Herald and Journal Herald & Journal, Dec. 20, 1999

Spending Christmas in the barn


This is kind of a gossip, catch-all column, today.

People ask me how the new house is coming. Well, it has slowed to a crawl, as we wait for the soffits and fascia to be completed in January.

Ron and I are installing door handles, cleaning up around the outside so things are ready for snow, sowing grass seed, and starting our work on the electrical portion of the house.

Deciding where the outlets and lights are placed has engendered some interesting conversations. Ron is of the opinion that a person should be able to turn on any light from any point in the house. I don't think anyone makes 35-way switches.

We have had some discussions with the people at Wright-Hennepin Electric. Ron and I each got different versions of what to expect.

I have been informed by Ron that we need two meters (thus paying two service fees each month).

The W-H guys told Ron this news, since no one would return my increasingly frustrated voice-mail. Ron says no one there wants to talk to me. I believe him.

I just wanted someone to tell me how it would be a cost savings to go dual-fuel, off-peak, and all those other wonderful things, if I have to pay for two meters for the rest of my life.

Enough of the house.

Pasture fencing is going up on the three acres next to my drive-way. We discussed the merits of three or four-strand wire, and finally compromised on three strands of smooth and one electric. Horses are hard on fences.

Next came the decision about the spacing. Something so little can really turn into a major task. Every wire is measured to exact (Ron's) standards. I measure and he fastens them.

He will ask, "How's that?"

I reply, "Close."

"That's not good enough," he will say. "Make it right."

Then I push him a little and say, "But no one will be able to tell."

Then he starts in on how I should take more pride in what I do, and I start to laugh, because I got him again.

He is so serious about everything being absolutely perfect, that he is an easy target to tease. You'd think after 36 years, he would have this figured out.

All the fence posts are exactly the same distance in the ground, the same distance apart, and perfectly level on all sides.

We still live in the horse barn with the lovely Mini-Biff in the alleyway. It gets colder each night to make the trek, but at least I don't have to go outside completely.

I won't decorate for Christmas this year, and it feels really strange. My decorations are packed away in barrels and boxes, and there is no place to put them right now.

But looking ahead, I plan to hit the day-after-Christmas sales with a lot of enthusiasm. I figure I might need several thousand more lights, stocking hangers, and . . . well, you get the picture.

Do you remember Milford the cat?

He featured prominently in the article about my first night in the horse barn. He kept trying to get in my living area, while I tried to get out on my crutches.

Milford died last week. He was a good cat. Caught mice. Ate quite well and slept in the sunshine. He would gently pat me on the ankle when he wanted to be petted. If I told him "no," he would go away. That's a good cat!

He was a cat no one wanted. We never knew how old he was. He wasn't well the past four or five months, and one day he just died.

We have replaced him with another cat that no one wanted. Her name is Callie, and she is a large, long-haired calico.

I hope she gets along with Oh! Oh!, my other calico.

Oh! Oh! is the supreme hunter. Everywhere you look there are little dead field mice . . . belly up. She occasionally takes them to Ron's bedroom door, upstairs in the horse barn. Kind of a present, I guess.

Grandchildren are the best.

I had the two girls a couple of weekends ago, and it was so much fun to watch them together. One lives in Minneapolis and the other in Howard Lake.

Megan has really dark brown hair, and Dannae has blond hair. Their personalities are just as opposite as their looks.

Megan is shy, while Dannae is outgoing and trusting of everyone.

Dannae is the younger of the two, and imitates everything, good and bad, that Megan does.

I started teaching them to play cards. Every time I had to "go fish," they erupted into giggles and rolled around on their cots like puppies.

After dark, we have to play cards and read, since I don't have a television in my horse barn.

It was really fun, but it is nice to send them back to their parents at the end of the weekend. I don't have the energy I used to, I guess.

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