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.

Common ground — June 3, 2020

Common ground

As I finished a recent work day, I noticed that something in the back yard had captured the attention of Cady, the leader of my cat army. With wide eyes, she paced at the French door, moving her head to follow the action. From the way she was acting, I knew that whatever had captured her attention had to be more exciting than a bird or a bug.

So, I joined her at the door, hoping I wouldn’t spy a snake.

I didn’t.

96772544_188395462296916_5362753069807304704_nBut I did find a small critter sitting on the back step like it had a clear deed for the property. I grabbed my phone and took photos and shot videos of the critter, which was nibbling on the remnants of a raspberry. (Don’t ask.) I then shared the evidence with others and asked them to identify the critter’s species.

My sisters and niece agreed that the critter was a ground squirrel, which made sense to me because whilst I recorded it enjoying its supper, I had said to myself, “Self, it looks like a miniature red-ish squirrel.”

Besides, I also recalled hearing my dad refer to scurrying critters as ground squirrels. Of course, I had never been up close and personal with those critters.

Anyway, I posted the video to Facebook, where it proved to be one of my most popular posts of all time. However, several of the dozens of commenters called the cute little critter a chipmunk.

Huh. A quick search indicated that those little critters I had spied scurrying over lawns my entire life had not, in fact, been ground squirrels. That means that, unbeknownst to me, I had been in the presence of chipmunks for my aforementioned entire life.

Even as a wee lass, I was never a big fan of cartoons, but I made exceptions for certain shows including “Alvin and the Chipmunks.” So, I should be forgiven if the cartoon skewed my idea of what real-life chipmunks look like. For the record, I did not think chipmunks wore glasses, walked upright, and/or sang. Well, at least not all of them. But I did figure they were larger in size and had chubbier cheeks that the critter I spied on the on my step.

Regardless, after I studied various photos of chipmunks and ground squirrels, I came to the realization that I’ve probably never seen a ground squirrel scurrying across the lawn or anywhere for that matter.

I have, however, repeatedly seen my resident chipmunk, which continues to demand Cady’s attention. She frequently sprints from window to door to monitor its activities. Of course, I’m not sure if she spied it this morning as it relaxed in the shade like it had a clear deed for the property.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

That smell — April 1, 2020

That smell

A couple weeks ago, I walked into the kitchen and found Cady, the general of my cat army, staring at the stove as if she expected it to move. I’ve spent enough years with the cat army to realize this behavior typically means a vermin intruder has penetrated the perimeter, so I checked the previous points of entry. I didn’t see any evidence of vermin, though. What’s more, the rags I had stuffed inside holes remained there and my makeshift spackling jobs had held. Nonetheless, I moved the food from the pantry and to the oven, the refrigerator and the microwave.

We went on with our lives and, a few evenings later, I heard a scratching noise underneath the bathtub. The next evening, the cat army and I gathered around the wall between the bathroom and hallway and listened to what sounded like a rhinoceros crawling up the wall. A few nights later, I heard a ruckus that sounded like a crash of rhinos galloping throughout the house.

I didn’t want to interfere, so I returned to slumber. The next morning, I didn’t see evidence of foul play, so I assumed the cats had spent the night engaged in paw-to-paw combat with one another.

That brings us to last weekend. Whilst cleaning, I moved a box so that I could sweep. That’s when I spotted vermin droppings. They were few in number and concentrated in a small area near a corner.

I was perplexed.

I asked myself, “Self, why did the vermin only poo here? And how did it get in?” I returned to previous points of entry, but once again found nothing. But this time I also checked the cabinet above the stove, where I found a few droppings. That made sense because the cabinet was in the general location of the smell…

Oh, wait, I had forgotten to mention the smell that had been offending my nostrils for three or four days. I assumed it was coming from a rhino that had somehow lost its life in the wall behind the stove.

As I had no plans to tear down the wall, I also assumed I would have to live with the smell, which at times took my breath away. And not in a good way. Regardless, I went on with my life, cleaning the cabinet above the stove and stuffing old rags and spackle into holes.

After I cleaned my mess, I attempted to return the stove to his usual locale, but I quickly stopped, backed away from the stove and gasped. The smell overwhelmed me. Apparently, the offensive odor was coming from inside the stove. Specifically, from the top right corner of the back of the stove.

Whatever had died in there wasn’t going to get itself out, so I borrowed a tool from my neighbor and removed the stove’s back panel. When I saw a dead mouse staring at me, I backed away from the stove and gasped.

For moral support, I called to Cady, who quickly joined me in the kitchen. But she gave me a look that suggested she felt the cat army had done their job and now it was my turn.

So, I used napkins and a tool to dislodge the mouse. That’s when I noticed the trail of dried blood. I’ve watched dern-near every episode of “CSI,” so I reconstructed the scene. Apparently, the cat army had corned the mouse, which accounted for the droppings, and then chased it to its death, perhaps even fatally wounding it, on the night of the ruckus.

Either way, the cat army had done their job. So I showered them with praise and treats, and then we held a private service for the mouse.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

Skirting the issue — December 4, 2019

Skirting the issue

78708555_427740308110462_7948906814651760640_nMy gently-used Christmas tree has a lovely new skirt. And, to think, it took me only four years to buy the tree skirt.

Well, the transaction didn’t take four years. But it did take four years for me to find a tree skirt I deemed worthy enough to play an important role in my holiday decor.

Of course, there wasn’t anything wrong with my previous tree skirt. It was winter white and featured a silver-and-gold Santa and snowperson as well as raised stars. Well, I don’t think it was genuine silver and gold, but as I didn’t have it appraised, I guess I’ll never know for sure. Anyway, I can still remember the day I bought it at the Supercenter. Feeling guilty for behaving so extravagantly, upon my return home I called my mom and asked if $12 had been too much to spend on a tree skirt.

She assured me that it wasn’t and, for the next 16 years, the tree skirt added a touch of grandeur to my household. But thanks in part to my cat army, the silver and gold had frayed and many of the stars had quietly disappeared.

So, four years ago, I started shopping for another tree skirt. But choosing one represented a huge commitment. After all, I would have to live with my decision one month a year for the ensuing decade or even longer.

Faced with that realization, I struggled to find a tree skirt that suited my fancies. Sure, I’d run across one I considered cute or even cozy, but then I’d focus on a feature such as fake fur or felt reindeer antlers and reconsider.

This year seemed like the right time, though. Indeed, I welcomed a hand-me-down tree into my household and it would have been gauche to drape an aging skirt underneath a gently-used tree.

As luck would have it, I spied a lovely tree skirt during an autumn visit to the home improvement store. The skirt, resplendent in Christmas red, featured the words “merry and bright” stitched on the front in white as well as white scalloped edging.

Of course, I didn’t buy it right then and there. I needed time to mull over my decision and make sure an even lovelier skirt didn’t reside in various and sundry stores or on websites.

When I failed to find lovelier décor, I scurried back to the home improvement store and bought the aforementioned tree skirt, which now decorates the floor underneath the tree.

In spite of its loveliness, I was worried that Alice, the youngest member of my cat army, would not care for the new tree skirt. So fond was she of its silver-and-gold predecessor that she seemingly took up residence on it before I placed it under the tree each year. My worries, however, were proven fruitless. Alice, who regards Christmas as the most wonderful time of the year, quickly settled onto the tree skirt as if it were an empty box or freshly-laundered clothes. What’s more, she and/or another member of my cat army has already deposited a fur ball on the lovely new tree skirt.

Yes, it’s officially part of the household.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

In a nutshell — October 16, 2019

In a nutshell

Last week, a Pittsburgh woman stopped at the library to return movies and detected a “burning” odor emanating from her car. Noting that the car had also been making a “weird” noise, she popped the car’s hood and discovered oodles of walnuts, as well as grass, nestled among her car’s innards.

It was later determined that more than 200 walnuts were under the hood. While it appears that no one thought to weigh the grass, it was also determined – or maybe just assumed – that enterprising squirrels had stored the walnuts and grass in the car. And they had done so in only a few days.

According to news reports, it took nearly an hour to rid the car of the nuts and grass. What’s more, when mechanics later removed the car’s protective plate, more nuts fell from underneath the engine. Luckily, the car suffered no damage.

The same can’t be said for the squirrels. What are they going to eat this winter? Apparently, they read and understood the moral of “The Ant and the Grasshopper.” Still, all their hard work went for naught.

Of course, I have to question the wisdom of selecting a car as a pantry. So many things could go wrong. What if the car’s owner moved or sold the car? What if you – an enterprising squirrel – became trapped under the hood whilst retrieving said nuts and ended up taking an unplanned trip? Or what if the nuts and grass caused some sort of non-damaging burning sensation that led to the removal of said nuts and grass?

The presence of the grass also makes me wonder if the squirrels planned to squat in the car during the winter. If so, it further proves that they did not put a lot of thought into this endeavor.

They also didn’t learn their lesson. They day after the 200-plus nuts were found, they stored more nuts in the car.

Although I admire the speed at which the squirrels worked, I once again must question their judgment. First of all, didn’t they immediately notice that their oodles of nuts were missing? Second of all, why didn’t that lead them to deduce that maybe they shouldn’t use that there car as a pantry?

Regardless, I feel bad for the squirrels. It’s similar to the feeling I have when I sweep away spiderwebs. Spiders go to all that trouble weaving those webs so they can catch unsuspecting insects and then it’s all gone in one or two swipes.

Then again, I guess I am saving the lives of unsuspecting insects. But what are the spiders going to eat?

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.

A raccoon’s lifetime — August 21, 2019

A raccoon’s lifetime

Last week, police in a Florida town responded to a call at a school to find a raccoon trapped in a vending machine.

The photos that accompanied this breaking news, especially the one that showed the varmint with his/her head resting between bags of gummies, elicited an, “Ahh,” from me. And then I remembered that raccoons are disease-ridden, potential assassins.

Of course, it’s not that I dislike raccoons. In fact, as long as they’re not bothering me and mine, I mean them no ill will. After all, except for spreading rabies, roundworm, salmonella, and whatever giardiasis and leptospirosis are, I’m sure they also serve a positive purpose in the animal kingdom. But it’s been my experience that they’re not nearly as cuddly as they appear.

Then again, the only raccoon with whom I’ve been in close contact was in a cage. So, that could have accounted for the animal viciously baring its teeth and lunging toward me all the while snarling and hissing. This aggressive behavior convinced me that, if the raccoon were to break free, it would sink its sharp teeth and/or even sharper claws into my exposed jugular. (By the way, the animal was freed – far, far away from me – without injury to him/her or anyone else.)

This experience represents only one reason I’m apprehensive about raccoons. According to my late father, a raccoon slit the throat of one of his dogs. Now you know why I was so concerned for the safety of my jugular. (In an unrelated story, Daddy also told me about the time a fox bit the toe of another dog, which might or might not have belonged to my uncle. Yes, he used the word “toe.” And, yes, bad things apparently happened when the brothers Goff’s dogs encountered wild critters.)

As far as I know, the masked bandit who broke into the vending machine didn’t slit any throats, bite any toes, or give anyone rabies, roundworm, salmonella, and whatever giardiasis and leptospirosis are. Although none of the stories I read explained how the varmint gained access to the school or the vending machine, the reports did explain that authorities loaded the snack machine on a dolly, wheeled it outdoors, and released the animal on his/her own recognizance. I only hope he/she grabbed some Pop Tarts and potato chips for later.

See, I told you that I mean the disease-ridden, potential assassins no ill will.

This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.