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 (Jim Horan 11/99) Copyright © All Rights Reserved.

Money is a relative concept. For instance, how much is happiness worth? With that thought in mind we begin a narrative, which I honestly believe should be the last in this series of unfortunate experiences. This is the year that ends the Millennium and likely the year the DAMN CAT is defeated in HIS quest for the "bird". If this narrative seems strange, you may want to refresh your memory by reading some past reports. These recollections may be found at:  "Tales". 

We have begun many years with nothing but hope. This year we have a remarkable amount of renewed confidence.

It would take clever. It would take bold. It would take planning. These foundations would be built over the past 6 months in anticipation of victory.

This past year I had occasion to acquire a new Toro blower, to assist in getting lawn clippings and edgings removed from driveway and sidewalks. While my neighbor had shown me his 200-mph model, I wasn't satisfied until I found the 210-mph model. It's a great machine. Shortly thereafter I witnessed some kind of science exhibit where they balance an object on a directed airfoil, keeping it suspended. The marriage of these 2 concepts came to me as not only a good idea, but also a truly wonderful solution to our "problem" at Thanksgiving. With our history, it has become somewhat of a 24/7 proposition the year round, attempting to restore Thanksgiving.

The thought process went something like this. HE and HIS cohort hate the sound of a vacuum cleaner, which is not totally dissimilar to that of a blower. They both put as much distance as possible between themselves and the source of the sound. Hence, multiple blowers would be more likely to achieve the effect of keeping them at a distance. How many of these blowers would need to be duct taped together to keep an 18 lb. "bird" floating in air? Then we had to calculate a method to cook this "bird" while it was being held aloof.

First problems first. We went and purchased many blowers, adding them one at a time until the desired effect was achieved. This was one problem but a greater problem was trying to get energy to fuel all of them. We achieved this by renewing friendships with many neighbors and purchasing 15,278 feet of the heavy-duty orange power cords. By the way, did I mention the number of blowers required to keep an 18-pound object suspended? It's 37! This we found after Pumpkins came into season, as they seemed a reasonable substitute for the "bird". We had at first thought of using the neighbors new born son as a test subject, but this idea was not met with a lot of enthusiasm on the parents part. By trial and error, we now have a side benefit to this research. Dottie has made and frozen 173 Pumpkin pies, 87 loaves of Pumpkin bread, and a 55-gallon drum of Pumpkin soup. So we have provisions should the Y2K problem become acute.

Soon after we arrived at the above conclusions, a variable came to us that we felt helpless in controlling. Wind! Some days the test proved better than others did. What would the wind be on Thanksgiving? What if there were rain ... or snow? We had done the tests in the front yard and carefully measured all the required power cords. It was concluded that the only solution was to bring the project indoors and forego hooking into the neighbor's electricity. We would just allocate the cords to different circuits throughout the house. Of course, we found soon after, the junction box was incapable of such a great output. So we hired an Electrical Engineer to study the problem. He concluded that we would be able to "just get by" if we had a 500 amp box installed and further defined what "getting by" meant. It simply meant that when all blowers were turned on at once, NOTHING else of an electrical nature could be running. That seemed reasonable. OK. First problem solved.

Now we faced the manner by which this suspended "bird" would get cooked. Actually that was rather simple. We happened to see a show on TV where some campers had decided to cook a piece of game with a propane flame. Going with that theme, and considering the physical problem of exposing the "bird" to flame while suspended, caused us but a momentary pause. Why not get an industrial blowtorch and set it on a ladder, just to the side of the suspended "bird"? Of course we had arrived at this decision while the project was deemed to be an "outdoor" project. What the hey! Why not indoors as well? We'd just spread some rolls of visquene on the floor to collect falling grease. Boy oh boy! This was what Thanksgiving would be all about. Bettering the CATS and having our first taste of "bird" in many years. It was hard sleeping the night before Thanksgiving, with anticipation running so high.

Early Thursday morning, we leapt from the bed with hearts singing the song of "High Hopes". Make the coffee, and put it in a thermos. Feed the BEASTS. Bring in the 37 blowers and duct tape them together. Bring in the 15,278 feet of power cord. Set up the ladder. Balance blowtorch on ladder. Oops. Almost forgot to lay down the plastic sheeting. Darn hard to do with 15,278 feet of that cord piled up, but we did it. Of course HE and HIS cohort plopped themselves in a comfortable chair apiece with sickening "bemused" expressions to watch this pageant unfold. Little did THEY know! This would be the day THEY ate food fresh from a can while we dined on the "bird". All the years of travail, pain, hopelessness and despair were about to come to their natural conclusion. It would a tribute to man's ultimate cunning over the beasts of the world.

The sequence of the various stages of this drama was carefully choreographed. First we ran the cords to all the available outlets dispersed throughout the house. Then we started turning on the 37 different switches igniting the blowers. By the time we hit switch number 2, there was nothing but a trail of floating CAT hair falling along a path from the front of the house to the farthest bedroom. Perfect! Gotta love a plan when it comes together!

With THEIR departure, it was now safe for me to go outside to the car and unlock the truck where the "bird" had been thawing in a protective environment. As Dottie opened the door upon my return, I flipped the "bird" in a perfect arch, to be held as in a vise, in the perfect airfoil. Perfect. Perfect. Oh what a lovely word ... PERFECT!!!!

Now the last detail, which we had timed ... oh yes, perfectly. The lighting of the flame. In a manner not unlike the solemn occasion when Ali lit the Olympic torch in Atlanta, I ventured forth and opened the fuel tank for the perfectly balanced and aimed blowtorch. Then a lighter was held just in front and under the nozzle and shaazam! We had the perfect source of heat to cook the "bird". Oh, the perfection of it all! We looked at one another amid tears and suddenly all the years of dismay were forgotten. This day was ours to savor. Could life be more perfect!

As we sat on the sofa admiring the beauty of the flame and the gradual tanning of the "bird" we gazed outside. Of course. The neighbors had gathered, along with a Commander of the local Fire and Rescue unit as has been the custom. It seemed such a shame they could not have believed our plan would work to perfection this year. Such a waste of their time, but thoughtful none the less. We uncorked a bottle of our favorite juice of the grape and toasted them through the window, demonstrating that this was to be our day of perfection. They appeared tense and highly focused on what was going on inside our house of perfection. The Fireman held their axes at the ready. Silly nonbelievers. Life is good. All is good.

We sat and absorbed the building delicious odor of a cooking "bird" basking in the glow of the wine maker's labors. Is there nothing more pleasant than having the wafting fragrance of a cooking Thanksgiving dinner being spread throughout the house from room to room? Perhaps it was a bit of abundance of the grape or maybe it was just the pent-up need for such perfect relaxation on this day ... whatever. We were a tad complacent upon seeing an erect tail attached to the body of EmmyLou as SHE slunk into the kitchen heading away from the sound of the blowers but aiming for the toaster. What the hell did SHE want with the toaster? Turning ever so slowly, as SHE placed her paw on the handle of the toaster, SHE smiled. Smiled? That was the smile from hell! Oh my God! She was going to turn on the toaster. The electrician's words came to me instantly. "Just get by". As HER paw pressed downward, a deadly silence overtook us. Even the gathering outside the window flinched. All circuits had been blown and the blowers no longer held the "bird" in space.

Before the "bird" could hit the carpet HE flashed by. SHE and HE had timed it PERFECTLY and met at the "bird". Each twisted their neck violently tearing the "bird" into two perfect chunks that they flipped in the air and inhaled on the descent. This all occurred faster than the Dallas Cowboys could blow a 17-point lead! We sat stunned as THEY leapt into the air to slap extended paws in THEIR customary "high 5" form of arrogance and taunting. On THEIR way down to lower levels Butkus had to proclaim, "And yet another record!" while simultaneously giving a kick of the hind foot to the ladder.

It will be high on our priority list of Thanks in the coming year to remember the swiftness with which the Firemen were able to break through the door. No we don't actually have the ability to recall specific events that occurred. The ladder had rendered both of us semi-conscious. But retelling by the neighbors seems evidence enough for us. Oh sure, we lost everything in the Living room as the blowtorch ignited the "bird" grease and continued to roll towards drapes and furniture. But their quick action prevented the flames from spreading to many other parts of the house. A report came to us, as we rested on the gurneys, that the CATS were found safe in another room, roasting marshmallows on the slowly creeping flames of the carpet. Ah, perfect, THEY included a dessert in THEIR meal planning.

To all we wish you a Happy Thanksgiving. We are especially thankful for successful skin grafting and our wonderful friends at the ER. I guess it could have been worse.

BUTKUS!  That's NOT "Happy Thanksgiving!"