Fair game — November 16, 2022

Fair game

On Halloween night, as we hid from tricks and/or treaters, my sisters and I reminisced about days of yore when we feasted on squirrel.

For those of you who are aware of my legendary status as a picky eater, yes, I willingly and knowingly ate squirrel. I can’t recall how it tasted, but, unlike meat loaf or sausage or beef stew, I didn’t refuse to eat it. So, it must have sated my discriminating taste buds.

Anyway, my youngest niece had oodles of questions for us. For example, she wanted to know where we got the squirrels.

“Your Poppaw hunted them,” her mom aka my second oldest sister explained. “These hills are full of squirrels.”

They weren’t as full of them when our dad, the late great Burton Goff, was still hunting them. I can remember him walking down the road on chilly autumn mornings with freshly-hunted squirrels affixed to what looked to me like a huge safety pin. Then, he’d sit on the back porch and skin the squirrels.

After that task was completed, Mom either cooked the freshly-skinned squirrels in gravy or put them in the freezer so we could feast on a rainy day.

My niece asked why, if we considered squirrel the epitome of gourmet dining, we’d ceased eating them.

Her mom and I couldn’t give her a satisfactory answer. Tastes change. That’s the best I could offer.

My oldest sister, however, had a more definitive answer. When she overheard Daddy saying that a squirrel had a wool in it, she tapped out. Later, I asked her what “wool” meant. She said, “I don’t know, but it didn’t sound good.”

Needing to know more, I asked a friend whose dad was also a squirrel hunter. He wasn’t sure about the definition of wool, so he looked into it. He sent me an explanation that I felt sure would make me gag, so I asked for an overview. Here’s the gist: Some sort of fly gestates under a squirrel’s skin and then the larvae burrow out –

I’m going to stop there.

I guess the fly goes by the alias of wool, but I’m not sure about that, so don’t quote me. I am sure my parents didn’t serve us wooly squirrel, but I’m not sure how they disposed of said squirrels.

Although we hadn’t satisfied my niece’s curiosity vis-à-vis squirrels, she swerved slightly off course and asked about other small wild game like rabbit and groundhog, neither of which I can remember eating.

My oldest sister can remember eating them. Indeed, she recalled that, as a child, our parents rewarded her after a minor surgical procedure with a baked groundhog. That’s what I call positive reinforcement.

My niece asked her what part of the groundhog – or the squirrel or rabbit for that matter – she ate.

Giving her a puzzled look, my sister said, “The meat.”

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

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Hare pollution — April 13, 2022

Hare pollution

As Clairee says in Steel Magnolias, “It’s almost time for the East-er Bunny.”

If you are familiar with my thoughts and feelings on mimes and clowns, then you probably will not be surprised to learn that the Easter Bunny also creeps me the expletive out.

When I say – or, rather, write this – obviously I don’t mean the real Easter Bunny creeps me out. I’m sure he or she is a wonderful rabbit. Indeed, the Easter Bunny devotes so much time and attention collecting and delivering toys and candies to the good – and no doubt bad – little girls and boys worldwide that he or she has to subcontract much of the pre-holiday work to others.

In fact, one of my nieces played the role of a generic Easter Bunny many years ago at a local organization. She donned a white costume, complete with oversized bunny ears, and posed in photos with children. And, yes, in case you’re wondering, even though I knew my lovely and in no way creepy niece wore that costume, I was nonetheless creeped out.

Think about it. That gosh-darn bunny never blinks. That’s weird.

Something I cannot wrap my mind around is visits to these generic (and creepy) Easter Bunnies so parents can snap photos of them with children. Children who are in some cases screaming their little lungs out because they’re horrified by the giant pastel-frocked rabbit in their presence.

My aforementioned and in no way creepy niece recently took her younglings – my great-niece and great nephew (emphasis on great) – to have their picture taken with a generic Easter Bunny. The children looked traumatized in the resulting photo.

I could relate. Just looking at the photo traumatized me.

Let’s discuss this rationally. The Easter Bunny who visits with children is human-sized and stands on two feet. Perhaps real bunnies do occasionally stand on two feet. I have, however, never seen this occur in the wild. And by wild, I mean my back yard, the side of the road, or the Goff Estate. So, if I, a woman of advancing age, have never seen it, chances are children haven’t experienced this phenomenon. (I have also never seen a human-sized rabbit in the wild and I hope I never see one. That would be more traumatizing than spying a generic Easter Bunny in a store.)

Anyway, if a standing, human-sized rabbit isn’t enough to make kids think their world has turned upside down, it gets worse. The bunny has an enormous head and – I repeat – never blinks those lifeless eyes.

Happy Easter!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Flamingo (on the) road — April 6, 2022

Flamingo (on the) road

Last week, my bestie shared a story about a flamingo named Pink Floyd who has been on the run for almost 17 years.

Now that I have your attention, let me clarify a point. By “on the run,” I don’t mean that Pink Floyd has been running from the law. Well, at least I don’t think the flamingo is wanted by the law.

Here’s what I do know. According to a CNN story, on a stormy 4th of July in 2005, two flamingoes “went rogue” and flew away from Kansas’ Sedgwick County Zoo in Wichita. The birds had been brought there from their native Tanzania, Africa, in 2003, along with 38 other flamingoes.

On July 2, 2005, when zookeepers went to clip the flock’s feathers, a process that’s described in the story as “completely painless” and similar to a human getting a haircut, Pink Floyd and others made a run for it. Or would that be a fly for it?

All but two of the birds returned to the zoo. Those two hung out in a grassy marsh until the aforementioned storm hit on Independence Day. Then, one flew north (it was later spotted in Minnesota) and the other, Pink Floyd, headed to Texas.

Pink Floyd, who was known as No. 492 in confinement, is obviously a rebel. He and No. 347, the flamingo who headed north, apparently did not want their wings clipped or, in other words, their hair cut. Perhaps they’re hippies at heart. Or hobos. Or both.

The Texas Parks & Wildlife bestowed the nickname Pink Floyd to the bird formerly know as No. 492. Its yellow name band is no longer visible so they’re making an assumption that they pink flamingo they’ve spotted for several consecutive springs is Pink Floyd. It’s an educated assumption. After all, flamingoes aren’t native to North America, so there aren’t exactly a lot of flamingoes hanging out on one leg in Texas.

Although the one who went north has only been seen once, I like to think it’s lying low and traveling the country. You might be saying to yourself, “Self, she’s delusional. If that-there flamingo was still alive, someone would have reported it by now.”

How do we know it hasn’t been reported?

I guess I need to remind you that a couple years ago folks in Tennessee reported seeing a tiger, which turned out to be a bobcat. And that I mistook a crane for a pelican.

Somebody somewhere could have spied that flamingo and mistook it for an ostrich or a swan or a stork. For all we know, that flamingo could be flying around, delivering babies.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Walter the cat, winter edition — February 2, 2022

Walter the cat, winter edition

Folks, I have some good news! There’s a new Walter the cat commercial!

When we last saw the adventurous feline, he was fishing, herding cattle, treeing other cats, and gathering firewood. In other words, he was engaging in stereotypical canine behavior.

The newest advertisement, titled Walter in Winter, begins with the gray tabby growling – or was he barking? – as he brings his leash to his human, who asks, “You want to go out, Walter?”

It looks like once again, Walter will be engaging in stereotypical canine behavior. Only this time, in the snow!

Over sounds of Harry McClintock’s “Big Rock Candy Mountain,” which also played in the previous commercial, Walter and his human traverse snowy roads in a pickup. In fact, from all the shots of the pickup, I suspect the point of the commercial is to advertise the truck.

But Walter is the star. He and his human hike on a snowy road, with the human advising Walter to pace himself. They play hockey on some sort of outdoor frozen surface. Walter relieves himself against a fire hydrant when they stop at a shop for supplies. When they go camping, Walter dines on a bone, which prompts his human to ask, “Where’d you get that bone, pal?” (Seeing as there’s nothing around their tent but the truck and lots and lots of snow, that’s a reasonable question.)

When he and his human ride a snowmobile, Walter wears little goggles. When the mailman makes a delivery, Walter gives chase, which prompts his human to admonish, “No! No! No! He’s a civil servant!” Walter also leads a team of huskies. (I’m not really sure what task he, the huskies, and the human are trying to accomplish.)

Near the commercial’s end, with nothing but his little paws, Walter digs out a skier who has taken a spill or been snowed in by an avalanche. Or something. Frankly, the skier doesn’t seem too distressed. Regardless, Walter is a hero.

The skier, much like a character in the other commercial, seems flabbergasted by Walter’s canine-like behavior. After the skier mutters, “That’s incredible,” Walter’s human misinterprets his statement as a comment on the pickup – there’s that expletive truck again – and happily lists the truck’s amenities. When the skier says, “No, I meant the cat,” it’s Walter’s human’s turn to express surprise. People act like they’ve never seen a cat before, he grumbles.

His reaction is understandable. He’s used to cats being awesome.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Need I remind me — December 22, 2021

Need I remind me

Most of the ornaments on my Christmas tree were hand painted or handmade by my mom, by my sisters, or by me. I’ve also adorned my fake fireplace and my real mantle with a plaster village and other decorations that I painted. Indeed, most of the tree’s hand-painted ornaments are plaster.

Some are wooden, though. They represent my first attempts at craftiness. I can remember the first time I spotted said ornaments in my mom’s craft catalog, which is heavy on needlepoint items. I cannot do any type of needlepoint, but I am a catalog fiend. Hence, that is why I was flipping through the catalog on that snowy day back in the 1990s.

When I spied those wooded ornament kits, I said to myself, “Self, you’re not artistic, but this is like paint by number. What idiot can’t paint by number?”

At first, I tried my best to prove that this idiot couldn’t paint by number. In fact, the first ornament I painted – a gingerbread house – looked so bad that I eventually threw it away.

Although I never put that hideous thing on a tree, I kept it for a while. It served as inspiration.

Take the deformed bunny. (By the way, for reasons I don’t understand, the bunny is hanging out with a polar bear. What kind of bunny befriends a polar bear?) The bunny is shown in profile and its eye sets too far down its face and too close to its nose. This leaves entirely too much of a forehead. Oh, and one ear is too pointy and the pink part of the other ear extends onto that big ole forehead.

I have put other not-exactly-hideous but less-than-pleasing-to-the-eye ornaments on the tree. I still do.

I also created a semi-deformed donkey.

The donkey resides on one side of a house. Not a real house in which humans live. How would I hang that on a tree? A mini house. It’s part of a six-house set. The donkey actually doesn’t look that bad – except for the snout. Not only is it rather large, it has no holes. I’m not sure how the donkey has been breathing all these years.

Another house features a figure whose existence makes my loved ones laugh and laugh. All I’ll say is that he’s supposed to be Santa. Since he does not look a thing like Santa, he has caused tremendous excitement over the years. In this year alone, on separate visits to my house, two loved ones have scampered to my tree and strained their bodies, asking, “Where is he?”

I put him and the deformed bunny and the semi-deformed donkey on the tree each year because they elicit chuckles and because they remind me of how far I’ve come.

Indeed, another visitor this year commented on the village and other decorations adorning my fake fireplace and my real mantle. When I explained that I had painted them, the visitor looked closer at one of them and noted the detail.

I saw no reason to point out the deformed bunny.

Merry Christmas!

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Tragically hip — June 9, 2021

Tragically hip

This here-post breaks two of my rules. For starters, it’s not news. Indeed, it details events that occurred from 2005 to 2011. Also, it veers from my usual lighthearted, nonsensical fare into something tragic. So, if you continue reading and regret your decision, don’t come crying to me. You’ve been warned.

This tragic event came to my attention as I scrolled through social media. A site that shares random facts decided the world needed to be reminded that a hippopotamus was rescued from a river in 2005. And that in 2011 the then-6-year-old two-ton hippo dragged the South African man who had rescued him into that same river and killed him.

I warned you that this tale would not uplift you!

Anyway, the tidbit I read only teased me. Afterward, I had oodles of questions. Firstly, how does one rescue a hippo? It’s not like rescuing a stray kitten that shows up on your porch or adopting a rescued dog from the shelter. Thankfully, a reader shared a link to a story, which answered this question and others.

The man who was dragged into the river and killed didn’t initially rescue the hippopotamus. Another couple rescued the hippo from a flood when it was a few months old. The man who was dragged into the river and killed adopted the hippo when the wild beast grew too large for the couple to care for.

I’m not sure why no one returned the baby hippo to the river before the situation got out of hand, but they didn’t ask my advice circa 2005.

Before we go further, here are some facts that I’ve unearthed about hippos. They’re huge — they can weigh up to 9,000 pounds. They have the largest mouths of all land animals. They can run as fast as humans over short distances. They’re basically herbivores, maintaining a diet of grass and fruit. They’re aggressive and not afraid of humans. They upend boats and have been known to attack motor vehicles.

Of course, unless you’re planning a trip to sub-Saharan Africa, you don’t have to worry about running into a hippo and its huge mouth. If you are heading that way, watch out. They kill an average of 500 humans a year.

As for this blended hippo-human family, well, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. I’d be watching a basketball game or cleaning house or scribbling one of my endless lists and, all of a sudden, I’d say to myself, “Self, who adopts a hippo?”

All I know is that he was a South African farmer. According to the aforementioned story, he referred to the father-son relationship he and the hippo had – allegedly — developed. His wife wasn’t as sold on the addition to the family.

Perhaps her apprehension could be attributed to the allegations that the hippo killed his “father’s” business partner’s calves. Or that he chased a couple locals, who had to seek shelter in a tree, until the hippo’s “father” lured the hippo away with an apple.

Or the fact that he was a huge expletive wild beast with a huge expletive jaw who shouldn’t have been living around humans.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Pick a fight — May 19, 2021

Pick a fight

Last week, the market research and data analytics firm YouGov released a poll that attempted to answer a question we’ve all asked – what animals do Americans think they could beat in an unarmed fight?

Here’s a list of the animals provided in the poll as well as the percent of Americans who feel confident they would emerge victorious in hand-to-hand combat:

  • Rat 72 percent
  • House cat 69 percent
  • Goose 61 percent
  • Medium-sized dog 49 percent
  • Eagle 30 percent
  • Large dog 23 percent
  • Chimpanzee 17 percent
  • King cobra 15 percent
  • Kangaroo 14 percent
  • Wolf 12 percent
  • Crocodile 9 percent
  • Gorilla 8 percent
  • Elephant 8 percent
  • Lion 8 percent
  • Grizzly bear 6 percent

Here’s what leapt out at me like a rat out of a trash can – 17 percent of my fellow Americans are delusional enough to believe they could take on a chimpanzee and live to tell the tale. Those animals have been known to rip off people’s faces. Their faces!

And who are the 15 percent of folks who think they could defeat a king cobra without a weapon? It’s a snake…that can stand up and look you in the eyes before it kills you. But, sure, you’re going to subdue it with what? Your personality?

There’s a notable gender gap with the king cobra result. Twenty-three percent of men are foolish enough to believe they could beat one of the world’s most venomous snakes whilst only eight percent of women considered the matter and thought, “I stepped on a baby garter snake once, so sure, why not?”

By the way, I know the people surveyed could have fibbed or had some fun with the pollsters, but would you please allow me a few minutes of mirth?

Anyway, when it comes to the big beasts – crocodile, gorilla, elephant, lion, grizzly bear – there’s not much difference in the percent of delusional men or women who think they could win one of those matches.

Now let’s look at the smaller animals – medium-sized dog, goose, house cat, rat. According to the Google, hounds, terriers, and beagles are examples of medium-sized dogs. Whilst I’m sure nearly half my fellow Americans could defeat such a canine in a fair fight, I am equally sure I could not. Those dogs would turn me into a chew toy.

I’m also not so sure about my chances against a goose. My Mommaw Jettie and Poppaw Rufus owned geese and I have flashbacks to the day one chased my sister out of the yard. Then again, if I could get my hands on the goose’s neck…

Rodents carry diseases, so I’d rather not engage a rat…unless I’m wearing boots.

I’ve saved house cats for last. I’m not bragging, but I’m undefeated against house cats. However, I’ve had the advantage of rumbling with cats who’ve considered me their master. One member of my cat army terrified my dearly departed large-sized dog. Also, as he reached under the bed for this infamous member of the cat army, my dad, the late, great Burton Goff, boasted that he had dealt with bulls and biting sows and, thus, he was not afraid of her. He quickly pulled back his bloody hand and retreated from the room.

So, yeah, I’m not volunteering to fight with a house cat. Or any of these animals, especially the chimpanzee or the king cobra or the kangaroo…

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Word of the week — April 28, 2021

Word of the week

This space is brought to you by the word exsanguination.

This bloody tale began a couple weeks ago when Cady, a member of my cat army, started acting weirder than usual. She pranced around the house, looking toward the ceilings and emitting a strange noise that sounded like something between a cry and a moan.

I initially suspected she was trying to tell me a poltergeist had settled into the attic. Or, worse, that one or more vermin had breached the perimeter. Such concerns worsened when she repeatedly acted like a lunatic in the kitchen. Longtime readers might recall that rodents have tested my resolve over the years by sneaking in behind the stove. And that one rodent lost its life last year in said stove after being injured by and then chased by the cat army.

Anyway, due to Cady’s antics, I pulled out the stove and opened all the cabinets and drawers, but I saw no rodents or evidence of their presence. So, I went on with my life.

That’s what I was doing last Wednesday night, going on with my life, when suddenly, Cady bolted from the living room and sprinted into the kitchen.

When I joined Cady, I found her sniffing around the stove, which was still pulled out from the wall, like she was a detection dog looking for drugs. She also sniffed around the wall, the floor, and the side of the cabinet that leads to the countertop. I knew she was hot on the trail of something. But I checked and it didn’t look as if any of the steel wool that I had plugged into the small hole behind the stove – don’t ask – had come dislodged.

That’s when I thought I saw movement on the countertop. Surely, it must have been my reflection, right?

Wrong. Upon closer inspection, I saw a mouse scurrying across the countertop.

The mouse had no reason to fear me, so I picked up Cady and placed her within inches from the mouse. She didn’t hiss, she didn’t swat, she didn’t acknowledge its existence. Thus, the mouse scurried across the countertop and down the wall.

I assumed it left the way it came in. Noting there was space between the wall and the baseboard, I plugged the seams with steel wool – I should own stock in the product – and then turned around and exclaimed, “Expletive!”

The stove!

What if that mouse was biding its time in the stove?!?!

I don’t have the type of tool needed to remove the back of the stove, so I had to leave it for the night, well, morning because by this point it was past midnight. I had also noticed that the mouse had been feasting on the season’s last Cadbury egg, which had been waiting for me on the countertop. As you can expect, this last turn of events pushed me over the edge.

So, I left the kitchen light on for Cady, who would not leave her post beside the stove, and went to bed. Simon, the other member of my cat army, wanted no part of this adventure. To his defense, he is 14, and Cady is 16. They’re seniors. Besides, maybe the departed member of the army, the late great Alice Aurora Goff, was the rodent slayer.

These thoughts weighed on my mind and I didn’t sleep much. When I emerged bleary-eyed from my bedroom the following morning, I feared I’d find a family of mice living it up. I was prepared to shake their hands, give them the deed to the house, and vacate the premises.

Well, I did find one mouse in the house.

It was lying in the living floor, beside my rocking chair. I pronounced it dead by exsanguination.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

An unwelcome guest — April 14, 2021

An unwelcome guest

A week or so ago, I was wasting time on social media when a story caught my attention. According to said story, a woman in South Carolina was alerted to a critter being in her kitchen when her “dog just went berserk.”

She initially assumed her dog had located a mouse, but when she entered the kitchen, she spied what she believed to be a stray dog. Keeping her eyes on the “dog,” the 85-year-old dialed 9-1-1. When first responders arrived an hour and 10 minutes later, the woman learned that the “dog,” who had remained pinned in a corner of the room, was actually a coyote who had gained entry into the house through a pet door.

The first responders used pet toys to lure the coyote out of the house through the pet door. The story did not detail the coyote’s fate, but the woman said she has started keeping the pet door closed at night.

What an excellent idea!

Indeed, I would go one step further and keep that pet door closed permanently. This story has highlighted the reason I don’t have a pet door – you never know what’s going to sneak inside your house. It could be a slithering snake or a rabid raccoon or a small psychotic human.

You just never know.

And this invasion doesn’t have to occur at night or with evil intent. You could be hanging out at your house in the middle of the day, wasting time on social media, when you look up and realize a squirrel or a possum or a baby bobcat has taken up residence on your sofa.

I understand the appeal of pet doors, especially for dog owners. Pet doors allow dogs the freedom to come and go as they please. They allow humans a measure of freedom, too. Humans don’t have to constantly jump up and down like a yo-yo for that canine who can’t decide if he or she wants to stay inside or outside or actually use the expletive bathroom.

It probably works for inside/outside cats, too, but that notion is foreign to me. In fact, my dog, the late, great Mia Frances, was only inside/outside because I had a fenced-in back yard. Still, one time a neighbor’s dog funneled his or her way under the fence and appeared, to my and Mia’s surprise, in the back yard.

I’ve also spotted various other critters, including snakes, rodents, and rabbits, in the yard over the years. Bunnies might be cute, but I would go berserk if one hopped into my house, which is why I do not have a pet door.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A … her name was Alice — June 10, 2020

A … her name was Alice

93004098_227775398576073_309184473616875520_nAlice, the youngest member of my cat army, died two weeks ago.

She was a kitten when she showed up on my front porch in spring 2010. She was black and white in color, long-haired, and beautiful. She wore a flea collar, so I kept her in my garage while I looked for her humans. I asked around, ran an ad in the paper, and rolled my eyes when friends and family predicted that I’d keep her.

Truth be told, though, I was relieved when nobody claimed her.

She moved into the main house and I named her Alice Aurora in honor of Alice Horton, the “Days of Our Lives” matriarch who had recently died on screen, and Aurora Greenway, the strong-willed character from “Terms of Endearment.”

Alice settled into the household, but she never bonded with her feline siblings. Although I encouraged her to form an alliance with her canine sister, the lovely and talented, Mia Frances, that relationship never came to fruition, either.

Instead, Alice kept to herself. Like most cats, she slept approximately 23 and a half hours a day. She was as soft as a pillow, stood low to the ground and didn’t have much of a vertical leap. When she was younger, I started noticing that my bedroom light was on every evening when I arrived home. I couldn’t figure out why that was happening until I saw her jumping on the bed and swatting the ceiling fan cords. She had madder hops than I had thought.

She also enjoyed chewing strings. She chewed the strings on the shorts I’m currently wearing and once chewed through a bra strap. As recently as last month, I had to shoo her away from my pile of workout clothes. I think she was also drawn to the smell of sweat.

Unlike the rest of the cat army, Alice also enjoyed human food and would climb into the trash can and scavenge for scraps. I eventually tired of keeping the can behind closed doors and replaced it with a taller, lidded trash can. On the day of its arrival, she scurried to where the trash can sat, only to find the fancy new version. She turned and gave me a look that was tinged with sadness and disappointment.

Alice began her mornings by meowing until I emerged from the bedroom. After I’d break my fast with some hearty oatmeal, I’d put the bowl in the floor and she’d clean it for me. The last video I made of her showed her licking mashed potatoes from my dinner plate. (If you think this is gross, then perhaps you should BYOB – bring your own bowl – if you come for a meal.)

She also enjoyed cuddling with me before bedtime – and sometimes during the day — and lounging under the Christmas tree. Indeed, it seemed like I no more draped the skirt around the tree before she had settled underneath it.

Alice was afraid of thunder storms, but not of heavy winds, and acted shy around most humans. On occasion, her eyes made her look evil, but she was the sanest member of my cat army and rarely caused me concern. Well, there was the day she sneaked out of the door to the garage and then through the open garage door. That was during Memorial Day weekend 2016. She died during Memorial Day weekend 2020. I’m so grateful a neighbor helped me find her four years ago – she was hiding under a house – and that I was able to enjoy hundreds more breakfasts and thousands more cuddles with her.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.