Barry Smith: Irrelativity
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
As I may have mentioned, I now live somewhere other than Aspen, where I lived for the past 20 years.
I’ve moved to Paonia, a nearby farming/mining/hippie community with a population of about 1,500. “Paonia” is so small that it isn’t recognized by any of my spellcheck programs. “You must mean ‘Peoria,’ right?” it says to me each time I try to email someone my new address.
No I don’t. Nor do I mean your other suggestion, “pain.”
I had a pretty cushy life in Aspen – living in a quaint little caretaker’s cabin, hanging out all day, drinking coffee and doodling in my journal. But those days are over. Now I’m in the real world, in a particularly rural part of the real world.
Here are some random notes from my new life:
• I caught a snake in my front yard. But not just any snake – a rattlesnake.
Or, a better way of saying it … RATTLESNAKE!!!
I grew up in the land of poisonous snakes, and for the past two decades have enjoyed life without them. The poisonous snake cutoff altitude, I just learned, is 6,000 feet. (Poisonous snakes have been discovered above this altitude, but they’re too busy complaining about the dryness of the air and how hard it is to catch their breath to be any sort of threat.) I’m now living a mere 500 feet shy of this limit, so for a rattlesnake this is pretty much as high as it gets. Like Aspen for rattlesnakes.
Using a stick, I flung the snake in a big plastic container, threw in some grass so it would feel at home, then pondered what to do. I asked around and nobody has ever seen a rattlesnake in this area, and although this one is still too young to have rattles, my online research and deep genetic intuition assures me that that I’m not mistaken. Rattlesnake. In my yard. And apparently ONLY my yard. Just like being a kid again!
My Southern upbringing tells me to kill it, but I just couldn’t do it. I eventually let it go way out at the edge of the yard, conspicuously close to the part of the fence where the neighbor’s yappy dog – the one that that gets started with his yapping promptly at 5:30 every morning – likes to hang out.
• There was a spider in my refrigerator. And not a dead one, either. A hairy, scampering, very much alive spider. That’s taking “rural” a bit too far, if you ask me.
• My hometown has no stoplight! To me this feels like progress.
• I have a Toyota pickup that I’ve had for a while. I didn’t dwell on it or anything, but I always assumed it was pretty manly – I mean, it’s a pickup truck, right? But when I walked out of the grocery store and saw a “real” pickup parked right next to it, well, by comparison my little truck looked like a Prius, only without the exceptional gas mileage.
• Someone told me they saw a moose in my yard. I didn’t see this personally, but there’s a pretty good chance that it’s true.
• I got a chainsaw! I’ve never used a chainsaw before, but I now have lots of chainsaw-based projects to do. It sat in the shed for weeks before I fired it up, so I had plenty of time to tell everyone I know about my new purchase. The response was universal: their facial expression would become very stern and they’d say, “Be very, very careful.” One guy even showed me a scar. I decided to watch an instructional video online, just to get some safety pointers (and to learn how to start it.)
The one I watched was the official Stihl Chainsaw Safety video, which is a production just crying out for its own drinking game. Here’s how it works: every time they say “may cause serious injury or death,” take a drink! Par. Tay.
• And speaking of tools, my life in Aspen wasn’t very tool-centric, unless a rhyming dictionary could be considered a tool. But now I’m all about the tools.
Just yesterday I used, in no particular order; a level, a hammer, a speed square, a chainsaw (see above), weed-eater, chisel, tape measure, cordless drill, cordless circular saw, screwdriver, pliers, wire cutters, shop vac, ladder, flashlight and a crowbar.
And this was just to repair a picnic table.
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