Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Ode To a Root Canal

As I type this, I’m just now beginning to get feeling back in the lower-right section of my face. I just got back from a root canal. For some time now, I’ve been having a good deal of pain with one of my teeth. I was prolonging going to the dentist as much as possible because I’m a cheapskate and every once in a while my teeth problems take care of themselves.

But Christmas is approaching and a significant part of my holiday celebrating involves feasting on delicious food. Especially certain items we only have this time of year. I really don’t know why that is. If we like certain foods why do we have to wait until Christmas to enjoy them?

But I digress, (I do that, don’t I?) The pain was approaching unbearable levels and actually drove me to tears last week before I finally went to the dentist. If I was ever going to enjoy eating and drinking again something had to be done.

So I went in to have things looked at. The pain had gotten so bad I could no longer isolate it to one individual tooth. The whole right side of my mouth was in agony. This meant the dental visit involved tapping, scraping, and rubbing with ice each individual tooth so they could determine which tooth was causing the problem.The verdict was a root canal and then an eventual crown to hold all the repair work together.

I would have been more scared if I hadn’t already had a root canal several years ago. It is a very involving procedure taking around 90 minutes on average, but not much worse than a good-sized filling. And to be able to enjoy food and hot or cold drinks again, was well worth 90 minutes of agony.

My appointment was set up for this week. I’ll try to spare most of the gore for those of you with squeamish stomachs, but if you’ve never had this done, it is really quite fascinating what this involves.

First, you get copious amounts of Novocain injected. For me this is always the worst part of any dental procedure. I donate plasma twice a week and think nothing of it, but those shots in my mouth send me through the ceiling. I really hate them.

That done, they proceed to clamp a very stretchy piece of rubber over the tooth so that only the part being worked on is exposed and the rest of the mouth is covered with a stretchy raincoat. It’s not painful when they put it on, but it feels extremely weird and unpleasant.

The Novocain finishes it’s magic leaving the injected area numb and swollen. Then the fun begins. The dentist now needs to drill out the canal area and all the nerve tissue. The only difference between this and a regular filling is the drilling does go pretty deep. Novocain only does so much so as they clean out more of the interior of the tooth, they need to reapply the medicine so the process continues to be pain free.

I have to say my dentist really is a master at this. He knew exactly when to halt the proceedings and get me some more medication. I won’t go so far as to say it was a pleasant experience but he was really good at trying to make it as painless as possible.

When the excavation is complete, they proceed to fill in the cavity with an inert material. (i.e. stuff which allows me to chew without pain) Then, they took an X-ray to check the filling was complete.

They’ve got these digital pictures now so you can see the X-Ray on the screen right after they push the button. It was cool. There were three canals since it was a back tooth. It looked like the three claws on one of those crane games you see in arcades that never ever give me any stuffed animals.

And that is basically it. Eventually, I’ll need a crown but that needs to wait until next year as I’ve maxed out my coverage. I’ve got a temporary filling covering it up and that is supposed to get me through the next couple months until I can go in for the crown.

The other uncomfortable part for me is the amount of saliva I tend to generate. I seemed to have inherited an everlasting fountain in my mouth. The dentist and hygienist assured me this is a good thing and generally means fewer problems with dry mouth as I get older but it makes me feel like a slob as spit is running down both sides of my mouth.

But oh the joy when the Novocain started to wear off and my mouth felt normal again. To eat without pain is a marvelous thing. I went home that night and grilled some good sized brats. Yes, I was grilling brats in this weather. We also had some cheesy company potatoes leftover from a previous meal so I had a healthy scoop of those as well. It was amazing to be able to bite and chew again without agony.

Bring on the Christmas goodies!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

How To Assemble a Treadmill in 75 easy steps

Somehow I've gotten behind in the blog posting again. Still, I like the excuse of not having enough time better than not having anything to say. There's a few blogs I want to write, the problem is finding time to do them.

If you read my last post, I left off with the treadmill and assorted parts downstairs but nothing yet assembled. It wasn't going to be of much use to anyone until I got the thing put together. I picked up the user's manual.

My first indication of trouble was when I saw it was 35 pages divided into chapters, complete with a table of contents. But instructions are what I live for, which you would know if you've ever read my "Show Your Colors" entry.

I must admit I did have a little trepidation when I started to read. I am a firm believer in at least skimming over the whole manual (as directed) before attempting to complete any of the steps. Too many times I've gotten to a critical juncture in a process with nasty consequences because I failed to read all the instructions first.

My first sign of trouble was when I read step 21 on page 4 in the "Important Precautions" section. This step reads as follows;
"Do not attempt to raise, lower, or move the treadmill until it is properly assembled.”

Oops. If you have been reading my last few posts, you will know this treadmill has most definitely been raised, lowered, and moved extensively getting it downstairs and it most definitely HAS NOT yet been assembled properly or otherwise.

Excuse me, but what a dumb thing to put in step 21 on page 4! I do try to read manuals before assembly, but I don't always read manuals before transporting the goods to their destination. If they were really serious about people following this instruction they should have posted it in big bold letters on some fluorescent colored paper so you'd notice it right away when opening the box. You don’t put things like that on page 4, step 21.

I consoled myself with the fact that there didn't appear to be any damage to the treadmill and even if there had been it was way too late to do anything about it. Besides, the thing would have been that much heavier with all the attachments and would have been an extremely tight squeeze getting down our narrow stairway and even narrower hallway.

Before getting to step 21, I had already read step 12 which said, "Use only a single-outlet surge suppressor that meets all of the specifications described on page 12". I realized no one would be using the treadmill until I could get to Lowe's. We were fresh out of single-outlet surge suppressors meeting the specifications on page 12, and I wasn't going to power the thing up without proper surge suppression.

On to Page 5 - Before You Begin, "For your benefit, read this manual carefully before using the treadmill." Yeah, yeah, blah blah blah, next page.

"Assembly requires two persons."

"Brian, get down here!" I yelled. My son loves putting things together more than I do. If you know me at all that is really saying something.

"Assembly requires the included hex key and your own Phillips screwdriver, adjustable wrench, rubber mallet (yeah! this was gonna be fun), and scissors."

The Meissner men ventured into the garage to pick-up the required tools. Thus supplied, we moved back downstairs. I turned to Page 7.

Step 1. "Make sure that the power cord is unplugged." DUH! I couldn't plug it in (or wouldn't) until I had the single-outlet surge suppressor meeting the specifications on page 12. I read on, "With the help of a 2nd person, carefully tip the treadmill onto its left side. Partially fold the Frame (56) so that the treadmill is more stable;"

"Ok, Brian, lift." We got it on its side and I folded the aforementioned frame.

I'm still on step 1 by the way. "Remove and discard the two indicated bolts (A) and the shipping bracket (B)." The user's manual included pictures with all the parts they were referring to labeled with letters or numbers. I set Brian to work removing bolts. He immediately started to tighten the bolts rather than remove them.

So we had a quick class in the "righty-tighty, lefty-loosey" method. Meaning to tighten things you turn "Right" or clockwise, and to loosen you turn "Left," or counter-clockwise. My son is sharp, he picked up on this right away and started attacking those bolts with reckless abandon.

He sounded so cute when he shouted, "lefty-loosey!" The bolts were pretty secure, especially after he tightened them to begin with, so he also managed some pretty impressive grunts and tongue-biting while he struggled.

While Brian was working on the bolts, I read ahead, still on step 1, “Cut the shipping tie securing the Upright Wire (38) to the Base (83). Locate a tie in the indicated hole in the Base, and use the tie to pull the Upright Wire out of the hole.”

There was an electrical wire hidden inside a metal rail, supposedly to protect it during shipping, which now had to come out so you could use it. There was plastic tie that allowed you to pull the wire out of a very small hole.

Brian got the shipping bracket removed so I was able to pull out the wire. I’m still on step 1 if you’ve forgotten.

“Attach a Base Pad (81) to the Base (83) in the location shown with a #8 X 1” Tek Screw (2) and a Base Pad Spacer (13). Then attach another Base Pad (81) with only a #8 x 1” Tek Screw (2).” So evidently only one side got the Base Pad Spacer. I love instructions but this was getting a little carried away. Nevertheless, I attached the indicated base pads.

Step 2, Yeah! only 70-odd steps more to go. “Remove the 3/8” Nut (8), the 3/8” X 2” Bolt (4), and the shipping bracket (C) from the Base (83). Attach a Wheel (84) with the Bolt and the Nut that you just removed. Do not overtighten the Nut; the Wheel must turn freely. Discard the shipping bracket.”

Brian had more experience removing shipping brackets so I put him on the job. “LEFTY-LOOSEY!” he yelled. That’s my boy! I had to wipe away a brief tear I was that proud of him.

His experience showed, he got the bracket off in no time. I attached the wheel and we had great fun making sure it was in fact spinning freely. It’s the little things in life that make it worth living.

Step 3, (I bet you’re wondering if this will ever get put together) “Identify the Right Upright (78) and the Right Upright Spacer (79), which are marked with stickers. Insert the Upright Wire (38) through the Right Upright Spacer as shown. Set the Right Upright Spacer on the Base (83). Be careful not to pinch the Upright Wire.”

So I located said spacer and fed this wire through another tiny hole, of course being careful not to pinch the wire.

“Have a second person hold the Right Upright (78) near the Base (83). See the inset drawing. Tie the wire tie in the Right Upright securely around the end of the Upright Wire (38). Then, pull the other end of the wire tie until the Upright Wire is routed completely through the Right Upright.”

It was a good thing Brian was helping me. It would have taken a lot longer and I would have gotten a lot madder if I would have done this myself. As much as Brian cannot sit still, ironically, he can be a statue when he needs to hold something. He held the upright rock steady while I fished the wire through another tiny hole, attached this fishing line to it and pulled it up through the upright so I assumed it could then be attached to the control panel at the top of the machine.

All right, I’ll spare you just a few of the grisly details. Steps 4 and 6 were more of the same. We got the electrical wire fished up through the right upright, attached both uprights, and got the treadmill starting to look like it was supposed to.

We finally got to use the rubber mallet. We were both excited about that. There were these plastic caps that fit over the sharp heavy metal ends of the base. Evidently to protect your feet and any other body parts that may come into unfortunate contact with them. We each took turns whacking the plastic caps into place.

Now we had to attach the wire to the handrail assembly. Brian again proved his usefulness. I was amazed again at how I can’t get this kid to sit still in church for 5 seconds but he can stand holding these handrails without moving a muscle.

Step 7. “See the inset drawing. The connectors should slide together easily and snap into place. If they do not, turn one connector and try again. IF THE CONNECTORS ARE NOT CONNECTED PROPERLY, THE CONSOLE MAY BE DAMAGED WHEN THE POWER IS TURNED ON.

That kind of freaked me out. The last thing I wanted was for the thing to be fried as soon as I plugged it in. So I gingerly tried sliding the connectors together. I was dismayed to find out neither way resulted in them sliding together easily. The lighting isn’t very good down in the basement so I was squinting trying to see which way the ends went together.

Finally I decided one way met with less resistance than the other and slid them more forcefully together. There was no reassuring snap into place. I really had to pinch the ends together until I finally heard the satisfying “snap”.

The wire, now connected, could then be placed back into the upright so the handrail assembly could be attached. Brian, the little trooper, hadn’t moved an inch so he was very happy to be able to put the handrails on to the uprights so he could finally relax.

After attaching the handrails, we then had to hook up the console assembly that is attached to the top of the handrail assembly. Step 9 was basically a repeat of step 7 with the baloney about the connectors sliding together easily and clicking into place.

This time there were two connectors, but I was able to see a bit better in this area so I could tell how they went together. I didn’t get the satisfying click from either of these wires, but I gently pushed and pulled on them and they did seem to be locked together, so I called it good.

Step 10 turned out to be the shortest instruction, but the biggest source of grief. “Insert the wires from the console assembly into the handrail assembly. Attach the console assembly to the handrail assembly with four 1/4” X 3/4” Bolts (5). Be careful not to pinch the wires.”

Sounded simple enough, especially after what we had now gone through. I could see where the console was supposed to go and how it fit onto the handrails. The problem was where to stick the two wires. There was all this excess wire and no cavity or holes to stick them into. I couldn’t help but pinch the wires if I couldn’t find out where to put them.

The next several minutes were nothing short of torture. I messed with those wires and repeatedly tried to place the console in such a way as nothing was pinched. I could get one wire squeezed into place and then the other wire would pop out. We almost needed three people to take care of this problem. One to hold the console, and one person on each of the wires.

Finally, with luck more than anything else, I got both sets of wires squeezed into the handrails and the console dropped easily into place. I briefly thought about lifting the console just to make sure no wires were being pinched, but I knew if I did that, those wires would pop out and I’d have to go through the whole process again.

“Get the screwdriver, Brian.” Pinched wires or not, that console was getting secured.

Well, I’d had enough by that time and it was past Brian’s bedtime. Should I stop here and do a part 2 later?

All right, I’ll keep going.

In spite of there being 75 steps, we are almost done with the assembly. The next morning, Brian was in the shower so I enlisted the help of the gorgeous woman I married. Would you believe we are now on step 12? “Raise the Frame (56) to the position shown. Have a second person hold the Frame until the step is completed.”

“Ok honey, I need you to hold this.” Dee complies, and the frame is now upright in the storage/transport position.

“Orient the Storage Latch (53) so that the large barrel and the Latch Knob (54) are in the positions shown. Attach the Latch Bracket (14) and the Storage Latch (53) to the Base (83) with two 3/8” X 2” Bolts (4) and two 3/8” Nuts (8).

Attach the upper end of the Storage Latch (53) to the bracket on the Frame (56) with a 3/8” X 2” Bolt (4) and 3/8” Nut (8). Note: It may be necessary to move the Frame back and forth to align the Storage Latch with the bracket.”

So I located said Storage Latch (53) and began to fiddle with it making sure the right end was up and the holes properly aligned. Dee gave a humongous sigh. She was obviously getting tired of standing there and my facial expressions and obscure mutterings were doing nothing to instill her confidence in my abilities.

Our mornings are chaotic at best making sure all four of us are showered, dressed and made to look presentable to the world at large. Dee really needed to get back to making our middle-school daughter look beautiful and her patience was wearing thin.

After convincing myself I knew what I was doing, I attacked the storage latch with the hex key and bolts. There were three bolts, one at the top and two on the bottom. There was also a 4th bolt on the bottom which did not get tightened as that was for holding the latch in place as you raised and lowered the frame.

There was of course, no way for Dee to know this, so she immediately assumes I haven’t got a clue and exclaims, “You forgot one of the bolts!”

“Which bolt would that be exactly?” I asked. She points with her toe since her hands were busy holding up the frame.

I shouldn’t, but I immediately get defensive at any indication I don’t know exactly what I’m doing. So I was a little miffed as I tried to point out in the instructions that particular bolt was not to be tightened. She looked at me dubiously as if she didn’t believe me which turned up my thermostat a little bit more. She wisely offered no more comment.

“That’s all I needed, thank you very much honey!” Dee looked like she was afraid to let go so I took the frame and demonstrated how to raise and lower it and how the latch locked into place. She experimented with the latch herself and seemed satisfied, whew!

Would you believe we are done? There were an awful lot more instructions, but they were mostly how to operate the treadmill and control panel, various exercise programs and so on.

I made sure the whole family knew it was done but not to plug it in or turn it on until I was able to get the single-outlet surge suppressor meeting all the specifications on page 12.

I got the surge suppressor and we finally were able to power the system up. This was a big deal, we actually had a little father-son ceremony celebrating our achievement. The family agreed that Brian would be the first person to use it as he was such valuable help.

I’m pleased to say everything worked great and we are now on fitness programs. I’m sorry to say that the kids are the only ones who have used it thus far. But we’ve got really good intentions.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Peace At Last

I never got another treater. The good Lord had mercy on me and it was well with my soul.

It took awhile for me to calm down. I jumped out of my skin every time the furnace kicked in. I kept expecting that doorbell to ring at any moment, and I would have to give away one of Dee's Reese's cups. The memory continues to haunt me.

But things really became peaceful after I got the last of the smaller parts downstairs. I was able to get the bigger box down after I tilted the treadmill on it's side. So all that was left was the treadmill itself. Getting that downstairs was going to take two people.

So I settled down in the easy chair with my laptop and got caught up on some work. I still had to fill out my Lay Speaking Certification renewal form. I was waiting to make sure I successfully completed my class that weekend. I did, so I was able to start working on that.

I heard the garage door open and people disembarking from our van. I jumped up and realized the bag of Reese's was still on the steps by the door. I forgot to put away the evidence. Even though I hadn't given away a single one. Just the appearance of the bag outside it's concealed area might be enough to send Dee over the edge.

"Dad!" Brianna came in to give me a hug.

"How was the party?"

"It was so much fun, you should seen mom on the Wii."

"Mom played the Wii?" I asked incredulously. My wife gets motion sickness badly, and the huge moving screens you get when you're racing Mario go-karts, or just looking around a 3-D world can give her an instant headache. So she's somewhat limited in the games she can enjoy. Besides that, video games just aren't her thing. My several chapter blog on video games, in her opinion, was one the most boring blogs I've written.

Brianna continued, "yeah, she had to slice this fruit in the air like a Samurai warrior, it was great."

That caused me to chuckle, I pictured Dee flailing the control stick like a sword going through the air. "No one was hurt were they?"

"No, but you had to stand back a bit."

"I bet."

Dee walked in. She saw me standing in the hallway. "Hi," she said before her eyes fell to what I was holding in my hand.

Yes, unfortunately I was literally caught holding the bag. I witnessed a transformation right before my eyes. My sweet, loving wife's eyes suddenly began getting very big. I stared into them and thought I could see the laser beams charging up. "You didn't!" She sneered.

I immediately flew into panic mode, "No honey, honest, I didn't give away one." She had just been through sword training, anything was bound to happen. "I thought I was going to run out of Snickers."

"THEN YOU SHUT THE LIGHTS OFF AND LOCK THE DOOR!" Things were getting desperate.

"You can't do that!" I pleaded. I hurried to embrace her. If she was locked in a hug it might be more difficult to wield any weapons. At least the large flailing variety. "I promise no one got your Reeses." I wanted to reassure her.

"Put them back in the pantry." She said back to her calm, sweet, voice. Whew!

The sacred Reese's were put away and we visited about each others night. The party sounded like fun. The Wii went over pretty good and the antics of our church youth group are always interesting to hear. I learned there were not two, but three flatbed trailers roaming our streets that night. I can only remember 2 mobs but parts of the evening are rather fuzzy.

She described one she saw that contained a Native American chief, decked out with head dress and feathers. She said everyone else on the trailer was sitting but this kid was standing up towards the front with both hands holding on to a front side rail behind the driver. Dee described how his feathers were flowing behind him as they traveled. He looked like Chief Crazy Horse coming to lead his warriors in a charge.

I told them if they wanted to hear about my night they would have to read this blog.

Well, that treadmill still had to get downstairs. We went out to the garage to see what could be done. Very few things I've lifted are as heavy, or as awkward as treadmills. This one was even worse because it had some hinges on either side so you could tilt the running deck upward for storage and "easy" relocation.

So you basically had to carry this thing on it's side to try to keep the front heavy part from swaying back and forth. We hoisted it in the air and brought it up the few stairs into the house. Immediately I could feel the metal rails cutting into my hand. "I've got to get some gloves. Put it down." Please and thank you kind of fly out the window when you do something like this.

My gloves, of course, were in the garage, which was now blocked by the treadmill. I rushed into our coat/laundry room and rummaged through hats and scarves. All I could find was my son's little pair. I squeezed my hands into them. Tight fit but it would have to do.

We lifted again and brought it in. There was sharp 90 degree turn going downstairs so we had to go all the way into the family room, pivot, reverse and go down. Since I had the heavy side I was going down first. We had to stop in the middle of the stairs because my strength had given out. I'm not a Hulk Hogan if you catch my drift. The treadmill slid a little bit and Dee panicked because it felt to her like we were going to lose it. A heavy treadmill sliding downstairs under it's own volition is not a pretty picture.

"I got it," I breathed as I leaned against the thing, "just have to rest a bit."

This whole time my son, Brian, is following us. He likes to mutter under his breath, something we're trying to cure him of. "I knew this was going to happen." He whispered, but we heard him.

"Brian, what was going to happen?" Dee asked.

"You weren't going to get it downstairs."

"Brian, what do you think we're doing?" I fired back. "We're going to be fine."

"Yeah, after you go to the emergency room."

"We'll be fine." I repeated. "Ready?" I said to my lovely wife. She nodded.

Up again, we made it downstairs. Now we had 180 degree turn but it wasn't important that I was in front anymore so we could move all the way into the basement and then she would take the lead down the hallway into our storage, now turned exercise room.

We made it with relatively few injuries. Dee didn't make it to WalMart by the way.

Another interesting evening in the Meissner house.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Trick or Treat

Ok, here's how it went down. I'm driving back from Jamestown. Dee and the kids are gussying up for the big party they would be going to that evening. The plan was for me to come home, do trick or treat duty, and figure out how we're going to get 2 tons of treadmill down in the basement. After the party, Dee was going to bring the kids home to bed, help me muscle the 'mill downstairs, and still make it to Walmart for some much needed necessities. Getting all this done was going to take a small miracle. One way or the other, that treadmill had to get downstairs before we went to bed, otherwise my car would have to sleep outside for the night. I've grown very accustomed to having my car in the garage on chilly, frosty Fall mornings.

So, to make the best use of my time, the plan was to open the box and get as many of the smaller pieces of the treadmill downstairs, so that by the time Dee got home, all we would need to do is team-lift the monster into the bowels of our home. Granted, that was going to take some time, but having all the unpacking nonsense done would hopefully speed up the process.

These companies must hire teams of mutant elf engineers to pack everything. It continues to amaze me how tightly things can be squashed in a box. There was a very distinct dotted slicing line so I could take a utility knife and make the first incision. I did, only to uncover yet another smaller enclosed box with no guidelines whatsoever. This smaller box, was of course, taped and stapled and banded together so it was going to take some real guesswork to figure out what and where I should cut next.

This is a high-dollar piece of equipment. You may remember I DIDN'T pay the maintenance agreement. So I performed the "laying on of hands" and asked God to please allow me to cut in the correct places. I started with the corners and carefully folded down the remnants of cardboard.

Now the cardboard is all laid flat on my garage and I'm now looking at the machine itself, all packaged and banded together in the same original shape as the outside box. Just a few cubic centimeters smaller. So it will still take some major disassembly to get anything resembling small pieces out of it. DING DONG! my first guests have arrived.

TRICK OR TREAT! A pretty harmless couple of kids, they needed to work on their delivery a bit. They had somewhat staggered entrances. I dispatched a couple snickers and they were off. I looked around, no one was coming, so I shut the door and went back to the garage.

At least now I could see what I was cutting so I expertly slit the poly wrap and got my first treasures. The user manual packet and the blister package of all the screws, nuts, and bolts. DING DONG! GRRRRRR!!

So I carried those items in, laid them on the floor, and raced to the door, sliding in my socks. I hear some boys outside whispering at the top of their lungs. "SSSHHH WAIT, HE'S COMING, HE'S COMING!"

I opened the door, TRICK OR TREAT! eeehhh, about the same as the last group. 2 more snickers later and the first mob arrived.

We have some neighbors, I dare say, that go overboard on this holiday. They take four-wheelers, hitch up flat-bed trailers, and then proceed to pile on so many kids it's a danger to public safety. They then take these contraptions and start ripping around our development. We live in a cul-de-sac so the first one came tearing up the road, screeched around the curve, and slid to a stop.

I closed the door. I'm not going to spoil the fun by having it open and waiting for them as they come up. I could hear them first by the pounding of their little feet on my sidewalk. DING DONG DING DONG DING DING DING DING DING DONG! Evidently more dings give you better service.

TRICK OR TREEEEEEEEEAT!!!!! hit me like blast from a freight train. Wow, that was impressive and I told them so. Yeah's and hi-fives all around. I unloaded more snickers and as a single unit they flew from the steps. It was then I noticed our steps really trip people up. We have concrete stairs, with a row of decorative brick on the front of each step. Add to that platform shoes and all the other manner of footwear kids have to wear with their costumes these days. The footwear and rough corners of those bricks was a proving a considerable stumbling block. Here's a hint from my childhood. We dressed however we wanted, but the shoes were always tennie-runners. That's what they were for. Efficiency+Speed=Much more candy.

After the mob left, I finally noticed an extremely small, cute little fairy princess slowly making her way up my stairs. She was so small each step was like scaling a mini-Mt. Everest. I was about to comment how cute she was when I noticed tears streaming down her face. She was inhaling and exhaling, trying to use all the courage she could muster to get out a tiny little '*sniff*trick, *sniff*, or treat."

I was concerned, "What's wrong?"

*sniff* "I fell off the trailer!" *whimper, sniff*

"Oh no! are you ok?"

She inhales deeply as if to somehow make herself taller, silence, just a tough couple head nods.

"Does anything hurt anywhere?"

Finally she exhales as the gasps out, "my knee."

"You're sure you're going to be all right?"

More tough head nods, "all right," I said, "be careful now" as I tossed in another snickers for good measure. I stood and watched her walk all the way across to the neighbor's yard to make sure she got to the next place all right.

I saw a couple of girls walking up, but I shut the door anyway. You have to earn your candy at my house. This time I hid around the corner. Silence, nothing for the longest time. So I peered around the corner and saw them still standing there.

What? no doorbell? This can't be right. I'm not going to open my door to a couple complete strangers. I slowly walked up to the window and gave them my best cranky old man glare. They glared at me right back. I opened the door just a crack, TRICK OR TREAT! blew in like a jet engine blast. I grudgingly opened the door and handed out the goods, asking, "you weren't going ring the bell?"

The one furthest from the bell suddenly yells at her partner, "YOU DIDN'T RING THE BELL?"

"NO!" she scoffs. They turned around and started to bicker with each other.

I was sorry. I didn't mean to start a squabble, "be careful on the stairs!" I thought those things were a lawsuit waiting to happen.

This time I got the manual, hardware package, wheels, and some side rails downstairs before the next summons.

A very musical "trick or treat" followed. A trio of young ladies. You could tell these girls had been practicing. "Nicely done," I said, "watch the stairs."

They were all smiles as they left. One said to the others, "I told you we sound good."

I went out to the garage. Everything was off the top of the big heavy piece but I hadn't seen the front control panel yet so that had to be underneath. I lifted the thing up on its side. There it was. How am I supposed to slide or carry that thing out one handed while I'm holding up the other very heavy part. DING DONG! "Dear Jesus, give me strength!"

Ugh, I lay the whole thing back down and went back inside to distribute more candy. It was another mob. I had to stare. They looked like the same group of kids only all with different costumes. I looked at the four-wheeler and trailer. This one was decked all out in Christmas lights. Ah well, even if it is the same group of kids, I'll give them some more sweets if they were going through the trouble of changing costumes.

The one that really impressed me was a huge spongebob squarepants. I'm not kidding, this thing was almost as tall as me and much wider, (yes, I said wider, don't you believe me?) I was looking for the peep holes. I hoped there was a small child in there somewhere. I couldn't find any. The only thing I could think of is either a see-through fabric, or he was somewhere deep inside the gaping black mouth looking out at me.

I don't know about you, but that big yellow sponge coming up the stairs terrified me much more than any of the assorted vampires, ninjas, or serial killers I had already seen.

A little girl shouted, "DOES BRIAN LIVE HERE?" in a sing-song girlie voice.

My son, the 5th grader, is quite a little Casanova. He's got this cute little face and quiet boyish charm that has all the girls googly-eyed. He must get his looks from his mom.

"YES HE DOES," I sang in my best little girlie voice.

"Tell him, Chantel says bye!"

Ok, I repeated it just to make sure I understood the message, "Tell him, Chantel says bye?"


I said, "ok", in my normal guy voice.

"AND TELL HIM, Chelsea says hi AND bye!" another one pipes up.

"Hi AND bye?" I ask, still in normal voice.



I'm chuckling as my eyes drop to the candy bowl. The chuckle suddenly dies in my throat as I realize with utter horror, that I have only 6 snickers left. It's not even 7:30. What am I going to do? Running out of candy is a huge, huge, no-no. I rush to the pantry.

My goodness we have a lot of pasta, I wonder how the tykes feel about dry macaroni? Probably not so good. Tortilla chips? no. Diet, kiwi-strawberry, sparkling green tea? no, that's mine. No candy anywhere?

Well, there is the sacred horde of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups in the way top shelf in the way back corner. But that, dear readers, belongs to my wife. Touching those peanut butter cups could sentence you to a fate worse than death.

I wasn't ready to go there. Not just yet, anyway. I raced back downstairs to the secret horde where I got the original halloween candy. We have to have secret hordes because we have children with sticky fingers, if you catch my meaning. I knew this was an exercise in futility because I had already gotten all the candy that was there. But I thought maybe I missed a bag lying somewhere in the folds of other plastic shopping bags. I tore through them in slight desperation now. Lady deodorant, mascara, 2 Colgate Motion toothbrushes, and a big fat zero on the candy scale.

I hung my head in sorrow and slowly made my way upstairs, into the pantry, and with trembling hands grabbed the bag of sacred Reese's.

I was utterly woebegone. Only six snickers lay between life and death. Or, as I said, something worse. DING DONG!

It was the neighbor boy and his sister. "Trick or treat". T-4 snickers now.

"I KNOW WHO YOU ARE!" the little guy shouts.

"WHO AM I?" I shouted right back.

"Um, Um, Um, I'VE BEEN TO YOUR HOUSE!" He replies.

"I know that, but who am I?"

"Um, Um, Um, I forgot." He finally acknowledges.

"That's ok," I let him off the hook.

I closed the door, sat down on the steps going upstairs, hung my head, and began to weep.

This was my prayer, "Dear Lord, let these 4 snickers be enough."

DING DONG! 2 more snickers down the tubes.

I sat back down and started sobbing. DING DONG! I had to dry my eyes before getting up. There's a very small chance they were tears of laughter, but I think I had just arrived at a point somewhere between despair and hysteria.

2 more boys. As my last snicker was swiped from the bowl. The young man shouted. "We wiped him out! I've never done that before."

They jump down all the steps at once. "Hey dad, we wiped out his candy bowl!" I'm so glad I could give this young man some satisfaction during this night to end all nights.

"I've got more!" I shouted, but without any real conviction as I choked down a sob.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Busy, Busy, Busy

I will blog about my most excellent bible study class, but I have to get my halloween post out lest I lose the seasonal applicability. What a hoot, this is the first time in several years I get to celebrate the thing properly. We've always had something going on or had to take the kids somewhere so if the trick or treaters weren't at our house by 6PM they would miss out. I had visions of toilet paper, or tricks even worse than the ones I had the misfortune to play as a kid, waiting for me when we got home. So far we've been lucky and no damage has been done to our house.

This year my wife didn't have to work so she took the kids and I got to stay home which is my definite preference. Let me first explain we have extremely busy lives, and I mean extreme. We have our calendar booked with so many things and we continue to add more, like we're going for some insane Guinness record. We really don't know most days if we're coming or going. Thankfully, my wife and I are both really good organizers. Mostly due to necessity. Our methods of organization do differ dramatically. If you remember the book, "Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus," that kind of explains the situation. But everything always seems to work out, she usually remembers things I don't and every once in awhile I remember something she didn't. (I love it when that happens)

This weekend was a case in point. We recently purchased a NordicTrack A2350 with Universal Dock for iPod(r). That's right, ladies and gentlemen, the Meissners are officially on a health kick. This is our 2nd treadmill purchase. The first one having crashed and burned years ago. It was a hernia operation dragging that thing to the dump let me tell you. I swore that was the last fool piece of exercise equipment I would ever buy. I know I'm not supposed to swear, but forgive me, I just got done hauling that thing to the dump.

In my 21+ years of marital bliss we have purchased exceedingly more expensive and gimmicky exercise machines. The former treadmill behemoth was the last proverbial straw. I only wish it would have weighed as much as a piece of straw. You know how exercise machines work, you use them heavily for a couple weeks, then they sit and collect dust. They are awful expensive dust collectors. Every once in awhile the fitness bug bites and you start using it again only to stop once the bug bite heals.

We used the last one off and on, granted for many years, then it started to wear out. What made me the most angry was that the treadmill didn't wear out, it was the fancy electronic garbage that failed. Something that can't be fixed cheaply, nor is it something that is truly needed. The electronic bells and whistles don't get used that often and really are just more chances for something to break. I would like to say again this new one is the last piece of exercise equipment I will buy, but that is probably an exercise (pun not intended) in futility.

Back to my story, Friday morning I had to take the van (not my usual vehicle) because I had to pick up the treadmill. I went to the store to get the machine. The guy tried to scare me into the maintenance contract but I wasn't falling for that again. I've been fleeced over by those way too many times. He was persistent, so I had to give him the hairy eyeball and say I was not interested and please process my transaction, thank you.

The next hurdle was finding out my store credit card expired due to lack of use. Go figure, we're trying very hard to stop buying what we can't pay for. So then I had to go through the exercise (pun intended this time) of finding my driver's license and signing a bunch of carbon copies to get the transaction through. Then, weighed down with all my paper (receipt, rebate receipt and info, credit card forms, etc...) I proceeded to the merchandise loading gate.

I'm a computer geek and I love self-service computer terminals. This one is very good, the scanner works well, the computer voice almost sounds like a real person, and my wait time was a lightning fast 23 seconds. I still can't believe they were able to wheel that thing out so quickly. They had to have been forewarned.

If you haven't had experience with treadmills, they really do weigh an enormous amount. The two of us could barely slide that thing into the van. But we "GOT'ER DONE!" and I was off to take it home, very worried how I was going to unload the cargo into the garage. I needn't have worried. Unloading is much easier than loading. I got a little cranky when I noticed the "this end up" arrow was upside down in my van. The loading guy should have known better. So then I had to maneuver the thing so it was right side up in my garage. By some extremely weird coincidence, the fact I had to rotate the box made it very easy to unload. Almost of it's own volition, it very gracefully slid out of the van onto the floor, right-side up. Perhaps the loading guy had that choreographed when we put it in the van.

Then, I had to race back to work and try and get a days labor done in a couple hours so I could leave early to get to my bible study class in Jamestown. My wife really doesn't like my vehicle so we had to swap. It's crazy how productive we suddenly become with a little motivation. I think I not only did a days work but almost half another day as well. Somehow I made it on time to the swap location at the Rockin' McDonald's parking lot. I packed everything the night before so it was waiting for me in the trunk of my car, but I still had a bunch of items to swap anyway and my wife had a few things as well.

We said our goodbyes, "bye honey, miss you already!", and she was off to pick up the kids from school and take them to Grandma's so she could go back to work for her 2nd shift. I went through drive-thru and got 2 McDoubles(extra pickles) and a large Mello-Yellow. I loaded up with gas and headed East.

I had a great, but exhausting class and raced back home tonight, all hallows eve. I didn't plan on talking so much about the treadmill but it comes in to play during my halloween shenanigans, so you'll have to wait for a part 2. Don't worry I will not keep you waiting long. Halloween is almost over after all. Don't get spooked!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Love Thine Enemies?

I recently finished reading the textbook for a lay speaking class I'm taking this weekend. The class is called, "Lay leaders lead bible study." I have to take a class at least once every three years to maintain my certification. The classes have always been extremely good. I like them because they not only make me a better lay leader in the church (I hope). But they make me a better person as well.

The textbook is called, "Introducing the Bible," by William Barclay. What a read! This book answered so many questions I've had about the bible over the years and really cleared some things up. At the same time, it made my daily scripture readings much more personal and meaningful than they ever have been.

I could write another 6-part series and bore you to death, but I'll try very hard to focus on just one thing. Jesus' command for us to love our enemies.

The textbook got into some really nasty scripture verses in the ancient history of the old testament. Bitter rivalries and feuds would occur just because of an insult or something trivial. It's like if you would call someone a dummy, they would retaliate and kill not just you but maybe your spouse, children, and even your livestock if they wanted to be really vicious. Then your family would have to avenge in turn with even more dramatic consequences. These feuds would last for generations until no one remembered why the fight started in the first place.

God didn't care for this so much so he initiated the "eye for an eye" method. If you poked someones eye out, accidentally or intentionally, they got to poke your eye out. If you killed someone, I'm sorry to say your life would be forfeit as well. This still sounds rather bloody but if you take it in context, you have to admit, it's a lot better than the family feuding. Once equal damage had been delivered the matter was considered closed. Justice was served. The generational wars didn't happen as often.

Then Jesus comes along and tells us now we have to love our enemies. Talk about a huge, ginormous, cultural shift from the eye for an eye method. You may begin to see why this message shocked the world so much back then. It was a very different way of life than the people had been used to. I can just see someone raising their hand to ask a question, "Excuse me, teacher, I have to turn my other cheek and let them slap that too? Can't I just give them a good pinch and call it good?"

No, I'm afraid not. Loving our enemies can be extremely hard to do. I am lousy at this. Especially when I get behind the wheel. It would seem everyone is now my enemy when they prevent me from making it to my destination on time, or cut me off unnecessarily. Another peeve of mine is people who don't practice good coffee making etiquette at work. It's such a simple rule, "If you drink it, make it."

I was a spectator at a Toastmasters competition awhile back. The event was impromptu speaking. You are given a quote and you have a couple seconds to respond with up to a 2-minute comment. The quote for that event was when Abe Lincoln apparently said, "keep your friends close, but keep your enemies closer."

It is words like these that put Lincoln in my top 3 list of favorite presidents. I was reminded of the Toastmasters event because my textbook also quoted Lincoln. Towards the end of the Civil War, he stressed kind and respectful treatment of the southern states. He was rebuked by his supporters as to why he was being so nice to the enemy.

Lincoln's response was, "do I not effectively get rid of my enemies when I make them my friends?"

I believe Lincoln understood the wisdom behind loving your enemies. My number one commentator on this blog says I've now gone from preaching to meddling. Yes I have. But I'm also meddling with myself as well. "Love your enemies" is arguably the most difficult command Jesus has given us. Some people seem impossible to love. My good commentator said he thinks he's over something only to have the old wound re-opened in a different way. I am extremely familiar with old wounds being re-opened. There are times I truly stink at being nice to people, enemies or not.

However, the value lies in the attempt at loving and forgiveness, whether or not we are successful is not as important as the act of at least trying.

"With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible." Matthew 19:26 (NIV)

Wish me luck at my class this weekend.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

The View From My Office Window

I hope my pastor is reading this. For months after the ND Game & Fish Department opened a season on Mountain Lions he would constantly chastise me and my employer for killing these magnificent creatures. I told him the reason we have a limited harvest of these magnificent creatures is so that they don't invite themselves into your home for dinner.

My pastor is not alone. The Game & Fish Department has gotten a lot of comments that range the whole spectrum from people that don't want any Mountain Lions in the state to people that cannot believe we allow people to kill them.

The truth is the ND Game & Fish Department appreciates these creatures also and believes that the southwest corner of our state has the necessary habitat to support a limited population. But we don't particularly want them outside of this habitat nor do we want the population to exceed the capacity of the habitat we have.

So we have a season on them for a couple reasons. First it assists us in managing the population to tolerable levels so that the animals and people can share this great state we live in. It also helps us keep them out of areas in the state that do not have suitable habitat. The season also allows us to study these creatures to learn more about them to help us in managing the population further.

You may be asking what on earth does this have to do with my office window. As you may have guessed, my office does have a window, but it does not look outside. Instead it overlooks our atrium where we have a variety of static displays of various animals and their habitat. Up until a few months ago the view outside my window consisted of the hind quarters of 2 bighorn sheep.

I don't particularly have any problem with these animals, but it's not the most exciting view. A few months ago, however, this view was changed somewhat.

The Game & Fish Department came into possession of a Mountain Lion that had been inadvertently taken by a nonresident hunter. We had the animal mounted and it was most obligingly placed so as to present a perfect view from my window. Since my computer faces the window I can stare at it as often as I like. It's the first thing I see when I turn on my light in the morning. It's like I have a kind of watch cat that guards my inner sanctum from unwelcome guests

This is the view I have now. I'm much more happy with this compared to the sheep. If you know me well enough you will understand that cats are not my favorite animals. I really kind of detest them. However, this dislike only applies to the house cat variety. The big, vicious cats I truly admire. They are quite extraordinary.

This particular cat was taken in Billings county in December of 2007. It was accidentally snared in a bobcat trap.

So, if you ever decide to visit me at work. Beware of cat!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Great Fishing Adventure - Part 6 Alas, All Good Things Must End

I'm combining the last few days into one. I enjoyed this picture because of the interesting cloud formations.

Here again, we have Jeremy and dad in the kitchen. I'm standing off to the side probably giving them the benefit of my vast knowledge or else complaining about the coffee. I liked this picture because it shows the impressive stubble on my chin that was getting more apparent by the end of the week. I've always wanted to grow a mustache and goatee, but Deanna is dead set against it. Since she has to look at me more often than anyone else, I feel she should have the last word when it comes to my appearance. But as I was going to be gone for a week, I figured, why not?

The last day was really hard for me. It was difficult for me to accept that we would be leaving the next morning back to civilization. It was quite a conflict. I desperately wanted to see my wife and kids again, not to mention a bathroom with indoor plumbing. That outhouse was really starting to get ripe by the week end. But I didn't want to leave. It really had been a fantastic week.

Here's some general pictures I haven't had the opportunity to use yet. One more shot of Gilligan.

Another of my more respectable catches. I expect the Outdoor Life Network will be contacting me to do an interview.

I almost didn't put this one in because it's so blurry. But I think it still shows how good a time we were having. I think my dad's comment when this picture was taken was something like, "just another day at the office."

We spotted a rainbow one day

The water was very calm in the mornings and evenings, so peaceful and serene.

A shot of the calm water at sunset. Very beautiful but apparently not good for fishing.

In order to catch fish, you had to have what my grandpa calls, "walleye chop". You need to have some waves to get the fish biting. I don't know why but grandpa is the expert.

Closing up shop for the day.

And there you have it. A chronicle of a truly amazing week. I will cherish the memories of this trip the rest of my life.

Monday, September 21, 2009

The Great Fishing Adventure - Part 5 Time To Catch Some More Fish, Eh?

We came to fish, and fishing is what we did. The schedule was usually get up and fish, come in for breakfast as a group, fish some more, have lunch on your own whenever you wanted, and then come in for supper as a group, then fish more until the bugs drove you into the cabin for the night.

I'm a chronic "get up in the middle of the night to use the bathroom" sort of person. Trying not to go into into too many details, it was interesting, getting up in pitch blackness, going outside to do the business while swatting mosquitoes and then trying to get back in bed without disturbing anyone else. During the middle of the week, someone got the bright idea to use an empty milk jug which was then emptied the next day. Worked great, but one night we almost had too many boys using the "facilities" and we just about overflowed the capacity. The last person to use it got a shock at how heavy it had gotten in the night and was scared it would overflow. Not being able to see what you were doing was sort of a disadvantage.

Here's a few pictures of our surroundings. It's a different landscape than what I'm used to. There is very little topsoil, everything was extremely rocky. You had just a little grass sprouting up amidst moss, lichens, and an abundance of trees. I still couldn't figure out how the trees grew so well. I have no idea where they would take root. I would imagine it wouldn't take much of a wind to knock them down.

The main building is our cabin, inside the door was a porch area, then another door took you into the combination living, dining and kitchen area, then a hallway led you to the bedrooms and shower room. The small building on the right was split down the middle into a storage area for nets and life jackets, and a fish cleaning area. You can see some of the solar panels for the lights on top of the fish cleaning building.

Here's our commode. This was located a considerable distance from the cabin so as not to be bothered by the odor. This was another reason why it was best to do your business before it got dark. You did not want to be stumbling around these woods without being able to see. This was one nice result of the cabin not having any guests for a week prior to our arrival. Combined with the 5 days of nonstop rain, it didn't smell too bad. At least at first. By the end of the week, I was very much looking forward to getting back to flush toilets.

This is one of the bedrooms. Not mine, I might add. I was rooming with uncle Rick and we are both neat freaks. Our beds were made every morning and clothing and towels hung up. The other tenants not so much.

Here's another shot showing some of the rocky terrain. You saw a similar view pretty much wherever you looked.

On this day we noticed a bald eagle following us around. It was there the whole week. We looked forward to looking up and seeing it perched in a tree or soaring around the lake. They are magnificent birds. We also saw some river otters one day. My absolute favorite animal. I had never had the opportunity to see one in the wild and I got to see two of them when I was there. They seem to be an animal that truly believes life is to be enjoyed. They always look like they are having so much fun whatever they are doing. Alas, we didn't get any pictures of them. I tried with my measly cell phone, but without a zoom, they were too small to even see in the picture.

How about some more fishing pictures? Here's John Allen, studying one that was destined to be cleaned and fried.

Of course, I have to include yours truly. Out of all the pictures from this trip, this one is my favorite. If a picture could capture the pure enjoyment I felt at being able to be in such a place with my family, this would be it. My whole week is wrapped up in that smile.

You would have to experience it to understand the adrenaline rush that occurs when you hook into one of these fish. They were by far the biggest I've ever caught in my life. By the weeks end I had probably landed about a dozen or so, on one day we were hitting them so often I lost count. Each time my heart would leap to my throat, and the rod tip would bend all the way to the water. I felt sure one of those times it would snap. Thankfully it never did.

This is the best shot I had of uncle Rick. According to him, he got the largest fish award in the group. However, I must add, he had no witnesses to this and his biggest fish just happened to be a mere half inch larger than mine which up until then was the record holder. It may be all in my head, but seems to me there was just something "fishy" about that. Ah well, I believe I did win the award for most fish caught.

Sorry John, somehow you managed to elude the camera this week. This is the only picture I got that didn't show you cleaning fish. I'm the one on the left in the boat with John, and then you have Rick and Gilligan, excuse me, Jeremy, in the 2nd boat. I had been fishing with dad that morning, but he had to go back and start breakfast, John was all by himself since John Allen was still sleeping so I hopped into his boat while my saintly father motored back to get the food going.

Have you ever seen a couple of more hard working guys? After breakfast more fishing was on the agenda. This is the epitome of relaxation. Feet up, half reclining, line in the water, shooting the breeze. There definitely needs to be more of these moments in my life. You don't get much better father-son time than sitting out on a lake in the middle of some very beautiful scenery.

After some more fishing it was time for supper. Man shall not live on fish alone. Tonight was steak night! Rick had ordered 8 10-oz strip steaks cut an inch thick. My oh my were they good. We grilled them outside and ate them with some more fried potatoes. Us cousins again brought up our disbelief at how good we were eating up there. Here we are enjoying this fine meal. Those steaks were amazing, tender and very delicious.

After supper, more fishing, with again lackluster success. So we called it another night. One more glorious day in a truly enjoyable vacation.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The Great Fishing Adventure - Part 4 Time To Catch Some Fish, Eh?

We got up bright and early raring to go. As you can see, the sun was trying very hard to poke through all the clouds but it wasn't quite making it. It was still quite chilly. I wish I would have packed some warmer shirts or a heavier jacket. But we were concerned about weight so we were packing light. I had one sweatshirt, a couple T-shirts, and this very light-weight windbreaker designed to keep out wind and rain, but did absolutely nothing for the cold. It got better later in the day but the mornings were very chilly all week except for the last day we were there.

But we were there to fish and a little briskness in the air was not going to stop us. We loaded our gear into the boats and climbed aboard. The boats were the perfect size for two people each. Fathers and sons were paired up. As our dad had both his sons with, Jeremy and I agreed to take turns alternating days. Jeremy hadn't been fishing in a long time so he got the first day with dad and I climbed in with uncle Rick who unfortunately, didn't have his son on this trip.

Meaning no disrespect to Canadians, we couldn't resist putting an "eh" at the end of every sentence. As the boats left the dock, you could hear a constant stream of words like, "catch lots of fish, eh?" and "we're sure gonna try, eh?"

The dads were the veterans of Canada fishing so we looked to them for advice how to best coax the elusive fish into the boat. They had the best luck on previous trips trolling with crank baits. So we started with that. It allowed us to get an idea of the size and shape of the lake as well. So we started cruising.

And cruising, and cruising, and cruising, and cruising. Did I mention we were cruising? The fishing was really slow. I believe a few of us managed to snag some small fish but nothing of edible size. We attempted to work the radios to see if anyone else was having any luck. We had 2 pairs of radios so there was one in each boat. Each radio could talk to it's mate, but even though they were on the same frequency, one pair could only listen to anything sent from the other brand. Eventually, though, the message was routed around that no one was having much luck.

So our thoughts turned to breakfast. One by one the boats headed back in for some food. For some reason, my dad and Jeremy assumed the majority of the cooking. They are both phenomenal cooks but I felt bad it seemed like they were always in the kitchen. Here my memory fails me just a bit. Our breakfasts alternated between bacon and eggs, bacon and pancakes, and my dad's world renowned biscuits and sausage gravy. He always gets cajoled into making this any time the family gets together. He mixes a combination of spicy and regular sausage in a country gravy and you ladle it over hot biscuits and you have a delicious meal that sticks to the ribs and really warms you up.

I remember every meal I ate up there but can't remember the breakfasts. I believe we started out with biscuits and gravy. That's what it looks like dad is making in the photo also. Rick and dad also brought 2 bottles of Arizona Gunslinger hot sauce. Dad had the red pepper sauce and Rick brought the green pepper sauce. If you like things like Tabasco and Frank's Red Hot, you will LOVE Arizona Gunslinger. It's got the perfect combination of jalapenos, garlic, and other spices to take it over the top. So we kicked up the biscuits and gravy a few notches with the gunslinger. I told them I'd love a few bottles the next time we get together.

I don't think I mentioned in the last post that our cabin was filthy when we arrived. The previous guests are expected to leave the cabin clean for the next group, but this had not been done, neither had the owners been in to check or clean anything. We also had leftover food still in the refrigerator in various states of decomposition. There was quite a bit of cleaning necessary to make it fit for human habitation. One thing, however, we were very happy to have been left were several containers of salted minnows.

I remember reading some of the literature on our lake and it had said something about people having the best luck with salted minnows. It would turn out that was pretty much the only thing that would allow us to catch some fish.

So we took some out and started jigging with the minnows. They were kind of stinky and in various states of decomposition. They were also very soft, so if you got a nibble without hooking a fish, that meant you could probably say goodbye to your minnow.

But we did finally hook into some fish. I still think my brother looks like Gilligan, even with the cool shades. Here's Jeremy with one of his fine catches.

And, of course, my dad. The dads were a huge reason any of us sons got to go on this trip. These memories are priceless. My meager words cannot begin to describe how thankful and blessed I am to have the family I do. Thanks Dad. It looks like his finger was little bloody. Sometimes you got caught by those teeth.

Here is a shot of my uncle Dave sporting a nice catch. It appears we will not be going hungry this evening.

This is my cousin Eric, Dave's son. A nicer young man you will never meet. And, by the way, a very eligible bachelor for any single females out there. I felt sorry for him because he got more than a few suggestions about prospective females he should settle down with. He was very polite and took it all in stride, but I got the feeling he wasn't actively seeking marital commitment at the time. Sorry Eric, that was probably more information than you wanted me divulge. Time to move on with the adventure.

We stopped briefly at the cabin for a quick sandwich and got back on the lake. This really is the life to just eat when you want, fish when you want, do whatever else you want. My schedule is mostly decided for me when I'm at home or work so discretionary leisure time is a cherished treasure.

Eventually it got to be supper time and we had caught enough for the evening meal. Tonight was fish fry night.

One of the goals I had for this trip was to learn how to clean fish. I've gone fishing a number of times in my life but someone else had always done this. I'd never had the opportunity to learn. I was determined to acquire this skill on the trip. My uncle John got fish cleaning duty pretty much the whole week. His son John Allen is standing behind him and I'm the one leaning up against the doorway with my arms folded. Don't you just love the shot of my nose in the corner? I was studying how to do this and eventually took my turn at the knife. I got better as the week wore on but still need more practice. I'm really slow and leave more meat on the fish bones than someone with more expert skill, but for the most part I accomplished that particular goal.

Jeremy and dad were the chefs again. The menu was fried fish, fried potatoes, and some kind of vegetable. I think we had corn and green beans but I can't remember which one we used for this meal.

I must recommend an excellent coating if you enjoy fried fish. Dakota Lakes Products, Inc. makes a truly wonderful breading. It is a North Dakota product made in the Jamestown area. You can order some online and is available at certain grocery stores in ND. It is delicious with fish.

After a truly wonderful meal, we did go back out and try to catch some more but didn't have much luck. The mosquitoes turn vicious when the sun goes down so you really needed to get back in the cabin before it got too dark.

And so ends another extremely enjoyable day.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

The Great Fishing Adventure - Part 3 Are We There Yet?

We woke up the next morning with morale at an all-time low. We were disgusted and miserable. The weather had not changed and did not look like it would clear up any time soon. Thinking we had given the motel enough of our money we went to a nearby cafe for breakfast. Here again we saw more evidence that "Friendly Manitoba" is a worthy title. The service and food were exceptional. The coffee was strong and hot and my omelet was delicious. All eight of us were downright cranky but the server did not miss a beat. She took our order cheerfully and accurately.

We got back to the motel and again contacted the outfitter to discuss our options. We were still on standby and would be notified as soon as the airplane would be able to fly. We did learn that our weeks worth of food was still in the freezer at the float plane base waiting to be flown in with us. We were welcome to partake of some of that so we didn't have to continue spending money at restaurants.

So a couple of guys drove to the float plane base to acquire some food. We were still miserable but were happy we didn't have to pay for another meal in the restaurant. The guys brought back some bread and sandwich meat and some very delicious fresh baked donuts and pastries. The bakeries in Canada also know what they are doing.

We considered our options. Should we cut our losses and leave? There was a no refund policy so that wasn't very appealing. Neither was continuing to shell out money for motel stays. In the end we decided we would stay at least one more night in the hope we could fly out the next day even though our fishing days would be cut almost in half. We decided we would also double up on the rooms so there would be 4 per room rather than two. The motel also offered to give us a small discount if we needed to stay another night.

With a plan of attack, our mood got just a little better. We again congregated together in one room. The room my brother and I were in as a matter of fact. My dad made the comment that it smelled like a gym locker room. I said it smelled just fine until everyone started coming over. We were a very cranky group.

The mood got a little better when the stories started. It is amazing how much trouble teenage boys can get into in rural Minnesota. The antics me and my brother got up to were nothing compared to my dad's and uncles adventures. It amazes me they lived to tell the tales. We were in full flow of laughter and storytelling when there was a knock on the door.

We all looked at each other with "Who could that be?" expressions. Our door wasn't locked and a burly guy with a strong Canada accent said our plane would be ready to fly in 45 minutes to an hour.
We were caught totally by surprise. For awhile no one said anything or moved a muscle. It was almost as if we'd jinx it by taking action. Suddenly we came to our senses and chaos erupted. It was late afternoon and long after checkout time at the Motel. Someone ran down to see if we would get charged for another night. Thankfully the answer was no. In record time we were packed up and on the road, and the Papertown Motor Inn was an image in the rear-view mirror.

Blue Water Aviation was where we intended to depart. You could tell immediately, they were very experienced at flying people back and forth to lakes. We got checked in, bought our Canada fishing licenses and started unloading the vehicles. All our gear was carefully loaded onto carts and weighed. 8 guys with food and luggage for a week is no small amount let me tell you.

Here's the scale with some of our gear. I think we had 3 or 4 trolleys that had to be weighed. The plane still hadn't come in and I was a little nervous everything would not only fit but still allow the plane to be light enough to take off. The guy assured me we were well within our weight restrictions so I figured he was the expert. He said he estimated our body weight at 200 lbs/person. My face got a little red. All I will say is I'm glad I have some lighter relatives because I was a tad heavier than that.

After verifying our total weight was under the maximum we congregated outside to await our plane. The weather still wasn't the best but the aviation people and the outfitter really wanted to get their customers on the lake as well as get the people trying to come home off the lake so they made a decision to fly in less than ideal conditions. After awhile the glorious deep-throated sound of a plane engine cut through the windy air.

We looked up and could just make out the speck of an aircraft in the distance. I've mentioned before I am an aviation nut. I love airplanes of all shapes and sizes. Float planes are really something special. I can't describe how cool it is to watch one come in for a landing on the water. It was made more special knowing that shortly I would be on it flying to a wilderness paradise.

Here's a shot of the plane moored to shore. We had to wait for the party coming in to disembark and unload before we could load our gear and climb aboard. We got a big old assembly line going and got our stuff on the plane in no time. Getting on the plane was interesting. You had to walk first on these wobbly wooden boards and then climb a metal ladder before stepping into the cabin area.

My younger brother was the first one on the plane, "Dibs on the co-pilot seat!" he yells. Miserable little sibling always trying get the good spots. I'm just kidding. I was so happy to be on the plane you could have strapped me to the wing outside and I would have been just fine. If you look at the photo, you'll notice the control stick is on the pilot's side. It is designed to flip from one side to the other depending on who is flying the airplane.

The pilot was a grizzly sort of person that may have flown during the Korean war era. My brother asked him what button do you have to push to move the control stick to the co-pilot side? The pilot looked at him and said, "are you familiar with the phrase, 'over my dead body?'"

Here's my brother looking pretty pleased he got to sit up front. On the right side of the picture is a sheet that detailed all the emergency procedures. Needless to say, there was no flight attendant demonstrating the steps.

Here's a shot of the cabin area where the rest of us were sitting, kind of cramped quarters. Here you see Rick, Eric, and about half of Dave. I'm the one on the left with the hands fiddling with my cell phone camera. The "Barney the dinosaur"-colored purple bag you see in the back is mine. I didn't get to pick my family's luggage color. At least it makes it really easy to find on the baggage carousel in airports.

Finally all the luggage and people were strapped in and the pilot fired up the engine. We taxied out to open water and the throttles were opened up. The wonderful sound of the engine roared through the cabin. As I said the weather wasn't exactly ideal, and I was a little worried how smooth a take-off we would have. It wasn't bad, we got airborne in no time.

We then started what was to be the longest 45 minutes I'd ever spent in an airplane. I don't believe I've ever been subjected to so much tossing and bumping. The turbulence was so bad I could feel my stomach protesting after a few minutes. All of us were very happy when we touched down on Black Lake which would be our home for the rest of the week.

As the plane taxied up to the dock we got the first glimpse of our cabin. The pilot was in a hurry to get back so we formed the assembly line again and wasted no time getting everything unloaded.

After the plane took off we took stock of our surroundings. It was wet. Five solid days of nonstop rain had taken it's toll. The boats had been pulled up on the shore but not far enough. All four of them had the back end submerged in the water. We got our gear inside the cabin and went to work bailing the water out of the boats.

I hadn't gotten very far with the boat I was working on when I got my next surprise of the trip. A huge (at least huge to me) fishing spider crawled out from under a life jacket. I was too freaked out to take a picture, so I found one on Wikipedia that is a pretty fair representation of the monster.

It was probably about 3 inches from limb to limb. I scooped it up and hurled it out into the water. You would have thought the spider did this everyday. It calmly proceeded to swim back to shore. Right at me! I have to say it is kind of interesting how they can basically walk on water propelling themselves forward with their feet. I stood there until it swam back, scooped it up again and this time I threw it on the ground and promptly squashed it with my boot. I'm sorry, I can't handle spiders and this one seemed to have it in for me.

I went back to work purging another vessel from it's watery cargo. Quite a bit more carefully now in case I would be surprised by any more of the local wildlife.

Another shot of the bail-out crew. Bailing water is not the most flattering thing to do when someone has a camera.

One last shot of Jeremy still scooping water. I had to tease him about his hat. He looked so much like Gilligan. Sorry Jeremy.

At last, the water inside the boats was back in the lake and our gear was put away. We began to have thoughts about supper. We decided on grilling some polish sausages and opening up a few cans of baked beans. Nothing had ever tasted so good. It's amazing how therapeutic a hot meal can be after you've been miserable for a few days. We didn't talk much. We were hungry and I think all of us were just happy to finally be at the lake. This trip had been booked for a year and it was nice to finally see the results of all that planning.

After the meal and dishes were done, things livened up a bit. We started getting ready for bed. You would have thought we lived in a frat house. All the men with this pent up energy. My bed was most disobligingly placed so that the light from the room across the hall beamed right into my face. Someone was having much fun turning the switch off and on. I finally had to shut our door because it was giving me a headache.

At last, things quieted down and the boys went to bed, with visions of walleye dancing round in our heads.