Sunday, May 30, 2010

Three Day Weekend

A holiday, an extra day off work, a chance to go a little further, the circumference of the circle widens, woo hoo!

When I was in the Army, …… way back in the middle of the last century, if you got a three day pass, you could go anywhere you wanted, so long as it was within the confines of the circle drawn on the map behind the first sergeants desk, and you showed up for reveille Tuesday morning. That circle was defined by a 300 mile radius centering on ....  the first sergeants desk. Further than that and you had to get permission which usually involved showing some evidence that you had the wherewithal to get back. Getting a 3 day pass was somewhat arbitrary but there was one sure fire guarantee: Donate a pint of blood, get a three day pass.

Years later, when I worked for the Forest Service, Memorial Day meant the official start of summer craziness. Cold, rainy (sometimes snowy!) was not all bad. Bad weather put a damper (get it? Damper?) on some of the craziness. Fewer drunken brawls over fire wood, fewer atv accidents, fewer wife beatings, etc.

It’s still unseasonably cool and wet here so our ‘holiday weekend’ started out with a second cuppa and some sharp observation of the bird feeder. Usually I just put out a big scoop (16 oz. Cool Whip tub) of bird seed and head off to the salt mine. Today as I lolled in the kitchen gazing out at the bird feeder I saw some interesting bird behavior:

First, at least one chick from the Sparrow nest box has fledged. Well, technically he’s flying but it’s a long way from graceful. The parents hover, and at the feeder the chick eats and the parents feed him. Though sparrows are not typical visitors to the typical feeder it makes sense here. Our ‘feeder’ is a piece of scrap plywood I have screwed down to the top rail of the fence and the feed I put out has a fair amount of chopped sunflower seed. It attracts a wide range of birds.

Most mornings the resident flock of Band Tailed Pigeons are waiting. They remind me of a gang of longshoremen or loggers out of work who hang around outside the buffet waiting for the doors to open.  Really, they're up in the oaks waiting when I go out in the morning, and one I've dumped the chow they 'flock' to it.

As you can see, once they've had their fill, not much is left:

So, since it is a 'holiday' I figured another scoop of chow for the locals might be in order.

At one point there was ‘drama’ when the ‘black lord’ came swooping in.  He's my totem, not for his menacing ways but it's the other side of his character; Known in north coast Indian lore and legend as the trickster.
When the crow arrives everyone clears out …… to a degree. As the crow ate, birds came a little closer, though no one dared feed. There were a couple pigeons on the top rail of the gate waiting and then the drama played out: The crow attacked one of the pigeons, taking him all the way to the ground, feathers flying! The pigeon escaped and the crow returned to the feeder, but everyone else backed waaat off!  It was just good fortune that the sparrow chick was not there when the crow arrived. I am sure it would have been lights out for the little fellow.

All that aside, most people see Memorial Day as one less day on the job, a chance to sit back with a cold one and watch cars go around in circles, really fast on the tube, or to do more of what they want to do.

I recall one Memorial Day when as a volunteer fireman I responded to an accident scene with our volunteer ambulance. A harley charley motorcyclist was cruising through our little town, missed a hard right turn and slammed head on into an oncoming truck. The guy was clearly so intoxicated that he could barely stand though as often happens he came through it with nothing more than a bad case of road rash. His female passenger was not nearly so lucky. Her left leg was very badly broken, no need for descriptive language except to say it was a challenge to disentangle the leg from the wreckage.

She was screaming louder than anyone I had ever heard, and it only got louder as we extricated her. In the process of doing the extrication she had to be restrained. The Biker dude was energized by this and repeatedly came after us for ‘hurting his old lady’.  Fortunately in that time, the fire department was comprised in large measure by loggers, truck drivers, and other working men up to the task of restraining biker dude and his ‘old lady’ as the EMT’s in the bunch tried to stabilize the patient.

The town doc who lived only blocks from the scene showed up and did yeoman’s work providing emergency medical assistance that I am sure saved her leg and likely saved her life. Biker dude continued to threaten all who were involved but focused his wrath most intently on the doc.

In due course she was hauled directly to Harborview Hospital in Seattle, a two and half hour trip. The doc went along, so much for his ‘holiday’. Biker dude got a free ride to the county jail in Ellensburg.  Not a happy biker.

As thanks, two months later the doc was presented with a malpractice lawsuit. Never mind that biker dude was cited for DWI, it was his contention that the back woods doc was guilty of doing harm and his lady friend had been poorly served by those who responded in her time of need.

Interesting that our volunteer ambulance service was not cited in the suit (as a volunteer unit we were essentially covered by Good Samaritan statutes, and of course we had no money). Biker dude and his legal counsel knew where the gold was buried and promptly began digging.

So, if you are out gardening or riding, or at the beach, or in the mountains, stop for a moment this weekend and contemplate why there is an extra ‘day off’, then take a little time to remember someone who deserves the remembrance.

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