Time Travel – not all it’s cracked up to be

Happy kids on a toboggan in the snowI experienced time travel today.

When we woke this morning the CowChows lay under a seven inch thick blanket of new snow. It was early; my neighbors had not yet ventured out and so the snow blanket lay pure and undisturbed. All was quiet; save the distant rush of the river and occasional birdsong it was as if the entire world still slept. As I stood at the window sipping fresh hot coffee, tendrils of smoke climbed from neighboring chimneys and curled skyward. And I thought, “What the hell am I doing up this early?” And, I went back to bed.

Some time later I was awakened by the sound of an angry hornet. I peered out through the frosted window pane and saw my neighbor whizzing down the road on his four-wheeler. Behind the noisy contraption and attached by a length of rope was a plastic toboggan with two happily screaming kids onboard. My first thought was, “Wow, a spill at that speed could hurt those kids pretty bad.”

My next thought was, “Man, that looks like fun.”

I was only going down to watch, I swear. But when I got down there and saw their beaming smiles and wind stung cheeks, when I heard their joyful screams and laughter, and as I stood there on the hillside with the other kids waiting their turn I couldn’t help but feel a thrill. Of course, I would have been perfectly happy to share in their fun vicariously, but when the little blond haired girl from next door turned to me and sweetly asked, “Would you like a ride,” well, what could I say?

Three small children took each arm and assisted me in lowering myself onto the toboggan. With animated chatter they instructed me to keep my feet inside, hang on tight, don’t fall off, and one taunting little voice said, “Don’t pee your pants like Jeffrey did.”

Finally I was ready. I squared myself on the toboggan, gripped the sides, and just as I was giving the nod to go I heard a voice from up the hill and behind me, “TIMOTHY LYNN COUCH!!”

I turned; my neighbor gunned the engine; the toboggan jumped out from under me, and I went sprawling in the snow. Suddenly, I was ten years old again; I’d just been caught in red-handed mischief, and all the other kids were laughing at me. As I lumbered up the hill rubbing my butt a sing-song voice whispered, “Timmy got in trouble.”

Time travel, it’s not all it’s cracked up to be.

Frigidly yours,

Tim Couch

With Aches Comes Wisdom

Man on sled in cloud of powdery snow
Yeah, that's gonna leave a mark

When we awoke this morning the CowChows lay under a four inch thick blanket of snow. Snow brings a peace and quiet to the world that is both soothing to the nerves and invigorating to the spirit. I found myself at once wanting to be outside frolicking in the snow and inside curled beneath my own blanket near a crackling fire. Throughout the morning I chose the latter. If only I’d been smart enough to stay there.

We were just finishing up lunch when I heard the tinkling laughter of children outside. The CowChows is nestled onto the side of a fairly steep hill, and through the window I watched as a couple of neighbor kids took turns on a sled. Their laughter, falling snow, the aroma of wood fire created a moment of nostalgia and a tiny voice inside my head asked, “How long’s it been since you slid on a sled in the snow?”

“They won’t want to play with me,” I argued. “To them I’m an old man.” But, the next thing I knew I was bundled up in my coveralls, boots, gloves, cap and shuffling out into the snow. I stood off to the side and watched, feeling every bit like the kid who wants to play with the other kids’ toys but is afraid to ask. We exchanged “Hellos” and they continued to play, and all the while the little voice kept urging, “Go ahead; ask them.”

So, I did. I asked if I could ride their sled. Their stunned silence lasted only a few seconds and then they explained it was actually a “Snow Boogie” and yes, I was more than welcome to ride it. I wanted to start from higher up the hill and as we climbed to the perfect place to take-off from the little dark haired girl explained the finer points of snow-boogieing including steering and balance and safety, and I pretended to listen.

At last I said, “This is it,” primarily because I was already winded. We turned and with the excitement of a child I took two running steps and dove onto the boogie sleddy thing. As I picked up speed the years fell away and I was flooded with childlike sensations and childhood memories. The cold pinched my cheeks, my eyes filled with tears, and I could not stop smiling. I was flying down that hill and going faster by the second. At some point, though, fast became too fast.

About halfway down I was sure I’d passed the speed of sound because I could no longer hear myself screaming. I wished I’d paid more attention to the little dark haired girl when I realized I was not going to miss my neighbor’s mailbox. Luckily, my shoulder absorbed most of the blow and it hardly slowed me down at all. I caromed off the mailbox, across the snow covered road and into the ditch where we had placed several large rocks last Spring to prevent washout. Somehow my Snow Boogie stayed under me and not only skipped across the rocks but picked up speed in the process. When my eyeballs finally stopped bouncing I realized I was headed straight toward a neighbor’s truck. Rather than be decapitated, I bailed.

The world became a blur of snow covered ground and snow filled sky as I rolled over and over and over. Thankfully, a hedgerow of thorny bushes stopped my tumble. I rolled onto my back and lay there panting, and as if drifting down with the snow I heard again the laughter of children. Funny how much different it sounds when you know they’re laughing at you.

Perhaps age will eventually bring wisdom, but aches will definitely do the trick.

Cordially yours,

Tim Couch

Hey, You’re a Honeybee

Hobo Honeybee
Hobo Honeybee

I was outside earlier slinging paint on the front porch of the CowChows when I got a pleasant surprise. You know how the aroma of fresh paint seems to attract every bug for miles around; well I heard a buzz and looked down to find a honeybee had landed on the handle of my paintbrush. I raised the brush to get a better look and saw that he had a tiny bundle wrapped in a tiny red handkerchief tied to the end of a tiny stick that was propped over his shoulder. I said, “Hey, you’re a honeybee.”

“So what,” he said.

“I haven’t seen any of you guys around for a couple of years,” I said. “Where you been?”

“It’s not where we’ve been,” he said. “It’s where we’re going.”

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“We’ve just had enough, is all. You work hard all day long, try to do the right thing, fulfill your obligations to the hive, and the harder you work the more they take. Eventually, you start to feel like nothing but a drone. There’s still plenty of bees around but they’re the fatcats and the layabouts that never leave the hive. Most of the worker-bees are gone. I’m one of the last to leave.”

“But, what about the others, the ones left behind?” I asked.

“Hey, we talked until we were buzzed out. All the fatcats want to do is strut around making rules and giving orders, and all the layabouts do is sit on their stingers and say, ‘That’s not my job.’ Hopefully, they’ll wake up before it’s too late.”

“But, what about making honey?” I asked.

“Everything it takes to make honey is still here,” he said. Make it yourself, or get the bees to go to work.”

“How do we do that? I asked.”

He shrugged and said, “Do a little jig, they’ll like that. Hey, you missed a spot.”

I turned to look where he was pointing and when I looked back, he was gone. “Wait,” I called, “Where are you going?”

A tiny little voice from high and away came back to me, “Yeah right, like I’m going to tell you.”

Cordially yours,

Tim Couch

Never too old to play

Priceless angel
Priceless angel

Kids are great aren’t they? All that boundless energy and unbridled enthusiasm for life, the fearlessness with which they approach everything they do, the careless joy of simple play, and their endless curiosity for everything around them always puts me in a special mood. That’s why I try never to miss an opportunity to screw with their little heads.

I was out dawdling in the yard a while ago, and several of the neighborhood kids were playing nearby. The sound of their laughter and their occasional high pitched squeals took turns making me smile and setting my teeth on edge. I suspect it has something to do with turning fifty that other people’s children aren’t quite as endearing as they once were. But, I’m quite experienced in the art of prepubescent ignoration and so I was going about my piddling without too much discomfort.

Unfortunately, in my determination to let them have their fun I didn’t notice that they had noticed me. “Hello,” I heard in a tinkling little voice. I looked up and there were three of them. They had me surrounded on one side.

“Hello,” I said, “and how are you ladies doing today?”

“Fine,” they said in chorus.

“It sounds like you’re having a lot of fun over there,” I said, and they all laughed as if I’d said the cleverest thing.

“How old are you?” asked the medium sized blond one.

“Well,” I said, “that depends on what you mean by old.” This gained me a quizzical stare but no further discussion of my age.

“We like your house.” said the taller dark haired one.

“Thank you very much,” I said. “We like it too.”

“Where did you get the money to buy such a big house?” asked the little one, her blond curls framing an angelic face.

“Well,” I drawled as I squatted down to their level. I looked around suspiciously and then whispered, “We used to have a little girl about your age, and we sold her. I sure hope your Mom and Dad don’t want a bigger house.”

They were still screaming when I stepped inside for a glass of iced tea. See, you’re never too old to play with the kids.