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Trips Made to Frantically Trim Beard So Gas Mask Can Fit: One
Mice Discovered Dead In Their Own Feces: Two
Chicken Incubators Discovered In Bedroom: Two
Dog Memorabilia Unearthed: Innumerable
Mummified Cats Discovered In Basement: One
Trash Bags Taken Out: THIRTY ONE
Trucks Acquired: I’m SO CLOSE (Wait For Chapter Six Or Just Look in Our Driveway!)

When in doubt, just pick up crap.

This is actually a pretty good life motto, but right now it’s a fairly successful work strategy.

John (aka Recurring Character, AKA best friend ever) and I spent the better part of six hours working in Ground Zero of the house, taking out the better part of thirty bags of trash from two rooms. We found a lot of ossified food, lots of cookware that was definitely not worth saving, and made a mutual covenant to Never Open The Refrigerator Door Ever Again.

Gas masks are mandatory at this juncture if you enjoy breathing and would like to continue doing it long-term. John, proving that he may be more committed to the process than I am, shaved off his beard to get a good seal on his gas mask. I, on the other hand, had to make an unplanned trip back home for an emergency shave and vigorous beard trim when I realized that the house was seeping into my lungs. (In case you’re wondering whether I’m rather possessive of my facial hair, let me answer by informing you that Melissa has never seen my chin and never will.) This keeps the smell down to a manageable hum, which turns up its volume quite suddenly whenever we stepped out the house, took off our masks, and inhaled a deep breath of fresh air, only to realize that the potent eau de cigarette and urine can be smelled quite well from up to thirty feet away.

While we threw away most of what we found, we did discover some Interesting Stuff: an old record player, a huge pile of dog-related knicknacks, some photo albums (with some wonderful pictures of the old barn) that we’ll send back to family or the historical society, a packet of old recipes written on index cards, and other odds and ends, all stowed in whatever usable containers were on hand.

As you might imagine, we also discovered some Interesting Stuff of a far less pleasant variety: a few snowdrifts of loose tobacco and bird feathers, mice in such a vigorous state of rigor mortis I could use them as hammers, and the half-rotting skeleton of a couch, among other things. This discovery process was capped off when I took a field trip to our basement (hey, there’s a FULL pool table hidden underneath the rabbit hutches!) to get some measurements for our septic system. I suddenly heard John say, “That’s the creepiest stuffed animal I’ve ever seen or…” and glanced over to discover that the “or” was a fully mummified cat, so stiff that it would have put those mice to shame.

That (combined with the fading daylight, my stiff back, and the end of our first fifty contractor bags), proved to be the climactic end to our day, whereupon I drove home, proceeded directly to the washer, stripped gingerly, commended my odorous clothes to the Cleaning Gods and then dashed up to our shower where I washed and shampooed twice with fervent vigor.

People tell us that it looks like progress is being made (e.g. those foolish people are actually doing something), largely from the army of thirty some-odd contractor bags in the front yard. (Not that there wasn’t trash in the yard beforehand, but I guess this qualifies of being trash of a Purposeful Variety, which proves that those owners are actually Up to Something Worthwhile.)

After a day of picking up crap in the cold, I’m actuallybeginning to agree with them.

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