It’s not even Thanksgiving and I’ve already listened to days’ worth of Christmas songs courtesy of SiriusXM in the Subaru and the Alexa on the kitchen counter. And since there are only about 15 good Christmas songs, you end up listening to the same ones over and over again — which does something to the brain. So, below, thoughts that have flown through my addled mind while decorating (yes, the tree is already up) and cooking.
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas. Imagine all the people who sang this song in 2019. “Next year all our troubles will be out of sight,” my ass. (I also always want to end this song by singing “Have yourself a merry little Christmas cow.” Because I think a happy little Christmas cow would make a person happy.)
Hi there. Is this thing on? It’s been a while since I’ve given you anything other than wildlife videos and poodle stories, but have I got some news for you.
My fourth novel, DUCK DUCK GATOR, is being released Oct. 20 in print and as an e-book. You can pre-order it right this very minute. If you shop at your local indie bookstore, drop in or give them a call. The book is being distributed by Ingram, so it should be in their catalogs now.
If you’re an online shopper, go directly to these links: Amazon. Kobo. Barnes & Noble. And however the hell you do such things with Apple’s bookstore. If you want to support a local indie bookstore but don’t know where to start, IndieBound can help you out.
In fact, I’m begging you to pre-order it. Because we’re all just servants of the algorithms, pre-ordering is one of the best things you can do for a book.
A tiny little bit about the book:
When Tony Battaglia wakes up in a Brooklyn hospital after a successful heart transplant, he’s expecting a new lease on life. But after a decade of stitching together the most ridiculous footage on the most outrageous reality shows, the TV editor never would have guessed he’d be on one. It turns out that his new heart belonged to “Gator Guys” star Lonnie Lalonde Junior—and Tony’s business partner has signed him up for a dramatic surprise appearance on the show. And things are about to get even more complicated. Tony travels to Blackwater, Louisiana, only to discover that Lonnie’s death was no accident and the main suspect is one of the stars of competing reality show “Mallard Men.” In South Louisiana, reality is stranger than reality TV.
Kirkus Reviews calls it a “witty whodunit with heartfelt characters.” A.R. Moxon, author of The Revisionaries, says “Ken Wheaton conjures Elmore Leonard, yet delivers his own brand of magnificently entertaining character-driven colorful criminal pulp.” Sally Kilpatrick, author of The Happy Hour Choir and Oh My Stars, calls it “every bit as addictive as the reality shows it revolves around.”
We’re having our deck ripped out and replaced. The deck is where we kept our hummingbird feeder. We were warned early on not to leave it out overnight because the bears would come for it.
I forgot it out there a few times and nothing ever happened. This might be because that particular corner of the deck put the feeder about 15 feet off the ground. If a bear wanted at it, it would need to come at the deck from the other side and hop the railing. Bears up here do that, but it’s likely none ever caught the scent of the feeder.
This week, Project New Deck started. The old deck has been ripped out. So I moved the hummingbird feeder (and a seed block) to a tree out front. Tuesday night, I remembered to bring it in.
Last night, I was messing around with the grill (also moved out front), going back and forth, saying “I’ll grab the feeder on the next trip.” I never grabbed the feeder.
Guess what happened.
It almost looks like Mama Bear was holding everyone back behind the construction dumpster and then gave the signal, “Go go go!” Everyone scrambles to the tree. I think the moment when most of them split is when we rushed to the bedroom window and were, “Hey you darned bears, get off my feeder.” (Actually it was more like, “I can’t believe you forgot the feeder. We talked about it. You probably did it on purpose.” In my defense: Not THIS time.)
But if you look closely, you’ll see one of the cubs climb the tree. He skipped the hummingbird feeder and went for the bird seed block. (It’s got berries and some kind of fat in it.)
I went down, turned on the lights, and he eventually climbed down. Then after a while — a long while — I went back out and grabbed the hummingbird feeder and the seed block and was not eaten by a bear. This time.
Woke up this morning to go to the bathroom. Around 4:45. Got back into bed. Just as I was about to drift off, I heard a loud cracking sound, a branch breaking out front.
I’ve watched nine deer walk through the yard so I figured it wasn’t deer. I reached for my phone to see if the Ring camera had picked up anything. No alerts. So I put it on live mode.
You can check out the video above. Gray pre-dawn light. At first glance, nothing. You Ming notice the top of one of the aspen trees rocking back and forth, despite an absence of wind. It’s just to the left of the column. Keep your eye on that spot. There! Did you see it? Something black moving. And a branch falling over.
I hopped out of bed and went to the window. There was definitely something moving. But between the light and the trees I couldn’t quite make it out. Then I noticed movement closer to the road. An elk. About medium build. I looked back to the original spot and it finally stepped out into the drive.
An impressive bull. Full rack. I’m going to guess 600 pounds. And he’d been almost impossible to spot due to aspen trees with trunks maybe three inches around. I wasn’t the only one fooled. The Ring camera still hadn’t gone off by this point despite him being in full view in the driveway. Maybe it’s because they move so slowly.
A third elk came into view, this one closer to the road as well and drifted through the yard without a sound. This one was a male as well, which makes me think even the big one was still on the young side and this was a group of juveniles. (I’m not an elk expert. I might be mistakenly applying mule deer habits to them. But the young mule deer bucks rove around in groups this time of year, like young punks on the prowl. The only thing they’re missing is cigarettes, tattoos, and the deer equivalent of a sneer.)
Finally, as the big guy made to leave, the Ring picked him up. You can’t see him all that well, but when he lifts his head for a moment at the start of the video you can see his antlers.
Today is garbage day. This involves me dragging two heavy cans up the drive. Because I am a manly man I usually drag them both at the same time. But because I am getting old and my body falling apart, this morning I dragged the regular garbage up, came down and grabbed the recycling and dragged that up. Walking back toward the house I was surprised to find a young buck nibbling in the garden.
And by surprised, I mean I almost crapped myself. It took me less than 30 seconds to drag the recycling up and head back down and he’d managed to sneak in there during that time.
(If reading isn’t your thing, you can just skip to the video down at the bottom)
Seeing that he wasn’t afraid of me, I decided to do what anyone would do: stop and observe this wonderful moment of nature.
Just kidding. I whipped out my phone and started recording. And then he started walking. Right toward me. I backed away slowly. He was tiny, but still a buck, and I didn’t know if now was the time he was going to prove himself a man by ramming a human in the junk. I moved toward the garage.
And he followed me.
I stopped. Whatever happened, I didn’t want him inside the garage where he might panic. I made some shoo-ing motions to no avail. So I headed back toward the yard. He watched me. I took a couple more steps and whistled. He followed.
He started eating grass at the edge of the deck and I slowly went back into the garage and hit the door button. I used the side door of the garage to go into the dog run. He walked over and considered the gate as if wanting to be let in. I didn’t let him in. I didn’t pet him, either, though I really wanted to. Eventually, he moved on.
Maybe someone around here has been feeding him. Or his mom — her name is Deerdra — just recently gave him the talk and told him to be on his way. Maybe the poor guy was just feeling lonely.
Either way, I hope he makes it. Here’s some video.
Being a dog owner involves a certain amount of self-delusion. Rationally, you know the lifespan of a dog is short. Unless you get your dog when you’re 75 or you get into some horrific accident, you’re going to outlive your dog. This animal that loves you unconditionally, depends on you for everything, would likely give its life for you, will die before you do.
So one of the most important rules of dog ownership is you never, ever, ever let yourself think about it.
Until the day comes when you have to think about it.
Had the day off today so decided to waste only the first half of it binge watching garbage on Netflix. Then I drove out to Pine Valley Ranch for a three-mile hike. Fun fact: The river in these photos is one of the ones I was standing in last fall and fly fishing.
Went for a short 2.5 mile hike at Staunton State Park. Took Dine Meadow trail to Mason Creek. Detoured up Dine Cliff climbing access, which was pretty steep and provided great views. Then back up Mason Creek. Be sure to play the video of the frozen waterfall with sound on.