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World Enough and Time: Fall leaves

Bill Hagen
Contributing writer
The Boulevard of Broken Branches

ICE STORM:  I hope most of you have at least cleaned up your yards—or had it done.  Since I have a number of trees that dropped pieces of themselves, I was able to create a hedge (pictured) of limbs for the city to pick up, whenever that is.  I call it the “Boulevard of Broken Branches.”  

Of course, I still have some branches hanging by shreds that will fall when the winter winds blow.  But I’m thankful the biggest, a trunk-sized pecan branch, just eased itself down to rest on the roof without damaging anything.  I had it removed, very carefully.

I’m thankful that the city, or Central Disposal, will eventually collect curbside branches.  I remember way back when we last had a big ice storm and the city fathers or someone determined that it made sense to move all the neighborhood branches to the grassy circle near my house, for later pickup.  They stayed and stayed; local vermin found refuge there; local humans started dumping trash, even batteries.  After much time and many complaints, it was cleaned up.  Lesson learned, one hopes.

However, it gives me pause to learn that the city is staying with debris guidelines set up for ordinary times—no more than 10’ long and stacked.  These are not ordinary times!

Many homes have log-sized limbs at curbside that would require major chain-sawing to bring them to size; many have my problem of a huge quantity of limbs.  Some folks won’t have the tools or energy levels to meet the guidelines.  Some (many?) on limited budgets won’t want to take the financial hit of hiring removal.

Will the city stick with overly restrictive guidelines or do what it has done in the past: pick up the curbside debris as it lays?

COVID:  We’re all tired of talking about it, right?  But new records are being set here and elsewhere, with higher rates predicted, given all our cold weather indoor activities.  Given the example of our Leader in the Swamp, the wearing of masks is political.  Some are ready to receive and send droplets; others try to protect themselves and others.  

State governments, left to manage on their own, send mixed messages.  Our governor, recovered from his own case, steadfastly asserts we ought to wear masks and social distance, but far be it for him—or the state school board—to mandate.  There’s little doubt that infection rates drop radically when masks are mandated.  Meanwhile, some officials in our state government were heard to blame the irresponsible behavior of ordinary Oklahomans for the present surge. Maybe they’re thinking of parents who let their quarantined children participate in social and sports activities.  

ELECTION:  I know, another topic no one wants to talk about, although it sure looks like we have a winner, even if some of the legal challenges are upheld.  At some point, we need to praise the dedicated poll workers and watchers, the election officials, local law enforcement, and the American people who voted in record numbers.  

Our system will remain the envy of the world, if we can keep from screwing it up.

Like many, my family is divided.  Deep down, we just can’t understand how the other side can persist in its error and delusion!  After several snippy exchanges on the family text medium, we decided to restrict our political exchanges to email.  That’s worked pretty well.  Much less political talk too, since it’s harder to shape paragraphs than short taunt-texts.

My Own Personal Grail: the Carpet Cleaner

SHOPPING:  After the extended election count was over (sort of), I felt an urge to shop.  Canadian friends are already posting pictures of huge snowfalls, so I bought enough groceries to survive such a snow.  But stocking up on groceries did not satisfy.

Should I get a push or pull-behind sweeper to pick up all the leaves that carpet my lawn?  A wood chipper to grind up the hedge of limbs?  

No, no, once again, I’ll mulch and do some composting.  I’ll wait for the city to pick up the limbs.

What then? Ah, look at the carpet, where several generations of cats and one dog have committed accidents.  Assiduous spraying, powdering, and vacuuming have not entirely eliminated discolored places.  So, a good carpet cleaner.

I embarked on a process that used to drive my late wife crazy—research.  She came from a small town, where you trusted a local dealer to recommend a reliable model and provide repair service when it was needed.  I grew up in a suburb with many stores and brand choices, where you might trust a clerk or two, but you were skeptical, knowing they were on commission.  

Before the internet, I would read ads and trot from store to store, comparing, changing my mind and comparing some more.  It didn’t take long for my wife to decide she did NOT need to accompany me each time, since I usually came back with more pencilled notes than purchases.

Now I have the internet to make the process much more complicated and extended.  How many videos of carpet cleaner competitions do I need to watch?  After several, plus articles, I narrow it down to four models.

Time to go to Amazon. Not to buy, understand. Not after I read some of the bad out-of-the-box disappointments leading to a cumbersome mail-back.  No, I go for pricing and, yes, reader reviews, the latter to help narrow the nominees down.  

Then to store websites.  Who has what models, at what price, and available? I’m still old fashioned in wanting to actually look at a model in the store before I take it home.  I’ll go to OKC, if I have to.  And I can return it to a store, if I have to.

I did. Both.

OKC to get a top-rated model, which quit working after five minutes. After taking apart what was meant to be taken apart and reassembling it, with no luck, I decided to return it.  Moreover, I decided to get the top-rated model of the other major brand.  The chain has a store in Shawnee, so I consulted the website to see whether one is available—both to view and to purchase.  No!  (Are you still with me, Dear Reader?). In fact, when I look at availability at other outlets of the chain, I find the model I want is only in stock in Edmund!  

Ah, but then I remember, I need to be skeptical of store websites too!  Previously, as duly recorded in this column, this chain’s website listed a price on a piece of luggage that was about a $20 less than the price I found in the store.  Would the store match the price on their own website?  No, they were not permitted to do that.  I could order the suitcase and pick it up at their store for the lower price, but they could not sell me the same item at that price from their stock.  Absurd.  But lesson learned.

So, on the chance the website information was wrong, I took my disfunctional carpet cleaner to the Shawnee store, checked their shelf and, sure enough, they had the brand and model I wanted.  It was the very brand and model supposedly available only in Edmund. Ha!  And, it was cheaper than the web price because the store had a sale going!  Heck, it was cheaper than Amazon!

Double victory!  Rational materialism triumphs!  No doubt, Calvinist guilt will find me at some point, but right now I feel better about the limbs and leaves, the virus, the election, my far-flung family, and the carpet misadventures of my cat.  

The new carpet cleaner works just fine. I spotted the cat sniffing at his favorite hairball depostory the other day.  Cleaned up, it must not have smelled right.  He lifted his head and went off, probably to find a new place to barf.

Bill Hagen is a retired OBU professor. He lives in Shawnee with his cat. Contact him at