Pied Piper with Pine Cones

shoes only get you so far  

pinecones in a basket

Lucky and Meatball at the trailhead

As I set off for my "after work" walk early this evening, I didn't know if I felt more like Red Riding Hood or the Pied Piper. These jaunts are taking on a slightly surreal quality, and at times are absolutely HILARIOUS.

For starters, my traveling companions are a fifty-something pound dog and a six pound housecat named Meatball. I've written about both these guys before, Lucky is the border collie mix that gave me a case of whiplash last year when he slalomed into my legs from behind and knocked me off my feet.  Meatball is my older son's cat who has been an occasional houseguest. Meatball's staying here again for a while. My son had called and asked if he could park the cat "for a couple of weeks." That was nearly three months ago.

So Meatball has gotten acclimated, and glommed on to me as the purveyor of food and treats and fresh kitty litter. He's still got those awesome vocal skills that make him sound like a canary. We have long conversations as I answer his meows and "eeps" and other chirps with like sounds. I have no idea what we're talking about, but he seems quite interested in my responses,and keep the conversation going. And yes, I know just how WEIRD that sounds!

Lucky, now nearly a year and a half old, has morphed into an incredibly sleek and speedy guardian of me and the house. My ex-husband, in fact, seemed quite reluctant to leave the safety of his car not long ago when he drove up a few weeks ago to deliver some paperwork and Lucky met him with full "keep your distance buddy" hackles-up barking mode.

But these fine fellows have both taken a fondness to taking a daily jaunt around the property with me.  It adds up to more than a half mile.  I knew the dog is always up for it. I didn't know we'd be ending up with Meatball tagging along.  A word about these two: they both have a healthy respect for each other. Meatball still has all his claws, and Lucky has a great set of teeth. In fact, the small cat has had the large dog buffaloed for a long time...until the tables have turned when we're outside.  When Lucky really turns on the speed, leaping through the grass like a steeplechaser to flush squirrels and rabbits and birds, and then comes ripping back to us at ninety miles an hour, you can see the look on the cat's face, kind of a "did I really want to pick a fight with this runaway locomotive?"  At any rate, as Lucky forges ahead, Meatball lags behind, loping slowly like a cow pony bringing up the rear. Then, when I get what he considers too far ahead for comfort, he turns on the speed as well and gallops to a point about a yard in front of me. 

I've never seen a cat flat-out gallop before. It's a bit like watching greased lightning. The only speeds I've been familiar with up to now have been "skulk," "stalk," and "slink," with a good helping of "snooze" on the side, appearing to be the idle gear in a cat's transmission. At any rate, being the peacekeeper of this pair makes me kind of the pivot point for all the chasing around.

And so we walk over hill and down dale, an unlikely trio, with fits and starts and stops and starts, day in and day out.

But over the past few days, I've added one more thing to the adventure--collecting pine cones. Just this weekend, the man of my dreams got a phone call from a friend while he was teaching me how to drive my lawn tractor.  Did Mary have any spare pine cones handy? This had something to do with adding a chemical to the pine cones to make them flame in different colors when thrown on a wood fire. Whatever. Even though my guy would rather ride his Harley than go for a stroll, the two of us took a paper grocery bag out to the stretch of my property where I'd seen a bunch of pine cones lying around and gathered a bag for his buddy. I couldn't help but notice the abundance of pine cones lying around splashed with sticky sap.  Later that day I took another bag out for myself and filled it to the top on the theory that these might make good firestarters in the middle of winter.

I tested out the theory in the fireplace with a sheet of newspaper and three pine cones. BOY did they blaze! So now when I'm out walking, it's not only with the "odd couple" of Lucky and Meatball, but with a green wicker basket that makes me look like I'm taking a picnic basket to Granny's house.  Pied Piper or Red Riding Hood?  You pick!!

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