On Friday night, I went out with my co-worker and some of her friends to dinner. It was a nice evening. I really like my co-worker a lot, and I’ve met one of her friends before. We chatted and ate and had an all together nice time. We ended the evening around nine fifteen or so, and I headed home to pack and drive to the ranch.
I got there around midnight, and my parents were still up. We spent an hour or so listening to the Loretta Lynn album and marveling that the woman is in her 70s and can still sound so very good.
The next day was sort of lazy. We started the day pulling weeds and making lists. My dad and I went to town to get some booze from a liquor store (I loved the woman telling us that a cognac that we were looking at was all the way from France) and a variety of stuff from Wal-Mart. We stopped to look at the cows on the way back.
When we got back to the ranch, we found that Claudia and Jose and Holden had shown up and were unpacking their crap. My mom was antsy to give me my birthday presents, so she made us all sit down and open stuff. Jose gave me a scar from Argentina. My dad gave me an iPod. My mom gave me training at her gym and some books and some pretty bras. Claudia promised that she’d get me something, but she hadn’t had time to go shopping.
After some beers, Claudia and Jose wanted to go dewberry picking, and the three of us, plus my dad and Holden geared up to go. My mom was cooking gumbo for our birthday meal, so she had to stick by the kitchen. Plus, I think she wanted to relax a little. Claudia’s friend Shellie was supposed to be coming for the afternoon, so my mom kept watch.
Jose considers dewberry picking to be a competitive sport. Unfortunately, his competition was me, my dad, and my sister. We’re more social creatures and care more about having fun than the net result. So while Jose hopped on a four-wheeler and took off for his stash of dewberries, we got in Claudia’s car with some water and beer and Holden and headed for some promising locations that my dad and I had scouted along the side of the road on our trip to Wal-Mart.
Claudia parked her car, and we fanned out. My dad hopped a fence and went around to the sunny side of the dewberry patch. Claudia and I fell into a trap set by fire ants on the other side of the road. The ants would do this: They’d put a nice, big juicy dewberry in plain sight. Then they’d put their nest directly below the dewberry. Claudia was the first to fall into their trap. She took a step, reached in, and, before she could grab the dewberry, she’d yell and hop and jump and do what we like to call “the ant dance” in the middle of the road yelling “get them off me. Get them off me!” At some point, she flipped her flip-flop and couldn’t even hop. I was useless to her because I was too busy laughing. I had to double over to keep from peeing. Then, I fell for the exact same trap in the exact same place. At one point we were doing the ant dance side by side at the same time. You could tell our dad was glad to be on the other side of the fence on the other side of the road, so as to not be associated with us. We heard some muttering about fools who wear flip flops and tevas to go dewberry picking.
After being scared off by the ants, Claudia joined him on the other side of the fence, and I decided to pick dewberries on their side of the road, which was much grassier and denser than the side we’d been on before. This was a short lived decision, as about two seconds into it, I came across a snake.
This is how it happened:
My dad (through a lot of brush): “Christina, come and get these. We can’t reach.”
I take a step, look down to figure out where to put my next foot and see snake, fast asleep curled up. *ZAP* Teleportation.
Me (50 feet down the road, strangled voice): Snake.
Claudia (through a lot of brush): Snake? Snake!
Me: (strangled voice) Snake.
Claudia (through a lot of brush): How big was it? What color was it? Did it move? WHERE WAS IT! WHERE DID IT GO!
By this point, I was too far down the road to offer much information. For those who are wondering, the curled up snake was about a foot in diameter and light brown. It didn’t have any markings that I recognized as belonging to poisonous snakes, but I didn’t stick around long enough to examine it. My teleportation powers kicked in way before I could pause and take a look. I think it slept through the whole thing, though, so I would have never seen its head to make a definitive diagnosis.
My collection of dewberries was small, so I decided to change strategies. From now on, I would only venture into terrain where I could actually see the ground. This actually worked, and I found a HUGE bush full of dewberries on a gate at the end of the fence. No more snakes. Once I depleted that bush, I headed across the road, warned the ants that I was on to their little game and racked up even more.
According to Claudia, things on their side of the fence got interesting too. She got to watch my dad to the ant dance, and he had to take off his shoes and socks in order to get them off of him. Flip flops and tevas don’t look so bad now, huh, Mr. Dewberry Hunter Extraordinaire. There were some after-effects of the snake sighting too. Claudia figured the snakes would go after my dad and sent him in first to any bush before she would pick. We all remembered the old wives tale about copperheads smelling like cucumbers, and Claudia declared that she smelled something. My dad said that it was probably nothing, but “go on to the next bush, just in case.”
Eventually, we heard a barking frenzy in the distance, and figured that Shellie had arrived at the house. Claudia drove down the road to find me, and we drove back to the house to find mass pandemonium.
My mother and Shelley were in the yard with Zapata, Relampago and Crianza on one side, and Nolan and Milo on the other. The two new comers are nearly nine week old Labrador puppies. Nolan is black and belongs to Brandon. Milo is white and belongs to Shellie. They’re adorable. They were also in the process of being herded. My mom said it took nearly half an hour to get Crianza to come outside to see them, and she was still afraid of them. They’re half her size. Then Holden showed up.
Basically we had about an hour of mass puppy pandemonium. Milo worshiped Holden. Crianza and Nolan managed to cut across cross-breed animosities and try to figure out how to play with each other. Relampago and Zapata tried to herd everyone. I hauled out my camera to take pictures of the new mommy and her baby (and his brother). Claudia, my mom and my dad and I just marveled at all of the pooches. Jose, weathered and hands blue from all the dewberries, showed up and played. Milo fell off the porch and into the bushes. Nolan followed. No worse for wear. They all ended up sort of piled up in one area when my parents’ friends showed up with their dog, Finney, a Chinese Crested. Finney wisely stayed in her mom’s arms for the tour of the property, and Zapata split his time between the puppies and Finney. Holden ran around, Relampago didn’t let the puppies out of his sight, and Crianza flirted with Nolan.
At some point we all went inside, and this is where things get fuzzy. Claudia tripped over one of the puppies, Holden reacted, and Milo ended up with a cut over his eye and a shiner. Puppy screams are bloodcurdling, and Holden has a knack for making puppies yell at the top of their lungs. Crianza and Zapata convinced us all they were going to die when Holden got a little too aggressive with them when they were tiny puppies. Sherlock, a puppy that came to the Christmas Tree Cutting Party a few years ago, ended up with stitches. And poor little Milo ended up having women throw themselves at him making sure he was ok. He looked like he’d been the loser in a boxing match, but he was alright. Everyone related the story of how when we picked up Holden from his parents at eight weeks, he had a cut over his eye, because he’d unwisely tried to nurse off of his dad. Crianza stayed far away from all Labrador retrievers after that, assuming that therein lies trouble.
While we were busy patching up the puppy, we got to behold an amazing sight. Relampago likes to herd other dogs, and he decided that Finney needed to be dominated. Hearing this, Finney decided that she’d make a run for it. So there’s this blur of a tiny dog (with plumage) that flies by the window, followed by Relampago, followed closely by Zapata, followed by Jose, followed closely by Peter (the dog’s dad), with my dad and Linda (the dog’s mom) bringing up the rear. My mom just stood there and looked dumbfounded.
Shortly after this, Shellie went back to Austin (Milo was ok. He ended up with some antibiotics and the vet said it probably wouldn’t leave a mark), and we all continued to make the gumbo and entertain Peter and Linda. We ate food of the gods (seafood gumbo) at around 10:30 or so. It was so very good. It took all day to make, and it's a pain in the ass to clean up, but it's so very worth it. Definitely something to have on your birthday. Peter and Linda left around midnight.
The next morning, my mom and three of the dogs came to sing Happy Birthday to me to wake me up. My mom makes sure to sing Happy Birthday to her kids on their birthdays first thing in the morning. We lounged around the house, ate breakfast, lounged some more, and eventually ate gumbo and trifle.
Liv called to wish me a happy birthday and to tell us all about her new tattoo. She got a potato on her arm on Sunday. She got the idea from a story she read when she was a kid. It was in a collection of stories from Sideways Stories From Wayside School. Calvin, a boy in the story, kept on losing his toys, so his parents told him that they’d get him a tattoo for his birthday. He polled his classmates, and they had all sorts of ideas, but none of them gelled with him. So he came back after his birthday, and they were all surprised to see a potato on his ankle. When asked why a potato, Calvin replied, “potatoes make me happy.” Liv said she was very happy about her potato. She brought in a real live potato to the tattoo artist, and he mused over it a bit, brought back a sketch, and she said “make it lumpier.” He did, and she now has a potato on the inside of her upper arm. She told my parents about it, and as there’s nothing they can do about such things, they approved of the potato, sight unseen. I told her she can never go on the South Beach Diet now.
My parents and Claudia and I watched Big Fish and everyone ended up bawling. We drove home around 8:00 last night, and I was in bed by 10:30.
I had a very happy birthday weekend.