9Legs, Nine Lives

Tripawds

Yesterday, my co-coworker Pam sent me a message with a photo on Facebook about something she learned during a carriage ride in Natchez Mississippi. Riding past the cemetery Pam heard about Tripod, a three-legged cat that was befriended by Natchez city workers. She included a photo of the Tripod’s Headstone for me and I thanked her of course and messaged back, “I’ll add Tripod to my list of names of leg amputees.” The list includes the famous, infamous, fictional, factual, legends, dogs, dolphins (Winter’s dorsal fin), horses, cows, and now my first cat. Anyone with a three-legged pet should visit tripawds. There are more than 6,000 animal lovers registered on the site who have pets with less than four paws.

Including Tripod, I’ve got nine legs to add to the list this week, which is the one year anniversary of my blog.

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Cow-Tipping News

On Friday, my sister-in-law Kim forwarded a link for me to check out on Facebook.

A 600 pound calf had two hind legs amputated due to frostbite. The English Charolais calf was recently fitted with two “high-tech” prostheses in Houston, Texas. Hero’s the only double amputee calf with two prostheses in the United States.  

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Aaarrrgghh-etype

I read a fantastic kid’s book on Thursday morning. Pirates vs. Cowboys, is written by Aaron Reynolds and illustrated by David Barneda. It’s a story about feuding pirates who go over land to bury their treasure. They run into a motley group of cowboys. But these are no ordinary human pirates and cowboys. Burnt Beard is an octopus, accompanied by an armada of sea creatures. Black Bob McKraw is a steer, with a nose ring, and he’s got a mixed up gang of barnyard animals and desert characters, including a prickly cactus in a pot.

What makes the story effective is that it’s not an archetype peg-leg character. Pegleg Highnoon is not the villain, though he is an alligator. He’s not just any old gator, but he’s the world’s only pirate cowboy. Pegleg Highnoon’s a peacekeeper, moderator, and the closest thing there is to a lawman in Old Cheyenne. I really enjoyed reading about Pegleg, as I discovered something of his character in me. I don’t want to be typecast as the angry amputee and I’m usually looking to avoid conflict by seeking common ground. Stop by your local library or bookstore and check it out.

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Infamy

I have been following the court appearances of “the fastest man on no legs” in South Africa. Oscar Pistorius is still on trial for shooting and killing his girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp on Valentine’s Day 2013.

The double amputee competed in the Summer Olympics in 2012.

On Tuesday morning, the trial stopped because the judge ordered Pistorius to undergo psychiatric testing to find out whether he was “criminally responsible” on the night he shot and killed his girlfriend. Pistorius’ infamy has kept him out of prison. Most people go to jail while they wait for a psyche ward bed to open up, but he will remain on the outside. Pistorius will also be an outpatient while he undergoes evaluation.

Prior to his arrest, I had never been so proud of an amputee’s actions as I was in those moments watching Pistorius pistoning around the track on his Cheetahs.

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Famous Fembot

I watched double below-knee amputee Amy Purdy dance for the first time Tuesday night. I was skeptical about her ability to compete against two good legs. I will say for a dancer who doesn’t move her ankles, is on her toes, and in swim prostheses, she was outstanding!  That night Amy stepped on the dance floor. I was riveted, mesmerized, and in awe of her human and hardware synchronicity.

Amy didn’t win this season’s “Dancing with the Stars” on ABC. Meryl and her partner, even to my super amateur eyes, were better.

Many people I knew said the couple deserved to win, but I think that was based on Amy’s story, rather than her dancing, which was phenomenal and nearly flawless. After contracting Bacterial Meningitis at 19, both her legs were amputated. She also received a Kidney from her father.

She’s an actress and model and Paralympic athlete. Amy is also an amputee advocate for X-Games sports like moto-cross, snowboarding and skateboarding. She’s a spokesperson for Element, a skateboard and clothing company. She was on “Amazing Race” two years ago, but got eliminated so fast I never got to know her. Her company Adaptive Action Sports helps amputees participate in these sports. She’s propelled skateboarding among amputees and I wish I knew about her for an earlier blog I wrote called, “Skateboarding Legs.”

We humans are suckers for an inspirational story, especially one so perfectly packaged for network TV. There’s no doubt Amy is confident, athletic, and an attractive person. It’s interesting that the network TV viewer that fell in love with the dancer may not know Amy the snowboarder, skateboarder, and self-proclaimed “Fembot” blogger. I’m intrigued by the edge-y, experimental, provocative, creative, and risk-taking Amy I discovered in a risqué photograph taken by Motley Crue Bassist Nikki Sixx. She’s wearing a pair of custom-made ice pick legs.

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My Art

Steve and I were sitting in his living room Friday morning. We had struck up a conversation about Friday Night Art Walk in Fairhope. The first Friday of every month, businesses open up late and artists hawk their wares from 6-8 PM.

“The girls and I had fun,” Steve said, about their April walk.

I’m kind of sick of it,” I said. In hindsight, it wasn’t fair to Steve because I didn’t really know why. I am a lover and an appreciator of art. I’d be lost without it. Art influences my writing life in ways I dream of and wake up to.

After eight years of living in Fairhope, I can say that I’ve seen some really unique work. Sue and I walk around, have a glass of wine and never seem to buy anything. There is a lot of great work out there, but when a Nall print costs $400 , and a framed photo of the pier costs $250, you start to wonder why you are walking around. My friend and coworker Jillian (Not to be confused with Jill) seems to be having some success in Downtown Mobile with her art and needlework. She creates lifelike scenes, all handmade, often with red yarn. She calls them crochet installations. She also works in clay and recently sold a bust to a salon in downtown Fairhope. So I know art is alive along the Gulf Coast. I’m just not sure what my “art” is, or more importantly, whether I can market it and, ultimately, sell it.

It was only a few days later that I was able to identify why I’d grown bored of walking around during art walk. Art walk was new to Steve, as he strolled one Friday night with his daughters. That’s great, and exacly what it’s all about, getting people together on sidewalks, in stores and galleries to appreciate and ultimately to purchase something creative. What I’ve discovered is that I want to be the artist. I have an MFA. My degree just happens to be in creative writing, and not ceramics, or painting, or other media. My creativity comes from the passion to communicate something in words that another human appreciates.

So I invite you join me tonight in downtown Fairhope from 6-8 PM at the corner of Fairhope Avenue and Bancroft Street for Art walk.

Stump the Librarian

You Give Me a Subject, I’ll Write on it.

$ 2

It’s strange and wonderful how a conversation can alter our perspective. That little conversation with Steve and Jillian’s creative successes proved to be the tipping point for me. Tonight, I’m taking my writing to the street. Thanks to Steve, I’ve learned that I’d much rather fail than live with the regret of never trying. I will make every attempt to to write something creative and unique, and inexpensive. If it’s raining look for me in a dry place.

This Little Pink Pup is Not Like The Others

Jill works with me at the Fairhope Public Library. She stopped by the desk the other day to share a children’s book she discovered, and I’m so glad she did. I’m a firm believer in books finding us when we need them. I call it book karma. Not only must the book find us, but we must also read it when the time is just right. Jill found the book, where it should not have been, so she knew, as most librarians do, that it is some sort of cosmic sign. She read it immediately.  

“Aaawwww, loooook at how cuuuute they aaaaare.” Jill pitched a tune and dragged out her syrupy southern vowels, like I imagine she does when she talks to her two bulldogs. She started flipping through the pages of the Easy Reader faster than she talks, which is saying something. The second day I met Jill, she admitted she talks fast. My sister Lynne couldn’t hold a candle to her, and my dad nicknamed her “Motormouth.” The pictures were great, photographs actually, and it’s a true story.

“My friend Sandi’s gonna love this,” I said. The Looks Great Naked author and I were pursuing our MFAs when the book was published in 2010, and I was hoping that she’d somehow missed this book.  Duty called and Jill walked away with the book. I wrote down the title, Little Pink Pup, so I could check it out later.

Several days later, having not written it down, I asked Jill for the title again. In an average week, I get at least 20 book and movie recommendations and suggestions from patrons, staff, through my own reading and watch list, or simply by walking by a cover that looks interesting. (A few items from this week, that I remember are The Tenth Parallel, The Reivers, The Telling Room, A few Seconds of Radiant Filmstrip, Andrew’s Brain, The Girls of Atomic City, Tinkers (Loved it), Natchez Burning, (Author and amputee), The Wolf of Wall Street (Liked it) American Hustle (Loved it for a second time) The Goldfinch, Hi Koo (Liked it).

Little Pink Pup, by Johanna Kerby is a dog book, but it’s also a “twisted tale.” As you know, I’m always looking for books about people and animals with limb differences. While this book is not about amputees, it directly addresses the subject of being different. It offers a poignant lesson about acceptance, not only of others, but of ourselves.

So whether you’re a Jabberjaw or stumped about what to read next, check out Little Pink Pup. The book is available through all booksellers and at many county and city library systems, including St. Johns County in Florida and the Falmouth Public Library in Massachusetts.