Busy. Oh my stars and crossed garters I've been busy. Busy enough that when I get a few minutes to sit still on the couch (covered with two puppies) or my office chair (usually covered by a cat) I tend to doze off rather than blog or surf pr0n or anything constructive like that. It's gotten bad enough that here of late when I'm face down on the table at the back-stretcher's office and they put those electrodes on my neck and lower back and throw on the big heating pads that feel like they're made for horses I have been dozing off.
Yeah, it's gotten that bad.
So. Don't be lookin' around here for no sensible post today. No sir.
Remy and Sheba are GROWING. Remy is now pushing the scales at 40 pounds, Sheba right behind him at a svelte and girlish 35. This at less than 20 weeks old. Watching the Westminster Kennel Club on USA Network briefly this evening I realised that Remy will look a LOT like the Borzoi there when he's grown. Only not so retarded. And not so snipey in the features that he looks more like a female than a male. Ye gods save me from Borzoi with faces like ferrets and a gait like a sailor fresh off the deck.
You guys and dolls know I love Nature in Her infinite diversity, even when She's got the fan turned up so high we can't fly the balloon. Well, I spent part of Sunday afternoon waiting with the crew and the prospective fliers for the wind to die, and it never did, but Nature gave me something else just as marvelous. And no, it wasn't Bayou Boeuf, either. It was geese. Thousands of them.
I didn't know geese prefer to spend their nights on dry land. Well, while we stood and sullenly waited for the knots to drop down a little we started hearing and seeing ragged vees of geese. Not just one or two, now, I mean dozens of vees, each with huge numbers of birds in. Then it got busy. The sky literally FILLED with geese and what David called "water turkeys," some sort of very dark, long-necked cranes that made beautiful, low mournful hoots to counterpoint the exuberant honking of the geese as they passed overhead in the hundreds.
The show went on for the better part of half an hour. A wave would break overhead, filling the sky with wings and honks, then another, then another. They were circling an area of several miles, trying to land in an open field that we think was being cultivated, so they were ready to stop but agitated by the machinery, so they never quite settled until almost dusk. Then, finally, they started gathering in a huge, grey-white blanket.
It was astounding. Moving. Extraordinary. I wanted to risk a high-wind inflation just so I could grab the burner, kick the passengers aside and fly up and over that mass of birds, but with my luck I'd end up being the first hot air balloon pilot to die from a fatal bird strike.
Don't get me wrong, we did get to fly this weekend, just once instead of twice. It was a real learning moment, too--an early morning launch from the outskirts of a little church's graveyard (hey, we certainly didn't wake the neighbors) where the wind decided at the last second to change directions about thirty degrees. It put Jim and I in a real struggle to keep Skybird settled long enough to finish the inflation ("Since 9/11 we no longer call the process of inflating the balloon 'blowing it up.'")*
Toward the bitter end my forearm muscles were on fire, but I didn't dare let go of that crown line because I knew it'd end very badly. But, get her settled and inflated we did, after an eternity it seemed, and the really nice young couple from Mississippi got to take off into the sky at a break-neck pace. Break-neck for a hot air balloon that is, so call it maybe 10 mph. It startled me to see her climb into the sunrise so fast, leaving us ground-pounders far behind in a heartbeat.
The chase was nice and easy, the wind having decided to pretty much parallel the highway we were on, so it was just a matter of staying a little downwind for 'just in case' moments. Thinking the wind was fast and heavy enough to push them all the way to the local airport David had me try to contact the tower just to let them know that we'd be operating in or near their airspace. Frankly, I hope there's no terrorists reading this blog, because Abdullah my friend, if you try to contact the local airport security office (or ANY part of the terminal) any time other than M-F, 8-5 you'll get a recording. Couldn't raise a person to save my infernally damned life.
Fortunately the flight ended shy of the airport property (I'd hate to think that we'd have to wake someone up to come bring the keys to unlock the gate so we could recover the balloon) but the most memorable part occurred close to the landing. David reported that they'd startled up three or four does and a buck, and they were running in front of him, somewhat toward us. Jim and I were coming up on a huge field bordered by a shallow bayou and a line of trees, and we caught sight of yet ANOTHER buck, a four-pointer, moving fine and fast and sleek along the tree-line on our side.
It was amply rewarding just to watch it move effortlessly along, a tan blur marked by scissoring legs and white flashes from a proud tail, his antlers a lighter tan counterpoint over his head like an exclamation point.
The landing was gentle as anything, the field we recovered in was firm and carpeted with a fine down of rye grass growing, and the cool of the morning hadn't blown or burned away yet, but the moment I will most remember about that flight is that buck, bounding with that easy grace across our field of vision.
Always. Spring is near. The leatherjacket flies are arriving, all spindly legs and blurred wings. My garden is growing, tiny points of green leaves amongst the brown. The rainy season is coming back upon us, meaning I HAVE to get Rita running again ASAP. The tax refund came in and is already spoken for, as is the next six or seven we get. Circuit City's clearance sale in their less-than-one-year-old local store? Sucked ass, but people were in there like maggots on a week old piece of meat. Doesn't anyone think anymore? Want to go see more ballooning? Bayou Balloon Adventures--I'm the new webmaster! Tell me what's broken.
Words of wisdom to leave you with? How about this gem--never eat a porcupine arse first.
Hope to see you soonest.
* Attribute that little gem to our pilot, David Miller.