Tuesday, April 18, 2017

The Granniest of Them All

I used to do field work with a fellow who was a bit of a clothes horse, even when he was in the field. "Ahhh," I said to him early one morning as we were departing our motel during a long field stint, "Clean sock day!" I thought everyone worth their hiking boots knew the joys of clean sock day, but the look of pure revulsion that crossed his face gave me some insight into the numerous huge duffel bags he brought with him everywhere he went. This guy was putting on clean socks every day. Probably clean everything else, too, but after the look I got from him over just my socks I didn't dare mention clean underwear day to confirm my suspicions.

He didn't last long at the job. I like to imagine that there is a correlation there, as if we of rotated socks are simply made of tougher stuff than those of daily-princess-fresh-socks. Smarter stuff, too: guess what's more efficient than packing a comprehensive wardrobe change for every fricking day, like you're in a sitcom instead of just a canola field somewhere? Not doing that, then packing a Tide pod and a couple of quarters for those rare instances where you can't rotate your way out of a laundry shortage.

And shortages do happen, even to the most intrepid of re-users and rotators. Despite my Tide pods and the comprehensive mental map I've developed of the best available public laundry facilities across rural Saskatchewan and Alberta, the fact is sometimes serious laundry shortages even happen to perfectly non-princessy people in towns where no laundry facilities exist. Handily, I happen to have some friends and family scattered about the landscape as well, all of whom not only have laundry facilities that they will let me use, but who will also acquiesce to an impromptu coffee date with me in whatever weird outfit I've managed to cobble together out of the dregs of my remaining passably-clean clothing. These are truly the kind of people you want to have in your life.

I once dropped a pair of underpants between the washer and dryer at a friend's house under just such laundry shortage circumstances. As much as field laundry has taught me what good people my friends really are, it also taught me what kind of person I am: I am a horribly vain person. Maybe not at the surface, since I was apparently willing to purchase and then wear the lobstrosities I had just lost down the ol' washer-dryer gap, but in my heart of hearts I sure as fuck didn't want anyone to actually see them. I peered in horror at those ginormous, psychedelic-butterfly-print, cotton ultra-granny field gotch, winking up at me from the depths of the linty crack of doom, and I knew in that moment I would go full Aron Ralston before I would ever, ever let my friend lay eyes on them.

I did get them out eventually, with the aid of some barbeque tongs and a good many swear words. I even got to keep my arms. In my panic over the butterfly field gotch, however, I failed to notice that I had also lost a Bama sock down the washer-dryer gap. For anyone who is not familiar with Bama socks (and are thus unable to grasp how truly terrible this is), just know that Bama socks are the closest thing I have ever experienced to an actual miracle in my life.

It was a wet spring that year - which is why the laundry shortage had occurred in the first place - so I had ample time marching around the wide, wet world in steel-toed rubber boots to fully experience the loss of one Bama sock. As I marched, I comforted myself with the knowledge that no, I was not quite so vain - knowing what I now knew, if I had to do it all again I would choose the fleeting awkwardness of leaving some gotch behind over the enduring physical discomfort of leaving a Bama behind. After all, what's a little smidge of embarrassment between friends, right?

I was able to convince myself of that right up until I returned to my friend's house a couple of weeks later. When he grinned and handed over my sock, which he was holding with his hands, I was overcome by the mental image of him handing me those goddamn granny panties instead.

Unequivocal nope - I choose to save the gotch. Always, always the gotch.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Free Lunch

A northern flicker has been frantically drumming on my (metal) chimney for the past couple of weeks. I hope he finds the love he's looking for soon, because the incredible booming sound it makes inside my house is really interfering with my off-season nap schedule.

It reminds me of the time, growing up on the farm, when a duck came down the chimey into our basement. I remember my mother coming screaming around the corner into the porch to find out what the hell my brother and I were trashing in the basement. The basement was always a little spooky in the first place - mouse traps and spiders and The Dark and such - so we were standing in the porch frozen in terror at what the hell actually WAS trashing the basement. I mean, there was a LOT of noise happening down there. From our perspective, it was obvious that the ankle-grabbing monsters that lived under the stairs had finally come for us, so we were uncharacteristically relieved that Mom was raging mad about it. Those monsters were clearly going to get their asses whooped.

She RAN downstairs, then RAN back upstairs (OHMYGAWD SHOULD WE RUN TOO?!), then RAN back downstairs with a bunch of... towels? Then, after a little while and some colourful language, she returned up the stairs with a half-bald duck wrapped in towels and let it out the front door. (Dammit, we still had stair monsters.)

The furnace seemed way more interesting to me after that. What surprises might come out of it next? (A songbird, once, but that was it. I was hoping for a pet raccoon.)

Mom has a colleague who grew up in China and likes to hear stories about life in Canada. When she told him this story (her version probably involves fewer stair monsters than my version) (and less "creative punctuation" - unlike me, she was an English major) he was duly impressed, but for completely different reasons:

"Wait, wait, wait - you're telling me that a duck invited itself into your home, plucked itself, and offered itself into your be-towelled arms, and you didn't even eat it?"

(I would add to that that the duck also made one helluva mess when it was down there so if it knew my mother at all, it must have had a death wish.)

I guess we just didn't think of it as food. If I had known then what I know now about duck confit, perhaps I would have. This fellow's take on our basement duck has caused me to wonder what other immigrants to Canada must think about our collective habit of going to the grocery store to buy extraordinarily expensive packages of bland meat when there is so much food just traipsing around the neighbourhood that could be had for free. Why, just in Ranchlands we have partridges, rabbits, squirrels (hey, I know someone who says they're delicious, if a bit bony), and even the occasional deer. Not a lot of ducks or geese, but the communities with lakes probably have those. I think of these critters fondly, like community pets, but the budget-conscious among us - perhaps particularly those who didn't grow up with boneless, skinless chicken breasts as their flavour standard - might view them a little less romantically.

A friend of mine who was raising contraband urban chickens once told me he had figured out how farmers decided which chickens to eat first: the ones that are jerks.

Frankly, I'm starting to wonder what northern flickers taste like.