By Ken Harris © 2004
It is Tuesday morning, April 13th, 2004 in Tucson, Arizona, and the trash and recycle men have just come by. The trash and recycle men are different people driving different trucks and handling different containers. And the men don’t actually handle the containers. Thanks to the magic of hydraulics and clever engineering design, their truck does that for them.
It was different years ago (said the Old Man in a quavering voice). Specifically, I’m thinking of 1958. We had bought our first home in El Monte, California for less money than a used Korean automobile costs today.
The house needed was a DUMP! We took three pickup loads of trash, including some dead chickens, to the unsanitary landfill AND burned sulfur candles in the house before we could even move in.
Our house also had some design flaws. The bedroom closet could only be accessed through the back yard. The bathroom shower stall stood in the middle of one wall while the wash basin stood directly opposite on the other wall. The basin drained through a pipe sunk in concrete onto the floor of the shower stall. A half dozen shaves coated the floor of the shower stall with a rich deposit of scum composed of shaving soap and whiskers.
The kitchen was ten feet wide with the stove and cupboards against one wall and the sink and the refrigerator against the other wall. Joanne was very pregnant with our first-born and there wasn’t enough room between the appliances for her to walk. She had to sidle between the stove and the refrigerator, and as she did so her abdomen turned on all of the burners. Not to worry. She turned them off in the same manner on her return trip.
Clearly, we needed to remodel our home. We added a 20 x 20 living room and enlarged the kitchen so that two pregnant women could sidle between the appliances backside to backside. Heck, we had enough room for a dozen pregnant women to do an entire dance review. The entire house was lighter and roomier.
But rehabbing was not without its problems. Melding Romex® with knob and tube wiring presented a challenge. And friends were not always available. As time went on, we had fewer and fewer. This explains why Joanne, who was expecting to whelp our first child momentarily, was on the roof helping me put on new composition shingles when Willa Mae screamed for help.
Willa Mae was a Nubian goat we had acquired. Our theory was that by the time our baby needed milk, Willa Mae would be fresh and there would be plenty of goat’s milk for the infant. So, when Willa Mae screamed Joanne flew off the roof, down the ladder and into the barn to help with the delivery. The kid was presented breech first. Joanne had long, thin, strong hands and she was able to work the kid out. Unfortunately, it was born dead. So were the other two kids that Willa Mae was carrying.
My first problem was getting rid of the kids. I could have buried them, but it was trash pick-up day. We had already filled one 55-gallon oil drum with trash, so I took a second drum and layered the kids in with other trash. (When you’re remodeling, you always have lots of trash lying about.)
When the trash men came I met them at the gate to try to persuade them to take the second drum. A large, economy-size gentleman who looked like he played with tractor tires on his day off assured me that since we paid for one barrel, that’s all he would take. He agreed, however, to let me cram the contents of the second barrel into the first one, if I could. I succeeded in merging the contents of the two barrels, but the result was very heavy. I could barely move it. It weighed well over 200 pounds. But the barrel presented no problem for the trash man. He casually picked up the barrel up shoulder high and shook the trash into the bed of his truck. Fortunately for me, he did not notice the unusual contents of my trash.
Having given away the kids, our problems were solved, but Willa Mae’s were just beginning. She flowed copiously, as any successful female mammal should, and I thought I was going to have to learn to milk a goat. Not to worry, Joanne assured me. While I might not know which end of the goat to grab, Willa Mae was a pro and we would get into a successful routine quickly.
But just as I was coming to grips with the prospect of milking a goat, our neighbors had a kid whose mother had died. So, kidless mother, motherless kid. Simple solution to simple problem, right? Wrong. Willa Mae did not see it that way and she rejected the kid with head butts and kicks.
Our neighbor solved the dilemma through the magic of Vicks Vaporub®. She smeared a gob of Vicks on Willa Mae’s nose and another under the kid’s tail. Willa Mae accepted the kid as having the right smell. She would have accepted a plunger as having the right smell. In a couple of hours the Vicks wore off and Willa Mae resorted to her kicking, butting ways.
But after two days of repeated Vicks applications, Willa Mae accepted the kid and everyone was happy. Especially me, because I didn’t have to milk the goat.