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Friday, September 21, 2012

LwH; Lugging water

Friday greetings to all,

It has been a steady plodding week, with a lot of editing going on as Anna prepared and launched the Mensa newsletter, the Neva-Mind, and I went through the sections of this story cleaning up my writing errors.

I wrote the story in 2000 and the errors were in punctuation and capitalization for the most part, as I cared less about the mechanics than I did about getting the content down. A couple of good editors later now and I have learned better habits. I would still suggest to anyone trying to get a story written; first put down what you want to say, and then go back and clean it up. You need to write it down while your mind is producing.

Anna has also been doing some staining and sealing on a table that we are jointly building. I am on hold until she gets done with this phase as my power tools would create dust and ruin her efforts. Soon assembly will happen and photos will be provided. It is a lot of fun to build things again.

Today was lunch and shopping with Mr. S., and a new wrinkle, although not totally unexpected, occurred. Since several people have asked me to speak more about elder care issues or problems, I will relate this item from everyday life.

As those who deal with friends and/or loved ones with dementia, (especially Alzheimer's) have learned, people with dementia will hide things from whomever. This can be their caregiver, family, visitors, or even unknown persons. Sometimes they hide food and then claim that there is no food in the house, etc. A more common thing to hide is money. Everyone is out to get their money, whether it be large amounts or coins, it doesn't matter.

Mr. S. is putting his monthly allowance of cash in safe places so that the residents and employees of his assisted living facility don't find it (they aren't looking). The problem is; he often can't find it either. Or like today, he forgets to get money to put in his wallet and when he looks, he thinks that he is completely broke and keeps asking when "payday" is.

He really is not broke and we pay all of his bills for him, and he has meals provided where he lives. So he only "needs" money when we take him shopping so he can feel good buying his stash of groceries for his room. If he has more money on him he will give it to anyone who asks for a "loan" or handout with no thought about if it is the right thing to do or not. The discretion ship sailed a long time ago.

There is a change that seems to happen in the areas of inhibitions and discretionary decision making, which I have observed as common in both stroke patients and Alzheimer's victims. Where previously a person would watch what they say in public so as to not offend or cause problems, both stroke and dementia sufferers will say anything that comes to their mind without reservation, for example if someone is overweight or unattractive in some way. The ability to make reasonable decisions based upon common sense or experience, likewise seems to have been disconnected. A shining example of which is the giving away of everything in their checking account or in their pockets to a stranger, when it should obviously be the wrong thing to do. Telemarketers and door-to-door salesmen live for such contacts.

So my bit of advice is to be aware if friends, family or even elderly neighbors start getting a lot of packages in the mail or a steady parade of hustlers at their doors. They may be unable to defend themselves and be on that fast track to ruin. You might also become aware if they seem to always be out of cash, when logically they should be carrying some, like if you take them to the store. Also be prepared to call family for back-up as they will in all likelihood deny that there is a problem.

Today I bring you part two of a six part saga.  Living with Horses in its entirety is 12,038 words long and spans six weeks of time. I wrote the story on six consecutive evenings in 2000 during a time when I was turning out stories every night like a writing machine. Since I worked every day until 5:00 p.m. and would spend hours at the keyboard afterward, it was less fun for my family than me. Often there would be repeated attempts to get me to the dinner table before I could break away from my obsession. Many of the stories posted on this blog were written during that period.

The few people who have read this story have often asked me if there was more that I could write about those six weeks and the simple answer is; yes. But would anyone want to read it in more depth and/or in a longer story? That is the so far, unanswered question.

I have completed editing all six segments and will open this up to you the readers;
1.Do you want me to continue to release the installments one at a time
2.Do you want two at a time
3. All four of the remaining "chapters" at once.

I hope that you enjoy this true tale of a young man learning life's lessons. Read on!

2. Living with Horses; Lugging water

In the last installment we had just departed Augusta, Georgia, bound for a "safe" hiding place for six Appaloosa horses of questionable ownership. The destination was a 120 acre parcel of land owned by the brother of my employer, near the very small community of Warrenton, Georgia. The year was 1971 and the issue for me was not ownership of horses, but simply doing what I was told.

We arrived at the property after meeting at the store in Warrenton, and then my following them the several miles out to a "Texas gate" just past a cemetery and very old looking church. For those who might not know, a "Texas gate" is what I have been taught to call that section of wire fence that is removable on one end and can be pulled aside to allow passage and then re-closed by stretching the wire tight again and hooking loops of wire over the post found on the movable end of the wire "gate". This term seems to be common all throughout the country, from Florida to Alaska. What do they call it in Texas? I have no idea.

The horses were unloaded and fed and watered, and my gear was unceremoniously dumped at the edge of some trees, about one hundred yards into the property. The Captain was constantly looking over his shoulder so to speak and his paranoia was driving me crazy. He gave me a long list of do's and dont's and what to watch out for; including instructions to find a good hiding place farther back into the property for the horses. I was also to make camp where I couldn't be seen from the highway, which was just a two lane blacktop passing through farming areas. If anyone was to stop at the gate, I was to move the horses deep into the trees and hide them until the threat was over. Threat, what threat?

I was becoming a little spooked by all this talk and was happy to have them decide that it was time to leave. As they hooked the Texas gate shut and adjusted the loops to make it less "obvious" that anyone had entered, the Captain said for me to get a branch and "sweep" away the tire tracks all the way from the road to where my equipment was, so that they couldn't "give away my position". Right; Is the Colonel coming looking for his horses, or are the Viet Cong taking "side jobs" these days? He had me looking over my shoulder now.

They finally departed, with the brother still driving the old rig and the boss (with one "good" eye and no driver's license), driving the one ton with the new four horse trailer bouncing along behind it as he ran off the edge of the road repeatedly. At least the horses weren't in it, they were safely tucked away here in the pine forest, in the part of Georgia that is just past nowhere and there aren't any road signs showing the way back.
I had to scramble to get camp set up before it got too dark to see to put up my tent. I was still too full of the Captain's BS to even light a camp fire that first night, so I just cold camped it and kept a close watch on the horses all night.

It was a wasted effort on my part to stay awake all night, those six horses stuck so close to me that they practically got in the sleeping bag with me. I think that they were scared of this new place and wanted the security of familiar sights and smells. I had been taking care of them for several months back home and they trusted me.

When the sun came up, I set out to accomplish some tasks that I had been thinking about during the extremely long night. I had to find the well which was "just across the road someplace" and using the 5 gallon cans, fill the water trough up near the gate. This was the only known source of water for my charges and I wouldn't let them go thirsty. Secondly, by the Captain's instructions I had to "establish my perimeter." Or in normal horseman's language, check the fence for holes. Then there was the matter of the hiding place for the horses, should we be invaded or whatever.

I got a lucky break on my first assignment; I spotted a pickup truck pulling up to a big oak tree just about straight across from my position and watched an elderly black man get out and disappear next to the tree and then return a minute later and speak to the man driving the truck. Apparently satisfied with the "report", the two men departed. I moved out of hiding and across the road to the oak tree and sure enough there was a gate and just beyond that was a well with a rope and bucket. It was a nice affair with a concrete culvert pipe about three feet across stuck vertically into the ground and a windlass over it to raise the bucket of water from the well once filled. All around the base of the well were boards to stand on, it was really "first rate".

I quickly ran and got my two metal five gallon "Jerry" cans and proceeded to carefully fill them up to the brim and carry them back across the street to the waiting thirsty horses. It wasn't too complicated, the only tricky part was getting through the wire with the cans because I wasn't going to open the gate just to haul water.

The distance seemed short with empty cans, and it was only about 50 yards, well to trough, so it couldn't be THAT bad, right? By the time I had hauled enough water to fill a 55 gallon water trough, with six horses doing their very best to drink it dry while I was trying to fill it, I didn't think that I would ever be able to lift my arms again. It took me seven trips with two cans weighing about 45 pounds apiece full of water, to fill that tank. Those goofy horses had sucked up 15 gallons of water while I was working and they not only looked like barrels, they sloshed when they walked!

When I got back to camp I checked my watch, which I left hanging on the tent pole, to see how long it took me, and I discovered two things; it was only 6:45 in the morning, and you really have to know what time you started to make the equation work. 

To be continued:

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