Back On The Horse

It’ll be just like starting over…

–  John Lennon

Back from the hiatus, readers. Someone contacted me and told me that they had read a couple of the columns and that’s just the inspiration/momentum I needed to give it another whirl in the blogosphere. So here I go again…and hopefully not to the sound of one hand clapping.

Girl is still going strong since the last post, per usual. Getting plenty to eat, anyways. We put her on the scale at the Vet’s the other day and she’s gained four more pounds since the last weighing!

She’s now up to 87 lbs.–but, as I like to say–it’s all muscle. Still, this can’t continue to go on for very much longer. There’s only so much ‘muscle’ that can be put on her frame. She’s as big as an average male and who knows if all that extra weight might someday affect her joints w/ her seven mile plus daily exercise routine.

I do have a hard time denying her the treats that’s she sniffs out of the Uptown garbage bins, though. And I suspect that there will still be a few more pounds that body.

There’s just too much temptation/food in the Uptown area for it to stop. Sorry, Doc.

Anyways, it hasn’t slowed her down one iota. The evidence being the first full grown rabbit that she caught this winter. Like a greyhound tracking it down, too. All the proof needed that it aint diet time yet…but it’s getting there.

Until then?

Keep throwing that food in those Uptown garbage cans, city folk. Girl appreciates. And every french fry goes to a good cause. The stretching of the dog food budget. And there aint nothing wrong w/ that to my way of thinking, readers. Okay?

Anyways, her weight has become a conversation piece on our walks. I’m always asking folks ‘how much do you think she weighs?’ Everybody underestimates the poundage, but nobody’s suggested a diet yet. In fact, most comments are that ‘she looks good’ and ‘she’s solid’ and the like. And she does/is to my eyes as well.

So we’re still good to go w/ the routine. She’s loving her life, so there’s no need to fix what aint broke. For now.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Endure, endure, endure.

– Thomas ‘Tennessee’ Williams

There are more than a few ways that us Minnesotans define our winters. Personally, I calibrate winter in the metro area by the last peg in the ground until the first back in method at the local golf courses.

Folks were still able to tee it up as late as December 5 last year. A banner season in 2015, to be sure. And folks were able to put their tees back in the ground this year on February 27 at a couple of metro courses. So, if my math is correct, we had less than three months of winter for the 2015/16 season. Short and sweet.

So we’ve turned the page over a week ago by these lights. Paul Douglas agreed, declaring an end to winter in Monday’s Startribune.

So if you haven’t made the switch yet to spring mode? Well, what are you waiting for? It’s here!

Before springing ahead, though, a few thoughts on the winter that was from a perspective not often written about.

There’s a pair of 50-60 something gentlemen that choose to do their sleeping under the stars in the city all year round. Girl and I have come across them on more than a few mornings (including today) wrapped up in a plastic coating w/ a sleeping bag in sleep/rest mode. The preferred abode seems to be amongst the young trees on the northwest quadrant of Lagoon, the ponding area between Lake Calhoun and Lake of the Isles. But we’ve ran into the pair on the other side of the lake and other spots as well. The point being that they definitely are spending their nights/mornings w/ their bodies lying on the ground.

And in that northwest quadrant I’ve got the dog off-leash and she invariably will head over to their sleeping area to see what’s up. Thankfully these folks are savvy enough to not leave any morsels of food next to their sleeping set up–and they don’t stir/seem to mind/look up when I call her back over from her being just feet from their lying heads. Still, I know that they know that their territory is in the act of being invaded by a four legged creature in these early a.m. hours.

But they never look up. Never yell at her. I suspect that they just expect that the interruption just comes w/ the territory of making a homestead on public property. The thought probably goes through their minds when Girl invades their space that it’s ‘that dadgum dog’ again to bother ’em. But they never complain. And I do try to shoo Girl away from their campsite as quick as possible to keep the disruption as short as possible.

And every morning that our paths meet I’m reminded that these two gentlemen are some of the toughest codgers in these here parts. Two of the most stubborn as well. They simply won’t give in to winter when it comes to their place of rest. For whatever reason, they insist that sleeping under the stars is a year-round venture.

If you have any doubts about their toughness/stubborness? Well put yourself in their plastic beds for a few moments. And let’s go back in time to those two weekends in January (the Vikings hosted a playoff game the one weekend and it was about 10 degrees colder the next) when we we woke up to below zero readings.

When Girl and I started our morning journey on that Saturday of the colder of the two weekends imagine the surprise when I saw these two wrapped up in their plastic underneath some young trees. Unbelievable!

About a quarter mile up the road I ran into a frequent morning acquaintance w/ her dog. ‘Take a look to your left a quarter mile up and you’ll see a couple of guys trying to get some sleep’, I said. Of course, she was as astonished hearing this news as I was when I saw them myself.

‘Should we call the cops?’ she asked.

‘Nah, they’re grown men. They probably don’t like talking to cops anyways.’

And I truly believed that if these two chose to be outside in those temperatures they knew what they were doing and they didn’t want to be bothered in their misery.

On Sunday it was even colder. And yet those two campers were in the same place as the morning before.

Now I’ll never believe that they were able to fall asleep in those conditions w/ only a sleeping bag and a plastic wrapping for shelter. The most they could hope for in that situation was to try to get some rest and wait for some business to open up so they could go inside and get some coffee maybe and warm their tired bones. Time passes slowly when it’s 20 below and you’re lying in snow. I have no doubt about that.

Well as Girl and I were going past these two frozen popsicles on this double digit below zero Sunday morn, one of them got up from under his digs and gave out a primal yell from the most innermost of his being. Not caring who heard his plight. And it didn’t take much thought to figure out what his plight was in that moment.

That stubborn/tough codger was as cold as all get out and seemingly the only thing he could do to cope w/ his situation was to yelp in a cry of pure anguish.

Finally, some acknowledgement to the dire nature of his situation. That type of cold will do that to you, no doubt. But w/ that noise I knew that at least this one was still alive.

When we made our way back from the end of our walk I looked up and saw two police cars and an ambulance in the area where the winter campers were and Girl and I sauntered over to see how this would all play out.

Someone had indeed on this Sunday decided that these two needed a welfare check and called 911. Not an unreasonable summation of the winter morning facts, to be sure. Perfectly understandable.

I talked to the paramedics and they said that yes someone called in w/ the report that there were a couple of people sleeping outdoors in double digit below zero temps.

Of course when these two were asked if they were okay they refused any help and told the officers that they were fine. It is technically against the law to be sleeping overnight in the parks, but the police weren’t going to add insult to injury to these two w/ a ticket. Though, I thought that if I were in that situation I would prefer a warm jail cell to the situation I was in at the time.

Just a conversation to make sure that they were alive and well–could still feel their fingers and toes–and then the public officers went on their way.

Again, almost unbelievable. But believe me, it’s true.

The will to persevere in folks is an impressive thing. No matter how extreme the circumstances are, the survival instinct is strong enough to continue to make do no matter what. Amazing, really. These were life threatening conditions, after all.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

I see these two gentlemen from time to time walking in the Uptown area and at the library. One of the guys always gives me a hard grizzled look as if to say ‘aren’t you the guy w/ the dog’ because from time to time he’s sitting up when Girl enters their outdoor abode and he does get a good look at me. It’s a faraway look, to be sure. And he never speaks. Still, I’m not invisible, so I imagine that seeing me Uptown does ring some kind of bell inside him.

I often want to ask him if there’s any enjoyment in the life that he’s living. Why does he choose to sleep outdoors even in the harshest of conditions? Instead only silence. And a deep look back into his face to try to discern wordlessly an answer to my question. Hard to say. But this way of life has to take it’s toll on mind/body/spirit. I know it would w/ me.

No matter what the reality for he and his buddy is when it comes to their lives, I do respect their ability to get by on the most threadbare of existences. If nothing else, they’ve showed me that the will to endure makes it possible to survive a Minneapolis winter outdoors if you have to.

I don’t think they’d want any sympathy from me. Maybe just a hope for an understanding in a non-judgmental way that this is how they choose to live. Live and let live, I guess. Maybe. I don’t really know what they’re thinking to be honest. It’s spring now, though. The living is easier. And–as noted earlier–I saw today that they made it through winter in what seems to be no worse for wear.

Happy musings.









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