It’s a long way to Miami

I am driving into the main front gate at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

On a rare occasion, when the lines are backed up to St Louis, they’ll open additional lines to allow the peasants into work.

They’re considerate like that.

But sometimes I take a back route into the east gate, just to avoid the joy and excitement of waiting in lines.

The downside is that the east route is basically a twisting pig trail designed by a sadistic civil engineer with a love of roller coasters with a little asphalt for fun.

Crazy dangerous.

So, going to work is a choice between risking my life on a Deliverance themed highway or waiting in line until lunchtime.

Hard choice.

So, yesterday afternoon I am driving back into Post when I see a car stopped in the exit lane.

Three guys are standing nearby.

Which is dangerous.

So, I am curious. Why in the Sam Hill are three guys stopped in the exit lane from Fort Leonard Wood?

They all have cameras in their hands taking a photo of something on the ground.

I look closer.

There is an armadillo on the road lying in the position that all armadillos naturally assume.

They were taking a picture of a dead armadillo.

Let me say that again: they’re taking a picture of a dead armadillo.

I don’t know why.

Maybe they’d never seen such an interesting creature before.

Maybe they’re from Manhattan.

I only wish I’d turned around and asked. But really, who wants to add to the excitement of taking a picture of a dead armadillo?

There could be riots.

Last week, on the way back home for the weekend through southern Missouri, I met up with a bobcat.

For some reason, he decided to charge my diminutive Prius while I was doing nothing more than listening to my iPhone play a little Allman Brothers.

Who knew that Bobcats hated Toyotas.

Or the Allman Brothers.

Maybe he thought the Prius was a natural enemy encroaching on his territory and he could eliminate the threat in one fell swoop.

His swoop failed and quickly became soul brothers with the armadillo.

Unfortunately, in the process of taking out the enemy Prius, he caused a considerable amount of damage to the vehicle.

Which isn’t particularly hard to do with disposable cars.

Which leads me to my third point about roadkill.

When we were getting married, I drove to Miami to pick up my bride, who was flying in from Moscow.

When her dad bought the tickets for her, I am guessing that he had no geographical awareness of the United States.

And he surely didn’t realize that they put Miami at the bottom of Florida.

Or, maybe he did…

Anyway, I should have told her to fly into Atlanta.

On the way back to Mobile, we drove through the lovely retirement state. She couldn’t help but notice the incredible number of dead creatures littering the roadside.

Florida, you really need to get some buzzards or something.

Anyway, after a few weeks of diving back to Mobile, she spoke up abruptly after hours of spying the roadside:

“Pumpkin. That one was alive.”

Cute that she noticed that.

I assured her that it wouldn’t be for long.

As I pulled into my neighborhood today, I see the remnants of one of God’s creatures in a pancake position.

Never once considered taking a photo.



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Pool frogs and the joys of dislocated discs

Searcy Athletic Club: I am sitting on the couch in the lobby.

Normally, I’d be upstairs working out – in the very limited manner that I do.

My Bride is upstairs in the exercise (i.e., torture) class.

Disgustingly healthy people are passing by me with their fru fru water on the way to the weight room, racquet ball, or one of the classes (i.e., torture room).

They look at me smugly as they sashay by.

Maybe I remind them of a mangled car wreck.

It sure looks that way by their looks.

Meanwhile, one of my lower back disks is continuing to press upon the sciatic nerve going down my left leg like, well, like they do when they aren’t content to stay in place.

And it all happened this time because of a frog.

And I don’t even like them.

These little green guys love to swim in our pool. Problem is that when they are finished swimming, they can’t find their way out. And eventually, they are pushed over to the skimmer where they drown.

Along with the other thousands of insects.

Seems strange for a frog to drown.

Sometimes I find rats in the skimmer.

I don’t want to see the frogs die.

I don’t mind rats dying.

Sometimes I find the frogs before they drown.

It’s always a nice surprise to look into your skimmer and find frogs still croaking.

So, on this unfortunate occasion I checked the skimmer and there he was. A goodly sized bullfrog who still had a few breaths in him.

I’ll call him Mr. Green.

“Give me at outta here,” gasped Mr. Green.

I obliged and lifted the skimmer. Water poured out revealing a plethora of deceased insects. If only we had had the pool when my daughters were collecting bugs for their eighth-grade science class. But I digress.

I empty the contents of the skimmer onto the grass as I normally do and Mr. Green falls to the grass. He was bloated with pool water of course, but he was still alive.

He hadn’t croaked.

Well, he couldn’t really croak with all that water inside him.

Here’s the fun part; I squatted down and inspected Mr. Green.

He seemed okay.

Well, besides being 12 times his normal size because of the water.

Then I abruptly turned to my right, while still in the squatting position, and felt and heard the sound of crunching cellophane crumpling.

That was my spine.

About .02 seconds later the pain arrived.

I could not walk, or do much of anything else. Except for writhing in pain.

Because I had my cell phone with me I called my daughter who was merely a few feet away inside the house.

She rushed outside to see me in an unfortunate state of agony. Since then: lots of pain, physical therapy, and a few surgical consults.

So, until I get better, I’ll stick to the lobby couch while the bride works out in the torture chamber upstairs.

No word on the whereabouts of the waterlogged Mr. Green but I have a contract out on his family.



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Hershey the Wonder Dachshund

In a few seconds, she’ll be asleep.

She’s lying in my lap all snuggly and warm. Wait – there she goes – fast asleep.

Hershey, our newest addition, is a full-blooded mini Dachshund.

And by full-blooded, I mean temperamental, lazy, and loves to snuggle.

And is ALWAYS hungry.

Oh, and she’s pretty smart too.

She takes several naps every day and has no apparent plans to cut back.

I drove to Georgia to get her.

My oldest daughter scoured the Internet for months to find the perfect mini dachshund.

And apparently, the perfect Dachshund was 600 miles away in south-central Georgia.

On the way there, I drove through Plains, Georgia. I figured I would never get a chance to do that again so why not?

Who knew there weren’t perfectly acceptable Dachshunds in Arkansas?

On the way there, I drove through Plains, Georgia. I figured I would never get a chance to do that again so why not?

It’s certainly not on my usually traveled path.

Americus, Georgia was nearby. I’ve always liked that name for a town.

For as long as we have been married, we’ve had a dog – 24 glorious years. That’s a lot of dog years.

First, there was Snoopy. Snoopy was a girl. I explained that Snoopy was a boy, but my Russian bride was set on the name Snoopy. So it was Snoopy.

I acquired Snoopy I (yes, there were subsequent Snoopies in our family) from a guy in Theodore, way out in the hinterlands of Mobile County actually. But I had to go through Theodore to get there. She made the move to Arkansas with us but then she was stolen. We were sick about this for months.

Snoopy made the move to Arkansas with us, but then she was stolen – twice actually.

We were sick about this for months.

I (kind of) remember the first dog my dad brought home. He was a Chihuahua and he was in my dad’s front shirt pocket. At least that’s what I remember. Because we lived on a busy road, one that’s even busier these days, not many pets lived long at the Swann house.

I’ve witnessed my share of dogs getting run over on Celeste Road. And now my sister tells me that they’re turning it into a 5 lane mega road. I can imagine the number of dogs that it’ll claim in the future.

I’m hoping Hershey will never have to deal with that kind of danger. She does stay outside some, but we live in a quiet subdivision.

The real dangers are hawks and owls.

Plus most of the time she’s lying next to me or another of the Swanns fast asleep, probably dreaming about her next meal.

I’m glad you’re here Hershey.


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The Assumption of Ignorance

The Letter from James chapter 3 paints a dramatic picture of the tongue.

It is a little guy, but it is some kind of powerful. You’ve probably heard lots of lessons from this chapter. Watch your tongue – watch what you say.  Etc. It reminds me of the last verse of a well-known children’s song:

O be careful little mouth what you say O be careful little mouth what you say There’s a Father up above And He’s looking down in love So, be careful little mouth what you say

I have personally been blessed with opportunities in my life to demonstrate my maturity and keep my mouth shut in many circumstances.

And I’ve failed miserably every time.

I’d like to share a stellar example of the lack of control over this little tongue of mine.

Dr. Constantine is the director of the International Bible Society in St. Petersburg. Well, he was in 1992 anyway.

As you can imagine they have lots of Bibles at the IBC. In 1992, Christianity was being reborn (sort of) in Russia. I was a part of a group of missionaries in northern Russia.

One of our challenges, like all missionary efforts, is to provide Bibles.

Inna, my Russian translator (at the time), and I traveled to St. Petersburg to acquire Bibles and then have them shipped back to her hometown. We couldn’t just order them from Amazon and have them delivered. There was no kind of system in place for that at the time. At least not in Russia anyway. They would eventually arrive by train many weeks later.

We found the office of the International Bible Society in St. Petersburg, went inside, and found Dr. Constantine. He was a very distinguished looking gentleman.

Because we were in Russia, I assumed he didn’t speak English.

Was that smart?

No. No, it wasn’t.

We met and began the discussions for the Bibles. I would say something, and Inna would translate.

This is important: Sometimes, I’d mutter something to her softly, not really meant for translation.

This went on for 30 minutes or more. I wish I could remember everything I said. We managed to negotiate a price of approximately $0.80 per bible.

Following our discussions about the bibles, we sat at a table inside the room stacked full of bibles. Inna continued to translate whatever I was droning on about.

I asked her to get the director’s name and contact information. He pulled out a card, wrote on it, and handed it to me. His information was written in plain English.

Let me say that again.

It was written in PLAIN ENGLISH!

I searched my mind quickly to see if I’d insulted him or said anything else that would not be representative of Jesus. I could think of nothing then nor now – years later.

I stopped everything and looked at him for a long second.

“How long have you been speaking English?” I asked softly.

“Ah, years. I don’t know exactly,” was his approximate reply.

He was content to allow me to go on rambling and having Inna translate for me all the while understanding everything I said in my shaky Alabamian English.

It all made sense to me in an instant. This man is a scholar. He speaks and writes and reads Russian, Greek, and Hebrew. So, why not English too?

I stopped making assumptions about the language abilities of people after that.

And found a bigger appreciation of simple little songs.

So, be careful little mouth what you say.


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