Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Just don't call me Stumpy...

(Image from

The wind swung around to the north and daytime temperatures dropped nearly 20 degrees. Welcome to fall in Oklahoma.

Our lawn is growing again due to the weekend rain. Before I could mow, I needed to rake up the pine needles otherwise they'd just clog the mower. In another month, the maple tree will shed its leaves too, so I'll be out in the yard raking every week. The oak leaves won't drop until spring, giving our winter bird population a nicely protected roost through the winter. I almost like raking up pine needles and leaves on a cool fall day. It offers some quiet time for contemplation and the cooler temperatures make the work seem easier. Perhaps it's not surprising that I enjoy cycling in cooler weather too. Besides, the dogs like a pile of fresh pine needles as bedding in their dog house once it gets cold. The tree gives us an ample supply. This works out well for all of us. They get bedding. I get exercise and some time to think.

Every time I do this, I run into another 'while you're at it' job, and last night was no exception. Once the pine needles were finished, I went to the back yard to collect a fallen branch from a neighbor's willow tree. One of our shrubs dropped a branch too. I needed the pole saw to cut them. And I remembered that the last time I mowed, I had to duck under some of the willow's branches, so I used the pole saw to remove them. I dragged the branches to the front yard, and then set to work cutting them small enough to fit in the lawn waste can. The city collects the lawn waste for composting and mulching, saving on landfill space.

Loppers cut through the small branches easily, but the bigger stuff required a chainsaw. I have a great deal of respect for chainsaws or any other tool capable of removing an arm or a leg in a moment of inattention. Mary makes fun of me, saying that I'm halfway afraid of it. She's right. I am. Chainsaws do not discriminate between tree limbs and our limbs. And while she makes fun of me, she's still careful to stay well away when I'm using it.

All that bending, lifting, and dragging made me hurt. All too quickly I was dog tired, even though it wasn't all that much work. I'd been at it for only an hour but it was time to quit. The mowing could wait.

I went inside and had a glass of water, two ibuprofen, and a shower. Then we went to the grocery for dinner supplies and we collected Jordan from football practice. From long experience, I had the foresight to stop at the liquor store on the way home. A shot or two of vodka is nature's own muscle relaxant. The bottle went directly into the freezer when we got home.

I read for a while as my legs slowly stiffened. By bedtime I was getting up and down with some difficulty. My shoulder and neck were painful, so I had that shot of vodka and rubbed on a generous layer of Icy Hot. Mary says it's a good indicator that I'm hurting when she opens the bedroom door and walks into an all-but-solid cloud of menthol fumes. By morning, I had wooden legs. The alarm went off and I hobbled across the room like an elderly version of Frankenstein's monster. My knees and back would not straighten out, so I shuffled along stiff-legged while being bent over like a little old man.

The question was – could I ride to work? Did I even want to try?

I postponed answering that one until after breakfast. The cats clamored for their's first, as usual. I checked the overnight email, read the news, and got a weather report. For the first hour in the morning, I'm on autopilot, so it wasn't too surprising when I found myself changing into cycling clothes. Yep, looked like I was gonna ride!

The commute was uneventful with calm winds and a temperature in the high 50s. Sure, I was stiff at first, but a few miles of gentle spinning helped sort out the kinks. By mid-day, some aches and pains had crept back into my muscles, but overall I felt good. A bicycle as therapy? Who would have thought?

Tonight I'll mow the lawn. That'll be easy compared to last night. However, I may have to invent a few sore muscles in order to have some of that vodka again.

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