Wednesday, August 31, 2011

What is My Quest? Walkalot

I love the movie 'Monty Python and the Holy Grail'.  Not a day goes by I don't think of a line from that goofy film.  I know, it's old and moldy and came out in the 70's, and the first time I saw it, I wasn't impressed.  In fact, I think I fell asleep.   But then when our boys were in grade school in the 80's we watched it as a family one night and they really enjoyed it and so did I.

And as I grow older, I draw parallels between the film and my life more and more.  In case you're wondering what the film is about, it's Monty Python's Flying Circus cast portraying the tale of  Sir Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table and their comedic search for Camelot and the Holy Grail. 

Many a day starts with me flinging open the curtains in the morning, stretching painfully and asking myself, "What.... is your Quest?"

And below, in italics, is the shameful thievery of the dialog from a website devoted to the movie:

Bridgekeeper: Stop. Who would cross the Bridge of Death must answer me these questions three, ere the other side he see.
Sir Lancelot: Ask me the questions, bridgekeeper. I am not afraid.
Bridgekeeper: What... is your name?
Sir Lancelot: My name is Sir Lancelot of Camelot.
Bridgekeeper: What... is your quest?
Sir Lancelot: To seek the Holy Grail.
Bridgekeeper: What... is your favourite colour?
Sir Lancelot: Blue.
Bridgekeeper: Go on. Off you go.
Sir Lancelot: Oh, thank you. Thank you very much.
Sir Robin: That's easy.

 Sir Lancelot had an easy question at the Bridge of Death. Lucky guy.  But that's because he wasn't afraid.

Well, I don't have a Holy Grail to locate, but you may remember that I'm on a quest to walk a lot.  Well, at least five miles a day and maybe more if I have the time, but anyway, I am still doing that.  Walking, I mean.  I gave up the questing part, I have no time for Quests because I have to walk.   I still walk even though my Polar Bear MD told me that the walking isn't doing me much good since my body apparently got used to walking five miles last year already so now five miles means nothing to it.  Stupid body.

Remember she told me I should be walking ten to fifteen miles a day?  Well, what if I did (yeah, I know, Fat Chance) but seriously, what if  I did get used to walking fifteen miles a day?  What then? Well, I'm sure her answer would be to walk twenty or twenty-five miles a day.  Sound reasonable?

So yes, come to think of it, I am on Quest because I still haven't found a new doctor yet.    I've been putting it off because, frankly, like Sir Robin,  I'm a bit scared of what the new doctor might be like.

Minstrel: [singing] He was not in the least bit scared to be mashed into a pulp Or to have his eyes gouged out and his elbows broken To have his kneecaps split and his body burned away And his limbs all hacked and mangled, brave Sir Robin His head smashed in and his heart cut out And his liver removed and his bowels unplugged And his nostrils raped and his bottom burnt off And his ...
Sir Robin: That's enough music for now, lads. 


And I just paid off the last hospital bill.

But I'm running out of time and need to get the ol' thyroid levels checked again in the next two months.  So I guess I have to get over myself and start Questing for a new MD despite the fear of soiling my armor if he/she turns out to be a Silly Sot or a Killer Rabbit with Nasty, Sharp, Pointy Teeth guarding the Cave of Wellness again.

But anyway, back to my walks....I put on at least five miles a day but to be fair to my former, crabby MD, they're not all aerobic steps since I wear a pedometer which tracks my steps as I do gardening, laundry, shopping, housework etc.    I guess the only steps that really count are the aerobic ones, so I'm fooling myself and need to get out on the road and really walk fast to achieve any fitness.  Unfortunately,   I have had problems with the local dogs around here and their truly stupid owners that don't control them.  What I do to avoid dog problems is walk one-half mile west and then one-half mile east, one half- mile west, one half- mile east, you got it, back and forth, back and forth, back and forth which equals Boring.  If I walk from our house past the windmill to the trail I mow out in the Back Eight and back home, it is exactly one mile around my homemade track.  That works, too, but the grass is often wet in the morning when I have the time, so I stick to the blacktop road for the most part.

And now, for something Completely Different, another trip down Memory Lane.

When I was a little kid, I loved horses.  I was completely fixated on them when at five years old we were visiting  my cousin's farm and an older neighbor girl came over with a pony and led the horse with me on board around the yard.   That was the first time I had ridden a horse and I was hooked.  Though we lived on a farm, my father had no use for a 'hay burner' around and had sold the work horses right before I was born, so I was out of luck.

Mom took pity on my plight and for Christmas one year bought me the next best thing,  a Stick Horse.  (Do they make them anymore?)  Mine had a rather realistic face and was a Palomino I named (what else?)  Trigger. Do you remember Roy Rogers and his trusty Palomino named Trigger?  I loved that show, didn't care about the plot, just wanted to watch Trigger go through all his steps and do all his tricks.  Oh, to own a horse like Trigger for reals!  And in a way, I did, because my Trigger was very obedient and completely trained to do anything I asked of him.  Such a horse.

And I had such an imagination. The farm lane became the Wild West, the rock pile (parts of which are now in the Spruced Up Bed) became the mountains and the cow yard was my pretend desert range full of cactus, especially in late summer when the bull thistles grew to amazing, towering heights (hey, I was a goofy kid, ok?)   Trigger and I would ride around the 'cacti' and pretend we were rounding up cattle.  The Holsteins obliged me rather grudgingly on their slow plod from the pasture to the barn for evening milking, calmly chewing their cud and swishing their tails as Trigger and I brought up the rear. 

To add more realism to the experience of riding my stick horse, I decided some props were in order.  TV Trigger had a long, flowing tail so I took strands of used binder twine and made a tail for my horse which I attached to the belt loop of my jeans and swished every chance I got.  That helped some.  While other girls were playing dress-up, I was dressing up as a horse.  Hmmmmmm......but anyway... did I mention I had no brothers or sisters around to play with and no neighbors to see me?   (Living in the country has it's perks, thank goodness; no witnesses.)

Everyone knows that on TV an approaching horse makes distinctive Clip-Clop sounds, it's a given, even if the horse is walking on a Mattress of Marshmallows he will still make a clip-clop noise.  I lacked sound effects.  And I also lacked the appropriate tracks in the soft ground.  Who ever heard of a horse leaving tennis shoe prints in the sand?  Since my dad had farmed with work horses before he owned a tractor, we had a few heavy horseshoes lying around in his shop.  I had a brilliant idea.  If I could simply affix these horseshoes to my feet, er... Trigger's hooves, then I could make tracks that would look just like a horse.

Monty Python had that problem too...when the movie was made they found they didn't have enough money in the budget to use real horses.  So, they improvised by pretending to ride imaginary horses complete with holding the 'reins' at just the right angle and walking in a manner suggestive of being on horseback.  (I had that step down COLD, I'm really good at it, even now, I practice it occasionally when I'm walking at night in the dark.)  And each Knight had a porter equipped with a pair of coconut shells that he clapped together producing the lovely Clip Clop sound.  When I watched the movie I was thinking, "Oh, why didn't I ever think of that?" but then I would have needed two more spare hands somewhere to hold the coconuts, so I guess it wouldn't have worked anyway.  I had resorted to making the clop noises with my tongue.

The Monty Python crew had the right idea:

1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Who goes there?
King Arthur: It is I, Arthur, son of Uther Pendragon, from the castle of Camelot. King of the Britons, defeater of the Saxons, Sovereign of all England!
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Pull the other one!
King Arthur: I am, and this is my trusty servant Patsy. We have ridden the length and breadth of the land in search of knights who will join me in my court at Camelot. I must speak with your lord and master.
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: What? Ridden on a horse?
King Arthur: Yes!
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: You're using coconuts!
King Arthur: What?
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: You've got two empty halves of coconut and you're bangin' 'em together.
King Arthur: So? We have ridden since the snows of winter covered thi
s land, through the kingdom of Mercia, through...
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Where'd you get the coconuts?
King Arthur: We found them.
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Found them? In Mercia? The coconut's tropical!
King Arthur: What do you mean?
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Well, this is a temperate zone
King Arthur: The swallow may fly south with the sun or the house martin or the plover may seek warmer climes in winter, yet these are not strangers to our land?
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Are you suggesting coconuts migrate?
King Arthur: Not at all. They could be carried.
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: What? A swallow carrying a coconut?
King Arthur: It could grip it by the husk!
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: It's not a question of where he grips it! It's a simple question of weight ratios! A five ounce bird could not carry a one pound coconut.
King Arthur: Well, it doesn't matter. Will you go and tell your master that Arthur from the Court of Camelot is here?
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Listen. In order to maintain air-speed velocity, a swallow needs to beat its wings forty-three times every second, right?
King Arthur: Please!
1st soldier with a keen interest in birds: Am I right? 

Wait, where were we?  Oh, yes... So, the trusty binder twine came into play one more time and I rigged up a system where I tied the huge horse shoes to my little feet in the most professional system a six year old  can come up with.  I remember the first time I tried walking in the huge horseshoes wasn't real comfortable since my foot was perched on the very edge of the front of the shoe and the twine kept slipping, but I walked slowly down the concrete barn alley and there it was, the Coveted Clopping Sound. I was thrilled!

But everyone knows Trigger has to gallop, and that's where I ran into a few technical difficulties.  The binder twine didn't bind the shoes to my feet very well and as soon as Trigger edged into a full-blown canter the shoes came loose and did some seriously painful damage to Trigger's shins.  I can remember that noise to this day, the dull THUD of the iron horseshoe clunking off my legs and the instant screeching halt to fix my exceedingly painful wardrobe malfunction.  I still have lumps on my shins;  I often wonder if it's from those early days of horseplay?

'Oh, 'tis merely a flesh wound, come back and fight like a man!'

My mother was at her wit's end with me and my legs anyway.  I was such a tomboy/horse/farm kid and I lived in shorts in the summertime and if I wasn't clacking my shins with heavy horse shoes, I was crawling around in the haymow leaving red scratches and welts or one time, cantering full-speed down our gravel barn hill only to trip and fall headlong down the hill, embedding half of a load of gravel in my knee caps and shins. You know how when you fall or accidentally bash your finger with a hammer and right before the pain sets in there's that split second of realization, "Oh, this is going to leave a mark?"

Well, it didn't feel good, either.  And when it came time for church on Sunday there was Karen with her band-aided knobby knees and scratched, bruised and scabby legs in her little dress and proper white anklets and saddle shoes.  Oh, Saddle Shoes...remember them, white with the black middle?  Anyway.  Mom wasn't proud to take me to church looking like a child abuse victim and she used to chide me all the time on my awful legs.  If I could have had my way, I would have wrapped them up in scraps of white sheets like they did with racehorses and then I would have looked Stunning but she wouldn't let me go out in public that way. Moms are like that.

All good things have to come to an end and sadly, Trigger did, too. He met with foul play when my efforts to rein him in ended rather badly over two year's worth of hard trail rides and his head fell off.  I was devastated.  Truly, I was. I killed Trigger.  We had some duct tape and many repairs were made, but eventually he just couldn't keep his head about him anymore.  I was so sad.  And then, my father bought me a Shetland pony when I was seven.  Sad to say, though the pony was an amazing gift (and I know I sound so spoiled here, but trust me, my childhood was not about indulgence) the pony (Prince) absolutely detested me.  I much preferred riding Trigger to the Real Thing but Dad got angry when he saw me still playing with the fool toy and that ended my pretend-horse days.  Isn't that the way life goes sometimes?  Better watch what you wish for, you might get it.  But that's a post for another day.
Fast forward almost 50 years and here we are again.  Two or three times a week after dark Carl and I need to go to town (a little town of 3,000 people) for groceries or gasoline or whatever, and after we get done shopping, I leave Carl to pay for the food and I head for the sidewalk on Main Street and walk towards home.  When Carl gets done at the store, he usually heads for the gas station to fill up, so I have about twenty minutes to get as far as I can.  It's slightly uphill and I really huff and puff trying to beat my previous record from the time before.

Walking in town at night is really different and the time goes fast.  I kinda enjoy it, except last night a lady had let her tiny Shih Tzu puppy out to pee off leash and when it spotted me I was under attack again, ha.  I must have been a Dog Magnet/Chew Toy in a previous life.  Lucky for me it was a Shih Tzu, not a Pit Bull. No damage done to me or the little doggy, just a very startled lady who wasn't expecting a pedestrian to be strolling by that time of night.  Maybe the dogs are attracted to my silly walk?  I imagine I still retain a bit of the Trigger Step to this day.

And that could be the reason  I made another couple uneasy last week on another one of my walks through town.  Carl and I had been working on the Spruced Up Bed and ran out of gasoline for the chainsaw and lawnmowers so we headed to town after dark, like usual.  While he pumped gas, I set out from the gas station on a side street headed for Main Street.  Just as I got to the corner, another couple walking a large retriever-type dog were approaching, so I let them go first, since I didn't want to antagonize their pet.  There are street lights in town, albeit a bit dim, and I did sort of hang back a little.   I could tell they were aware of me, though they didn't acknowledge my presence.

And, as it turns out, they were also wary of me.

I waited until they were about a hundred feet up the sidewalk and then resumed my walk.  They were going at a good pace, so I thought, well, we're not walking together, per se, but I have some companionship anyway until Carl catches up with me.  He had five gas cans and his car to fill up, so he was going to be awhile.

I followed along at distance behind the couple with the big dog and all was well until the lady turned around and noticed I was walking behind them.  I couldn't make out what she said to her companion due to the distance, but he then turned around and glanced behind him, too.  They started walking much faster.  So then I did, too...but they kept looking over their shoulders.....what are they looking at?  They seemed a bit frightened.  I didn't see anything.  So, I shrugged and resumed my walk.  Then their dog decided he wanted to mark his territory on a fire hydrant, and they had to come to a halt.  I slowed down, too, to give them some room, but the lady yanked at the dog's leash and ordered him to 'Come!' and glancing back nervously again, she and her ill at ease companion redoubled their efforts to make up for the lost time and space we had between us.  I heard her say, "That person is still coming right behind us."  By this time they were all but jogging down the street in front of me and the poor dog didn't get a chance to pee on anything. 

That's when I realized I was what they were afraid of.  They were walking a very large dog, there were two of them, and there were street lights, but they were afraid of me.  I had to share this funny situation with someone, so I called Ann on my cellphone since it was 9PM and she was on break at her job.  I described what was going on between my huffs and puffs walking uphill and she said, "Are you still wearing your kneepads?  How about your sweatband?  And do you have your loppers in the holster yet?" 

I almost stopped dead in my tracks......let's see, nope, I took my knee pads off and my sweatband was in Carl's car, but I did have my Felco on my hip and my hair was sticking up all over like a deranged windstorm had styled it.  I'm a big girl, so I suppose the poor couple was terrified thinking a Middle-Aged Woman with a Pruner in her Pocket was going to do them great bodily harm.  I started to giggle which greatly cut down on my forward speed.  The couple was almost out of sight by now, they were really beating a hasty retreat.  Yet another quote from the movie:  "Run AWAY!!  RUN AWAY!"

Ann had to go back to work and I resumed my walk, clip clopping down the sidewalk until Carl came to pick me up.  I imagine that incites some curiosity around town too, who is this strange old woman with the Silly Walk who gets picked up on Main Street by a man in a car with no muffler? 

Sir Robin: Would it help to confuse it if we run away more?
King Arthur: Oh shut up and go and change your armour.


Carol said...

I love that movie too! Thanks for the entertaining post you put a smile on my day! :)

Rosemary said...

Karen , Another fun post.. so made me laugh out loud at the couple and dog running from you......You must be putting on about 10 miles a day on the old pedometer..... I so hope you find that new Dr. one who understands what a gardener does and what a normal woman looks like....and what fitness is.....

Sandy said...

Another long post but I'm so glad I read it!! Your such a good writer!
As for your doctor.. I have heart failure.. have an implanted pacer/defib and my cardio doctor knows how hard it is for me to walk more than 15 minutes without loosing my breath, but tells me to do it and if I find I can't he told me to GARDEN! He said it's such good exercise for anyone and if I only do about 1/2 hrs worth then I've done good! Well you do hours of it.. don't let that doctor tell you different!
Keep up the good work

HolleyGarden said...

I used to pretend to 'ride' a horse, too - ran around the yard in circles, clopping my tongue, and using the imaginary reigns. I didn't even have a stick horse - just air. But I loved 'riding' my horse. Later on, we got a real one! I still love riding horses, though I don't do it often. I try to walk some, too, not 5 miles, but all at once. I started walking after reading the book "Younger Next Year for Women". If you don't know it, I highly recommend it.

Zoey said...

You had me laughing out loud, Karen, when I read about your horse tail. Then again when I pictured you with the pruners and wild hair behind those people!

You deserve a ton of credit for all the walking you get in a day. Wow, you do seem to take advantage of every opportunity. Good for you!

El Gaucho said...

What a great post and a fantastic story. I read it more than once, and not just for the funny Monty Python quotes. No pressure or anything, but I am very much interested in hearing the rest of the story about Prince (the real pony) and what became of him.

Randy Emmitt said...


My favorite line:
'Oh, 'tis merely a flesh wound, come back and fight like a man!'

Hope you manage to get in all that walking.

Anonymous said...

Very entertaining post Karen, better than the movie!

Missy said...

Why am I not surprised to discover you love Monty Python. I do too.

My grandson has a toy horse (what we call a hobby horse) - This is the modern version and has built in clip clop and whinny sounds when he presses the button. He loves it & it drives his parents crazy. He also sticks rope in the back of his pants, so some things never change.

My garden haven said...

I've never seen the movie, but after reading your post, I'll have to hunt it down. Thanks for this entertaining post...I was rather down in he dumps, and you helped pick me up.

Tufa Girl said...

Love that movie. I quote from it and mostly folks just look at me and have no clue what I am saying. As a only child growing up in the country many of your adventures were alot like mine, from the stick pony to the shetland (Pepino) who hated me.

It is so crazy that those folks are afraid while walking their dog. Your part of the world seems so peaceful, I would enjoy an evening walk and a chance meet the neighbors. Not so many neighbors out in my hood most evenings.