Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Back Op

They were in a hurry. I was flat on my back on a gurney, getting drowsy, wheeling down a long hall. Wearing a fetching little blue and white cotton cocktail dress open at the back for inspection and blue paper booties on my feet. Medics in front and behind with another alongside holding a drip bag, all of them serious behind gauze masks.  The one with the drip bag asks “are you allergic to . . .” 

         And the next second I was flat on my back on another gurney, wheeling down another long hall. The medics have pulled down their masks and one of them is saying, “just an hour in the recovery room.”  Ten seconds later I was rolling  into a hospital room with electronic screens and tubes and wires drooling from the walls. Kathryn, God Bless Kathryn, patiently waiting.  The Clock says 9 PM, the operation started at 3.
          So I missed it.  I missed the foot long incision, the high spurt of spinal fluid, the sawing of back bone, chipping away at the cysts and the slow lapidary build up of bone cement followed by the insertion of a titanium hinge fusing lower lumbar 3 and 4. 
          Just as well.  If I’d been awake for the sawing, shaving, cutting drilling and stapling I’d have been saying hurry up, goddamnit I haven’t got all night.
Of course I did have all night and all day now and I am so happy to be able to walk again without the old nails and needles of pain.  And oh joy, the strength coming back into my legs.
          The first day after the op, leftover anesthetic made me feel good, kind of a hangover in reverse.  I could walk, all by myself, down the hospital hall and back.  The second day the pain kicked in.  Not major league pain, more like minor league pain.  Lifting a leg, for example, took planning.  A giant razor- clawed centipede had its hooks in my back.  Actually it was just staples instead of stitches.  But since the only possible position was lying flat on the staples, that did command your attention. 

            The nurses were exceptional, kind, patient.  And often beautiful.  One, a blonde 26 year old absolute replica of my high school girlfriend, was so pretty and so solemn.  She’d had kidney cancer the year before and wanted to write about her Airedale hound.  The dog had gone on long walks with her during her treatment and was a great healer, she said.  And the stunningly beautiful version of Cameron Diaz, a little taller, a little more voluptuous, said in the middle of the night that it would take a lot to make her unhappy.  And after a pause, a lot to make her happy.  I had a dozen answers to that but was asleep before I got to the first one.

Then there was Ali McCraw at 35.  On duty as a night nurse, she answered my call for help at 2 AM.  Who knew catheters could be so tricky.  Or that they are anchored by a balloon that if you attempt to pull it out, it will feel like you are dragging a melon through your weenie.  Fortunately I didn’t try that.  But I did have a desperate need to pee, couldn’t pee, and was drooling blood out of my penis. 
           I’d met her the night before, and we’d talked like old friends.  She is bent over me at 2 AM, wiping the blood away and pushing and prodding my little shriveled thing to see what helps.  “Lucky I heard your call,” she said.   “Always happy to see my handler,” I said as she prodded my shrunken pecker impaled on the catheter tube.
           “That is offensive,” she said through clenched teeth.
            I felt like a dog, a cur.   How do you talk to a stranger when she has her hands on your willie? I was lucky she didn’t stab me with my own catheter.
         Then there was my new friend, the lovely drug, Oxycodone, warm as a beach in Belize, bearer of tropical scents and dreams. 

My first Oxycodone dream was a trip to London where a square mile of ugly brick buildings had been pulverized.  The brick dust had been left in high mounds and valleys and instead of the old dark grim buildings there was a new soft and fluid architecture made of huge sheets (probably steel) of pastel blues and greens.  London was a Magical Mystery Tour, enchanted innocence.
         After a week, the warmth and calm of the Oxycodone dreams remain, but the dreams are getting darker and shot in black and white instead of color.  It’s the old bait and switch of drugs, the promise of sweetness and delight fading as need rises into craving. 
         There is another dark side to Oxycodone; my new love, my passion, my new need.  The drug contains “sphincterlock.”  After a few days you are longing, dreaming of not a Ferrari and days of wine and roses in a daffy pastel London, that can wait.  What you long for, dream of, crave is oh please, let me have a turd.  Can we please just get things moving again.?  After a week, you push and you try.  And finally with the help of Draino, one finally appears oh joy, oh glory, how beautiful it is.  Of course, to you, it’s just stinky ol’ poop. But to me, this little baby is my offspring. (offshoot?)
        Other happinesses include having the drainpipe that drooled blood and cloudy fluids into a gallon baggie detached from the gash in my back.  And even better, the 50  staples pulled out from the foot long cut.  Pop pop pop of wasp stings. Oh joy.

              Even better, the strength in my legs is coming back.  “You won’t get better lying on your back,” the surgeon said. “The way to get better is to get off your back and walk.”  

And the dog is here now, feet up on my chair, tail wagging, saying “get off your butt Bob, we got a lot of ground to cover.”

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Good Grief, Kathryn, What Have You Done to Our Car?

Kathryn was driving home from work last Friday evening when another car came out of a cross street and drove right in front of her.  The air bag blew up and saved Kathryn from serious injury.  Still, she took a whack.  She has some neck pain, as Fox Evening News reported, but she's getting better.  Suzy Lipstick, our ol Turbo Subaru is unlikely to recover.
Meanwhile our new house is coming right along.  And tomorrow, I'll have back surgery.
We'll have more news after this . . .

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Cows Come Home

You know it's the end of summer when the cows come down from the south and high pasture
and into our pasture behind us.
The calves have weening plates stuck in their noses.  In a week they'll be separated from their mothers and there will be an awful mooing and bawling.
 In another week the calves are willing to listen to reason.
"If you are going to make a break for it," I said, "now's the time."

Friday, September 6, 2013

Showdown In Chicken

My Uncle, John Logan (left) and Slim Williams, lost and starving, stumbled into Chicken, Alaska in July 1939.  This photo was taken after their first real breakfast in a month.  "Too stuffed to move,"  John wrote on the back of the photograph. They thought Chicken was paradise. Compared to starving to death in the wilderness, it was.

Chicken looks more like an industrial  dump now. I was stuck in Chicken for 5 days this spring. It felt like a month.
 Yesterday, my good friend Bill Freeman pointed out that Chicken,  (pop. 17) was raided. The Feds charged in to inspect federal land for pollution.  The miners screamed bloody murder. We picture the gold miners as guys with beards bent over a stream with a pan in their hands.
 That was a hundred years ago. 70 years ago, this machine helped make Chicken the dirt pile it is today.  (There's a lot of this junk lying around Chicken.)  This 3 story barge lumbered down the riverbed and chewed it all up.  All of it. Modern gold mining equipment is smaller and equally destructive.

The backside of the barge. (click pic to enlarge)
Picture these buckets, bolted to the conveyer belt sticking out of the front of the barge above,  20 wheelbarrows a scoop, whirling through a river, turning everything from fish and birds nests to reeds and rocks into a muddy stone soup with a wee pile of gold on the side.  Gold mining ranks right up there alongside fracking for trashing a landscape. This particular dredge was owned by a company owned by the Guggenhiems of New York City.  Go gettem, Feds, I say.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Iva for me wins the sneakers

Last night was Bobcat night at the Riverside Country Club, a fundraiser for the Montana State tennis teams, organized by newlywed and 2012 Big Sky Tennis Coach of the Year, Jared Burnham, and 2007 Big Sky Tennis Coach of the Year, Denise Albrecht
 My partner; Iva Parapunova, Montana State Women's Tennis Team No. 1 singles player.
 The Bobcat men and women played baby tennis with us fumblers and bumblers, giving us soft serves and easy returns. Thanks to Iva, who is bright, beautiful and gracious as well as a whacking great tennis player, we came in second and I won a new pair of tennis shoes.  Iva is a sophomore from New Zealand and Bulgaria studying art and architecture. Like an old man beating a drum as the parade goes by, I will always be her fan. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Historic Gateway Tour of Historic Porportions

Last Saturday  the ranch was on the "Historic Gateway Tour." Over 300 people showed up to see the old stone house, the log barn, the old Indian Trail and the buffalo jump.
Sally Broughton, President of the Gallatin Valley Historic Preservation Board, directs traffic at the top of the driveway while Kathryn in the straw hat, holds forth in front of her log barn.
Kathryn loves to talk about her ranch.  She talked so much her jaw hurt.
Our friend, Wendy Marquis, and her art looked right at home in the barn
After the tour ended, we threw a party for the docents
Former County Commissoner and  "great, great, grand-nephew of the founder of Salesville," (now called Gallatin Gateway) Walter Sales, 86, was there
After it was over, the ranch went back to same ol' used to be.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

An Announcement of STAGgering Importance

Heads up.  Next Saturday
there will be an historic tour
of the ranch including the old stone house
   the log barn, the Indian Trail, and the Buffalo Jump.
Tickets $10
(at the Pioneer Museum, Gallatin County Courthouse, etc. etc.)

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Orchard Report

Last night, a juvenile golden eagle said there's a lot going on in the orchard, Bob.  You need to check it out.
The orchard had been abandoned for years.  We started revival last year.  The old apple trees are coming back to life. 
The Wayne Crowell Memorial Honey Crisp we planted last year has 4 apples.
And this is really interesting.  Fresh bear poop.

The bear said this is gonna be a great year for apples, Bob. I get first pick. You got a problem with that?


Friday, August 9, 2013

On top of the Buffalo Jump

When our urban friends come to visit we like to take them up to the top of the buffalo jump for a glass of wine
a walk

 and a fresh perspective

Saturday, July 27, 2013

We Live A Parade

Last Saturday, our friend, Lisa Sabena, who runs the best motels in Three Forks and Bozeman, asked us if we'd lend our old ranch truck to the Lewis & Clark Motel float in the annual Three Forks Rodeo Parade.
     Three Forks is where the Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison Rivers come together to form the headwaters of the Missouri.  It's a ranch town.  Kathryn and the truck looked perfect.
Even with a Colt six shooter in my holster, I felt like a department store dummy. Three Forkers are real cowboys. They ride in rodeos.

 I did my best. I beaned the urchins with salt water taffy like a real cowboy
 and the float won first prize.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Good Evening Deer

The deer stroll onstage at dusk
to graze (there are two deer here)
and stare at us

Monday, July 8, 2013

Swimming Down the Waterfall

Our friends Tana & Don in the bow, their son Josh behind me and Kathryn alongside. River guide, Patrick in the stern
We live on the Gallatin, the river that runs through the movie.  So when our visiting friends Don and Tana Fowler said "let's go whitewater rafting on the river", we said "sure."  It was raining, there was some hail, and the water was 45 degrees.  It was great.

The fastest, roughest part was a flume alongside House Rock.

Where we hit a boulder sideways and I flew out of the boat. That's me, 10 yards downstream.

Another boat ran into ours while I tried to swim to shore and kept banging into rocks. It was like swimming down a waterfall, it didn't matter much how hard I swam, I went where the current went.   I slammed into a big boulder, turned over and came up a twenty yards downstream.  Breathing was beginning to be a problem.  Someone threw a rope but I missed it.  Another boat turned sideways downstream.  As I swept by they held out a paddle and I missed that too.  They held out another paddle but I was drifting away.  I thought this is my last chance. It probably was. The sky and the water were the same grey and swimming two yards upstream grab that paddle took everything I had. They hauled me in and I collapsed on the bottom of the boat until I could sit up.

Back home, I was still shaken  It hurt to walk and sitting down was painful, but I was OK.  Everybody was watching Madmen but I could not stand the flickering TV.  I sat on the back porch and watched a couple of bucks in the back pasture. . .
and the light in the sky, glad to be alive.