WEATHER BE US

ALMOST

The oil company’s owner came by to actually look at the condition of the ground this morning. He wasn’t wowed by how terrible it was. I could see him shaking his head as he drove off. We almost have oil.

Wait for it!

Most of our driveway is clear to the pavement with a patches of snow. If this is too terrifying to manage, the driver is going to have problems with at least half the valley residents. I have an evil driveway, but I am by no means the worst … the longest … or the iciest.

If you live in New England, you understand weather. We get a lot of it moving rapidly from steamy, hot, and humid in summer, to bitter, freezing cold with-and-without blizzards in winter. Sometimes, on a really good year, we get a few hurricanes in the fall and one or more nor’easters when the air is bored and wants to do something fun.

Add to that the infertility of the soil and the millions of tons of rocks and roots. We have more boulders per field than anywhere. Why so many people chose this region to settle (or more likely, invade), I have yet to understand. Maybe they had no choice. The boats landed and they were too tired, hungry, and frazzled to go further. Still, if they were looking for a rich and fertile region to co-opt, this isn’t it.

Considering this area is and has always been, a farming community, it’s a strange choice. Beneath the soil, lie rocks, some the size of a small planets. This is where our rock fences came from. Everyone had piles of stones when they cleared a field. What can you do with rocks? Build fences, of course.

We have old stone fences running through areas that haven’t been farmed in more than 100 years and never will be again. At some point, they must have been farmed because the rock fences prove it. But, to no one’s surprise, they gave up and moved on, probably to somewhere with better dirt, flatter ground, and presumably, improved weather.

Light snow falling

It wouldn’t take much to improve the weather.

Just saying.

Final Note


The oil truck arrived and oil is poured into our nearly empty tank. Three barking creatures went into a frenzy because SOMETHING WAS GOING ON AND THEY WERE NOT ON HAND TO SUPERVISE. Soon soothed by a cookie.

We needed 192 gallons — the most oil we ever needed in a single pumping except for the two times they forgot to deliver anything. We would not have made it to Tuesday.

THE BUSINESS OF JURIES

I’ve been frequently called to jury duty. It’s the price you pay for voting because potential jurors get chosen from voter registration lists.

I’m convinced they call us in alphabetical order. It’s the only reason I can figure why Garry and I were called every few months. Good citizens that we are, we always showed up. Coincidentally, our last name starts with an “A.”

Garry and I were called up two or three times a year for more than a decade until one day I called them and said “I’ve had enough!” After that, they slowed down to every other year. I’m pretty sure there’s an outstanding warrant because I didn’t respond to at least one jury summons. It showed up while I was in the hospital trying not to die. So, it’s just possible I’m a wanted criminal.

I figure they’ll get back to me on that.

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They called Garry often, too, but never let him serve. Reporters are like cops. They’ve seen too much. Garry knew the judges, the D.A., the lawyers — and the criminals. And they knew Garry. Knew he knew stuff they preferred he not know. So, no matter how many times they called him, he was in and out in an hour. Maximum two.

I was a better pick. No connection to law enforcement. No lawyers, law suits, or weird political opinions. That I was a free lancer who was going to lose my salary if I couldn’t work did not matter to anyone except me. I went in, sat around. No trial needed me, so I went home. Done, until next time.

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One day, they called me — and I got assigned a trial.

I had instant images of a long criminal trial. Being sequestered for weeks in some fleabag motel. Losing all my clients. Losing my house. I was  not an enthusiastic juror, but when duty calls, you might as well go quietly. Besides, they have officers with guns stationed at the exits.

It turned out to be a minor civil case. One woman hit another at an intersection. Woman A claimed Woman B was jumping the light. Woman B said she had mistakenly thought it was a cross street. There was no evidence except “she said” versus “she said.” I thought both of them were lying. It was a matter of who you believed less. Eleven of my fellow jurors were ready to acquit. I thought we should at least talk about it. But they wanted to go home and pointed out how everyone knows the intersection isn’t a through street. I didn’t, but I have no sense of direction.

There was nothing except a small amount of money at stake. Peer pressure got to me. Eleven people wanted to go home which I was preventing. That sort of thing can get ugly fast. I caved.

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That was more than 25 years.

Tonight, we watched “Twelve Angry Men,” the movie (1957) in which Henry Fonda forces eleven of his peers to reconsider the evidence and fully grasp the concept of reasonable doubt. It’s a great movie which has aged well. Pretty much the way I remember the experience, except we had air-conditioning, sort of.

It left me wondering how many verdicts are based on jurors who just want to go home? How many people are convicted — or acquitted — because the jury couldn’t stand one more minute of examining evidence? How many jurors are bullied into a verdict with which they disagree because they are threatened — emotionally or physically?

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There are no statistics on this and by definition, there won’t ever be any. No one, given the criminal liability and potential physical danger, is going to admit to it. But it makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Next time a jury comes in with some absurd verdict, consider the possibility that at least some of them didn’t freely agree. I’m sure it happens, because it happened to me.

WATER WATER EVERYWHERE …

Cee’s Black & White Photo Challenge: Water

We live in a watershed. What, you ask, is a watershed? Well, in theory, all the world is a watershed, to some degree … but technically, a watershed is an area of land where water arrives (as in from rain or snow-melt), then drains into a common outlet. Around here, that would be the Blackstone River and its tributaries, ponds, streams, and lakes.

These are just the areas in Massachusetts with many more in Rhode Island.

Since we moved here in 2000, I’ve been taking pictures of the river, the dams. The ponds where the swans and the herons live. The ducks and the geese and the strange area on the Blackstone where about a million snapping turtles live. After almost 18 years, I haven’t yet seen even half the places we can visit, but we’re working on it!

A STORY SURE TO BECOME FUNNY

Yesterday’s story today

No one should be surprised to hear there was no oil delivery. This is that kind of story. You know, the one where you wait all day for something, but it doesn’t happen? Everyone goes through this, but it never stops being very annoying. Frustrating. Lucky for me, I didn’t wait until we are down to the final few gallons before I requested delivery — so we aren’t going to run out of oil.

Yet.

According to the company, the truck didn’t come because the driver said it was “too icy.” He said he had called us and we weren’t home. Except, he didn’t call. Maybe he dialed the wrong number, but I was extremely in and breathing heavily while waiting for the phone to ring.

We’ve been working with this same company, same trucks, for 18 years. They have delivered oil to us during much worse weather, when the driveway was significantly more icy. I have to assume they hired a particularly wussy driver. Okay, being fair, we have an awful driveway. It came with the house. If there was one thing I could replace in this house, the driveway would be it.

Nonetheless, the driveway is not bad right now. I can easily walk up and down it and we can drive on it without using 4-wheel drive — with no hint of sliding.

And anyway, there’s no choice. We need oil because we heat with oil.

No oil? No heat.

It has been below zero every night for several days, so this is a bad time to refuse to deliver.

We pay for a delivery service. This means I pay for oil every month, including in the summer when we use very little. We have built up a hefty chunk of money in the company’s accounts to cover routine maintenance, any repairs we might need — and oil. There’s always more than enough money in the account. So I was forced to explain they are going to deliver oil, or we are going to have to find someone else to do it.

It’s not what I want to do, but either they deliver or they return our money so we can find someone who can deliver. There’s no shortage of oil delivery services, but I’d prefer to stay with people we know, as long as the people we know can do the job. If they can’t do it, they aren’t giving us a choice.

I much prefer staying with familiar people, but — what do you do with an oil company who can’t or won’t deliver oil?

I hope we get this sorted out today. I hate when simple stuff gets complicated. There are plenty of real complexities to life. This should not be one.