The Ghost

This old farmhouse was a place of life and love. Now it’s just a ghost.

This old farm house, now abandoned, falling apart from the mistreatment of the previous occupants, is a ghost. I recall there was so much life in this house. It was the home of a family — a father, mother, and three girls. Now it is only an empty shell.

As far as I know, the Deans built it in the first half of the 20th Century. I seem to remember a mark somewhere on the concrete with a name and a date. But that memory has long departed. The father and mother bought the house and surrounding farm sometime in the 1950’s.

There they raised three girls, one of whom became my wife. I had no idea when I first met them. Neither did they… I was just a boy from California.

One morning, not long after we moved to the place just west from them, the two younger girls walked up past our place. Dad and I were headed out to work on fence on the tractor. At 15-years old, I was not (yet) much interested in girls, so I paid little mind.

But Dad would not let it go. He nudged me with his elbow, “What do you think, son?” he asked with a nod towards the two girls, a smile on his face and a gleam in his eye.

“They sure grow them big back here,” was my terse response. Dad laughed and laughed as we rolled down the road on that old Case tractor.

I do not recall exactly how my relationship with that family first developed. I know I eventually met them and the oldest became the object of my affection. I started helping Wife’s dad in the hayfield the best I could, given I was not a big boy. But I could help load the bottom tier of hay and I could drive a tractor. I could help pitch bales off the wagons and trailer. And I did.

I spent a lot of time in that house. Moreso as I became part of the family.

After Wife and I married, we spent a lot of time in that house. She loved her family, as did I. When I was at university in Rolla, during hay season I would head out to the farm after my university obligations were finished and start in the hayfield. I learned to rake hay into windrows so Dad could run the bailer. Once he started bailing, I would get the other tractor and a wagon or trailer and start picking up the bails. We left the outer row for after Dad finished bailing because those bails were always extra heavy and took two men to lift them to the trailer.

The youngest of the three sisters sometimes drove the tractor. It was better if Wife did not.

This path is cut through the garden plot of the old farmhouse. In it my family grew vegetables for the table. There was even a small strawberry patch that yielded a few berries every year. Now it is only a mess of weeds.
I sure enjoyed the meals and fellowship of that time. Mom was such a great cook and Dad and I shared a lot of laughs while we ate supper and rested for a few minutes before heading back to the field to finish the job.

I recall watching the women cleaning up after supper one evening, all with the backs turned to us. “I can sure see the family resemblence,” I mentioned to Dad. He said nothing, but howled with laughter, slapping his knee as he sometimes did.

Somehow I survived. Perhaps they did not hear me.

After our first child was born, we spent a week or two with Mom and Dad so Mom could help with Daughter. Wife was recovering from her C-section and we had no idea of what we were doing.

I was convinced that I would never sleep again. We were up every couple of hours dealing with a colicky baby.

One night Wife checked Daughter and then headed for the lavatory. Of course, Daughter began screaming as soon as Wife departed. I sat on the edge of the bed, doing my best to comfort Daughter, knowing she wanted to be fed.

Mom stepped to the door and exclaimed “Oh, David!” noticing me sitting there in the tighty-whities. Exhausted and never having been very modest, I turned to her and said “I’m covered and I don’t care. I’m just not sure what Daughter needs…” The thought occurred to me that it was not like Mom had never seen a man before. She came over and retrieved Daughter to check her, comfort her, and walk the floor a bit. I think I fell back asleep.

After our initial foray into parenthood, we returned to our apartment. When Wife had to return to work, Mom spent part of her days at our apartment and we took Daughter out to the farm on other days. Daughter spent a lot of time with her grandma and grandpa and I still think that was a good thing.

Soon came graduate school and Older Son. My mom and dad moved from the farmhouse up the road to Kansas City where Dad worked. So we moved into the farmhouse while I worked on a Master’s degree.

We spent a lot of time with Mom and Dad. Dad and I worked the hayfields in the summer and cut heating wood in the fall and winter. We hunted and fished whenever possible.

My in-laws were the most supportive people I have ever known. They were, and are, just as much family as my blood.

Soon university ended and it came time to work, so we moved to where the work was. But we were always drawn back to that old farmhouse where the family lived. Holidays were almost always spent there. I made sure that Wife and kids got plenty of time there with the family every summer. I would take a couple of days, drive them all there, visit as long as I could, then return home to work.

I have always loved the view of this hayfield across from the old farmhouse. I cannot recall how many times I saw white-tail deer at the far treeline. I also cannot recall the number of bumblebee nests we found in the field while making hay.
There was so much life and love in that old house.

Later, Mom and Dad decided to put a manufactured house on a basement just up the road from the old farmhouse. They wanted a little more modern place and they loved the spot next to the pond. So they rented out the old farmhouse. The new place became the gathering point for family and friends and served just as well.

But I still loved that old farmhouse. I loved the view of the field across the county road.

As Mom and Dad grew older, it came time to move to town where there was not so much work. Eventually, they needed more care and that involved another move.

Now Mom is gone. She lived her life on her terms and we all love her and miss her. I expect Dad will follow soon enough, missing his beloved as much as he does. When he goes, a great hole will be left in the world as the two of them lived their faith; they did not talk about it.

As I stood at gate to the yard of that old farmhouse, I saw the derelict it is and the vital home it was superposed in my mind. I made the image as a testament to the family that lived and grew there. But the old house is no longer that vital place; it is only a ghost that contains all those memories.

2020 Hawaii and Ohio QSOPs

At the end of my radio ops, Sera and I took a walk around the Pine Nut Mountains knoll where I like to operate. The sky was filled with smoke.

Saturday was both the 2020 Hawaii and Ohio QSO Parties. After our morning walk, The Girl and I rested a bit. After waking, I decided to go out to one of my perches in the Pine Nut Mountains. I wanted to play radio a little and be outdoors.

Lately I have eschewed outdoor activities beyond those necessary. The California fires are impacting our air quality and I really do not want to breathe a lot of smoke. But Friday and Saturday were a little better and I was tired of being indoors. So we headed out mid-afternoon on Saturday for some additional outside time.

I set up my vertical antenna and the Elecraft KX2 with my miniPacker HF linear amplifier behind the radio. That gives me about 35w out output, which should be enough for either phone or code operations if propagation is decent.

I know the antenna well enough that I can set it for the 20m and 40m bands without an antenna analyzer. I used one, of course, but I was close enough just “eyeballing” it.

I got The Girl settled on her mat next to my operating position and started listening to the 20m band. I quickly worked three loud Ohio stations. Then I heard a weaker, but readily heard station activating a park (POTA — Parks on the Air), so called him. We made the exchange although he gave me a signal report of only 22 (that’s weak and difficult to copy), but he got the information correct so I put him in my log.

I heard a few Ohio stations calling in Morse code, but none of them could hear me. But I heard HI3T calling and giving signal reports, but not identifying as one of the QSOP stations. When I checked QRZ (online database) on my iPhone, I learned this was a Dominican Republic station. He was working stations very quickly.

During a lull in the action, I sent my callsign. I was stepped on by a stronger station. I waited a few moments and sent my callsign again, during another lull. He returned my call with a signal report of 5NN (best possible signal and probably not a true sigreport). I responded with TU and 5NN (thank you and my real signal report) and he moved on to the next station.

I puttered around the bands for a little longer. I heard no Hawaii stations calling and could not work any of the others stations I could hear. So I packed up the station and The Girl and I made a walk around the knoll.

She glided from sagebrush to sagebrush, sniffing and hunting for lizards. I looked over the Carson City valley and the Prison Hill complex, thinking about the California fires and the smoke we suffered from. Fire is a natural part of the desert ecosystem. Regular burning reduces the fuel load and results in less serious fires (from an ecological perspective). Over the last century, we interfered with that natural cycle. Now wildfires have access to greater fuel loads and are very serious.

Last weekend I watched the Loyalton Fire sending smoke into the sky. This week and this weekend Carson City suffered a lot of smoke. I will be happy to see it go. But I will also be happy to know that the fires are under control and extinguished because I read the heartache they cause for those affected by them.

That’s my Wolf River Coils vertical antenna in front of a very smoky Mount Scott in the background.

Getting After It!

Older Son and The Girl played hard that January 2018 morning. She loved him, he loved her, and I love them both. She loved to play with her people.

One morning nearly three years ago, DiL, Older Son, The Girl, and I headed over to the Station 51 park for a morning outing, to get some exercise, and to enjoy the winter Sun. I carried my Sony A7R with the old Vivitar Series 1 70-210mm f/2.8-4.0 zoom lens. That old lens is legendary in its price-performance ratio. Vivitar had some excellent designs that competed with the factory glass and this was one of those lenses. (I believe this is one of the Komine builds.)

I was fortunate that The Girl and Older Son played so I could make a few captures. Little did I know that in a couple of years The Girl would fade and die over the period of a few months. I am so glad that I made images of her with me and our family and her doing doggie-things over the time we were together. She was my constant companion and a huge part of my life.

I will always miss her. The New Girl (now known just as The Girl — why not?) is quickly becoming a big part of my life as well. She is not a replacement, being a completely different and unique being. But we are building a life together and our relationship is similar, but different, in the way that relationships between different individuals are, well, different.

In any event, I am so grateful that I had Ki in my life all those years. I am grateful for how she integrated into my family and watched over each of us in her own way. I am particularly grateful (and I know I go on about this) for Ki’s overwatch of Wife while she was so ill.

Ki may be gone, but she will never be forgotten nor will her love ever be lost. We will be together at the Rainbow Bridge, when my time comes.

Ants

I have problems with these little buggers every summer. They invade the house, hunting for sweets. Terro will get them.

Every summer I have been in my little place, these small black ants have invaded. They usually invade the kitchen, looking for sweets.

Some years ago, someone recommended Terro Ant Killer for the little buggers. When I researched it, I learned it is just Borax, which is non-toxic to humans and dogs. So that is what I use.

I really dislike killing them. I do not care to kill God’s creatures unless necessary for the most part.

There are a few exceptions to this rule — Black Widow spiders and wasps in my house or around my house die as soon as I see them. I have had too many bad encounters with those (in the house). Away from the house, I leave them alone. Sometimes a wasp will get after me. If they will not leave me alone, they die.

This year, the little black ants have invaded my living room. I did not notice them until one of them bit me. Their bite is not bad, just a small pinch that I noticed. So, I tracked them down and found them running across the top of one of the rear channel speakers. It took me a bit to track down my supply of Terro and put out some of the poison.

If they had left me alone, I would not care if they were in the house. But they became an irritant so now they have to go.

I still do not care to kill them. But I do not know of another way of making them go away. So, they will have to die. Pity.

Healing

I don’t remember who made this capture. The composition is not the best, but it is one of my favorite shots of us together.

The Girl has been gone for a week. Her death was a big hit and I was unprepared. I honestly expected her to return to me alive and ready to get on with life after she healed. I knew there were risks associated with the surgery, but I thought they were manageable.

I was completely and deadly wrong. I think that was as big of a blow as her departure. I was simply caught off-guard. The suddenness of her departure shocked me. I am still shaking my head as I think about it.

But, the hole in my heart is healing. I still miss her and there will be tears yet to come. I have lots and lots of good memories and am confident I did the best I could for her and by her all these years.

Older Son and I have been telling Ki stories all week. We are remembering all the funny things that she did, some of the idiot stunts she pulled, and how interactive with all of us she was. We are celebrating her life and our life together.

My how The Girl loved French fries and tater tots! Whenever I stopped for a quick sandwich, she would watch over me as I ate. I always shared my fries or tots, taking one or two for myself and offering her a couple. When we were traveling alone, she sat shotgun and would patiently wait for her treat.

She loved ice cream, too. I shared many cones, blizzards, and shakes with her over the years. If there was a little left at the bottom of the cup, she would stick her jaw into the cup and lick out the bottom. This was a never-ending source of levity for me and those around me.

I remarked to Older Son this afternoon, as we sat in the parking lot near Dairy Queen on the way home from a long walk, that I always held back a bite or two of my sandwich for her. She would wait patiently for me to finish, then *munch* the remainder.

She learned quickly to be gentle. If she was grabby, then I would palm whatever it was and make her try again. She had a very soft mouth, such that I could put a fry in my mouth and she would gently take it from me.

She was such a great companion. I miss her warmth next to me at night. I miss waking with her next to me and giving her a little pat or a stroke when I woke. She will be missed, but I have no regrets about our life together, save that it was not long enough. I did my best for her and she had a great life, much better than she would have had if she had not come to live with me.

I do not have a lot of images of Ki and me together. The image above is not a good composition, but it is good enough. She had lived with us for a little more than a year. We were learning to work together. I love the image.

Soon it will be time to begin the process of finding another, not to replace her for that cannot be done. But there is another dog out there who needs me and who will be my companion in his/her forever home. We will do everything together and learn each other’s ways. It will be a good thing.

Enjoy Every Sandwich

When it’s warm in the 4Runner, many times The Girl falls asleep sitting up.

One of my favorite musicians, Warren Zevon, said some time before he died, “enjoy every sandwich.” Those words struck true to me when I read them (and saw the interview in which he shared them).

I cannot say that I am always successful at being so into the moment. But I am, sometimes.

Nearly a year ago, The Girl had a seizure which scared the poop out of me. I wrote about it back then, here. She recovered, mostly, and we have been living happily together and enjoying life. We walk, play, eat, love, and sleep together. It is a wonderful relationship.

Her idiopathic vestibular event frightened me — not the fear-for-my-life kind of scare, but the I’m-not-ready-for-this kind of scare.

I knew, when she came to live with us about 8-1/2 years ago, that there was a significant probability that she will die before I do. Intellectually, I am prepared for that.

As it turns out, I am not so sure I am emotionally prepared.

Last night, a little after 1900h, we had eaten and I was watching a little Netflix at my computer. I had a small cup of chocolate ice cream and a Cognac that I was enjoying for dessert. The Girl was sleeping on her bed under my worktable, as she often does in the evening. We are generally not very far apart.

I was startled by a “BLAM” and then she tumbled out of her bed onto the carpet protector under my office chair, convulsing. I kicked the chair away from us and knelt by her side. She was in a full-on seizure, paddling and foaming at the mouth.

I put my right hand on her side and began talking to her in a calm voice, projecting love and positive energy toward her as she fought herself. With my left hand, I reached up to the keyboard and stopped the stream. Then I got my phone and dialed the vet clinic, putting the phone on speaker and setting it on the table. Her rapid breathing and paddling had diminished. For a moment, I thought she was dying.

I continued to comfort her while I talked to the vet tech on the phone. She suddenly came to, as he said she would and was confused and disoriented. I simply wrapped my arms around her and held her to me while she flailed.

Once she regained her composure a little, I released her and quickly dressed. While I dressed, she bumbled about, still confused and uncoordinated. I moved the rig to the front door and carried her to the waiting, warming 4Runner.

The drive down and back was uneventful. The vet examined her, took a blood sample, and told me that if there was no metabolic abnormality it was most likely a brain tumor or lesion.

She was regaining her balance and awareness, but had some residual effect from the seizure. He indicated it should clear up in a few hours or maybe a day. He told me to be watchful for another event and to keep track. So I am now on seizure watch.

I am having a mental block on that word, “seizure.” Several times today I could not remember the word. I think it is so distasteful to me that my mind refuses to recognize the word.

I closed the bedroom door once we returned home and made a bed on the sofa. After pacing around the house (a normal post-seizure behavior) for about an hour, she hopped onto the sofa-bed and settled in.

There was no settling for me. I slept a little, but every time she moved I woke to check on her. I was in a hyper-vigilant state and did not rest much.

She slept until almost 1100h this morning. After going out and eating a little breakfast, she started asking for an outing. To be honest, sitting in the house was not doing me any good. So I drove us over to the Station 51 park and we made a couple of loops. She seemed fine, sniffing and playing like she always does.

I took advantage of the outing to reprovision the house. She seemed to tire at the grocery store, so I kept the trip as short as I could. Once home again, she stayed by me while I made a bite of lunch.

I was very tired, so I laid on the bed. It took only a few minutes before she hopped up next to me and snuggled. I put on a little music and we both slept. I slept an hour or so, she is still snoozing as I write.

I love those snuggles with The Girl. It is a wonderful thing to be so close to another being that we can share the heat our bodies generate and just enjoy being near one another. There is great comfort in that relationship. Dogs are wonderful creatures who are so intricately linked to humans that the connection baffles me.

It is unclear what the near future holds for her. I suspect the vet will adopt a watch and wait position to see if another seizure occurs. If one does, then there will be additional tests to run (probably a scan) to determine the cause and whether it can be treated. The vet suggested palliative care could be very useful and that brain tumors are generally slow growers.

In the meantime, I am reminded for Warren Zevon’s words — “Enjoy every sandwich.” I enjoy every moment I have with this wonderful creature that God brought into my life nearly nine-years ago. Last night was another reminder that life is short and it is wise to pay attention.

N.B. The image is one I captured of her a few days ago. Over the last few months, I have caught her falling asleep sitting up. She has FOMO and does not want to miss something. So she will continue to sit up even while falling asleep, much like a small human child will fall asleep sitting up and then… face-plant. She is such a hoot.

…A Day Makes

Seemingly overnight, the fall colors were gone.
A few days ago I reveled in the luscious colors of fall along the Carson River. The Girl and I walked the Mexican Ditch Trail nearly every day. Those times we could not do the long walk, we drove over to Riverview Park and made a shorter walk, but still near the river.

Then, seemingly overnight (actually a day or maybe two), the cottonwoods shed their color, but not their leaves — at least not all of them. The trees took on their winter colors, conserving their energy for the coming spring.

I love the turn of the seasons. The extremes of summer and winter are harder, but I love the change and I can keep cool or warm as the season demands. There is something magical in the seasons and when I am aware I marvel at that regular pattern and am grateful to experience it.

Winter comes… what a difference a day makes.

Delete Me From the Group…

I recently joined a Groups.io list dealing with Elecraft KX3 radios. There is a bit of traffic on this list. One of the first messages that arrived in my list folder was:

Dear Admin… Please remove me from the group….I’m heading off to the land of silent keys soon and have sold all my ham gear.

I am not sure why this short, succinct, and direct statement hit me so hard. But, there it is… the direct acknowledgment that a man’s life is ending soon. He has recognized it, accepted it, and accommodated it.

He will soon be… in the land of silent keys… where we all go.

And so it is for all of us. None of us get out alive. I hope to go with such poise and dignity when my time comes.

Wandering

This old highway atlas was one of two that I found in my cache of odd things in the garage when I sold my house. It dates from the 1980s and is seriously out of date. Yet, I used it a great deal when I was wandering a couple of years ago.

The highways are still there. It is possible to navigate without GPS. What that means is there will be wrong turns and some confusion about finding the next highway. What it also means is serendipity in finding places that I would not otherwise see.

I would pull up the rig at a turn or a turn out, roll down the windows for fresh air (if they were not already down), and pull out this atlas. I have another paper atlas that is current and has more detail, but there is something about this far-away view that attracts me. But I digress. I would find my location, more or less, and look at the highways and towns nearby. Then I would make a decision about direction and move out.

Many times on these pauses I would step out of the rig, camera or binoculars in hand, and just look around. The Girl would sniff about doing doggie-things while I did human-things.

I will keep this old atlas. I have a feeling that there will be another wander sometime in the not distant future. I might decide to put my things back into storage or just get rid of the lot. I might decide to buy an RV or a motor coach and give up a permanent place. I do not know yet. But in the meantime, this old atlas is in the rig, waiting, perhaps calling, and that wanderlust is still within me, in the background, waiting, perhaps calling.

The potential is always there.

Postscript — Six Years

As I worked through my day, a few more thoughts occurred to me. Perhaps they are worth sharing, so here goes.

The Girl and I walked more than five miles today. We had a long walk this morning down by the Carson River, which remains a favorite place. We greeted doggie-friends along the way. She had plenty of opportunities to sniff, pee, and explore her usual haunts.

On the route back to the rig, she split off on one of our favorite alternate paths, which takes us right down to the river but off the main trail. I particularly like this place and often walk this side path. But today I was ready to get home so I stayed on the trail.

She trotted our a couple-dozen yards, then turned to look at me. I know that look… “This way!” she says. But I stayed on the path, so she came running over to me, “encouraging” me to go the other way. So I played the this-way, that-way game for a bit, pretending to walk first one direction, then another.

She played, first leading me one way and then the other. After a few iterations she ran a large-circle zoomie and returned to my side, at least for a moment. Then we were back down the trail toward the staging area and the rig.

I laughed with her and played a little of the grab-ass game, with me grabbing either a little ass or a little tail. Either works and causes a big laugh from both of us. Dogs are such physical creatures and I love that about them.

I picked up a print job and a sandwich on the way home. The Girl was a little tired, but not too tired to pass the chance to beg a little of my sandwich, which I happily shared.

After lunch we had a nice nap. One of the things I love about my life is that ability to take a break and sleep for a few minutes in the afternoon. That time spent with The Girl is another small thing that gives me some joy.

We walked again in the evening, over that the old orphanage. It was a beautiful winter afternoon, with a few clouds, some sun, not much wind, and 55F. I noticed Squirrel’s memorial as we passed and thought about all the things I wrote earlier in the day. I spent some time praying as I walked and remembered Wife’s life as well.

These thoughts passed as the sun fell behind the Sierra Nevada and we returned to the rig. I elected to treat myself to supper and drove out to Applebee’s. I have not had a steak in a long time and wanted one. So, that’s what I did. The Girl worked for me and spent her time under my table, as good as always.

So, now we are home again. I ate all the steak, so I got out a Greenie after we got home, made her work for it, and then treated her. She earned it. And now she is sleeping under the table next to me.

As I sat in the restaurant, I recalled Becky’s comment and how I went to a grief group a couple of times. The hospice sent me a couple of invites after Wife died. I resisted at first, but then decided “what the hell” and went.

The first meeting was very small. There was a couple of women, another man, and me. The group leader went through her materials. We talked a little about our grief. Then the leader offered a few things and we broke up.

The second meeting was different. There were a lot more women, maybe ten or twelve. Then there was that other man and me. The dynamic was different, although I would be pressed to describe why and how. It was just different. I then realized practically something I knew intellectually — men and women process their grief differently. I realized that the other man (a bit older than me) was stuck. He was not going to move through his grief until he either learned to let go or got professional help. The women were not going to be much help to me.

When the meeting broke, I walked out of the hospice center where it was held. My back was straight and turned to the exercise and I knew I would not return. It was not right for me. I was doing what I needed to do to process my grief and the group was not going to help me with that.

And so it was. I did not go back. I read my books for advice. I did the work. I knew that no one else would be able to do that work for me. It was mine and mine alone to do. So, that is what I did.

Becky’s friends who recently lost loved ones have a hard path to walk. I do not envy them that path, but I know that can traverse what is before them, do the work, and be healed. Their loss will suck, it will continue to suck, it will always suck, but the suck will decrease with time and work (hat tip to Jim for that one). They will be stronger for doing the work. I pray that they can.

In reflecting on my day I realize how blessed and thankful I am. I have more than I need and about all that I want. My dog and I spend a lot to time together. I have enough work to pay my bills and then some. The work keeps me intellectually engaged. The dog keeps me emotionally and spiritually engaged. I am blessed. I am grateful.