30 December, 2010

Song for a Bitter, Brutal Night

I used to think it funny, maybe a bit strange; how shared song and mirth, born of the Christ-Mass could drive away the Winter chill.

No longer.

It is His birth, His life, His crucifixion and resurrection all conjoined in our own lives that drives the cold death away.

Blessings dear and beloved ones. Epiphany and the Star and Wise Men wait on the horizon.

Canadian Clipper

A huge low pressure system is still centered off the coast of California, funneling moisture eastward on the prevailing winds aloft. North of us, one of Al Gore's least favorite duo's has set up a classic Front Range killer. First, the high pressure rages, pulling sub-zero arctic air south. It mixes with the Pacific moisture and slams the mountains. This one, beloved, this storm, is so big that it has drawn down enough cold air to pull that moisture onto the High Plains. It is massive, stretching from the Canadian border to the Mexican frontier.

That is a good thing. We have not had measurable snow fall worth a shit since last Spring! And yes, we did have good precip to create one of the best wheat and corn, sunflower and soybean harvest in the last 10 years.

That being said...right behind the low pressure rolls in a high pressure ridge.

THAT means cold....bitter and brutal. Arctic cold, killer cold.

Thank the good Lord for wool and silk and natural gas.....and well made structures, insulated.

.................I wonder where Al Gore is tonight?............

(AND, and do not....DO NOT start picking with me about the scientific differentiation between weather and climate! )

I am going to pull on my heavy wool vest, put on some Steel Eye Span.....unabashed, Scots/ Irish Celts.

Happy New Year to you, one and all.

The 5th Day of Christmas

The Sussex Carol

The musical dance form known as the Reel is a grand old British/Celtic tradition, born out of the Dark Ages after the Roman Empire had fallen and before the rise of the Renaissance and the Reformation. The Scots-Irish developed a myriad of variations based on the original "Reel of Three", wherein three (or multiples of three) dancers interweave with one another in a figure eight.

The music lends itself to the harmonic drone of the traditional pipes overlaid with a fiddle or recorder or single reed hornpipes laying down a melodic, repetitive pattern, reminiscent of the the weaver at work at the loom.

Many of our favorite Christmas Carols come directly out of the tradition of the Reel. Most have been subdued and toned down to match the solemnity of the post Renaissance grandeur of the Anglican Church liturgy. The Holly and the Ivy, God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen, The Sussex Carol and....one that I will share later: Angels from the Realms of Glory, as performed by Maddy Prior and the Carnival Band.

Since we have a massive and bitter cold Canadian storm blowing down upon us, perhaps a gathering of folks to dance some reels and share Christmas joys to keep the blood warm and pumping strong are in order!

Enjoy this 5th Day of Christmas!

29 December, 2010

The 4th Day of Christmas

The Chicken Coop Christmas

It was early summer, 1955. My brother John had been born nearly two months premature the previous February in the Copper Queen Hospital in Bisbee, AZ. After his birth, Dad applied for and accepted a job as a health inspector and engineer for the Denver Dept. of Health and Hospitals. We moved back from Bisbee to Denver. Dad had a Civil Engineering degree from Clemson College in Pickens,SC, and had served in both the Navy and the Army Air Corp during WWII. He knew how to fix most anything... and he loved being a Dad.

We were a family, struggling.

My grandmother offered to give us a berth for a while in her little WWII house. That lasted about two months. Simply spoken, not enough room and way too many memories for Mom and Grandmother.

Dad found a small converted chicken coop out west in the rural, turning quickly suburban unincorporated township of Wheat Ridge. Like many folks in the rural communities west of Denver, Al Munger, an elderly and taciturn German farmer had transformed one of his chicken coops into housing for the Remington Arms Munitions plant south in Lakewood. He rented it to us a pittance.

We were a family, and growing.

Autumn arrived, I fed horses, and fished for Sunfish and Bluegill in one of the irrigation ponds.
My buds from school and I wandered about the fields in the waning afternoons...chasing rabbits and the errant pheasant, talking of shooting our first animal, bringing home meat for the table.
Some had BB guns, some had shot a .22. The cottonwoods turned from yellow to brown to empty skeletons.

Winter cold rolled in early, brutal and windy. It was Advent. Mum and Grandmother walked the fence line, picked up shapely tumbleweeds and lots of milkweed seed pods. The tumbleweeds, dusted with a bit of spray flocking and ornaments, became prairie Christmas trees. The milkweed pods, painted and decked with paper and sparkling flecks, turned into Christmas geese and ducks.

Christmas drew closer. Frigid wind days and snow speckled, black nights haunted us. My little brother and I slept in a low shed roofed room to the north. There was no heat in the room. Piles of flannel and heavy quilts kept us from the cold. Each night, bricks, heated in the kitchen oven and wrapped in a towel, were stuffed at our feet to help us keep warm.

Mum put up a small evergreen tree with a couple strings of lights, tinsel and ornaments from her childhood. Dad worked a second job as a night cashier for the local liquor store. I came home sick one day. Chickenpox. My infant brother caught the virus. Poor lil' feller whimpered at the itch. Mum quickly knit him tiny mittens of soft cotton so he could not scratch open sores.

It was a good Christmas, baring all the hardships. Somehow we had presents and fresh fruit, turkey and dressing, sweet 'taters and green beans. Somehow, aunts and uncles and cousins called us to feast with them, sing with them, worship God with them.

Somehow.....somehow, we made it through.

Somehow, God and family and hard times forged bonds that are still strong today.

"Somehow" is the omnipotent, all encompassing love of God. He provides and cares for us. It is as true today as it was 55 years ago.

Bless you all, beloved ones. Happy 4th day of Christmas!

28 December, 2010

The 3rd Day of Christmas

The Celtic Tradition
& Symbolism

The intertwining of Celtic and Christian traditions runs deep in the Anglican Church. The solstice and the birth of our Lord Jesus is enrobed in the refrain of the old Carol "The Holy and the Ivy." With the rising of the first sun of Winter, the Jesus' birth is recalled, a new beginning for us all. The running of the deer, killing the first stag of the year recalls the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross, to save us all. It is much like the old Jewish tradition of sacrificing an unblemished lamb at Passover. The intense imagery of a life given,again, to save us all in manifest in flesh. So it is with the ultimate sacrifice, Jesus, the Son of God made man and crucified to save mankind.

Both the Holy and the Ivy retain their green leaves through the winter, symbols of God's undying, and enduring love for his creation. The Holly with its pure white blossom, bitter bark, red berry and sharp thorn recall the whole life of Christ, his pure and virgin birth, the bitter wine of suffering, his blood shed to cleanse us and the pain of crucifixion, pierced by nails

The Anglican liturgical traditions are rich in symbolism. The Celtic flavor is a joyful fleshing out God's love for us.

Merry 3rd Day of Christmas!

27 December, 2010

The 2nd Day of Christmas

Leadville, CO—Christmas, 1958

At ten thousand plus feet in altitude, there was snow.....plenty of snow. Its the kind of snow the Colorado Tourism Board touts as "Champagne Powder," very light and dry. My Uncle was the parson at St. George’s Episcopal Church, a Carpenter Gothic, wooden Victorian structure with a hand pumped pipe organ. We spent Christmas with Uncle Bill, Aunt Barbara and their three boyz. The parsonage, located across a gravel and dirt street from the church was, at one point in its history, Leadville's synagogue. The ceiling in the attic, which had been turned into a dormitory for the boyz, was a deep cerulean blue with gold 6 sided stars and Hebrew biblical script painted on it.

I vividly recall the smell of coal burning stoves...Most folks still heated their homes with coal or wood. Propane was not yet available. Neither were fuel oil or natural gas. AND, my aunt and Mum cooked on all our meals on a huge ol’cast iron kitchen stove with chrome plated appointments and a large oven. The Christmas turkey, sweet breads and cookies seemed to appear from that oven in an endless stream.... THAT, beloved, is an art truly lost to this post-modern age.

How much snow was there?

We boyz did not build snowmen. Instead, our wild "BOY" imaginations led us to warfare and engineering! We burrowed in the back yard, creating tunnels and caves and two opposing snow forts where we staged the Battle of Falkirk (or some such historic event) with snowballs one brilliant blue skied day of that Christmas season.

‘Tis Holiday memories like that, the utter, innocent exhaustion at the end of the days play, the grand meals that prepared on that wonderful old stove, that make my heart swell... AND…The sobering, yet joyful sharing of the Christmas gospels as we exchanged gifts throughout the 12 days of Christmas leading to Epiphany, when we were finally allowed to pull the Three Wise Men out and have them come forth to give their gifts to the infant Jesus.

Yes, its deep, foundational traditions like these which have helped keep my faith from completely withering under the constant, bombastic assault from this wicked old world.

Leadville is a strong and strange community. It has been through three major "boom and bust" mining cycles. The gold and silver boom produced folks like Horace Tabor and his wife "Baby Doe"Tabor; John Brown and his equally famous wife Margaret "Unsinkable Molly"Brown. The 1890 market crash, followed by the devaluation of silver, almost turned Leadville into a ghost town.

In the '1920's and early 30's, secondary metal, like zinc, were mined to help feed the growing Steel Belt factories in the mid-west. The Great Depression came and, again, Leadville fell on hard times. World War Two and the need for stronger steel called.

Prospectors and engineers plied the rugged mountainsides. A rich deposit of molybdenum was discovered up the hill aways in a wide spot in the road known as Climax (11'360ft). Leadville once again boomed. The Climax mine ran until the late early 1970's when environmental and economic pressures closed it down.

Tourism has taken over as one mainstay income provider now. Winter sports, skiing and snowboarding require cheap housing for service workers. Leadville is close enough to some of the major resorts to provide inexpensive homes for some of those workers.

Through it all, the old town retains it's no-nonsense, bare knuckle bravado. The folks who live and work at 2 miles high are a tough breed...with big hearts. And St. George's Church still has a midnight mass on Christmas eve to welcome our Saviour, Jesus Christ into the world once more.

A Very Merry, 2nd Day of Christmas to one and all!

26 December, 2010

The 1st Day of Christmas

~St. Stephen, Deacon and Martyr~

"Because of all you have endured for Christ our God, you have been given a royal crown, O First and Holy Martyr Stephen! You have put your persecutors to shame and have seen your Saviour enthroned at the right hand of the Father. Do not cease to intercede for the salvation of our souls.

The saint whose name leads all the rest who have sacrificed their lives for Jesus Christ is Stephen, the first martyr of Christendom because he would have been the last to deny him.

Stephen was one of the seven deacons of the original Church of Christ in Jerusalem, sharing his duties with six others - Philip, Prochoros, Nikanor, Timon, Parmenas, and Nicholas." --from Orthodox Saints, vol 4, by Fr George Poulos, Holy Cross Orthodox Press

The Bible records his death in the Book of Acts of the Apostles:

When they [Sanheidrin] heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth. But he, being full of the Holy Ghost, looked up stedfastly into heaven, and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing on the right hand of God, And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God. Then they cried out with a loud voice, and stopped their ears, and ran upon him with one accord, And cast him out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul. And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit. And he kneeled down, and cried with a loud voice, Lord, lay not this sin to their charge. And when he had said this, he fell asleep. -- Acts 7: 54-60

25 December, 2010

Irish Rovers - Good King Winceslas

Lord'a'Mercy........... Their Northern Irish accent and the lilting song do raise the Irish blood. These young brothers do it justice with a Celtic abandon and joy that is born of that long line of ancestry, reaching back to the ages before written history. And they see truly, with the last four quatrains, that to spill the Mead is sure and true, at midwinter 'tis a blessing brought forward.

"Sire, the night is darker now,
And the wind blows stronger.
Fails my heart I know not how,
I can go no longer.

Mark my footsteps my good Page,
Tread now in them boldly,
Thou shalt find the Winter's rage,
Freeze thy blood less coldly.

In his Master's steps he trod,
Where the snow lay dinted.
Heat was in the very sod,
Which the Saint had wrinten.

Therefore Christian men be sure,

Wealth or right possessing,
Ye' who now will bless the poor,
Shall yourselves find blessing!"

Sure now, Jesus calls us to do the same, follow in his footsteps though the cruel world beats upon us relentless and with unending rage. AND, we are to do it with joy.
That joy contains both mirth and sadness, grief and happiness abundant. At the core, at the center is that clear and certain love that Christ brought forth from his birth.

We now celebrate Christmas. In eleven days comes Epiphany, where Christ is first shown to the world. Let us do that in our lives, beloved.....let every day be an epiphany of his work in us.

What's for Christmas Dinner

A Tribute to our British Heritage

Since neither Mark or I put down a deer this season, the Winter larder is less blessed than it has been in years past. Work for pay has been minimal, times tough. The cause could be debated and contested in many an arena....political, social, economic, religious.

The fact is, I am tired of pointing fingers. It is Christmas and time to enjoy what blessings we have.

It is what it is....and that, beloved is the fact that we live in a broken world. We are broken people. In the midst of this, our good Lord still provides. The bills are once again paid, there is food on the table, heat in the house, wine for dinner, music to enjoy and petrol to carry us to work and home...........AND, by the Grace of God...there is work! We may be patently broke, but we do eat well.


English Roast - Cheap seven bone chuckroast, seared in bacon fat, slow roasted with a bit of wine, onion, celery and thyme. About an hour and a half into the roast, I added taters and carrots. It was about half complete. Medium oven....275 to 300 for 2 to 5 hours depending on the weight of the beast and the heat of the oven....

Yorkshire Pudding - flour and eggs, pan drippings from the roast and the broth from last night's Christmas Eve Oyster chowder. All whipped into a frenzy, the batter poured back into the Dutch oven where the roast had been, still hot and savory. Bake at 400+ for about 25 to 30 mins. It will rise and brown and let you know.

Cornbread/Sausage Dressing - Carolina cornbread (not sweet, buttermilk base), pork sausage, onion, celery, sage, thyme, salt and pepper.........AND........turkey giblet stock left over from Thanksgiving. Cornbread made the night before, left to dry and rest. Sausage browned and drained, onion and celery diced and sauteed in bacon grease. Crumble the cornbread into a bowl, add the cooled sausage and veges. Add small amounts of the giblet stock until it is almost sticky....sage, thyme, salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Bake with the roast at the tail end of it's time....about 35 mins until it is toasty on top, about 165 deg. in the center.

Its an amazing, dense and complex mix of flavors. There is nothing fresh or politically correct about the whole meal. Deb and I will feast off of this for at least three days, depending on the amount of physical work to which we are called.

AND!!!!!! -- bless my dear D's heart, she took time between jobs to bake both a pumpkin pie and a pecan pie from scratch. The pumpkins came from the farmer down the way, the pecans from Green Valley, AZ. The pumpkin is more like custard than pie...thick and creamy. The pecan is made with dark Karo syrup and blackstrap molasses, almost a black caramel. And yes, she makes her own flaky lard based crust.

Brit or Welsh, Irish or Scot, Cornish or Auld Gaelic....... Y'all provide us with a rich tradition that has, of late, been trampled upon. From it come some of our most sacred beliefs. Might be a good time to revisit the core of old English law.....that which is the base of our own Declaration of Independence, Constitution and Bill of Rights.

Its all based upon a belief in a sovereign and loving God. Yanno, the one who sent his only son to redeem, reconcile and reclaim this broken old world.

Merry Christmas to you all!

On Christmas Day

Merry Christmas, Frohe Weinachten, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noell, God Jul, Zalig Kerstfeest!!!

To one and all on the innertoobs, to their families and loved ones. And yes, especially to those men and women, boots on the ground, manning decks on the sea and cockpits in the air, keeping watch that we might sleep safe and enjoy our freedoms.


Doug M, one of the regular postmongers over at: http://www.sondrak.com/ wrote the following:

"Yeah, even a grizzled ol’ gruntled atheist like me loves Christmas music. Nah, not for the words, but for the joy, inspiration, and sense of tradition that it brings to most normal people, no matter their beliefs. Christmas music is an exercise of human creativity and dedication. I admire those who have dedicated a major part of their lives to their voices and their instruments so that our culture is full of richness, pleasure, enlightenment, and humor. (Those that produce mere schlock and crap ... nnnn, thanks, anyway.)
I love Christmas, because it has come to encompass many holidays in one: Christian, Pagan, Winter Solstice, commercial, and family. If nothing else, I enjoy watching others enjoy Christmas.
Anyone who can’t find something to celebrate or find joy in this time of year is either a spiteful, whiney, Scrooge, or they’re just not trying.

To those who wish us ill or would destroy the soul of America, out of greed, or envy, or spite, or superstition, or ignorance, or habit, or power lust, or whatever ... well, I hope you wake up to nothing but a lump of coal in your stockings tomorrow morning. That’s pretty magnanimous, under the circumstances.
Yeah, just chalk that up to my Christmas spirit."

09 December, 2010

Update: Politics, Rascals and Railroads

A Season Apart

Seems that Death has returned to make his rounds before the glory, the recollection of Christ's birth is celebrated. My dearest friend in Austin is growing road weary, dealing with a sic Mum, grieving over the loss of a friend.

It makes me wonder.

Advent....'Tis a season that was set apart by the early Church to prepare for the birth of Christ. It has been hijacked and twisted into a season of gluttony and avarice. Today, while Hugo Chavez dances with the Iranian devil and builds bases for SCUD missiles, capable of striking the mainland United States, Washington argues about the debt they have brought down upon themselves, and therefore their constituency. That would be us, our children and grandchildren.

I find it ironic that Christ was born to a couple who were called by the reigning empirical government to return to the husband's genealogical home town.....Bethlehem, King David's home. They were called to come, as a family, to register and pay taxes to Rome.

So it is today.

We have allowed our selves and our blessed land to be overrun by the same style of governance our forefathers fought and died to destroy.

We have a pretender sitting in the White House, his polished shoes casually flopped on the desk built from the timbers of a ship that saved his ancestor's asses from barbarism and slavery. He knows it not. We have Senators and Congressmen, on both sides of the coin, who could care less about anyone or anything except their own re-election and retirement, while the world steps away and chooses to isolate us, degrade our currency and laugh at us behind veiled masks.

Yes, it is Advent. And I pray daily that God will rise up and confound the spurious courts and marble halls of the mighty. We prepare for the gentle crisis of birth...where a child enters the world with all uncertainty awaiting. His name is "Wonderful, Counselor, Almighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace!" His name is Jesus bar Joseph of Nazareth, born of the House and lineage of David, the King.

Its a good time to remember that while the ponderous world of political machinations prattles on, there have been and continue to be individuals who serve quietly and gently. One was a dance hall gal who wandered the mining towns around Alma, Breckenridge, Como and Buckskin Joe. She was known only as "Silverheels" because of her penchant for nickle-silver adornments on the heels of her dance shoes. When smallpox hit the mines, she was one of the only gals to remain to help care for the sick and dying miners, merchants and their families. She did so at her own peril. Supposedly she died from the pox.

The community leaders and townsmen raised money to take care of her, only to find that she disappeared. It is said that her ghost still haunts the cemetery at Buckskin Joe, and that flowers mysteriously appear at certain graves.

Advent..........Would that we all could find that tipping point twixt serving self and serving God...then choose to follow Him, not our own path.

07 December, 2010

December Plains

High Lonesome

Its not an environment that many folks would call inviting or beautiful. In fact, eastern elites and the tanned, toothy hordes on the west coast simply call it "flyover country", deriding and dismissive. The long slow rolling miles, broken by section roads and dry arroyos are just boring to some, downright frightening to others. Folks with Agoraphobic tendencies do not find it a comfortable environ. There is so much sky! It confounds the eye at times, just how far distant the edge of the world seems to be...lonesome, empty, silent.

When the wind blows out of the east-northeast down the unbroken prairie from Canada, nature's raw ferocity rages. In winter, blinding snows roll down from Alberta and Sasketchewan. They move with a speed that will kill the unwary and unprepared. The State Patrol and Colorado Department of Transportation have found frozen corpses less than a hundred yards from their stranded, snow bound autos. Panic and disorientation set in when the whole world turns white on white.

At the entrances and exits of the interstates and small communities, red and white striped postern barriers stand at the ready. They come down or swing shut when these Canadian Clipper storms hit. Driving into them is folly, it is suicide. Schools turn into shelters for the stranded. Those who live out on the open prairie hunker down, check emergency generators and pray that their cattle will move into windbreaks or tree lined river bottoms.

More than once, Mark and I have driven home from hunting with one of these white furies on our tail. The leading edge turning interstate travel into a fine line between driving and slip sliding to oblivion. OTR truckers convoy with each other to reach the next town, and we have followed suit...white knuckles on the steering wheel and intent focus on the raging storm's blinding the road ahead, leaving small visual clues , a mile post or fence line, a bridge abutment or snow fence.

It is a unforgiving land to those who choose to travel it unconscious and unprepared.

To the casual traveler on the two lane blacktop or the long concrete interstates, it is simply empty country. Mile upon mile, upon endless mile of wheat, milo, corn and sunflowers mesmerize the eye. Tiny dark dots on the open range might be cattle... or tumbleweeds. Words like monotonous, tedious, dull and boring come to the minds of many who travel on the way to somewhere else.

To my mind and eye and spirit, it is a wondrous land, full of life. Harsh, yes...and beautiful in that harshness. Watching hawks and prairie falcons ride thermals in search of food; seeing a herd of Pronghorns dancing across the horizon at full gallop; awakening to a sullen, red-orange sunrise, these feed my soul. Walking mile after mile along the edge of an arroyo, I stretch my long legs into that slow rhythm that becomes meditation in movement, watching for the elusive plains deer to rise from beds in the tall grass.

Now and again, near a fence post or weed patch, a cock pheasant will explode in raucous flight. Coyotes, fox and badgers appear out of nowhere and disappear just as quickly. I find my gut relaxing, my breathing deepens. Drawing in the sweet, dry air, perhaps a bit acrid from the akaline soil, it quiets that chattering mind inside.

I understand on some level, why the Plains Indians loved this country, why they fought so to keep it open and wild. I understand too, why it takes a special kind of person to work this land, to keep cattle, plant and tend crops that might or might not grow to harvest.

I only spend small amounts of time out on the high lonesome plains. Yet each time I do, I am reminded of my own insignificance in a very large and wild world. And, I find joy in knowing that this creation, a harsh and unforgiving as it can be, shows me a side of God, his immense and profound mind that I will never fully understand....but boy howdy, its sure is fun to explore and revel in it!

06 December, 2010

That is Why it is Called HUNTING!

Cheyenne Wells,
4 December 2010

We woke at "O" dark thirty, brewed coffee, stuffed aging bodies into well worn hunting clothes, pulled out rifles and headed out into the cold. The sun was just beginning to color the eastern horizon. Mark pulled off the road and parked under the familiar bridge. We were set to walk a living snow and wind break. Russian Olive, Scrub Cedar, Sand Plum and Ponderosa planted half a century ago create a wind break wall to the north of the ranch buildings and corrals.

It is also a favorite hide out for deer and pheasant.

Walking east on the sandy floor of the arroyo, we turned south, up through dry grasses and sage, up onto the gentle rise that led to the eastern end of the trees. Mark would walk the north side, I would walk the south, watching and listening for a telltale rustle in the trees ahead. Just as we rose out of the arroyo, the sun broke the eastern sky, blazing through the thin clouds and vapor trails.

Walking the tree line east to west, we neither heard nor saw tracks or spoor. Not one pheasant cackled, only the small finches, thrushes and juncos that inhabit the plains. No sign of deer, no beds of crushed grass, we found nothing.

Back in the truck, we headed east on dusty section roads. Cut corn next to a field of cut sunflowers rolled to the north, and there out in the center, we saw our first deer. A group of five does, mule ears alert began to "pronk" (the muley's peculiar manner of bouncing up and down) as the spied us, some 400+ yards out.

Then it began. They ran, nonstop until they were mere specks on the horizon. THAT is not the usual behavior of mule deer. Unless they are chased or shot at, mule deer normally will mill about, then run a short distance, stop and reassess the situation, mill about more and perhaps run another short distance before beginning to feed.

We drove section roads all morning, seeing somewhere between 24 to 27 deer in small groups of 3 to5 animals. AND...each group behaved the same. The minute they saw our truck, they ran as though the hounds of hell were on their heels. We had no chance to take a shot under four or five hundred yards.

Mark pulled up next to a familiar old ruin with a working wind mill. Its a great place to scope the surrounding prairie. We ate lunch and Mark clambered up the structure with his binoculars, seeking the elusive deer. He did see some dark shadows off to the west, across the state highway.

We headed west, no luck. We walked the sides of arroyos, glassing the deep pockets and long sandy draws for any deer. Nothing moved. It was as though all the game had just, simply, inexplicably disappeared! It was eerie, very strange.

Heading east, back towards Kansas, Mark turned a corner towards Highway 385. The truck died. No warning, it just stopped running. He tried to start it. Plenty of cranking power, obviously it wasn't the alternator or charging system. We popped the hood, scrambled underneath seeking some indication of problem. It all looked normal. Outside of Cheyenne Wells on a December, Saturday afternoon...NOT the best place to be marooned with a dead truck. We made phone calls. All the shops were closed. One convenience/gas store was open, nothing else.

Mark tried to start it again. The truck coughed and turned over, running as though nothing had happened. We gingerly drove back to the motel. Again, it was eerie, very strange.

Clearly, we were not going to chance heading out into the prairie with a vehicle that was not reliable. We packed up our belongings, had a couple of drinks, ate dinner and went to sleep. Tomorrow we would begin the nearly 200 mile run back to Denver, hoping and praying that the truck would make it home.

05 December, 2010

Plains Deer Hunt, December, 2010


We arrived at the M****leman family ranch, south of Cheyenne Wells about noon, parked beneath a two lane overpass and ate lunch. It was too warm, the upper 60's (F). A soft breeze whispered here and there. Unusual weather for the high plains at any time of year. Ragged, daily winds are the norm.

Mark and I saw no Pronghorn herds on the drive from Denver. That too was unusual. We spied only one small Mule dear doe, close enough to shoot. And we passed up on the shot, hoping for other big Muley does to cross our path.

After a quick sandwich, we hiked west along the edges of the arroyo, waiting for a bedded down deer to pop up, giving us a chance at a shot. We hiked the full section; one mile in and one mile back thru the dense prairie grass and dead sunflower. Up and down the arroyo walls we searched...Nothing. Few footprints, no fresh spoor found in our quest. Only silence, blessed silence.

On the return, we found that the right rear tire was going flat. We scowled and packed up the truck in haste, then slowly nursed the old Chevy the three miles into town. Something had punctured the tire. The folks at C&P Gas and Repair fixed the flat while high above, a squadron of F-15 Eagles (probably from Peterson AFB) flew maneuvers in the crystalline blue sky overhead.

THAT, beloved, was enough to make the whole trip worthwhile. Tomorrow held the promise of deer for the winter freezer.

29 November, 2010


Haven't posted since August and here it is nearly December. Being marginally employed sucks. However, its better than sitting on my fanny expecting the meatheads in Washington to care for my needs. (Can you say "entitlement mentality"?)

The garden was a marginal success. Good tomatoes, peppers and squash, salad and herbs harvested. The beans were a bust for a reason I have yet to understand.

Come Friday, its time to go harvest a Plains Deer for the freezer. I'm looking forward to putting a "Bambi Wellington" together for our Christmas feast.

(H/T to Og over at: http://www.neanderpundit.com for the recipe.)

Today would have been Mom Anthony's 81st Birthday. She has been gone for nearly a year and a half. I still miss her. Grief is a strange beast. Our relationship was never an easy one. However, the fact that she is no longer available on the other end of the phone, or waiting for her children to set up a February trip to Tucson to visit her, or just there, being her obstinate, ornery self, smoking her Virginia Slims has left a hole in the universe that is populated by cloudy specters and a dull ache.

A wise old friend and counselor told me some years ago that any kind psychic/emotional pain is not fun. However, it has come up to the conscious level for a reason, stirred up from the deep, muddy miasma of the unconscious being. AND, as painful as it is, facing it isn't going to kill ya!

Happy Birthday Mum! I know you are finally at peace and restored to relationship with your Saviour...and with your life partner, Poppo Bob. Out of it all, the full knowledge that God is in charge if we allow Him to be continues to ring true.

~Ad maiorem dei gloriam!~

16 August, 2010

Two Road Summer, 2010

Oklahoma Roads, Oklahoma Skies

I have a friend who is a geophysical engineer. He specializes in the structure of roads... All kinds of roads: Railroads and rail beds; two lane country lanes to massive 16 lane wide superfreeways. He studies their structures, what works and what doesn't. It's not just the surface on which the rails or tires run. Its the substrate, how it interacts with the road bed and the road surface which carries the rolling stock loaded with raw materials, manufactured goods, the tools and equipment that makes it all happen...And the people who work, play, guard and interact with one another on these roads.

My friend's company was approached by another geophysical engineering firm to run a survey of roadways in Oklahoma. They needed a driver. Stan, my friend, called me and I accepted the call.

- Road Trip One ~ Rain Soaked - 30 June 2010 to 13 July 2010:

We picked up the rental truck, a new Dodge Ram 3500 diesel, extra cab camper special with a tow package. My first job was to pull out the jump seats to make room for electrical equipment.

Long story short; we installed direct power line to truck's battery, loaded in a portable mainframe for collecting and backing up the data collected from the the two GPR (Ground Penetrating Radar) antenna suspended from the back of the truck by a fiberglass square beam, locked to position with nylon nuts and bolts. We attached a survey wheel to measure velocity and distance traveled in conjunction with the data gathered.

Driving east to Salina, KS on I-70, we headed south on I-35 as rain clouds built all around us. It began raining in Stillwater, OK. We gathered in the equipment and settled into a motel. The next morning we began collecting data while the rain clouds collected moisture, building into afternoon rains.

We settled into a routine while staying in Oklahoma City. We collected data in the mornings until the rains came. Then we settled in and Stan processed and backed up the date onto disks. It took him long hours of babysitting an aging interface PC, as the truck mainframe could not and would not talk directly to the computer creating the back up disks.

It rained hard. Two evenings running, drainage and low lying roadways flooded in Oklahoma City. A teenager was swept away and drowned the first afternoon. It was hot and extremely humid. Walking out the hotel door at 8:00 A.M, shirt and pants immediately clung to my body, sticky and cloying.

For four days we traveled in and around OKC collecting data. Then we ran west on I-40 to the Texas border and back. Finally we made a long run south to Texas, collecting data on I-35 as it snaked its way through the rolling hills of the Arbuckle Wilderness.
On the twelfth day we headed north back to Stillwater then to Wichita, KS. The next day we drove into Denver, rattled by the harsh suspension of the big Dodge. It was a good trip, just not very comfortable riding in a massive, tight and heavily suspended truck.

The interstate roadways and byways in Oklahoma are populated with large numbers of OTR (Over The Road) truckers hauling all manner of goods and materials. In addition, there are large convoys of of oil field equipment trucks rolling across the plains on any given day. The continuous impact of all these massive trucks has a measurable effect on the road surface, the road beds and substrate structures and how well they hold up over the years. The data we collected will help the Oklahoma Department of Transportation determine what is the best course of action to take in order to provide safe and durable roads for years to come.

- Road Trip Two ~ Sun Baked and Broiled - 3 August 2010 to 13 August 2010:

Lesson learned, we rented a large Chevy Suburban for the second trip. Once again the GPR and survey wheel were suspended off the back end of the vehicle.

Stan found a portable drive that made the transfer of data from the mainframe in to the truck to the back up computer a much faster operation. That in itself gave us more time to collect more data before we had to stop and spend long hours transferring and backing up data.

The weather was much drier with an attendant spike in the heat. Most days the temp ran between 100 and 107 with a minimum of 60% humidity, creating a heat index above 110 degrees. I truly appreciate well air conditioned vehicles and hotels.

Our first night in Oklahoma was spent in the little burg of Henryetta at the Green Country Inn; a throwback to the times before the mega-chain hotels had taken over the landscape with cookie-cutter facades all along the interstates. It was a clean and interesting place, owned by an ex-patriot British couple.

From there we ran eastward on I-40 clear into Arkansas and back, collecting data. Our log sent us northeast to the rolling country around Tulsa, then once again back to Oklahoma City. From there we headed south by south-west towards Lawton on I-44. From Lawton we collected data all the way to the Texas border. We crossed the Red River and stopped long enough to give a wave to the Lone Star State.

Another dead Armadillo, all four feet reaching for the sky, greeted our return into Oklahoma. The ubiquitous critters are found all across the state; along with racoon and possum. All are slow movers, mostly nocturnal, leaving little mounds of road kill throughout the state. Armadillos have a tendency to jump straight up when startled. This is a lethal habit when what startles them is a massive metal machine moving at freeway speeds.

And NO, we did not see any Armadillo carcasses with feet festooned with four Lone Star beer longnecks...dancing with the sky. It seems that this Post-Modern Age's need for speed has curtailed this once, well respected cultural statement.

Western Oklahoma - long and flat stretches of roadway, cotton and cattle, corn and wheat, red dirt and brutal heat. Small towns still thrive along blue highways where the traditional mores of love of God and Country flourish. It really is beautiful on these high plains. Some would call it harsh and monotonous. Not so. There are uplifts and cuts here and there, like the Wichita National Wildlife Refuge in the Wichita Hills north of Lawton, where the long flat vistas are broken.
In the little burg of Bessie, I spotted this quintessential prairie icon, the concrete grain elevator standing proud and stark against the deep blue sky.

We collected our last data outside of Kingfisher, OK. We did a quick breakdown of the equipment in 105 degree heat and stopped at local diner for lunch. A sturdy doe eyed, clear skinned young gal, probably of English/German heritage served us lunch and asked about our work. Gentle and genuine, there was no pretense or prejudice in her attitude to a couple of rangy looking characters from out of town. It was refreshing, a throwback to an earlier, simpler time in America. Refreshed, we headed for Wichita to spend the night. The next morning we repacked the equipment and made our way up to Salina, KS, then west back to Denver and cool dry nights where their is no need for the constant drone of the air conditioner to keep sleep tolerable.

14 May, 2010



Lo, there do I see my father. lo, there do I see my mother, and my sisters, and my brothers.
Lo, there do I see the line of my people back to the beginning.
Lo, they do call to me.
They bid me take my place among them in the halls of Valhalla,
Where the brave may live...forever!

28 April, 2010

Mountain Recollections


Two of my favorite bloggers, Amy(http://amykane.typepad.com/blog/) and Brigid(http://mausersandmuffins.blogspot.com/) have stirred up some long held recollections on silence. Brigid in particular, wrote on the silence encountered while stand hunting. And that write brought up the following:


We were cross-country skiing in mid-February up the James Creek trail, across from Winter Park. It was the day after a big snow. There were no others in the virgin white landscape. My ex wife and I moved in that slow glide, taking our time up the winding incline. The only sounds were the rhythmic swish...swish of the skis cutting through blue-white powder, the creak of shoe leather against wire bindings and the rush of air in and out of lungs, gulping for oxygen in the thin, cold air at 9'000 ft. The creek was covered over with ice and snow, its voice silenced. Squirrels and rabbits hibernated in cozy dens. Crows, the only noticeable birds, circled in the lower canyons. The land up this high slumbered.

We stopped on an open rise to drink water. The thud of my racing heart slowed and I realized that there was no other sound. New snow muffled any echoes. Erie silence, nothing moved, no breeze. That silence, it seeped into my being. It would have been cold were it not for the brilliant sun pouring out radiation, burning through thin air.

As the sun worked on the snow, pine and spruce boughs released their burden of new powder. Those small, muffled small avalanches were the only sound to rise.

And I wondered how the Ute Indians and solitary trappers survived in these mountains during those long, silent winters.

And that, beloved, stirred up these memories:

Kit Carson, the famous scout, trapper, trader and early political figure in Northern New Mexico spent at least two winters in the St. Vrain River drainage, north and west of modern college town of Boulder, Colorado. In 1840 he built a rough cabin on a outcrop ledge of granite, facing more or less south by south-east. The remnants of the fireplace can still be seen on that ledge and the mountain that bears the name, Cabin Mountain.

I grew up fishing on the creek that was also named for Kit Carson’s winter home; Cabin Creek.

The header on the advertisement read something like this:

Luring Pines Cabins, Meeker Park Colorado – Bob and Mary Anne James, proprietors.

They were my great aunt and uncle. They purchased the cabins in 1949 and rented them out every summer until they retired in 1972.

Some of my most coveted memories are of the early years. Those years where the cantankerous pump house chuffed and rattled on the creek. It provided an outdoor, cold water spigot for all of the eight cabins. Each of them had one electric light and one small true "icebox" and a great cast iron cookstove. Those were all the modern conveniences available. There was a double shower house up the hill. "Thunderbuckets" were kept under each bed. Each morning they were emptied in one of the four double-holer outhouses that sat off to the off side of the creek drainage.

Over the next five years, improvements were made. Dad and Uncle Bob ran real plumbing to each cabin. Harry "Doc" Sutherland brought in his backhoe and cat. He dug the hole for a double chamber septic tank and leach field, and ran the sewer lines from each cabin. The county gave a grant from the Feds to upgrade the electrical service. Refrigerators were installed. My uncle Pete and his Dad “Buzz” built a lodge addition to the main cabin. “Doc” Sutherland built a massive native stone fireplace at the far end. The lodge became the office and gathering place for all and sundry to read, play cards or work puzzles on rainy days.

It was an evening luxury to stretch out on the day bed in the den as the quick summer heat rose off the roof and our caramel toasted skin. We kids would dose off as Dad and Uncle Bob listened to the Denver Bears playing baseball 90 miles away down in the sweltering city.

On most weekend mornings, my grandmother would wake me just before dawn. In the flint cold half light, we would eat a bit of toast and drink some tea, maybe some orange juice and sneak out the back door. Outside, our fishing poles and an old spade waited.

We hiked down a steep trail, down into the dew laden hemlock and alder, aspen and willow next to the creek bed. There we dug for worms. The rich black, mica and sand laden soil yielded sleepy cold earthworms...bait for trout.

The next few hours would find us silently plying deep honey holes, undercut banks along open gravel ripples and the deep rock bound sweeps of Cabin Creek. It wasn't "sport" fishing. We were hunting for meat.

We would come up the hill at lunch, clean our catch, eat and take a quick nap in the soft afternoon. Sometimes hikes or a truck ride high on the hillside to gather deadfall for firewood would preclude the afternoon fishing. But most days we would return as the sun began to set, seeking the lunkers who came out to feed as the light in the canyon dimmed.

Time meant little. We were ruled by the moving sun. Clocks were merely a nuisance. One phone serviced all eight cabins. And supper left us sleepy, ready for the deep feather beds with crisp white sheets and heavy Pendleton wool blankets. There was a deep and profound peace most nights, broken only by the sound of the wandering breeze whispering in pines or the distant screech of hunting owls, or the errant coyote calling to its pack.

Sh-h-h-h-h-h-h...I can still hear the silence when the well house pump grumbled to a halt, the giant philco radio's tubes darkened, its hum no longer worrying, and the icebox motor realized that it was damn near as cold outside as it wanted to be inside.

That was silence.

The only sound was the echo of starlight bouncing off the Aspen and Ponderosa...and the soft distant laughter of Cabin Creek as she danced down the canyon, splashing her bright skirts in the moonlight. She was happy to know us, to share her life and bounty with us in those quiet summers so distant now.

That was silence, that was true peace.

22 March, 2010

Mourning in America

"The Darkness Around Us...
is Deep"

That is a quote from the American poet, William Stafford. In the poem, he speaks of communication between humans. If, in our broken world, our own personal brokenness, we do not communicate with depth and clarity...and brevity, we are bound to let loose the hounds of hell that ravage individual, community and ultimately, cultural relationships.

That is exactly what has transpired in Washington with the passage of the Frankenstein monster know popularly as the "Health Care Bill". It is blatantly unconstitutional and fully the largest Socialist piece of legislation to pass through both houses of Congress since Lyndon Johnson's "Great Society" boondoggle.

It has polarized our country into volatile camps, the likes of which we have not experienced since the Viet Nam war. And, the responsibility for this sits on the shoulders of those who we have elected to protect us from such invasive and suffocating legislation. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barrack Hussein Obama and their subordinates stand at core of this national disaster. They must be held responsible for its passage. And we, the electorate constituency must respond with our voices, our votes and if need be with our very lives.

The existence of the United States as a Constitutional Republic hangs in the balance. The time is short. It is imperative that we stand and speak. We must act decisively.

We must act NOW!

I leave you with this quote from the fine English writer, theologian and Christian apologist, C. S. Lewis:

"Of all the tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience."

09 March, 2010


Diving Headlong into Spring

" It is a rising tide of dazzling light.

It is heady: our skulls fill like cups of fire."

Whew! (a hat tip to Amy over at: http://amykane.typepad.com/blog/)


Here, its more the altitude than the latitude. Spring is defined by one's proximity to that long and sinuous, granite and quartz dragon spine that splits the continent in two. Come May, it still glitters with winter bright snow. At nearly two and three quarter miles high, some of these solitary peaks know only two seasons, winter and August.

Some unremembered, unrepentent grizzled old prospector coined the phrase a century past. And it still rings true.

I can see him standing proud, bent and twisted as the sub-alpine bristlecone pine, shaped by the brutal wind, the brittle brilliant sun and the incomprehensible weight of stone on stone on stone...The Rocky Mountains. Fresh from the assayer's office, he leans on the Silver Queen's mahogany bar. His reflection wavers in the silver dust mirror. Dark whiskey grasped in one gnarled hand, a half finished lager, golden sea foam in the other, he pulls long and slow on a fine treat, a ten cent cigar. It's blue-gray aura encircles his wicked, unkempt visage, a spicy halo.

He is Saint Mud-mucker. His parish ranges across the long, alpine creeks above Leadville. Baby Doe Tabor is his blue-eyed Virgin, The Silver Queen saloon, his cathedral.

Mud defines him; its grayness permeates clothing, skin and soul. His once bright red union suit is tattered and muted, oiled with cold sweat and dynamite dust. Crusted mud encases his boots, seeps into his deepest thoughts. Only his eyes, they sparkle with that fire, that lust for gold. THAT is the fire burning deep in his fevered skull.

27 January, 2010



I had a classmate named Connie. Her sweet soft oval face and strong aquiline nose framed huge dark eyes set over a sensuous, ready smile. I first noticed her in 5th grade. She was the Annette Funicello of our class. And like many of Mediterranean descent, she began to mature physically at a younger age than most. Connie was blessed (or cursed) with budding breasts. Most of the boys were intrigued, not quite sure why. Whispers, rumors of what sex might be were spoken by some, with furtive giggles and sly smiles.

I was the smallest in the class, painfully shy. I admired Connie from the back of the room, settled safe in the confines of my ancient cast iron and wood desk. Fifth Grade was a distraction from life spent wandering the pastures, creeks, woods and fields. Sometimes late at night, her dark eyes and growing curves filled my head, lit a small ember deep in my young belly.

Sixth Grade was different. We had a male teacher. His straight ahead, no-nonsense style caught hold of my wandering mind. Over the summer, I had grown taller, more gangly. Connie had blossomed, hips and waist and growing breasts. She didn't walk. She waltzed in the hallways. Her dark eyes glowed deep fire. And, she wore makeup!

Early that first week, I convinced myself to do something brash. I saved back a portion of my allowance for a month. In the Ben Franklin Five-and-Dime I pondered over the cheap costume jewelry. One silvery ring with a dark blue paste stone caught and held my eye. It was the same blue of Connie's shaggy, tight cashmere sweater. THAT ring had to be the magic talisman that would win her heart for me.

I bought it, wrapped it in white tissue with a carefully printed note: "From a secret admirer.” I just could not bring myself to sign it.

The next morning, I hustled out of the house early and sneaked into the classroom. I lifted Connie’s stained wood desktop, and with trembling hands deposited the burning passion wrapped in tissue on her Pee-Chee folder. Scared to distraction, I ran out into the hall, down the stairs and out into the brilliant September morning. Relieved at not being seen, I ran to join the little group of guys who were my friends.

The bell rang, calling us to class. I was petrified. Looking for any excuse, I hung back until the schoolyard teacher called to me. I crept in the back door and skulked to my desk, slinking low.

Connie had just opened her desk and stood, her head tilted, a quizzical expression on her warm face. She opened my package with her long elegant fingers and laughed, saying something like, "This is sweet. Who put this here?"

I sat stone cold frozen, deer in the headlights, unable to think or move. Those dark, laughing eyes scanned the classroom, seeking the gift giver. They passed over me without hesitating. Joe, the class clown began to snicker. All eyes zoomed in on him and Connie laughed out loud. Immediately, everyone "knew" that Joe had pulled a fine practical joke. General laughter and kidding ran through the class as Joe acted the part flawlessly. While I melted, shoulders slumped, my heart felt like a dark stone. It was too late to stand and claim the deed. No one would believe me, least of all, beautiful Connie…unattainable Connie.

I felt the fool and the dolt growing like a dark shadow about my head and heart. That feeling became a ragged cloak that I wore all through Junior High and High School.

That was 51 years ago. This year is our 45th class reunion. Connie will be there. According to the class historian and my hunting buddy, she is divorced, living and teaching in a small town in Southern Colorado. And, I am told, she is still quite stunning at age 62.

It will be interesting to greet her as a late middle-aged man. My guess is that those smoldering dark eyes are still burning. What effect will they have?

THAT, beloved, is a question which can only be answered by walking through the fear of the once skinny young boy. The man in me can do that, assuring that still present lil' feller that the grownup will speak for him with strength and grace...51 years later.

01 January, 2010

Blue Moon

Winter Arrives, a Full Blue Moon

A new year, a new decade has been born. Janus, the two faced Roman God has taken his place in the calendar. Janus, more like the bright and Mercurial Gemini twins than the stolid, Satrunalian Capricorn is one of those astrological oddities.

The New Year arrived with an astronomical phenomenon, the second full moon within a monthly cycle. It is a Blue Moon. And this Blue Moon is nestled into its astrological home, the sign of Cancer.

Winter has arrived, cold and sharp. Looks to be a tough one. There has been snow on the ground in the shadows since mid-October.

Brings to mind a poem I wrote some 15 years ago:

One Coyote on Ice

January aires whip southward.
Bundled tight to muffle
Against a Canada born wind
My steps whip along a frozen path.

Out of the cattail camouflage
Coyote trots easy, confident
‘Cross cold locked water.
Head down, hunting nose intent
Following scent.
Worried ducks rasp alarm,
Rise in raucous flight.
He stops, on his haunches drops
Watching dinner disappear.

One furtive glance at me,
One flick of a bushy tail,
He rests alone, sure of life,
One coyote on ice.