Ridin’ the Wild Mouse

Years ago when I was young, long before the advent of electricity, every amusement park had wooden roller coasters.  They usually had at least one large one and called it something like the “Blue Streak”.  But, over in another corner of the park, there was smaller coaster shaped like a cube, painted white and called the “Wild Mouse”.

The big coasters were fast, fun and I could ride them all day long; the Wild Mouse was different.  The cars on the “Mouse” only held two people and the front wheels were set back from the front of the car by about eighteen inches.  By devious design, the tracks made sharp ninety-degree bends at each corner of the cube. The effect was that, as your car approached the bend, it appeared to be going over the edge before it turned violently to the left.  Most riders who left the Mouse were white and shaking.  A few were laughing on the outside but a quick look into their eyes told a different story.  The rest headed to the restrooms to clean the remains of a partially digested chili dog from the front of their shirt.  Regardless of their physical state, each of them left dazed and confused.  Only the truly fearless rode the Wild Mouse more than once per visit to the park.  I wasn’t that fearless.

This post is my version of riding the Mouse.  We’ll be changing subjects, changing directions and, every once in a while, coming way too close to the edge for comfort.  Pull your harness tight, here we go.  If you just ate a hot dog, go away and come back later, I’m not cleaning up the mess.

******

One of the attractions when we purchased our current home was that it bordered on a horse pasture.  Each evening, four beautiful horses meander casually through it, munching on grass, leaves and plants as the urge hits them.  If one of my neighbors or I are outside, all four of the ladies will amble to the fence for some attention.  Well, I call it a fence.  It’s really just a few old pieces of wire strung between posts.  Basically it’s just there to gently suggest to the horses that they’ve reached the limits of their travel.  Often while they’re visiting I’ll offer them a few pieces of apple or carrot.  They seem to like them and I think it gives some variety to the hay and foliage they usually eat.

A while back, I was cutting the grass when the horses came to say hello.  We spent ten or fifteen minutes talking about the weather and the high school football game from the night before.  As we talked, I sliced up an apple for each of them and fed them the pieces.  When the apples were gone I said goodbye, turned around and walked to the mower to finish the lawn.  A few seconds after I started the mower I felt a warm blast of air on my neck.  Surprised, I turned around to find a brown horse a few inches away and ready to nuzzle me for another apple.  She had walked right through the fence.

We have a pretty good relationship, so I gently guided her back to the pasture.  Then I got a hammer and some nails to do a temporary fix on the fence.  She watched me work the whole time and the look in her eyes said that she couldn’t quite understand why I was working rather than giving her some more apple slices.  I wish I could have; she likes them a lot.  But, I just didn’t have anymore.

After I finished, I petted her once more and then went back to the yard work.  She watched me for a few minutes and then wandered away towards her three friends.  She stopped once and looked back as if she was still confused about why I had stopped feeding her.  I guess that just goes to show, if you’re going to start an entitlement program, you’d better have the funding thought out pretty well.

******

One of my dreams is to have entire week go by without something in the house breaking.  So far, in thirty-nine years of marriage, it’s never happened.  Last week was no different.  I went into the bathroom on Saturday morning to take a shower but when I flipped the switch for the exhaust fan all I heard was the hum of a defective electric motor.  Oh well, it could be worse.  As far as repair projects go, replacing a fan is one of the easier ones.

I got my ladder and a butter knife (when the need arises anything flat and thin qualifies as a screwdriver) and crawled up to remove the fan.  Imagine my surprise when the fan dropped away and twelve complete acorns and a handful of acorn pieces fell to the bathroom floor.  Apparently one of the squirrels that frequent our back yard thought that the vent pipe on our roof would make a convenient storage place for his winter stash.

I cleaned up the mess, cleaned out the fan, re-installed it in the ceiling and flipped the switch.  Viola, I had a working vent fan and all it took was twenty minutes of time and the closing of a squirrel’s savings account.  I finished the job by putting a piece of screen over the vent to keep the little fellow from making any future deposits.

Later on, I was a little sad about what I had done.  Here was a hard working squirrel depositing his harvest in a place that he thought was safe and secure.  Someday in the middle of the winter he’ll come back to tap his supply.  When he gets there, the door will be locked, the food will be gone and he’s going to be pretty pissed.

Stock market rebound notwithstanding, after what’s happened the last few years with our retirement savings, I kind of know how he feels.  I hope that he had other, more secure, hiding spots for his hard-earned wealth.  He and I will be in the same boat when it comes time to withdraw our savings.  Any way you look at it we’re both going to get a swift kick in the nuts.

******

There are few subjects more polarizing than abortion rights but did you ever notice that neither side typically describes themselves as being “anti” anything.  The names of record are Pro-Choice and Pro-Life.  I’m not sure that either of those descriptions is totally accurate.  If the pro-life folks were really pro life, then you’d think that they would be against capital punishment and for universal health care.  An awful lot of them aren’t.  When you really get down do it, the pro-choice advocates aren’t for choosing abortion; they’re really against forcing women and girls to bear children they don’t want or can’t support.  Wouldn’t it be nice if they could meet in the middle and just agree that abortion shouldn’t be used as a contraceptive?

As far as young people are concerned, parents and schools should both be involved with sex education.  That education should start in or before kindergarten.  Five-year olds should understand the difference between good and bad touching.  Teens and pre-teens should be taught the physical and emotional consequences of becoming sexually active too early.  Teens should know about birth control options, how to use them, and where to get them.  Abstinence is a noble concept from a morality standpoint, but it isn’t very effective in controlling unwanted pregnancy, especially in hormone laden teens.

If an adult gets pregnant because neither she nor her partner were responsible about birth control then abortion shouldn’t be an option.  If she gets pregnant because of rape or incest or if she has a health problem that makes carrying the child life threatening, then choice should become part of the discussion. The same consideration should extend to teens in those situations.  For all other unplanned pregnancies, adoption should be made less expensive and a more viable option.

Unwanted pregnancies put life at risk and limit life choices.  If we work to prevent them before they happen then the other issues concerning abortion become much more manageable.

*****

Well, that’s the end of the ride.  Please exit the car carefully to the right and watch your step as you walk down the ramp.  For those of you who need them, the restrooms are on the other side of the Midway right next to the caramel apple stand.

See Ya,

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