Thursday, August 25, 2011

Derby Girl

What pollutes the air and the ground, exceeds the safe decibel limit and wastes gasoline but is fun, exciting, and REALLY BIG here in the Finger Lakes? The Demolition Derby, that's what!  

Drawing crowds of people and contestants from all around the area, the Trumansburg Fair's Demolition Derby is the qualifier for the NYState championships.  As I walked through the fairgrounds, I notice few people playing games, or riding rides and the carnival people all looked bored and tired. The ticket takers at the Grandstand are working up a sweat, though, because The Derby is by far the biggest draw.

When we were little, my dad took my sister and I to the Allegheny County Fair for the Demolition Derby. I can't remember if it was every year or just once, but the memory of it is burned into my brain. Seeing the cars line up, and hearing revving of the engines and the "10 to go" count, I am a little girl again, cheering, clapping, laughing, and making a fool of myself.

This year's Derby is special: I know some of the drivers. They are our neighbors from up the street, a dad and his sons. And one of them, Shawn, was driving our '93 Mercury Sable Wagon. "Be sure to tell us if you drive it in the derby next year" we said when we watched him drive it away, the transmission slipping and the back end sinking low over the wheel.  All winter, the car sat in the field with others awaiting its final fate until last week, when it appeared in front of his garage. Passing it every day I watched it become less of itself, stripped of glass, eviscerated, wire entrails leading from headlight sockets, hatch and seats removed and doors chained shut. 

A few days ago, Shawn flagged me down and pointed into the garage where it sat, reborn in a glory of blue and white zebra stripes and ready for the Derby. I got the giggles.

Back at the fair, and sitting in the third row, I watched as the old wagon fared well in competition and Shawn took a second place trophy.  The car was driven off the track (not towed as most others were) and maybe still has some life left in it. 

As I cheered for Shawn, conflicting thoughts were jostling around in my head: Who knew that car was such a tank?...OMG--this sport is so wrong on so many levels....We should never have sold that car....oh, yeah--I'm coming back next year!

Friday, August 19, 2011

Team Pride

Kevin took this picture of our neighbor's draft horses. A clear, blue Finger Lakes sky; a proud team at the end of their work day. Perfection. 

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Feeding Frenzy

Since early July we have a feeding frenzy in our yard. Most of the resident birds--chipping and house sparrows, baltimore orioles, barn swallows, blue birds, mockingbirds, house finches, starlings, robins, grackles and red-winged blackbirds-- are protecting and feeding their young. I could spend hours watching them. 

The fledglings, who can fly only short distances, can't yet feed themselves even though they are out of the nest. Each species has a different method. Some are ground feeders, while some feed on the wires or in the trees.  But all of the fledglings, who chirp for their parents and flutter their wings, have one thing in common:  They are hungry! And the feeding is a non-stop activity for the parents.

They are an awkward bunch, with tufts of down on their heads and yellow, lipstick-like lined mouths, as they vie for their parents' attention. Watching the young barn swallows at eye-level from the upstairs hall window, feeding happens in a flash of wing and a blink of an eye, their parents arriving swiftly like Jedi fighters from the fields beyond.

Our two curious kittens - Joe (aka Secret Agent Man) and Pip are working non-stop climbing trees, hiding in bushes, and crouching under the cars, preying on the weakest and slowest. Unfortunately, they are often successful even as they duck and flinch in defense of the barn swallows who dive-bomb them while they walk in the open.

Last year while sweeping the front porch, I accidentally bumped a robin's nest. Startled, a small robin flapped and flapped in a weak effort to fly only to fall to the porch with a thump. He hopped into the shrubs. I managed to catch him and place him high in a denser shrub, only to watch him tumble to the ground several times. By this time I've got our big cat's attention. Shoot. I tucked him tightly between some branches and went back to my work. It happened again (where is my brain?). Sweep. ACK! Flap. Thump. Hop. This one I couldn't find and I felt terrible. About an hour later I see the cat chasing the small fledgling in the yard. Broom in hand, I swatted at the cat while trying to grab the bird, its parents squawking and diving at me all the while. It was sad and comical at the same time, and I never did know what finally happened to the two small birds. 

The female returned this year and built a nest in the exact same spot again and had two broods. Can you believe I almost did the same thing with the broom again? Twice?

Never a dull moment here.