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Archive for the ‘Louisiana’ Category

While covering the news as a television cameraman, often a story required traveling a great distance. Such it was one day on the back roads of Louisiana. For those unfamiliar with Louisiana’s back roads, let’s just say it is an easy place to get lost. Straight cut roads run for miles and miles, flanked only by non-diminishing rows of sugar cane and Cypress tree-lined bayous, or bridges that lead nowhere.

Upon such occasions roadside bathrooms can be hard to find. Purged by cups and cups of Louisiana’s incredible Community Coffee, it was sometimes necessary to stop frequently along the way. During one such pit stop, and while in the process of taking care of business, I found myself standing on a small chunk of land that separated two bayous from each other. A moment later, a huge alligator crawled up onto the same patch of ground upon which I was intently concentrating.

The fat alligator was no more than 7 feet away.

Who's that peeing in my living room?

I had heard that one should never attempt to run away from a curious bear, but I must admit I was somewhat unsure how I should handle a brooding, ten feet long alligator. I selected to stand perfectly still.

Well, ALMOST perfectly still.

The slow-witted creature watched me fulfilling my mission, then ambled off, unimpressed. It slipped silently into the dark bayou on the other side, swished its powerful tail once, and was gone.

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One day I decided to jump out of a perfectly good airplane. The opportunity presented itself while I was a story producer for the then “PM MAGAZINE” television show. In preparation, I spent 4 hours hopping backwards out of the back of a moving pickup truck, practicing “parachute landings” where you theoretically roll with gravity to lessen the ground’s jarring impact. Yeah, right.

go, Go, GO! Yeah, right.

Eventually I ended up standing on a strut in the prop wash of a laboring Piper Cub seven thousand feet above a sweltering Louisiana countryside. I was suitably terrified. The jump master had just tossed a weighted ribbon (that looked alarmingly like an unfurling roll of toilet paper!) out of the cabin door jamb, and my eyes had followed it down, down, down until it became a fluttering, blurry speck as tears were blown across my squinting eyeballs.

“GO!” shouted the jump master, pointing at me in a shooing motion, and grinning.

I can not begin to tell you how difficult it was to will my white-knuckled fingers to let go of the wildly vibrating wing brace. Every atom of my being rebelled against that one simple action. “Go, go, GO!” he shouted again. “NOW!”

A chute opening. Not a finer sound in the world.

I gritted my teeth, relinquishing my death grip in a text-book perfect spread-dead eagle exiting posture. I watched the static cord strip out of the airplane and yank my chute free from the pack. “One, two, three.” I began counting, remembering that if my chute hadn’t opened by the time I got to ten, I’d have to begin a cutaway procedure and release my spare chute. I noticed right away the chute cords had become twisted and — rather than opening — the chute was flapping like laundry on a windy day. Streamers, was the correct term, I thought. I remember the crew talking about how streamers usually became — SCREAMERS! My brain began working so fast I snapped my legs in the opposite direction of the twisting lines without even thinking. I literally spun the chute open little by little, during which time the part of my brain that was supposed to be counting was clamped shut tighter than a clam on a grill.

POOF!  The sound of the chute opening was the finest sound I’d ever heard. Thankyouthankyouthankyou.

Absolute silence.

The terrible roar of the airplane engine was gone. Not a hum or putter or pop anywhere. I was alone. Utterly. Above me, my parachute canopy bloomed magnificently, looking like the inside of a balloon; below, a tiny field the size of a postage stamp swayed beneath two dangling tennis shoes — MY tennis shoes, one of whose laces, I noticed with deathly focus, were untied. Funny what you notice when you’re drifting along at 4,000 feet.

A buzzard soared by giving me a top-to-bottom view, warily watching me from under its wingpit. A faint upward breeze washed over my body. “Hello, Buzz. Goodbye, Buzz.” Funny the stupid things you say when you’re drifting along at 3,000 feet.

Kinda what my chute looked like

“Hey, Tim!”came a reply, clear as a bell. But it wasn’t the buzzard, of course. It was my cameraman (an accomplished sky-diver) some two thousand feet below me now, on the ground shouting while he was was taping my descent: “What a GREAT streamer — look out for those trees!

I landed not-so softly in the middle of the field, flip-flopping like a wounded fish rather than someone deploying off the back of a pickup. My heart was racing, blood-borne adrenaline purging normal blood flow like a fire hydrant hose sweeping out a gutter. The chute exhaled around me. I lay on my back, arms and legs splayed on the warm, green pasture. A bee scooped up pollen from a dandelion inches from my face, then flew away.

“Ha, ha, bee! I can do that, too.”

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I’m not what you might call a cat lover, but several girlfriends and ex-wives have been. One day my tolerance for ammonia and bathroom kitty poop boxes reached an all-time low, which was about the same period in my life that I grew tired of spent kitty litter pellets sticking to the bottoms of my bare feet after stepping out of the shower.

So I decided to construct an outdoor “privacy area” for the felines, a project that would, once and for all,  free up the bathroom for humans like me who don’t poop in boxes.

I designed a conveniently hinged laundry room window exit that opened to a rabbit wire full enclosure cage (approximately 4x4x8-feet tall complete with a cheap bar stool step for a kitty landing) extending from mid-window to ground level underneath our carport roof. I snipped open an access doorway at the bottom of the rectangular litter cage,  allowing easy removal and dumping of oversize litter pans. In the process of clipping the thick doorway mesh with a pair of wire cutters, the last snip action slung a hooked piece of galvanized wire completely through my right nostril — impaling me quite fashionably yet hooking me unceremoniously onto the rabbit-wire panel. Try as I might, I was unable to disengage my bloody nose from this rather large piece of jewelry. Humiliated beyond belief, I was forced to bellow for my wife’s assistance: “MAUREEN, come QUICK — I’ve almost finished the kitty litter project!”

Eventually, Maureen stopped laughing long enough to unhook the hooked wire from my nose. For a week or two I wore a bandage similar to the one Jack Nicholson sported in the movie Chinatown.

The window cage was a smashing success. The cats loved to perch on the stool inside the cage, observing all that happened in the fresh outdoors all around them — especially the chattering birds, who loved to laugh at the curious caged animals pooping in a pan of gravel.

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Cats!

(circa 1999)

I am a dog person, and although I have never gotten along with cats, I was once married to a woman who loved them. She had three of them, two of which were almost tolerable. The rogue tomcat named Cassa, however, was a terror. We were living in Louisiana, an area prone to fleas and fire ants. Having been through the household dog flea-fumigation cycle on many occasions, I decided I would begin dipping each cat on a weekly basis. With that in mind, I visited a vet, where I was supplied with a dip formulated exclusively for cats.*

“Do you know how to dip cats?” asked the vet.

“Yeah, yeah. No problem.” I had dipped many a dog in my lifetime, and did not foresee any problems.

As chance would have it, Cassa turned out to be my first subject. My ignorance of cat physiology — coupled with a low pain threshold — required the aid of two passing neighbors to remove Cassa from my stomach, where he clung like Super-Glued Velcro from his clutched claws.

I still have those four sets of five purple scars.  I hope Cassa still has those fleas.

* Tim says: be sure to use CAT dips on cats. Dog dips can be lethal to cats.

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Last week a friend of mine loaned me a pressure washer. A pressure washer is a gasoline powered contraption that sucks in water supplied from a garden hose and spits it out through a spray wand under terrific pressure. Enough pressure as to be dangerous if not handled with a great deal of respect. As I used the tool to clean off my driveway and concrete walkway and the outside of my gutters, my mind wandered back to the early eighties when I had my first run-in with a power washer.

For some reason I had agreed to paint a little old lady’s house — a horrific undertaking in the hellacious summer weather and humidity of Baton Rouge, Louisiana in the deep South. The old house was made of solid cypress, and had so many peeling coats of white paint on it that scraping by hand soon became an unbearable task. I stood sweating in the powerful sunlight with chips of paint clinging to my skin, dark sun glasses protecting my eyes from the incessant reflection of a merciless sun beating down, down, down; it was at that moment I decided to rent a fancy, commercial pressure washer and comfortably blow off the shards of white paint.

Piece of cake.

And so, with the commercial pressure washer cranked up to the max and with an ear-splitting whine, I turned the roaring fan-shaped stream of water directly onto the house’s siding, where I  proceeded to gouge out a six feet by eight-inch wide swath of cypress splinters, nails, siding, miscellaneous chips and debris — right down to underlying chunks of flying insulation and telltale hunks of inside-wall sheet rock with pretty ruffs of flowery wallpaper attached.

A few minutes later the old woman ambled her walker up beside me and stared at the devastation. “You know any good carpenters?” she asked.

(originally published and copyrighted© 1998-2010 by Simply Tim in the Recipe du Jour news letter.)

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One morning, while mowing my back yard in Louisiana, I discovered a hole in the ground from which a steady stream of yellow and black-striped bees arrived and departed as if from a busy airport. I never much cared for bees (or airports), so I decided it would be great fun to park the running mower over the hole to cut off the bees’ flight path, and watch the turmoil from behind a nearby tree.

For a few minutes confused bees, parts and pieces spewed erratically from the mower blades, but after a while a growing number of whole bees spotted me snickering, peeking out from around the tree trunk and gave chase. There were about three dozen of them swarming around me as I frantically ran into the front yard, where I discovered my front door was locked!

ZZzzzz. Ow! ZZZZzzz, OUCH! Zzzzz, holy SMOLEY!

Although I was a jogger in those days, the bees had no problem whatsoever chasing me down the street. I swatted and slapped at them as they buzzed around my head and legs. Bzzzz, OW! Zzzzzz, ouch, OUCH!  After around two miles the bees appeared to give up, but they were waiting for me at my front door when I got back. Down the street I jogged for another two miles. The bees remained on front yard guard duty until the lawn mower ran out of gas some fifty-five minutes later.

All told, I suffered thirty or forty stings during my midday run. But it was my dignity that suffered the most. What a stupid thing to do, even for me. That afternoon I called an exterminator, who arrived early the next morning. He took one look at my bee-sting swollen body and the lawnmower still parked over the bee hole and began laughing. Then he hooked up a compressor contraption and fumigated the bee hole entrance under great pressure. All over my back yard tiny streams of insecticide fog poured forth like toxic volcanoes from dozens of the bees’ other escape tunnel holes.

The exterminator told me the critters were “ground hornets”, and were particularly noteworthy for their incredible memory, high degree of territorial-ism, and extremely nasty temperament. But, of course,  I already knew that.

(originally published and copyrighted© 1998-2010 by Simply Tim in the Recipe du Jour news letter.)

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