Tag Archives: humor

NABLOPOMO – The Road Less Travelled (Traveled, if you are in the USA)

Today’s Blogher/NaBloPoMo prompt:“Tell us about a time when you took the less traveled path.”

Who knew there were actual mountains plunked in the middle of England? [Wikipedia]

When I was fresh out of high school I strapped on a backpack and headed for Europe. First stop was England where a fair few of my relatives lived. Being of an adventurous nature, I thought it would be cool to do a bit of exploring by bicycle.

A couple of problems presented themselves. For one thing, I had no bike and for another, no money. This meant I was crashing on various relatives’ couches, camping, and staying in youth hostels. At one such hostel in the Lake District, a small sign at the entrance stated, “Bicycles for Rent.’ The rate was cheap (or I wouldn’t have proceeded) and I was young (and a tad under-informed, or I wouldn’t have proceeded). My map interpretation skills left something to be desired -when I had a peek at a map of England, I noticed that the Lake District was over on the left and Newcastle (not far from some friendly relatives – with a couch) was over on the right. And it didn’t look like there was a whole lot of distance between the two points.

Which there wasn’t, on the map – but I soon learned that the skinny neck of England is full of some very steep mountains, inclement weather, and vicious beasts.

Having rented a heavy duty, old-fashioned ‘shopping bike,’ I loaded all my belongings (it was early in my trip, I hadn’t learned, yet, about the difference between essentials and excess baggage) into the bike panniers, the handlebar basket, and my backpack. Then I started to pedal, setting off on what I thought would be a pleasant trip across the country. The total distance to the nearest relative’s house was only 97 miles and I figured that being young and fit I could easily make it to the other end before dark.

Hah!

The hills began immediately and with all my heavy gear strapped to my person and my bicycle and the total lack of gears to choose from on said bicycle, it wasn’t long before I began to sweat. I stopped to peel off a layer or two and the badly loaded bike flipped over into the ditch. I hauled it out and climbed aboard. The hill was soon so steep, I could no longer pedal, but had to resort to pushing my unwieldy load up and up and more up and up.

I ate an apple as I slogged along, not daring to lose more time by stopping. This bit of nourishment soon wore off and, on a downhill section, I ate a scone. This, too, wore off halfway up another massive hill so I ate a hard-boiled egg. I was now out of food until I found some sort of village which, I had been led to believe, were to be found around every corner. Not, apparently, on this route, The road I was on clawed its way through a wild part of England that nobody had ever thought to warn me about. No vehicles passed. Certainly there were no pedestrians to worry about running over. Just miles and miles of hills, leading toward higher mountain-like hills, dotted with sheep and stone walls and, as the road snaked higher, vicious wind and ice pellets.

I put back on my layers, took turns gripping the icy handlebars with one hand and then the other, blew on my frozen digits and then stuffed one hand at a time under my thick sweater.

It was about this point that I spotted a little sign off to the side of the road, a sign placed at the entrance to a picturesque path that led, enticingly, down hill. “This path rejoins the road farther on.” The sign sounded promising as the road was heading up yet another steep incline. I figured some clever engineer had built this gentle path to go around the hill and I would save myself a good deal of time by taking this shortcut.

I veered off the road and down the path less travelled. Almost as soon as I had headed down into a glade of trees just starting to bud (it was early spring when I made this journey) the wind dropped, the evil hail/sleet stopped, and the sun came out. I stopped to peel off my now-soaked layers and for a short few minutes, felt smug.

This feeling ended at about the same time the path disappeared. One moment it was there, the next, I was on some sort of bone-rattling jumble of rocks and gravel scattered willy-nilly over an increasingly steep hillside. And, while I was still headed in a generally downhill direction, it was no longer clear at all where on earth I was supposed to be going.

Run-off from the hills above gurgled and splashed over mossy rocks and when I could no longer thread my way through the chaotic mess, I hopped off and once again pushed the bike. Actually, it was more like I skidded along, trying not to let go of the monstrously heavy beast as it slithered and bucked its way along like a feisty pony determined to be free.

At first I tried to lift the bike over the worst of the rivulets, but soon the trickles of water were more like rivers and I gave up and splashed my way doggedly onward, still convinced that sooner or later I would, indeed, rejoin the road.

The size of the rocks grew as I made my way along until I was in the midst of some wild boulder strewn landscape, moss everywhere, water gushing all around me. I thought of shouting for help, but the water was now so loud and the wind had picked up again and even had there been anybody anywhere nearby I doubt they would have heard me.

I considered turning around and dragging myself and the bike back up the hill, but that seemed too much like giving up and, besides, I was ravenous by this point and I knew there was no food back there anywhere.

So I kept going and would have kept going except I slipped on a particularly slick boulder perched on the side of the hill. My feet flew out from under me and though I tried to stay upright, the weight of the bike, all my unbalanced gear, and the total lack of traction sent me sailing off the top edge of the boulder and onto a thick tangle of brambles below. The bicycle landed on top of and behind me, wedging my backpack between the bike frame and the base of the boulder.

With my arms pinned behind me and entangled in the backpack straps I could not move. I imagined somebody eventually finding my bleached bones in a heap framed by the remains of the rusty bicycle, the tattered orange ribbons formerly known as my backpack caught in my rib cage. They would speculate what on earth this girl with a backpack full of poetry books had been doing in such a desolate place, perhaps the last desolate place in all of England.

This, of course, was long before the days of cell phones. Nobody had any idea where I was or what I was doing. My dropping in on the relatives was supposed to be a jolly nice surprise. Hah!

It took some time and some contortionistic moves but eventually I was able to free myself. I, fortunately, was relatively unharmed – superficial cuts, scrapes, bruises and a raging hunger that had me eyeing the moss for its possible nutritional content.  The bike, sadly, was not in such good shape.

The crash had dislodged the chain and the chain was hidden behind a steel plate. I supposed this was to prevent pants cuffs from becoming entangled, but it meant there was no way for me to pop the chain back into position. The bike had no tool kit and though I was travelling with very important items like brass rubbing equipment, a good luck jade elephant, and my John Denver songbook, I did not have a screwdriver.

There was nothing to be done except drag the broken bike downhill. I certainly wasn’t going back up at this point and I figured that this being England and all, surely sooner or later I would have to come across some sign of human habitation.

And, indeed, after half an hour or so of slogging through more streams and around more boulders and over more fallen logs, I came to a fence. Never have I been so thrilled to see a sign of development in a rural area!

I threw the bike, then the backpack, and finally myself over the fence and surveyed the scene before me.

Me dragging my crippled bike into what I thought was safe territory.

Me dragging my crippled bike into what I thought was safe territory. [E. Colin Williams]

I had emerged into an open meadow. The rich green spring grasses were soaked after the earlier rain. White dots moved about in the field and I realized with glee that I had wound up in a sheep field! This was a great sign, for surely where there were sheep there would be a shepherd. And, where there was a shepherd, surely there would be a screwdriver!

I started dragging the bike across the field and soon spotted a gate way over on the far side. I was making my way toward this promising destination when the sheep spotted me.

I had always been under the impression that sheep are sweet, docile creatures that travel in groups and generally try to stay out of trouble. This might be true of ewes and lambs, but it is most certainly not true of a ram who believes his ladies are in peril.

The ram, who sported a pair of impressive horns, took one look at me dragging my broken bike across his field and decided I was clearly up to no good. He lowered his head, took aim, and charged. I managed to get the bike between me and the charging beast, The impact as he battered the bike was impressive. I staggered backwards, still holding the bike in front of me. I yelled and tried to make myself look fierce while stumbling toward the gate, fending off the crazed ram with kicks and arm waves and strings of expletives not at all appropriate for a young woman.

Never underestimate the fury of a ram protecting his girls.

Never underestimate the fury of a ram protecting his girls. [E. Colin Williams]

Somehow I managed to get myself and the bike through the gate where I collapsed in the grass, gasping for breath.

Which is where the farmer found me. He looked completely baffled to see me there, by now leaning up against his gate post.

“Where did you come from, lass?”

“Through your sheep field.”

“But… there’s nothing up that way. And you had to come past Jock?”

I nodded.

“Best you come inside and have a cup of tea with my wife.”

Given I was about to expire with starvation, I agreed. And, while I enjoyed a lovely cup of tea and a warm scone with cream and preserves in the farmhouse, the kind farmer fixed my bike.

Before long, I was back on my way with instructions as to how to get back to the main road. Several hours after I had taken my detour, I spotted a little sign off to the side of the road, “This path rejoins the road farther on.” Doggedly, I pedaled right on past.

Sometimes the road less travelled is less travelled for a reason!

Day 7 – Who is the Turkey at Bedtime?

Turkeys have a terrible reputation for not being very bright. What does this say for the human who cannot win the nightly game of 'let's put the turkeys to bed'?

Turkeys have a terrible reputation for not being very bright. What does this say for the human who cannot win the nightly game of ‘let’s put the turkeys to bed’? These chumps had put themselves to bed out on the goat fence. By the time I found them it was pitch dark and herding was impossible. One by one I had to catch them, carry them off, and tuck them in. Because, you know, I have nothing better to do with my evenings.

Every evening shortly before dusk I steel myself for a series of humiliations at the hands (talons?) of my turkeys. I know I am supposed to be smarter than they are, but if this is the case, how is it possible that the score is so lopsided when it comes to me trying to put them to bed and the turkeys figuring out ways to stay up just a little longer?

They are just like unruly kids who pull out all the anti-bedtime stops with an unsuspecting babysitter! The turkey kids pretend like they are heading in the right direction only to be distracted by some very important blade of grass. One will pluck said piece of grass and, leaving enough dangling from its beak so the others can see, will sprint off across the field. The other turkeys, convinced this particular blade of grass must be the tastiest in all the land, thunder after the trouble-maker who is, no doubt, chuckling under his snood because he knows very well the human caretaker can’t possibly keep up no matter how fast she sprints.

Occasionally, the turkeys are calm and cooperative and I’m able to herd them into their overnight huts with relatively little trouble, using two long bamboo sticks to help guide them in the right direction. Even on nights like these, though, several will decide they need to scale the shelters to roost on top rather than inside. As I am persuading these birds to jump back to the ground, they protest and scrabble around on the top of the shelters, which upsets the birds already inside. The inside birds sprint out looking very indignant just as I’m rounding the corner trying to herd in their wayward companions. Do you think the roof-hoppers quietly sit inside the shelters while I retrieve the sprinters? Of course not! There’s often a series of one goes in, two come out exchanges before, finally, everyone is wrangled into place.

The worst game they play is ring around the turkey hut. In this variation of the bedtime-avoidance game, one or two wily birds will sneak around behind the hut and hide. They are experts at matching their speed to mine, always keeping just out of sight on the other side of the hut. I try to sneak after them using tricky human maneuvers like changing direction when they least expect it. Except, usually they have already changed direction so I come around the corner saying stupid things like, “Hah! Fooled you!” except, there’s no turkey there because, hah! they fooled me and have sneaked up behind me. When I turn around, there they will be staring up at me with their beady reptilian eyes as if to say, “Are you looking for someone?” When two or three birds gang up on me to play a team version of this lame game it sometimes results in me sinking to my knees and pleading with them to, “Just go to bed, already!!!” This plea is often followed by some rude words that include references to Christmas and Thanksgiving.

Sometimes the birds pretend like they have never been herded anywhere ever before and each bird will head in a different compass direction when they see me coming. At times like this they are completely oblivious to my efforts to keep them all together. The exception to this general state of chaos will be a couple of goody-two-shoes birds that head straight for the shelters when they see me. Only when I have finally gathered the rest of the flock and we are almost at the shelters do the early-to-bedders decide they have had enough of being good and sprint back out of the shelters heading for the turkey waterers because, you know, they are dying of thirst and just need to get one more drink before they can settle down for the night.

The worst part of all this is that the main turkey field is overlooked by neighbours on three sides. I see them in their windows watching the Nikki vs the Turkeys Comedy Show each evening.

Yesterday when I went down to the field ready for a lengthy battle I was greeted by a completely empty field. Not a single turkey was anywhere to be seen. I felt sick. Raccoons. Stray dogs. Eagles. A cougar. Some irresponsible jokester neighbourhood kid let them all out. A foody thief stole them all. How would I report the theft to the police? How did I know they had been stolen and not eaten? How did I know they hadn’t got a bit confused and tried to fly off with the Canada geese? I figured I’d better have my evidence in order before I called 911, so I entered the field, steeling myself in case I had to pick up turkey bits and sweep up piles of feathers. Which is when I heard the distinctive soft chatter of turkeys settling in for the night. Every last bird had put itself to bed. They had evenly distributed themselves between the three shelters. They were all on perches and, eyes half closed, were talking quietly among themselves, no doubt wondering what was taking the human so long to close and lock their doors. Or, more likely, plotting what devious trick they were going to play on me next time.

Photo of one of our turkeys taken by D. Craig, BC Min. of Agriculture

Photo of one of our turkeys taken by D. Craig, BC Min. of Agriculture

Interested in learning who else is participating in the 30 days blog-a-thon or the five things Holly Spangler will be talking about this month? Head over to Prairie Farmerto find out!