Friday, February 27, 2015

Snowfall On Big Bluff

There was a full moon gracing the sky when we reached the Goat Trail that leads across the face of Big Bluff. The naked trees reached up and surrounded the light leaving only dappled pieces to reach the ground at our feet. We carefully snaked our way through the rocks careful to keep our centers of gravity on the uphill side of the sheer 300 feet cliff just a few feet to our right. We came to a spooned out portion of the Goat Trail in the face of the cliff and sat down on the ledges of sandstone to rest our feet and treat our eyes to the river valley in front of us and 300 feet down and 200 feet of vertical sandstone over our heads.

The emerald green waters of the Buffalo carves through the wrinkled and worn mountains to our right, slam into the base of Big Bluff below our resting feet and carve through more wrinkled and worn mountains as it runs away to our left. We are miles from the nearest road, house and probably people so the night is deathly quite. So quite we can hear the river gurgle and coo as it makes its way over the rocks below, lost from our view in the shadows of Big Bluff.

Clouds start making their way down the valley and soon they choke the light from the moon and it becomes dark. The valley in front of us becomes a dark void where all sense of anything is deprived from us. Even the sounds of a forest are gone and not even a rustle of a leaf remains. The stillness is intoxicating and we sit there drinking our fill. Then we see it.

From the dark void up above, a large white crystal snowflake appears softly tumbling end over end. We watch it as it falls into the void below and disappears. More of its brethren follow. Normally we rest here for an hour before continuing on across the face of the bluff and down to the river or if like tonight we are just stretching our legs, turn around and head up the mountain to the comfort of our cabin. However, the snow falling out of darkness and disappearing into darkness captures our eyes, our minds, our very souls and we sit there transfixed for another hour, perhaps more. Time ceases to exist.

Finally the cold begins to seep into the deep recesses of our bones and we are forced to retreat but not without longing glances over our shoulders as if departing a lover. We carefully pick our way across of the face of Big Bluff along the Goat Trail careful to keep our centers of gravity from the void just off to our left. As we exit the Goat Trail onto a saddle ridge between two mountains and the relative safety of the main trail the snow tapers off and the moon's light is once again released. We walk the three miles back up the mountain through the moonlit snow lost in our thoughts of the beauty we had just left behind. I still think of it every time it snows in the evening.

The Goat Trail across Big Bluff during warmer times.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

February 18th, 2001

As many of you recall, I grew up in a televisionless house. It wasn't for any religious reasons or my parents concern about the decline in moral values, we just never had one. We were farmers and put in long hours and when it came time to doing something for free time, we read or did hobbies. The latter explains why I have a thousand and one hobbies today. Anyway, all this is to say that because we didn't have a television, I never watched televised sports.

When I went to college, I was amazed at all the sports that people consumed via the boob tube. There was always something on all weekend long sports related and if you wanted to use the commons television to catch a movie you didn't see during your televisionless years growing up you were shit out of luck. Eventually I moved off campus to an apartment with my younger brother, who also grew up televisionless, and a mutual friend. I bought my first television seconds later.

Still, the mutual friend, like everyone except for the two Abbey boys, watched sports on television and that is why I still can't hardly watch a baseball game to this day. All was not lost however when I graduated college and moved up to the land of the frozen tundra where since they were about as far away as possible, was full of NASCAR fans. Everyone watched the race on Sunday and even churches scheduled around races when need be. Although I never became addicted, I must say that like a bad beer after watching it for awhile, it began to appeal to me. I even entered a NASCAR fantasy league for a couple years and won both years. I found my calling.

My boss at the time, and fellow fantasy league participant, took notice and one year when he couldn't attend the Daytona 500, the World Series or Superbowl of NASCAR, he offered me his tickets. A friend of mine and I took him up on the offer and we flew down to Florida to visit our grandparents who lived 30 miles apart and watch the Daytona 500. This will play an important part in just a second but my friend suffers significant hearing loss and can only hear well out of one ear with the help of a hearing aid.

We got to the track early and hit the various tents and sideshows before slowly making our way towards the track entrance. Just as we were getting close, I could see a car come flying along which of course was on the side of my friend with no hearing aid in his ear. The car started swerving towards the entrance to the track tunnel which we were just about ready to cross and my friend and I were in the way. Since he didn't see or hear what was happening, I grabbed his elbow and yanked him back and the car swept by with only inches to spare. That is how we both came to see Richard Petty sitting less than a foot from us on the other side of the window glass as he went rushing by us.

Flash forward to the final lap of the race and the guy I most admired, Dale Earnhardt got caught up in a wreck and hit the wall hard. Since we had to still go clear across the state to our grandparent's houses, we decided to leave without seeing the closing festivities. We were walking outside the track, just crossing the tunnel entrance and an ambulance came screaming out of the track and would have run us over if we hadn't stepped the pace up and jogged out of the way. For some reason, it didn't cross my mind that a dead or dying Dale Earnhardt might be in that ambulance.

Mired in traffic jams a couple hours later due to a major fire closing down the interstate, we were listening to the radio when the announcer came on and told people to stop calling the radio station and asking if Dale Earnhardt was dead because he was. I couldn't believe my ears but another song later the radio announcer came back on and apologized and said that Dale had died in the wreck on the track.

That was the only time I've been to see a NASCAR race live at the track and will probably be my last. I still watch it occasionally though with my cable package I have now, I only get to see a handful of races a year and this year, I won't even be able to see the Daytona 500 since it will only be on cable and a channel I don't get. But I almost never sit down to watch a race and don't remember the day I almost got ran over by Richard Petty and Dale Earnhardt's body.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Why Did Bob Simon Have To Go and Die?

First the television anchor that I watch nightly had to go and lie about his experience in the Iraq War and get suspended without pay for the next six months. Although I like Brian Williams, I do agree that he must be punished for lying to his viewers especially since he is in a position of trust. Otherwise I guess that would just make him a politician. Lester Holt has always done a good job reporting the news so I guess I will just have to get used to seeing him. If I were Brian Williams, I think I would call it a career and retire.

Then the next day, Bob Simon of 60 Minutes was killed in a car crash. I watch 60 Minutes and have enjoyed his many reports of various topics over the years. But while watching a newscast about his life, I learned that he had been held captive in Iraq for 40 days at one point and wrote a book about the experience. I knew nothing about this.

As you know I am a book worm and immediately I thought this sounded like a book I would want to read. I checked online and found the book but it was selling for over $100 for a used copy. Immediately I suspected that people were trying to cash in on Bob Simon's death by selling his book for exorbitant prices. I checked back the next day and they were up to $160 a book, the following day over $200 and the last time I checked almost $220 a book. (Just checked before this posted and they are up to $2400 per used book!) What a rip. I don't think I have found a book worth over $200 and I don't intend to start now. I checked on Ebay and actual bids have the book value up to around $60 but with days left in the bidding process. This is a much more reasonable price but still one I don't want to pay just because I know this is people cashing in on someone's death.

So now my only option is to wait until Bob Simon's death has been forgotten and people vaguely remember who he was or that he had a book and try again. That is assuming I will remember I was looking for that particular book. I have made a note on my phone to remind me from time to time but I'm not sure how long it will take for his book prices to go back down to normal used book prices. If only I had learned that he had a book before he died.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Goose on the Loose

(Warning, this post contains a picture of a dead Canadian Goose at the end.)

While waiting out at the bus stop recently having one of those father/daughter talks I so enjoy, my daughter said there was a plastic bag down in our ditch with something in it. Sure enough, I noticed it too after she pointed it out to me.

The big problem is that our land goes to the junction of a side road with a main road where traffic stops at a stop sign on the side road before going onto the main road. Because there are trees on both sides and no close by houses, people seem to feel that this is their chance to rid their vehicles of their litter. Back when I bought this house, I used to mow the few feet of grass before the timber on my side of the road and keep the litter picked up but I found that it was taking me twenty minutes to pick up the litter before I could even mow it for fear of hitting something like a bottle with the lawnmower. After a year of doing this, I finally gave up and just let the trash accumulate and the grass grow high enough to cover it up. Also forcing this decision was the cities decision to install an electrical pole in this area to replace an aging one on the other side. In digging the hole, the dug up a whole bunch on concrete filler that they must have used to build up the road base and left it strewn everywhere. It would take a large sledge hammer and quite a bit of time to break all that stuff up and dispose of it. Since it is along a wooded right away, the city comes by with their brush cutter once a year and mows it for me to keep the young saplings from growing up. This chops up the debris and scatters it out so that it isn't such an eyesore.

All this is an explanation of why I didn't notice a plastic bag with what appeared to be a bird in it until my daughter pointed it out to me. I pulled open the plastic bag and exposed the bottom side of the bird. It was a very large bird but wasn't an eagle, turkey or vulture, all of which we have a lot in the area. When my daughter was gone to school, I returned and turned it over and saw that it was most likely a goose and after doing some internet research, I think a Canadian Goose. We do get Canadian Geese in Iowa and there is a hunting season but here in the landlocked rural Southeast part of the state, I don't know of anyone that hunts them. Mostly they go to the east or the west along the rivers that border our state to hunt geese. So why was there a dead goose tied up in a plastic bag on my property?

I wasn't sure what to do. I suspected that the bird came to be here for some nefarious reason because most hunters I know wouldn't waste a goose and besides, hunting season was long over for them. After thinking it over, I decided to call the local law office and report it just in case someone was missing a pet goose. They transferred me to the animal control division where I left a message along with my number. As I write this, the goose is still laying in my ditch/deep freeze thanks to the recent cold snap. If it is still there in a couple days, I guess I will just roll it on down into the woods to let nature dispose of it as it does.

(Updated this morning: The goose is still there and the animals have started working it over. When they get finished, I would like to go back and see if I can find the skull. It might be interesting to look over with my daughter.)

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

A Missed Opportunity In Writing

Written by request for Sage over at Musings about a comment I left on one of his blog posts.

If I had one career I wish I was good at, I would choose to be a writer. Growing up without a television, I have spent more of my life reading than probably an average 100 people you can find on the street. I literally read an entire library growing up and got special permission to visit a much larger library a county over. To this day, I still read more than the average person. But while reading these books, I can't help but want to write one of my own someday. I actually have a couple planned out in my head and one with notes enough to fill a notebook but whenever I have sat down to write it, my mind turns to lead. The words I write seem childish, clunky, unwieldy. I can get maybe a paragraph down before I give up and put the project aside to gather electronic dust.

This isn't always the case though. Occasionally the words come and I can get them on paper. One such case was when I was in high school and taking a writing class. We were tasked with writing a comedic piece on a subject of our choosing and at the time. I don't remember what I wrote but it was enough that my English teacher sent it into some sort of statewide contest and my essay along with a handful of others were selected to go spend a day at a college to learn more about the craft of writing.

It has been so long ago that my mind is unsure of many of the details of the day but a few stick with me. We were ushered into a room where we listened to several people speak during the morning and then in the afternoon, we were allowed to select from several options of what we wanted to do. I remember that because of the picking order, I didn't get to select the option that I wanted because it was already full. Instead I was forced to go listen to another person speak about writing and as it turned out, I was the only one signed up so essentially it was just me and the speaker in a small room for a half hour.

When I walked into the room, a man with flowing long hair and feminine features was sitting at the other end and his looks surprised me. It was the mid 80's when schools were full of buzz cuts and flat tops and here was a man with hair past his shoulders in a long ponytail. I introduced myself and he did the same. He was an author that had just published a well reviewed book entitled Lake Wobegon Days. If that doesn't give it away, it was none other than Garrison Keillor. At the time I didn't know him from Adam and his stature within the writing community met nothing to me. Perhaps that is why not a shred of memory of what we talked about for the next half hour remain with me.

Years later and a great admirer of Garrison Keillor, I would pay a heavy price to get a do over with him and spend a half hour talking about writing. Perhaps I would be able learn something about writing that would allow me to write that book that I've always wanted to write. Among meeting famous people, my meeting of him ranks right up there with almost getting run over by Richard Petty (and later that day Dale Earnhardt's body), chatting with John Prine backstage after a concert or sitting in a limo with Charlton Heston. But those are stories perhaps for another day.