Category Archives: scenes from country life

The year Merle Haggard died and we had kittens

img_20160302_155105

On the home front….

My better and more talented half wrote another beautiful book.


The eldest turned 16, In Every Way. The twins turned twelve.  Lila is becoming quite the equestrian, and both boys continue to be obsessive ballers–Daniel’s the star of the rec team I’m coaching, and Theo plays on the Middle School team. I never have to worry about having something to talk about with them. It’s hoops chatter 24-7. (I should mention Theo ran cross-country and made the all-region team!)

Also, the boys have really excelled  at that bottle-flipping thing.

An undetermined critter got at what was left of our chicken brood, on two successive midsummer nights, and the coop, devoid of avian life, has become the home of a huge woodchuck who tore the floor out and burrowed a home beneath.

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on


A stray cat wandered up to the house, and withstood the combined efforts of our two dogs and four established felines to run her off. Then she had four kittens.

The cowherd got bigger, again, and the count is up to 46, far too many for the pasture I have. Got a good price on hay in the fall, though. I bought enough to last through winter, and will lighten my load when (I hope) the market firms a bit in spring.

img_20160514_122902

The bees looked to be going great guns for the first part of the season, which was awfully wet. I got a fair bit of honey from all of my hives in June, but starting in mid-July it stopped raining. I really don’t know what the bees had to forage from August through October, but they were in just OK shape when I left them to ball up and face the winter. There are five hives going right now. I hope there will be that many in April…

For the third year running, 2016 was the hottest on record in, basically, the world. Locally, and more critical to my needs, it was also dry. Ordinary folks thought that made for pleasant weather (it did), but farmers thought it was weird. I had to pump spendy city water for five months. Thanks to winter rains, the spring  in the cave field only just started to flow again.

I got to go to Nashville, again, solo, to hang with my peripatetic scholar friend John, and Atlanta, with the entire family, to see the other John, his wife Nuria, and boy Pau.

All smiles at the Carter center

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

Had visits: from dear sister Caroline and her dog Emma, and the annual return of my old Great Plainsman comrade Charly. The MacNeal clan, now based in Taiwan, honored us with a very fun visit. A pleasant surprise was the arrival of Anna, my old Australian friend, with whom I traveled to a good few countries, including hers (for half a year!), in the mid-eighties.

From what I could gather, Anna had somewhere in the range of six to twelve international trips in the last year alone. Me? Me, I have a passport I renewed in 2003, which has never once been stamped. She brought a big canvas sack of my old letters to her, which I have yet to dig into. I’m a bit afraid they will seem to have written by another person….

A photo posted by Tim Ungs (@timungs) on

I had to be reminded of it, but I had not one but two aces in  2016. I accept I may never have another. I’m fine with that.

Neither ace had a witness (so go ahead and append the asterisk). In any case, I was far more impressed with myself when I pured a 7-iron to inside a foot on a back pin on #13. I was playing through a foursome of well-lubricated Louisvillians on the tee, and we all became good friends for a brief moment.

img_20160516_155124

Pre-breakfast rodeo

cowz_expressionist.DSC_2754Both of us had forgotten to get milk, so I went into the pantry for a can of the sweetened condensed, something I am secretly glad to be forced to consume with morning coffee. No sooner had I popped the top, I looked to see Heather standing next to the teakettle, having just opened another can of the sweet sticky goo.

It’s unseasonably warm, and Theo and I had a back and forth about turning on the propane. “I’m cold. I want to sit on the heating vent.”

“We don’t need the heater. It’s already 58 degrees.”

…”and why are those dogs barking?!”

Oh. Ohhhh.

Just outside the kitchen window, a trio of bovines munching contentedly. SOMEBODY (uh, me) had forgotten to latch the gate. There’s a grown cow right near the open gate, and I go for her first. She’s easy enough to coax back through the gate into the pasture, but when I turn my attention to the other two, the cow edges back into the yard, resumes grazing.

The Other Two are:

a. the baby bull–oh, hey, he’s getting some good size on him–, and
b. the biggest (and wildest) of the yearling heifers.

I sigh. First, the cow (again). Then the baby bull, who is frisky, snorting a bit, and starting to buck. I see a chance to open yet another gate, and give him a minute to discover the opening. He does, and saunters through with a body language that says, “I’m going through this gate because I want to, not because you made me….’

Feeling good about this. Can already taste the coffee.

Only the crazy heifer, who… Ah, geez, no. She’s ambled past the beehives and started up the driveway, which becomes a narrow lane for a couple hundred yards, and then opens into the road, likely at this hour to have cars and trucks driven by inattentive drivers going sixty on their way to work.

I have to get around her, but  I need my phone. And the keys to the Subaru.

Upon reentering the house, both boys are tickled: “we saw your amazing running, dad….” No one thinks to volunteer to help. Back out I go, start the Subaru, and creep behind the heifer. She slows down at the bend, so I get out of the car, and clamber over the fence into the pasture. The old wire and rotting posts hold, thank god. I walk briskly, parallel to the heifer’s path, hoping to get in front of her. But she’s having none of it, and now decided she wants to see what’s out there, in the wide world beyond the end of the lane.

Back over the fence I go, and run to the car. By which time that damn heifer is ambling up the road, a quarter mile, maybe two thirds of the way to Johnny’s farm. A car is coming from the north but the woman driving (maybe Johnny’s wife?) knows what she is doing. She’s got the heifer turned around, and is following slowly and 40 yards behind.

I’m blocking the driveway now, so I shoot out across the road, pray that the soil beneath Hurley’s winter wheat is firm, and do a quick fishtail, and wait. The heifer hustles past. By now it’s clear, she’s a little freaked and wants back into the comfort of her herd. She turns into the lane again. The lady passes. I wave. The lady smiles, or grimaces, I’m not sure. And I pull into the lane behind the heifer. I get Heather on the phone.  “Come on! get the gate.” She does, but is standing too close. I get on the phone to tell her to step away, but she has already done so. The heifer zips through the gate, back into the pasture.

The phone beside me on the seat, “What? What do you want?”

The kids are already in the minivan. Heather closes the gate and climbs in. They won’t even be late. That coffee is going to taste amazing.