R. Perkins Blog

Nothing is so subtle, so absolutely imperceptible as the encroachment of age upon us…

Sometimes, I leave notes for myself in places I may one day revisit. Sorta like my own personal fortune cookies. Some are funny, some blunt, others are strange–thought proving–forcing my imagination into high gear. Whatever wisdom they provide, they almost always inspire me in some way. They make me laugh (who doesn’t need that?), ponder …

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  Its been a weird year. Our three-day winter here in central Texas has mother nature standing on her ear. My fruit trees are still putting on leaves. Best me and Google can tell, this foliage delay is due to insufficient chill hours. I dislike chill myself, but I agree it’s a necessary evil. Why? …

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Dave And Babe And The Rabbit Cage

March 26, 2017


We have rabbits–the latest chapter in our book of great adventures. Right away, we realized what a cool DIY opportunity this is. They arrived via a borrowed cage–a small cage–and we set out to provide Babe and Dave with more substantial accommodations. (They didn’t arrive as Babe and Dave. We had no idea how to sex rabbits–still don’t, but we think we got it right. I’ll explain later).

Within a few days, we transferred them to a cage we purchased from TSC. We figured that rabbits, being social animals, would enjoy each others company, so we left them together, and hoped for the best. For a week or so, they remained nameless, as, like I said, we had no idea what sex they were. Yes, as a matter of fact, we did look, but everything is pretty fuzzy down there, and they are pretty young, so we thought just give this flower time to blossom. After a week, full bloom. I caught them doing…things. They were promptly separated, and soon after became Dave And Babel, (Babe). We still can’t tell by looking, but nature doesn’t lie. Right? Well, not so fast. According to one of my wife’s coworkers–a seasoned rabbit raiser–rabbits aren’t particular regarding gender when the moment strikes. All the same, we’re running with the Dave and Babe thing.

Hurrah! This rabbit thing is moving forward. Rabbits sexed, and named. Now, we need an additional cage. With this additional cage, we needed a more sophisticated set up. Enter the fun part!

For only a few bucks, we purchased a bit of lumber, some chain and hardware, and soon had a handsome looking rabbit hutch. The cages themselves were the greatest expense at $40.00 each, but worth it for a roomy 30″x36″x18″. Do Babe and Dave think its roomy? Not sure, though they seem content. Just the same, we intend to build a larger, portable rabbit-run type cage that we can relocate periodically. This should offer them a choice of fresh grass, and the opportunity to feel the warm earth beneath their feet, and not just a thin layer of hay over cold steel mesh. This is the one aspect of caged pets that bothers me. I suppose that domestic rabbits don’t really miss what they have never known…maybe.

Recently, I conveyed our rabbit story-so-far to an acquaintance, who was eager to share her own hare– raising adventure. (Sorry, had to do it). Her story has one distinct difference–her rabbit is a wild-caught jack rabbit. Rocket. Raised since birth in a small cage meant for rabbits of the domestic variety, Rocket has undeniably enjoyed attention and a diet that well exceeds that of his brethren who remain forced to fend for themselves in the wilds of central Texas. Fresh water is continuously available, as well as alfalfa pellets, fresh bedding, and even the coveted Timothy hay for optimal dental hygiene. No drinking muddy water from a cow track, or casting nervous glances over his shoulder keeping watch for hungry, forward facing eyes as he nibbles on a low-hanging mesquite branch. Yes, it sounds as though old Rocket has it made in every imaginable way over others of his particular species. Just one thing really caught my attention. For the most part, Rocket seems content with his situation. However, occasionally, for no apparent reason, he just goes “crazy“. Hearing this, I envision a jack rabbit bouncing off the walls of a cage–an unfamiliar, terrifying confinement, the likes of which he has never known–in a desperate bid to escape, and return the freedom of the mesquite, bluestem, cactus, and dirt roads. But Rocket has never known these things. How could he? Or has he?

In my opinion, it’s simply genetics. Old Rocket is a hardy species, programmed to tuck his ears and bolt full-tilt-boogie into the underbrush at the slightest threat of danger. Or maybe, sometimes, just to feel the burn in his powerful hind legs, the thump of his heart screaming I‘m alive and free, and feel of the wind and the sting of slapping weeds on his fur covered face–all in a bid to remain sharp, focused, and strong. The overwhelming impulse that creates this ancient urge, ingrained within his DNA by his lineage, thrives just beneath the surface of Rockets thin, domesticated existence, while it remains buried beneath countless generations of selective breeding practices designed to subdue this instinctual urge in rabbit breeds like Dave And Babe.

Thinking of this pushes me to engineer the rabbit run–a temporary, day-time, semi-wild environment which will allow Dave and Babe to entertain the primal, instinctive aspect of their genetic blueprint. It’s next up in the story of Dave and Babe, and I’m certain they will love it. I know I’ll feel better.

 

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Seven years ago I decided to improve my health. So, I quit smoking, started running, and began spitting out anything that tasted good. I’m now convinced that cardboard forms the basic foundation for all healthy food. (Pssst, hey, Kashi, the packaging goes on the outside of the food). Since this realization, I’ve included spitting out …

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A Floating Cow, and some Beans on the Bayou (Brownwood Riverfest 2015)

August 16, 2015


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I came for the raft race. An audacious event, open to all; a distinct challenge that tosses aside centuries of maritime expertise in favor of redneck ingenuity…an adventure, requiring only a scrap heap, and the desire to coax from its depths a raft-like object capable of floating at least long enough to cross the finish line.

As I steered my challenger into the dust-choked parking area, I imagined a group of self-proclaimed raft-wranglers (good ole boys and gals), waiting anxiously at the bayou’s edge, eager to launch their crude, but capable crafts. Countless sleepless nights behind them, they stand, pondering the hours spent laboring over sketchy designs scribbled out on walls in chalk, or simply drawn in the dirt on cement shop floors like a child’s doodles on an etch-a-sketch. This is it! I parked in the first slot I found, then hurried into the park.

Engulfed by a thick fog of fine sand, I battled my way through the oncoming traffic–automobiles that lumbered like clumsy hippos through the combination entrance/exit that curiously provided only enough room for one vehicle to pass through at a time. Approaching the gate, I uttered a quiet thanks after emerging from the parking area unscathed, paid my two dollar entry fee, then rushed down the sidewalk. As I neared the designated raft race area, my excitement quickly faded into disappointment. With less than ten minutes until race time, there was only one entry afloat, and no others waiting impatiently on the bank. Ok, maybe things were running a bit behind schedule. I could busy myself elsewhere for a while.

Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

A few dozen steps later, I found myself admiring the vintage automobiles The Heartland Cruisers’ had on display. My heart is always captured, and my gaze transfixed anytime I encounter a row of gleaming, restored vehicles. Whether it’s the graceful swell of a fender gliding over a chrome wheel of a sports car, or the nostalgic boxy theme of a classic pickup, I stand in awe before the roots of the automotive industry. Each creation is unique, and every feature evident of our early exploration into the usefulness, and marketability of the automobile. I must admit, the specimen that aroused my interest the most wasn’t glinting sunlight from chrome accessories, or drawing me into my reflection with a deep luxurious shine. It was instead, an old, green, rusty ford truck. Sometimes, a patina shines brighter than turtle wax.

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After my brief visit to the automotive display, I maneuvered through the maze of vendors then over to the pavilion area to check out the live entertainment. As I drifted through the crowd, I encountered a woman brandishing a spoon. “Would you like to judge beans?” She asked.

“What do I have to do?”

“Eat beans,” she said.

I briefly contemplated the profundity our short exchange. Finally, an opportunity to demonstrate one of my many hidden talents. I’ve gone essentially unknown, and unappreciated as a professional bean eater for years, and now my skills would be put to good use. I’ve had beans for lunch and dinner more times than I could count, and have been acutely aware of their awe-inspiring properties as a breakfast food for most of my adult life.  A bubble of pride swelled inside of me. This was my duty–what I had been born to do. “I believe I can handle that,” I said.

With that, she led me to a table where the other professional bean eaters were already seated, then she left, with her magical spoon still in hand, in search of more judges. Shortly, there were six of us. (That’s a pretty darn persuasive spoon). I didn’t know anyone, and with no introductions made, I couldn’t help wondering if maybe one of them went by the name Wendy, or Tootie. That’s just how my mind works.

Before me was a score sheet with instructions outlining the specific traits that qualify a sample of beans as being superior to all others. They would be graded on a scale of one to ten, taking into consideration such qualities as texture, appearance, smell, and of course, taste. Hmmm, in my professional bean eating opinion, none of these need individual consideration…unless there’s a tie breaker. Beans must have a “wow” factor. That’s to say, all these winning bean traits come together in one big magical moment the instant they make contact with the taste buds. Whenever I put a spoonful of beans in my mouth, I either want to follow-up with another, or spit it out. And if I go back for seconds, well, that particular version of the american musical fruit may just be a winner.

Sixteen bean-filled spoons, and half a dozen crackers later, my task was over. Yes, the wow factor did strike a couple of times, but most offerings presented themselves in various degrees of ordinary deliciousness. However, there were a couple that would have benefited from a visit by the spice fairy.

After I submitted my score sheet, my attention shifted back to the raft race. I hurried back across the park, arriving just in time to watch last place clear the finish line. I scanned the shoreline for a possible winner and spotted a torpedo-like craft laying on the bank. That’s it. It appeared unstable at best, heavy, and certain to sink straight to the bottom and bury up in black, bayou mud if only the slightest bobble were made…but it looked fast. At a glance I could sense the dedication involved in creating a raft with just the right measure of speed and instability. A raft that could take you across the finish line in first place, or straight to the bottom if you so much as sneezed, or chanced a look back… my kind of raft indeed. Seriously folks, if it’s safe, (whatever it is) is it really all that much fun?

I may have missed out on most of the raft race, but I met some wonderful people, witnessed a floating cow, seen some great cars, ate some damn fine beans, and I am proud of the opportunity to add “bean judge” to my list of lifetime accomplishments. Thank you, lady with the spoon. Yep, I’m ready for next years Riverfest at Brownwood, Texas. See y’all there!

Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

 

 

 

 

 

Stability

May 11, 2015


Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

My wife and I used to travel…a lot. Not so much any more. Nowadays, our adventure schedule remains whittled down to a few short weekend excursions sprinkled throughout the summer months, and one short family vacation during which we spend hours standing in line. In the past, I’ve been all too eager to attribute our lack of adventure to our age. Recently, I’ve realized that this just simply isn’t true. In fact, older people tend to travel more if anything at all. I see these brave souls prowling the interstates and back roads on their Harleys and in their RVs, stoking the fires of adventure with the kids inheritance and searching for all those missed experiences deferred for family life during middle-age. Armed to the teeth with bank accounts bulging from abstinent lifestyles, and saddlebags, and fanny-packs swollen just slightly larger than a sixty year old prostate, they trudge onwards wielding their testosterone gels with great exuberance in search of that certain road with that odd little Bar-B-Q joint/bar where they shared that other joint with that strange hippie couple thirty-odd years ago. Retirement seems to create a restless stir in the hearts of the older generation. So, what is it then that tethers two fifty-ish people to their home? Did we travel before because we just didn’t have anything better to do? Maybe. Were we searching for something? If so, what? As I look around this place, I see a possible answer: stability. And how is this defined?

From my front porch I can see a garden. It needs tended constantly. There’s always a beetle or an aphid that begs discouraging, or a previously unknown blight that sends me to my laptop and off into the land of Google in search of an accurate identification and an organic method of control. Blessed with substantial rainfall, watering isn’t a problem this year.  Most years, however, it isn’t like this, and regular irrigation is a must to insure that fresh, GMO-free produce will fill our bellies. I order seeds from reputable heirloom seed companies, established with the express interest of preserving pure strains, free from harmful GMO genetics. After planting a rare variety of tomato from a seed no larger than a flea, and nurturing the tender sprout into a mature plant, I find it difficult to sleep at night if I’m away from home for more than a couple of days. (Obsession? Possibly.) The fertile garden is also a perfect arena for competition among plants. Anything utilizing resources from the garden soil that doesn’t offer a tasty return for its human counter-parts earns classification as a weed, and indifference is the only fertilizer weeds require. In my garden, however, they can also grow fat on steady applications of nitrogen via worm castings. If I don’t visit the garden for a couple of days, I return to find my veggies struggling on the loosing end of a power-grab. The annual family vacation is always punctuated with a vigorous plunge into the garden, and a cardio inducing weed scramble.

 

Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

As I ponder the garden, my pug brushes herself against my legs. Lucy gets impatient:  if I don’t rub her, she rubs herself…on me.  She is  another facet of our stability–an irreplaceable, high-ranking member of the Perkins family unit. A pug certainly wouldn’t have been our breed of choice, but we really weren’t allowed a say in the matter. She was a gift from a patient at the dialysis unit where my wife works. I often feel that her presence here strikes a more profound note that what was originally intended.  Fundamentally, a pug is the same as any other breed of dog, but due to limitations imposed upon this breed by their respiratory systems, they don’t catch frisbees, hunt, or make acceptable jogging partners. This runs converse to the pug’s personality, which is as unrestrained and outgoing as the most athletic of canines. They are also sensitive to certain skin disorders and allergies that demand diligent observation and treatment practices. Where they do excel, however, is with the one aspect of human existence that we all crave; companionship. Above all else, pugs are lap dogs that require frequent human interaction to remain healthy in mind and body.

Despite Lucy’s high maintenance needs and incessant snoring, she quickly found the path to our hearts,  snorting the whole way. The constant, undying daily affection she provides her humans, offers us insight into the patient/nurse relationship that thrives within a caregiver environment. She has never made mention of it, but I know my wife must feel that her efforts on the dialysis floor inspire love and appreciation in the hearts of the patients whom she cares for each time she sees the gratitude in Lucy’s actions at home–her weird happy bark, her odd smile, her quirky tap-dance on the laminated floor as she anticipates her bacon snack. Even after we return home from the briefest of journeys she is bursting with joy. I prefer to believe that this sense of excitement rises also in the souls of those dependent upon my wife’s return to the clinic four days a week. I’m sure they’re not jumping out of their chairs and doing the bacon-snack dance, but I’ll wager their hearts are leaping just the same.

Photo by R.Perkins

Photo by R.Perkins

Perhaps the most common anchor used to moor couples to familiar surroundings is the decision to become parents. Alright, maybe it’s not always a conscious decision, but just the same, you’ve just swapped standing-room-only for waiting rooms and I-cant-feel-my-ass-anymore wooden bleachers. Also, anything with a kickstand just got listed on eBay. It’s not the children themselves that weld us in place so much as the subset of responsibilities that we inherit when we expand our gene-pool. Most recently, my sons drivers education has been the focus. I don’t recall this being such a complicated process when I was young. I learned how to drive, I passed a test and received a license. When did all these government employees get involved? After being forced repeatedly, and somewhat impolitely, to prove that me and my family are actually Americans (been here all our lives, not that it matters) I emerged feeling oddly unwelcome in my native country. In the end, however, what I choose to take away from this experience is a greater appreciation for the efforts put forth by my own parents as they prepared for me all the proper credentials necessary for a life on my own.

Stability isn’t necessarily defined as a house, a dog, a garden and a family. I suppose it’s any lifestyle that secures us to familiar surroundings. It could just as easily be a job that keeps us on the go. While many long for the open road, others marvel at the patchwork quilt passing 30,000 ft. below them while en route to their next business meeting, and ponder all the diaper changing, time clock punching, birthday party planning, and methodical yard work that keep it neatly sewn together. For these frequent flyers, perhaps that’s where the real adventure exists.

When summer is in full-swing, the Perkins family will install the sprinklers in the garden and adjust the timers. Lucy will make new friends, and long for her old ones during a stay at a local kennel, and her favorite flavor of Blue Buffalo dog food, her allergy meds, and bacon/cheese treats will be in adequate supply. The calendar hanging on the walls at our jobs will prominently display a successive row of x’s in honor of our short absence. Alerted caretakers will bid us the time-honored, oxymoronic advisory to “have fun, and be careful”. We will cram a slightly reduced version of our worldly possessions into the SUV, leaving a cubby hole for each of us to occupy. Then, resembling a scaled-down, upgraded, and much more jovial version of the Joad family, we will coax the overloaded Envoy down the road, not in search of, nor in leiu of, but rather in wonderful celebration of our stability.

Cheyenne Garden Gossip

Gardening on the high plains of southeastern Wyoming

Natalie Breuer

Natalie. Writer. Photographer. Etc.

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