Safehouse, or Madhouse?

Cows in the Mist

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I grew up in Wisconsin. Cows. Cornfields. Cold. I loved it. Most of it. Okay, some of it. There was a lot I liked. Especially the no-nonsense, matter of fact sense of humor. Our bumper stickers read, Come smell our dairy air!

This was a place you could feel confident in getting a fair deal, a firm handshake and frostbite, the first two being something you sought and the latter, something inevitable.

Regardless, it was also a place most folks felt safe enough to leave their car unlocked, their house unbolted, and most of their valuables strewn across the front lawn. In hindsight, that last one might have been more of an excess of liquor vs. a laissez faire attitude about life in general.

But I grew up with the mindset that keys were for treasure chests, lime pies and leaving in the ignition. Then I married a city boy. London liked to lock things. Like bicycles in chains and people in towers. They’re big on things that signify no loss of control. Tight ship, tight smiles. (Tight underwear?)

Yeoman Warder ("beefeater") in front...

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It’s taken me a while to get Sir Sackier to loosen his cravat. I think it’s been too tightly notched for so long that the blood supply to his eyes throws floaters in front of his vision in the shape of men with sharp teeth and wicked intent.

“Was the UPS guy really delivering a legal document, or scoping out the joint? Let the dog bark a bit, just enough to register. But then tell them that this dog is a piece of cake in comparison to the nest of pit bulls out back we’re all trying to rehabilitate, but can’t drive the blood thirst from. Make sure he hears you shout to someone inside that you’ll be right there. Women alone in the house are an easy target.”

Which brings me to our new amulets to ward off evil.

English: Chord used as an amulet Nederlands: A...

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No, it’s not a special necklace made from the woven hair of our enemies. It’s called the Redneck Remedy. I think it was meant to be a joke from Roger, our resident Renaissance Man. Roger has been working with us for the last year and a half or so, and come to find out, there is nothing this man hasn’t developed a skill set for. Landscaping? Check. Woodworking? Check. Fireman, mountaineer, sorcerer’s apprentice? Check, check and very likely so. I wouldn’t be surprised if the man came up the mountain having wrangled a team of oxen as his vehicle of choice for the week. He is Paul Bunyan. (But sports a tux with quiet grace should the occasion call for it.)

Roger, master craftsman that he is, whipped up a few dozen benches over the weekend that would have Frank Lloyd Wright secretly making sketch notes on the back of a napkin had he been around to see it. One was destined for our front porch—a place to take off your boots. Roger used the bench as a vehicle to display his sense of humor—and now according to Sir Sackier, our new security system.

An old pair of work boots lay beneath the bench. Worn out work gloves rest on top. Scattered beside them are tins of possum meat and chewing tobacco. And to round things off while sending home the message, a man-handled copy of Guns & Ammo magazine. If this doesn’t send any nefarious, plug-ugly ruffian a-scattering, then he can pause a moment longer to read the hand-scrawled note held down with an old railroad spike nestled beside the chew. That is, if he can read. Scroll through the slide show and let me know what you think. Should I still be allowed to invite the Avon Lady in for a cuppa joe since she went to all the trouble of making her way up here? Should Sir Sackier be banned from outfitting the tower with a machine gun nest? Should Roger, the Renaissance man be contracted by Plow & Hearth? I’m curious to know what you think.


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Don’t forget to check out what’s cookin’ in the Scullery this week (here) and what we’re all talkin’ about down in the pub (here).


23 thoughts on “Safehouse, or Madhouse?

  1. I can relate to Sir Sackier, as growing up in Nuuuu Yooork one quickly learned to always be looking over your shoulder. Leaving keys in the ignition??? Fuuugetaboutit….And I saw that movie Fargo,,,,sure didn’t make you feel that great about the midwesterners!!!

  2. This was delightful reading and parallels, only with reverse gender, the conversations I have with my own wife. We have a house by a lake at the end of a 3 mile private road. My wife still insists that the doors and windows be locked every day if we go for a canoe ride….Thanks for the smile and the kindred spirit.

  3. We knew you were a musician/mother/whiskey afficiando and now author BRAVO ! Imagine where you’d be if our dogs hadn’t eaten your demo tapes @ ! OUCH… pls. keep the words flowing and sharing the love. Aimee O.

  4. Shelley, you’re a brilliant writer. Still one of the coolest people I know.

    Despite having moved to the ‘city’ of Eau Claire, the keys to my vehicle of two years have never left the ignition. I suppose I was given a key to my house when I closed on it nearly five years ago, but it would take quite a while for me to locate it.

  5. ya know…any self-respecting queen’s representative for the virginia colonies would have just gone and built a moat instead of deviously decorating benches!!!

    shel, you keep doing a great job putting pen to paper [or pixel]. let the good doctor fret about [with apologies to walt whitman] “personified dim shapes and serenades of phantoms.”

  6. It wasn’t until recently when I bought a 2003 Jeep Wrangler (soft top) with 110,000 miles, mind you, that I realized, yes, even as a midwesterner, you can leave your keys in your car, the doors unlocked and garage door opener exposed in the City of Charlottesville.

    Breath Sir Sackier, no one is out there trying to steal your “empty Scotch boxes”

  7. In the southeastern corner of Colorado, the people in small towns park their cars on Main Street and still leave their keys in the truck so that their friends can borrow it. Thank you for remembrance of things past and the smiles. I do miss those days as a boy growing up in small towns. I am sorry about the stiff ass Brit though. I think it’s all those beatings they got as boys going thru public schools from their stiff upper lip schoolmasters.

  8. I dont recognise this stiff upper Brit discussion, Sir Lord Reverend Sackier is as self expressed as any man i ever met, bordering on Stephen Fry I’d say at times. and FYI, I like to think of him as Biggles

    Anyways, loved the pros, Im looking forwards to some whiskey education next time I am in your local. Now to see if I can get this blog to show up in my RSS reader next time you update.

  9. I don’t know . . . Sir Sackier may be on to something. It’s not the bipeds you have to worry about, but rather the four-legged ones that, it seems, play dumb at the zoo but display amazing intellect around food and drink (aren’t we all more clever then?). Here is a vid clip (
    of your friendly mountaintop pet, clearly nonplussed by not having been asked in. And here is a vid clip ( of what he’ll do if you leave your keys in the car. Assuming he doesn’t know what Guns ‘N Ammo means, I’m in favor of Sir Sackier giving him the full nine yards. Love your blog!

  10. Great fun! And Haggis is very cool with his reading glasses. Quite cerebral as I’m sure he needs to keep up with current events. Keep up the great work and we are more than happy to be loyal fans.

  11. Yes yes and yes. Especially to Roger’s future deal with Plow & Hearth!
    Love your blog Shelley as an American wife of a Brit, writer, and resident of VA:)
    Friend of Michael T’s former colleague of Sir Sackier:)

  12. I listened to this wonderful, witty, tongue-in-cheek story on the way into work this morning on 89.1 and loved it! Thank you for a great start to the day! I’ve added this site to my Blogger dashboard and look forward to more. And, by the way, if you strategically drop some spent shell casings around “the bench” and steps … along with a tin can or two that has been shot up … you will get “more bang (bad pun) for your buck” … chuckle …

  13. Freakin’ hilarious. I like the part about the dogs not barking until it’s too late. Sounds like my two ferocious retrievers, one of whom delegates barking to the other one; it’s just too much trouble for her. lol. Very fun, love your sense of humor.

    • She delegates barking? I love it. I’m picturing it must be something similar to our two sheep – one of whom refuses to ‘bah’ any longer because his voice sounds like he’s smoked a pack of Marlboro a day for twenty years. He simply butts the other one to make noise on his behalf.
      Thanks for reading. It’s hugely appreciated! 😉

    • Well, then I’m off my game. My posts are really about making people glad they are not me. (I jest. 😛 ) In truth, we do so much thinking during each of our days, my aim is to allow people a quick journey through my tiny park of amusements. Have a good giggle and have a good day. Or at least a slightly better day.

      Thanks for your thoughts! Cheers

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