wordsfromanneli

Thoughts, ideas, photos, and stories.


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Annie and the Honeydew Man

When my sisters and brother and I were little, we lived in a newly built, but unfinished house on the edge of town. The streets weren’t even put in place yet. Our road was just a track through a field of yellow grass. But it was perfect for us to play cowboys and gallop our pretend horses around the trails and up and down the hills of dirt that were not yet backfilled to the new house. We pretended to be characters from the western movies of the day — Annie Oakley, Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, and Dale Evans.  But Annie was my favourite.  My sister was really too little to keep up with us as we tore around on the hills of dirt, so she played Annie Oakley and guarded the house while the rest of us were out on the range.

I don’t know what is wrapped around her right hand, and I just noticed for the first time in decades that there is a doll peeking out from behind her left shoulder.

Fast forward to more modern times. When the Captain and I were on one of our trips to Baja California, we stopped to do some shopping in Ensenada. I found a puppet-style doll that I couldn’t live without. She was the Mexican version of Annie Oakley. What made me even happier, was buying the doll that had to be her partner.  He is pictured in the photo below Annie.

The store proprietor told me that this doll represents the hen-pecked husband, the Honeydew man (Honey, do this and Honey, do that), but in Spanish they called this fellow a “mandelon,”  because he is ordered about. What woman would not want a mandelon to do things for her? I had to have this doll!

In my novel Orion’s Gift,  Sylvia is all alone in the world. It seems that her life has taken a sudden turn and everything has been going wrong for her.

She has “run away” to Baja California and is living in her VW van.

She really needs someone, so I gave her a mascot to lend her strength. Below is a short excerpt from Orion’s Gift, telling about how Sylvia came to adopt Annie.

Excerpt:

In one shop, handmade puppets on strings hung from the ceiling. Each doll had a unique character and, like orphans hoping to be adopted, seemed to call, “Take me with you.” I fell in love with a Mexican Annie Oakley. She held a mini six-gun in each hand and radiated confidence and self-reliance. I paid for her and happily carried her home to my van. I rigged up a spot on the curtain rod behind the seat for Annie to watch over me at night. She’d be my mascot, a reminder that I was strong and could take care of myself.

You can read Sylvia’s story in my novel “Orion’s Gift.”  She’s going to need Annie’s strength to face some of the challenges of being a woman travelling alone in Baja.

The e-book version is marked down to only 99 cents for the next few weeks.  Just click on the link to  amazon.com or smashwords.com for other e-reader versions.

 

 


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Camping

A few days of R and R were in order, so we took our old trailer to a lake that was about three hours’ drive from home, and set up camp.

Once the main chores were done, I sprawled back in my lawn chair and looked up.

This is what I saw.  Although there were people camped next to us, it was quiet because they were out on the lake in their kayaks. The peacefulness of the place was a moment to treasure. On the coming long weekend, it would be much more of a party place, but for now, it was wonderfully quiet. Just the whisper of the leaves high up in those trees.

Later we would try our hand at fishing in the lake, but it was so hard to decide whether to hold the fishing rod or the camera.

Now that I’m home and it’s the weekend, I can’t help but wonder how the party is going. I bet it is noisy and a complete change from the quiet few days we spent there. Timing is everything.


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Spider Hideouts

Spider Hideouts

With all the bad weather we’re having, I took a mental trip back to sunnier days when we were in Mexico for the winter about twenty years ago.

Camped at Chacala, 360 kms south of Mazatlan, we often bought our fruit and vegetables from the produce truck.  One day, I lugged home three big bags of fresh vegetables.

“Coming to the beach?” the Captain asked.

“You go ahead. I’ll be down right after I clean these veggies,” I grumbled, slapping at the tiny biting flies. I soon gave up trying to work at the table I had set up outside and brought the vegetables into the bug-free trailer to clean in my little kitchenette.

Done at last! Now for the beach and a cool swim. I hurried outside to bring in my bathing suit from the clothesline we had strung between two coconut palms. I was about to step into it, when I let out a shriek. A furry eight-legged critter about the size of a wolf spider was eyeing me from inside the bathing suit bra.

Anyone passing by must have gawked at the bathing suit flying out the doorway.

I was late getting to the beach that day, and although the water was refreshing, I couldn’t relax. Other swimmers must have wondered at the woman who kept pulling away the top of her bathing suit to look at her boobs.

That evening, we sat at the kitchen table in the trailer, playing cards and relaxing with an Oso Negro gin and peach juice. I tidied up the last few things before getting into bed.

The Captain had just finished brushing his teeth and as he came out of the bathroom he heard me GASP! His eyes followed my arm as I pointed to the corner of the trailer. There, clinging to the ceiling, sat the biggest spider I’d ever seen. The hairy dark brown visitor had a body the size of my thumb, and his legs could easily straddle a saucer. If I had been a screamer they would have heard me all the way to Mazatlan.

“And I’ve been sitting there playing cards all evening with that thing poised right above my head,” I wailed.

I handed the Captain the fly swatter, and, in a shaky voice, told him, “If it gets away, I’m not sleeping in here tonight and I’ll be on the plane tomorrow.”

“It must have come in with the vegetables,” he said, as he tossed its crumpled body outside.

And where had it been while I sat there cleaning them? I wondered. Hiding in the cauliflower leaves? How close had I come to touching it? Shivers ran down my back.

It seems spider experiences run in three’s.

The next day we visited an open air market in a nearby town. I admired the handmade wooden cutting boards and picked one up to study the grain. Something ran over my hand. I threw the board into the air and squealed, “Una araña!” The vendor laughed and seemed unperturbed as I pointed to the gigantic spider running in his direction.

I was having serious thoughts of home. But imagine missing all this fun.


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Birds at Vernon Lake

We parked our trailer and unloaded the skiff to have it ready for use at the edge of Vernon Lake.

The campsite was visited by many birds. Here are only a few of them. Many stayed hidden though they sang their hearts out all day.

This is a hairy woodpecker. I thought at first it was a downy, which looks very similar, but the hairy woodpecker has a much heavier and longer beak than the downy.

One of the birds I heard a lot, was Swainson’s thrush. I love the song he sings, “You’re pretty, you’re pretty, oh really.” But he is very elusive and I couldn’t get a photo of him.

He’s a very plain version of an immature robin but without any hint of black or red. If you click on this link you’ll see a photo on the bird site: https://www.allaboutbirds.org/guide/Swainsons_Thrush/id

Next to visit, was a Steller’s jay, but I almost mistook him for something else. He is a bit pale and scruffy, and this has me wondering if it is an immature bird.

Below, we have the red-breasted sapsucker, probably the very one I took pictures of for a previous post. He was hanging around the campsite the whole time we were there.

And no wonder! He has already made quite an investment in this tree, sipping sap and nabbing insects.

But do you see what I see? Circling the tree just below the chipped bark is a nasty looking petrified snake. I think he’s guarding the dinner table for the sapsucker.

You won’t see me trying to get near him. He looks mean. Is that blood on his lips?


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Fish or Beans

Vernon Lake on northern Vancouver Island is a good-sized piece of water. Expect lots of gray days, with misty clouds, some moving around the lake, some hanging onto the hilltops nearby.

If you are in a small boat, watch for the many partially submerged logs, especially near the shores. The area around the lake was logged long ago, probably more than once, by the look of the different sizes of trees.

 

Some of the trees have been in the water for so long that the exposed stumps have decayed and supported new plant growth. Sorry for the blurry photo of that one. It was a quick afterthought photo on a drive-by in the skiff.

Some stumps had not had time to develop growth yet. Instead they took on the role of sea monsters guarding the passageway to the far end of the lake.

At that end where the river flows out, the lake narrows like a funnel. Along the sides of the ever narrowing passageway, stand snags of trees that were probably drowned years ago by the rise in the lake’s water level in the rainy season. It looked to me like Snag Alley.

 

The water was so clear you wondered if it was really there, except that it reflected the greenery from the shore.

 

The Captain did his best to catch a fish after scrambling to get all his ducks in a row.

Either our timing wasn’t right, or the Captain was hampered by having to set up the Admiral with her fishing rod, but by the time he was able to dabble, it was not a fishy time for him just then and there.

Or possibly the fish didn’t take him seriously because he wasn’t wearing all his top-of-the-line brand name fishing paraphernalia. (The Admiral didn’t care about that stuff as long as he had the bear spray along.)

Anyway, supper that day was not going to be fresh gourmet fish.

More like sausages and a can of beans.

It was time for one of my favourite sayings: Tomorrow is another day.

 


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Trouble Comes in Threes

A few days earlier in Great Falls, Montana in -17 C (1 F) temperatures that felt several degrees colder than that, the trailer’s holding tank (at least the outlet) was frozen and could not be emptied. What a thing to talk (write) about!

A couple of days of bumpy roads and warmer temperature fixed that problem for us, as we found out at the sani dump in Omak’s stampede grounds.

While the Captain dealt with this task, I was looking mindlessly at our muddy, tired-looking trailer.

“Do you think that tire looks a bit low?” I asked.

I got the usual (expected) answer. “Naw, it’s just the way it’s sitting.”

Silence…. Then, “Get me that pressure gauge out of the console, will ya?”

Moments later, “Holy sh–!” (Apparently, he still had the holding tank problem [trouble #1] on his mind.) “It’s only 15 pounds!”

(I knew it should be somewhere around 30.)

Several times over the next hour or so, the Captain said, “Whoah, sure lucky you noticed that tire.”  He said later, he  thought we must have picked up a tack on the rodeo grounds.

At the first available gas station we put air in the tire. Then we hurried to nearby Home Depot lot next to Wal-Mart and found a quiet corner to change the tire, which was already hissing out air.

When the Captain got the spare tire off the back of the trailer (first time it had been touched since we bought the trailer), the pressure gauge told us this was something that we had overlooked. It had only 12 pounds of air pressure.

How lucky was it that we had brought this mini compressor along? It plugs into the cigarette lighter and can pump up a tire.

 

In minutes the spare was up to full pressure,

and the tire was changed.

So that was trouble #2 taken care of.

We had noticed more than six trailers and motorhomes in the Wal-Mart parking lot next to the Home Depot lot where we were, so we felt safe enough and thought we would have a quiet night’s sleep.

At about 11 p.m. a small car (trouble #3) came into the lot and parked right up against the back of our trailer. I peeked out through the blinds and the car backed up and pulled out.

My relief that he was leaving did not last long, as he pulled in right in front of us. NOW we were worried. He had the whole huge empty Home Depot lot to park in, yet he cozied up to us. The driver got out and crouched down by his left front tire, hiding behind his open car door.

I suggested that we take off and go park by the motorhome in the lot next to us. The Captain sneaked into the truck and drove, while the dogs and I stayed in the trailer until we were safely parked by the other campers and watched to see what the strange car would do. After a while he left and we could relax.

There is a lot to be said for parking in an RV park, but this time our flat tire had left us searching for a quick place to park and we ended up boondocking in a parking lot. I wonder if the lost sleep is worth it.

Just a day’s drive from home, we had one more calamity to deal with. Next time.


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Giving Up – Part 5

There comes a point when, no matter how badly you want something, you know that it’s wiser to give it up. Going ahead with our trip to eastern Montana, after negotiating three snowy weather systems in two short weeks, would have been pushing our luck.

So with high winds and snow still coming down on the way forward, and snow settling on the road behind us, we reluctantly turned homeward.

The tires had sat frozen and immobile for two bitter cold nights, so we eased ahead a few feet and held our breath. So far, so good. We could have cried, turning back, but it was a relief not to drive into more snow blowing sideways.

I could have cropped this photo so the antenna wouldn’t show, but the icy snow on the forward side of the antenna says something about the chilly air.

Here is one of the many views of the Clark Fork (one of my favourite rivers). It is visible flowing beside or under the highway off and on for many miles.

On our drive eastward, little snow covered these lower elevations. Now it made for scenic winter postcard material. In some areas, the water was warmer than the air, resulting in fog along the river.

You can tell where the river goes.

Snow had covered these hills that were bare when we had driven through a few days earlier.

Some snow was still on the roads. As the day warmed up, big transport trucks lost clumps of ice that had collected on them. In the stretch of road below, the eastbound lane is closed and the westbound lane is taking two-way traffic. You don’t want to catch an edge or a clump of ice. The one in the photo below is one of hundreds of clumps we had to avoid.

I wondered what these cattle were “grazing” on. Not much grass poking out from the snow. Winter is hard on many animals.

As we neared the upcoming MacDonald Pass, my knuckles gave the snow some competition for whiteness. I knew I had a good driver beside me, but with so much construction and lanes restricted by cones and ice (and I don’t mean ice cream cones), I was nervous all the way to the top of the pass.

 

And relieved to be going down to a lower elevation right afterwards. Only two passes left to negotiate before we got home.

 

 


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A Cool Trip – Part 1

We left Vancouver Island on our way to eastern Montana. Having waited out the unexpected September 30th blizzard, we hoped to find that the worst was over after a few days of traveling.

In the southern interior of British Columbia is the Similkameen Valley, probably best known for being a wine growing region of the South Okanagan.

For us, it was a good place to stop for a quick coffee and sandwich while the dogs stretched their legs.

Then we continued on with our truck and trailer to the U.S. border into Washington and Coulee City.

The Coulee City Community Park provides RV parking and a lovely setting on the south end of Banks Lake, a reservoir created in 1942 after the completion of the Grand Coulee Dam on the Columbia River.

Our stay at Coulee City was perfect, but the worst was yet to come. Stay tuned.


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The Islands

Vancouver Island is surrounded by many other smaller islands. It’s an easy boat ride to go for an overnight picnic on one of them. With our troller and the sporty boat of our friends, we did just that. Here we are snuggled up together.

The aluminum skiff is handy for ferrying us to shore for some exploring and picture taking.

So many plants and shells are different from those on most beaches of Vancouver Island.

Our friends’ dog may have been a bit nervous at first, but he proved to have sailor’s blood running in his veins. He had a great time and was as good as gold.

Dogs and people all got along fabulously and had a good time.

More on this outing next time.

*** Again – a reminder that all my novels are half price until the end of July. The Wind Weeps remains FREE. See my webpage for more info: www.anneli-purchase.com

 


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Over, Under, Upside Down

I wanted to show you the water lily, but I ended up studying the photo and seeing all kinds of crazy things.

I’m in the boat (you see the edge of the aluminium skiff at the bottom of the photo), and over the water. The lily is over, on, under, and above the water.  But what is that big hill doing, hanging upside down from the top of the photo?

Once I started looking at the way the lily was growing, I was quite fascinated by the roots on the lake floor, the stems reaching for the surface of the water (some unsuccessfully, so far), and the leaves floating on the surface, some of them half sunk, others lifting up, yet others lying flat on the bottom of the lake.

And then there are the two flowers that are really only one plus a reflection.

The longer I looked the more I could see.

And to think that at first glance I thought it was just a boring weed in bloom.