RD Put Luck December 2017

Travels with Tank
    After walking the beach or taking a leisurely stroll through the woods, more than one friend or family member has exclaimed, “You live in a paradise!”
    True. We do. Thank heaven we have not been hacked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Undeclared fortunes remain out of CRA’s sight, squirreled away amongst the roots of wind-blown spruce, guarded by porcupines.
    In early November, Tank, my 80-pound intentional mutt, and I headed south to what a fellow who reads the New York Times on a regular basis (and therefore is in the know) calls “the land of evil.”
     Sure feels that way from north of the border. Our five-day excursion was book-ended by bicyclers and pedestrians being run down by a half-ton truck in Manhattan and the shooting of worshippers in a Texas church. Take your view of things in the Excited States from CNN or most any other mainstream source – N.Y. Times included – and it is a scary place. 
    And yet Tank and I were over and over greeted and served by cheerful, thoughtful, altogether pleasant people at restaurants, toll booths, the border, and Sam’s Outdoor Outfitters in downtown Brattleboro, Vermont. We went there to trade for new a couple of worn-out pairs of Darn Tough wool socks that are made in Vermont. They are so durable the company will exchange a pair should a hole appear. After two or three years of hard use there will be a hole or two. 
    Made in Vermont, but for how long? Industries move around like chickens chasing scratch. “It’s all about money,” said the sock lady, adding as an aside that in her native Republic of Palau foreign ownership is sharply curtailed. A company wanting to establish a presence there may do so, but only with significant local ownership that each year must grow until the enterprise is 100 percent Palau-owned.
    Later I asked Google about Palau, and was pleased to learn that in 2007 the republic – which comprises some 500 islands in Micronesia, in the western Pacific – created the world’s first shark sanctuary. Good for them. We might take a step in that right direction by banning shark derbies.
    So many respectful, engaging people. Did they not bother to vote? Else how to explain a belligerent, bullying – and yes, scary – braggart taking the presidency?

    Tank and I left home in the midst of a wild rainstorm that made driving hell until about Amherst, N.S., when the sun began peeking through broken clouds. The day before, this same storm walloped Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont, downing trees and washing out highways. Trying to find a motel room in Maine when more than 300,000 have lost power turned out to be a wearying joke. 
    Finally, we found a place to crash at about 1 a.m. The one room available was for handicapped guests. It sported a king-size bed – and a hard, bare, cold, tiled, wheelchair-friendly floor. Poor Tank. Nothing to cushion his elbows. 
    Tank knows never to get on furniture. Feeling sorry for him, however, and looking across that expanse of bed, I broke dog rules, gave the mattress a pat, and zoom! Tank was airborne and instantly settled. Probably sure if he did not make himself inconspicuous right away I’d have a change of mind and kick him off. 
    In the course of our travels we crossed many bridges of steel, concrete, and wood: arched, flat, covered. None of a euphemistic kind – the trickiest to navigate. Newer concrete bridges here and in the States sadly deprive us of the pleasure of viewing sweeping vistas or dashing brooks. A guess is that engineers have given in to wind-fearing safety freaks insisting on tall, solid, cement guardrails. Conceivably they do prevent high-sided trucks being blown off the highway – trucks driven by men and women enjoying the view from lofty cushioned perches. 
    Men, women, and truck drivers of numerous possible genders these days. Like taxonomists defining species, there are gender-defining lumpers and splitters. G-splitters are in the ascendency, darn near coming up with divisions-of-the-month in what ultimately will be a futile attempt to dissect the rainbow of human sexuality. The lumper school says we are sexual beings, period. How that sexuality is expressed is fluid and may even change direction over time.
    Despite high winds and torrential rains, the leaves of New England’s oak, beech, and poplar hung on, presenting a warm “bronze age” of fall colour. Sugar maples are all about dazzle. Like fireworks they are spectacular but fleeting, soon leaving the stage to more stalwart performers.

    Speaking of things stalwart – and in their ascendency – ticks of the Black-legged variety were abundant. Wim, my son who lives in Southern Vermont and works in the woods, spoke of an October flush of these carriers of Lyme and other diseases – including Anaplasmosis and Babesiosis (both bacterial), and Powassan (a virus).
    We have Black-legged ticks in Nova Scotia, and likely throughout the Maritimes (and Newfoundland and Labrador?), but I don’t think in the numbers experienced to the south of us where cases of Anaplasmosis are “surging,” says a headline in the Portland Press Herald (Nov. 13). Fifty-two cases five years ago, 433 so far this year, “and it’s worse than Lyme.” Black-legged ticks, which I had not seen before this last visit to Vermont, are small to minute, some no larger than a grain of coarse-ground pepper.
    Not wanting to pepper Sandy Bay with a fresh batch of the little nasties, I went on the Internet looking for where I might give Tank a good tick-killing shampoo. Googling “DIY dog shampoo,” I found Club Canine in Portsmouth, N.H. For $20 we were provided an open-ended tub, warm water wand, shampoo, high-volume dryer, towels, and all the time we wished to take washing creepy-crawlies down the Portsmouth drain. 
    If it’s not already happening, it likely will not be long before there are coast-to-coast (to-coast) DIY Dog-A-Mats.

    It was encouraging to run into a young New Hampshire dairy farmer in the process of building a new barn for his certified organic herd. In many minds, Dairy Farmers of Nova Scotia bears responsibility for the fact that we are unlikely to see the likes of that in this province. For years it thwarted efforts to establish a local supply of organic milk, only giving in about the time controlling processors were ready to sell out to Quebec giants. 
    While local organic milk is out of the question, enterprising young farmers may find other opportunities. A good example of clever entrepreneurship was revealed in a roadside sign Tank and I passed as we rounded the corner in Halifax headed for home. “Rocks For Sale,” it read, and have we got rocks! 
    The late Allan Nation, publisher of the Stockman Grass Farmer, encouraged readers to make the most of their “unfair advantage.” Nova Scotia’s South Shore grows rocks, even organic rocks. The smart cookie in the rock business certainly has an unfair advantage over someone peddling rocks in Prince Edward Island, say. A South Shore friend got stuck in the mud there some years back and was fit to be tied there wasn’t a rock anywhere to throw under the tire.
    Merry Christmas. May you get more than a rock in the toe of your stocking. DvL