Buying Bacon

A guy’s life isn’t really all that complicated usually.  We eat, we sleep, we work, we play.  buying-bacon-picWith a few exceptions, that is the case for most of us.  We really don’t need much more than that.  Kinda like cave men, we can be happy leading a relatively simple existence.

When things get complicated for us it is usually when we “add” things.  For instance, mowing the lawn is a simple, sometimes relaxing task.  But when we try to add mowing in a certain pattern or inserting posies or roses into the landscape or God forbid a bird feeder, that complicates things to the point of stress!  We like it simple on most days.  Bird feeders and posies do not translate into simple.

I have come to understand that when Ms. Toni has a task for me to complete, she has her own level of stresses that go along with any request.  She apparently spends much time in consideration of how I am about to goof something up.  That has led her to a point in her life where she feels the need to lead me around like a three year old.  If I have heard it once, I have heard it ten thousand times over the past few years “Now…Ken”.  Whenever I hear those two words “Now… Ken”, you can count on the fact that one of two things are happening.  One, she is correcting me and trying to keep me from speaking my mind to someone or something that has my blood pressure elevated, or two, she is about to give me very specific instructions on how she wants something simple done.  For example, “Now…Ken, I need you to take out the trash, BUT, don’t forget to put in another trash bag, clean out the can (In the back yard this time, not in the kitchen floor), tie up the bag, close the lid on the big can outside (remember the possums will get in it if you don’t), push the can back into its correct place and then come ask me if it is done correctly.”  GOOD GRIEF!  It is taking out the trash!  I can handle it!  Well, most days I can anyway.

A few days ago, Ms. Toni announced that she had to go to the local Piggly Wiggly grocer to pick up some items for the weekend.  I saw the opportunity to gain some easy brownie points and offered to go “help”, which means I get to push the cart and grab whatever I want off the shelves when she isn’t looking.  I always love the look in her eyes when we are checking out and she is charged for something she doesn’t remember picking up.  I just say, “Yeah honey, you picked that up in the first aisle.  Don’t you remember?  Bless your heart.”  It is great fun, and fairly simple.

We had done the shopping and were in the checkout line when she remember that we needed bacon.  Now that is a word that gets the attention of almost every guy!   “BACON” I thought!  Yes, that one word is all I needed.  No explanation necessary.  “Bacon GOOD, Ken GET!” is what went through my mind.

I didn’t even give her time to get the “Now…Ken” out before I was bookin-it down the meat aisle looking for the thickest cut, biggest most industrial sized pack of bacon they had.  Thankfully I didn’t have to look long.  Like a bacon beacon of heavenly light, the pack seemed to call me, luring me closer and closer until the joy in my heart rose to the point that a single little tear formed in the corner of my eye.  It was the thickest cut bacon I had ever seen and it was all ready to go home with me.  It was beautiful!  So I grabbed three packs.

I arrived back at the checkout line quickly and proudly, my head held high as I boldly announced that I had found the best bacon ever and it was on sale for only $15.00 or so.  I did not mention that I had three packs as I assumed that the “shoe sale” rule was in play.  I had a comeback ready to go if Toni had questioned me.  It would have gone something like this, “Well, honey, I saved us eleven dollars off the regular price.  I just knew you would kill me if I didn’t save us all that money since I know how careful you are with the budget.”

When the package of bacon neared the scanner, my heart began to race a bit, partly because I love bacon, and partly because I was scared of Toni’s reaction when the price popped up for her and the young lady behind the counter to see.

“BEEP”, “BEEP”, “BEEP”, all three packages were now mine.  As I sighed in relief that the bacon was about to be bagged and all mine, I noticed a pause in the activity in our line.  It got quiet, oddly enough.  I glanced over at Ms. Toni who was staring at me as if she felt sorry for me a little, yet questioned what elementary school I attended as a child.  Interestingly enough, the girl checking us out had paused as well, looking at me with the same look Toni was giving me.  She stared for a second, then looked at Ms. Toni as if to ask if it was okay to continue scanning items.  Without saying a word, a nod was exchanged between the two and the beeping continued.

I offered carefully, “Well, there is one thing guys know and that is bacon!”  “I know good bacon.  Yessir I am a bacon fan and I can find good bacon in no time.  Yep, I am a good bacon shopper!”

The two ladies glanced at each other in what looked to me like a mocking fashion.  Toni said, “Ignore him, sometimes you have to let them think they can do something right to keep them motivated.”  The girl behind the counter said “I know.”

What the heck is that supposed to mean?  I thought I did good!

Have a wonderful fall season!

Ken

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When  we see something like bacon in our life and want it really badly, we tend to justify it before we consider what God wants for us.  He sends us little signals of warning, much like the look Ms. Toni gave me.  Those warnings are to prompt us to reconsider or at least take time to weigh the costs of a particular decision.  He will let us make the mistake if we persist and is just to allow us to receive the consequences of our decision, good or bad.   When we do something silly, He doesn’t just walk away from us, but loves us through it, even though he could have stopped us.   He knows we cannot learn without mistakes and pain in our lives but is always there for us when we feel pain or make a mistake.  Take some time to pause and listen when you make a decision.  Chances are that you will hear the beep beep beep of God’s voice alerting you to a possible different choice.  He may be trying to keep you from making an overindulgent choice that could get you into trouble, OR, He may be pointing you to an EVEN BETTER pack of bacon! 

Stairs & Stares

Some of the most rewarding times of my life come from serving others in sFalling Down Stairs JPGome form or another, without expecting anything in return.  In the Bible, it is referred to as “loving” others.   But, from time to time, I can get a little selfish and less than “loving”.  It is during these times of selfishness that I seem to learn some of the most valuable lessons, but also sometimes suffer the greatest humiliations.  When I begin to feel a little sorry for myself, I whine to God or to Ms. Toni.  Neither allow me to get away with what I call being my “inner three year old” and both encourage me to be more giving and charitable.  When I do that, I usually see my “problem” dissipate quickly.  When I don’t, I usually learn the lesson the hard way.

Last week I learned a lesson about complaining without cause when I went to a meeting with Mississippi Chapter of Healthcare Financial Management Association (HFMA) in Philidelphia, Mississippi.  I was in a whiney mood at the end of what I thought was a long day.  I was tired and looked forward to lying down and relaxing in my room once the day was done.   When that didn’t go exactly as I thought it should have gone, I developed an attitude and complained to Ms. Toni as always.  Here is how it went.

I got into bed around 9:00 pm, hoping to watch some of the later Olympic events.  I had already been through my nightly routine, coffee prepared, vitamins taken, clothes arranged, shower completed, nutty bar and milk strategically placed so they could easily be found in the dark.  You know, the normal stuff people do.  I called my wife, Ms. Toni, to say goodnight as I always do.  As we wrapped up the call I took my Ambien and fluffed my five pillows to just the right comfort level and settled back in the dark as the sprinters were lining up for a race.

I suppose I watched for something like “half a lap”, or a minute or so, when the satellite signal went out.  I scrambled in the dark to find the remote, afraid I had rolled over onto it and somehow changed the channel.  As I became increasingly frustrated (remember the three year old?)  I realized that there was no getting the TV to come back on.  I thought to myself, “Now I am going to have to lay here in the dark and look at Facey Book, or Itsy Bitsey, or Snappy Chatty or something until I go to sleep.  How unfair is that?”  Oh yeah, my inner three year old is a doozy when he is being “offended” by not getting his way.

As I reached for my phone I saw a flash in the window that was followed almost immediately by a loud clap of thunder.  Since I was already leaning over to get my phone I was just a little too off balance.  Being startled by the noise caused me to jump and that was just enough to put me on the floor beside the bed.  “I meant to do that!” I said out loud as if Ms. Toni was in the room.  “Oh yeah, I am by myself,”  I thought.  Nonetheless, I was somewhat embarrassed, but was able to find my phone and sit back down on the bed to check the weather radar.  Sure enough, there was a large storm upon us and it was about to get pretty bad based on what I could see of the purple and red colors on the radar.  I have been through a few storms and thought it would be a good idea to find the stairwell just in case the power went out and I had to get downstairs.  “No way I am getting stuck in an elevator!”  I thought.

I quickly grabbed my pajamas and got dressed, slipped on my fuzzy slippers, (Yes they are fuzzy and No, I didn’t buy them for myself, (don’t judge me) , grabbed my wallet and my phone and headed out the door.  I was happy to see that the stairwell was only two or three doors down from my room and headed over to do the recon for my escape should the need arise.

I gingerly walked through the stairwell door and peered over the rails to see how far down I may have to walk to the ground floor.  As I leaned over the rail I heard the familiar sound of a door closing and my heart fell to the very bottom floor as the sound echoed through the empty halls.  I closed my eyes and sighed.  “Okay Ken, there is no need to let your blood pressure go up.  I am sure that the door is not locked and you will be okay.  No need to panic man.  Just slowly turn around and you will see that the door will let you right back in the way you came out.”  As I took the advice of the voice in the back of my mind, I turned and gazed upon the sign that proved him a complete liar.  “No re-entry.”

“Well this is just great!” I muttered in a low tone.  Trying not to overthink things I decided to head down the stairs.  My fuzzy slippers flipped and flopped and echoed like the Budweiser Clydesdales on a hollow boardwalk.  I prayed no one else could hear them.  That would just be too humiliating.

I arrived at the landing of the next floor and looked at the door.  “No Re-entry.”  Flippity flop, flippity flop, to the next floor.  “No re-entry.”  Flippity flop, almost cussing, flippity flop, to the next floor.  “No Re-entry”.  Flippity flop, stagger, grab the rail for balance, cuss a little and promise to pray for forgiveness later, flippity flop, to what they say is the first floor.  “No Re-entry”.   By this time I am winded and ticked off at myself.  I can hear the sound of the storm outside.  One more floor and I should be on the ground level, so off I trudged.  Flippity flop, flippety flop, huff and puff, flippity flop, then finally, the “EXIT” sign!

I was a little proud that I had made it to the very bottom of the stairwell but the pride quickly faded away as I realized I was likely about to set off an alarm in a casino when I opened the door.  There was no doubt in my mind that doing that would not end well for me.  I could hear the wind and thunder outside and imagined myself bursting through the door and running around the outside of the massive building to get back to the main entrance.  “That is going to be a mess and I will not only be soaked but could be struck by lightning,” I thought.  “Better to just sit here for a few minutes until the storm passes and maybe I can make it without getting too wet or attracting too much attention.  I will just check the radar, then call the casino to tell them the alarm is about to go off when I open the door.  They will understand and maybe even give me a ride back around the building.  Yeah, that’s a great plan!”

I took out my phone and looked at the signal.  Any guesses?  Yep, nothing.  Nadda, not even a bar. They should put a signal indicator on the phone for times when you have less than a hint of a signal.  Maybe something like “Center of the earth” or “Signal?  Whatsa a signal?” would be helpful.  I couldn’t even get onto Google to get the hotel phone number.  I sat down on the bottom step and stared at my only friend in the world, a worn out straw broom standing in the corner seemingly laughing at me like that old guy in the dungeon that has been chained there for twenty years.  “You been here long sonny?”  as he smiles through his only tooth.  “Foods not too good here, but the critters keep me company.”

I sat there for a few minutes trying to figure out what I should do next.  I could hear voices on the other side of the door in the distance.  No doubt, there were  hotel employees coming in to work and rushing to get out of the rain.  I could picture them in my mind’s eye, scrambling to get into the building.  The sound of the rain and the wind got worse and better intermittently as I sat on the steps and contemplated my next move.

Ten or fifteen minutes went by when the thought hit me, “Oh no!  I took my Ambien before I left my room!  I am going to fall asleep sitting here and they will find me here in the morning in my fuzzy slippers and pajamas!”  If that wasn’t the case, the reality was that I was about to get real goofy real fast and I had to make a move, right now.  I jumped up and reached for the door.

I took a deep breath and prepared myself.  “Okay Ken.  We are gonna do this.  We are going to open the door and run, trying to stay out of the deep water.  We are going to get wet for sure, but maybe we won’t get struck and maybe security won’t see us.  Ready, set, GO!”

I slammed my weight on the crash bar of the door expecting the alarm to sound as I burst through into the storm, but to my surprise, no alarm sounded.  I found it curious that as I cleared the door, I felt no rain.  I looked up and was shocked to find myself standing safely in the kitchen of the casino!  “Oh this is just perfect!” I complained to myself internally.  “I am about to be escorted to the local Choctaw Indian jail or worse, end up on the evening news as the Ambien nut that got loose in the casino kitchen at The Golden Moon.”

The sounds I had heard were a combination of the air conditioning system and the water being sprayed by a lone dishwasher on the other side of the large room.  I stood there for a second trying to look like I belonged there but was quickly discovered/busted by a kind lady walking back to get some dishes.  She looked at me and I looked at her with my arms raised.  “I have come down the stairs and can’t get back in” I sheepishly offered.  She smiled and motioned over the noise for me to follow her.

She was so kind not to call security.  But, I could not help but to feel that I was being perp-walked to a degree.  As we turned the corner my heart sank and a knot rose in my throat.

Do you remember that time you had a dream that you were in public and realized that you were in your underwear?  Remember how helpless you felt?  Remember the horror of having those people in your dream stare at you as if you were a certified nut case?  No matter how hard you try in that dream, you can’t avoid the stares and the dream seems to never end.  Take a second, and think about that.

The knot in my throat choked off any possible “thank you” that I might have been able to offer the kind lady as she stepped to one side and waved me into the very back of the buffet area. When I turned the corner and realized that the buffet was full of people I honestly thought it would have been better for me to have been struck by lightning. “This is NOT happening!”  I thought.

I now had to fippity flop flippity flop my happy little butt through all the people that had filled the room to eat, past the line at the register, and past the little ole’ladies at the slot machines in my pajamas.  “Hi, how are you?”  “Hello, “ “Sorry,” “Excuse me.”  I couldn’t get out of there fast enough as you might imagine.

I scurried around the corner trying not to cry and found the elevator.   Quickly I pressed the call button on the elevator continuously until the familiar “ding” announced that I might make it through the humiliation.  The doors opened and I darted in with my head down.  “Oh thank God!” I said as I quickly turned and pressed my floor number.  “How can a one person have such bad luck?” I said out loud as I glanced up at the floor indicator.  The elevator began to rise and my heart rate began to settle a little.  “I am out of the woods now, safe, no problem.”  I thought.

A voice arose behind me.  “Son, it looks and sounds like you have had a long day.  Maybe a casino isn’t the best place for you right now.”  I slowly turned to see two sweet little ole’ ladies standing behind me smiling.  One had an oxygen tank but she was grinning like a possum eating grapes.  I wanted to crawl under the elevator doors and slither off into a corner somewhere, but I was trapped.  I took a deep breath, looked down at the floor and said to them, “Yes ma’am.  You are right.  Ms. Toni isn’t here to keep me out of trouble and I am just out of luck.”  They both smiled as the door opened and I walked off the elevator.  “You ladies have a great night and I hope you win more than I did.”  I said.

The door closed as they laughed politely.  They weren’t being mean at all.  I was actually touched by the way they seemed to understand.  “Odd” I thought to myself.  But then I realized they both had on wedding bands.  Chances are they understood just fine and chose not to make me feel worse.  Bless their hearts.

I walked to my room exhausted.  I smiled as I approached the door thinking how fun it was going to be when I told Ms. Toni this story.  “She won’t believe that I could be this goofy, but she will certainly believe it happened, as always.” I thought.  I considered whether or not to write it down for others to read.  Later she convinced me that I had to share it.

The same voice from the top of the stairwell piped back up as if he had been right all along.  While I walked the last few steps toward my room he seemed to say, “Well Ken, you don’t mind allowing others to have a laugh at your expense from time to time.   It’s good clean humor and hey, the terror is over so you can lie down and rest now.  Nothing else embarrassing can possibly happen.  We made it buddy!”

Remember earlier when I said that little voice was a liar? Here’s proof.

As I looked forward to the end of my trauma, I reached for the door and began to relax.  “Just unlock the door and it’s all over.” I thought.  I reached into my pajama pocket…

No key… No joke.

Thanks for reading and have a wonderful week.  May God bless and keep you.

Ken Dulaney

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A Final Note:

When I am in my “inner three year old” moods, I am not thinking about others.  I am selfish and self-centered.  Those are the times that I get the most frustrated and possibly depressed.  During these times, I am not thinking of others and rarely consider acting in charity toward someone else, nor am I thinking of “loving” anyone else as the Bible teaches. Every time this happens, I lose.

I believe that when Jesus spoke to us in the New Testament about loving our neighbors, brothers and sisters, and even our enemies, he meant that “love” was a verb.  Love isn’t something you fall into like a mud puddle.  Love isn’t a noun.  Love is a verb, an action, something you actively do and work toward doing well.  That is what I think Jesus meant.  He knows that if we do good for others or “love them” with a truly charitable heart, it will benefit us more than those we serve in most cases, making for a better more fulfilling life for us and for the person we are serving.  When we serve others, the selfishness disappears, we are much less prone to being “offended” and generally have a better outlook on life.  He knew it when He spoke those words.  It is a win/win for everyone.

Experts say that you cannot be depressed while in the act of true charity.  I would say that in my experience that is true as when I am honestly trying to freely help another human being, I am at my happiest and most relaxed.   I have tried to prove them wrong many times but always end up proving them right.  Isn’t it funny that Jesus gave us this advice so many centuries ago and it is still true today in the age of satellite TV’s and smart phones.  Maybe He knows us better than we want to admit.  It is worth consideration.

Biskits & Quackers

“Man, you ain’t ever had a black-bottom biskit?”  That was the response I got when I asked Blake Burrus, of Ole South Outfitters  (VIDEO),what he was talking about in the duck blind.  “No, not that I know of Blake. You have to tell me what that is because I am a biskit fan and I am not sure that I am picturing what you are saying just right.”  I replied.Ducks

Blake’s long white beard seemed to grow as he dropped his head and slowly shook it back and forth.  “Dang boy, that’s just sad!  Ain’t one honest to goodness Southerner don’t know what a black bottom biskit is.”  With that, I realized that what I “thought” it “might” be, had been right, but the opportunity to connect with the old duck master had faded like the sun on cold January evening.  My heart sank a little, but it was great to know that biskits were still in style with what I call the “Ole Guard”.biscuits

Mike McGhie has become a friend of mine over the last sixteen years or so and he invited me to go along with him on a “real” duck hunt.  I jumped at the chance to go but was not prepared for what a real duck hunter has to do in order to be successful.  As you may remember if you read “Ribbit Rambo” I consider myself a good shot and a relatively knowledgeable hunter; however, I had never been confident enough to  tackle the art of duck hunting although many people including my son Austin have been encouraging me to do so for years.

Mike’s childhood friends Blake and Julie Burrus started “Ole South Outfitters” in Arkansas years ago and Mike was excited to see them again and hunt ducks.  I was excited to see what all the hubbub of duck hunting was about and let me tell you, I found out.  I am likely hooked for life, although what I call a successful hunt and what the “Ole Guard” would call a successful hunt are possibly two different things.  Let me just say that it is work, pure and simple.  The amount of preparation and effort it takes to see even one duck is enough to keep the light weights like me at bay.  I never understood why it was so expensive to get “into a good blind” but now I know it is worth every single penny AND a big tip.  It is just impressive how these guys operate and what it takes to make it all work.

We were slated for two days on the blinds. That means we were going to be in the woods and on the water for two days.  When Mike and I met up on Thursday evening, he had his gear in the back seat of his Tundra.  I needed the other half of the back seat, his tool box and the bed of his truck.  He must have choked a little when he saw all the stuff I pulled out to load, most of which had no value to duck hunting whatsoever.  He gave me a look as if to ask, “Are you serious?”, but as a southern gentlemen uttered no words.  We loaded up and headed for Arkansas like two kids on Christmas Eve.  Mike spent the time on the road to educate me on duck hunting etiquette and by the time we arrived I felt confident that I wouldn’t embarrass myself.  I was wrong, just to be honest.

My son, Austin, had warned me not to pull out my duck calls unless I was absolutely sure I could keep up with the big boys.  Mike had echoed that to me as had my friend Gerald Flouhouse of Charlotte, NC  only a few weeks ago.   Gerald added some extra advice as he told me of a novice hunter that had his prize call “tuned up” by a veteran caller.  “Tuned up” means the veteran asks you to look at your nifty little expensive duck call that he is super impressed with, then when you hand it over proudly, he chunks it in the deepest part of the river!  I wasn’t going to lose my calls so I kept them close, and quiet.

Over the two days I learned why someone like me doesn’t need to try to impress real duck hunters with my calling abilities.  I sat in amazement as time after time Blake, Mike, and Blakes’s team of professionals called ducks into the blind area when it was obvious the ducks did not want to be there.  These guys could turn them, read their patterns, make them sit down right in front of you even though there was a big ole goofy looking guy (me) standing there with reflective glasses and a shiny bald spot just glowing like a ray of sunshine.   Yep, for the first day or so I was just standing there as happy as a lark, thinking all was great and smiling like a Cheshire cat with every volley of shots, until finally Blake was comfortable enough to share with me tactfully that I needed to be a little less obvious and gently coaxed me back into the cover of the blind with the kind, soft spoken, yet thoughtful statement, “Ken! Get you’re  A** back in the blind and cover them dadgum glasses!  Ain’t no duck gonna fly in here with you flashin ‘em like a ambulance!  Dang, boy!”

I was touched, heart-warmed, and encouraged.  Then I sat my butt down and watched what I was doing for the rest of the trip.  Funny thing was, we started seeing lots more ducks after that.  Strange.  Blake may know what he is talking about.  Just maybe.  I looked over at Mike and could tell he wanted to laugh but he, again the southern gentleman, didn’t.

Early on the final morning we were all treated to a breakfast in the blind and some “black bottom biskits” as the sun came up slowly and the chill was still in the air.  As the morning fog crept over the frigid waters, I sat quietly listening to the stories between Blake and Mike from their younger days as we waited on the first flight of ducks to break over the horizon.  I hugged my coffee mug as the stories continued  and sat amazed as they gingerly laughed about the time the two of them were nearly attacked by a bunch of street thugs in Memphis as they were pumping gas one night as young men.

The two had just gotten back into town after having been on a deer hunt.  They stopped to fuel up and grab a quick snack.  Mike pumped the gas while Blake went inside.  As Blake walked back out to the truck, the two were approached and threatened by a group of local young men that were by no means asking the two to join their church youth group.  The group of thugs may have reconsidered had they known that Mike was not only a master of the BBQ, but was also a master of a gas hose nozzle and Blake was a black belt in “Arrow Jitsu”.  As the thugs attempted to rob the two, Mike threatened  to spray them if they didn’t leave them alone.  As they considered the idea of becoming soaked in gasoline and possibly ignited like a torch, Blake grabbed an arrow out of his quiver and demonstrated to the young miscreants that an arrow has the potential to do some serious damage with only a little effort.  Thankfully the group decided to make a run for it.  Blake and Mike drove home laughing but happy to have avoided a major problem.  I would have just peed on myself, but these two thought it to be hilarious and apparently wasn’t “skeered” a bit.

The two told the stories as if they were no big deal and always left you wondering what else they had gotten into over the years.  I considered myself lucky to be in their company and equally as lucky to not have been part of some of their early adventures because it seemed to me that these two had no fear of danger and likely would have had to leave me in a river bottom somewhere if I had been with them.

The entire trip was filled with great stories, great black bottom biskits, great men, and great numbers of ducks.  On the final day it was heart-stopping to watch what I understand is called a “duck-nado” materialize out of the atmosphere and onto a body of water.  It was if God himself ordered every duck in the air to start a downward descent to our blind.  I watched a genuine work of art as Blake and his team of men and dogs worked that flight of ducks to the blind.  I would have been happy to have never pulled the trigger, but I did, and we had plenty of duck meat when all was said and done.  I won’t say whether I actually hit a duck or not and you can’t prove I didn’t so we will leave it at that.

When the trip was over and Mike and I headed back home to north Mississippi, I quietly considered the weekend hunt and smiled.  I thought to myself as Mike listened to some really good 80’s music, “Man, this is a trip of a lifetime.  I can never write it all down, but I will have share a bit of it if I can.  No matter what, it is a memory I will always appreciate.”

So the next time you hear a down to earth man or woman talking about how exciMike & Blaketed they are to go duck hunting, maybe this story will help you to understand why they are so happy to be out there.  I know I will always look back fondly on the 2016 trip and hope to do it again.  If I don’t get to do so, it will be okay, so long as I have my memories of a few cold mornings with good friends, a few quackers, and some hot black bottom biskits.  Life can’t get much better than that.

Ken Dulaney, May 2016

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Bonus video from the hunt:  CLICK HERE

 

The Kitty Cat Kurse

When I was seven years old or so, I remember getting the bright idea from cute_kitty-300x300some boys in my class at school that it was hilarious to put paper bags on the feet of cats.  Living on a tiny farm and having a few cats that I didn’t particularly like because they kept tearing up the screen doors of our old house, I figured it would be great to try that idea.

In my mind, since my mother complained often of the damage the cats were doing to her screen doors, and if I, a young hero of seven years, could “protect” my mother and get a laugh out of it then, why not?.

I set out to catch the barn cat that day after school. I was successful, I was proud, and I was up to no good. The cat was kind to me at the beginning, but things took a turn for the worse rather quickly. As I held him with one hand, I reached for the paper bags with the other, then, I learned 10 valuable lessons in the span of about 3 seconds.

  1. Cats don’t mind being caught as long as there is food and petting involved.
  2. Cats are extremely fast.
  3. Cats do not like to be startled, especially by the rattling of a paper bag.
  4. Cats are “armed” on both ends.
  5. Cats will make you wish you hadn’t listened to other seven year old boys.
  6. Cats can make you bleed fast and are happy to help you acquire many battle wounds.
  7. Cats don’t care how bad you scream.
  8. Cats will give you a “snotty” and “smug” look as they walk away from you as if they had no part to play in your pain.
  9. Cats blab to their friends and family and haunt you forever.
  10. Cats laugh at you as you limp away wounded.

To make matters worse, my mom’s response to my little experiment was, “That’s what you get!   Now, go get the alcohol and a cotton ball.” Have you ever had alcohol on a fresh cat scratch? That will get your attention right quick!

Now, it seems that the cats of my youth were able to not only pass the story of my original sin against them along to the cats in my house today, but the word has gotten all the way to my son Austin’s house in Cheyenne, Wyoming.

Keep in mind, when Ms. Toni and I got married over twenty five years ago, I put my foot down. I told her that I could put up with a lot, would meet her halfway on about anything, but under no circumstances, ever, and I mean never, would I put up with a cat in my house. We have four at last count, all shedding on my clothes, hacking up hairballs in my shoes, and generally terrorizing me and our great Labrador, Mack.

My son, Austin, called me a while back to share with me his own story of woe and despair related to feline menaces. Ms. Allee, his wonderful wife, has much in common with Ms. Toni in her love of hell’s little fuzzballs. I believe they have at least two cats and pray for Austin and Roper, their dog, regularly due to that fact. As they say in the south, “Bless his heart”.

Apparently, Austin climbed up into the attic to do “man stuff” and fix an apparent leak. As he sweated and toiled to complete the job in a cramped space he began to feel the pride of a job well done. His mom, Terri Lucero, had dropped by to watch little Corbin Ray while Austin fixed the problem.

As he tells it, “I was just beginning to catch my breath, feeling pretty proud of myself for being such an awesome husband and dad, when I heard a noise behind me. The cat had climbed up the ladder and squeezed himself into the space behind me very quietly. When he made a noise it startled me which then caused me to shift my weight a little too quickly. That was bad.”

He further explained “Dad, the next thing I knew I was in the floor of the hallway having crashed through the drywall ceiling! Once the dust settled, I looked up on one side to see mom standing there asking if I was okay, and one the other side, up the ladder, was the cat looking at me like he had nothing to do with it! It is a conspiracy I tell you!”

I agree with Austin and obviously the “curse of the cats” knows no bounds or borders. I assume the curse will be long lasting and no matter how many kitties I feed, pet, or let scratch me, I suppose the debt can never be paid. I am convinced that they hold a grudge for all time, but the last laugh may be mine as Ms. Toni is a big believer in having the critters “fixed”.

As the villains in all the old black and white movies would say, “BooAhaaa Haa Haa!”  I win!

Wait a minute, she had me neutered too!

Help!

Ken Dulaney

Ken Profile 6

A Deer, A Skunk, & A Dork

My best friend Gale Storey and I started a “manly tradition” yeScared Hunterars ago in Illinois where he and his family live. We have been friends since basic training in the Air Force where we met over 30 years ago and each year we try to meet at deer camp to hunt.

Whenever I am blessed enough to make the trip to Illinois to spend time with Gale and his family, he is always faithful to work himself too hard to set everything up at the camp, scout the deer, set up stands, and all the other things necessary to insure a successful event. I have said many times that no other person on the planet can do what does as well and I always enjoy the trip. It has become one of the things I most look forward to each year.

On this particular trip I had been feeling particularly manly because I had overcome my fear of heights to a degree. Gale set up a tree stand that was so secure that there was no way one could fall but that didn’t ease my nerves much. Once I convinced myself to just do it and got up the tree, all was well, just as he told me it would be.

Even though I was strapped to the tree and on a solid frame, I somehow found a way to lose my balance at just the right time to scare away three deer that had come up right in front of me. I think Gale nearly fell out of his tree as well but only because he was laughing so hard at me. I think I am a constant source of humor for him and Ms. Penny while I am in town. They are so kind that they rarely laugh “at” me but usually “with” me although they are well within the bounds of good taste if they were to laugh me out of the state in most cases. They are simply “good” people and great friends.

One afternoon late in this particular trip I decided that I had been in the tree enough and asked Gale if it would be a good idea to walk out across from the camp and ground hunt that evening. He made the necessary calls and got approval and before long I was geared up and on my way across the massive field to “stalk” my prey in a very manly fashion. I was all decked out in camo, had my trusty bow and arrows ready, my new knife on my hip and plenty of jerky in my pocket. I was ready for an extended test of my ability to survive in the wild, heart pounding, proud, and ready for battle. Well, at least for a couple of hours. It was a little cold so no need to press things right? But hey, in my mind, I was Bear Grylls on a frozen tundra a million miles from civilization. It was a great feeling.

I had missed a couple of shots at deer earlier in the trip but Gale, being a gentleman, didn’t berate me about it. He was supportive and kept me focused on the future hunts. I was intent on putting “meat on the ground” on this day to support my self-image and help me to face Ms. Toni when I got home. Gale had even solved my issue with my bow sights being off earlier that day. My bow was dead on now. We won’t talk about how he did it, but let me just say that he pointed out that nothing was wrong with my bow, but I needed to shoot without my glasses. He is a genius. Pure genius!

On to the hunt. I had sat in a large brush pile on the edge of a fence line for about an hour. I was tucked in nicely and well camouflaged with tree branches. I had my knife out and ready, my jerky was within arm’s reach and my water bottle was at my side. I was a “real man”, ready for everything. I was stealthy with every movement. I had every avenue of approach covered and had gone over every possible shot in my mind a dozen times. I WAS READY!

As the sun began to set and as I was chewing a particularly tough piece of jerky and trying not to choke, I looked up to see seven deer coming across the field directly at me. I swallowed hard and grabbed my binoculars. Yes, they were deer. All does, but deer, and they were headed toward me at a trot from about four hundred yards away. Then the choking began.

I had forgotten to swig down some water to wash down the tough beef jerky, (I like the teriyaki kind), and suddenly realized that I was in a pickle. Choking and hacking I quickly dropped my binoculars and grabbed my water bottle. Yes folks, the wild can be challenging, but I was in this to win so I remained undeterred. As I carefully turned up the bottle of water, tears running down my face, I saw him.

Not twenty yards away stood the largest buck I had ever seen in person. He had run out ahead of the does and I had missed him completely. Now he was standing in front of me trying to figure out what all the gagging was about. I admit it. I panicked a little.

Shaking and choking I put down the water bottle and reached for my bow. I masterfully “knocked” an arrow and took aim. “This big boy is going on the wall!” I thought, as I released the arrow, knowing it was an easy shot. Heck, I could taste the deer jerky already! “Oh wait, I need some more water.”

To my surprise the deer didn’t move as the arrow whizzed through the air. “Man! I am so good he didn’t even know I shot him!” I thought. He continued to stare at me as I began to wonder how this miracle could happen. “How is he still standing with an arrow through him?” I wondered. Then I saw the arrow in the ground under him. It missed by at least a foot. “Stupid crooked arrow!” I thought.

The deer was kind enough to stay still while I fumbled for another arrow and finally got it loaded and drawn. I released it with just a little less confidence but still sure that he was going down and I would be bragging for years over this kill. To my amazement he didn’t move a muscle much less fall to the ground. Through my tears I noticed a puff of dust off in the distance and realized that the shot was high, very high. I believe Mr. Buck was not only confused but was also somewhat concerned about what kind of idiot was sitting in a brush pile choking on jerky and shooting ineffective arrows at him. Apparently he was curious enough to hang around because he gave me time to shoot my final arrow which missed again. Hey, it was getting dark and I was choking. Give me a break on the aiming okay?

I exhaled as the last arrow flew off into oblivion, embarrassed and not knowing how I would explain such a massive failure of manhood. But Mr. Buck was kind as he tipped his ear, flagged his white tail at me and trotted off confidently to meet the does just a few yards away now. One of them huffed at me and the group scampered away joyfully, seemingly laughing at me as they pranced off into the sunset.

Frustrated and deflated, I threw on my backpack, grabbed my gear and bow and started walking through the dusky dark back to camp. “No one has to know.” I thought. “I still look cool in my camo and boots and still have my new knife.” “I will just say I didn’t’ have any luck.”

As I walked and pondered how much fun the hunt was even though I missed, I began to feel better. A slight smile came across my face as I hiked along with the heavy gear on my back. I knew that it was going to be a great day no matter what so I relaxed and headed back in peace. That is, until I saw the little dark image walking towards me.

Before I could think twice I realized in terror that I had walked blissfully upon a mother skunk and she was not too happy to see me. In panic I staggered backwards dropping my bow and losing my balance. I landed on my back tangled in weeds and my backpack. As I drove my heels furiously into the frozen ground trying to get traction to scoot way, the skunk raised her tail and charged me!

Seemingly a million thoughts went through my mind as I fell and attempted to get up, first and foremost was the thought “Toni isn’t going to let me in the house!” Then I thought, “Gale is going to laugh at this one.” and “Oh man, my tahoe is going to stink for weeks!”, just to name a few.

Somehow I managed to get to my feet and run. I had covered somewhere close to fifty yards or so and thought I was at a safe distance when I began to slow. I glanced over my shoulder only to see the little stink bomb still on my heels! “Are you serious?!!!” I uttered out loud. I took off across the field and sprinted as long as my lungs would allow and finally lost the monster of all monsters just as I approached the road. I crossed it and the ditch to safety.

As I dragged myself into camp and explained to Gale how my day had gone I wondered internally how manly I really am. Truthfully, I don’t care. I had a great time with my best friend and made it home to my great family without any real harm. That is a successful trip in my book. But, I cannot help but think that the deer and the skunk were in on it together and that they still laugh over the water hole at me. I just hope they found my new knife because I lost it on top of everything else in my run for the hills.

At the end of the day, we have to look at the fiasco’s in our life and try to find some humor in it. As it turns out, I have an easier time finding that than I do wild game. Oh well, there is always next year.

(To my friend Gale and to his wife Penny and the girls.  Thank you for being there to help me find the comedy over the years. God blessed me with you as friends and I am eternally thankful for all that you do.)

Ken Dulaney
December 2015

Ken Profile 6

I would like to dedicate this true story to two of the giants in this world that I had the great fortune to meet and know, Mr. John & Mrs. Louise Storey of Enfield, IL., Gale’s mom and dad. They passed away recently and we will miss them terribly. They were truly two of the best examples of what it means to be a good human being I have ever met. They will always be giants in my eyes and the world is better because of the examples they set and who they were. Rest easy friends, and Mrs. Storey, I hope to go fetch the paper for you in heaven someday. I know Ms. Toni and Ms. Penny will laugh at me there right along with you.

Cooperate with the Inevitable to Combat Worry

A recent quote I read stated, “No one living has enough emotion and vigor to fight the inevitable anDont Worry Be Happy Picd, at the same time, enough left over to create a new life. Choose one or the other. You can either bend with the inevitable sleetstorms of life or you can resist them and break!” Dale Carnegie

If you are facing something that worries you and it is distracting you from operating at your full potential, you owe it to yourself and to those around you to apply the quote above to your life or situation. Four things that I use from Mr. Carnegie’s book to remind myself of this and help me to apply it to my life are:

  1. Determine what the worst possible outcome is in the current worry/situation.
  2. Determine what you are prepared to do as a result of that outcome.
  3. Begin to work from that point and build positive ground from there.
  4. Anything other than the worst possible outcome becomes a bonus and less work/worry for you.

Once you answer “What is the absolute worst that can happen?” you begin to realize what you can realistically do about it. If there is nothing to be done, then put it to the side in your mind and go on with your life. “Co-operate with the inevitable” as the author puts it.

Even in the simplest worrisome situations, this will greatly reduce your stress and help you to become more effective and efficient. But, you have to practice!

If you haven’t read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, I recommend it.

Ken Dulaney

10-31-2015

If you haven’t read Dale Carnegie’s “How to Stop Worrying and Start Living”, I recommend it.

When Irish “Lies” Are Smiling? That can’t be right can it?

I say this tongue in cheek and of course with a sense of humor and love for the people of Ireland. They are good, courteous, warm people and the country is very beautiful. Toni and I learned, however, that they will tell you a lie in a heartbeat, a very specific lie. We know of no other lies told to us during our trip, but this very specific lie is apparently a nationally adopted lie as we were told from coast to coast the very same lie, over and over again.Irish Eyes Are Smiling

What is the lie? “Oh yes, no problem whatsoever, it is only a brisk twenty minute walk, no problem, no problem. Lovely, lovely. Brilliant, brilliant!”

That was the words we heard over and over again. From Dublin to Kilkenney, from Cork to Killarney, from Sleigh Head to Nag’s Head , on to Ennis, and from Galway to Tara, the hill of the Kings, on back to Dublin, every person we asked “Where is the best local coffee shop or restaurant?” The answer was almost the same every time.

I have developed a pretty solid Irish accent for when I tell the story in person. Since that won’t translate here, just try to imagine a leprechaun with a southern accent, that should give you a good idea of how it sounds.

Day 1: Land in Dublin. Ask taxi driver where food was. “Oh yes, no problem whatsoever, it is only a brisk twenty minute walk, no problem, no problem. Lovely, lovely. Brilliant, brilliant! Tis ov’r by the Guiness factory. Easy walk, no problem , no problem.” 50 minutes later, we find that the hotel restaurant is the best bet.

Day 2: Drive to Kilkenny. Check in at Bed and Breakfast (B&B), find out the lady that owns it was a Delaney. “Lovely people. Just lovely.” She says. We ask where the food is. She says ““Oh yes, no problem whatsoever, it is only a brisk twenty minute walk, no problem, no problem. Lovely, lovely. Brilliant, brilliant!” “Walk toward downtown, you will be there in no time. No problem, no problem.”

45 minutes later, Toni is looking over her shoulder at me like I am a dork for listening to another Delaney. We find the café and she gets hooked on coffee with brown sugar made from sugar beets.

Day 3: Still in Kilkenny.   Ask the same lady for a pub with good food. Same response. “No problem, no problem, 20 minutes brisk walk. Lovely and brilliant.”

40 minutes later, still walking. Toni curses under her breath and asks what Guiness is, then decides she wants two of them.

Day 4: Leaving for Killarney and it is getting cold. Find, along the way, Delaney’s Pub out in the country. Drink coffee and get directions from Mr. Delaney, ““Oh yes, no problem whatsoever, it is only a twenty minute drive, no problem, no problem. Lovely, lovely. Brilliant, brilliant!”

5 hours later, after being lost in the mountains in central Ireland and having seen no leprechans or fairies, we finally find a café to eat not far from Killarney. After eating we asked the waitress how far to Killarney, you guessed it. “No problem, maybe a 20 minute drive. It’s lovely, just lovely.”

2 hours later we call the B&B and limp into the parking lot.   It was just before dark and he states “You have to get up to the top of the hill over there before sundown to see the most beautiful place in Ireland, just off the Ring of Kerry.” How far is it?”  I asked, exhausted from the drive and white knuckle roads (on the left side no less).   “Oh yes, no problem whatsoever, it is only a brisk twenty minute walk, no problem, no problem. Lovely, lovely. Brilliant, brilliant!”

I swear that is what he said. Ask Toni if you don’t believe me.

45 minutes later, we reach the top of the hill. It was breathtaking, no doubt. But here is the problem… I don’t care how pretty it is up there. If Toni is tired, achy, and hungry, there better be a coffee shop up there in one of those trees or someone is getting smacked. Since I was the only one with her, I kept my distance. Once we made the hike back down the hill, she was considering adding a Guiness to her diet. I tended to agree that it would be a good idea. Oh, by the way, we did eat at 8:00 pm, and yes, it was only a brisk 20 minute walk that only took us an hour. We decided to call a cab. Best idea of the trip.

Day 5. Drove to west coast. Amazing scenery. Toni attempts to push me over the cliffs of Moher because they have no coffee. Irish man playing music on the street said the café was only 20 minutes away if you walk briskly. I don’t remember if we ate or not. She slapped me into three days from then.

Day 6: Arrive at B&B in Ennis. Hear a great story from the Innkeeper and his wife on Irish history and the revolution. Asked them both where the oldest café/pub was to feed Toni Guiness AND coffee. His answer, no kidding, “Oh yes, no problem whatsoever, it is only a brisk twenty minute walk, no problem, no problem. Lovely, lovely. Brilliant, brilliant!”

Toni nearly pushed me into the river at minute 40 and stated that if she didn’t’ get coffee and chunky chips soon she would drown me herself. I learned to walk faster but still 45 minutes to eat.   Did hear wonderful music from local students and ate like little Irish oinkers.

Day 7: Drove all day in amazement of the West Coast. Arrived in Galway Bay. Knowing what the answer would be, we asked the Innkeeper anyway, “Where is the closest restaurant, and DON”T tell us it is a 20 minute brisk walk! We know better.” He replies, “Oh, well, truly, it is only a 20 minute brisk walk down the boardwalk.” We thought, “LIES!!!” lol.

We sat out walking and it was twenty minutes or so down to the water’s edge, yes, but we had to turn left and walk from there. Ten minutes into that walk we met a man of around 90 years of age walking with his 60 year old daughter. He was on a cane. Ten minutes after that, he caught us walking back the same way. He strikes up a conversation with us, tells us of how he is retired and now drinks Guiness and chases women, to which his daughter agreed.  Fifteen minutes later we came to the end of that sidewalk. I asked him, “Can you tell us how far it is to the downtown area and the café’s?” Knowing full well what his answer was likely to be. He looked at us with an Irish smile and confidently exclaimed, ““Oh yes, no problem whatsoever, it is only a brisk twenty minute walk, no problem, no problem. Lovely, lovely. Brilliant, brilliant!”

Day 8 and 9: Much of the same, great food, great people and great long walks, all over twenty minutes, but after a while, we realized that we were just slow walkers.

Day 10: Arrive in Atlanta airport and then in Memphis. We out-walked everyone on every concourse. I think we were even faster than the train! No problem, no problem. Brilliant and lovely! Toni looks everywhere for a brown sugar coffee and a Guiness. Her limit is 14 at this point but at least she misses me more when she slaps at my head.

So, the Irish lies were wonderful and so were the smiles. I recommend a trip there anytime!

Thank you to all that made the trip possible. It was a blessing from God  and our wonderful girls, Tiffoni, Micala, and Monique, and we loved every single minute of it and will never forget it.   Lovely and brilliant!

Ken Dulaney

September, 2015

Time is short.  Do you hear that calling in your heart?  Jesus is calling.  Please hear Him.  He loves you and will never let you down, ever.  He can help with any problem you might have, no problem, no problem.  And He is always brilliant and lovely.  Just call on Him and be amazed.