She herself had a pair of huskies, an old pick-up truck, and a cat she'd moved, if I remember correctly, all the way from Northern New York.
Her next-door neighbor had a handful of Great Danes, huge spooky creatures that stood at the common fence and barked like earthquakes whenever anything moved in C's yard.
I visited shortly after the horrible day when C's cat, neatly running along the top of the fence, slipped and fell and was eaten alive by the Great Danes right in front of C's eyes.
The neighbor said things were not good.
"What's up?" C inquired, I imagine not particularly interested.
"It's the damn dogs. They won't go outside and they started crapping in the house."
His neighbor has two enormous hairy dogs that go nuts whenever someone ventures into Big A's back yard.
I told him the story about C and the Great Danes, and we laughed, but Big A is a man of action. He got himself an ultrasonic dog-training whistle.
The first time he used it, tuning it according to the directions, the dogs barked, tilted their heads sideways, and then stopped barking. The second time, they took a look at him and then hauled ass to the other side of their house.
A few days later, Big A ran into the neighbor. He likes the neighbor, despite her unneighborly dogs. She looked tired.
He asked how she was, and she said she was worried. Her dogs had been up all night, crapping in the house.
For every genuinely cheerful Christmas song, there are thirteen gruesome dirges that –– for some of us –– tend to get stuck on the internal jukebox.
For instance, I love me some "Santa Baby," especially the Eartha Kitt version, but then there's The Pogue's "Fairytale of New York."
Both songs embrace the material feel-goods of the season, but with such different moods.
The other dozen miserables? Challenge accepted: The Chieftans and Elvis Costello's The St. Stephen's Day Murders, which sounds cheerful until you listen to the actual words. Shelby Lynne's Xmas nails the dark side of the material feel-goods of the season.
Then there's Hayes Carll's Grateful for Christmas (dare you not to get choked up over your egg nog on that one) and Robert Earl Keene's fantastic Merry Christmas from the Family, which is painfully funny with the sad.
I vote that the most suicidal Christmas song of all time is anyone's version of I'll Be Home for Christmas. (Because they won't. Of course they won't. Everyone's heart is going to break for Christmas. Jeesh.)
Second runner-up in the depression sweepstakes? Of course, John Lennon and Yoko Ono's Happy X-Mas (The War Is Over). Yeah, let's hope it's a good one.
Add in the tunes that are just so irritating: even the youthful Jackson 5's version of I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus makes me claw at my ears. So does the spiteful Gramma Got Run Over By a Reindeer by Patsy and Elmo and Spike Jones' All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth. The best way to chase me out of Home Depot? Play these songs.
I cannot be the only person who finds Wham!'s Last Christmas more than a little soul-killing. And while I am not hating on the King, seriously, who can listen to Blue Christmas without chiming in a broader, more sarcastic verson? Likewise, Brenda Lee's wonderful gappy voice just grates on me on Rocking Around the Christmas Tree.
Okay, uncle. I can't listen to any more.
I close with a few seasonable choices that make me happy to deck the halls and bake cookies.
And the best song for the season...<she belts out: And given the choice between the two of you, I'd take the seasick crocodile.>
The Would-Be Farm: Vroom Vroom.
Imagine sitting in the tiered seat of a dark movie theater late at night. You are among a group of outgoing, cheerful, and odd strangers. It's a scene. Then begins a not-quite-chaotic game of call-and-response that seems a little like magic.
People in the theatre make a suggestion or ask a question, and the movie provides an answer.
"What's your favorite Ivy League?" the crowd hollers in unison and up pops the Columbia Pictures icon.
It's a giddy, cheerful experience that blurrs the line between watching a performance and becoming the performance.
We have no particular audience cheering us on at the Would-Be Farm, and heaven knows our meals are both low-drama and Meatloaf-free, still, this tangent eventually leads to the Would-Be Farm...
Mr. Linton and I ventured North for Thanksgiving. We deep-fried a turkey, played in the snow, made pie, and visited folks we care about.
And while we were up there, we fired up the chainsaw and did some more upkeep on the elderly apple orchards that came with the Farm. It's a long process, as these trees were left to run wild for decades. When we first found them, the trees were scraggly and snarled and over-crowded.
Three years later, they are slightly less so, but –– evidently –– the Would-Be Farm will always call for some level of lumberjack work.
The process goes like this: I'll select a branch or a whole tree that needs to go. If I can use the loppers, I'll nip the bit off, but the big stuff I leave for Jeff and the chainsaw.
Unless my skill as a sawhorse is required, I generally watch Jeff work from a short distance away and wring my hands.
It's not an irrational fear of power-tools. I once saw the result of a chainsaw rearing back and catching someone in the leg. Yurp. Anyhow, each time he leans over the chainsaw to yank on the pull-cord, the phrase "Transvestites, start your engines," drifts idly across my mind. I rarely say it aloud, but it's a bit of comfort for a worrier.
We dodged disaster again this trip, and left giant piles of brush for the wildlife to enjoy over the winter. Some of the logs we made last year got hauled back to basecamp, and I only wish there were a scratch-and-sniff option on the internet to share the scent of that apple-wood as it burns in the campfire.
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