AT THE PROPERTY I INHERITED FROM MY LATE PARENTS, there is a backyard swimming pool. It's large (20'x40') and in-ground, though there was some contrivance to achieve that.


The back yard slopes down as you go back, so the concrete pool was built partly above ground, then surrounded by a cinder block wall, forming a space that was then filled with dirt and topped with a concrete deck. Any fool should have known that that fill dirt would settle, leaving the concrete without a foundation. Then the concrete would crack and buckle and become dangerous to walk on. Which is what happened.


And so the pool fell into disuse and neglect. In the summer it became a green frog pond, giving off a chorale of trills and croaks every night. I got tired of having a swamp in my back yard, so I finally set about to clean it. At first I used a leaf net to dredge several inches of algae and frog carcass muck from the bottom, which was tedious and damaging to the leaf nets that weren't designed to carry 25 pounds of slime. So I filled it up and used a pool vacuum hose to siphon out the rest of the muck on the bottom. (The peculiar partly-above ground design with the retaining wall allowed siphoning; otherwise I'd have to use the pump, which would have required me to empty the skimmer strainer every minute or so.)


I dosed it with algaecide and shocked it with chlorine, I vacuumed, I brushed, backwashed, and netted, and after a week I saw that it was good. It took a lot of work. Now I can stand there and see the suction grate nine feet down in the deep end through crystal clear water and you know what? I grin. I feel good (you know that I would, now). I rejoice.


The joy of building something good. Fixing something that had long been a burr under your saddle. When you can stand there and admire what you've done. That's good livin.


Now, the concrete deck will be a taller order. But we'll see about that.

Bless the food we are about to eat. May it nourish our bodies as the Word fills our souls. With humble thanks we pray, Amen.

THEY SAY A DOG'S A MAN'S BEST FRIEND, and that may be true, but I'm here to tell you it can be an irritatin' relationship, sho'nuff.


We once had a dog named Pico, a brown and black mutt we picked up at the pound, and he was a good friend. But he had an unbreakably bad habit of getting into the kitchen garbage when we were gone and strewing it all over the living room floor. Chicken carcass grease, coffee grounds, ketchup and various unmentionables smeared on that berber carpet, turning it from a pleasant off-white to a septic splotch that should have been secluded with crime scene tape.


Normally when I got home from work he'd greet me with great enthusiasm. If instead he held back and looked guilty, then we both knew he was.


Training proved hopeless so we turned to architecture, which worked fine as long as we remembered to shut cabinet doors nice and tight. Pico had some persistent aggravating personality quirks, but it was a sad day when he passed, really, a sad day.


Now let's haul our butts to the present day and behold Pico's successor in all such things, a mix of border collie and James Cagney pugnacity quite appropriately named Goon. He didn't do the things Pico did until after a bout of IMHA, which very nearly killed him. Most of him survived, though he lost several toes and thus became a bit gimpy.


Part of his treatment, and it will be ongoing, involves steroids. And steroids make a dog mighty hungry all the time. Suddenly, Goon is channeling Pico, eating (not just chewing) the crotches out of underwear, shoes, and just this morning strewed a bag of kitchen garbage all over the floor. If he doesn't die of chicken bone lacerations by the end of the day I'll count myself surprised.


But he's a good friend, anyway. He's a country dog, and a little too aggressively territorial to ever be mistaken for a "nice doggy" by any visitor he doesn't know, but I like him. I just have to remember, when my wife leaves a bag of garbage on the kitchen floor for me to take to the bin outside, I need to do it lickety split. Even with his gimpy feet he can bust into a sprint if he sees the opportunity to tackle a meal, be it a squirrel or a bag of trash.

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