these days, having become an elderly statesdog; I’m sure, though, she’ll temporarily rediscover her youth and springiness if there’s a chance to herd Boxnoggin and a tree-rat.

…honestly, I can’t wait. I’ll keep you all updated on the SquirrelFlinger as events warrant. So far it’s been one of the few good things about quarantine.

And now both dogs need their walk in the rain. Wish me luck, dear Reader. I have this feeling I’m going to need it.

Soundtrack Monday: Oo-de-Lally

I’m finishing up the zero draft of HOOD‘s Season Two this week, so this Soundtrack Monday will reflect that. HOOD owes a great deal to many retellings but the sheer zany joy of Disney’s is what I return to when the others get too bleak, and I often find myself humming pieces while I write. Chiefly Oo-de-Lally, of course, Alan-a-Dale as a strutting, gittern-plucking rooster enchanted me as a child.

I can still hear Little John, each time I see a feathered cap or a longbow–Pretty hard to laugh, hangin’ there, Rob. Or Prince John, moaning Mama!; Sir Hiss the snake minister fills me with both hilarity and dark foreboding. Fortunes forecast, lucky charms!

I also sang Robin and Marian’s theme to the kids often as a lullaby, while rocking in an old squeaky chair I had also rocked my sisters in. (Love, it seems like only yesterday…) But today, it’s Oo-de-Lally all the way, especially since I have to figure out what Robb gets caught for to end Season Two.

If you’re curious, I have a whole playlist for the serial. It’ll change as we head into Season Three, of course–the whole game is getting more serious, and Marah’s faced with a jailbreak (Giz and Alladal may have to team up for that one) and having to rescue King Richard (who has hopefully learned a lesson or two about haring off when he’s needed at home, kthxbai) to boot.

All in all, Season Three will be a challenge of the sort I like best. But for today, it’s a musical interlude with a singing rooster, a pair of foxes, a wolf in a doublet, and anything else the stew inside my head bubbles over with.

Oo-de-lally indeed. Golly, what a day.

If It Fits…

I was chopping up (for recycling purposes) the box my new desktop came in, and Sir Boxnoggin, Lord van der Sploot, was extremely interested. He is somewhat of a feline canine, if one can be said to exist: If it fits, he sniffs; if he sniffs, he sploots.

And then he returns to canine: If he fits, sniffs, and sploots, it’s time to CHEW.

Fortunately I rescued the box before he could consume more than a token fragment of cardboard. Gods only know what this dog would eat if I wasn’t constantly watching him. He’s like Odd Trundles 2.0, but of Slightly Bigger Brain.

Enjoy your weekend, my dears. And remember: every once in a while, we all need to destroy a box just for the sheer joy of it.

Deeper Levels

I just had to laugh. Dear gods, Astrology App, do you think I do anything else?

I have to say, the notifications from this particular app have made me break down laughing on a regular basis. It’s been sorely needed merriment, indeed.

Here’s to having a good weekend, my friends–and to giving as much access as you prefer, ever and always.