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Blisters & Bears

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Our crew debated the distance — was it 26 or 28 miles? — but the fact remains: we hiked all day last Saturday.

From long before sunrise (with head lamps) until the dinner hour. We trudged up grassy ski slopes and hoofed across ridges; we slogged through mud, and marveled at spongy, moss-covered forests; we cursed while wading through weedy, abandoned trails.

But we made it.

This was Xtreme Hike 2015, which I previously prattled about here and here. The event raises money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.

Our location for year three? Snowshoe Mountain in West Virginia.

Noteworthy details:

Maisie and I completed the hike at 5 pm… just a shade under 12 hours.

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Mile 23 or so

 

Martin, hobbled by quarter-sized blisters, limped across the finish line a bit later. 

In the predawn hours one hiker encountered a bear, and she temporarily lost her way while fleeing the scene. (I was elsewhere on the trail, but you hear things when you’re carrying a walkie-talkie.)

The rest of us observed bear treads in boggy patches.

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We also viewed a kick-ass sunrise behind Shavers Lake.

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And later, majestic mountain views.

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Kudos to the crew of 45 hikers who ventured out last weekend.

And a great big “thank you” to every one who donated — especially those subjected to my ceaseless nagging for contributions.

You rock.

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The blog is back!

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After 5 months of inactivity, “Funny Farm” is back.

(Is anyone still out there?)

Back in March when I quit the blog, I was smothered by commitments. Something had to give. And Funny Farm was an obvious choice for the chopping block.

Through the spring and summer, a few people asked what had happened, or when I’d post again. Mostly, I shrugged off their requests.

But then a certain individual prompted me to reconsider. The one person who shouldn’t be reading this blog:

Cayden, my 9 year old.

It was last week, while we were on vacation — staying at my grandmother’s beach house in California. That morning the house was quiet, with just the sounds of the waves and the occasional clink of a spoon against a cereal bowl. That’s when Cayden simply said,

“Mom, I think that this is a good time to bring the blog back again.”

I don’t know why this was a catalyst. Maybe it’s the way he said it. Not as a request, but as a statement.

So… here we go again!

Jezebelian power

 

Unadulterated terror.

That is Brynn’s response to Jezebel.

Tears. Hysterics. Guttural screaming and crying, followed by panicked flight: she bolts like an animal outrunning a forest fire.

Eye contact is all it takes to trigger a reaction. In fact, the mere mention of Jezebel trips Brynn’s DEFCON system.

So who is this Jezebel?

She’s a goat who roams the farm where the girls take riding lessons.

At first glance, Jezebel commands little concern. She’s typical goat height, marked with brown fur both fore and aft, and white in the middle. Her most defining characteristic: a bizarre, belly bulge. She looks like she’s swallowed a large serving tray and it’s lodged widthwise. In addition, she has long horns but they seem muted, curled around her skull.

Mostly, Jezebel is part of the scenery. Like a dog, she wanders (or waddles) around the property and gazes at people with vacant, vaguely menacing eyes.

Despite this, she lives up to her name: she is wicked and shameless. With no warning and deceptive speed, she’ll drop her head and drive her horns against flesh and bone. I’ve been the recipient of a head butt and it wasn’t pleasant.

Apparently, so has Brynn. Her concern is well-founded. She should be wary.

But over the last year, fear has escalated to unbridled terror. It doesn’t matter that Jezebel is easily outrun, avoided or confined; Brynn has a Pavlov’s Dog response, even when she’s safe inside the car. The goat can be 50 yards away and Brynn dissolves into terrified hysterics. She’ll pound senselessly at the door-lock button, all the while screaming, and scramble in the car’s farthest corner.

Typically, I’ll comfort Brynn and try to calm her down, while someone rattles a bucket of grain to lure Jezebel from sight.

But there are days when I let Brynn’s emotions gallop unchecked.

For a minute or two.

Why?

Because it’s a marvel.

I hesitate to admit this, but Brynn — with her intractable personality — exacts certain power over our family. Unlike most 4-year-olds, she’s resistant to the parent’s toolbox of discipline: sensible reasoning, reverse psychology, treats and rewards, threats and punishment. And whether she’s waged a skirmish against us, or Cayden or Hadley, she’s often able to use kindness, sympathy, willfulness or anger to gain advantage.

Most parents don’t face such obstacles until their kids reach adolescence. Brynn is years away and already, she’s poked holes in the prevailing system.

So, there are days when I feel battle weary. Like Brynn is constantly raising the challenge flag and winning the point. She seems armor plated.

And then, along comes Jezebel:

Brynn’s one, true kryptonite.

 

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