A Night with Night Ranger

A friend of mine recently started a blog and one of his recent posts reminded me of a story from years ago. I have not met many celebrities over the course of my life and tend to clam up around anyone who has made a name for themselves, so my stories are few and far between. But this one time, many years ago, I lived an ’80s dream.

Born in the ’70s, growing up in the ’80s, I was a child of ’80s music. Sometimes a song will come over the radio that catapults me back into the days of wearing Madonna-esque clothing (although I was a tomboy and really just wore the same jeans and T-shirts until middle school). Night Ranger songs tend to have this effect. Isn’t it strange how a song can help you remember things that you thought had faded from memory? Smells have that same effect; I keep a perfume that I used to wear in high school simply so every once in a while I can take a whiff and remember how it felt to be 16 with no mortgage to pay and a back that didn’t hurt all the time. It’s a strange effect, really. I can no longer wear most “real” perfumes because they give me an instant headache. However, I do like the nostalgia they evoke. Anyway, back to Night Ranger.

It was the summer of 1996. I was newly graduated from college and living with my sister in a very small town (think a couple hundred people) in southwest Minnesota. The town had one bar, but the place seemed to draw some pretty big names due to some fantastic networking by the bar’s owner. That summer, we found out that he had somehow convinced Night Ranger to play at the bar, and that is where the adventure begins.

The night was surreal, really. The bar’s ballroom could hold a few hundred people, but it was nowhere near the stadium you’d expect to see one of your favorite bands in. Yes, I know — by the mid-’90s, Night Ranger wasn’t exactly a big draw anymore. However, when you have those bands that mean a lot to you, it’s pretty darn exciting to have them play mere feet from you, playing songs that you love. I know that night I caught a thrown guitar pick, but I cannot for the life of me remember where I stashed it.

The extra surreal part came after the concert was over and the bar closed. The owner allowed some of his favorite people to stay behind and, well, party with the band. After many beers that night plus twenty-five years behind me, I cannot recall exactly what was said, but I know I had an extended conversation with Gary Moon about — get this — education reform. I had the chance to talk with the guys of Night Ranger about anything in the world, and I end up in a conversation about that. I never said I was cool . . . or smooth. That right there just proves it. Whatever the case, Gary had some sort of interest in the subject, and we talked for a long time about it. Maybe it was refreshing to have a conversation about something other than himself and his music career; who knows.

As the night wore on and the crowd thinned, someone brought up the subject of their tour bus, which had been pulled up right outside the bar. Somehow my sister and I were brought out to take a peek on the bus. Yeah, yeah, I know what you’re all thinking about the hijinks that happen on tour buses. This honestly was a peek. We went up the stairs, looked in, said, “Wow, that’s cool!” and then got off the bus. No Penny Lane stuff going on that night. Not from me, anyway.

I think the thing that gets me the most is that in 1996, cell phones were not what they were today, hence no instant access to a camera. I have NO PICTURES from that night – only the story to tell.

I’ve since seen Night Ranger several times since that night but have never gotten the chance to meet them again. Gary Moon has since departed from Night Ranger and is doing his own thing now, but I would like to think that if he ever needs to have a deep conversation about the state of Native American education in today’s school systems that he knows who to call.

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Um, toads? Don’t you know about the “new normal”?

I’ll admit that I am more than a little weary of the new talking points of this time period, including the one I used in the title of this post. New normal, social distancing, and whatever adjective ad execs and politicians want to use in front of the word “times” – challenging times, unprecedented times, difficult times, extraordinary times, uncertain, etc. I am mildly annoyed that I have to sit through commercials that now talk about COVID and social distancing. Good lord, enough already.

At my house, however, nature knows no social distancing rules. The toads have invaded my pond and they are NOT 6-feet apart.

I know my pond has been the subject of this blog before, but for those who may not be familiar with the backstory, let me digress for a moment.

When I was a child, my parents built a house on the family farm. Next to our house was a stream which led to a river. I am not exaggerating when I say that I spent HOURS next to that stream, watching the creatures that lived in its watery depths. I observed them, noting weird species that I had no idea existed, like caddisfly larvae, which would create their own little housing case that they lived in until they matured. It was a weird, secretive world where I could just watch and learn.

Several years ago, I became weary of the ultra-tame deer around here eating the produce in my raised garden beds, so I ripped them out and decided to put a pond there. Now, a sane person would have gotten ahold of a mini excavator or something to do the digging. I was fresh from a breakup and a little angsty, so I decided to dig it myself. By hand. Initially, I thought my children would find it fun to help with the project, but they tired of it after about an hour or so. I was on my own after that. So I dug. And dug. And dug. And dug. Pretty soon I had a pond that was about 10′ long, 6′ wide and 3′ deep. I had no idea what I was doing, really. I just knew I wanted a big pond that was large enough to house frogs, toads, and possibly fish.

Since then, I’ve been utterly amazed at the creatures which inhabit the pond each year. I’ve learned that early on, small chorus frogs will be the first to discover the pond. (Yes, some frogs try to winter in the pond, but they always perish.). There will be some wonderful singing that lasts for a couple weeks, followed by some frog eggs. Then the toads will discover it and fill the air with their shrill singing, and then their eggs will appear. Soon the pond is full of tadpoles, and I often have to shut off my pond pump for fear of the little guys clogging it up and burning it out. (Yes, that actually happened. Gross.)

This season has been an unusual one because everything has happened so late. (Not a fan of 2020 so far – just sayin’.). The frogs visited, sang, and then seemed to go away without laying any eggs. However, when I rinsed out the pump filter a few days ago, I did notice a tiny, almost microsopic tadpole. Just where these frogs laid their eggs is a mystery, as they usually lay them in the shallow shelf of the pond, but not this year, evidently.

A few nights ago, I started hearing the toads sing. I found out recently that the toads are of the American toad species. First there was one, then two, then all of a sudden I have a freaking party going on in my back yard. The sound they make is deafening at times, and sometimes I pray that my neighbors don’t secretly hate me because of the extra racket I create in this neighborhood.

Last night was one of those nights that you wish you could bottle up and keep forever. No wind. Mild temps. And in my yard – the singing of the toads. Click on the link to hear the toads singing in full force.

https://www.crackediceandchrome.com/0514202039c.mp4

All of a sudden, I have toads everywhere. Yesterday I saw two of them getting “friendly.” Today? Three mating couples at the same time, with one of them leaving egg strings as they swam around.

Yup – I am definitely going to have to shut off the pump soon. Consider this post an official birth announcement, I guess.

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The Power of an Idea

Last week, my husband and I were sitting on the back patio by the pond. We had just spent the past two days going around buying flowers at different greenhouses – mostly perennials, as I am trying to make landscaping as maintenance-free as possible. The area that was just to the left of the pond is full of colorful perennials, and I love going to the backyard when everything is in full bloom and just marveling at the beauty of it all. My backyard is my little haven, but it needs a couple of things: some privacy (I have two houses that angle toward my backyard and nothing to shield them) and even more color.

I turned to my husband and said, “What if we put yet another perrennial garden to the right of the pond, leaving a little walkway in between? Then in the middle of summer this whole area would be full of flowers.

In typical “me” fashion, I grabbed a can of spraypaint right then (leaving my coffee to get cold) and outlined what I had in mind. My husband liked the idea, so we changed into work clothes and started digging out the grass.

After we dug out the grass, we then had to go hunting for some edging. The one local store that carries it was sold out (go figure), so we had to travel 25 mins away to a different town to get it. There went an hour of our work time. By suppertime, however, we had our new planting area all ready for the next steps.

The shape of the left side follows the curve of the pond if anyone is wondering about the weird shape. I envision that we will soon put in some stepping stone to serve as a path between the two features. We then put down the landscaping fabric and decided which perennials will be placed where.

Then we planted. That night, we sat out under a beautiful evening sky and marveled at the color of the blooms and how it all added something special to the ambiance of the pond. In hindsight, I should have taken a pic of the finished product.

The next morning, I eagerly made coffee so I could go sit outside in the early morning hours to enjoy the flowers. Before that, however, I had gone outside with my phone in order to get a pic of the new perennial garden to include on this post. That, my friends, is when I faced the horror of living where I live.

All of the blooms — ALL OF THEM — had been chomped off by the deer in the middle of the night. Now I just had a bunch of greenery, but no color.

I should be used to this. When I had a garden a few years ago, this happened regularly. I had tried everything to keep them away – soap shavings, human hair, human pee, coyote pee, egg/cayenne pepper spray, and on and on. Nothing worked for very long. After getting frustrated that the deer obliterated my green beans for the millionth time, I ripped out the raised garden beds and started digging the pond that I have now. (That is also the primary reason why I have horrible back pain, but that’s another post for another time.)The deer around here are super tame; there have been times that I have walked out of my backyard and they are standing 15 feet away. Their heads jerk up initially, but then if I didn’t move, they would go back to eating. I swear that these deer think they’re dogs.

I went to the local store and bought some stinky spray to keep the deer away, and I think it has been working. I mean, I have no more blooms for them to eat, so all I can judge it by is how much more everything else has been chomped down. So far so good. Since I did not get a pic when everything was newly planted, I will have to settle for showing you today, post-deer obliteration. I am anxious for the plants to regenerate and bloom once again. And when they do, this time I WILL get a pic!

I scattered some tomatoes in pots so they are getting the good sun that hits this perennial garden. I like the extra pop of color that the red mulch adds, and eventually the blooms will also add color.

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