The annual Allred holiday letter has always been a bad one. Yes, bad because we like it that way. The tradition started in the late ‘90s when Robb reviewed one of my letters with disgust and announced no one wants to read happy news. People want to hear the bad stuff, thus lifting their own spirits. To prove him wrong, I wrote everything that went bad that year – and the letter was a hit. But we don’t need to tell you this year was tough, filled with tragedy and heartbreak. The fall of the Saddam Hussein statue was good to watch but at a great price. It’s hard to find things to joke about. As war broke out, my father (ret. Col. Marc Powe) worked alongside General Garner for the Organization for Reconstruction and Humanitarian Affairs in Baghdad. After a three-month tour, he did manage to come home just before his father (my Daddydaddy) died. Nonetheless, we will try to recap some of the old flavor of Christmas letters past with the trivial mishaps of our lives.
The year 2003 has been the year of the animal. After 6 ½ years with us, Kerri’s beloved guinea pig, Penny, died. Robb made us all promise that there would be no more animals, but after some time, Kerri was ready for a new pig, and we brought Cinny home. Cinny was with us for less than 48 hours before Tommy got her out to play with her and played a rousing game of ‘roll on top of the pig’ and accidentally killed her. Our big male goat, Zipper, continued to ram us until we had no choice but to sell him. Neighbors sat outside on lawn chairs in their driveways close to dinnertime just to watch me try to feed that stupid goat. No amount of kickbox classes could keep that goat off me!
Apparently, if you move between a (psychotic) billy goat and his herd, this is perceived to be a threat, and the goat has no other recourse but to attack. They really should tell people these kinds of things before letting said people buy said goats.
Finally, we got rid of Zipper and the two baby goats, Sugar and Ginger, keeping Cookiedough. But the barn was empty, so we got a new horse. An 18-month-old gelding Quarter horse name Lightning came to us with the wild, unbridled enthusiasm of a young, untrained horse. He kicked the goat, bit, and charged, but the day he leapt over the fence was truly a bad day. I was weeding around the outside of the fence, and Lightning was having a hissy fit because I was feeding the weeds to Star and not him. Finally, I moved over to the corner of the fence and said, “Okay! Here!” and bent over to pull some weeds just for him. Ker-klunk! Ker-klunk! Ker-klunk! Sounds of pounding hooves, moving in my direction, resonated in my ears, and then in s-l-o-w motion I watched as Lightning sailed over me, landed on the street, and turned. He looked at me; I looked at him. Somewhere in the distance, crickets chirped. Then, the 45-minute battle of getting the nice horsey back into the corral began. Of course, this occurred on possibly the hottest day in Texas, and Robb was not home. Just as I got Lightning back to the corral gate, Tommy came tearing out of the garage, yelling. Lightning whirled around and flung me across the driveway and ran up the street again. When Tommy charged out, he also let Pete, the Labrador, out who chased Benson up a tree. Benson is the kitty cat who came to us with Lightning and is named after the kind people we got Lighting from. (It took Robb three days to figure out we got a new cat. We run a “Don’t tell if no one asks” policy around here), Kerri ran out crying because the cat was up the tree, and Tommy got sticker burrs all over his feet. I caught the horse, caught the dog, cleaned Tommy’s feet, saved the cat, and went inside to call a horse trainer. A week later, Lighting went to charm school. It worked because he is very charming!!
One day after leaving kickboxing, I heard a faint mew from a car and made a joke to my friend/kickboxing buddy, Audra, that there was a cat somewhere. Sure enough, she had a stowaway – a kitten that had crawled into her car somewhere in Oklahoma. The kitten traveled in the middle of summertime from Oklahoma to Texas on a Saturday and was still in the engine block on Monday morning. Dehydrated, slightly injured, scared, and hungry, he was finally lured out sometime on Tuesday. We named him Sooner (He is from Oklahoma after all) and brought him home where he quickly bonded with Cookiedough, the goat. Sooner and Cookie sleep and eat together and will be featured in an upcoming book entitled, Top Ten Cats. It took another week for Robb to figure out that Benson and Sooner were, in fact, two different felines.
Being the conscientious animal owner that I am, I sent Benson and Sooner to be spayed/neutered, but nerve damage was done to Benson, and she was paralyzed for almost a week. So she lived in the house with us. Robb hacked away from allergies but, remarkably, never said “no” to her coming inside. By God, I think we’re wearing him down. Pete was on high-alert – ready to attack at any moment.
Nala got hit by a truck and survived. Cookie had two more babies named Skittles and Nutmeg, but Nutmeg is doing things to his sister that a nice goat really shouldn’t do, so he must go away. Pete caught and half-ate a squirrel, leaving the carcass where Kerri and Katie stand to catch the bus. Kerri’s gag reflex is alive and well.
Tommy was diagnosed with asthma, and Kerri gets motion sickness on her school bus. We replaced the carpet with hardwood floors and got a barn for our hay. I did this, of course, when the penny-pincher was gone (Robb went elk hunting). What with all the animals, this was a needed purchase, but as that monstrosity of a two-story barn was being delivered, I had to ask my dad, “You think Robb will notice it?”
Tommy had to be taken to the doctor’s the day before Thanksgiving because he stuck a bead that was supposed to be part of his Native American headdress for the ‘big dinner’ with the Pilgrims in his ear, and Katie stood up in the middle of her cafeteria at school and announced to everyone that Santa was NOT coming, but no one should panic because her billy goat had a beard and could fill in for Old St. Nick. By the time the phone call came from a teacher, I was made to understand that Katie announced Santa IS a billy goat.
I ripped the door handle off the van when the door got stuck – the same van on which I banged up the rear bumper and broke the rear windshield wiper. While I was busy trying to recover the credit card bill so that Robb would not see how much it costs when a cat goes paralyzed, I discovered that someone stole our credit card identity and placed a $2,000 charge through E-bay on gift baskets and was forced to show him the bill. I stood firm, prepared for the explosion, but I believe he imploded. I heard a small ticking sound. A little part of him died. For the holidays, I believe I will be buying him a burial plot. Always look ahead, I say!
The power went out while I was working on a manuscript, and I lost almost 50 pages, and Kerri is going through the worst hormonal 10-year-old change possible. I swear, I never knew a person could whine the alphabet. Katie is going through a phase of cartwheels . . .every annoying second of the day she does cartwheels. Cartwheels to the dinner table, cartwheels to brush teeth, cartwheels in front of the T.V. Tommy won’t stop singing, “Did you know the Muffin Man?” at top volume and tries to incorporate the word ‘poop’ anywhere he can – even with the Muffin Man. That’s just wrong!
Robb is so deeply invested in Fantasy Football that the only way I can get him to focus on anything is to talk football. “Robb, it’s third down, and the opposing shower in the guest room has been broken since July! Now, if we put our first stringers on the line and go for fourth and goal, victory can be ours! We can do this, Robb. Hut, hut!” Tommy broke a very valuable Russian vase, Nala scratched Tommy, Kerri punched Katie in the tummy, Kerri has announced she doesn’t want to eat meat anymore, and Katie refuses to wear “girl” clothes. The shower still doesn’t work, and the toilet gurgles whenever I do laundry.
Here’s to another year!