Boys being boys

Boys are smart alecksI was out back of the CowChows a little while ago poking around in my collection of undetermined purposes. I’m working on a new project. I got the idea from the Lazy-Susan in the kitchen, but in my design my La-Z-Boy sits on a giant turntable in the center of a donut shaped desk. On top of the donut will be two laptop computers, a television, a compact refrigerator, a toaster oven, a coffee maker, and of course the universal remote control. I call it the Youniverse. It’s going to be revolutionary.

While I was poking around in the pile looking for parts a couple of kids were playing shoot-em-up next door. They were running around chasing each other, making “p-keww” and “kapow” sounds, and arguing about who got who. I wasn’t too concerned about the outcome of the game so long as someone got shot, but then I suddenly realized they had gone silent. I first thought they had simply gone inside but a stealthy giggle told me that was not the case.

I turned to discover two young boys peering over the retaining wall that divides the properties. One I recognized as my neighbor, Mason. He’s the little brother of the little blond haired girl who regularly torments me. The other boy I didn’t recognize; possibly because I didn’t know him but more likely because both boys were making their best horror face. With their nose pushed up and their eyes pulled down and tongues sticking out and heads waggling from side to side they did look barely human.

I watched them for a moment wondering if I had a face in my own arsenal that could send them screaming for Mommy, but decided instead to take the tack of an adult. “You should be careful,” I said, “Your face could freeze like that and then you’d look that way forever.”

“Hunh unhh,” they replied in unison.

“It’s true,” I said. “Every time you make a face at someone you run the risk of your face freezing like that, and then you’ll have to wear that face for the rest of your life.”

“How do you know?” asked the little stranger boy.

“Well, that’s what my Mommy told me,” I said, “and Mommies don’t lie.”

Mason’s eyes grew wide, and then he shrugged his little shoulders and said, “Well, can’t say she didn’t warn ya.” And they ran off laughing and shooting at each other.

I think it’s going to be a long year.


Tim Couch

Woody the Aluminum Pecker


We had an interesting morning here at the CowChows. We got an early wake-up call from a woodpecker. Actually, it wasn’t so much a wake-up call as a wake-up demand. It was just after daylight, a time of day that I am not well acquainted with, that I first heard it. My first thought was that our house had somehow been turned into a giant bell while we slept, and now a gang of ball peen hammer-wielding angry ninja dwarves was trying to get in.

I threw back the covers and marched to the front door already rehearsing the tongue-lashing I was going to give my inconsiderate neighbor. Ladybug was at my heels already urging me to calm down. But, as I flung open the door and stepped out onto the porch, ours were the only lights on. Then the noise came again and we realized it was coming from the end of our porch, near our bedroom window.

A woodpecker had tried to land on top of one of the aluminum columns that support the roof, and too late he discovered the column was hollow and open on top. He had fallen all the way to the bottom and the space was too narrow for him to fly out. So he was doing the only thing he could do, trying to peck his way out.

We studied on it for a while. We could try to fish him out, but he would likely dismember himself in the effort. We could leave him in there, but then we’d be haunted by that noise forever. We could call someone, but there was no listing in the Yellow Pages under Stupid Bird Rescue.

In the end we did the only thing we could do. We got the hole saw from the shop and cut a two inch hole into the aluminum column. When the bit finally broke through I looked inside and there lay the woodpecker. The stress of being trapped and the noise of the saw must have been too much for his little heart. I fetched a piece of wire to try and hook the body and pull it out, but when the wire touched him he suddenly came back to life. He flapped around inside for a while. We backed off and waited. After a few minutes he stuck his head out the hole and looked around, and then out came the rest of him. He was a beautiful adolescent red-headed woodpecker. He staggered and slumped for a bit, but eventually he flew off and into the big elm tree in the front yard.

He came back later to say thanks. He left two big fat juicy secondhand grubs at our front door. We named him Woody, because Aluminy is just too hard to say.

Cordially yours,

Tim Couch

Did You Ever Notice?

I hope your day is as sweet as fresh cream butter on a warm yeast roll.

Did you ever notice how little we notice? I stepped out on the back porch a while ago. I went through the usual routine; checked the temperature; took a few deep breaths; considered all the homeowner projects that need doing; shrugged off the panic that comes with considering all the projects that need doing, and then something caught my eye.

My neighbor is building a barn just on the other side of the property line. And, it’s not like he only just started it. It is almost completely framed in. Granted, he works a lot faster than I do but when did all this happen and where was I and why didn’t I notice it sooner? And if I don’t even notice a barn going up right next door, what else have I missed?

It’s not that I don’t care about my neighbors or what’s going on around me. It’s just that I’ve apparently fallen into a habit of focusing only on the little rectangle of life that I control and am responsible for. Which, I guess, is not necessarily a bad thing but what if they were in trouble; what if they needed help; what if they were simply lonely and I just didn’t notice because my focus stops at the property line? What if I needed help? Would they feel comfortable crossing that line to offer assistance, or would they stand on the other side and wait to be asked? When did I become such an isolationist? Am I alone in this, or have we all narrowed our focus to the point that we live parallel lives?

I think I’m going to make more of an effort to know my neighbors. Nothing big, probably. I’ll just take a couple beers and walk down the street until I see someone who looks thirsty. Or maybe I’ll just put a bench out near the curb and sit down and see what happens. Maybe my neighbors would like to know me.

Maybe it’s time to turn off the T.V. and shut down the computer, and venture out into the neighborhoods that surround us. Maybe it’s time to recognize that we’re all in this together, that we all must depend on each other, that life can not exist in a vacuum, nor can a meaningful, rich, and full life be lived in one.


Tim Couch