Sunday, August 12, 2012

Of Peas and Prospecting ~

The moose raided the pea patch last night, the dirty buggers! I'd had a feeling they were due to come through, and even mentioned putting the garden to bed in anticipation of an early autumn, so it was no real surprise. I shooed them off with a hearty yell or two and even pitched a couple of rocks in their direction, but it was dark and all I heard was their heavy-footed trot through the gravel and into the dark. Knowing they'd be back - they're determined and stubborn, to be sure - my daughter and I grabbed the headlamps and a pair of gloves and headed to the garden where I pulled up all the pea vines and hauled them into the shop. There! If they want to come back for the beans or the potatoes, which so far haven't tempted even one nibble, they're welcome to stomp around but peas - no way, those are mine!

Today is a belated dinner for my dad's birthday. We don't know how old he is, only that he was eight years older than Mother - who claimed to be unsure of her actual birth year since St. Joseph's Hospital burned to the ground many, many years ago and all the records were lost. She was always young, and traumatized by landmark years - 30, then 50 and, finally, 60, which didn't seem to bother her as much as 50. That year was a hard one for her. She'd look in the mirror and turn, stretch her chin up and examine her neck, and then look in the mirror at her backside. She was always very serious when she did this, and there was nothing you could say that made her not feel FIFTY YEARS OLD. Thankfully, when sixty rolled around she'd gotten used to how her backside looked, and probably appreciated sitting on it a bit more, too.

Anyway, Dad is 80-something and planning a trip prospecting for gold in the Brooks Range with a couple of his buddies. He's been doing that since retiring some twenty or more years ago, mining and road building and playing in the dirt. He used to be a pilot, a very good one from all accounts, but when he landed for the last time he apparently decided terra firma could be just as interesting and off he went to pull nuggets out of the ground. He had a dresser built with a false top one year, a secret hiding place for his special nuggets. For years he paid his accounts with gold. These days, after two knee surgeries and annual January migrations to spend a month or more in the sun, I don't know how many nuggets are left under the lid, but he's determined to get more. They're going for three weeks, or until the snow flies. The pick-up has been planned, and there's a pilot who makes a trip over at least once a week who will buzz us to make sure all is well. I wasn't so sure. I had a feeling he wasn't coming back. He'd always told me when his time came, when he felt like he might be a burden, he would head out and simply not come back. I told him this sounded like that trip and he only chuckled. He didn't look at me when he laughed, so I was considering the what-ifs, but a couple days later he assured me they had already mapped out the 20-mile hike to the nearest village if snow prevented the plane landing at their site. At 80? My dad is planning to walk out of the Brooks Range? All I can say is I could be jealous. If that's how it works out and he doesn't make it, who couldn't envy such an auspicious end? Good for you, Dad. Do it your way. When the time comes, I expect I'll admire how you did it.

Today, though, there's no thought of endings. It's a meal of favorites: pot roast and mashed potatoes with gravy, king crab legs, and lemon meringue pie. It'll probably be in the 70s and we'll eat on the deck, but it'll be a feast to celebrate the end of pea-picking, hunting moose from the yard this fall, and a prospector's dream of finding the next mother lode. Bon appetite and bon voyage!