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Not all the turkeys are in the oven.

NOT ALL THE TURKEYS ARE IN THE OVEN

Anyone can make a mistake, but it takes a real pro to foul up something as simple as replacing the two top boards on the fence.

Did you happen to read the newspaper account of an injured man in Avellino, Italy, who was riding unattended in an ambulance when he fell out and had to hitchhike the rest of the way to the hospital?

Well, you are looking at a man who can relate to such an inconvenience. Although I've never fallen out of an ambulance--not yet, anyway--the way things have been going it would not surprise me if I did.

We're talking here of such things as what should have been the simple procedure of sawing a dead limb off a scraggly redbud tree out by the road. In falling, however, the limb knocked off the ends of the top two horizontal boards on the board fence. To nail the boards back in place, I could either walk around to the gate and work from outside the fence, or I could stick my head between the boards and nail them back in place without going to all the bother of walking around. I chose to stick my head through, naturally, and work from the near side.

All well and good, right up to when I was to withdraw my head--and discovered that it wouldn't withdraw.

My head at the moment being close to the right-hand post, I couldn't get sufficient leverage to knock one of the boards loose using my right arm, where the bulk of my muscle is stored. And transferring the hammer to my left hand succeeded only in raising a blister that, had it broken, would have ended the drought on our front lawn. The only solution was to slide my head between the boards over to the left-hand post, where I could employ my muscular right arm.

Again, all well and good until my neck encountered a sliver of a length that stopped just short of penetrating my aorta, which would have opened the floodgate to my blood supply. It was the first lucky break I'd had in a month.

After withdrawing my neck from the sliver and by wearing my nape raw pressing against the top board, I finally arrived at the left-hand post. Now all I had to do was pound out the two rusty spikes holding the top board to the locust post while avoiding having the board bang against my head and affect my state of consciousness.

Traffic on Big Four road leading into the blinker-light settlement of Freedom (Indiana, that is) most days is limited to the school bus in season, the mail carrier, and maybe a couple of pickups. But now that my head had been trapped in the fence, half of the population of Sweet Owen County found reasons for driving past. A friendly people, Hoosiers, they all waved, of course, and some even shouted pleasantries as they contributed another layer of dust to my snared noggin.

It was while waving back to Wally and Alma Walters that I dropped the hammer. And after scraping most of the hide from the inside of my right arm attempting to retrieve it, I saw my dear wife tripping past on her way to the mailbox.

"What are you doing?" she gaily asked. "Looking for mushrooms?"

After vowing that if I ever remarry it will be to a woman with Velcro lips, I replied, "No, I'm playing stocks."

Returning with the mail, she asked, "Stocks?"

"Yes, stocks--where Pilgrims had their heads locked in for working on Sunday and spitting on the sidewalk and other atrocities."

"Oh," she said, shuffling the mail. "Do you want your bills here or shall I take them to the house?"

At this juncture, to my recollection, our own pleasantries ended. I remember her explaining that considering the way I do things, how was she to know that I'd got my stupid head trapped in the fence. And I recall asking her how she'd like a free face-lift. At which point she picked up the hammer and began assaulting the top board, apparently failing to notice that the pounding cause my head to bounce around like a dribbled basketball. My neck is still restricted to a ten-degree swivel.

Thus we were not on the best of terms when it came to planting the garden. If she hadn't mistaken kitty litter for Miracle-Gro, heaven only knows what would have happened.

I had already excavated holes in our billiard-ball clay to accomodate 12 Better Boy tomato plants, which alone would have furnished tomatoes for half of Franklin Township. So why did she stick in another row of cherry tomatoes right next door? Because they are cuter than those big old things. And when my back was turned, she snuggled eight hills of pumpkins up against my Jubilee watermelons.

So what did we get? I'll tell you what we got. We got cherry-tomato vines that practically wiped out my chivalrous Better Boys. Which meant that instead of state fair blue-ribbon two pounders, we dined on tomatoes of a size that takes at least 28 to make a dozen, if you know what I mean.

As for the pumpkins, why, unless she owns a hog farm, would any woman in her right mind--but we won't go into that--plant eight hills of the lousy bullies? For the excitement of competition in a vine-traveling contest? If so, she gets the checkered flag. It was her villainous vines that kept my rows of carrots, beets, cabbage, and cauliflower in the shade all summer. Another hill of ruffians nearly strangled my poor cucumbers, melons, and Butternut squash. You never saw such deformities: curled cucumbers that could have passed for green horseshoes, melons that looked more like cucumbers, and dwarf squash too small even for doorstops. I tried one.

If that wasn't traumatic enough, I spent the summer tripping over pumpkin vines on my way to the shed. I pulled one of her vines out of the shed where it had tried to lay its pumpkins in the motor housing of my mower. I reeled in pumpkins that had strayed across the line fence into Abrell's pasture. In chasing raccoons out of the Hale Haven peach tree one night, I bashed my head against a pumpkin, the vine of which had sneaked up the trunk and gone out on a limb to blossom and bear.

"At least we'll have a few hundred pumpkin pies to show for all this flora," I remarked with resignation, judiciously removing my hat before my head swelled to the point where it wouldn't come off and I'd have to go to bed with it on--which would clash terribly with my pajamas.

"Pies?" exclaimed the perpetrator of the pumpkin patch. "I'm not making pies from pumpkins when I can buy pie pumpkin in a can for 75 [cents]."

I should have thought of that. And didn't I know that pumpkins for jack-o'-lanterns were now selling for $4 and $5 a shot? And didn't I realize that our two great-granddaughters had never had a jack-o'-lantern? No, I didn't realize that. But did we have to atone for that neglect by raising pumpkins that would endow them with at least 40 (and counting) jack-o'-lanterns each? The answer came in the form of a loud sniff.

During this time, apples were getting ripe. Have you ever picked apples while your dear wife held the ladder? I first tried to arrange the foot of the ladder on level ground. Failing this, dear wife solved the problem by shimming the low side with a piece of two-by-four, the underside of which was thoroughly rotten. The result was a real scream ... from old hubby, that is, who was halfway up the ladder before the shim broke and who managed to keep his rib cage intact only by clasping one of the main limbs on his way down.

Because this cleared most of the apples on the lower part of the tree, and because no way would I remount the ladder for the apples higher up, the project appeared to be over. But never count out a woman possessing my dear wife's ingenuity. After studying the situation for no longer than a week, she decided to pick the rest of the apples using my golf-ball retriever. Her ingenuity also succeeded in removing all the metal fingers the retriever employs to grasp the golf ball. Anyone want to buy a real good three-section back scratcher for giraffes--cheap?

Perhaps this episode wouldn't have caused me to overdose on nerve tonic had it not followed so closely another tree fiasco. I refer to an attempt my dear wife and I made to keep the robins from robbin' the cherries from our big old North Star cherry tree.

We had spent the entire morning following her instructions on how to maneuver a basketball-court-size canopy of cheesecloth over the tree, she standing on one side of the tree, me on the other. Finally, after all attempts had failed, dear wife hit upon the clever idea of knotting one corner of the cheesecloth around a rock and throwing the rock over the tree.

When I came to, she told me I shouldn't have been standing so close. She also indicated that I was lucky the rock hit my head or I might have been hurt. I said how would she like a free face-lift? So we were right back where we were when I had my head caught in the fence.

Where we'll go from here, who knows? I'm guessing that the situation will improve. It had better. My space for lumps has all been taken.
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Title Annotation:anecdotes on country living
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Nov 1, 1988
Words:1619
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