Monday, September 30, 2013

I Can SIgh With A Little Help From My Friend

Operator, well could you help me make this call.
Our cell phones have crappy service and don't work at home.
I'll be sitting at the table,
With my best old ex-teaching friend Mabel.
Many tales to tell that can't be stated.

But isn't that the way they say it goes?
Well, let's forget all that,
And pick a place where me and Mabel can meet
So I can tell, just to show 'em I know what they're doin'
I've overcome the blow
I've learned to take it well
I only wish my words could just convince myself
That it's not a big deal
But that's not the way it feels.

Yeah. I'm missing my ex-teaching buddy, Mabel. She forsook me for a life of leisure. A permanent vacation. But here's the good news! I have some personal business that needs tending on Wednesday, and I'm going to see Mabel. In person! Where nobody can snoop electronically or aurally or intercept a letter or decode a blog post. Yessirree Bob! I have stories that will uncurl Mabel's hair! I'd better start making a list, lest I leave some out.

Yes. Mabel and I will be meeting for cocktails...enjoying a 12-course meal...having dinner and a show...sitting down to tea and crumpets...chatting over coffee...strapping on the old feedbag...grabbing a Starlight Mint out of a ripped bag...resting our rumps on a concrete picnic table in a local park on Wednesday morning to catch up on the goings-on of the workplace variety. If Mabel twists my arm, I might let her squeeze out a couple of sentences. I am heartily anticipating our reunion.

I have been sagging without my support system.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

She's Still Beautiful Like A Rainbow

This morning as I sat in Farmer H's La-Z-Boy, delaying my trip to The Devil's Playground, I saw my sweet, sweet Juno on the front porch. She had been laying under the living room window, and stood up to look inside. Of course I talked to her. Told her what a good dog she was. She wriggled with pleasure. Paced a couple of times, then turned around and laid down again.

Not five minutes later, my attention was drawn from Mysteries of the Museum to my front window. There was Juno, barreling at the speed of a racing Greyhound through the front yard/field. There was no mistaking her slim figure, glossy black coat, and feathered tail, even at that fast clip. She definitely did not look like a beagle. And she definitely did not look like Ann the stocky mostly-black shepherd/lab.

The SHOCKING part of this sighting was the giant blue-headed tom turkey running along with my sweet, sweet Juno. Who knew that turkeys love to run? Fast. And right in front of their doggy playmates! The duo did not reappear after a trip all the way to the gravel road, and what I assumed to be a loop to the left around the main sinkhole and into the BARn field, soon to culminate with the home stretch past the goat and chicken pens and into the front yard again.

I stepped out onto the porch and shouted, "Juno! Bad dog!" Just on general principle. Not that she was doing anything wrong. It was a race between friends, I'm sure. Ann wound around my legs, all nervous as is her temperament. I patted her on the side and assured her I had no interest in her today. She took it as a compliment. Tank laid in the front yard, licking himself.

Juno must have won The Great Turkey Canine Challenge, because she came rocketing across the yard and up the porch steps. Frolicked side to side, leapt above my waist, wiggled and waggled and poked her nose up my shirt onto my bare belly, whimpered with excitement. I shunned her. She had, after all, heard me yell, "Bad dog!" No need to make her think that meant she was being rewarded with my presence. She looked into my eyes. I gave her the stink-eye. That's what my students call it when I'm displeased. Juno sat down at my feet. Very still. And continued to gaze into my eyes.

She was sorry, you see. Sorry for getting caught. Admitting she has a problem is the first step. I stroked her head, which meant she twisted and took my fingers between her front teeth. She likes to do that. When she's not busy poking her sharp nose into my hamstrings and calves to steer me where she wants me to go. She turned her attention to wrestling with Ann, so I went back inside and gathered up The Pony for our shopping trip.

When we returned home to the garage, The Pony was not yet ready to hop out of T-Hoe. "That's okay. I'll start carrying the stuff to the porch. You can get it when you're done in a few minutes." I think he was typing on his laptop. Or eating. It's hard to tell when he insists on riding in the seat behind me.

"Wait! Juno might get into the bags!"

"What are you talking about? You know she won't do that. She'll be too busy eating the cat food to restore the energy she expended chasing the turkey this morning."

True colors. They sometimes bring a tear to the eye.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

HM's Imagination Is Off Its Leash

When we last convened, I shared a random encounter at the gas station chicken store. I had parked beside a car with a woman who was apparently waiting for something. Or someone. Someone in the form of a woman who parked a distance from her car, walked over to talk, then left without buying anything. Here is what I overheard:

Long Hair: "I washed it off and now it's under my bed." She smiled and flipped her hair back with one hand.

Short Hair chuckled. "I''ll see you. You be careful." Then she turned and walked back to her car. Didn't get gas or soda or chicken or anything.

Wouldn't you like to know what's under the bed?

Seriously. What could Long Hair have possibly put under her bed? My imagination has been working overtime.

Her summer bedspread? I don't think so. That snippet of conversation sounded conspiratorial. Who waits at a gas station chicken store to tell somebody she washed her summer bedspread? And what would she need to be careful of, overheating under the winter quilt?

A knife used for murder? That would need to be washed off. And hidden. But they didn't seem agitated. No tell-tale heart thumping to make them nervous. Besides, I would not keep a murder weapon under my bed. Might as well put a flashing neon sign on the roof advertising Murderer Inside. With a red arrow pointing down.

A sex toy? Those things probably need a good scrubbing after each play session. Can't speak from experience, and I'm not an investigative reporter, so I have no stable of experts to consult. But under the bed seems like a good storage space. It's not like you're going to hang it on the wall over the fireplace.

Recently deceased Grandma's prosthetic leg? Maybe there was a family power struggle to see who was awarded custody, and the bitter losers were planning a coup. Who would think to look under the bed for Grandma's leg, especially with her scent washed off?

The severed finger of a hostage? It could be used for unlocking his iPhone 5s and gaining access to his super-secret laboratory where he was turning lead into gold. Far-fetched, perhaps, but an intriguing plot. However, it's risky to leave the hostage home alone while meeting up with your accomplice at the gas station chicken store.

A crack pipe? If she was a novice crackhead, maybe. Because I don't remember ever hearing reports of the cleanliness and stealthiness of career crackheads. Then again, I never knew those little glass tube thingies with a fake rose at convenience stores were used for smoking crack. I learned it on the internet. Just before I met my boyfriend, the French model. He had me at "Bonjour."

I have no idea what item would need to be washed and stored under a bed, then require a prearranged clandestine meeting on a public parking lot.

That's one for those CSI SVU NCIS NYPD shows.

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Imagination Runs Wild

Perhaps it's not common knowledge around these parts, but Mrs. Hillbilly Mom dabbles in writing. She wields a Pilot Rolling Ball Fine Point every now and then, and has become quite a pecker down in her basement lair.

Hillmomba is virtually teeming with seeds and kernels of inspiration. Unfortunately, fiction is not Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's strong point. So many topics, so little talent. Woe is Mrs. Hillbilly Mom.

Today I walked right into a doozy. But fear of backlash for political incorrectness prevents a full-fledged effort. The gift-wrapped bundle that fell right into my nonexistent lap was this:

I stopped at the gas station chicken store for my 44 oz. Diet Coke. My favorite parking space was available, so I dawdled a bit, gathering exact change for payment, sorting out my odds and ends that needed to be pursed, and choosing the best of my cups for refill. I noticed a car parked one space over from my T-Hoe. It had been there when we pulled in. A lady in the driver's seat was turned backwards, as if looking at a child in the back seat. I thought nothing of it, other than you snooze, you lose, I'm going to be in line before you!

As I walked under the awning over the gas pumps to enter, following a cartoon fume of chicken aroma, a car pulled in and stopped. I noticed, because it's tight quarters there, and I didn't want to be in the way of a 2000-pound vehicle. Again, I hustled in before the driver could beat me.

When I came out with my magical elixir, the driver of the pump car was standing at the rear of that parked car by T-Hoe. That driver was standing outside, car door propped open, talking. She was a long-haired 30-something lady, nothing to write home about if you're the type to write home about women. The gas car driver was a stocky gal with a man-short haircut and sparkly earrings that might have been diamond or Cubic Zirconia. She wore khaki shorts and a T-shirt.

And now, for the amazing dialogue that can't write itself...Long Hair was saying, "I washed it off and now it's under my bed." She smiled and flipped her hair back with one hand.

Short Hair chuckled. "I''ll see you. You be careful." Then she turned and walked back to her car. Didn't get gas or soda or chicken or anything.

Wouldn't you like to know what's under the bed?

Thursday, September 26, 2013

A Bit Morbid, Perhaps

Sweet Gummi Mary! I am lucky to be here this evening, and not locked up for vehicular mayhem.

In one short trip this afternoon, The Pony and I encountered:

* Two dudes walking in the oncoming lane, facing traffic, necessitating our veerage onto the shoulder to avoid a head-on collision with traffic avoiding them.

* An inline-skater wheeling up the middle of the oncoming traffic lane, necessitating the slamming-on of T-Hoe's brakes and subsequent airbornness of a Starlight peppermint and a strawberry Starburst while traffic came to a standstill to honk at the skater until two lanes could pass.

* A compact car that came to a complete stop in the middle of our lane to motion another car to pull out of a parking lot in front of it.

* A roadwalker in our lane, facing us, who appeared as we crested a two-lane blacktop hill.

* An oncoming pickup truck that refused to get over to his edge, running us off the side of our narrow county road.

As The Pony says, "It's a good thing you're not allowed to carry a gun." I don't think I need one. The future corpses are lining up to get in front of me and my T-Hoe.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

One Man's Trash Is Another Man's Telephone

This morning on the way to school, T-Hoe put a tire wrong. Or that's what I prefer to believe. Because I am quite sure that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is not a reckless driver. That she could not possibly be responsible for taking a turn just a smidge too fast, causing unfettered objects to fly about the interior of T-Hoe like various and sundry items in the cabin of that Boeing 707 in the movie Airport, just after nervous passenger Dom Guerrero detonated his briefcase bomb and blew the side out of that aircraft.

When we were aligned in our next to next to last parking slot at the east end of Newmentia, The Pony failed to grab the classroom key and load up his beast-of-burden back to carry our stuff inside.

"Uh. Are we going in today?"

"Just a minute. I can't find my phone. I know it's in here somewhere, because I was tethered, using my internet. I just can't seem to find it. It slid off the seat when you turned."

Yeah. Everybody's quick to blame Mrs. Hillbilly Mom when an unsecured item goes missing during a 40-minute drive. Besides. He said it was tethered. Of course, with all these fancy schmancy doodads and gewgaws the kids play with these days, that may or may not mean a wire was plugged in. The Pony contorted and made Gumby arms and practically stood on his head from his second-row seat right behind me. He should know better than to lay his slick-surfaced phone on the folded-down back of the passenger seat next to him. It's nothing more than a carpeted table in that position. A smart phone isn't safe in a T-Hoe full of flat carpets. Especially if there's some surprise careening involved.

"Why don't you just get out of the car and go around to that side and open the door and look for it?"

"I don't know. It's got to be here somewhere." The Pony commenced to rustling through a pile of items he can't do without. He's a regular scaled-down back-seat car-hoarder. He's the mini Babybel cheese of hoarders.

"Do you want me to call it?"

"Yeah. That would be a good idea."

I called. Twice. Once I got the message that the number could not take my call. Then it went straight to voice mail. THEN, without a third dialing, the phone started to ring. Faintly. I turned down the radio. The Pony tilted his head like a harbinger of spring listening for underground worms.

"I STILL can't find it!" He scooted some papers around. Leaned over into the third row. Rustled some more. IT WAS IN THE TRASH!"

Yes. The Pony's phone had slid off the folded-down passenger seat-back and into the plastic bag donated by The Devil from his Playground, which was hanging on the armrest of the passenger seat.

Nobody tethers The Pony to the back seat.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

HM Is An Insider

Yeah, buddy. Crank up the Tom Petty and join me for a glimpse behind the scenes in the cutthroat world of public education.

Psst! You there! Over here. Stage left. See me, behind the curtain? Give me your hand. Can you make it? Climb on up here and join me on a whirlwind tour backstage at the learning factory. Watch out for those props. Don't need to be fillin' out an accident report.

Today I'm going to explain the concept of TEXTBOOKS to you. Now folks might think that they're just books. You know. Something to be used as a doorstop, or to whack that annoying kid that rides behind you on the bus. Nope. Textbooks play a vital role in education. For another year or two, anyway, until that Common Core concept sinks its roots into the educational landscape.

A textbook gives students vital information about concepts they will be expected to understand and apply later in the year, on standardized tests, and later in life, for living. Except maybe Algebra, of course. (Apologies to my ex-teaching buddy, Mabel.)

Here's the thing. ONE TEXTBOOK, ONE STUDENT. I know that sounds foreign. Unreasonable, even. Especially to those who don't keep close tabs on their textbooks. Who leave them scattered willy-nilly across the vast teenage wasteland that is paid for by their parents and district residents. They seem to think that they are entitled to unlimited textbooks. Like an educational, all-you-can-learn buffet.

"I can't find my book. Can I have another one? Why not? You have a stack of them right there. I see three. I only need one. What? The one you let me use in class yesterday that I forgot about and carried with me? I don't know where that is. It might be in the class I had after this one. Wait a minute! I don't have a class after this one. Can I go look for it? No? Well how are you ever going to find it, then? I need a new book. Can't you check another one out to me? Pay for one! Why should I have to do that? I just can't find mine. Or that other one. I have to have a book. How am I going to study for a test? I think you need to talk to the principal. To see if he knows where my book is."

Imagine, if you will, a freaky Twilight Zone classroom, where no student brings his assigned textbook to class. Every day, spare textbooks are parceled out. To every student. Half of them get carried out of that classroom, never to be seen again. Yet every day, students pour in and clamor for textbooks like I and you screaming for ice cream.

Sadly, there is no bottomless bookshelf in the seamy subculture of public education. ONE BOOK, ONE STUDENT.

Learn it. Live it. Love it.

Monday, September 23, 2013

The Icing Is In The Devil's Details

The #1 son graced the Mansion with his presence this weekend. In so many ways, it was as if he'd never left.

My kitchen became a darkroom with light. He mixed noxious chemicals for photo developing. I bought him lunch in town and hauled it home. He went out to supper with a Robot Boy. They're like the Rocket Boys in October Sky. But with robots. He took my debit card and did business with The Devil. He stayed up past midnight and tormented me. The usual. Good times.

Did you know that #1 had never seen The Breakfast Club? Yet he swore that at the end, as Judd Nelson walked across the football field with his fist in the air, the song playing over the credits was "Don't You (Forget About Me)." I begged to differ. I said that was John Cusack in Say Anything. Even though I've never seen that movie. Or the end credits on the lawnmower in Easy A. Which I've seen about 20 times. So #1 plopped down on the basement couch, wrapping his greasy face and head in MY chartreuse polka-dotted soft blankie, and his hairy sweaty feet in The Pony's zebra-striped soft blankie, just to wait until the end credits, to gloat.

Kids these days. He bought into the Saturday detention in the library scenario. And the taping together of butt cheeks. Even the weed stashed in a locker and retrieved and smoked by the detainees in that library. But he was curious about that scene where Ally Sheedy had stolen Anthony Michael Hall's wallet and memorized his vital statistics off his driver's license. And the subsequent disgorging of Ms Weirdo Sheedy's purse.

"Did people in the 80s really sit around looking in each other's wallets?"

"Um. No. It's a movie."

"I thought that was weird."

Seriously. Of all the things. We both got a hoot out of the TV-language dubbing. And then rolled the credits. Let's just say that one of us was right. And one of us is still kind of one-third right. Easy A. Check it out.

Just before the movie bonding, #1 let it be known that he had bought cookies at The Devil's Playground with my plastic, and that he wanted me to bake them before he left on Sunday. Never mind that I had done his laundry, and had my own Deviling to do, and we were BBQing for his last lunch so he could take some leftovers back. "Oh, come on. Make them for your son. It's not that hard. They're in a box. I saw them and I thought, 'Mmm...caramel apple cookies. I have to have them.' Please..."

"Let me see the box." #1 ran upstairs for his cardboard-contained delicacy. Oh, let's get real! He hollered for The Pony to bring it down.

"See? Don't they look good? Caramel apple cookies with caramel icing!"

"Where's the icing?"

"WHAT? It's in the box. Isn't it?"

"Um. No. That comes separately. It says so right on the front of the box."

"NO! That's why I bought them! I saw that picture. They look SO GOOD with that icing!"

"Yeah. Well. I can bake them. But there's no icing."

"Can you get some when you go to town in the morning?"

"I can look. But I have to bake the cookies before I go to town."

"I can wait for the icing. Dad is taking me out to breakfast, anyway."

Of course The Devil did not have icing to match those cookies. He only carries about five different kinds now. You can never find anything at The Devil's Playground. But I picked up some hard shell caramel ice cream topping in a plastic squeeze bottle. I figure #1 can drizzle it over his cookies and put them in his mini fridge.

Thank the Gummi Mary that he is not planning to be a civil engineer. No bridge constructed after his graduation would be safe. His stunning lack of attention to detail concerns me.

"Don't worry, Mom. I'm only going to be working with electrical stuff."

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Not Exactly Stained Glass, But It Catches The Light Just The Same

Each morning, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is greeted with the beauty of nature.

No. Not the soffits and drainpipes. Not that wirey, twisty, metally blue orb starburst thingy my grandma gave me. The spiderweb! This is actually a small version. Most often, my eight-legged friends prefer to weave their tangled webs on a porch post to the right of this photo, facing at a right angle to this one. Must be something with the wind conditions lately. I am simply thankful that they do not drape their food-trawlers across my walkway.

Did you know that you're never more than three feet away from a spider? I imagine that's if you're outside, of course, and not in the middle of the ocean. And it might just be an average. But still. The world is crawling with spiders. Hope you didn't have an arachnophobia attack.

I don't really mind sharing Hillmomba with spiders. Unless they're ON me. Or drop out of the ceiling like Tom Cruise on an impossible mission, such as the one a couple of years ago in my midnight office, who broke her descent thread and plopped onto my Puffs With Aloe box, thus jettisoning her millions of babies to flow across my countertop desk space like water cascading over the top of a bathtub, with me swatting at them and silently screaming.

Shh...Do you feel four pairs of eyes watching you?

Saturday, September 21, 2013

As If She Was Some Kind Of Reverse Four-Legged Houdini

Farmer H is at it again. Badmouthing my sweet, sweet Juno. To her sleek black face with her hazel eyes gazing out like a trusting human. Using her as his personal whipping boy...or more accurately, as his personal tongue-lashing gal.

Last night we arrived back at the Mansion after 10:00, having spent the evening playing trivia at Newmentia. The #1 son is home from college for the weekend, and he and Farmer H high-tailed it out of the garage and up the porch steps. Juno ran down the steps and inside the garage. She likes to sneak a mouthful of dry cat food from the big spotted roasting pan that serves as their feeding bowl. Or nine or ten mouthfuls. Depending on how long it takes me to climb down out of T-Hoe. Seriously. Like four cats can't spare a few bites of food from the heaping mountain poured into that roasting pan every morning.

"Get out of there, Juno! Quit eating the cat food! It's almost gone. You've probably been in there eating it all day!"

Oh, how the false accusations cut me to the very quick! Not that they have any effect on Juno. She continued munching. Didn't even cringe. Perhaps she knows Farmer H is all bark. Or she flaunts the fact that she could pass a lie-detector test if need be, to prove her innocence.

How could Juno have been in the garage all day, eating cat food? The last time I checked, my svelte, leggy borador did not fit through the hard-plastic cat flap mounted in the metal of Farmer H's garage door. But a beagle did. And possums. And raccoons.

I think Farmer H is jealous of our bond. Even though Juno loves him almost as much as she loves me.

He doesn't know that I've seem him with her in the front yard, throwing her brown plastic chicken with one yellow foot chewed off.

Friday, September 20, 2013

We Work Even When We're Not Working

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has just been released from seven hours of torture, referred to by the unenlightened as Professional Development Day.

The problem with Professional Development day is that Mrs. HM and her cronies are not treated as adults with common sense. Even though more than fifty percent of them are, and have it.

Might as well put up place cards with assigned seats. Because if one dares to sit at a table deemed not able to see the presentation, one is unceremoniously called upon to move, upon which time it will be discovered by the moving-shouters that there are no other seats available, wherein the moving-shouters will pick up the table previously sat at and carry it to the center of the venue, and command those silly adults with common sense who could see just fine to sit there, whereupon they cannot sneak to the restroom during the 2.5 hour presentation like every other person in that room.

Woe are the ones who are used to lunch at 10:53 a.m., because their tummies will rumble until the lunch buffet arrives at noon. Did you know that the smell of Red Burrito warming over a Sterno flame in foil pans is not really all that appetizing? And that one really does not enjoy sitting after lunch in closed classrooms with twenty or so peers who have partaken of this feast?

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom declined the meal. Mainly because there were no Hardee's burgers left, since the early line-goers loaded up with large burgers AND towering plates of beef tacos, chicken tacos, hard shells, soft shells, lettuce, cheese, and sour cream.

We learned all about new electronic teaching methods. Methods we do not have time to practice, because we are busy teaching. We are professionally developed, though. For another month.

A regular work day is so much simpler.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

If This Was The 1950s, HM Would Be Wearing A Sandwich Board

We are all fat and sassy and vaccinated now. And by we, I mean me and nigh on 20 of my closest fellow educators. I'm sure Elementia and Basementia partook of the traveling needle-wielders as well, but I can't speak for their numbers.

As with any extraordinary situation, and most routine activities...Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has a bone to pick with that dastardly, conspiring universe.

It all started with the mass vaccinations at the workplace. Okay, some faculty members requested the return of the on-site flu shots. It was arranged. And you'll never in a million years guess who selflessly volunteered time and resources to maintain our fatness and sassiness. That's right! You got it in less than a million nanoseconds! Ceilingreds!

I should have suspected something nefarious coming down the pike when we were ordered to complete paperwork and attach copies of our insurance cards and turn that classified information in to the office to be picked up by Ceilingreds' representative 24 hours prior to vaccination zero hour. The Devil would never place such demands on people planning to get their fat sassy vaccinations in his Playground. In fact, he does not even require formal dress such as pants.

Last year, I popped into Ceilingreds when it was still my Mom&Pop Chain Pharmacy. I went into a converted closet or bathroom, and had my flu shot administered by their traveling RN who was older than Methuselah's great-great-grandpappy. Other years, I've gotten shotten at school, by the county health center employees. For convenience's sake, I filled out my form for Ceilingreds, and attached copies of both my primary and secondary insurance cards.

The next morning, I woke up with a sore throat. On the day of the flu shots. Courtesy of the unholy triumvirate: M&M Gifter, Farmer H the Midnight Breather, and the teacher lunch table dude who burst into spontaneous cough, sending a spray of phlegm onto my water bottle. I declared that maybe I should hold off on the shot. Then I grew worried that Ceilingreds had my paperwork. They might start an insurance company rumor that I was getting double shots if I went elsewhere once my snottage was gone. But no. Surely I was just being paranoid. Ceilingreds wouldn't bill my insurace until I actually got the shot. Right? RIGHT?

The more I stewed over the improprieties foisted upon me by Ceilingreds, the more I was certain that they had already billed both of my insurances for my as-yet-unadministered flu vaccine. By the time I got to school that morning, I had made the decision to face the flu-shooting squad.

Good thing. As I stood in line at the nurse's office, gawking at others being shot, debating whether to ask if this was the intramuscular or the intradermal vaccine...I noticed a curious routine. As soon as the needle was yanked out of the faculty flesh, a receipt with attached dosage information was pulled from a bag and handed to the newly immune. WHAT IF SOMEBODY DID NOT SHOW UP TO BE SHOT? What if they called in sick? Ran off the road and into a ravine? Took a midnight plane to Tahiti?

I submitted my arm for stabbage. Accepted my receipt. And saw that I had been vaccinated at 3:15 the previous afternoon.

Thank the Gummi Mary I showed up for my shot! Or the next time I went to get one, I would be refused, and interrogated for attempted triple-dipping in the influenza vaccine bowl.

The most disturbing portion of the ordeal was this:

Next year, I'm afraid a tiny branding iron will become the new band aid, cauterizing the injection hole and searing the Ceilingreds logo onto my flesh at the same time.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Yes, I Have No Banana

I might have mentioned, offhandedly, once, throughout this blog's eight-year history, that I have a problem with Farmer H helping himself to things that are specifically earmarked for another. The #1 son is just like him. Not a tasty morsel to be bought on a shopping trip that would tempt either's appetite. But let The Pony or I choose a new snack, and it disappears overnight. Somebody must be breaking in, because neither Farmer H nor #1 ever have an inkling what might have happened to it.

Farmer H eats a banana every morning. They lay on the section of the kitchen counter near the door, so he can grab one on the way out. I've tried those hangy-banana-thingies. Farmer H broke two of them before I gave up. So now I pry the bananas apart from their bunch, and line them up on Farmer H's counterspace. Believe me, if I moved them five centimeters, he would be lost. He'd do without his daily banana, then ask me when I'm going to buy more, even though they've just been relocated five centimeters west.

Last week I was feeling a bit potassium-depleted. I ran in Save A Lot for some other items, and grabbed two very ripe bananas. Sometimes, Save A Lot puts bunches of them in a cart out front, with a sign that says, "Take me. I'm free." I suppose banana-bread bakers regard those times like a starchy out-of-season Christmas. I don't take them, because the people in my house like their bananas green. Bitter. Almost crunchy. But this day, the very ripe bananas I grabbed were not brown enough to be free. I put them on the cutting block when I got home. Beside the Cheetos that go in The Pony's lunch every morning.

That evening, I enjoyed a sweet, tasty dose of potassium. I skipped a day, then remembered that I still had one banana left. I suppose I don't even have to tell you that I found my banana missing. The Pony knew nothing. He likes his bananas green. Like his father. The father I have not even asked about the missing banana. We all know he took it. We all know he'll give an excuse for taking that one instead of the three he had laying on the counter.

A soft fruit ain't safe in a house full of hicks.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

What's A Little Typhoid Between Acquaintances?

Never look a gift horse in the mouth unless you are wearing a surgical mask, holding down Secretariat's tongue with a flat wooden stick, and asking if he's off his feed.

A snake came to my water trough on a hot, hot day, and I in pajamas for the heat, to drink there. OOPS! Wait a minute. That was D. H. Lawrence sportin' the PJs. Not Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. What I meant to say was...

A work colleague came to my doorway on this cool, cool day, and I standing defenseless in the hall, to give me something. Let the record show that Mrs. Hillbilly Mom does not take to cuteness of any sort. Especially the kind where someone tells her to hold out her hand and close her eyes. That's a good way to end up on the internet in a photo with bunny ears (by fingers or by real severed rabbit ears) behind your head, and somebody dangling something inappropriate over your palm.

Thank the Gummi Mary, Gifter did not ask me to close my eyes. I did not really want to hold out my hand. But I did. Because Gifter looked sad, kind of teary-eyed, and students were flocking to and fro, so I had witnesses. Gifter reached to the depths of her striped, beach-baggy carryall, pulled out her hand palm down, and slapped a tiny packet of M&Ms on my lifeline. She grinned. Pleased as punch. I thanked her. Then she turned away and started hacking up a lung. SWEET GUMMI MARY! I had been infected!

I barely had time to register my dismay, what with student witnesses shouting, "Hey! Drug deal! I saw that! She gave you drugs! I'm a witness! Better not swallow those in class. They're not allowed in your room. I know you have them."

Ahh...yes. The Gifter that keeps on giving. I stuffed that brown packet into my pants pocket. Upon entering the classroom, I headed straight for my corner desk control center, fished it out with two fingers, and dropped it into my red teacher bag that I got free at Office Max several years ago. Then I pumped my personal keg of Germ-X like there was no tomorrow.

I know you're not thinking, "But Mrs. Hillbilly Mom! Why didn't you just throw away that fun-size packet of Ms?" I know you're not thinking that, because you're a woman. You're a teacher. And you know that M&Ms are chocolate. That contaminated candy can marinate in my red bag 'til the cows come home. Until the germs are geriatric and harmless. Then I will have a surprise snack when I'm digging for my flash drive, or my glasses, or my little spiral notebook, or some triple antibiotic ointment.

I figure a week will do.

Monday, September 16, 2013

I Know Why The Federal Budget Bleeds

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom does not claim to be a rocket scientist. Though she DOES know someone who shook hands with Wernher von Braun.

I know why the federal budget always has its hands outstretched, gruel bowl proffered, begging, "Please, sir. I want some more." The federal budget is not nearly as cute as Mark Lester in his heyday, cavorting about 19th century London with Jack Wild, pickin' a pocket or two for Ron Moody. And the federal budget is not nearly so efficient in relieving citizens of their possessions.

Today, our green metal pipe mailbox, EmBee, disgorged a pile of catalogs, a DISH Network bill, a Victoria's Secret catalog for a woman at another address, and a large advertisement for children's toys for a man at a totally different address. One box. Three addresses. Signs point to an inefficient, incompetent, or disgruntled employee of Uncle Sam.

Because Mrs. Hillbilly Mom knows that it is a federal offense to tamper with the mail or mailbox of another, she does what any law-abiding citizen should do, and returns these items not meant for her to the dead-mouse-smelling post office. But because the M.O. P. O. (Mouse Odor Post Office) is not open during hours when Mrs. Hillbilly Mom is available, she drops the mail addressed to others back into the mailbox outside the M.O. P.O. So it can be rerouted to its proper intended destination. To be hauled back to the processing center for scanning. Back to the hub. Back to the M.O. P.O. to be driven on the route again, right back to the mailboxes in the same wooden enclosure as EmBee, perchance to be shoved into the correct slot this time.

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. Some calls her a passive-aggressive battleaxe. I calls her a law-abiding citizen. Mmm hmm.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

She Was FRAMED, I Tells Ya!

On the phone last night, I tried to convey to my mom the horror that was Farmer H insinuating that my sweet, sweet Juno had attempted to eat the groceries that I put in their Devil's Playground bags on the side porch while I fetched more from T-Hoe. "Get away from there, Juno!" he had bellowed while I was out of sight. Trying to frame her, I'm sure. To drive a wedge between us.

"Juno has never bothered those bags. The Pony and I put them there all the time. She only tries to get closer to me when I deliver another batch. She must have stepped on one and crinkled it."

The Pony was on the couch listening. "She gets in the bags all the time! You've seen her!"

"No I haven't. She never gets in the bags."

"She sticks her nose in them."

"No she doesn't. You're making that up."

"And she chases the chickens, too!"

"That's a lie! Oh...she chases them off the porch. That must be what you mean. She doesn't want them in her food dish."

"She chases them though the yard, and she pulls out their tail feathers!"

"Bite your tongue! I've seen her run at them. When I throw out bread. But she does NOT pull out their tail feathers."

"Yes she does."

That is so hurtful. The Pony must have been repeating what his dad tells him. I'm sure. My sweet, sweet Juno is high-spirited, but she would never bite the chickens. Even if her favorite toy IS a plastic brown chicken with one yellow foot chewed off that squeaks when she chomps on it.

This morning, I told Farmer H that I saw a german shepherd run across the front yard by the road. "Of course, our dogs barked their fool heads off while sitting on the porch. But Juno took off through the trees after him. I hope he didn't eat a chicken."

"Juno chases the chickens, and pulls out their tail feathers. Yesterday she was chasing the turkey. She had him by the tail."

"I don't think so. Unless she was doing it for sport. She's a herder. She needs something to occupy her time. It's not like she kills them."


"Grizzly is the one who killed the chickens. Now that he's dead, they're fine."

"Oh, Grizzly didn't mean to kill them. He was just playing with them."

"He killed two of the first three chickens you brought home within an hour of you letting them out of the cage!"

"He was playing."

"We came home that time and caught him with Survivor in his jaws! That's how he got his name...Survivor."

"Yeah, but he let us pry Survivor out of his mouth."

"We thought he was dead."

"Then he jumped up and took off, and Grizzly ran after him. Grizzly was playing."

I swear. Juno will never get a fair trial around here.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

I Met My Old Student On The Devil's Playground Parking Lot Last Evening

I met my old student on The Devil's Playground parking lot last night. She seemed so glad to see me, I just smiled. Still optimistic after all these years.

If only somebody could write a song about that.

For the record, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom has always been a science teacher, but she has not always taught science. Her checkered career includes a six-year stint as an at-risk teacher. Yes, she was asked to relinquish the glory and respect that are heaped upon core class faculty, and don the hat of unofficial special services, the Rodney Dangerfields of the halls of academia.

One of my favorite powers that still be, though in a different capacity at the time, tapped me to fill the newly-created position. He made it clear that it was totally my decision, that there was nothing wrong with my current scientific performance, and that he had a new hire who could step into either slot. But that he preferred me, because he thought I related well to that demographic. And because I had that Jack-of-all-subjects quality, the ability to help the students with anything from diagramming sentences to solving algebraic equations.

I took the bait. And guess what! I made a difference in at least one life! That's all it takes, isn't it, to justify the billions that were spent on my salary?

This student was a quiet gal with a fiery temper when provoked. her attendance was not the best, and she struggled academically. She was in my class for four years. A 50-minute resource room where grades were checked daily, assignments inspected, and individual tutoring given as needed. Quiet Gal graduated. I have seen her on a couple of occasions since then. The last time was at the gas station. She always comes up and speaks to me like I'm a trusted friend. Royalty. A celebrity.

Graduation night, she found me in the hall as robed students and faculty lined up for the processional. She handed me a card, which I tucked into my wizard-like master's robe sleeve. When I read it after the awarding of diplomas, I found a handwritten letter thanking me for my help. Quiet Gal said that if not for my class, she would have dropped out of school as soon as she was 16. That my class was the one hour every day where she could count on relaxing and not feeling stressed. Where somebody believed in her.

That's why we teach. For the Hallmark moments.

Friday, September 13, 2013

It Probably Pays More Than Teaching

Seems like only yesterday I was telling you about my recently diagnosed ailment, the symptoms of which are the lack of sensitivity to heat and cold, and the inability to hear noises emitted by classroom electronics. Thank the Gummi Mary, this ailment does not affect Mrs. Hillbilly Mom's second job, Acting District Entomologist and Disease Specialist.

A polite young lady approached my desk this very morn. She removed her shoe. And the other one as well. "Look at this. What do you think it is?"

"I don't know...a bug bite?"

"Yes. A bug just bit me."

"Does it itch?"

"No. It hurts. And look. I've got another one here on my heel." It was under the area covered by the back of her shoe.

"I don't know what to tell you. Maybe you need to show the nurse."

"What kind of bug would leave a mark like that?"

"A mosquito?"

"It wasn't a mosquito. It was a little bitty bug."

"A flea? They're tiny. But they usually bite in a pattern of three. And you just have one on each foot."

"What else?"

"I don't know. I'm not a bug expert." Bitee went back to her desk. Five minutes later, she was back at mine.

"Here it is. The bug." She held it between her thumb and forefinger.

"Get that away from me! It looks like a flea. It'll jump."

"I want to save it. I know! Can I have a piece of tape?"

"Yeah. You might want to take that and show the nurse."

"I want you to get on the internet and look it up, to see what kind of bug it is."

"That's going to be hard. There are millions of bugs. I don't think I have time to find the exact one. But it looks like a flea."

"Why is it in here?"

"I don't know. They don't normally live on bare tile floors."

"Am I going to get sick? Do they carry diseases?"

"Oh, I don't know...the bubonic plague comes to mind..." I stopped short of calling it The Black Death, and explaining how it ran rampant through Medieval Europe.

"Well. I don't want to get sick. They don't itch. They burn."

"See the nurse when she gets here."

Yeah. Now I'm stocking my room with exotic parasites, feeding them with the blood of my captives. Right? Isn't that scenario more plausible than that of Bitee walking through her lawn on the way to the car before school, across ground where her fowl and mammalians frolic?

Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. A Jill of many trades. But not exactly a bug master.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Do You Think It's Teacheraire's Disease?

Did you know that i have been beset by a mysterious affliction?

It's true. I suppose the onset has been so insidious that my illness crept up on me without notice. I believe I must be a rare case. Perhaps one of you might volunteer to search the Annals of External Medicine to find documentation of a similar malady.

Surprisingly, I suffer from no symptoms! But apparently, I have lost my ability to detect changes in the ambient temperature. And I can no longer sense sound waves with my eardrums.

I was diagnosed by roving bands of adolescents.

"It's hot in here!"

"It's cold in here!"

"Your projector is making a noise!"

See? It's a good thing they're so helpful, those adolescents. Or I might not know what goes on in my classroom.

Now that I am aware of the temperature issue, I can leave my class unattended while I climb up on the roof to work on my heating/AC unit. That's the only way to remedy the situation, you know. Because even the students are aware that all classroom thermostats are locked, and cannot be adjusted by mere teachers. I need to start working out. Climbing up on the roof every hour will be quite draining, I fear.

As for the projector noise, I shall require a ladder to reach that ceiling-mounted hooligan. He must be taught a lesson. That growling is not permitted, no matter how turned on he may be. I shall dismember him, and dispose of his croaker, that inconsiderate electronic picture-shiner! That's what they want, I suppose. Why else would they clamor about a noise every day?

Perhaps I should step across the hall to the behind-the-scenes cafeteria entrance, to inquire as to whether too many cooks really spoil the broth, and to ask:

"Do too many unlicensed adolescent physicians spoil the fake diagnosis?"

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Do Your Forelock Curls Lose Their Shape On The Pillowcase Overnight?

Today was the day my dear sweet Pony has been waiting half a year for. The first meeting of the Greater Newmentia Brain Trust and Smartypants Association. Or, as some of the unenlightened call it: academic team.

There was a prance in his step this morning. The Pony was definitely feeling his oats. His tousled mane has gone curly again, having grown without cutting ever since his unfortunate shearing last spring. Each morning, I douse his forelock with kitchen sink water, to restore the curls that have stretched out of shape on the pillowcase overnight. This morning, they twisted just right. He had the head of a Roman statue, but with soft hair, not marble hair.

This afternoon, he dashed up the hall to bring his lunch bag to my room. "I'm going now. To my meeting." He was off like Man-O-War out of the starting gate. Ignored my command to STOP RUNNING. The Pony wove in and out of his fellow students like a champion cutting quarter horse. Or, as kids pronounce it around here, a champion cutting carter horse. Away, toward the library, surging like Secretariat down the home stretch.

His coach told him that he'd play JV and Varsity during the first two tournaments. Practice is every Wednesday after school.

The Pony is chomping at the bit. About the double duty with both teams, he said, "Fine with me. Maybe I can get my name on both banners."

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

One Of These Days, My Big Mouth Is Gonna Get Me In Trouble

The Pony has a friend who is a cool guy, but a bit on the pale side. He's quite fair. Translucent, almost. Like a vampire victim at dawn. Ghosts standing next to him would look tanned. Maggots would recoil at his hue. He is obviously a descendant of a cave-dwelling people who were not exposed to ultraviolet light for centuries. Cave-dwelling people just shy of losing their eyes for lack of usage in the dark depths. His shed skin cells could be used to make reflective paint suitable for striping the Channel Tunnel connecting France to England. If he were to partake of a nocturnal hang-glide, he would light up the night sky like Comet Hale-Bopp.

The dude is light-complected.

The Pony wanted McDonald's after our trip to The Devil's Playground on Sunday. We waited in line for quite some time. The Pony fiddled with his laptop in the seat behind me. I tried to make small talk, only to be met with "uh huh" and "yeah" and "sure." I was not about to waste T-Hoe's precious fluids by running the engine while in line. I restarted to inch forward at the speed of a lame Galapagos Tortoise.

A family chose to exit on the same side of the establishment as the drive-thru lane. They crossed our queue several vehicles ahead of us, their red-headed teenage daughter trailing behind. "Would you look at that! That girl is whiter than your buddy! Look at her! She's like...your buddy to the 100th power! The sun cannot look directly at her! Snow above the Arctic Circle at high noon on the summer solstice looks like tar in comparison! A single skin cell glued to the end of a dowel rod, pointed toward the heavens, could signal a civilization on the opposite side of the universe that life exists here!

I felt T-Hoe vibrate as The Pony shifted in his seat. I caught his eye in the mirror as he looked up and spoke. "You realize, don't you, that your windows are down?"

Monday, September 9, 2013

Disgrace With The Devil

Salads will kill you. It's true.

Don't be thinking that a salad is a healthy alternative to an all-you-can-eat visit to Schmidt's Sausage Haus. Salad is no blushing ingenue, pure as the driven snow, fortifying your body with essential vitamins and fiber. Salad has an evil side.

Take a look.

What's that, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom? Is it your dinner? A diet plate of miniscule proportions? A slice of sausage for needed protein and fat, bedded on a ripped whole-grain tortilla for a carbohydrate serving, with a lettuce leaf on the side? NO!

That's a dadgummed rotten lettuce core! Beside a wilted leaf of lettuce! From a Caesar Salad purchased at The Devil's Playground. Yesterday. Not expired. Allegedly fresh.

Once again, the universe AND THE DEVIL conspire against Mrs. Hillbilly Mom. I pity the fool who digs into his Devil's Playground salad without sorting through the detritus hidden under the top layer.

If I wanted to play 1960s house, and buy a head of lettuce and rip it up myself in order to make a tasteless iceberg salad, I would have bought my own head for less than the cost of this prepared, gourmet salad. I did not know romaine was rotten to the core.

No wonder the People of The Devil's Playground look the way they do. Obviously, they are not eating the salad. I know that. Because they're still alive.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

I Sense A Theme Developing

Huh! Seems like only yesterday that I was astonished by Farmer H's inability to follow directions. Today, he might just have crossed that last 'T' in incompetent.

Frig has been having issues. He's been clogged. Unable to shoot out ice cubes. His plumbing is out of whack. At first, Farmer H accused me of fabricating Frig's constipation. After four days, two ice droppings, and a consultation with world-renowned pioneer in the field of ice-maker transplants, Dr. Chris...Farmer H announced that he did not feel qualified to router out Frig's circulatory system, but would attempt another transplant.

Farmer H left for Lowe's while The Pony and I were traipsing through The Devil's Playground. It was a welcome respite from dodging irate drivers who took offense to crosswalk protocol. Thank the Gummi Mary, I held The Pony back to let one car go by. A car of young men shouting, "Get across the road already!" to a white-bearded man in jeans, work boots, and a denim shirt. I'm sure they would have run him down, if not for the car in front of them honoring the crosswalk code. No cars were near as we exited. Halfway across the striped lines, a red sedan flew past the stop sign marking the crosswalk zone. It cut in front of us, nearly trimming The Pony's hoofs and my toenails, and roared up the row where we were parked. A teenage girl sat in the back seat, looking forlorn and embarrassed. It probably did not help her self-esteem to hear me holler, "Whatever happened to stopping at the crosswalk?" as they gassed their gas hog into our de-motorized zone.

Farmer H called us on the way back to the Mansion. He wanted to know what brand of refrigerator we have. Um. FRIGIDAIRE! How can he not know how Frig got his name? Then he called back and asked for the model number. Silly me. How dare I not remember it, like a social security number for my silver buddy Frig. As soon as we carried in the groceries, The Pony texted Frig's vital statistics to Farmer H.

You would think a man going to buy a replacement ice-maker might make sure he knew what kind of ice-maker he was going to replace. Wouldn't you?

Saturday, September 7, 2013

What Is It With Men And Directions?

Dreams are funny. One minute, you're digging post holes, telling Farmer H not to buy a new truck, and laying out the street plan for your post-apocalyptic community...and the next, you're punching a time clock to shoot pr0n with Joe Francis, the Girls Gone Wild guy, who wistfully tells you he's always wanted to be part of a team.

But enough about dreams. Let's talk about a nightmare.

I was readying some boneless chicken breasts for the oven. My glasses were not readily available. I wanted to check the oven temperature, because believe it or not, I don't walk around with proper cooking temperatures for various meats on a chart in my brain. The Pony prefers his chicken shook-and-baked. Don't tell him, but I simply sprinkle the seasoning on top, because I'm lazy. Shaking on the lemon pepper for Farmer H is about as much effort as I'm willing to expend.

Farmer H was standing by the kitchen door, ready to blow/fly this pop stand/chicken coop for the manly task of treating and covering Poolio for the winter. "Hey! Look on here and see what temperature I should bake this at." I handed him the Shake-N-Bake box, even pointing out the side with the instructions.

"Cook 45 minutes for bone-in chicken."

"No. Not that."

"Cook 20 minutes without bone."


"Cook to 165 degrees."

"No. That's the internal chicken temperature."

"Quick prep. Wash chicken..."

"No! Find the temperature to preheat the oven!"

"Heat oven to 400..."


Bless their little pea-pickin', simple-minded hearts. So nice to look at as shirtless construction workers in a Diet Coke commercial, yet so useless for practical life-skills applications.

Friday, September 6, 2013

What It Takes To Get Into College These Days

When we last convened, The Pony had a meltdown of laptop proportions. He came to tell me that he'd figured out why his laptop wouldn't hold a charge. The problem was most likely related to the smoke that started pouring out of the wire near the laptop insertion. I figured we were going to be needing a new laptop charger. I told The Pony to call or text the #1 son and ask if he knew where we could get one. We're like the Geico cavemen living under rocks when it comes to our electronic play-pretties.

#1 did not know where we could get a Samsung charger. He said there were universal chargers that might work, but they cost more. I tried searching on Amazon, but could only find the kind that swore they were Samsung replacements for only $16, yet reviewers proclaimed that they were, in fact, SaNsung, and melted after three days.

The Pony hoofed it down the stairs, after texting near the front living room window, where we get our only Sprint reception.

"Well, I know how #1 got accepted into college now! After I told him that my laptop cord started smoking, and it melted, he texted me back."

"Yeah. It's probably not a good idea to use that anymore."

Some might call him a genius, I suppose.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Steaming And Powerless

We are operating in crisis mode here at the Mansion. I HAVE NO ICE! Frig is on the fritz in the freezer compartment. No grinding, no clunking, no dice. No ice. I have reset that contraption until my thumb has flattened to silver dollar size. To no avail. Each peek into the frosty depths reveals the same disappointment.

Farmer H still declares that nothing is wrong with it. Uh huh. Everybody has a built-in ice-maker that lays dormant for 48 hours. Resting, I suppose. Or judgmentally declaring that one only needs so much ice, and then it's time to give it a rest. I stopped at the gas station chicken store this evening and filled my 44 oz. cup to the brim with ice, and drizzled in a few tiny droplets of Diet Coke. So as not to spoil the ice. Oh, I could buy a bag of ice, and fill the hopper with it. But that would melt when Farmer H takes out the hopper to work on the ice-making unit. And I don't have room for a bag of ice in my freezer.

The Pony has been having trouble with his laptop. It's less than a year old. But it won't charge unless he holds the cord JUST RIGHT. It's a regular Goldilocks of chargers, seeking a self-serving medium. I asked if he had another charger, but he said the others won't work. So species-specific, those electronic gewgaws. I offered to order him a new one, if he could only tell me what kind. Alas...we rely on the #1 son for our hardware needs. And he's not readily available. The Pony is not sure if the problem lies in that charger or his laptop.

A few moments ago, The Pony came trotting to my office, kicking up his heels with glee. "I found out what's wrong with my laptop! It really IS the charger. It started to smoke, so I pulled it out of the wall right away. Look at this!" The wire next to that fat plastic part that holds the metal pointy thing that jabs into the round hole in the laptop was dangling by a few fibers. I am not sure that product was tested adequately. It's not Ponyproof.

Don't you worry about Mrs. Hillbilly Mom and The Pony. I have my 44 oz. cup of Diet-Coke-flavored ice, and The Pony has two old laptops with their own chargers. We will survive.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Even Steven Is Out Of Control

I'd better win the PowerBall jackpot tonight. Or at least four dollars.

Even Steven is out of control. I woke up from a recliner nap at 1:45 a.m., with a thumping headache. It lasted through my night's sleep, and welcomed its best friend nausea to the party. I could hardly function. It's a downright chore trying not to vomit up your morning medicine. After a breakfast of two stale saltine crackers, I headed off to school. Without my delightfully cold bubba cup of ice and Hillmomba well water. Frig was on the fritz in the icemaking department last night. No ice at the bin. Move along.

In the middle of first hour, the fire alarm went off. It was not a drill. A girl in the front row screamed, "We're all going to die!" We did not. Even though I felt like it, parading my pounding head and churning stomach around the blacktop parking lot for 13 minutes in the brightest sunlight of recorded history.

Lunch was marred by the mouthful of gristle hidden in my wafered ham sandwich, brought from home. And a grape rolling across the floor to our table that did not seem to raise a question in those non-headachy members of my dining crew. Like a grape just happens to set out on its own, on a pilgrimage to the teacher table.

Club meetings ruled the afternoon. I had the good sense not to require work missed be made up. It was not a crucial assignment.

I talked The Pony into having Domino's for supper. Yeah. I still had the strength to twist his arm. We called it in. Arrived five minutes early. And The Pony went inside and sat for ten minutes. Or more. I saw him looking at me through the window. It was only 88 degrees outside, where I warmed my heels in my black T-Hoe. I either leaned my head back in weakness, or lost consciousness for a few moments. The Pony startled me awake by slamming the door.

"They made a mistake! So we have an extra pizza! They forgot to make it half cheese, and put toppings on the whole thing, and now we have a whole cheese pizza!" Nothing excites a Pony like getting an already half-price weekday pizza for free. He was even more excited after swigging Dr. Pepper, bought from the school vending machine, laced with caffeine, because I was not planning on my 44 oz. Diet Coke, and neither of us wanted to go in a convenience store for a Sprite.

Then I remembered that PowerBall is about $149 million tonight. So I went to the gas station chicken store anyway. And since I was going it, I decided that a refill of mostly ice, with a tiny bit, maybe 14 oz., of Diet Coke, might make me feel better. So I strode confidently inside, clutching my 44 oz. cup like a crutch, and was greeted by the clerk who was recently moved to chicken, but back at the main counter, like I was Norm entering Cheers. Then I saw them. Six homemade signs on six sheets of printer paper taped to six sections of the two soda machines. BACKROADS BOIL ORDER.

There was no ice and no Diet Coke!

I screamed, "NOOOOOO!" The clerk felt my pain.

"Sissy [another clerk] has been coming in here all day, drinking sodas, and she's not sick."

"Oh. I've already been sick today. So I'm not going to chance it." I bought my ticket and left. Funny how I'd forgotten about reading of the water main break by backhoe, and the ensuing boil order. Oh, well. I would have a can of regular Coke at home. And a cup full of ice water, after setting that contrary Frig contraption on extra ice this morning when we left.

Uh huh. I pushed my cup up to the lever, and only air came out. Air and grindy noises. I looked inside. Four half-moon cubes stuck together in the hopper. A couple of others. I knocked them out. At least I would have that little four-pack and friends in my cup after I changed clothes. Farmer H came in early. I told him the ice maker wasn't working. I heard him open it up, and declare that it was fine. Same old routine. "You told me it was broken before, and I put in a new unit. Now you say it's broken again." Funny how he didn't mention the part in between. The part where it WORKED after the new unit was put in. And now it doesn't.

I changed clothes and went back for my ice. I pulled out the bin to grab it, lest any wedges be shaved coming out the lever-hole. THEY WERE GONE! I have a feeling Farmer H saw them, said, "Huh." And tossed them in the sink. If it weren't for bad luck, I'd have no luck at all.

I kind of feel like Even Steven owes me one.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Do Not Ridicule Sal Monella

I have a confession. My name is Mrs. Hillbilly Mom...and I'm a skimmer.

Don't go jumping to conclusions. It's not good for your joints. You'll have to get some of that Dr. Frank's dog arthritis medicine that you drip into your water to give you the joints of a pup again.

No, I'm not skimming money and stashing it in a sock in the Mansion backyard so I can still afford 44 oz. Diet Cokes on rainy days. I don't hang out at swimming pools to drag that long-handled net across the surface to snag a bucketful of bugs for classroom experimentation. I am not skimming fat from the top of beef or chicken broth.

I'm a skimmer. Have to be. I grade upwards of 100 student papers per day. I know the key words to look for in each answer. I don't farm out my work to pets, or deal it out like bingo cards for students to check each other's work. I grade. Every. Single. Paper. Every day. I have a good system. I'm thorough. We run through the answers the next day as a review, and in case I've made a counting error. But as far as poring over each and every word of an answer...that's not gonna happen. I'm a skimmer.

I have a good rapport with most students. Some agree to disagree, but it's a respectful truce. So imagine my surprise when I read an answer today to the question: "Name three things you would like to learn about biology." Stashed among the how sunscreen works, how life begins, how pollution affects species, how frogs can have extra legs, effects of hormones in food, and how garbage affects species in the ocean...I found THIS.

"I'd like to find out how to kill you."

Yikes! That was harsh! I looked to see whose paper that was. And to my surprise, it came from the salmonella crier. The gal who cried salmonella. I don't know why. But she came in stating it over and over. Salmonella. That she had just come from the cafeteria might have been a clue. However, I was not serving up hot dishes of salmonella today. So I figured it had nothing to do with me. I might have even made a little joke about it. And we laughed. Oh, how that worm had turned.

Seriously. This was something that must be reported. I've not been so taken aback since my first year here, when a student answered a question with, "Suck it!" Oh, dear. I took that one straight to the principal on my plan time. And do you know what he said? Of course you don't, unless you were some creepy Mrs. Hillbilly Mom stalker all up in her business, making a mockery of the facets of confidentiality. He said to me, "Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, are you a wrestling fan?" Huh. Not since I was a kid, when I watched Wrestling at the Chase on Sunday mornings, right after Roller Derby. "Well, Mrs. Hillbilly Mom, there's a wrestler who chants this phrase. Even holds the microphone out to the crowd to chant it back at him. I'm betting our boy is a wrestling fan, and didn't know the answer, and is just seeing if you follow wrestling. But I'm still going to put in a call to his parents."

This was different. It was no mere sports fan. Somebody wanted to find out how to kill me! Maybe or maybe not with salmonella! I made a note to beware of gift reptiles like tiny turtles. And homemade raw-chicken snacks.

After the initial shock was offset by my sudden rush of adrenaline, I peeped at that answer again.

"I'd like to find out how diseases kill people."

Oh. That's very different. Perhaps I should dial my perusing speed back a notch. And stop seeing conspiracies on every page.

There's a little Emily Litella in all of us.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Short Cuts Are Made To Be Taken

I made some poor man's potato salad today. Or maybe it's poor woman's potato salad. But some might consider it rich woman's potato salad. I make a really good potato salad. This was not it. Oh, it's serviceable, as potato salads go. Better than a store-bought potato salad, all sickly sweet and slimy and pale yellow. But still. Not up to my regular standards.

I was not about to spend my Labor Day sweating over food. That's a man's job, by cracky! Farmer H fired up the old black kettle Weber, not Gassy G, to grill pork steaks. I knew he was not going to make potato salad. And I was not in the mood to boil and peel potatoes, boil and peel eggs, and chop them and douse them with mustard and mayo and diced dill pickle and onion. So I thought of a shortcut.

Today was the weekly Devil's Playground shopping trip. I tossed in some canned whole potatoes, and a packet of six already-boiled and peeled eggs. After putting the groceries away, I rinsed off those potatoes from their can juice as best I could, and sliced them along with three of the eggs. I dumped in my other ingredients, tasted, filled two recycled hot & sour soup containers with it, and set it on the top shelf of Frig for the flavors to marry. I must say, it turned out remarkably well for a short-cut side dish. Just a little moist from the canned potatoes.

So we feasted on BBQ pork steaks, potato salad, slaw, and fresh strawberries. A meal fit for the Emperor of Hillmomba.

Oh, the other three eggs made egg salad for lunch, on 15-grain Pepperidge Farm bread. It's a new product to our Mansion. It will be invited back.

Another Labor Day. Twelve days closer to the end of the school year.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Made In The Shade Like A Cool Cucumber

If you can believe the weathermen, which I usually do, except for snow day purposes, we are nearing the end of this heated hotness in Hillmomba. Thank the Gummi Mary, there have been no power outages so far.

It was so hot on Thursday that I saw a tiny chihuahua (as opposed to those giant chihuahuas we usually have running all willy-nilly through Hillmomba) laying in the shade. Not that chihuahuas of any size are expected to be immune to the heat. This little fella had his usual yard rope stretched from the porch column across the lawn. I think his family puts him out on the rope when they go to work in the morning. He doesn't have a house, and the yard isn't worn bare. I think he's really a house dog, but must misbehave when alone, and they don't have the heart to put him in a crate during the day. Or maybe that's just wishful thinking, projecting my ideas concerning chihuahua care onto others. But here's the point I was trying to make about that tiny chihuahua laying in the shade:


Yes. Only a chihuahua could find cool sanctuary in a strip of nine-inch-wide shade. I don't even think I could have cooled my brow in such a shadow. If the power goes off here at the Mansion, and I feel trapped in my basement lair like a hermit crab buried in the campfire coals inside his squatter's shell, I shall need to seek shelter out of doors, in the shade.

I wonder how long it would take one of those dump trucks to get here from the Mesabi Iron Range in Minnesota.