Our son Daniel came home recently from doing pirate ops with the US Navy off Somalia.  It sounds more exciting than it is.  If a US Navy patrol boat sights a hijacking they have to get permission from (I guess) Washington before they can do anything about it.  It takes a day, by which time the pirates are gone and are laughing over the latest haul they’ve made.  Fortunately, not every country is so slipshod.  The Turks, Chinese, Indians and several others have gone into battle and rescued endangered merchant ships.

One of the neighbor’s bulls got loose and got into several yards.  We have a cattle grid, but the bull learned how to walk along the edge of it and get in. He emptied the ponds we keep for wildlife.  Harold went out to block the grid and found a deadly coral snake at the bottom.  They are much more toxic than rattlesnakes.  But they are shy creatures that come out at dusk and their mouths are so small they can’t bite anything larger than a finger.  Of course you don’t want them to get your finger because it’s lethal.

One night Harold discovered a giant centipede in the bathroom and called for me to catch it.  I managed to curl it up in a cup and take it outside.  Harold looked out the kitchen window and saw a fire explode among some mesquite trees not far way.  It was dark and we couldn’t see what was burning.  Harold called 911 while Daniel and I got hoses to wet the house down.  Then Daniel said he thought Eric Hayes' house was on fire.  Eric is a disabled veteran and so Harold immediately drove over to try to rescue him.  He arrived at the same time as the fire engine.  Eric was fine.  But his workshop, which contained three vehicles, was a write off.  While this was going on I could hear explosions as though ammunition had been stored in the shop.  Eric says he didn't have an arms cache, and maybe he didn’t.

We ‘ve been having some expensive problems here.  Just before Thanksgiving Harold tried to plug in a strobe light under the car.  He uses it to scare away pack rats. Pack rats like to make nests in car engines.  They chew the insulation and wires, drag in seed pods and have lots of babies.  They can absolutely wreck a car, so we have been leaving the hood open and a strobe light underneath.

When Harold plugged in the light it exploded in his hand, made him partially deaf in one ear and turned his hand black with soot.  The lights in the house started to blink and burn out.  The power surge melted the surge protectors, the modem, the telephone, the answering machine and the electric toothbrushes.  It burnt out the electrical controls on the stove and dishwasher, and almost fried the refrigerators, TV and computer.  You don’t realize how many electrical appliances you have until something like this happens.

It took us a week to find the problem, during which we were afraid to turn on anything.  We had no internet and no telephone.  We put the local repairmen to work, plus a local electrician and an official electrician.  They finally found two wires that had fused, and a fuse box that wasn’t properly closed (the javalinas had been using it to mark territory), and an electric pole that had collapsed farther up the mountain because of last summer’s fire.

In the middle of this came Thanksgiving.  We turned off everything and headed for Tucson to be with Jim, a fighter pilot in our old writing group, who was visiting his son.  They threw a great party.  On the way home we crossed the Cienega Wildlife Reserve, which is a river that cuts deep below the surrounding countryside.  All the cottonwood trees by the river had turned gold and since they were at the same height as the mesquites above them, it looked like a river of gold cutting through a forest.

Yes, I am working steadily on God’s Ashtray in spite of interruptions.  I will answer letters in the next blog (promise!).