30 October 2014

A Real Life Halloween Horror Story...

A Haunted House Taken Straight from Real Life:

The dogs are gone.

You might have heard about the dogs on the news. I know it was state news, maybe national.

My neighbor was arrested after an attempt to evict him from the house he was living in. The house belonged to relatives who did not know he was there.
Inside the house he was occupying, along with SEVEN trailer loads of dog feces, were 19 dogs and 4 cats.
At least that is what they originally found.

It's one of those attention grabbing news bits that gets everyone speculating. People comment on websites. "He needs to be locked into a closet until he dies" and "Give him the death penalty".  Words of vitriol aimed at someone they don't know and know nothing about.

But this was my neighbor. His yard and mine meet in a corner. Every day I drove or walked past the cacophony of barking dogs in the yard. He smiled and waved. The dogs charged the fence and barked at Carlos, who usually responded by lifting his leg or sometimes squatting right out of their reach.

So how did this happen?

Do the spirits of littles animals wander this yard?
Haunted, for sure.

Before we ever met, every day I would see a man walking down the gravel road and then hitchhiking on the highway into town, about 15 miles away. He carried a couple of duffle bags. Every afternoon he walked back, bags full.
I did not know where he lived

One day Carlos and I are at the mailbox when a truck stops and a passenger gets out. It's my neighbor.  He grabs his mail and heads towards his drive, directly across from the mailbox cluster.

I stop him and ask "So what's your story?".
That always a good icebreaker. I explain I see him daily going to town and back and never knew he lived so close. I tell him where I live. We admire dogs.
And we talked for about 45 minutes.

This is his story as he told me.
He used to be a lawyer. He lived in Houston for many years. (So that explains his Houston Oilers cap!) He has a son that lives in town with his ex-wife. His son is at the age where he can choose which parent he wants to live with and the son has said he will live with dad if they can go to Florida. He is working on getting his law license in Florida and getting the house ready to sell.  He has two vehicles, neither operable, which is why he hitchhikes into town every day. We chat about Houston and it is obvious he has lived there and knows the area.

So far he is making sense and I am delighted to finally get to know this neighbor. Meeting neighbors in my rural part of Colorado can be dicey.  Many have loaded guns and most are adamant that it is their property and they don't want to be bothered. While he isn't inviting me in for tea and cookies, we chat and I am perfectly comfortable visiting.

But then we veer into more "interesting" territory. He tells me about the aliens. They've visited. He trash talks a neighbor. And mentions the KKK that rides at night on four wheelers hunting down Democrats. He tells me how much he loves his dogs and how much another neighbor hates dogs and to keep a close eye on Carlos. He's on the edge of making sense...but sometimes he teeters. 

After our chat, I wave the next time I see him and offer him a ride. He says no and waves me off.

Talking to another neighbor, she mentions to never give him a ride. The dog smell on his clothes is too hard to get out of the car. There is a strong stench around the house. There ARE a lot of dogs there.
Doesn't matter. I offer a few more times and he always waves me off. I quit offering. 

I  notice his house more now that I have met him. Lots of dogs... probably 8 or 9... are in the yard most every day. There are also dogs barking inside. But I never see more than the 8 or 9. There's always a smell. My dog neighbor is dressed neatly, clean clothes, nicely groomed. He doesn't look crazy or like a hoarder or anything out of the ordinary.
There never seem to be lights on in the house.  I realize all the windows are covered. No wonder I don't see lights. Does he have electricity? He must. How else does he get through the winter? But the two cars. The dogs live in them. Neither one runs, some days the dogs are on top of them, they are dirty. Why doesn't he get ONE of them working? Obviously some things do not add up.

And then, while we are in Texas in July, the girls' Facebook pages light up with comments regarding the Animal Control trucks heading up our road. HazMat teams follow. Where are the trucks headed? Five of them went up our mountain road. We know where they are headed without seeing them or even being in the state. 

The next day we see the news stories. It's in the Mountain Mail. Even the Denver and Colorado Springs papers. Dogs were being kept in the cabinets, in every room, all over. There were 19 found all together. The floors of the house were covered in feces, 3-4 inches deep. The ENTIRE house. The dogs were malnourished said the papers.  I am not so sure about that. The dogs I saw looked healthy. Pallets of food were dropped at the gate to his driveway frequently.  Neighbor might not have been eating but the dogs were.
But. Some dogs had chew marks. Were they eating each other? Another neighbor speculated that possibly dog neighbor was eating the dogs. We would see puppies, but never the older dogs.   All hard to comprehend. 

A few weeks later we are back in Colorado. The house is abandoned. Garage doors are open, cracked and broken. The windows are wide open. Trash and belongings litter the yard. No dogs, no cars, no neighbor.

His gate is open and the girls and I walk over to the house. A photo of his son as a toddler is face down in the yard. The smell is overwhelming. How did he live here?
They peek in the windows. There really is dog poop everywhere, in every room, at least 4 inches thick. Cabinet doors are open, exposing scratch marks on the inside. There are tunnels between the rooms, dug through the walls by frantic dogs. A refrigerator in the yard is opened, the freezer lined with tufts of fur. Did he keep them in the freezer? Or just store a dog that had died in there? Garage walls have arcs of missing Sheetrock, courtesy of the acid from dog urine. Wherever the dogs lifted their legs, the Sheetrock is gone, both in the garage and in the house. Outbuildings are filled with trash bags. A grill in the yard has a fluff of fur poking through the smoker hole. A lifted lid reveals a cat. Dead. Head turned backwards. Fresh. The police and animal control missed this one. There are also screens on the grounds covering areas recently dug. Buried animals? Are the screens there to keep the other animals from digging?
And the smell. Always the smell. Clean clothes are hanging on lines in the dog run. Did neighbor live in the dog run? It appears maybe he did. My brain cannot comprehend. 

It makes me sad. This is mental illness writ large. The United States does not do a good job with mental illness. Personal rights trump the reality of a family realizing brother, uncle, mom needs help. Now anyone over the age of 18 must be willing to get treatment, otherwise hands are tied. But guess what? If you are crazy, chances are good you don't think you need treatment.
So people like my neighbor sink into their own world, filled with dogs for friends and feces for carpet. 

The house goes up for sale. Who will buy it? It's a beautiful lot with a once darling little house.  But it needs to be razed. I doubt the smell can ever be removed. Urine has soaked into the foundation, the studs, the ground.
There is a flurry of activity. Someone removes the carpet and piles it in the front yard. The roof is covered in plastic. The "For Sale" sign is replaced with "No Trespassing" signs.

The end?

A few weeks later, walking higher up in the neighborhood with Carlos, we come upon entrails. Someone, probably a poacher, has dumped deer intestines on the side of the road. The dog recoils. The smell is strong and familiar. 


I thought the neighbor's house smelled of dog and urine and feces.
But no. 
Now I know.

The smell is death. 

The gentleman cleaning out the house has said the final total of animals, alive and dead, was 41. Animals were inside the walls and missed the first day they were rescuing. Cats were in the ceiling.
Someone is actually interested in buying the house. There are (supposedly) treatments that can seal the studs and foundation, making the house once again livable. For now, that is the plan.
I don't believe for a second that house can be saved, but maybe. We'll see. Bad juju in that house if you ask me.
Walking by the house, 3 months after the animals were removed, the property still smells. Strongly.
Neighbor has pled not guilty and has a hearing in November. He will not be tested for competency.


27 October 2014


TUESDAY (How's that for a title?!)

Organizing the photos for No. 24 is underway.

No thanks to anyone. 

I downloaded Picasa and then discovered it had imported EVERY image ever downloaded onto my computer. So, in addition to all of my photos, I have all the images for every CD ever purchased. Also images for computer games and a gazillion other things that I don't need or want. And Picasa does not support moving or deleting folders en masse.

So.....don't think Picasa will be the answer for organizing since it will take forever to get rid of the stuff I don't want. 

For now I am making folders. Going through iPhoto and making one folder for 2009, 2010,2011, etc. It's going to take until Thanksgiving...maybe longer. 
Then I am breaking it down by month in sub folders. When I have all the years done-they will go under one main PHOTOS folder. This is how I used to have it on my PC and it was easy.  Maybe I'll use Picasa for editing. Or not. 

No. 24 will get done.

The Twin Sisters at night. 
There will definitely be a Twin Sisters folder. 

Also, I am approaching the end of my second year of Project 60x60.
In just -gag- 13 more months I will actually turn 60 years old. So far I have completed 43 of my challenges. One more year to work on everything else. Wonder if I can really do this? 

For November I will be running repeats of the most popular posts on Thursdays. This will not necessarily include the posts made extremely popular by the Recreational Casting and Bracing Group. 

And then after I turn 60. What next? 90x90? Think how easy that would be. The first 30 challenges would be
1. Turn 61
2. Turn 62
3. Turn 63
And so on and so on until I hit 90. Thirty years of just birthdays. 
Challenges could range from #62: Get out of bed every day for a month
#71: Recall the names of the children and their birthdays. Bonus points for doing it after turning 85. 
#90: Don't die.

Might be easier than 60x60.

22 October 2014

No. 24: Organize all those Photos

No. 24: Organize all those Photos.

I have tried to start on this before.

I blog on my MAC which comes loaded with iPhoto and while I'm sure it is a lovely program, I hate it.
Every other thing about every other Apple product I find incredibly intuitive.
iPhoto is just confusing.

So I want to find a program to download my photos.

Any suggestions?

Once downloaded I'm going to folders.

Maybe this is a step back.  I used to use folders on my PC.

But guess what? They worked.

So, starting Monday I am dedicating a minimum of 30 minutes a day to organizing those photos.
I'm hoping to be done by Thanksgiving.

If anyone has any suggestions, please share.

I can make one whole folder with just pics of the Twin Sisters!

These three pics were taken within a 24 hour period!

20 October 2014

Doing It Like I Mean It...

Doing it like I mean it...or at least trying to.

Back at the beginning of summer I did a recap of our time in Colorado before we headed back to  Texas for a bit of the summer. There was one thing I wish I had done but didn't. One little regret.
So now that I am here for another year, maybe longer,  let's see how I am doing on rectifying that regret.
The one thing I regretted? 
Not getting a job. 
Not doing it like I meant it.

Originally our plan was to come here for the 2013 Fall semester of school. Obviously, we stayed longer. Then the plan was to go to Texas and Florida for the Summer, get everyone settled and be back in Texas for the Fall semester of school for Bunny. 
That didn't pan out either. 
We were back in Colorado before the bags got unpacked from the Spring.

The Twin Sisters.
Just couldn't stay away.

So I have been looking for a job. 
I've filled out online applications. 
One application, I felt like they should have given me the job just for slogging through all the questions. 
I have dropped off applications.
I have interviewed. 
So frustrating. 
Nada. Nothing. Zip.

Apparently being a stay at home mom has made me capable of anything, qualified for nothing.

There has been an article floating around the web about the luxury of being a stay at home mom.  Not that it is a luxury for the mom but that it is a luxury for the spouse. And the kids. And also a boon to the other working moms. A person at home holds everything together.
Hell, every mom I know would like to have their own stay at home mom.

As a mom I have gotten three kids to school, baseball games, soccer practice, piano and guitar lessons, driver's ed classes, friend's houses, etc. etc. etc. 
I haven't lost a kid yet. 
I've managed all the finances and handled two houses in two different states- insurance, bills, repairs, maintenance, improvements. 
I'm in charge of keeping FIVE cars running. Buying them, trading them in, maintaining them. (I am a ruthless bargainer when it comes to a car purchase.) See here and here for just some of what I have dealt with.

Jump starting the car. Again and again and again.

I've planned trips both domestic and international. Gotten passports, rental cars, and hotels. Packed bags for five people. Did laundry for five people upon return.

I know more about plumbing than I ever ever ever thought I would.

Fixing the plumbing. Again and again and again.

Been a room mom, worked on the school festivals, volunteered at the front desk of the middle school. 
And guess what?

None of that matters.
I am not qualified for any job opening.


I am still trying to do it like I mean it.

I've volunteered. A morning was spent at the Colorado Farm to Table fields harvesting acorn squash and tiny pumpkins.

About 15 of us picked THOUSANDS of these in one morning.

I signed up for a work day at Shedfest, a celebration of the last day of the farmers market for the season.

A scene from Shedfest 2014.
Photo from the Mountain Mail by J.D. Thomas.

For one day I "bantered with customers and took money" while a lovely young man made fabulous egg sandwiches for the crowds. It was so much fun and I loved being in the crowd of farmer's market people. Made me wish I had gotten involved with the farmer's market last spring.
Maybe this coming spring.

So, we will see.
Still trying to do it like I mean it.

(On a related note, if someone wants to hire me to write for them, let me know.
I could kill No.11: Get Something Published and accomplish the job thing all in one fell swoop!)

15 October 2014

Something Strange in your Neighborhood?

Something weird and it don't look good?

I ain't afraid of no ghosts.*

In fact, I love ghosts. And costumes. And Halloween.
And with Halloween comes decorations. Or at least it does at this house. Or this cabin.

Because this year's decorating budget is less than zero and all of my real Halloween decorations are in Texas, I had to get creative.    It is so true that necessity is the mother of invention.
And poverty is the father of decorating on the cheap!

What did I have to work with?
Three tiny pumpkins that I actually harvested myself back when I volunteered with Colorado Farm to Table.  Some card stock in black and white plus some twine. A straw pumpkin leftover from last year. I looked for pinecones but had to settle for seed pods. Some pumpkin candles. Three smallish frames. And an empty Ball Mason jar.

What did I go buy? Two squashes and a couple of larger pumpkins. A $3.00 felt Halloween banner from Target.

And what did we end up with?

A wonderfully festive mantel.

Ghosts guarding the kitchen.

And B-O-O propped on a ledge.

Aren't you jealous?

Want to know how to make your own garlands?

It is so easy peasy I even made a ghost one to send to Belle in Florida.

The Ghost Garland requires twine, white card stock and a small hole punch.  (Or something to make holes for stringing.)

Search ghost images online or you can just use the one I found:
from the blog Liz On Call.

Print out three sheets of the 4 to a page ghosts on white card stock.
Then I enlarged to 150% and printed two sheets of 2 to a page ghosts.
Enlarge again to 175% and print one large ghost.
When you enlarge, you may have extra ghost parts on your pages so make sure you just print PAGE ONE only.

Then plop down in front of your favorite TV show and cut out all your ghosts. Punch holes in the top of their little heads. Cut a length of twine about 8 feet long. Tie a loop at one end.
Arrange your ghosts like so :
6 small ghosts, 2 medium ghosts, 1 large ghost, 2 medium ghosts and 6 small ghosts.
String them in that order and tie off a loop at the other end.

The Bat Garland requires a sewing machine in addition to black card stock.

Again, search bats online to find a template.  I used this one:
from Made by Marzipan. (She used hers for felt bats, mine are just card stock.)

Print out one bat, cut it out and then trace around that bat onto your black card stock.
Trace as many bats as you want, then cut them out. I had 13 bats, some a little smaller than others.
Get out your trusty sewing machine and, leaving a tail of thread, start sewing at the end of one wing, all the way across the bat body to the other wing and then once you are off the wing, let the machine keep stitching for about an inch. Add another bat, stitch all the way across allowing the machine to make some extra stitches again at the end.

Yes, you can sew through card stock.
Continue sewing your bats in a row until all of them are attached. Leave another tail of thread at the end.
Voila!  A bat garland.

The framed B-O-O just required some small empty frames and white card stock.
Using Microsoft Word I started with a blank document and picked the scariest fonts I could find.
The only real trick here is to space the letters apart enough to give you room to frame them.
Also, I may be the only person in the world that did not know this, but if you can't get the font large enough, you can just type in your own number for font size.   As in my font only goes up to 72 points but I wanted 100 points. Type 100 in that font size box and there you go.

My final project was the flower arrangement.

Bare branches and dead sunflowers stuck in a Mason jar. No water required!

Have a deadly time decorating.....

*Ghostbuster lyrics

13 October 2014

No. 53: Go to a Lecture of Someone Interesting

No. 53: Go to a Lecture of Someone Interesting

Ahhh. I had such high hopes for this one.

Last Thursday night Dr. Duane Vandenbusche from Western State CoĊ‚orado University spoke at the SteamPlant Event Center in Salida about the history of this area. He was to speak from 7 to 8:30pm. 

Thursday night's speaker:
Duane Vandenbusche

Thursday night was dark and rainy but I persevered. What's a little rain, I thought? At least it isn't snow.  Or ice.
No, but it was rain. With steam coming up off the asphalt. Plus pitch black out and just wet enough to make it impossible to see the dividing line on the road.
Never the less, I made it into town and FINALLY found a parking place at the turn around, a couple of blocks away from the Steamplant.

Five minutes late and the speaker had already started. 
The auditorium was packed. I was damp.

Hmmmm. I must have missed a good introduction. Because all I was hearing at this point was names with no background. 
Names of little towns nearby. Names of people who built the railroads.  Name of people that built the roads.

Here's a quick rundown...
Poncha Springs,which bills itself as the Crossroads of the Rockies, actually was the crossroads, with toll roads and trains coming through.

Yep, I've missed a turn here more than once.

The advent (importation?) of narrow gauge rails was big.

Narrow gauge caboose
hanging in Salida.

Steel. Trains. Mining.
It was all so fast and superficial. 
A few prostitutes thrown in for laughs. 
Then there was a quick slideshow from an old fashioned projector. 
Once the pics were hand focused, they were gone.

At 7:45 he was done.

Dr. Vandenbusche was a good speaker.
His voice was loud and clear. His pacing was good, with pauses thrown in for things to sink in.
But I missed content.
It was such a broad overview.

Then I was back out into the rain for an equally hair raising drive home. I was good as long as no one came towards me. If that happened,  I was blind.

Once home, Bunny is sliding into her shoes and saying, "I'm off to play with friends."
I caution her that the canyon road is bad. 
She, like me, laughs and says "At least it's not ice or snow." 
(We know what's coming soon...)
"TEXT me when you get to town, please. Otherwise, you are grounded." 
Thirty minutes later, the text comes. 
I thank her, requesting a text again before she heads home. 
"IDK if I will come home. That was a very scary drive. "

No. 53 was done. I heard someone interesting. Sort of.

But perhaps the most interesting person of the night was Bunny. 
After twirling the Hummer, she has a new respect for the mountain roads and mountain weather. 
Thank goodness. 

08 October 2014

Now This is Interesting...

Interesting and Creepy.....

We interrupt our regularly scheduled posting for a commentary.

The Texas house received an American Community Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau which was forwarded to Colorado because no one in Texas wants to deal with stuff like that.

I was a bit surprised that it was an online survey. Really? Does everyone in the U.S. have a computer now? Everywhere? I did a little Googling (is that officially a verb now?) and found that yes, it was legit and it was mandatory that I complete it. So I did.

It was pretty nosy survey but didn't really ask any questions that our lovely government probably doesn't already know the answers to anyway. Financial answers could have come from our income tax returns. Our mortgage info (and insurance related to that mortgage) is also probably pretty discoverable.

But I was curious. The website says:

The American Community Survey (ACS) is a mandatory, ongoing statistical survey that samples a small percentage of the population every year -- giving communities the information they need to plan investments and services.

A small percentage, huh?  
So I posted on Facebook to see if anyone else I knew got the same survey. Apparently one friend did and her husband kindly took care of it.

And there were some comments about whether any of this was our government's business or not.

It also said  "The Census Bureau chose your address, not you personally..." which I question.  Every Census I have filled out has been the long form. (Granted that has only been like three of them, but still. You remember stuff like that when everyone else answers 3 questions and you have to slog through 5 pages.) I guess I have lived at magical addresses.

Anyway, the take away from this Facebook convo and the survey is that there are no secrets.
If our government doesn't know everything about you, then China's does. Or Russia's.
Or at least they can find out about you if they feel like it.

And if you post anything anywhere on social media of any kind, you have relinquished your privacy. Or even if you haven't posted, if your friends post about you, then you are now fair game.

I have a blog. I'm pretty discoverable.

Which leads us to the creepy part.

When I posted pics prior to my high school reunion, I included one of me in my prom dress with a plaster cast on my leg.

Does this excite you?
I hope not.

While checking stats on my blog this past week I saw a huge surge in hits from what I suspected was a web bot or phantom crawler. Then I (once again) Googled the referring URL and guess what?!!

My pic was discovered by a community of people who USE CASTS AND BRACES FOR RECREATIONAL PURPOSES!!

Have you ever heard of such a thing? Seriously. There are people who love to "dress up" in casts and wear them around.  
I had no idea.
Of course, many of these people are just pervs who get off to others in plaster or fiberglass or bandages or  medical braces....loving the idea that my 18 year old plaster cast leg is some guy's fantasy (NOT!)...but really. There is just something out there for everyone.

Now I have seen people at DisneyWorld who rent wheelchairs just so they can cut the lines. We were once behind a large family and as they all walked to the gates one of the kids said "Who gets to be in the wheelchair today?". Because if you are in a wheelchair or on crutches at Disney, then you and your family get to go to the front of the lines.
But that isn't creepy, just despicable.

But recreational casting and bracing.
You just never know.

06 October 2014

This Week

This week...

Didja miss me? 

Sorry, I just couldn't get it together last week. 

Not doing much better this week. 

But... It is fall. 

We had the second annual pumpkin carving at the cabin over the weekend. 

Friend's on the left, Bunny's on the right. 
Love those pumpkin carving kits. 

Bunny and her friend boy each carved pumpkins. Her friend once again did a better job. He is very meticulous. In a coup for the downtrodden,  she had them outside on the deck last night and something came along and knocked his over and cracked it. Hers is still intact. 

The leaves are turning. It's crispy in the morning. The weather is lovely. Yay! 
There was snow on the Twin Sisters and now it is mostly gone. Another yay! I am not ready for snow on the ground.

A dusting of snow on the Twin Sisters last week.
All gone now. 

The bucks are starting to face off. 

Love the game camera!
Looks like these two mean business. 

There is High School football. With fireworks at half time!

We don't normally have fireworks at half time, 
but when we do, they are spectacular!

Thursday evening will be No. 53: Go to a Lecture of Someone Interesting. So you won't get the update until next week. I'm going to hear a lecture on the history of the area. I'm actually pretty excited about this. It surprises me that in Colorado the schools do not require a year of state history. Texas makes the kids take Texas history in 4th AND 7th grade. They KNOW about the Alamo in Texas by the time they get out of High School. Certainly Colorado has history that is as interesting, if not more so, than Texas history. Mining! Gold rushes! Cannibals! 

He had some friends for dinner.

Neighbor across the street came over and showed me a lovely video of a large mountain lion strolling through his yard and peering into his windows. Amazingly he walked over with his video camera not 10 minutes after the lion wandered back into the woods. In answer to my shrieked "You walked over here?",  he showed me his pistol. 
He offered to show me how to shoot but I think I will wait for a professional to complete No. 28: Learn to shoot a gun. 

And in a spontaneous and possibly ill advised move, I banished all my high lights. Now I'm a redhead. A fairly unnaturally red redhead. Bunny says I need to try again. We'll see. 

Sadly this is the second iteration of red.
The first was REALLY brassy. This is only very brassy.
Maybe the third time will be right? 
And if not, at least I have Halloween hair.
(And not sure why I am on soft focus here....but probably a good thing.)

Stay tuned.