At some point, all writers who are serious must, ironically, not take themselves too seriously.
“Codicil: an addition or supplement that explains, modifies, or revokes a will or part of one” (Oxford English Dictionary). Now, why would I start a blog with a definition? Hang tight, dear reader, and I will explain. Some of you know that my long-suffering wife and I took a little road trip in September. It turned out to include 20 states, 4 time zones, 5,000 miles, and a variety of experiences. Overwhelmingly good ones. However, there was an exception.
The exception took place one evening as we drove back from a day at Yellowstone National Park. It had been fun bumping obnoxious tourists into the hot springs just to hear them scream, encouraging teenagers to throw rocks at bears to get their attention for a better photo, and telling children that the bighorn sheep liked to be petted. It was dark out, and we were slowly heading for our cabin when, quite suddenly, an enormous mass came into view directly in front of us in the road. It was a bull American Bison and I was looking upat his backside. My catlike reflexes had us swerving quickly around the land mass and back on the road, a good thing because on one side of the road was a sheer rock wall and the other side was an abyss.
I could not believe we had missed the bison. If we had struck him, all 2,000-plus pounds would have ended up in our laps, thrashing about, swinging his horned head and hooves. I am confident that would have left a mark. Once we realized we weren’t dead, a kind of giddy relief came over us from the near-death experience. I talked to a Park Ranger the next dead and he said bison occasionally get struck by cars at night and it usually turned out badly for the people in the cars. I wondered why I didn’t see the big buffalo until the last moment, and the Park Ranger went on to say that the hide of the American Bison absorbs light, rather than reflects it. Oh, and coming up behind the impediment meant we didn’t have any eyes or horns to reflect illumination from our headlights. Good to know.
Back to the codicil. When we realized we weren’t dead, but could have been, we also realized that parts of our last will and testament were incomplete. We do have a will, but we suddenly realized it was not specific enough, and that for our two daughters’ sakes, we needed to be clearer. So we have set ourselves to the task of defining which daughter gets what, after consultation, so when we move on to the true country, there won’t be any confusion about our villa in the south of France, our offshore accounts in the Bahamas, or the Lear jet.
We have peace of mind now about our assets, and, in a way, we can be grateful to the assets of the bull American Bison for helping us focus. The codicil attached to our will shall be known, officially, as “The American Bull Bison Codicil”.
I offer a free service to friends and acquaintances. It is this: I offer to name their babies for them. So far, no takers, even though some of my offerings were as follows:For girls: Chalice Hulga, Blanche Tiffany, and Maude Ivy. For boys: Oscar Dudley, Zeno Horace, and Manly Francis. I've always been fascinated by names, whether it be people, book titles, countries, or anything else with a name. Even medicines, like FloNaze.
So when my long-suffering wife and I were out early on our big road trip in September, I was impressed by two towns in Mississippi through which we passed. One was named Bovina and the other was Chunky. I am not making this up. Being one who enjoys sports, I ruminated over what the schools' teams might be called. I thought about the Bovina Bulldogs, but a former colleague of mine said that would be cross-species and wouldn't work. I thought and thought about it. Finally, I came up with the Bovina Buttercups which, I think, honored the bovine in all of us. The town named Chunky provided a little more room and, thus, required less thought, which always appeals to me. "Chunky Chubbies?" Nope on that one. I would hate to hurt the feelings of any snowflakes in that school. "Chunky Chickens" was a nonstarter. I finally turned to the "Chunky Cherubs" which would not strike fear in the hearts of their opponents on the football field, but would certainly lull them into a false sense of superiority.
We finally crossed the Mississippi River at Vicksburg and made our way to a lunch date with friends in the Natchitoches, Louisiana. Their public high school calls itself the "Chiefs" in honor of the Natchitoches Indians indigenous to the area. I'd prefer they call themselves the "Natchitoches Neanderthals," or "Natchitoches Knuckledraggers." Much more intimidating than "Chiefs." Maybe if they called themselves the Neanderthals, they'd be having a better year, but nobody asked me.
On a recent road trip that found us in Yellowstone Park, Wyoming, my long-suffering wife LIsa and I were sitting on benches with hundreds of people from all over the world, waiting for a geyser to erupt. The geyser was "Old Faithful," so named because it goes off regularly, day after day, year after year. The Park Rangers set up a bulletin board that tells you when the next eruption will occur. Typically, Old Faithful spouts off every 90 minutes, more or less. The "more or less" part is ten minutes either side. So there we were, waiting. Patiently waiting. Idly waiting. Waiting in anticipation. Then, as the time drew near, there was a faint rumbling and finally the eruption, which did not draw gasps and shouts from the bystanders. It was, in a word, "Underwhelming." No big deal. A man near me said, "I came all the way from Finland to see that?" It wasn't much, for sure.
Everyone grumbled or laughed and the group split up and drifted off into different directions to be mangled by a bear or trod under by a bull bison, or to buy souvenirs. Lisa and I headed for the nearby Visitors' Center to be educated at various displays telling us we were standing on a volcano that could erupt horrifically any time. While Lisa was learning things at various displays, I noted that the Ranger Station had posted the time for the next eruption, which by that time, was close. The time came and went. The "more or less" ten minutes passed, and then some more. Old Faithful was late. The crowds waiting for the next eruption grew and grew. I watched from the vantage point of the Ranger Station at the Visitors' Center.
Then it happened. A distant rumbling followed by an eruption of the first magnitude as the geyser shot nearly 200 feet into the air and continued to do so for 10 minutes, thrusting thousands of gallons of water into the sky. When Old Faithful stopped, there was applause and satisfied people moving on. I don't know where Old Faithful was hanging out when it should have been performing, and I guess we'll never know. Let's just say it was worth waiting around for the real thing.
Hope the guy from Finland saw it.