Look Out For the Rats

Shannon Kernaghan Look-Out-for-the-Rats-400 Look Out For the Rats Belongings Childhood Comedy Family Fun Gifts Humor Lifestyle Memories parents Pets and Animals

I discovered a few rats downtown, and last weekend I brought three of them home with me. They’re not real rats (or married people who pocket their wedding rings when going for a drink after work), but art rats.

A nearby gallery recently held a one-year anniversary and celebrated by selling donated art to raise money for the artist-run shows.

The gallery showcased a roomful of rodent-themed pieces designed from paint, ceramics, wire and needlepoint.

I’m not overly welcoming towards rats, unless they’re the cartoon or stuffed animal variety. But I do like to support our determined artists.

It takes exceptional people to bare themselves for public critique. And it takes courage to enter a creative field when there’s no guarantee of gain or glory. But try they must.

Besides, how many rat sculptures can you create and give to your mother before she stops accepting deliveries? Good thing we have our galleries.

It’s an indisputable fact – artists create because they must.

Why such admiration? Because I’m a left-brain thinker and can’t draw a convincing stick figure. I don’t even have a consistent signature when signing my name to the back of my ID and credit cards. 

My first artistic foray most likely involved Popsicle sticks, gold glitter and glue that ended up everywhere except the target. Years later, my high school dalliance with textiles resulted in a crooked gingham apron that only a mother – the same one with rat ornaments lining her curio cabinet – could love.

I appreciate those who pilot a potter’s wheel or wield a welding rod. For that reason, I’ll continue to collect and cherish their creations.

Will I end up with a Banksy Girl with Balloon piece that sold for $1.4 million even though it was partially shredded at auction? Who cares. I buy art because I like it.

For our wedding, my sister gave us a sculpted piece, a weird little monster named Theobold who wears a turtleneck and holds a cup in his gnarly monster grip. I’m happy to say that the marriage has fared the storms of time better than Theobold.

Although I try to be careful, poor Theobold has been broken on four or five occasions. Last summer he fell off a ledge while I read in a chair several feet away.

Luckily, I’ve retained good gluing skills from kindergarten. As for any financial appreciation over the years, Theobold has too many missing pieces to ever increase in value, but I’ll never say good-bye to him.

Please, no one send me a Rodin sculpture for my next birthday – if my monster is jumping off his ledge, just imagine the trouble The Thinker will get into.

Hang on . . . now my new clay rats are starting to eye me with suspicion. Better buy more glue.

Audio story backing track
Mind and Eye Journey
by
Emily Sprague

Hands Off The Pooch!

Shannon Kernaghan Hands-off-my-pooch-400 Hands Off The Pooch! Challenge Childhood children Comedy Culture Family Fun Health Humor Lifestyle Love Memoir parents Relationship Sex

My husband has begun an annoying habit while we relax in bed: he plays with my stomach as if it’s bread dough.

“Stop it!” I yell and slap at his pawing hand. ”This isn’t Silly Putty!”

Although I’ve never been pregnant, I can empathize when people reach out to rub a woman’s  rotund stomach. Those people envision a beautiful growing baby and are drawn to it, the same way they’re attracted to a puppy or kitten.

Conversely, those pregnant women see a groping hand reaching towards them and they’ve never felt so territorial.

Men must endure similar attention. I’m referring to men who’ve shaved their heads to a downy fuzz.

My hand trembles with desire to sweep my palm across all that fuzz. Now it’s tough to concentrate on what the guy is saying. Downy. Alluring. Must touch.  

There’s nothing sexual about it. If anything, my psyche is probably reconnecting with my youth where I played with my Ken doll, the kind with the peach-fuzz head. Sure, Barbie had great golden locks, but Ken’s head was something special.

Let’s shelve my downy head hang-up and get back to pregnant women. Lately great emphasis is placed on the prenatal experience. Parents don’t simply talk to their unborn babies but also read to them and play selected music.

Embryologists say that the ear is the first organ to develop, that it becomes functional after only eighteen weeks and baby listens actively from twenty-four weeks on.Speaking, reading and singing to a baby before birth is said to enhance its ability to distinguish sounds after birth. Some scientists believe that babies understand what’s being said around them.

I find that hard to believe. If babies understand from an early age, why is it such a struggle to toilet train them or teach them why they can’t throw Daddy’s keys into the toilet? For keys, they have no problem with the flush.

If you have extra time in your busy day, why not buy a device that allows you to hear, record and e-mail your unborn baby’s heartbeat and hiccups.

Here’s one ad I found online: “Listen to these sounds with the baby’s father, siblings or friends. You will also hear the nutrients passing through the placenta.”

I wouldn’t be too keen to share sounds from my placenta; once that child is born, we’ll be treated to enough sounds. My device of choice would be ear plugs.

My own mother was busy with four children before I arrived. Little concern went towards my in utero experience. I’m thankful enough that Mom didn’t smoke, slam shooters or play with hallucinogens while she was pregnant.

As for my non-pregnant pooch, I’ve created a new rule in our household: I’ll let my sweetheart squeeze my belly if he shaves his head and lets me stroke his fuzz. Now that’ll be a Friday night tale to tell the non-kids. 

audio song The Nexxus Riddum
by
Konrad Old Money

Faux Families in Your Neighborhood

Shannon Kernaghan clapboard-400 Faux Families in Your Neighborhood Adventure Belongings Career Challenge Culture Family Humor Lifestyle Parties Real Estate Relationship Sales

You have to admire a city that makes a living out of creating fantasy. I’m referring to Los Angeles – home to movie stars, Rodeo Drive, Universal Studios and a whole lot of hype.

There’s a new thrill for those who cruise through show homes to look for decorating tips or fresh digs. Dig this headline: “L.A. realtor uses actors to sell new homes, family dog not included.”

One development features a model house with a “faux” family where perspective buyers open the door to find a barefoot man in his 30s who shouts “Hello!” from the kitchen and offers juice to the shoppers’ children.

His friendly faux wife hands out cookies hot from the oven. On the counter is a birthday cake with candles and on the mantle are birthday cards.

Let’s get the kids in on this production: two adolescents invite shoppers to see their professionally decorated rooms.

These paid actors are hired to show how life could be for you and yours. Simply add a real family to this Betty Crocker mix.

My friend, a realtor for decades, has seen and heard it all and she learned early about the protocol for holding open houses.

First, you show up with your Open House sandwich board. If you’re smart, you arrive ahead of time to make sure the homeowners have shoveled the walk and emptied the dirty diaper pail. Sometimes you get stuck doing these doo-ties.

“This is intimate stuff,” the agent said. “It’s impossible to enter a home and not feel personal, especially when someone is sitting on the couch wrapped in a towel after their shower and the family dog is relieving itself against your car tire.”

Next came the tough love: “Take a hike, people,” she’d yell. “Buyers will be knocking on your door any moment now.” That gave her two advertised hours to do her job and find a keen buyer.

That’s the open house in theory. In reality, her day might take another turn.

One of those wrong turns was when she held her first open house. She described the adorable homeowners, a couple in their early 100s who were anxious to downsize.

But my agent friend soon realized they weren’t going anywhere. They planted their large arthritic selves in the small living room and waited. They were going to “help” her make a sale.

They created zero L.A. ambience, unless buyers wanted to picture themselves as elderly and slow moving. Sensible shoes a prerequisite.

After a quick tour of the house, one man with an accent started to pull on his boots to leave.

“Can I answer any more questions for you?” my agent friend asked.

“No thanks, I’m looking for a home with a separate dining room.”

“Where he comes from they eat on dirt floors,” called out Mr. Helpful Homeowner, “and now he wants a dining room?”

Much like that full diaper pail, her new-agent smell was turning sour.

As for L.A., the best offshoot from this show home innovation is that emerging actors can land temporary jobs and stretch their skills.

And this gives “dinner theatre” an entirely new spin. Sure, the audiences are smaller and there’s a whole lot of scene repetition around the kitchen table, but it’s a gig.

And . . . action!

Audio backing track
“Licklee”
by
The Vandals

Power to the Mixer, Right On

Shannon Kernaghan Power-to-the-Mixer-400 Power to the Mixer, Right On Challenge Family Food Fun Humor Lifestyle Memoir Relationship Sex and Food

I’m not a flower child of the 1960s, but I’ve met enough aging free spirits to appreciate the tumultuous decade. I gaze with fondness at peace signs, despite not being old enough to wear a bra in that decade, let alone burn it.

My husband Paul equally likes all-things 1960s. When younger, he was a wild child, speeding across the country on his motorcycle, letting it all hang out while the wind tousled his mane of hair (no helmet laws yet).

Today, his wheels stay a lot closer to home.

Speaking of home, where “flower power” was once a symbol of non-violence, now my sweetheart refers to “flour power” when choosing our kitchen appliances.

“Look honey,” Paul called out from his computer search, “This standing mixer has a Flour Power rating of 14 cups. Is that far out or what?”

“Yeah, groovy, man,” I muttered under my breath. “How much is this thing going to cost just to make some pizza dough?” I no longer muttered; I yelled.

“Cost? Who cares about the bread, man? It has a 67-point planetary mixing action!”

“Greeeeaaat.” I’ve managed to make meals with a wooden spoon that wields enough power to whip everything into submission. I simply raise it at my bowls of wet and dry ingredients and they snap to attention. No flower/flour power ideology need enter my kitchen.

And there’s the hand-held mixer with three identical speeds that I was given when we married. Still beating.

Paul wants to take us from a yellowing $15 mixer to a $730 pearl metallic powerhouse. Bummer. And here I’m trying to lessen my carbs!

We enjoy celebrating special meals with a glass of wine or two. But you can’t drink and drive so that means taking a cab or Uber from the restaurant. That also means going into the cold dark night after your cozy meal.

Sometimes cabs and Ubers aren’t quickly available. Waiting 20 minutes in a restaurant doorway is a definite buzz kill . . . behold, the pleasures of home cooking.

Yet the motive for home cooking hasn’t been to save money. If anything, our grocery bills have grown savage. For instance, I ate a couple of fresh-baked cookies and discovered they called for a $5 bag of ground pecans. Didn’t taste a single nut. The recipe also included several dollars of chocolate chips and toffee. The only way I’ll reduce our grocery bills (and waistline) is to wire my mouth shut.

 How the times have changed from the 60s to today. Now when I ask, “What’s your bag?” Paul answers, “Flour, baby. Best for bread, rye and multi-grain.” His “secret stash” of baggies are filled with fennel and rosemary.

Power to the people. Make that power to my tie-dyed chef.

Audio music False Startz
by
Blanc Vie

Luggage Matters

Shannon Kernaghan Luggage-Matters-400-e1550426795349 Luggage Matters Adventure Belongings Challenge Family Fun Humor Lifestyle Love Memoir Relationship Risk Travel

While touring Italy with my sister and a busload of keen tourists one spring, I noticed how small problems have the potential to hamper a trip. Take colds and flus. The moment I heard the first sneeze or hack of an ailing traveler, I became germ phobic, refusing to stand or sit near anyone who looked the slightest bit peaked.

I bathed myself with anti-bacterial hand cleaner at every opportunity.  Who had time to get sick and miss a moment of fabulous countryside,  famous art or delicious Italian cuisine?

As for other small problems, factor in a lost piece of luggage.

I thanked my non-superstitious stars when I saw my suitcase spit from the carousel within minutes of arriving in Rome.

To me, this was a veritable feat of engineering, considering I started my journey in Calgary, changed planes in Toronto, boarded another in Frankfurt and finally arrived at my Italian destination.

Despite the jitneys I rode and the terminals I changed in various airports, there it was – my beautiful suitcase – bumping its way along the conveyor belt. I breathed a sigh of relief. Who am I kidding, it was a gusty “Yoo hoo!” and a fist raised in victory.

On these package tours, guests are allowed to bring only one suitcase. In other words, my underwear, toiletries and comfy pillow were all riding on my bag’s prompt arrival. And since we stayed at six different hotels, it’d be no easy task for missing luggage to catch up to an owner.

I’m quick to steal titles from movies today, so call it The Incredible Journey because my loyal suitcase went the distance and met me on schedule, both of us unscathed.

No-show luggage tormented one passenger on the tour. Her partner’s luggage appeared, but her own suitcase stayed in the US, revolving aimlessly in a mystery carousel for several days. Speaking of mysteries,  it’s strange how her stylish green plaid case – one that matched her partner’s – could be left behind. Maybe the baggage handler didn’t like the color; maybe the bag was too stylish for its own good.

The other question is how it took me 20 hours to journey to Italy, but that green suitcase needed a whopping four days. Poor little luggage – it missed everything from Siena to Florence. It deserves a do-over.

If your luggage defines you, then I’m an inexpensive black number with Hello Kitty pink duct tape holding the works together.

There’s a reason I travel like a pauper with my Club Monde (perhaps a take-off on Club Monaco, to make it sound exotic). I read a warning that the more expensive your case, the greater the chance of having it stolen or pilfered. In other words, your Louis Vuitton bag undoubtedly contains a better haul than my nondescript scuffed and taped clunker.

Who’d waste their time ransacking my cheap case? If any thieves covet a $12 alarm clock or a travel pillow, then I’m their bag. But if they’re looking for pricey electronics or designer fashions, they’d be wise to  move along to the next suitcase, something with a better label.

If I learned anything from my Italian excursion, it’s that European travel separates the women from the girls. After all, multiple plane  changes  and an equal number of time zones is no picnic. Plus, schedules are guaranteed to include a mad dash for your plane in one airport  followed by a six-hour stopover in the next.

That said, the travel rewards are huge and the money well spent. Just leave your expensive luggage at home, where it’ll make a fashionable door stop.

Audio story music “Waterfall”
by
Aakask Ganghi

Milk-Bone in Your Pocket

Shannon Kernaghan Milk-Bone-in-Your-Pocket-500 Milk-Bone in Your Pocket Challenge Dating Family Fun Gifts Humor Lifestyle Love Relationship

Since I welcome any opportunity to tease my partner, Valentine’s Day provides yet another opportunity.

I’ll be gentle. I’ve been with the guy for half my life, which translates into a heaping helping of dog years. For that, he deserves a medal, not a hard time.

Speaking of dogs, if he were a canine he’d be a mixed breed: amorous like a Chihuahua, clever like a Border Collie, and regal as a Beagle. Those are his words, not mine. While reading an online personality profile, I asked Paul what three dogs he considered himself. And for the record, “amorous” isn’t the actual word he used but I’ve done a titch of editing.

I’d throw in a tough breed for Paul, such as a Bull Mastiff or Siberian Husky because my husband is no lap dog. Nor is he easily riled.

A perfect example was when I opened a letter from his doctor’s office, describing a simple test he’s scheduled to undergo. I read it aloud while we ate fajitas in a restaurant.

Although the letter referred to “minimal discomfort,” I changed the wording to “substantial discomfort.” Pause . . . no reaction. I decided to roll up my sleeves.

“If further tests are required,” the letter continued, “you may need a tiny wire placed through the skin, about the size of an immunization needle.” Of course I changed that phrase to “a two-inch incision, requiring several stitches.”

Again, no reaction. I bit my lip to keep from giggling and watched as he casually dipped into his salsa. “Honey, doesn’t that worry you? An incision? Stitches?”

He shook his head and shrugged. “Oh well, whatever.”

Like I said, he’s one tough Husky. I grow faint when tweezing my eyebrows. If I ever show up at your party with a uni-brow, you’ll know why.

People put a lot of pressure on Valentine’s Day, determined to exchange the perfect gift and sentimental card that expresses their love. Same goes for the scrutiny placed on marriage.

Marriage can be overrated, especially when people don’t respect the promises they jointly make. Actions speak louder than signatures on any old marriage certificate, no matter how much dust has built up over the years.
I’m a firm believer that love is demonstrated by how couples share their lives. It’s the day-to-day challenges they conquer and the effort they make to protect each other.

During an occasional trying moment, I hear Paul mutter: “I shoulda taken a wrong turn on the way to the church.”

“No way,” I quickly reply. “Who’d be here to brag about you, you big stud. Now go eat your kibble.”

Either I still love him, or I really need to get a dog. 

Happy Valentine’s Day, honey.

Audio music “Blue Creek Trail”
by
Dan Lebowitz

I Need a Dentist, Not a Survey

Shannon Kernaghan I-Need-Dental-Work I Need a Dentist, Not a Survey Adventure Career Challenge Fashion Fun Humor Lifestyle Memoir Memories Parties Read Along Travel

I never forward chain letters or dire warnings that turn out to be hoaxes.  

But when a friend from Ottawa sent me a “Four things about me” email, my interest was piqued. She likes to watch TV crime shows, for example. And I’d forgotten that she’d traveled to Africa.

Not only did I enjoy reading her responses, I started filling in a few of my own.

I don’t suggest you take too much time from your day for questionnaires, especially if you’re the dentist scheduled to fill my tooth this afternoon. Please, I want you to concentrate on my molar, not your catamaran trip to the Galapagos Islands. 

Here goes . . . Four jobs I’ve had:

1. lingerie model
2. product demonstrator
3. realtor
4. bartender

Lingerie modeling was exciting and filled with crazy chaos; it also required too much attention to detail. Every part of me had to be polished and my appearance was always under scrutiny. How tiresome. And I would never be tall enough or attractive enough to make the pages of Vogue, although I had a fun run.

Fortunately I never fell off any dimly lit stages although my catwalk days are long over – I’m currently balancing a bag of frozen peas on my shin after walking into my own coffee table!

My product demonstrator career lasted one week. It’s difficult to sell an expensive manicure kit and it’s disheartening to hear “No thanks” all day. Total sales? Only one. I bought it out of guilt, considering I quit before the promotion ended. Lessons learned? Again, only one. Stay in school.

Working as a licensed real estate agent gave me confidence. Move over, manicure kit, a house was a big ticket item to sell. When purchasers invited me for dinner in their newly constructed homes and everybody was smiling, I loved my career.

But when their homes weren’t ready on time and those once-smiling customers had no place to live for a month, I felt less delighted. My ringing phone began to give me anxiety.

As for bartending, I enjoyed the high energy parties and celebrations but grew tired of dealing with of inebriated people. Drunks can get cranky and unreasonable. Wish I could still remember how to make a flaming Pousse Café.

See? There’s plenty you can discover about people. 

How about  . . . Four places I’ve been:

1. Cap Haitien, Haiti
2. Miami – both Florida and Manitoba
3. Minsk, Belarus
4. Cal-Nev-Ari, which borders California, Nevada and Arizona.

In Haiti, our tour guide had an artificial foot that spun in circles when he walked. Sometimes the foot locked in a backwards position and he’d realign it by a swift kick with his other foot.

In Cal-Nev-Ari, every second resident owned a small place. Their garages were plane hangars and their neighborhood streets were designed as runways. Paul and I explored the area for a month, which included a casino Christmas party with fascinating and off-the-grid locals.

There are more categories to this survey but I have to see a dentist about a tooth. Maybe I should add teeth to the survey under: Four things that need better care!

I’m Sorry, I’m Canadian

Shannon Kernaghan cartoon-beaver-colored-400 I'm Sorry, I'm Canadian Adventure Challenge Culture Family Humor Lifestyle Read Along Relationship

Canadians must be a sorry lot because they’re always saying they’re sorry. When I bumped into a woman at the grocery store, she was the first to apologize even though it was my fault. No contest, we’re all sorry.

I’ve said “sorry” after someone walks in front and cuts me off, and after banging my knapsack against a street sign or hitting my knee on the coffee table. I’ve heard myself apologize to a cashier after being overcharged, as if I did something wrong. I’ve gone beyond sorry; I’m flirting with pathetic.

I want to act more like my hero, Judge Judy. I watched back-to-back episodes of her courtroom TV for the first time. This woman is amazing. And lucky. Not only does she get paid Hollywood big bucks to wave her legal wand over a teenager suing an ex-boyfriend for throwing a bagel, but Judge Judy gets far greater license — she’s allowed to yell at people.

Judy doesn’t need to burn off frustration through Tai Bo classes or therapy sessions. All she has to do is go to work. If I could yell at people in my courtroom, I’d be pinching myself to make sure I wasn’t dreaming. And I’d almost feel guilty about cashing those hefty pay checks. I said almost.

“Want justice? Call Judge Judy.” Are you kidding? What sane plaintiff and defendant would voluntarily go before this Queen of Scream when there’s a 99% chance of public humiliation, broadcast to millions of viewers. Not only is the guilty party raked over Judy’s fiery coals, but the innocent person can be thrashed as well. Apparently no one should waste Judy’s time with ridiculous law suits.

You have a good excuse for throwing your son’s computer through the window? Don’t bother explaining as Judy doesn’t care. No witnesses, pictures and receipts to support your claim or defense? Go tell it to the mountain – Judy refuses hearsay.

“Real cases, real people, real justice” is announced for the show’s introduction. The producers should include a medley of her famous lines: “Do you think I’m stupid! Grow up! Pay attention! I’m not talking to you! Put your hand down! You live like a pig!” Ths woman knows how to wield an exclamation point.

Judge Judy is anything but gender-biased. She’s cranky clear across the board, whether you’re a deadbeat dad or a bar-hopping mom. Young and old alike are (mis)treated equally.

I have to respect a woman who writes a book entitled, Don’t Pee On My Leg and Tell Me It’s Raining. Judge Judy, you rock.

Obviously I can’t turn into Judge Judy overnight. Maybe I’ll start the process by replacing “sorry” with “excuse me.” Except when I walk into a street sign. For that I’ll always say “sorry” because those “No Stopping” signs can have attitude.

Speaking of street signs, Canadians need a new one that reads:
                                              NO APOLOGIZING.

Audio story music
“Book Bag “
by E.Jammy Jams

‘Smoke Genie’ Grants Two Wishes

Shannon Kernaghan Legal-weed_Kraven-Cache_400 ‘Smoke Genie’ Grants Two Wishes Challenge Challenges Culture Health Lifestyle Memories Recreation Weed

It’s the late 1990s and I’m seated in a restaurant with two people. Before we’ve even ordered our meal, one says to me, “I hope you don’t mind if we smoke.” The other person smiles and reaches for her own cigarette pack.

By the time the appetizers arrive, my eyes are burning and my nose is plugged. I know that in less than an hour I’ll have a full-blown headache.

Now, if the two people were my friends, they’d be considerate enough to go outside, or I’d be brave enough to ask them not to smoke at the table. Since both are my employers, I say nothing. If only, I think, I live long enough to see smoking banned in restaurants.

To my surprise and delight, my wish is granted in the 2000s. Between the Smoke-Free Environment Act and the Tobacco Act, I don’t have to suffer the wrath of other people’s second hand smoke in a myriad public places. No more gasping over my glass of wine or arriving home in clothes that reek.

My wishing didn’t stop at cigarette smoke. Let’s be blunt: I’m not old enough to claim hippie status. Yet I am old enough to know that I’d be laughed out of a Pink Floyd-infused party with the prediction that pot will be legal in Canada by 2018.

No matter how clairvoyant (or high) the prognosticator, legalized marijuana was a dream until recently. It’s not that I smoke – see above allergies – it’s that I’m appalled at how people have been arrested for possession of a few joints.

If a criminal record isn’t enough, this black mark prevented people from crossing borders. They had no choice besides pony up money to apply for a legal pardon and be patient as the process takes years. If only, I think again, I live long enough to see pot decriminalized.

Again my wish is granted! But . . . is legal weed good or bad news for our communities?  I’ve read reams of logical argument and support. If I make one prediction, it’s that the jury will be out for a long while. Toggling the benefits of creating new opportunities in the marijuana market and the challenges of figuring out how to monitor drivers who toke (merely two of the issues), these early days will be interesting.

Until then, I’m happy to enjoy a smoke-free meal in public and to know that recreational pot smokers won’t be demonized and criminalized.

Thank you, Smoke Genie.

Audio music track
“Cumulus Nimbus”
by Quincas Moreira

A Wooden Leg Does Not a Pirate Make

Shannon Kernaghan wooden-leg-400 A Wooden Leg Does Not a Pirate Make Challenge Challenges Childhood Family Farming Humor Lifestyle Memoir Pirates

In 1978 President Jimmy Carter proclaimed the first Sunday in September after Labor Day as National Grandparents’ Day. The idea originated from a woman in West Virginia whose motivation was to persuade grandchildren to listen and learn from the wisdom of their grandparents.

This special day reminds me to appreciate my own family tree. Take my grandfather, a hard-working and good-natured farmer. He had a wooden leg, the result of a war injury. As a farmer, dealing with a missing limb must have been a daily challenge although my mother says she never heard him complain.

Today, prosthetics are made of lightweight polymer and flexible titanium capable of increasing agility and mobility. None of that innovation was available for my grandfather’s leg: his was a heavy and unwieldy contraption held in place by a bulky harness and shoulder strap. Although it had a knee hinge, the mechanism didn’t always work unless my grandpa gave it a couple of hard thumps. He told my mom that the knocks were to show it who was boss. Grandpa also swore this leg had a mind of its own.

Correction: Mom said he did complain one day when he started to limp and couldn’t put any weight on the prosthetic. Climbing in and out of his tractor produced a stabbing pain at the place his thigh joined with the artificial leg.

Sitting on the side of his bed at night, he told my grandma that he was glad the day was over, that he’d have to see a doctor about his sore leg . . . until he unstrapped the harness. Lodged in the leg’s socket was a ring of keys.

“Hey, I’ve been looking for these all day!” and he started to laugh. His pain was from several jabbing keys! It never occurred to him to take off his prosthesis and check. “Too busy,” he told Grandma, caught up in his laughter.

One of the advantages of a wooden leg, he bragged, was that it would save his life if he ever fell into deep water. His theory was tested while canoeing with a friend. When the boat capsized, the leg floated but it didn’t help my grandfather – he was trapped below the water’s surface while the leg bobbed above! The true lifesaver was his friend who dragged him to shore. Since that day, the leg became known as “Troublemaker.”

Even after Grandpa passed away, the artificial leg continued to cause trouble. My mom was enlisted to bring it home from the hospital. But what was she supposed to do with it? She decided to phone the Salvation Army and the charity agreed to pick it up. An entire week went by.

While waiting, nobody wanted Troublemaker in their bedroom (I was scared of it!) so Mom propped it inside the front hall closet behind our coats. When Grandma phoned to say she was driving in from the country for a visit, Mom called the Salvation Army again and explained the situation.

“Please,” I overheard her imploring conversation, “I don’t want my mother to see his leg, it’ll be too painful for her!” Still no truck.

An hour before my grandma arrived, a driver picked up the leg and my mom could relax.

Her relief was short-lived, however, when days later someone from The War Amps phoned to inquire about the prosthesis. He wasn’t happy to hear that she’d given it away and informed Mom that it had been “on loan” for all those years.

“You want it back?”

“If it’s not returned by the end of the month,” he said, “you’ll be charged its full price.” That leg might have been low-tech and well-used, but it was still expensive.

With a quavering voice, Mom called the Salvation Army and explained that now she needed the leg back. She had to make more inquiry calls the following week and explain the story each time. Finally, a woman answered and said, “Oh, YOU’RE the leg woman. We got it, we found your leg!”

The same driver returned to our door and plopped the limb, now missing its sock and shoe, onto our WELCOME mat.

“Hey lady,” he said. “Tell the owner to make up his mind about his body parts!” and he turned on his heel.

My grandfather would have laughed if he knew about the commotion caused by his wooden leg. “See? he’d say. “I told you Troublemaker had a mind of its own!”

Audio story backing track
“Papa Hammond”
by Urban Pastiche from Sony Sound Series