The Fearless Deer of Pokagon

Deer are so common in Indiana that sometimes we forget they were once wiped out in the state. Now they're back, wiping out cars instead, so you really don't have to try to hard to see some. Still, seeing them up close doesn't happen too often, unless it's in that instant when you stand on your brake and yell, "Oh, crap".

Earlier this year I was hiking on trail 9 at Pokagon State Park. Trail 9 is the one marked "rugged" ... which is a relative thing, as I've been on more rugged trails in other parks, but it's still a bit of a challenge. I was on a ridge, wishing for an excuse to stop and catch my breath, when I saw two deer standing on the next ridge over.

Sadly I didn't have my camera with me, but I did have my cell phone in case I needed to call in an ambulance to haul me out of there. It turns out those things have cameras on them. Who knew? So I stood there as still as I could, zoomed all the way in, and tried to get a decent photo of them before they ran off, which one soon did.

Then a strange thing happened.

The second one decided if I was checking her out, it was only fair that she check me out. So she got closer ...

And closer ....

And we ended up in a staring contest, only about 25-30 feet from each other.

Hoping to seem less threatening, I tried to crouch down. It was probably all the creaking bones and cracking joints that scared her off, and last time I saw her, she was standing with the other one on the same ridge where they started.

You can see deer close up at various places, but there's something about standing in the open and going nose to nose with an animal just as curious about me as I was about it. It was, in other words, very cool.

A Dental Memory Dam

I have the same relationship with my dentist that many people do with family members: I love him and appreciate him, but I don't actually want to see him.

I suppose that's not unusual, but my history gives me maybe a bit more of an excuse. As a kid, I was a "problem" patient. You know, the kind who whines, screams, has to be held down--like I am now if you make me watch "reality" TV. My dentist as a kid didn't like me much at all, and I felt the same way about him that most people feel about Benito Mussolini. (Hitler's so overdone.)

About the time I graduated from high school, a new dentist came to town. After examining the previous dental work, he pronounced it to be the worst he'd ever seen in his life. He understood when I explained that drilling me was like trying to shoot a hummingbird, although who would do that?

Some of it had to be fixed, so he injected me with Novacaine, waited, and was surprised to find I still wasn't numb. So he injected me again.

Then again.

All those times as a kid, when the dentist lectured me and had me held down, and everyone thought I was acting like a baby. I mean, after all, I'd gotten a shot of Novacaine.

Only the Novacaine hadn't worked. It had never worked.

Granted, there was some relief in the discovery that I wasn't a big weenie, after all. And I'm still not entirely sure why it didn't work. My research didn't show cases of people being intolerant to the drug. There are several listed reasons why it might not be effective with some people, including anxiety, which--how many dental patients don't have anxiety? But for whatever reason, including possibly the fact that dentists don't use Novacaine any more (my first trip to the new dentist was thirty-five years ago), I'm better. I can now go to the dentist with only crippling anxiety, instead of whatever would be worse than that.

(A quick note here: While writing this I did a lot of research, and I now wonder if my original dentist wasn't using Prilocaine. There have indeed been cases in which that drug didn't get patients numb. Another possibility is that I am indeed a weenie, and Dr. Hayes is just being nice to me.)

That's why this year I tried sedation dentistry. Honestly, I don't have a clue why I didn't before--maybe because I'm not a fan of taking drugs, especially the ones that put you out. But earlier this winter I went in for my regular cleaning, after which Dr. Hayes announced I needed not one, but two procedures: the replacement of a childhood filling on one tooth, and a crown on another.

I became instantly weenified. It's a real word--I should know, I just invented it.

So for the first time after all that grief, I asked the Doc: "Do you do sedation dentistry? And if not, why the *$#@ not?"

He did, indeed.

I had to pick it up as a prescription; it was a controlled substance, apparently. If it isn't, it should be. I left it in the bag until I got to the dentist's office, because I have a stressful job and was afraid I'd be tempted to use it after work, instead. At the office I discovered it was a liquid. Before letting me take it, the dentist asked, "Do you have a ride home?"

"Yeah, my car's right out there."

"After you take this, you'll forget you ever had a car."

I'm paraphrasing, but still.

At first I was afraid it was just a repeat of the old days. Yes, I felt like I'd just downed a half bottle of vodka (which would taste way better than this stuff, believe me). But I'd been promised forgetfulness, and I remembered most of the procedure and the ride home. The good news: Once he got in there, the Doc was able to do a repair, instead of a full replacement.

But I wasn't done yet. A week later came the crown. And believe me, those are a royal pain.

So I got another dose of the stuff and this time, to increase its effectiveness, I went in on an empty stomach. I wanted effectiveness. A crown involves grinding down your old tooth, and although it's not really that much, it feels as if they're leaving only a needle point, and you wonder why they didn't just pull the darned thing out.

I was about to tell the dentist that, too. And that's the last thing I remember.

Apparently I cracked a few jokes, offered to drive home, and walked like I was in a Monty Python skit. So far as I know, there's no video of this, which would have been crazy funny to everyone but me. After that it was a matter of wearing a temporary crown for two weeks, then the (mostly) painless process of getting the permanent one on. Way more effective than half a bottle of vodka, and for twelve hours I got the best sleep of my adult life.

Hopefully I'll never have to take that stuff again ... but I'm so glad I did.

This photo is actually from after my sinus surgery, but I have a feeling my expression is the same. Um, I'm the one on the right.

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Thanks for the OTHER flowers!

I made a mistake that I need to correct: I assumed the flowers we got after my mother-in-law's death (see my last post) were from both the Sheriff Department and the Fire Department, mostly because we have employees of one that are members of the other, and vice-versa. But the day after I posted about the flowers from the Noble County Sheriff Department, we got this beautiful plant from the Albion Fire Department:

My wife told me mum's the word, so we had an hour of silence before she explained that she thinks these flowers are mums. I know what you're thinking: How will I keep them alive? I dunno. Luck? Miracle?

I was going to go up to the fire meeting tonight but we're both still feeling crappy, so I want to extend my thanks to all the firefighters here. It's nice to be thought of by both these great groups of people.

Thanks for the flowers

Thanks to my coworkers at the Noble County Sheriff Department and my family at the Albion Fire Department, who had these flowers delivered after Emily and I finally stayed in one place long enough to receive them.

The color's a little off in the photo, due to the burgundy suitcase it's sitting on. Actually, our whole house is a cluttered mess right now; but Emily and I both had to go back to work immediately after returning from Missouri, so we're just too exhausted to care.

I don't remember if I mentioned it, but we'd already scheduled two weeks in September for a vacation before Emily's mom passed away. Turned out to be even worse than last September's vacation, with the totaled car and injuries and everything. Maybe we should try for a different month next year?

Speak of the Devil: Revenge Of The Pumpkin Spice

Pumpkin spice is still another reason to hate cold weather season. As if I needed more reasons.

Speak of the Devil: Revenge Of The Pumpkin Spice: Autumn is upon us, and I have an image blog for the occasion. Enjoy!

Venting on a Rough Month

I normally try hard not to complain too much. Complaining is like trying to talk about politics: It's pointless and just annoys everyone else. Although I often fail, in recent years I've tried to be either positive, funny, or quiet. I used to have a reputation for turning the things that go wrong in my life into humor columns, but I can't anymore because ... well, I'd getting ahead of myself.

But please indulge me, just this once.

Because it's been a really, really bad month.

Actually, the really bad month started last month, as my fourteen regular readers already know. Just before we left for Missouri to see the total solar eclipse, my wife and I learned that her mother had been diagnosed with cancer. We did indeed get to see the eclipse, but that was, pardon me for saying, eclipsed by our worry over Jean Stroud's medical condition. We spent most of that week taking her to various medical places, and were there when she started chemo.

Then we came back to Indiana so that Emily and I could do our jobs, only to rush back over Labor Day weekend when things took a very rapid, very unexpected turn for the worse. It turns out her cancer had progressed much further than any of us realized, and she passed away while we were driving somewhere through west central Indiana.

Honestly, that's not something I'm ready to talk about yet.

Now, I could probably turn everything else that happened in September into a humor column, because it was all small stuff of the type we're not supposed to sweat. But when you're already in a state of shock, and the stuff just keeps on happening, one after another, it just can't be made funny.

I should consider us lucky we didn't get into an accident, like we did last September. That ended in splints, X-rays, and car shopping. I'd thought it as bad as a vacation could get, until this September. This one turned into the vacation they schedule in Hell, and what follows is just a sample.

But no accident, although we had a close encounter with a coyote. We drove some five thousand miles over the course of four weeks, most of it in the last couple of weeks. And we drove most of it while sick.

Emily got it first. Nothing accompanies settling your mother's affairs like a bad head cold. We made two trips to and from to arrange and hold a memorial, and to take care of a thousand details, most of which had to be done by Emily as the only child. Those trips were done with frequent Kleenex breaks. I did my best to be a supportive spouse, until I was also felled by little warrior germs that set up shop in my sinuses, then invaded my lungs.

All that driving. After it was over, the chiropractor could identify the model and make of our car by the bends in my spine. By the way, I've made that 500 mile trip for a decade, and have seriously never seen as much road construction along the route.

In the middle of it, we had to come back to Indiana because we'd previously signed up for an author appearance and didn't want to be no-shows. That was on a Friday, and Emily took advantage to work her saddle barn job on Saturday and Sunday before we headed back south. Believe me, she made more money there than we did as authors.

In fact, my author aspirations took quite a hit during September. We sold only a few books that Friday (although we handed out some business cards and bookmarks, which often lead to sales). A few days later I got my publisher's first sales report on my newest novel, Radio Red. Between its release in April and the end of June, the sales made me ... cry. It's the worse opening of my nine books.

Oh, and the newspaper that ran my column stopped publishing, so I no longer have a home for "Slightly Off the Mark".

At least that gave us a little time to watch TV. With a planned vacation, we'd set the DVR to record the shows starting up in September, and had hours of unwatched shows already recorded. Emily was at work when that last straw went dark and permanently dead, falling on my last nerve. She missed the horror-movie screaming noises that came from ... someone ... after the good people at Mediacom said they'd speed a technician our way in only a week or so.

All minor stuff, really. TV shows? You can catch up with them online. Poor book sales? My next novel is just around the corner. Illnesses pass, spines recover, and our car gets really good gas mileage. The dog slept for about twelve hours straight after we returned the last time, but now he's good as new.

It's just that stuff builds up, sometimes.

I don't know. Maybe the hardest thing after the memorial was cleaning out Jean's storage unit. Not because of the 90+ degree heat, dust, and spiders, but because you're suddenly going through memories at a time when it's most painful. We had to start three times, and in the end brought some boxes home into the air conditioning to be looked after later.

They say you have to go through bad times to appreciate the good times, and if that's so I'm feeling pretty darned appreciative. So, okay ... rough month. But if you've been watching the news at all, you know that everyone's been having a pretty rough month. Now and then we all need to vent a little.

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All set up

We're all set up, along with dozens of other people, in the basement of the Kendallville Public Library!

Still going to the library

Even though we've been in Missouri for most of the last two weeks and Emily has a cold (she's getting better), we still plan to be at the Kendallville Library Friday. Hope to see you there!

Jean Stroud obituary

I've been meaning to post my mother-in-law's obituary, but it's been busy around here.  And to make matters worse, Emily has an awful cold.!/Obituary


We're at Girl Scout Camp Latonka in Missouri for my mother-in-law Mamma Jean's memorial. We'll have a pot luck around 5-6 and an informal memorial, then a bonfire down by the lake ... exactly the kind of thing We think she'd like.

Stephen King at the library! Or at least, writers who want to be that famous

I have to be redundant, at the risk of repeating myself, which I do all the time, often more than once.

But I wanted to remind everyone of the Kendallville Public Library's Art and Author Fair, coming up Friday, September 15, from 2-7 p.m. This is something I believe they plan on doing every year, or at least annually, at their own risk of being redundant.

It's critically important to support your local artists and authors, especially if they live in your area. Emily and I will be there, but so will several others of the art and artist variety. In addition, I'm trying very hard to start a rumor that Stephen King is stopping by, to such an extent that I'm actually trying to find some random guy (or woman) named Stephen King, who can come in just long enough for me to honestly say Stephen King will be there. If he does show up, maybe he'll sign something for you; who's to say he's not the real Stephen King, and the guy on the book photos isn't a model, or his personal assistant?

This is a change from my original plan, because there doesn't seem to be a single J.K. Rowling in Indiana.

Anyway, the "Showcase Kendallville and Job Fair" is going on at the same place on the same day, sponsored by the Chamber of Commerce. (Maybe Stephen King needs a job?) So there's stuff, and things, plus it's a library, which is cool. Please make an attempt to stop by and visit; and remember that Emily and I tend to discount our books at events like this. Even for Stephen King.

The library's page for the event is here:

And here's the Facebook page, which is indeed on a page, and has faces:

(Remember, this is a library, so at least Stephen King's books will be there.)

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