Sunday, June 28, 2009

Bittersweet Reunion

It has been exactly two weeks since we relocated our baby raccoons to a nearby zoo to participate in its "rehab and release" program. We went to visit them today, wondering if they would recognize us. I mean, who knows about a raccoon? Any doubt was immediately erased. I mean, this pictre says it all:Yes, both raccoons are holding hands with my wife from inside their roomy cage.
They recongized us before we recognized them. They're in an enclosure with another young raccoon and they have grown!For about fifteen seconds, we weren't sure which ones were ours, but once my wife spoke to them, they immediately came to us and stuck their noses through the chicken wire and the chain link.
It's easy to feel sorry for them, and a little perspective helps. While they had moments of complete freedom in our back yard, most of the time they were confined to a kennel. Here, they have much more room to move about. Their home is about eight feet long, six feet deep and twelve feet high. There's plenty of stuff to climb on, lots of food and water, as well as raccoon buddies. It tugs at the heart strings, though, because they certainly knew the lady who fed them 'round the clock for eight weeks.It wasn't long at all before they started talking to us in their little raccoon way. And, yes, they made eye contact with us. How can you resist this face?Emotion trumped reason and I went into the enclosure. I asked the question which had been routine when they lived with us, "Who's a raccoon?" They came to me and I petted them on the head. The little one licked my hand, just like old times.When will they be considered to have been sufficiently rehabilitated to be released into the wild? The answer is, "When they run away from humans." Based on what we experienced today, that's not going to happen anytime soon.

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Back on the TeeVee

One could say that since I walked away from my duties as a sports anchor in 2003, my occasional broadcasting assignments have offered an opportunity for more versatility.
So, add another line on the "independent broadcast professional" resume: Talk show host. There's the proof right there. The super says "host." It's probably much more accurate to say I'm a guest contributor. On the other hand, I did host an entire segment and will continue to do so, so there you have it.
This show, "Wonderful day Ark-La-Tex," airs twice a week on the local FOX station. This means that my mug has now appeared in some official capacity on five stations in this market, plus a little cable outfit or two. I have been paid, so the title "broadcast professional" is most assuredly accurate.
This particular segment involves pet health, and while the veterinarian I interviewed is the expert, I claim credibility as an interviewer on the topic.
It has been flattering to be included in the project. It's fun and easy to do. I record my segments in one evening and sit back to wait for them to air. This must be what it's like to be a game show host. I like the concept of the celebrate positive things that are happening in our community. The producers have cobbled together a line-up of hosts from local radio and the newspaper, plus a couple of former full-time broadcasters. It would be wonderful indeed if we can keep it up.

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Saturday, June 27, 2009

There She Goes Again

Our daughter, home for a whopping four days, hopped on a bus bound for Colorado and a weeklong backpacking/ camping excursion. We are convinced this crew doesn't know what it's getting itself into, but live and learn. The physical exertion alone will be a challenge for at least a couple of the people on the bus.
The girls (at some point the transition to "young women" must be made) in her crew steadfastly obeyed orders to report without make-up or hair product, so they were photo-shy. Intrepid, I snapped a sneaky one while they were distracted.
Happily for the parents, we have been told the hikers/ campers will be segregated by gender. Come to think of it, given the prohibition on personal grooming products, it's probably best for all concerned.
Remarkably, all this traveling means Happy Couple II will have been thousands of miles apart for all but four days in a five-week period. By all indications, absence has made the heart grow fonder. To put it another way, we saw very little of her during her four-day home stint. These things can take a toll on a suffering father's emotional well-being.
Assuming she survives the wilderness, the blisters and the muscle fatigue, she will be home for eight days before she leaves yet again. This time, "Milk and Honey" will be on the trip together. The good news there is the adult to teenager ratio on that church-sponsored expedition will be only slightly lower than one-to-one. We'll take our chances. That's a mission trip, and it may have a significant impact on the relationship.
However it goes, it's a Big Summer for our little girl. She's growing in so many ways. We surely will miss her. We already do.

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Thursday, June 25, 2009

Manly Pursuits

The mission is not necessarily mine, but nonetheless forces are converging in an apparent attempt to create for me a more manly image. First there was the Big Fishing Trip. Now I have a hardhat with my name on it.
An ongoing photo assignment leads me periodically to a multi-story construction site. Hence, the need for semi-protective headgear. As fashion accessories go, Ol' Yella there leaves a lot to be desired. The big sitcky label pasted across the front adds a certain flair and leaves no doubt about to whom the hat is assigned. It's essential to make these things clear. If you don't, someone no doubt overcome with envy would snatch it. The thought of seeing some dapper dude sporting the chapeau jaune around town is just too painful to bear.
I'm thinking of going with a cowboy hat next. Of course, I will be driving a truck when I wear it. Can a native American headdress be far behind?

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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Adventure Upon the Sea

(Venice, LA) - Apparently experience pays off in pursuit of fish. After being essentially shut out until the very end of day one of the Great Fishing Expedition, day two was decidely different. The reluctant angler nabbed the first fish of the morning. It wasn't a lunker, but it was a keeper: a speckled trout.When the day was done, I had proudly bagged my legal limit of redfish and admittedly enjoyed a certain level of satisfaction.Most of the guys I'm with are hard-core fisherman. for them, it's all about the fish. For me, at least half the fun was simply being someplace I hadn't been before and seeing things I don't see every day. For instance, in our part of the state you just don't run into many giant pelicans moseying by on the water.My friend Andrew invited me on this trip and I'm glad I came. With the exception of a couple of little flare-ups (happily none involving me) everyone has gotten along well and there has been some unabashed hilarity along the way. A few of the photos turned out nicely, too. Some of the scenery was kind of dramatic. To answer the burning question: yes, I'd come again, as long as someone is around to perform the operational aspects of a trip of this magnitude. Fishing is hard work. The weather didn't help. It was preposterously hot out there both days. I'm now a firm believer in SPF 70, because despite two full days out on the water I'm miraculously NOT sunburned. I am dog tired, though. It's a good tired.
The stories are true, too. I haven't earned enough fishing credibility to tell a good, big lie yet. It was fun hangin' with the boys.

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Friday, June 19, 2009

Yes, I Went Fishing

(Venice, LA) - Despite being a lifelong resident of Louisiana, until today I had never been to the southernmost part of the state. That's because it's the Mississippi River delta, which of course is mostly water with a little marshland thrown in to keep things interesting. Having never really been Mr. Outdoors, there's been no reason to make the trip. That has all changed. At the crack of dawn, I joined a group of guys on the water in a great manly quest for redfish and speckled trout.The effort was epic. To the dismay of my boy Andrew, who assembled the crew, the fish were not cooperating out there in the rivers, bays and bayous which dot the delta. Catfish were easy to come by but nobody wanted those.
This first weekend of summer has been true to its nature: stiflingly hot, almost oppressive. Things were going so slowly that a few of the fishing faithful were becoming discouraged.
Finally, blessfully, late in the day the redfish starting biting...for everyone except me. It was understood going into this trip that I know nothing about fishing. That was part of the plan. Andrew feels a need to offer me the opportunity to participate in activiities which are traditional for the typical southern male. Hence, a weekend fishing trip.
I quickly learned that fishing at this level requires a combination of art, science, skill and luck. I have none of those. My companions were patient with me, occasionally amused by my angling ineptitude. Finally, perseverance paid off. I hooked a big redfish. This was a huge moment because everybody else had already landed at least one really big fish.
Hungry, overheated and exhausted, we decided the time was right to set a course for dry land. Go out on top. For me, catching a fish was better than not catching one but I would have been okay if it hadn't happened for me. I had my camera along and this weekend adventure serves me much better as a giant photo op.

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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Slowly Returning to Normal, for Now

My wife, bowed but not beaten by a mystery ailment, is home after spending 47 hours in a hospital. Although she's not quite herself, she's slowly but surely getting back to her affable, reliable baseline.
This is good because I have a trip planned this weekend and I don't want to miss it. It's a real departure for me and I'm excited about it. I'll spare the details in anticipation of future Storytimes, but I will say this: for the first time in my life, I possess a fishing license. In my halcyon days on the lake, we didn't need a piece of paper to drop a hook. We just needed my grandmother, a cane pole and a can of worms.
This will be an opportunity for personal growth. Not only will I be engaging in a new activity, I will also be traveling with five other guys, only one of whom I know. Friends of Daddy D know the haunting "stranger danger" dynamic well, so this could really be something.
Our daughter is scheduled to come home in a few days after a monthlong assignment in the Rocky Mountains. Maybe by early next week everyone will be well and home and things can get back to normal around here.
In the meantime, don't look for me. Gone Fishin'.

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Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Things Just Ain't Right 'Round These Parts

The lovely hand with the giant needle sticking out of it belongs to my wife, who is spending the second night in a row in a hospital.
We can all relate to a little trip to the emergency room, which may or may not lead to an overnight stay "just to be safe." However, two nights in the pokey gets your attention. I'll spare you the details (for everyone's sake, trust me) but suffice it to say we've known one another for 24 years and this is the most significant non-pregnancy related bout of sickness from her I can recall.
Early in day two of The Illness, friends and co-workers made good sport of things, many asking if she had contracted some kind of raccoon-related malady. "Was she foaming at the mouth?" was asked more than once. Yes, everybody's a comedian.
However, when news spread of the second-night holdover the tone of the comments changed.
We really appreciate all the expressions of support. She will be okay. She has to be, because if we get to three nights in the clink, Daddy D may become a quivering mass of flesh.
Our daughter, safely ensconced in the Rocky Mountains somewhere, is presumably blissfully unware of all this unpleasantness. That's okay; there's nothing to be overly concerned about. That doesn't stop her older brother from being utterly unsettled. At 19, he's never seen his mother like this. He doesn't know how to act. He has been dutifully visiting and that counts for a lot.
My mother-in-law is wearing a kind of wide-eyed expression. She fully expects this bout of gastrointestinal revolt won't have any sort of lasting impact, but it has to be taken seriously. The thing you learn as a family member of a hospitalized person is a profound feeling of helplessness.
There has been a consistent thread in the comments from kind folks who have taken the time over the last couple of days to communicate concern. Many times over, people who know my wife well have expressed some version of "well at least she's getting some rest." There's a lot of benefit in that. She won't force herself to slow down and take a breather. A couple of nights in the hospital should accomplish something.
The thing is, it's the hospital where she works! She may be flat on her back, but her eyes are wide open. Get well soon, everybody.

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Sunday, June 14, 2009

Raccoon Free Back Yard

It is a sad day here at the family home. The raccoons are gone. We took them to a rehab & release program north of town. It's been a hard, sad day.
I know many will scoff at this. Raccoons are pests. raccoons are varmints. Raccoons carry diseases like rabies. Raccoons eat chickens. Whatever.
We loved our raccoons. We bottle fed them 'round the clock, taught them to climb and got them accustomed to water. They came when we called them. They showed moods and emotions. If there had been a practical way to do it, I would have kept them.
We knew, though, that they are wild animals. We knew that as they grew they would become neighborhood nusiances and nobody wants that. We learned how much they love to climb, forage and generally goof around in the bushes, so there was no way we could in good conscience confine them to a cage.
They spoke to me as I surrended custody to the nice lady at the facility, who by the way was caring for about eight more raccoons. Some were older, some were younger and she promised to take good care of our little varmint friends.
Now that's it's all behind us, I can say that the little ringtail visitors made spring 2009 memorable. Watching them grow and develop was one of the most fascinating things we've done.
Honesly, I don't know if I'd do it again. As stupid as it may sound to some, right now it stings too badly to even think about it.

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Thursday, June 11, 2009

Life Goes On

3rd anniversary
Originally uploaded by Darrell
The Happy Couple had a succesfful anniversary weekend. We took them to dinner at a popular Mexican Place and smiles were easy to come by. Interesting twist, though: Her parents joined us. This was the first time in three years of happy couplehood that we had done that. I have to admit to some pre-dinner trepidation. I said to my wife, "This is unprecedented. You don't think there's going to be some kind of announcement do you?" She just stared at me in stunned silence for a few minutes and never actually reponded.
Thankfully, dinner was just dinner. There was a nice band nearby, so we enjoyed the company and the music, celebrated a little and then moved on.
The raccoons are still with us, but there's a new star of our show. Her name is Delilah. Yes, there's another mouth to feed and another vet bill to pay. This one is so young she doesn't even meow, she just squeaks. She's terribly cute and I'm sure she will be a beautiful cat.
The 11-year-old previously established house cat has yet to accept her, but at least she's not feigning indifference. She mostly stares at the kitten and occasionally hisses.
I have to admit I'm having a hard time resisting the ongoing urge each time i see the kitten to say "Hey There, Delilah."
The dog has gone into some kind of emotional bunker. Surrounded by raccoons and cats, she seems dedicated to accepting attention when she can get it while steadfastly guarding the food.
Otherwise, work has been kind of consuming us. If we can ever get everybody fed, maybe we'll go to the movies.

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Friday, June 05, 2009

Anniversary Weekend

It's a big weekend for the photo-shy Happy Couple, seen here at a costume party last October. They have now been "officially" together for three years, which is a long time for some people and especially noteworthy when you're 19.
They've now been together through four years of high school, two as a couple, and a year of college. Those are some formative years when you either grow together or grow apart.
They're young adults now and we have significantly less quality contact with them than we once did. That's to be expected. In fact, anything else might be slightly alarming.
"Officially" is in quotes for a reason. Maybe after three years, the truth can be told. He has been sweet on her since they were fourteen or fifteen. Yes, we've been hearing her name since they were freshmen in high school. Adolescent romantic entanglements being what they are, he didn't profess his intentions until after their sophomore year. There were other people involved. I distinctly recall being impressed when he expressed his longing for her affection, but said (at 16) that he "had to let an appropriate interval pass" before he made his move. Boldy he went when he considered the timing acceptable. The rest is history. And present. And, by all indications future.
There are many witnesses who can attest that I've taken this relationship seriously from its outset. I recall a mutual acquaintence describing their relationship as "puppy love." I found it offensive at the time and the longevity of the union affirms the affront. Who's barking now?
Congratulations, Happy Couple on three years of a true by-God loving relationship. I have the greatest confidence you have been good for one another and I celebrate your anniversary with you.
Now, pose for pictures already.

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Life's Little Annoyances

It's Friday and we had no plans, so we decided to pretend we're young and order a pizza. We picked a pizza joint close to the house and I wanted to make sure I knew exactly what I wanted in advance. It seems like the courteous thing to do, to facilitate efficient ordering. So, I went to the website, clicked on "menu" and decided on my toppings: pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms and green olives. I was excited. You don't get a green olive option very often. The lady who answered the phone dutifully took my order. Five minutes later, she called back to say they don't offer green olives. I beg to differ.
If you're not going to keep your website current, take your website down. OR...send somebody to Wal-mart or Sam's or Brookshire's to buy a jar of olives. How hard can it be?
I wouldn't be so bent about all this, except that we are well acquainted with someone in the pizza place's organization who says this comes up often.
I paid for four ingredients and got three, because I ddn't want to hassle with crediting my card the cost of one topping.
Live and learn. It's not like I asked for pimentoes.

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Thursday, June 04, 2009

The Coon Caper Continues

The time to rid ourselves of the raccoons may be drawing near. The little creatures seem be alarmingly self-aware. They're certainly not self conscious, as you can see.
All of this personal exploration took place in the presence of many witnesses with really nice lighting.
Yes, the raccoons had an outing. It was a return engagement to the historic studio of legendary Shreveport photographer Neil Johnson, who has a notion about creating any number of art and publishng pieces featuring our coons' cutness.
They cooperated well and Neil was plased with the raw materials he captured. The little guys created quite a stir as they always do. The whole Johnson gang was there: photographer, wife, son, daughter and a friend or two...all there to corral coons and keep them in the spotlight.
Meanwhile my wife, proud as punch of her little furry friends, beamed in the background.
As for the raccoons, they've more than doubled in size since we rescued them from certain death several weeks ago. We remain fascinated with their development. We have agreed that this entire episode has been rewardingly fun. We also know that the fun to hassle ratio is about to tilt in favor of the denominator.
In the meantime, we'll keep feeding them and letting them run around the back yard or climb the trees. It might be easier to relesae them into the wild now that they've been properly immortalized.

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