After eight long months, our middle child is home from Afghanistan.
Brent arrived very late Tuesday night, March 4. He was tired and a little loopy from a long overseas journey that started at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan and ended two days later at Ft. Polk, LA. In between were connections in Romania, Ireland, New Hampshire, Kentucky and Alexandria, LA.
Originally, we were going to hit the road by 9:00 Tuesday morning in order to make the five hour drive in time for the redeployment ceremony scheduled for 4:00 that afternoon. However, a longer than anticipated layover in Romania pushed the ceremony start back to 9:30 PM. With that news, we decided to sleep in and mosey out in the afternoon; we had all day, no sense in hurrying. Except we didn't count on Old Man Winter throwing a wrench into the works.
Early Tuesday morning the phone rang. My mother was calling in a panic because her attached garage was flooded. She thought we were still on our 9:00 AM schedule and was trying to reach us before we left. So much for sleeping in.
It turns out the apartment above my mother's is vacant and without anyone there to make sure the faucets were dripping and cabinet doors open to allow warmer room air to circulate, a pipe burst in the extreme --- for Dallas, anyway --- low temperatures. Thankfully, my mom's actual living quarters stayed dry, but the garage got a thorough soaking and it was a huge mess. All the junk she couldn't bear to part with when we moved her to Dallas eight years ago was stored in the garage. I won't go so far as to say my mother is a hoarder, but she is definitely a packrat. Fortunately, the furniture that had been stored out there was long gone, thanks to my daughter needing it for her house in Lubbock.
We spent three hours in the freezing cold trying to salvage the junk. Richard fell down twice on ice that had accumulated at the mouth of the garage and banged up his right hand pretty good. Finally, we had to call it a day and get moving if we were going to get to Ft. Polk in time for Brent's homecoming.
As it turned out, there were more flight delays and 9:30 became 11:45 PM. This was good because it allowed us to catch our breath a little. The downside was having to drive in the dark on unfamiliar roads. There's this one little two-lane country road, 117, that meanders through several small towns between Natchitoches and our destination of Leesville. Natchitoches is pronounced Nackatish, for crying out loud, and is where the movie Steel Magnolias, one of my favorites, was filmed. But I digress. 117 is a scary place to be at night. The road curves --- a lot --- there are no street lights, no median between you and oncoming cars and worst of all, DEER! They were everywhere, grazing unconcernedly alongside the road. Now, if you read my blog at all, you will know that I had a very unfortunate encounter with a deer a year ago. As the saying goes, once burned, twice shy, and this was almost more than I could bear. I kept expecting one of the creatures to bolt directly into the path of our car, but maybe Louisiana deer are smarter than their Texas cousins. As it turned out, it wasn't deer I had to worry about but birds. On the return trip the next day, in broad daylight, we hit a hawk. The bird was feasting on some roadkill and our approach spooked it. Being a large, heavy bird, its take-off was slow and it smacked into our windshield. Oh, the irony...from eating roadkill to becoming one two seconds later.
Anyway, we arrived in Leesville without mishap, checked into a motel, and made our way to the base. The redeployment ceremony was held in a hangar and was jammed with families waiting on their soldiers:
Eight months in a Muslim country had built up in Brent an intense thirst for a beer, and he wasn't about to wait another minute. Lemme tell ya, trying to find beer in a small town after midnight is nearly impossible; everything closes up tighter than a clam at 9:00 PM. We drove up and down the main drag of Leesville before finally spotting a Circle K store that was open and selling the precious fluid. Next time --- hopefully, there won't be a next time --- Richard and I will bring along a cooler, just in case. I'd post a picture of Brent hoisting that first beer, but he was still in uniform and I don't want to get him in trouble with the brass.
It's good to have my boy home, and now my little family isn't so flung-outer. Everybody is within a five hour drive of Dallas...including lots and lots of deer.
I recently posted a blog about inappropriate birdie nesting sites. Now we have another one situated in the arbor above our deck, and Mama's bottom is perfectly positioned to drop bombs on anyone passing below.
This is the third nest to be built in as many years. In addition to this one and the one I wrote about earlier, we had a sparrow take up residence in a metal watering can we kept on a shelving unit. Those babies were lucky they weren't accidentally drowned; it would have been so easy to stick the hose in and fill the can with water, completely unaware of the little ones inside.
I have even seen birds nesting in traffic lights strung out in the middle of busy intersections. What an awful place for the babies when it is time for them to learn to fly. This is the avian version of the Darwin Award at its bird-brained finest:
Our deck has also attracted the attention of a couple of mockingbirds. They must be nesting somewhere nearby because every time we let our cats out in the backyard --- Phoebe loves to bask in the sun and channel her interior tiger --- the mockers dive bomb them, chase them, cuss them out, and just generally make their life hell. Phoebe will stand her ground, but Penny is deathly afraid of the birds --- as she is of most things that move --- and will run back to the house. I've even had mockingbirds dive at me while I mow the lawn; they are very aggressive and territorial for songbirds.
As soon as the current maternity ward closes, we plan to get one of those plastic owls and place it where it will --- hopefully --- scare off other birds thinking of raising their families in and around our deck. It might also give our poor cats relief from the aerial assault.
Traffic light nest: http://www.funnyjunk.com/funny_pictures/72205/Traffic/
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