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Dog Poop and Apples [Tall Drink of Nerd]

That is the item at the top of my to-do list today. So I spent the morning in the backyard, squatting in the blazing sun, gathering piles of dried dog doo and several pounds of fallen apples, into a giant garbage bag. Ya know – l.i.v.i.n. – livin’.

Next on that list is that is ‘run to the cemetery’, followed by ‘biscuits, noodle casserole and cookies’. That may seem like a odd, and random, list of to-do’s, but life out in the country is definitely odd and random.

I’ve been in rural Colorado since August 4th, staying at my Mom’s house and helping her recover from hip-replacement surgery. My mom has lived in this house for the past 34 years, things are pretty settled in here. The dog poop creator is a 14 year old blue-healer mix named Belle. Belle is mellow and extremely well behaved, aside from a little age-related incontinence (ya gotta watch where you step if she sleeps on the kitchen floor for over a ½ hour). Belle wakes me up at 5:17 a.m., on the dot, every morning to be let into the massive back yard, where she runs to the very back corner and does what dogs do in the morning. Then she comes back into the house and eye-balls me, weighing me with guilt, until I get her leash and we go on our run.

Great area for cardio!

Great area for cardio!

In Haxtun, the cemetery is on the West edge of town, up against a corn field. That’s where everybody walks to and around in the morning. It’s where Belle and I head to before the heat swells up and takes over this tiny town. Once we get there, she is unleashed. In younger days, she would run, heady with freedom and in search of pheasant, through the corn stalks. Now she just trots next to me, occasionally scrapping her arthritic back toes against the dirt road.

Belle, howling at the Noon whistle.

Haxtun is tiny. The town whistle blows 4 times a day (and dogs howl all over town when it rings), the single grocery store closes at 8 p.m. (6 on Sunday) and everybody seriously knows everybody, and most of their business. I lived here between the ages of 4-18, 10 years spent in this very house. Many of those years were spent fantasizing about leaving this teeny spot on the map. So I did. I left. First to the college in KS, then to the metropolis of Chicago, and finally to my home, Los Angeles. I consider L.A. my home. Haxtun is where I was formed.

People here are alternately kind or assholes. When my Dad died, our house was packed with food from neighbors. The lady who owns the bed and breakfast let us stay for free. This past Saturday, one of my Mom’s fellow church-goers brought she and I hamburgers and corn-on-the-cob and chocolate cake, because she wasn’t walking well enough to go to the church picnic. There are a lot of nice people.

There are also some jerks. I was a tremendously unhappy nerd when I grew up here. The friends I had weren’t terribly nice and ditched me when they thought it was funny. That’s all high school BS, so I don’t really give a rats ass about it now. I sent a Facebook message to an old classmate of mine who still lives here; “Hey! Let’s go to lunch while I’m in town. Give me a call or shoot me an email…” I saw her Dad, nice guy. I said “Tell Laurie we should go to lunch!” I saw Laurie outside the post office and said “Let me know when you want to go to lunch.” I haven’t heard anything from her since. It makes me roll my eyes that 20+ years later, it’s still an issue. She hasn’t got the memo about growing up.

Happening main street - Downtown Haxtun

Happening main street - Downtown Haxtun

It hasn’t ever really occurred to me that this house won’t be here forever. I always thought it would be the place I can come to, that it would never change, but life is change. Mom is talking about moving in the next few years, I just can’t get my mind around it. I can’t fathom not having the old homestead, the old dog, my old room, the old creepy basement, the garden with ever-abundant tomatoes, laughing with my family around the old, brown kitchen table, crossing the street to gab with the neighbor, hanging clothes on the line to dry or just stopping to breathe in the fresh prairie air. But, nothing ever stays exactly the same (except Laurie), no matter how familiar or stable it seems.

Mom’s doing better, and one of my sisters is driving in from KS to take over “Operation Mom Watch” next Tuesday, so I get to come home, to L.A. Two weeks in the house where I grew up (not to mention perusing tombstones in the old cemetery while pondering mortality) made me examine the different worlds between small town and city, the value of time, the pace of things, how valuable thunderstorms are and that I need to wear jeans when picking raspberries because the branches have thorns. Changing locations always takes some decompressing. Coming back to my now-home, where I belong and am happy is an easier transition. I’m really glad I got the chance to hang out with Mom, but am looking forward to seeing my husband, cats, the ocean and my own fancy pillow again. I can honestly say I won’t miss putting “dog poop and apples” on my to do list.

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