Monday, April 21, 2008


Kirsti and I just got back from a nice healthy spring evening walk -- and proceeded to stomp the health right out of it by stopping for dinner at a little hot dog place. As most hole-in-the-wall restaurants do, this one had a TV on. Only instead of syndicated sitcoms, this one was showing Emeril Live. It's not often a restaurant seems to encourage its patrons to try harder, but there you go.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Grandma and the Rattlesnake
This is as good a story as any to tell on the occasion of my grandmother's 90th birthday. There are other facts that demonstrate the awesomeness of grandma, but I suppose they're fairly commonplace when you think about it. Longevity being what it is today, someone deciding to retire at 89 is great and impressive and all, no question. But how many of those folks have a rattlesnake story? I didn't think so. A good rattlesnake story sets one apart.

So, then. It's a story that improves as I've gotten older, not due to embellishment, but because of a greater understanding of social roles and expectations back then.

Grandma had these rattlesnake rattles from her youth growing up in a sod house on the South Dakota prairie. Despite the handling by an army of kids and grandkids, and trips to show and tell, they're still around, and in good shape. The first version of the story you hear as a little kid is the most basic. Maybe you're told more, but the bare fact is all that you retain:

"Grandma killed a rattlesnake when she was a little girl."

oooh, cool, we thought.

My uncle's kids are all about 10-15 years younger than me. When they heard the story -- from my mom-- it had taken a dramatic twist. Grandma killed the rattlesnake, my mom said, because it was threatening her younger brother Fred.

WOW. So suddenly the tale of pioneer life has an element of heroism! If something had gone wrong that day on the prairie, none of us would be around, but grandma's courageous actions prevailed. Except...

"MARY! Who told you that? That's not what happened at all!"

To this day, Mom's not sure how she added that to the story, but Grandma set her straight. "Fred wasn't even around! The older boys all had rattles and I wanted some too. I knew where the snake was, and that it'd be vulnerable when it was uncoiled. I killed the snake just to get the rattles."

Okay. Valor's out the window, but it's replaced with sheer badassery that's just incongruous with this sweet, kind woman, whom I've heard say "crap" once. If my cousins are hearing this at age 6 or 7, then I'm an attitude-bomb of 16 or 17, and what I'm hearing in my head is suddenly punk as hell. I know what I want and I know how to get it. I'ma kill this snake for the damn rattles!

So the kids grow up and eventually there are great grandkids old enough to hear about the rattles. Last year we came up for her birthday, and stayed at her place. Over breakfast before we took off, I got her telling some of the family stories, including the snake.

"It was such a stupid thing to do, I know. I knew the bush where the snake was, so I tied my horse a ways away, and got a big stick. I got it to strike, and then hit it to death before it coiled up again."

But then comes the part you don't think about growing up in the 1970s and later.

"They were trying to raise me as a lady. Whenever I was inside from riding or doing chores, I'd have to change back into a dress. Part of that was I wasn't allowed to have a knife. Ladies didn't carry knives. If I needed one for some task, I could borrow one from my grandpa or uncle, but I had to give it back. I had to rip the rattles off by hand."


Grandma said she wanted to visit the prairie again this year. The family took her a couple of years ago. This time Kirsti and I are coming along as well. Additionally, we're hitting all the touristy stuff you're supposed to do in South Dakota. And snakes: you are on notice; our protector will be with us.

Monday, April 7, 2008

The potentially very cool thing I alluded to a while back? It's not happening, as we finished second last night in an extremely close pub quiz final which would have sent our team to London. We were down one point going into the last round, and that's where we stayed. General brewing history turned out to be our downfall, though we had brewing knowledge and Goose Island (the sponsor) products down cold. The winners weren't the trash-talking home team, so that's okay.

Through the course of this tournament (which started in February), we won some swell things, including $200 in restaurant gift cards and a brewery tour for 12 people. Not bad for nights sitting around drinking and answering stuff.

And we still have a trip coming up sometime, too. We decided a while ago that if we lost, we'd go to London...Ontario. Suggestions are welcome.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Surely this is left over from yesterday?

As I type this, the click-thru ad on Yahoo's NHL page takes you here.