Muckraking Journalism And puppy dog tales

I’d like to address the accusations that these communications are merely muckraking journalism.   Journalism has much higher standards of  accurate and unbiased reporting.  But in all candor, while some factoids originate from unimpeachable sources – like Google, Wikipedia, and Yahoo! – and some names and places may be virtual real; for the most part (for legal reasons too numerous to go into), Frog Tales and other similar works by this author, should be classified  Semi-Non Fiction.  We try to maintain the standards and integrity set by a famous radio call in show host and his loyal followers – the Ibid Heads.

And as long as we’re digging into the why and what for’s – Tales are highly irregular, and come out only when I’m moved.


Back to the tail.


Ever since Peabody came to stay with us, she has been fascinated with the toilets. Karma, like others of the dog persuasion, regards them as just convenient drinking bowls with a never ending supply of water.

Peabody, on the other hand, waits patiently till I’ve finished reading, then sticks her head over the rim to watch the effluents begin their journey to the septic field and places beyond. I think it is the swirling motion that so intrigues her; her head moves in a spiral motion as she visually tracks the objects of her attention.


January has been exceptionally cold here at Frogtown.  Seems like folks are always talking about how the weather is different than it use to be. Hotter, colder, wetter, drier, foggier, less foggy, more sleet, less sleet…  just the way our brains remember the past.  Precision isn’t as important as perception.

But NOAA, on the electric internet, reports a 14% increase in heating degree days for this January. We have had a lot of really, really cold days and nights in the sub zero range.  Not wind chill. Actual temperatures.  Uh-huh.   Snow fall has been greater, or at least more persistent.  Last week there was between one and two feet accumulation.


Karma and Peabody are exuberant, of course.  Chasing and wrestling in the snow is something they insist on doing at least 4 or 5 times a day. Great fun for them. Its weird though. They won’t do much, unless Julie or I are out there freezing and watching. They need an audience to perform.


My brother, Paul ( that may or may not be his real name) left his red (which may or may not be the actual color) Ford (which may or may not be actual make) pickup truck here at Frogtown while he’s off doing top secret stuff in Iran (which may or may not be the actual country), make a lot of money and trying to keep his head on.  I think he found the job in a classified add in Mechanic of Fortune magazine.


My job is to periodically start the truck and drive it around the field, to keep the battery charged, the tires round, and the juices flowing.  I go 6 times clockwise and 6 times counter clockwise to keep things balanced.

So with all this cold weather – the last time was a wee bit more involved.  We, the dogs and I, had to trudge through boot topping drifts to the pickup point.  They had fun.   I had the foresight to bring a snow shovel, so I could open the driver side door. After climbing in and buckling my seat belt – It’s the Law – I turned the key.  Got a 3 or 4 cranks – then nothing.  Next time 2.5 cranks – and nothing.  Then 0.75 cranks.

Not a good thing.


I trudged back – trying to stay in my previous boot tracks – to get the tractor, and some jumper cables. Peabody and Karma bounced along with me, making new tracks of their own.  I have the Tangerine Dream Machine (TDM) parked outside the garage with a oil pan heater plugged in .  This is the first year the heater has been needed. The tractor started without too much difficulty and only 3.42 pounds of diesel particulates belched.

Getting the two vehicles with in range turned out to be another exercise. The snow was just too deep, even though the TDM has all wheel drive and big nubbly tires.  The answer was get up to ramming speed and plow 2 or 3 meters, then back up and do it again.


Eventually we got over to the truck, Karma and Peabody running circles around each other.  And that’s when I discovered the pickup’s hood was frozen.  I don’t mean cold (even though it was). I mean it wouldn’t open.  Ice had accumulated in the seams, sticking bonnet (that’s British for hood) to the body.  The solution was to drizzle some windshield washer fluid in the cracks and bang on the hood with a tire iron till things came loose.

{Paul, (which may or may not be your real name) please refer to paragraph # 1 regarding my hyperbolic writing style}


After experimenting with red to red vs red to black and a few minor electrical discharges, I got back in the truck, buckled my seat belt – It’s the Law – and turned the key.  I was rewarded with 0.3 cranks.  Back out – jiggled the connections at both ends and watched a few sparks.  Then I figure I should give the Kubota a chance to transfer some of its electrical essence to the red Ford 150 (which may or may not be the actual color, make and model).  I trudged back to the house – trying to keep in my original boot prints – for a cup of hot cocoa.  Karma and Peabody took off into the woods for a hot pursuit of a squirrel.


By my third cup, I figured the vehicles had enough intercourse. I trudged back, trying to stay in my boot prints.  I climbed back in, bucked my seat belt – It’s the Law – and gave the key a clockwise twist. Zero point zero cranks. Notta.  Even the instrument panel was dark.  “Ah, Poop!” I exclaimed.  I climbed back out, after first unbuckling my seat belt – Its Mandatory – and returned to the disconnections.  I messed around some with the mega roach clips.  And Then I had an revelation.  One of the bolts holding the red 150’s (which may or may not be the color and make) battery cable (ground side) was loose.  Not just sort of loose.  Like hanging on by a thread. Not even finger tight.


I trudged back to the house – trying to keep in my much larger boot prints – for a wrench.

Back with my head under the hood – having been careful to follow in my own foot steps – I snugged up the bolt to factory spec. 5.35 foot pounds.

Returning to the cab, I bucked my seat belt – It’s the Law – and gave a mighty turn of the key.   THIS time the Ford’s (which may or may not be the make) engine spun smoothly, and the 150 (which may or may not be the model) returned to the living, as much as any machine is alive anyway.


That was then.  This is now.  ( a temporal tautology) We are currently in the middle of a February thaw. Thirties, forties and heading towards the fifties.  Which means all that accumulated precipitation is going through state changes.  Solid to liquid. And then wandering off to where ever water goes. Down hill somewhere.


I have a friend in Alaska. I won’t mention her name due to privacy concerns. She reports that up there, a thaw means cleaning up the yard. Since they have dogs – forgotten things surface. The past becomes the presents.   There are similar issues here at Frogtown. Deana  and I have commiserated about the joys, although we’ve never compared who’s was a bigger Herculean task.  That wouldn’t be in good taste.


This morning, Julie looked out the kitchen window. “Time to clean the poopy pen” she told me. This was meant to be interpreted as a direct order, not an observation or suggestion.


I got dressed in old grubbies and put on my boots.  “You’ll want to put on Yak-Trac’s. It’s going to be icy out there”  she said.


Yak – Trac are a goofy looking cats cradle of fluorescent rubber bands and springs, that one puts over one’s boots to improve the coefficient of friction.  “Naw” I said as I head out with pail and shovel, humming that ol 1955 Tennessee Ernie Ford tune (written by Merle Travis, if you care)  “You Load 16 tons and what do you get?”


Which brings us to why I never sing.  Grannie, my mom, and Beulah, her mom, were very musically inclined.  That genetic talent seems to be highly recessive in my case.  Non existent.  I suspect it was a great disappointment to my mother, although she never came right out and said anything about it.


I was first made aware I was tonally challenged at the age of 9.  I had been forced to attend St. Andrews church during my youth, by cruel and uncaring parents. It was boooring. I had better things to do with my Sunday mornings. There were lots of chemicals in my Gilbert Chemistry set that needed my attention.

About the only thing redeeming was the “goose blood” (GB) served after the service.  I learned much later that the secret formula for “goose blood” was 15% ginger ale and 62% Kool Aid and the rest undisclosed chemicals .  The flavor of the Kool Aid varied week to week.

It was while I was swilling my 3rd paper cup of GB (we were only allowed one) when I was accosted by George Hunschey, organist and choir master, and long time friend of my mom.

“David” he said. “Hymns are composed of three parts.  Words, tone, and rhythm.  You seem to be able to mangle all three simultaneously. Perhaps it would be best if you didn’t join in.”

I was only marginally disappointed.  I reasoned, incorrectly, that if I wasn’t allowed to sing, that would only support my argument that my attendance in church wasn’t required.

George must have read my mind – he had a suggestion, “Think Milli Vanilli”


All right – I’m busted. Mill- Vanilli  was ’80-’90 funk rock duo, while the conversation with George took place during Tennessee Ernie Ford’s era, and he did his own singing. Never the less (and always the more) I have remained silent about this epifany for half a century.  I think I should continue to do so, in the interest of reducing noise pollution.


Fast forward to the 00’s


I’m standing there in the pen, with my shovel – doing my American Gothic impersonation.  Heavy sigh. I begin filling the pails.  Peabody pokes her head out of the flap. She sees me disposing of the fruits of her labors. I don’t know if it was joy or disappointment that I was removing the fruits of her labors. She became flushed and excited. Barking and jumping up and down.  I backed away from her, not wanting to get paw prints on my work clothes and that’s when I realized the wisdom of Julie’s advice on coefficient of friction.


Well – that’s it for now.

As my old swim coach use to say “Time to hit the showers.”


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