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Snap, crackle and wham!


I don't mind things that go bump in the night so much as I mind things that go snap, crackle, crash, whine, whimper, scratch, thwack, and crump in the daytime. Oh yes, and wham. We mustn't forget wham. We mustn't forget wham--much as I'd like to.

Why anyone in their right mind (which is open for debate) would move to this hilltop convention center for termites in the first place is a good question. Actually, it wasn't in the first place, it was in the second place. In the first place I wanted to stay in our snug apartment in Indianapolis, where the only disturbing noise was the sound of the morning paper hitting the porch roof. But when the lathered-up real estate person assured us this view represented the highest point in Sweet Owen County, we fell for it. What the real estate person failed to mention, this is also the point where lightning forms.

My bride of yesteryear, however, was overjoyed at this serendipity, as she had been brought up to view electrical storms as merely God's way of jump-starting the cowardly. Thus while bride is at the window observing whatever it is lightning does, I am under the bed with the dog and cat, making more noise than both of them.

As of this writing, our termite B & B still stands, but only because it once was surrounded by five towering black locust trees. I say once was, because there are now but two towering black locust trees. The others? . . . yup, wiped out by God's handiwork. And upon each of these thrilling occasions, in addition to the racket, lightning followed the tree roots to the water line, where half the volts made a hard left to burn out the hot water heater in the root cellar, the other half going gaily down the 248 feet of well pipe (at nine bucks a foot) to wipe out the jet pump. We now have both appliances on standing order.

After the remaining two trees get theirs, it's good-by house, as we sometimes jokingly call it. It is hoped, however, that the mattress may spare the gathering under the bed. As for the termites, they may have to go to the barn. Or maybe the neighbors will take them in. I'd hate to see the poor things go hungry.

One thing in our favor is termites don't make noise smacking their lips while chewing up the supporting timbers. The mice are not so considerate. They have this exciting game of storing dog food pellets in the master's summer shoes stored in the attic. The amount of plaster a contestant can bring down between the walls on each trip from kitchen to attic, where the shoes have been stored in a box to keep them out of harm's way, also counts heavily in the scoring.

After the little fellers move out in the spring, the walls remain silent for--oh, sometimes for an entire week. Then a clumsy starling chick falls out of its nest under the eaves. And does it fall to the ground for the cat's amusement? Never. It falls between the walls, from where it begins sending up distress shrieks that are answered by every matronly bird within the township limits.

"You've got to do something!" yells bride, after two days of trying to do housework with fingers stuck in her ears.

"Such as?" I queried. Upon getting no answer, I pulled a finger out of one of her ears and said I'd try dangling a worm on a string in hopes it would grab hold and I could pull it up. Dumping asbestos insulation on the squawler to give it an allergy that would force it to come up didn't work equally well (if you can figure that out, let me know). By day three we were longing for the days when mice were screeching their toenails down the plaster.

"Either it goes or I go," was dear bride's tempting threat on day four.

"How about running a garden hose down there and performing mouth-to-bill resuscitation?" I suggested.

That shut her up, but the chick squawked for another day and a half. I like to think the mother then came and lifted her bumbling baby like a cat carries its kittens, bill to back of neck. If I hadn't shut up my bride she'd have said, "That's ridiculous!"

Then there's Lump, her obese cat, who isn't satisfied with the nightly noise of scratching on the La-Z-boy, clawing the sofa, and shredding the clothes hamper. She is only honing her talons for the bagging of a mouse, a mole, a bird, a rabbit or a chipmunk, with which to pay for her board and room by delivering the thing through her private entrance as an offering for our table. Eat the victim herself? She wouldn't dream of it. Not when she can get a can of high-priced store-bought food every time she opens her yap.

Just this week I'm at my desk punctuating up a storm when she comes in with this live chipmunk, which she deposits at my feet and goes over to lie on the rug, her duty done for the day.

"There's your lunch, old master of the mountain," if I interpret her attitude correctly. "You can bake it, broil it, or barbeque it, but as for me, I'm too pooped to be interested."

This leaves me with the choice of having a chipmunk for a house pet or drawing on a pair of gloves and trying to run the uninjured little varmint down. Not only uninjured but now hyped to a speed of at least 20 miles per hour. The path I wore making a circuit from the cubbyhole I call an office to hallway to kitchen to living room to bedroom and back to cubbyhole will be in the carpets long after I'm gone (an event that's not far off, the way things are going).

Had the cavorting little critter not firmly established its fangs into a finger of my glove when I finally nailed it in my cubbyhole window, we might be going around yet. I'm holding my breath that my dog Brutus doesn't drag in a moose to liven up the place the day the cat comes in from hunting empty-mouthed.

Speaking of Brutus, we are speaking of a senior citizen animal that has honed his repertoire of commands and pleadings until he can make more sounds than a ruptured bagpipe. I refer to a woof the second he hears my eyelids go up in the morning, a whine if I don't leap immediately from bed, a whimper of desperation, then a howl that says you can let me out now, buddy, or take the consequences. Upon stubbing my toe on the end of the bed, a family tradition, we howl in unison all the way to the door (no; not my toe and I, my dog and I).

Which brings us to my dear wife. There is no sweeter sound to a man forming sentences at his desk than to hear through an open window the sound of her working outside. Except when she's mowing the lawn with his brand new bright red 11-horse Murray mower. It's like trying to form sentences on a firing range. Whing, she's just hit a stone . . . whang, a fallen tree limb . . . whung, a stump.

Until last Thursday I felt free to dash out and express myself concerning her carelessness in not removing the obstacles before running my brand new bright red etc. Murray mower over them. I further pointed out that I operate the cherished appliance over nothing but the most tender grasses.

Because the front wheels have a tendency to leave the ground when mowing up the hill that forms our front yard, I handle this tricky assignment myself. And once before mowing over a few twigs from a locust tree, I got off the Murray to pick them up. But not before wisely turning the mower sideways to the hill and turning the front wheels upgrade.

How the thing turned itself around, I haven't figured out. But I was picking up the twigs and humming happily to myself (I seldom hum to anyone else), when my brand new bright red 11-horse Murray shot past me at about 40 miles an hour. I, naturally, dropped my twigs and started to run after it. But as I can now do only 35 miles per hour, I soon gave up. And had to stand there and watch it pick up speed as it approached the board fence bordering the road.

I did get one break. My beautiful mower whammed one of the posts head-on. Otherwise, it would have gone through the fence, over the road, and disappeared down the embankment on the other side. In which case we'd probably still be looking for its remains. As it was, it took out the post and two sections of fence.

The mower still runs, although with a concave front end. As for the headlights, they are not just right for hunting coon. As far as I can see, that's the only advantage of having a mower hit a fence post.

My dear wife is out mowing right now. So far, I've heard only two whumps and a thwack. Oh, oh, there goes a crump. Oh well, what's another stump in the life of mower?
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Title Annotation:the search for quiet
Author:Stoddard, Maynard Good
Publication:Saturday Evening Post
Date:Apr 1, 1991
Previous Article:Aida: the story.
Next Article:Portrait of a Post cover artist.

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