Blue Ox, We Hardly Knew Ye

Well, trusty pals, Blue Ox the Blog is wrapping up.  It feels finished to me, like a good, long bath, when you start to get a little hot and pruny. Or something.  Maybe it’s more like, Blue Ox was Chapter One. It’s time for Chapter Two.

Operations will continue at my SHINY NEW BLOG, Bluegrass Pirates. The new blog is much like this one, except that it’s different.  Rocky has decided to become a blogger just like her dear ole’ Ma, and will be a contributor now, and I may even get Mo to lend a few of her lovely photos.  More Barbie, more essays and stories, a hoophouse or two, and hell, why not? maybe even some more taxidermy.

Or maybe not.

A million, zillion THANK YOUs to the folks who’ve been a part of Blue Ox: followers, droppers-in, contributors, supporters, haters, people who’ve been mortified on my behalf. Good Gawd, the things I’ve posted here.

Friends, please join my family at our new online home (I repeat: Bluegrass Pirates).  And come on back to Blox any time you need to hear conversations between goldfish.


My Cat is an Alien.

I’ve been curious about Wispy’s peculiar markings ever since they began to come in (he was pure white when we got him), so the other day I did a little research, and lo and behold! we have ourselves a genuine Oriental Shorthair Siamese-style cat, or something.  There are a bunch of names floating around for what he is, the most common being flamepoint Siamese, though of course there’s a big difference between what the crazy show-cat people and the yeah-whatever-it’s-just-a-cat cat people say around what you may or may not call a cat of Wispy’s free-love parentage.  After reading about the “breed” personality traits and looking at countless lookalike photos of fellow mutt-cats, Marble Mable + anonymous Siamese-style dad = Wispy = flamepoint Siamese.

Exhibit 1: Wispy and Wispy

Exhibit 2: Spot the Siamese! (hint: it’s not Bob)

Here’s what I think of all that.  Look at Maine coon cats.  The Maine coon cat bred itself.  I bet there are a lot of people out there who wish they could take credit because Maine coons are really amazing cats, and they breed the hell out of them now, but the Maine coon is a landrace – it developed naturally out in the wilds, adapting over generations to its particular environment.

Maine Coon Cat

So here’s the important question. Do you think there’s a woods out there with a bunch of Wispies running around in packs?  Because that would be awesome.  Or … oh my god … could the Wispies have come from … SOMEWHERE ELSE …?   I’m thinking that Rocky’s “barn cat” was strategically placed in our family, by some Wispy mothership currently in cloaking mode in orbit around the moon.  The Wispies on Earth are reporting telepathically – or, oh god, using our own technology while we sleep! – to the Wispies in Space, comparing notes on crazy show-cat people versus yeah-whatever cat people, and other choice bits of information, like how the humans feed their cats poultry by-products from tin cans.  They’re planning something.  The Wispies are coming. GOOD GOD, THE WISPIES ARE COMING.


Bob survived. I couldn’t believe it, but he recovered. Nine lives? Pshaw. Try twenty-nine.

Blue’s Walk on the Wild Side, or, Taxidermy! It’s Not Just For Deers’ Heads!

These are gerbils.  They are brothers – you can tell by the way they’re chewing corrugated cardboard together.  My brother and I chewed together like that, too, when we lived together.

This is a gerbil with an intelligent look.  This gerbil is having a conversation with you, probably telling you where he went to college.

This is a gerbil playing the trombone.

Don’t forget these images; they’ll be important further along in the post. They are totally not just some random weird gerbil images that came up when I googled “gerbil images”.

And now I’m getting to the point.

This is a dead gerbil.

See how it’s on its back, not moving?

Sadly, Rocky’s gerbil Creamy died today.  Considering that I deeply respect the divinity of all living things, and someday Ry might discover this post and hate me for it, I really shouldn’t be making it into a joke.


This is Creamy’s brother, Fluffy.

To be honest, this is a totally random gerbil image that I googled.  Fluffy has pink eyes and back legs that don’t work any more, so he pulls himself all over the cage with his front legs and sort of flops over into their nest now instead of climbing, my point being that Creamy’s demise was not entirely unexpected, since these gerbils are like 150 years old.  In gerbil years, you know.

Did I mention that Fluffy is crying?  He is lonely now.

So I had this idea.

Dramatic pause.

I had this idea, since despite the entirely inappropriate tone of this post I actually do care about Fluffy freaking out about being alone, that I would skin his brother and use his pelt to make a new Creamy to put in the cage with him.

If you know me well, you know I’m not necessarily kidding.  And if you don’t know me well, you probably don’t want to now.

A little background: I have family members who regularly shoot, skin and eat things like squirrels and moose.  This is important, and you need to remember this, because I want to be all woodsy and tough like that too. Add that to my uber-right-brain superhuman creativity and you’ve got yerself a loose canon who thinks she can taxidermy a gerbil.

Actually, this is where I got the idea:

See the little piggies?  Their mommy tiger loves them.  It doesn’t matter that there’s probably ninety pounds of bacon lying on top of her.  They’re wrapped in baby tiger skins, so it’s all good.

What do you mean, I’ll traumatize Rocky?  What could be more comforting than knowing that your mother skinned your pet gerbil, wrapped the fur around a rock or something and put it back in the cage?

(Note: Snopes says these are just tiger outifts, and that this tiger was herself nursed by a sow, making her friendly with piglets, and the idea that these are baby tiger skins is false; they live in sort of really bizarre Thai zoo that does random shit like this with tigers – but I didn’t know that before I had my big idea, and it doesn’t fit with this story, so ignore this run-on sentence.)

I had this idea that I’d search “taxidermy gerbil” for how-to tips, or if there’s no one out there sick enough to do something like that, I’d just look up “how to skin a squirrel” – close enough.  Then I’d get out my best knife, shut my eyes and just fucking do it.   Most importantly, Fluffy would then have something that smells like Creamy to snuggle with at night and he wouldn’t be lonely. I was absolutely sure of this.  A secondhand effect would be that I would then post about it on my blog, and just sound totally natural about it, like I skin small rodents every day, and you’d think damn, she’s all woodsy and badass!  If she can skin a gerbil, she probably skins fucking tigers.  Or baby tigers.

Hahahahahahaha!  Good one.

Instead, I made this:

It’s a rag.

But you have to admit it has the spirit of a gerbil.


I rubbed it all over Creamy’s little dead body to get his smell on it, and I put it in the gerbils’ nest.

Then we gave Creamy a proper burial in the back yard, skin and all, and I cried.

When we came back in I checked on Fluffy.  He was attacking the rag.  I took it out.  He curled up in his nest and went to sleep, like, “Whatever”.



Are you genuinely grossed out and disturbed that I seriously considered skinning and stuffing Rocky’s pet gerbil?  I am too.  But I really was worried about Fluffy getting depressed.  I can’t stand seeing animals all scared and confused, or seeing them suffer.  I’ll go to great lengths to help them.  Rocky had a baby goldfish named Pocket, and when I found out goldfish are anxious without friends, I insisted on buying not just a friend, but a thirty gallon tank and like $50 worth of plants since according to my research they also need lots of space in order to be healthy. And one time my friend in Austin, Linda,  was babysitting Rocky’s polliwogs while we were out of town, and the polliwogs all died, and she buried them in her potted plant and put eight tiny handmade crosses over them, and I totally would have done the same thing.  And then one time Sunny mortally wounded a possum, and it was suffering so I put it in a bag and ran it over with my car.  Dude, I am KIND.

This is a litter of gerbil babies.  Gah, that is so gross.

Thirty Years at Sea

Therapy Girl is going to have some Feelings now.  Therapy Girl is embarrassed at how often in the past she has publicly posted about her deepest desires, thoughts, emotions, confessions, bowel movements and feminine hygiene issues, and so she has decided to create a new handle, Therapy Girl, in order to give you warning when she’s going to have Feelings.  So if you’re somebody who doesn’t want to hear about Therapy Girl’s past trauma, you may now run away.

Therapy Girl will do her best to speak in first person, too.

On to today’s Feelings. Some of this is excerpted from a Facebook post, for context.  You can search my blog for “island” and you’ll see it all over the place; those who have been readers here for a while will already know.

On an island halfway up the coast of Maine is an old farm, Thomas Farm, the mothership of the Ox family, where my heart resides. There’s a big super-old white farmhouse with an attic that used to be haunted by my grandmother, I’m certain, and a root cellar with a particular smell of damp cool rock and laundry soap; there are outbuildings, a woodshed, a barn, fields, and a beautiful salt cove that leads out onto the river and bay. Every single room and outbuilding and crawl space on that 180 acres of virgin pine and shorefront, and every dark saltwater inlet haven, is filled with memories, some of the best memories I have of my childhood.  I know what it feels like to be truly, deeply carefree and happy, because I remember a time when I lived on that farm and was surrounded by love.

Have you ever felt like your blood turns cold in your veins? That’s how it felt to find out that Thomas Farm is going to be sold.

My family can’t afford it much longer. I don’t know when it will happen; it could be five years, ten, or one.  It’s up to the uncle who takes care of the place. The surrounding land has already been given to the Nature Conservancy, years back, to uphold a family pact between our family and the original owners, the Thomases, when the farm switched hands, to keep the land wild, undeveloped. It just never occurred to me that I would someday not be able to go back.

I had a rough time as a kid. I left home at sixteen and moved halfway across the country to figure out who I was outside of that place.  For me Maine is both a precious gem and a bed of quicksand.  When I had been gone long enough, I figured out that I could someday go back and reconcile with Home, really face my past and maybe let some things go, but I never did.

I’ve moved around my whole life, like a sailboat pulling anchor during every storm, constantly aching to be brought back to home port, to her mooring.  She never left her anchor down for long.  Then she got brought onshore and hauled a thousand miles south to the desert – and that was Texas, where for years I was that little sailboat, born at sea, meant to be afloat, living on hot, dry land.  Instead of sea lavender and gulls I was surrounded by prickly pear cacti and scorpions.  And rattlesnakes.  And Texas red centipedes.  And cottonmouths.  But I digress.  Also women went topless at Barton Springs pool – that was a plus, and there was Tex Mex, and an amazing dance community, and people I love, and I’ll stop digressing now.  Eventually, after a decade, central Texas won my heart, and part of me is Austin now, big bright blue sky and all those bitey stingy things that are actually really cool, my point being and I’ll stop the run-on sentence that after ten years, even with my soul moored on an island off the coast of Maine, someplace like that could actually become home at least to part of me.

Letting go has happened without my knowing it, over the past 20 years – art school, college, friends and loves, sleeping on park benches, sleeping on countless Greyhound buses as every corner of the country rolled by out the windows.  Austin, career, partner, childbirth, children, big mistakes, redemption, art, healing that happened when I wasn’t looking. Transformation. A quiet redesign of the Home concept.

Here in Lebanucky, I’ve delighted in the springtime crocuses and daffodils, the miracle of ice coating and sparkling every branch and twig, fall colors, certain songbirds, things I left behind and yearned for that northern Kentucky has in common with New England.  And I’ve discovered that there are things to love that are, for me, particular to this place.  Being married to a community-oriented culture where family comes before individualism.  Growing food in amazingly dark, rich soil.   Living in a wonderful old house with enough room and hardwoods and a coal chute and a milk door, in a beautiful neighborhood – and being able to stay here, not because we’re making a crapload of money, but because good housing here is working-class affordable.  Forming relationships with people who are Not Like Me. Did you know that conservative Republican Christians and commie pinko Pagan homos like me can actually be friends and have great conversations about politics, religion, sexuality and gender?  For a gal who’s sequestered herself for a lifetime in oases of liberal thinking, this is very new ground.

My parents divorced when I was five and I left the island, and since then, any happiness I’ve felt has tugged on a deeply entrenched sense of loss as old as my soul.  On a deep level, for me, Home, happiness, can only be visited.  Every other weekend, and your mean stepmother will be there, and your dog and bedroom and father will now belong to her kids.

Here’s what’s going to happen.  When that place gets sold, along with the grief, I’ll feel like something inside me has been set free.  In fact, I’m already feeling that old barnacle-covered mooring tugging up, inch by inch, with each day that I further process the transformations that are happening in my family.  We’re leaving Thomas Farm.  We’re leaving the island.  My grandmother the matriarch died in 1978, and the exodus has been underway ever since.  The aging uncle who lives there deserves to retire and relinquish the house and its massive upkeep.

And then Thomas Farm will be the summer home for some rich person from southern California.  I hope she and her grandkids love it as much as I did.  I hope they create wonderful new memories to fill the place: the boathouse on stilts, the woodshed, attic, the Blue Room (that was once my bedroom), Thomas Cove, the little Toe islands, harbor seals, herons and egrets, Witch’s Cove, Cocktail Rock, ancient stunted windswept pines, granite ledges, Maggie the dog’s crumbling grave, Ben’s Folly, the outhouse that’s falling off the embankment, croquet balls lost in the mud flats, broken clam shells that cut my feet at low tide, old china shards and the very rare spectacles that can be dug out of Mill Cove, Uncle Steve’s campsite and beer cans, old Nellie’s booze bottles flung off the cliff, the tree we used to pretend was a horse, the mosquitoes and biting flies, red foxes, moose and bear, cranberry bogs, wild blueberries, red wintergreen berries you can find under the crust of snow, the osprey, sunsets on the bay, sea smoke, salt air, the Pink Lady or whatever tourist boats have taken her place, lobstermen and their maze of lobster pots.  Remember, about the marker buoys: Right Red Returning, and stay out of Hellgate in your small boat. Look for the phosporescent creatures that sparkle like underwater galaxies on black nights at full tide.  Maybe you’ll find a squid after a good storm.  Or a message in a bottle – maybe mine, finally come home after thirty years at sea.

A Very Barbie Christmas

Barbie is thinking about her favorite month of the year – December!  The holidays are almost here, and Barbie has a lot planned this season.  See how excited she is?

In early December, Barbie takes her family out to Old Tyme Christmas on Frankfort Avenue, in their neighborhood.  First stop: Santa!  Rocky knows this one’s a fake, but she’s a good sport about it.

Anyone can visit with Santa – even if she’s a grown woman!  Lucky Barbie! Barbie has been so good this year – if you don’t count beating up her coworker after the drag show on her birthday.

After Santa, it’s time for a carriage ride down Frankfort Ave.  Barbie used to own a pair of chaps that looked like the harness on that horse’s rear.  Wait, did Barbie just say that out loud?

Barbie doesn’t seem to notice that Rocky is getting beamed back to the mothership.

Barbie loves Old Tyme Christmas, but she always gets annoyed when people spell it “Tyme”.  See how annoyed she is?

A few weeks later, it’s time to go do some shopping and get a tree.  On the way, Mo and Barbie get into an argument over what kind of tree to get – pine or spruce?  Oh, get over yourselves, you two!

Oh yes, this one will do nicely.  Thank you, young man!

No thanks, Barbie can get it on the car herself.

Hey Barbie, that’s an impressive taut-line hitch! Were you in the Barbiescouts?

A few days to go.  Gifts are wrapped, the tree is up, decorating is done.  Happy Hannukah, everyone!

Christmas morning!  What did Barbie get?  Oh my.  Good thing Barbie didn’t open her gift from Mo in front of Rocky.  Rrrar!

Gifts are put away, Rocky is asleep, and Christmas is over.  Barbie sits back to enjoy the quiet night with a mug of spiced cider and Vivaldi on Pandora.  It’s good to be plastic.

I’m sorry I fought with you about the tree, Mo.

Undr Atak