Saturday, August 28, 2010


For the past couple weeks, the sound of trees being cut down in the woods that border our property has been getting closer and closer. So the other morning, when I stood out on the back deck and could see the tops of trees toppling over like matchsticks in an area that seemed only a few feet from our property line, I decided it was time to investigate.

At first, I tried to take the most direct route, which was straight through the woods to the area being cleared. Unfortunately, a crop of poison ivy the size of a football field, interspersed with giant thorn bushes stopped me in my tracks. Even though my curiosity was killing me, picturing myself covered with holes and itchy red blisters made me rethink my approach.

“The logging trucks have to be getting in and out of there somehow,” my husband, wise soul that he is, said. “So all you have to do is find the road they’re using.”

I thought that finding the trucks’ access road would be easy. Anything as big as a logging truck was guaranteed to need something as wide as Route 93.

Common sense sent me searching up and down our own road first. The only thing I found was a snowmobile trail with so many low-hanging branches, anything taller than five feet would have been beheaded trying to go down it.

A couple days later, I took my dogs for a ride. On the way back up Deerfield Road, I happened to spot a new-looking dirt road on the left with telltale truck-tire tracks on it. On an impulse, I swung the car onto the road.

The road, although dirt, seemed firmly packed, and my car easily made its way along it. As we headed forward, I could see a big clearing up ahead. I was so interested in finding out what was there, I stopped looking down at the dirt road.


The dogs’ heads nearly hit the roof of the car. Then the car stopped moving. I stepped harder on the gas. The car still didn’t budge.

Gathering my courage, I got out of the car to check out the situation. My car’s tires were sitting in two deep ruts – one on each side of a long strip of sharp, broken rocks. They were big truck-tire ruts…logging truck ruts.

Suddenly the poison ivy and thorn bushes didn’t seem so bad.

So there the dogs and I sat as I wondered what I should do. I didn’t have my cell phone with me, but even if I had brought it and was able to call AAA for a tow truck, what would I tell the guy?

“Hi, I’m stuck in these really deep ruts on a logging road somewhere off Deerfield Road and I have my two rottweilers with me. Can you help?”

He’d probably hang up on me so fast, my ear would get whiplash.

I got down on the ground and looked underneath my car. It looked as if its belly was resting on the rocks. It also looked as if the wheels weren’t touching the ground. I grabbed some nearby dirt and rocks and shoved them under the front wheels for traction. Then I got back into the car and floored it.

The car lunged forward and went flying along the ruts toward the open area. As we bumped along, the variety of scraping and scratching sounds coming from underneath the car convinced me that I’d find my entire exhaust system and maybe even my gas tank lying on the road when I finally came to a stop.

The thought of having to hand my tailpipe to my husband nearly made me decide to spend the night out in the clearing. I figured I’d be pretty safe out there, protected by poison ivy and thorns on one side, and ruts the size Queechee Gorge on the other.

When the car finally reached the clearing, all I could see were huge clouds of smoke surrounding the car. I flung open the door and jumped out, then panicking, opened the back door and screamed at the dogs to get out. The three of us then ran as far from the car as we could and braced for the explosion.

When the “smoke” finally settled, I realized that it had been just a big cloud of dust from the dirt road. My car was so thick with it, I couldn’t even tell it was red.

It took me another 20 minutes to round up the two dogs, who decided to run, romp and play, seeing they weren’t on leashes. They acted like two escaped convicts.

I turned the car around in the clearing and then sat there staring at the deeply rutted and rocky road and wondered how on earth I was going to get back out to Deerfield Road. My solution was to put the driver’s side’s wheels on the rocks in the middle and then the passenger’s side’s wheels on the edge of the woods that lined the road. The car tilted to the right, straddling the rut as we crept along.

When we finally reached Deerfield Road, I was so relieved, I was tempted to kneel down and kiss it.

The rest of the ride home, I kept looking in the rearview mirror, expecting to see a trail of gas or car parts lying on the road.

The next day, just to be safe, I had my mechanic put my car on the lift and check it out. There were big scrapes on everything, a dented fuel line and some wires hanging, but otherwise I was pretty lucky. The mechanic spent a few minutes straightening and reattaching stuff, then said I should be all set.

My husband wasn’t pleased at all to learn of my spying adventure, and gave me a lecture about paying better attention to my driving so I won’t puncture any gas tanks or blow up any cars...or myself. I’m really not sure what else he said…because I wasn’t paying attention.

The worst part of all was I never did find out what was going on in the woods behind our house, other than a lot of tree chopping. I just may wake up some morning and find a brand new Wal-Mart out there.

Saturday, August 21, 2010


There’s a big auction held in Allenstown twice a month all during the summer months, so a few weeks ago I decided to contact the auctioneer and put some of my things up for auction.

Art, the auctioneer, had been telling me about the crowds of bidders his auctions had been drawing, and the big bucks they’d been spending, so I was convinced I could make a small fortune.

It took me a whole week to gather the items I wanted to sell. I spent so much time searching through boxes in the basement, by the time I was through, I was on a first-name basis with every spider down there.

I finally selected 75 items for the auction. Among my treasures were trading cards, Barbie dolls, jewelry, Star Wars collectibles, comic books, coins, porcelain thimbles and Beatles collectibles. If they all sold for even close to what they were worth, I was sure I would make well over a thousand dollars.

The afternoon of the auction turned out to be about 150 degrees in the shade. I arrived early, picked a good seat and then anxiously waited for the throngs of bidders to arrive. A few people, looking hot, tired and as if they’d rather be at the beach, filtered in. By the time the auction began, there were only about 25 people on the bidding floor.

I told myself it didn’t matter how many people were there. What mattered was that the ones who were in attendance had come with rolls of $100 bills in their pockets.

As the evening progressed, it became pretty clear to me that all of the high bidders probably had gone to the beach.

“Who’ll give me $10 for this Working Woman Barbie doll, still new in the box?” the auctioneer asked, holding up my prized Barbie. When there was no response, he added, “How about $5?” Still no response. “Then what if I add this Ken doll to go with her? Now who’ll give me $5?”

By the time he was through, he’d added a tea set, Hallmark Barbie Christmas ornaments, some new videos, a couple candleholders and a game. Finally, before all of my items ended up selling in just one lot, someone took pity on me and bid the $5.

I cringed…visibly. I cringed even more when my husband’s crossbow, which he never used, along with his vintage electronic TV game in perfect working order, and his collection of old board games, such as Sorry and Monopoly, sold for a grand total of $10. I was afraid to go home and tell him…beause I really hate to see grown men cry.

Items other than mine didn’t do very well, either. When one beautiful piece of vintage furniture couldn’t get even a $2.50 bid, the auctioneer joked, “How much can I pay one of you to take it away?”

At the end of the evening, I’d earned a grand total of $264.50. After the auctioneer took his percentage, I was left with exactly $171.92.

The minute I got home, my husband eagerly asked how much I’d made. When I told him $172, he said, “That’s just for my stuff, right?”

“No, that’s for everything.”

He spent the next two days muttering about how he’d never be able to buy the new model-train set he’d had his eye on.

When the next auction rolled around, I came up with what I thought was a brilliant money-making idea. Seeing that most of the items at the last auction practically had been given away, I figured I’d go to this auction for the sole purpose of bidding. Then, after I won a bunch of items for only $2.50 or $5, I’d make a good profit reselling them on eBay.

I looked online at the items that were going to be auctioned off. There were hundreds of them, all highly collectible – old postcards, dolls, Hoodsie Cup lids with famous people’s photos on them, vintage coloring books, Lionel trains, office furniture, sterling flatware and more. My eyes widened as I imagined all of the collectibles I could get for just a few dollars.

The night of the auction, I didn’t even take my checkbook with me because I figured the cash I had in my wallet would be enough to bring home a trunk full of goodies.

I was in for a surprise when I arrived at the auction house. The place was packed, standing room only.

As soon as the auction began, it became clear to me that the high bidders, the ones with the rolls of $100 bills in their pockets, had returned from their vacations. I sat there for nearly four hours, watching thousands of dollars being bid. A walking stick sold for $450. A chandelier for $500. A small baggie of doll clothes for $100. Some old wooden sap buckets for $160. A punch bowl for $150.

Every time I even so much as thought about raising my hand to bid, someone outbid me.

I came home with absolutely nothing.

“Need help unloading the stuff from the trunk?” my husband asked the minute I got home.

The look I gave him plainly told him he never should have asked me that question, especially since I’d just spent four hours sitting on a rock-hard metal chair for no good reason.

But I think I’ve figured out how to constantly be the high bidder at future auctions and also get the items dirt cheap…bid on my own stuff.

Saturday, August 14, 2010


Like so many houses do, our house has drainpipes that come down from the rain gutters on the roof. Most houses’ drainpipes drain right where they drip, but not ours. They continue underground along the edge of the driveway and drain out into a ditch on the other side of the front lawn.

Ever since we had the drainpipes installed underground – and by underground, I mean only about an inch below the surface – people have been driving over them. Delivery trucks have parked on them. Snowplows have plowed over them. Rottweilers have wrestled on them.

So last week I came up with what I thought was a brilliant idea. I decided to put a row of nicely shaped rocks along the edge of the driveway – not only for a decorative touch, but to make a barrier to protect the drainpipes from being flattened by a propane delivery truck.

Three years ago, when the lot was being cleared for the construction of our house, the excavators dug up enough rocks to build another Alcatraz Island, so I thought it would be easy to find plenty of perfectly shaped ones to use in the construction of my rock border.

Building the border turned out to be a slow and exhausting process. For one thing, a jungle had grown over most of the rocks on the property, so I practically had to use a machete to find most of them. Then when I finally did locate a few, I was afraid to lift them because I didn’t know what might be lurking underneath them. Spiders? Worms? Swarms of locusts? Giant killer snakes?

Not wanting to find out, I’d pick up a rock and fling it in the general direction of the driveway. I figured that anything still alive or crawling on the rock would be squished when it landed…and therefore, not crawl up my arm.

After 20 minutes of flinging heavy rocks, I was all flung out. It was time, I decided, to begin to piece the rock border together.

By the time I rejected the rocks that were too big, too small, too pointed, too round and too ugly, I had only about five rocks left for my border. But those five were works of art. The problem was, I was going to have to find about another 150 similar works of art to finish my project.

I finally took a breather and sat on the porch steps. As I admired my five rocks in their neatly straight line, I couldn’t help but think back to the time my father asked my uncle to build a fieldstone barbecue for us at our summer camp in Chester, NH.

My uncle was a perfectionist, and his penchant for perfection became obvious during the construction of the barbecue. He made my dad spend endless hours searching for perfectly shaped rocks for the perfectly shaped barbecue.

“Too round! Too flat! Too bumpy! Not enough mica on it!” my uncle would say as he examined each rock my poor dad, dirt-covered and dripping with perspiration from dawn-till-dusk rock hunting, handed to him. If my uncle accepted one rock out of 50, my dad considered it a successful day. Therefore, it was no surprise when four months later, my uncle still was building the barbecue.

Then came the day my uncle rejected a rock because the moss wasn’t evenly distributed on it. My dad finally lost his temper.

“The darned thing is going to be burning in a fire!” he shouted. “Why the heck does it need moss on it?”

When my uncle went home that night, my father hastily mixed up a bucket of cement, grabbed a bunch of rocks and slapped them onto the barbecue. A half-hour later, he tossed down the trowel and said, “There! It’s finally finished!”

And that was how we ended up with a half-straight, half-lopsided barbecue. But crooked or not, it still produced some really great burgers and hot-dogs.

I’ve managed to get about half of my rock border finished so far, but it hasn’t been easy. Out of every 25 rocks I lug over to the driveway, I end up rejecting 23 of them. I think I’m finally beginning to understand exactly how my uncle felt when my dad brought misshapen, ugly rocks to him for the barbecue.

I’ve also discovered that flinging the rocks doesn’t kill all of the crawly things on them…especially big black crickets, which seem to grow to the size of small rats around here. Believe me, Walt Disney’s Jiminy Cricket never looked like any of these guys (I’ve always thought Jiminy looked more like a grasshopper anyway).

But I won’t give up. Somewhere out there, the perfect rocks are waiting to become part of my border. The trouble is, by the time I manage to find all of them, I’ll probably be too old and feeble to lift them.

Friday, August 6, 2010


While searching through the boxes of junk in my basement the other day during my hunt for some old Archie comic books, I came across a big storage chest full of craft supplies.

Years ago, my mother and I spent countless hours making crafts and selling them at craft fairs. We were always trying to come up with new and innovative ways to turn everyday items into craft masterpieces.

“I’m going to make a turkey out of pine cones!” Mom would call me and say. “It will look great on someone’s Thanksgiving table!”

“And I’m going to make hobnail vases by gluing split peas onto empty jars and then painting them with white glossy paint!” I’d answer.

If I learned anything while making and selling crafts, it was that if I had to charge for all of the hours I spent making them, my clothespin reindeer and acorn lapel pins would have sold for about $750 each instead of only $1.

And I hate to admit it, but nothing was safe during my craft-making period. I’d gasp in horror if my husband tossed out trash of any kind. I was certain I could transform an empty milk carton or Sears catalog into something so awe-inspiring, people at the craft fairs would be crowding around my table and tossing money at me.

After I found my container of craft supplies, I got the urge to make crafts again. My box of goodies contained materials for plaques, magnets, clothespin dolls, Christmas decorations and much more. I was eager to dig into them and allow my creativity to flow.

But before I began, I contacted my sister-in-law, who travels all over the state doing craft fairs, and asked her if I might be able to do one with her. I figured there was no sense spending countless hours making pipe-cleaner candy canes if I had no place to sell them. From her list of upcoming fairs, I chose the one at Pembroke Congregational Church on October 16.

I soon discovered that things had changed since my last craft fair about 10 years ago. For one thing, my fingers are a lot stiffer now than they used to be. I sat down to make my formerly popular cat magnets the other night and it took me over three hours to complete just one.

“So, how many magnets did you make?” my husband asked when I finally emerged from my office. “I haven’t seen you all night!”

“One,” I answered, showing him the finished product. The poor cat looked as if it had been involved in some horribly disfiguring accident.

“Um, that’s…not too bad,” he said, forcing a weak smile. “How much are you going to charge for each one?”

“A dollar,” I said.

He looked thoughtful for a moment. “So that means if you make 10 of these at three hours each, you’ll be working 30 hours for only 10 bucks?”

“Well, when you put it that way, you make it sound terrible. Making crafts is fun and relaxing!”

Believe me, making that cat magnet had been anything but fun and relaxing. I’d had to repaint every part of him at least a dozen times, mainly because I couldn’t even paint a straight line. One of his eyes was up somewhere near his ear, and the other was down around his chin. His whiskers came out so shaky, they looked as if there’d been an earthquake while I was painting them. And then there were the numerous fingerprints of previous paint colors I’d used, constantly appearing on the parts I’d freshly painted. By the time I was done concealing all of my mistakes, the magnet about 25 layers of paint on it.

I called that darned cat so many names while working on him, it’s a wonder his pointed little gray ears didn’t fall off. Actually, they were about the only things that didn’t fall off. That’s because, as I discovered while searching for its tail under my desk for the third time, 10-year-old Elmer’s glue doesn’t stick all that well.

So the way I have it figured, by the time the craft fair on October 16 rolls around, I’ll have spent about 265 hours making crafts.

And if I’m lucky enough to sell all of them, I’ll earn about $85.