Sunday, September 26, 2010

Family Fun on the Farm (pig race)

Good clean family entertainment is not as hard to find as you think.  Like the other day when me and the family went to visit a farm over the state line.  A local family farm opens up to the public to come in and get lost in a corn maze.  To compliment the corn maze which takes about 15-20 minutes to navigate, they have a corn cannon, cow train, petting zoo, and a pig race.  

The corn cannon is set up with a home made steel tube (gun barrel) hooked up on top of a 55 gallon drum that has compressed air underneath.  The compressed air is hosed up so that with a push of a button, it shoots dried corn on the cob at cut-out wooden animal figures about 50 yards away.  BOOM-SSHIISSS!  The kids and I loved it.

The cow train is not what it sounds like.  It is barrels that have been modified or cut in half, added a board seat inside, seat belt, and wheels on the outside.  The barrel is then painted white with black spots to resemble a cow.  Each barrel is connected to each other (hence the "cow train") and pulled by a fairly good size John Deere tractor (the "cow train engine").  The driver of the cow train ("cow conductor") seemed to be having as much or more fun than the kids riding.  The driver appeared to be doing his dead level best to throw the kids from the cow train.  He was turning the tractor so fast he was nearly on two wheels.  The empty caboose cow car fish tailed as it came out of the tight turns.  "Its just because there is not anybody riding in it" one of his fellow works said calmly.    The driver would turn so tight it looked as if he was going to catch the cow caboose (looked like a dog chasing his tail).  The whole cow train would be whipping around like a tornado.  Then he would snap the steering wheel out if the spin and take off in a S turn.  The kids survived and of course wanted to go again.  They loved it.

The petting zoo was highlighted by the kids feeding the goat and the horse with the feed provided at $0.25 per hand full.  The kids would giggle out loud when the animals would lick or nibble the palm of their hands.  They loved it.

The pig race was marshaled by the cow conductor, "Ponytail Pete".  This guy needs to start his own park.  To me, this was the highlight of the trip.  He called out to everybody that was around.  
     "It's tiiime fer the pig race!  Anyboddy that didn't have bacon fer breekfas is wekcome to come watch.  Those that had bacon need not come over.  It'll spook the pigs.  Come gatter roun and watch as Bar-B-Q, Bacon, and Pork Chop race roun the course for da Oreo cookie grand prize!"  
I leaned over to my wife, if you see me running around that pin, just know I am doing it for the Oreo.  
     "We will have a second race wit Ham and Spam.  For those of you that wur here last year and member Porky...he normly races wit Ham and Spam in heat two.  But he pulled a hamstring yesterdee and is unable to race tday."  
He did not skip a beat.  
     "Pigs are duh smartest animal on this farm.  (not much of a stretch there, sorry Lord forgive me) We trained the pigs to run round dis pin in about 4 days.  Plus theys the smallest animals we got and it only takes one Oreo per race, so theys thugh cheapest."  
This guys was reeling in the crowd. Nearly everybody there that day was around the pig pin.
     "Normly we have hank-er-chiefs for the pigs to wear, but they got dirty yesterdee when we had a pig pile up in turn three causin injury to Porky's hamstring like I told ya before"  He pulled his hat off and wiped his forehead with a rag. "Squealin like you ain't never heard.  The whole thing was a awful sight.  It was awful, just awful.  So since the hank-er-chiefs are being washed tday, the pigs will be a racin naked.  Don't worry, nobody worry, their just baby pigs."  
This guy is the Jay Leno of Lucedale.

He sets them up just like he said in two heats.  The first heat was a slow walk around the pin for Bar-B-Q, Bacon, and Pork Chop.  Not sure which one won - they were all naked so it was difficult to tell them apart.  But they all got a piece of the Oreo cookie.  Lapping it up while they looked at me with a smile.  How did they know I loved Oreo's.  Them pigs are smart!

Ham and Spam's race was a bit faster paced.  It seemed they were in a bit more hurry to get back to their shaded pin.  Ponytail Pete had informed us that pigs do not have sweat glands.  So they need shade or mud or water to keep them cool.  As promised, and apparently throwing caution to the wind (bless Porky's heart) all five baby pigs were set up and raced a final lap for another Oreo cookie.  The last race was the fastest.  Getting them all together seemed to jump start their competitive spirit.  Of course from all the pointing and laughing, it could have been they wanted back in their dressing rooms...  ;-)

     "Thats all fer the first event folks.  We'll have anutter race in bout 30 minutes.  Anyboddy that wants Bar-B-Q, Bacon, Pork Chop, or Ham's autograph jus step over hear and we'll see which one is in da mood.  Anybody wants a kiss from Spam will need to get in line over here, she is always in the mood for a kiss so no need to rush the line."  
I found myself laughing out loud at this guy every time he spoke. We loved it.

Go checkout the website and watch their 2010 commercial for highlights of the corn maze, cow train, and pig race.   The video is safe for work, the pigs have on their hank-er-chiefs. :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Life Lesson #1,323,566

Golf can be dangerous, even sitting in a golf cart.

Being paired in a golf cart with someone you do not know is fairly common in golf.  This particular Saturday was no exception.  OK I had met the man once before and knew him well enough to call him by name, but I knew nothing about him.  

Riding around in a golf cart for four hours you tend to find out about people.  Typically you find out: how good at golf they are, does their vocabulary include words that are longer than four letters, do they smoke, do they drink, where they work, do they like their wife, etc.  This day was no different.  As I was driving the golf cart, I was finding out some things about "Seal".  

First thing I learned about him was his golf game.  He dressed nice; some people say it is more important to look nice than to play well (I beg to differ, just google images of Ian Poulter or John Daly).  His golf game was OK.  He needs to practice his chipping and putting (otherwise known as the short game).  He seemed to have an even temper.  He three putted the first three greens and still managed to keep his cool.  He kept his golf clubs cleaned with a towel after each shot; sign of a neat freak.  He had covers for each and every club; another sign of a neat freak.  He had a sky caddie (electronic device to indicate in yards how far you are away from the hole); control freak.  He did not smoke; get the idea.  He had not started drinking.  He had a tattoo on his right calf of a bull shark.  He was a big fellow.  He could easily play outside linebacker for a major college football team in the SEC. 

Along about the fourth hole on the course I found out what he did for a living.  Where do you work?  "I am in the Navy.  I am on a Navy Seal team.  I work on and repair some of the seals aquatic equipment."  He started moving his left elbow out like a chicken wing as he was talking.   I assumed he was trying to show me another tattoo.  Feeling a little crowded in the golf cart and trying to help him control his flapping elbow, I asked him another question.  Now that I know you are a Navy Seal are you going to have kill me?  Nonchalantly he said, "Maybe."  :-o  After an awkard pause...I asked him how long he has been in the Navy.  "12 years."  Cool.  Sounds exciting.

He went on to tell me about a You Tube video that shows the boats he works on.  "Go to You Tube and search for the 'SUW45XZ13 naval nocturnal search and destroy aquatic attack maritime bull shark boat' and watch it.  Then you will know what I do."  OK what was the first part of that search again?
We continued our round of golf and get to about the fifteenth hole.  He asked me to stop the golf cart because he needs something out of his golf bag.  Oh gosh - he really is going to kill me.  He returns with an inhaler.  Well I have heard these guys were skilled killers but an inhaler?  This is going to be interesting.  How is going to kill me with that?  He takes a few deep breaths and then takes a hit from the inhaler.  He holds his breath.  I asked him, hey man are you feeling OK?  Do I need to take you back to the clubhouse?  He exhales, "No I will be OK.  I just need some water."

Luckily we were near a water fountain.  Breathing better, and hydrated we moved on to the 15th tee and teed off.  We had to wait for the group in front of us before playing our next shot.  

He takes this opportunity to tell me of all his ailments.  "Yeah I have asthma, bad joints, arthritis, tennis elbow, and bone spurs in my heels.  Just got a cortisone shot in both heels for those.  Not sure it worked though they are hurting me right now."  Yeah I noticed you had started limping a few holes back.  "Due to my bad joints I can't feel my left thigh from my waist to my knee."  Really, so you cannot feel my hand on your thigh right now?  With speed only a trained Navy Seal boat mechanic has, his left hand came down on his numb left thigh - WACK!  He screamed "WHAT THE...!"  As I am now half leaning out of the left side of the golf cart holding the steering wheel with a death grip as proof, I shouted back: SIR I am just kidding! Look my hands are on the wheel!  They are on the wheel SIR!  He looks and sees my hands and agrees that I had not put my hand on his numb thigh.  (How do I know he knew? Hello...I am writing the story.)  Come on I was just kidding man!  Seal looks at me coldly, "That was not funny."    

So we are all clear, and that you all know; you should never, never ever, pull a practical joke on a Navy Seal mechanic that works on a SUW45XZ13 naval nocturnal search and destroy aquatic attack maritime bull shark boat.  Although I did survive, it is just not safe.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Beach Trip

We were invited to the beach a year or so ago by one of the married couples in our Sunday school class.  Technically the entire class was invited.   They have access to their parents’ condo in Orange Beach, AL.  They told us they use it most every weekend during the summer months.  The gig was for us to come down any time of day and hang out to do, whatever.  The available amenities are a pool, tennis court, and of course the beach.  Our hosts were going to fire up the grill and provide the burgers.  We the guests would supply the sides.  Lunch would be served around noon.       

The planned itinerary for the beach trip was set.  The plan called for the kids to get up about 8:00, eat a little breakfast, get dressed, pack the van with the beach toys, and leave the house about 10:00.  Looking back...maybe it was not such a good idea to tell the kids the night before we were going to the beach when they woke up.

As I rolled over in bed, feeling certain I had a few more winks before hearing the alarm, I see a freighting sight.  My oldest daughter (7 at the time) is dressed in her bathing suit, at what turned out to be 6:30, staring at me with a big grin on her face.  “When are we leaving for the beach dad?”  “After breakfast” was my grumbled reply.  At 7:00 my youngest (3 at the time) arrived in her bathing suit to stand beside her sister.  Now they are both staring at me.  Isn’t it cute when your kids are using their whisper voice but are actually talking louder than normal?  “Dad is it time to go yet?”  I decided to get up and fix breakfast.  

Breakfast was made with two purposes in mind.  One - killing a little time to get their minds off the beach.  Two - sustaining them until the burgers were ready at noon.   I decided to make them biscuits, grits, and bacon.  Frozen biscuits take about 20 minutes (Hardee's would not be proud of me).  My thinking was the big breakfast will keep their minds off the beach for at least 20 minutes.  What I got was two kids with 20 minutes to kill while the biscuits were cooking.  “When are going to the beach daddy?”  “Girls I told you we are leaving at 10:00.”  “Daddy what time is it?”  “7:16” “When are going to the beach daddy?”  “Girls I told you we are leaving at 10:00.”  “Daddy what time is it?”  “7:17”  To get an idea of what it was really like…repeat these questions for the next 18 minutes.

After breakfast was eaten, mess cleaned up, thousand questions answered, the house cleaned, the toys picked up, and the trash removed (you have to clean the house before you leave on a trip - southern tradition).  All of the sudden it is time to go!  I get a new set of questions: “Did you pack their shovels, buckets, floaties, sunscreen, did you put ice in the ice chest, where are the change of clothes I put on their bed, did you pack the snacks for the ride over and back?”  Those are the questions I was able to remember.   My response “Where did the morning go?”  

It was 10:00; go time.  I tell the girls to get in the Beach-mobile.  Amazing how fast the little punks can open the van door, climb in their seats, buckle their own seat belts, all without incident or fighting when it’s somewhere they want to go.  “Did you make them go the bathroom?”  ~fingernails scratching blackboard~ Unloading kids from the Beach-mobile when they have been up since 6:30, dressed in their bathing suits, asking when are we going to the beach every 60 seconds, after shouting at them “TIME TO GO THE BEACH GIRLS WOO HOOO”, to get out of the van and go use the potty; was met with considerable resistance.  

As we are driving on the interstate to get to the beach, we had allotted an extra 30 minutes for our trip in case there was an accident.  Luckily we all made it without anyone wetting their pants.  As we cruised the highway next to the beach my wife noticed a new feature to our Alabama coastal scene – Parasailing.  We have not been to the beach during the peak season in quite a number of years.  Now that we have kids, our speed is more along the lines of mid October when high school and college kids are back in school.  She was taken in by the new beach parasailing fad.  She was amazed at how many there were.  “Look there is another one…and another!  I would NOT do that.  You can probably see what is swimming in the water from up there.”  She counted about 7 or 8 parasailer’s before we arrived at our destination. 

We were the only couple to show up with kids, although it was clearly stated we could bring kids.  We knew immediately we were going to be the life of the party; we had the most stuff.  “Can we just leave these buckets, shovels, Frisbees, floaties, and backpacks in the hall or is it OK to have them out by the front door?”  I asked our speechless hostess.  She mustered up enough to fumble out an introduction to her younger unmarried brother. I asked him, “Where is all your beach stuff dude?”  He calmly replied, “I got my hat and a towel -  I’m good.”  Poor fellow must have been raised by his uncle.  

Our hosts were right on schedule with lunch.  The burgers were on the grill and the appetizers were sitting out.  Before we could get our burger fixed the kids had already managed to spill a drink on the table and a drop some chip dip on a few cloth chairs.  Our hostess calmly says “Oh don’t worry, the cushions have scotch guard.  That should come out.”  These beach people do not take long to eat.  You would think they would eat more for all the energy they burn up playing in the sun.  “Are you and your family ready to go to the pool?”

We asked if we could use the bathroom to change into our suits and sunscreen the girls.  "We only have the one bathroom."  While all my girls were in the restroom one of the other couples whispered to the hostess, “Is there a changing room by the pool we could use?” 

The girls came out of from the bathroom and passed off the new aerosol sunscreen we had bought for the trip.  We are trying to be more cautious of the affects of the sun on our skin.  I start spraying the sunscreen on my tender belly white skin that has not seen Mr. U.V. Sunray since the late 80’s.  “This new aerosol...-cough-...sunscreen...–waving the spray away from my great...–cough-...isn’t it?” As I am being led out the front door our host suggest, “Why don’t we go to the pool out back, its less crowded.”  The look on his face seemed to say “Hey the less people to witness this circus show the better.”  

We get to the pool out back and our kids are in heaven.  They are enjoying it so much they have to let everyone within the next three counties know about it.   ‘High pitched shrieking squeal’ is a phrase that seems to do no justice for a three year old that is let loose on a floatie in the shallow end of a pool.  It was pool party time.

As my wife and I slipped into the shallow end to make sure our girls did not drown, the guys with no kids worked on setting up a paddle ball game with their spouses.  “OK guys against girls.  Whoever can keep the ball going the longest, wins.  Go.  OK the team that can hit it more than two consecutive times, wins.  Go.  OK the team that can hit it two times in a row.”   The paddles are put on the side of the pool.  “Sooo, when did your girls learn to swim?”

My two girls were having a blast splashing and swimming around.  The guys had decided conversation about the economy was easier than co-ed pool paddle ball.  Their spouses were talking with their hands over their mouths…I could not quite make out if was about “American Idol’s Ryan Seacrest” or “Can you believe this”…there was a lot of kids squealing in the back ground.  Finally somebody asked what time is was getting to be.
“It’s 3:30.”  
“Holy Smoke!”
“Ooooo Daddy said a bad word!”

We had been in the pool for about two and half hours.  It felt like thirty minutes.  This is a phenomenon known to parents as, bliss.  When you can hang out in the pool or anywhere for that matter, enjoying yourself watching the kids swim, engage in adult conversation with other adults, and not know that two and half hours pass, pure bliss.

“We need to start heading back toward home honey.”   The kids scream that they are not ready to go.   “OK but just five more minutes.”  This parental declaration of course means any time frame between another minute to an hour and 5 minutes.  The amount of time depends on what kind of mess they make, the type of dessert that is brought out, a piece of gossip you were not expecting, or if your team scores a touchdown.   In this case another several minutes go by because both the kids and the adults were still enjoying themselves.  But as the aerosol sunscreen seemed to have worn off my shoulders and my internal fire alarm was going off, I made the roundup call –  “OK girls lets go, get out of the pool.”   

It seemed be working.  My wife got out, my oldest daughter got out, and my youngest was heading toward the steps in her floatie.  I get out and get my towel to start drying off.  “That is not the towel I brought for you!”  Being the only man in the house with three women I have learned I am nasty.  I have to have my own towel, toothpaste, soap, chair, even a separate bathroom (it’s at the corner gas station).  In my house there is a distinct separation of his and theirs.   As I put one of the sacred towels down and reached for a designated nasty man towel I stub my pinky toe.   It has no bearing on the story whatsoever but just for the record nobody noticed my discomfort.   

As we are drying off and packing up our pool supplies I turn around and notice my youngest is still in her floatie, in the pool.  She is the ONLY one in the pool.  She is not a good swimmer.  She is out in the middle of the pool.  Calmly as to not frighten my wife, I call out softly “Honey come on let’s go, get out.”  “No Daddy.”  My oldest offered her advice of counting to three.  “Thanks but she realizes she is way over there and I am way over here and I am already dressed and will not be getting back in to get her.  Don’t think she is going to go for the three-count sweetie.”  After several more statements of quiet encouragement to exit the pool before we are noticed.  I see a full proof solution. 

The lifeguards’ shepherds hook is hanging next to the pool on the bathroom house.  I throw out one last command that goes unanswered.  Then I grab hold of the lifeguard hook and show it to my youngest.  She shrieks louder than ever.  It draws everyone’s attention, even from the charter fishing boat going by in the canal.   I hook her around the waist in a picture perfect lifeguard rescue and pull her to the side.  She is half giggling due to the coolness of what is happening and half crying because she has been outsmarted by her old man.   I heard applause from the one inebriated lady that had come to the pool to continue indulging in her spirits and read a romance novel.  She said “Looks like you have done that before - pool boy.”  “Yes ma’am I have. If you do not ease up on those daiquiris I may have to use this on you later.”

We return to the condo to get the girls changed into dry clothes and offer thanks to the hosts for allowing us come visit.  They graciously, with a straight face, tell us how much they enjoyed us being there and what a joy the kids were.  We pack up and start our trek back home.   The girls of course fall asleep within 10 minutes of getting the van.  Ah the thrill a father gets knowing that his children are getting to nap on the ride home after playing in the hot sun all day only to wake up as soon we pull in the driveway ready to play again, brings a feeling over him that is nearly indescribable.

As I unpack the coolers, bags, wet towels, toys, Tupperware, wet bathing suits, empty soda cans, beach chairs, sand buckets, shovels, backpacks and other stuff from the van; my wife asked me where I put my pair of swimming trunks.  I tell her they are in my backpack.  I get them out and hand them to her.  As she is walking to the laundry room she stretches them out and holds them up, “I could have parasailed home behind the van.”