Dateline Farm, woodsmoke hands, Miles on a Bluetooth speaker. It’s a riff from the Jack Johnson Sessions. It’s not one of the better songs on the album but it’s not the worst music I’ve heard today. That ‘reward’ goes to the songs I heard coming across ‘Orscheln Radio’ whilst I searched for all and sundry at the Orscheln Farm & Home in Owensville, MO on my drive out here this afternoon. Folks, this is Hawley Country.
It’s just shy of 19:00. I have removed my vest. Only now was it warm enough in here—or out there—to do so. I brought one thermometer from home, then bought another at Orscheln. There was a thermometer hanging on a nail on the wall in here but it seems to’ve been dislodged from its nail, fallen and then perhaps been trampled upon during the Fall Par—
Something buzzes my tower!
Crane fly? Moth?
Boxcar Willie plays now on ‘Randall Radio’.
“Hey, mister, can you spare a dime?”
I was writing about thermometers. I’ve now got two lying on the table in the kitchen—the stove room—of this old, mold-swept Farmhaus. One says 52°, the other 54°. One is still in its packaging.
(The color of the ink changes from green to teal…)
I ate a sandwich. It was a grilled cheese characterized by a mess a muenster—so chewy and salty. But I’m lonely as hell, not having fun right now at all. I miss B and Hugo, I wish Helm were here. I look forward to being asleep and to waking early. I’m drinking a third beer but it’s just something to do. I’m nauseous with longing for company.
Why do I do this?
I did get some useful work done once I arrived here this afternoon. The handle to the front door had been snapped off in October—along with the thermometer it was another casualty of that occasion. I bought a generic replacement at Orscheln. They only had one type, albeit in different finishes.
What I bought did not quite fit the existing template of holes on the door here but I had my drill and was able to make new holes in the door. You can shut the door now. Sometimes it even shuts on its own.
Then I turned my attention to the back screen door, the screen of which was ripped and useless against the ubiquitous, ceaseless dirt daubers. I painstakingly removed the system of slats holding the screen in place, then ripped the screen out.
I put in new screen material and put the slats back in place, having to replace some of the lithe, delicate slats. I’m pretty happy with it. Whoever put the system in place—it was, I believe, a man called Harry, now deceased, whom I never met—used a brad gun to stun the slats in place. They held great but were difficult to remove. I used a skinny flathead screwdriver and a pair of needlenosed pliers. I was fighting sunset.
But those were the two things I wanted to get done, and did. So yay. I feel sick. The stove’s baking compartment is up to 250°. It’s 61° in here, according to the average of the two thermometers. Pink Floyd now is on the Bluetooth speaker. This just isn’t any fun by myself. I guess I could read. It’s 19:30.
No stars. I had stepped outside. Dark. But I could hear the spring gushing down below, down the hill from the front door’s stoop, flowing strong out of the spring house and on toward the creek. It was audibly flowing in October, too. But to hear it from the house, like it were some sort of wind? Maybe it was just the wind.
I will grab my phone and walk up to the pasture gate, where I get reception-enough to send and receive text messages. Here in the house my phone is not a phone. Most times that’s fine, preferable even. Today I wish it worked better. I am glad I did not try to camp out tonight. That would have been a cold, dark, lonely form of misery.
(And now the ink changes back to green…)
It felt good to turn the radio on. I heard a little of Meet the Press, which I used to watch on TV. I didn’t realize it was on the radio. Now it’s Sunday Night Football, Dallas at Philadelphia. The reception is finicky.
I’ve done a mediocre job with the fire in the wood stove. I must’ve overloaded it, choking it out. I had to prop the front door open again to usher out the smoke. My eyes have been watering. It’s 63° or even 64° in here, though. I was able to shed my hoody.
The new thermometer has a humidity gauge on it as well. It is 60% humidity, whether that’s relative or absolute I’m not sure but I think the former. One of the teakettles on the stove is slowly adding steam to the air. Otherwise it would be dry in here.
(Back to teal…)
My air mat now is inflated and lay upon this blue-gray particle-board floor. I have a pillow and a sleeping bag. Dallas is— err… I was about to say… but the Philadelphia tight end has caught a pass for a touchdown, extra point is good and we have a brand new ballgame. It’s 13-all in the third quarter.
The kitchen is a comfortable 68°. I am about to crack my fifth beer. The procession has been: a Pabst, a High Life, a Hibernation Ale, another Pabst and now another High Life is queued up in a “No Chicken Dance” coozie.
I’ve grabbed the stories of Breece D’J Pancake from the second bedroom. I will probably try to use magnets to put up a tarp over the glass portion of the front door. I keep looking out it, psyching myself out.
With 11:42 left in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys have promptly retaken the lead. The stove’s oven compartment is up to 275°. It’s a ‘Jewell Enterprise’ wood stove. I’ve been burning locust and oak blocks along with one wedge-shaped piece of cedar.
I’ve now got a grommeted tarp slung across the door, relying in part on a nail that was already planted there on one side of the doorframe. On the other side I’ve got a quarter-sized magnet pinning the opposite corner of the tarp to the old metal cabinets that hang over the defunct gas range. The front door itself was not magnetic. Likely it is aluminum.
Continuing on a growing, entertaining theme: the Eagles have now promptly answered a score with a score. Again the game is tied.
(Back to green —or— Whose tarp is That, Anyway?)
It’s a final, 27-20. The game ended nine yards from overtime. I’m not a football fan but I like any good sports match on the radio. I’m sad this one is over.
Now to scan the AM dial. 760 bills itself “The Great Voice of the Great Lakes.” 650 is bluegrass. 560 is talking Florida governor recount: voter fraud in Palm Beach, in Broward. It sounded partisan, which does not interest me. 1660 seems to be part of the Dallas Cowboys radio network.
“Wow, what a game,” someone says.
“Brought to you by the official bootmaker of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders.”
Scanning through static… down to 1200, ESPN radio. Out of where, I wonder. I opened the door to the back porch so I could get what was left in a bottle of Four Roses back there. I first brought this bottle out here in the spring of 2017. ‘Spring Farm 2017’ I wrote on it. A chunk of wood settles in the stove, giving me the heebie-jeebies.
There are about two skinny fingers left in the bottle. I don’t believe I’ve sipped from it since last November, a little over a year ago. As I touch the bottle it is cool, as if it were out of the fridge. There is condensation now toward the bottom. The difference between the temperature in here and out on the screened-in porch is perhaps 30°. It is probably 40° outside.
A hiss escapes from the bottle as I loosen the cap…
It’s 22:45. I’m trying to stay awake, sitting askance this… Formica(?)-topped table. Late-sixties? I’ve got my left elbow atop the table, my back to the wall. It’s a good spot. Straight ahead is the Jewell. On 1090 is a country/soul/gospel harmony.
“Jesus knows when you’re tired and weary, leave it on the altar of prayer… “
NFL highlights on 870. The Rams won again, 36-31 over Seattle. Oh, those Rams… they used to be mine before they skipped town. They are 9-1 in their latest incarnation as the Los Angeles Rams.
There is talk of the California wildfires, talk of the senseless shooting in Thousand Oaks. A week from tomorrow it’s a Monday Night Spectacular, what would have been the battle for Missouri: Rams versus Chiefs. Both teams are 9-1.
I’m struggling. The AM goes in and out—why? Down to 870, WLW, New Orleans, Louisiana, USA … dot com! The Saints are good again this year. We will be in New Orleans on Super Bowl Weekend. It will be the third time I’ve been in NOLA on Super Bowl weekend. Could this be the year the Saints happen to be simultaneously super?
The radio goes auto-off now for the second time. Oh no you don’t. You are my companion, radio, you must persist. The auto-off on this little handheld radio turns the radio off once it’s been in continuous operation for ninety minutes, meaning I’ve been running it for three hours.
I’m down to a pinkie finger of Four Roses. I’ve got one little Rose remaining. Adios, whiskey, I relieve you of your post on the back porch.
I keep on adding wood to the stove. I’ve got one beer left. I’ll crack it. There’s some Sailor Jerry up in the shed. It was left here by a Vaughan step-relation. I’ve never had any of it but I’m mindful of it. This night again it will go untouched. Helm might have some vodka stashed somewhere around here but I’m not about to go looking for it. There is a stash of grass on the premises. The longer I stay awake the more that stash comes into play.
Westwood One’s Sunday Night Football coverage has now ceased on 870. NBC Sports Radio has been joined ‘in progress’. The talk is of basketball—the NBA. I have no interest at all, not in the talk of it, anyway. If it were a game, maybe. Curry, Durant, LeBron, hasta luego.
On 840, the Bill Cunningham Show, there is discussion of Oumuamua, that cigar-shaped interstellar object that passed through our solar system last year. Harvard scientists said it might have been an alien probe. These scientists were piqued because Oumuamua seemed to change speeds as it passed by Earth. The frequency falls away from me amidst mention of Jean-Luc Picard and Stephen Hawking.
The origin of Oumuamua: unknown. The origin of 840 AM: Louisville, Kentucky. Bobby Petrino is out as head football coach at the University of Louisville, again.
(The ink changes back to teal…)
Oumuamua was the best of Bill Cunningham tonight. After that he got very political and partisan, which is, I suppose, what he does. He trashed our species because of election fraud and abuse in Florida. He started saying something like, “If Ooma-ooma-ooma really were aliens, they would find us closer on the spectrum of life to parameciums than to them.”
Because of Florida 2018!
I thought conservatives were all about believing in the inherent good and potential in every one of us. That, “If only the government would leave us alone, and not try and help us prosper, then we’d do just fine on our own.” But Florida 2018 makes us parameciums.
Anyway, I was going to omit saying all of that because I heard the rumble of a diesel going by. For a moment I thought it was coming up the drive. It felt that close, in my belly, permeating my custom-made world here, with its crackling wood stove fire, the AM radio also crackling, a decades-old fridge making a modem-like, dial-up sort of sound at times, muted though in the way a trumpet can be muted. Now the old fridge shifts down, calming a bit.
When I heard the truck I grabbed my axe, which I’d already unsheathed. I went into the middle room and looked out from there. I guess if I had to, I’d go up into the attic, fight from there.
Back to the music on 650. Banjo pickin’. I took a moment and went into what I first knew as ‘The Scary Room’, a bedroom that sits catty-corner to the kitchen and shares a wall with the screened-in porch. The wallpaper is peeling in there, off the walls and hanging down from the ceiling. Spray foam peeks out from wall cavities. The window’s second pane is busted and there’s a pile of lady bug and wasp shells in there. When I vacuumed all the rest of the first floor in March I didn’t even think about trying to clean that room. But, now that I’m looking back on it, I’m not really sure why. It would have been worth it.
There’s also a door in there, leading out onto the screened-in porch, or vice versa. I remember how the door was open, left open, when this place got hit last year. That was an ominous sign because otherwise no one uses that door.
Now a tribute to the king of bluegrass.
“They call me by another name,” someone sings.
There is a bolt lock on the Scary Room’s door to the porch but it didn’t fit right in the doorway—the bolt couldn’t be slid and set. First I started biting at the doorjamb wood with needle-nose. That was rash. I went and got the drill to scour out the settin’ hole. The bolt slides now but it would’ve been better if I’d only used the drill in the first place.
Status checks. It’s Monday morning, :06. The bluegrass show ends. Nashville. This station is out of Nashville. Rain there today, high of 46°. Chance of rain and snow early Tuesday, low of 22° overnight Tuesday. That’s pretty cold for Nashville, for November 13, right?
“The station that made country music famous,” it proclaims.
The next song is not bluegrass but a lackluster rockabilly number.
On 1680 the song, “All She Wants to Do is Dance.” Who sings that, Huey Lewis? Google, what say you? Alexa? Siri? Encyclopedia Brown? Buehler?
(Back to the green ink…)
Now for some KMOX, 1120. The temperature is all downhill from here, apparently. It’s 39° in St Louis, heading to 36° by late morning. There is a chance of some frozen or slushy precipitation. That’ll make for a tricky drive home.
“El Niño,” says the meteorologist. Immediately that image of Chris Farley comes to mind, siempre. Is it just me or does it seem like El Niño occurs about every three years now?
Unfortunately, and surprisingly, KMOX does not come in all that well. On 1090 is a ballad of sorts, Christian in nature.
Sliding down the dial to 780 I catch a rundown of Chicagoland traffic, a mention of Butterfield Road, the Eisenhower, the Dan Ryan. It’s WBBM News Radio.
“Good morning, I’m Bob Conway,” he says.
The top story is—auto off!—the rising body count resulting from the so-called Camp Fire, 29 dead, in Northern California, near the now-decimated town of Paradise.
Meanwhile, another serious fire burns quite a ways south in the same state, threatening Malibu. Where did these fires come from? They’re like that last hurricane, I think it was Michael, that quickly gathered itself south of Cuba before barreling into the Florida gulf coast west of Panama Beach.
Wildfires in November? Here it is has been too damp and chilly for any kind of fire. California’s governor cites drought conditions.
(Back to teal…)
Dow futures are up 66 points. It’s 2:04.
I laid down for a little bit but I didn’t sleep much.
It struck me that I should get up and make sure the fire was still going. There were only coals. Hoping for a smooth restart I erred by adding too much wood back to the stove at first, choking the coals out. For a restart atop coals in that stove it really has to be one piece of wood added back at a time. I had to get some paper in there and set it alight. Even though there were glowing coals nothing seemed capable of catching.
Nonetheless, it’s still about 72° here in the kitchen. There was another auto-off. Quickly I turned the power back on and 780 is playing again from Chicago. I am suddenly hungry.
(Back to green…)
americarecyclesday.com, November 15
I drank a Canada Dry. I added more wood to the stove. In the oven compartment sits now a potato, slathered in oil and spices, wrapped in two layers of aluminum foil. It’s 2:49. I am going to sleep really well, sooner or later.
(Back to teal…)
I was up at six. It’s 8:32 now. It’s snowing. I’m packing up, cleaning. I put the potato fixins on the potato and put it back in the oven. It cooked up real nice.
Down the road, across the way, up toward the Alder Springs ridge comes the guttural sound of a diesel. At first I thought it was another pickup—scouting, loitering, looking for a wounded deer in the hardwood. But aye, how wrong. Walking out a ways for a better view I was able to see that the audial epicenter is Carmack, the farmer. The hood of a hooded sweatshirt is pulled tight around his face as he sits in the cockpit of a dozer, working a lever back and forth as he takes down trees as old as I am, getting a sort of running start and then just ramming right into their trunks, felling them with ease, their rootwads exposed to the atmosphere all of a sudden, in ugly shock.
And yet the snow continues to fall without making a sound.
—Halfway between Brinktown and Iberia, MO