Friday, April 16, 2021

Abbey's Arches Haunting My Mind

 After my return from Arches National Park, I couldn't help but think of Edward Abbey. Those old timers to my blog, will know that the name I use on here, Ed, is fictional and in fact, I used to use Edward Abbey. But soon I had people crawling out of the woodwork wondering why I use Edward Abbey and yet don't share all his views and in fairness to them and Edward Abbey's legacy, I shortened it to Ed and that has been my fictional name for blogging ever since. 

I first discovered Abbey from his novel "The Monkey Wrench Gang" but what I really fell in love with was his non-fictional travelogues, especially "Desert Solitaire". Through them I experienced places that I had never been too back then and since that time, I have striven to see those places before they are gone. Arches was one of those places. 

But it haunts me a bit since I experienced Arches much like the "industrial tourist" Abbey rails about in Desert Solitaire. Perhaps he would soften a bit if he could know that my experience has haunted my dreams for many a night since. I see those red rocks and worn arches in my dreams and feel called to return and spend a long period of time there. With a backpack, tent and adequate water supply, I'm sure I could roam the place for a month and never tire of seeing the landscape around me or long for anything else. My situation however is such that I can't, at least not anytime soon, and the odds are that perhaps I'll never be able to. I hope that perhaps someday in the future when the kids are independent and have lives of their own, I am physically able to return to this place for a longer period of time.

Until then, I pulled out my copy of Desert Solitaire, the last edition, and am rereading it for the umpteenth time. My original edition got lent out at some point and never returned many years ago. Once again I am living in a world described by Abbey that I had never been to until recently but now, I can relate just a bit more and the scenes in my imagination are much more vivid.

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Things That Made Me Go Hmmmm

 On my road trip last month, I noticed three things that gave me pause at some point. 

How do they put fence posts in solid rock and why do they insist on doing so in a perfectly straight line even if it means going up rock faces so steep a mountain goat would be unable to walk? I assume for the former they do some sort of drilling followed by grouting a metal post in place but occasionally I saw what appeared to be wood posts set in rock. Not sure how they did that short of a much larger bit. For the straight line, I just shake my head. I assume it is protecting your legal right to the land encompassed in the rock face.

In much of my travels west, when paying for gas at the pump with a credit card, one must insert it and leave it until told to pull back your credit card. As opposed to here in the midwest where one can just push it in and immediately pull it back out. I don't know why the difference in standards when both technologies are available and pulling the credit card back out immediately upon insertion seems easier and more efficient. I just couldn't train my brain to not pull my credit card back out immediately and so I ended up on a string of transactions that I now how to wait for it to cancel and start over again all the while freezing my tush off in the cold winds. 

Finally, in Colorado, specifically Denver, many of the intersections were labeled with signs that proclaimed, "NO DOUBLE TURNS". What the heck is a double turn. Is that considered a U-Turn and why not say U-Turn and save on your sign making cross. In fact, everywhere I have been just shows an arrow going in a U shape with a slash on it. Perhaps I am reading the sign wrong (pun intended) and it has an altogether different meaning.

So if anyone has some additional words of wisdom to these three things, by all means let me have it below. If anything, these things affirm to me that even in my own country, there are still things to see and understand that are foreign to me here in Iowa.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Another Death In the Family Story

See my previous post for the backstory but while cleaning up a profile, I came across a death certificate issued for Charles Webster Baker, son of my 3rd great grandparents. I was expecting the normal heart disease or other similar disease but was taken about when the cause of death was listed as "Fractured skull" in big bold text. I knew there was a story there and down below, it indeed said he was killed when "hit by car". He had been 61 years old at his death and thus old enough that I never really went looking for his death but upon seeing the above, I changed my tune. Fifteen minutes later, I found the full newspaper writeup posted below. Pretty much it sounds like something I have done many times except this time Charles wasn't looking the right direction to see if traffic was coming and paid the ultimate price.

Friday, April 9, 2021

More Evidence of Chicken Bakers

 In support of International Women's Day earlier this month, I had posted my tribute of my 3rd great grandmother Frances. She was born in Wisconsin to English immigrant parents, her father died in the 1849 California Gold Rush and her mom took her and her two siblings back to England. Frances however, sailed back to the U.S. five years later at age 17 to marry my 3rd great grandfather, someone who she was most likely familiar with since he lived in the same town she was born in Wisconsin. The story of Frances celebrates independence and the American dream all in one microcosm of a family. The post drew a comment from someone interested to learn more and when I went to provide the link of her biography information on WikiTree, I realized I hadn't updated it. This led me to updating not only her profile but those of her kids which brings me a long way around to the gist of this post, her son Robert James Chicken.

Robert James Chicken was actually born Robert James Baker due to his father changing his surname after the Civil War. I wrote more about this earlier HERE.  In short, Robert went to live with his uncle Robert Chicken and adopted the surname Chicken back.

I have always assumed it was an informal adoption and it still may be, but in cleaning up Robert's family tree sources, I found a new source, his death record. It says at the top that Robert J. Chicken and that "He was adopted when small and took this name, the original name was Baker". Since this was Robert's son Otis dictating this information, one must place weight to it and perhaps he indeed was officially adopted. At the end of the day, it doesn't really matter to me and it yet another link strengthening the Chicken - Baker surname swap.

The death certificate wasn't done with the surprises. Turns out he died of a probable heart attack but the additional information was enlightening. It went on to say he just dropped dead in the barn yard while choring. He was 64 years at the time and this probably wasn't all that unusual back then. But how many of us work now right up until the moment we check out. I'm guessing quite a bit fewer.

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

The Mouse Interstate


A little over six weeks ago when the snow all melted after one of the snowiest and coldest February we've had in a 100 years, I discovered scene above and wasn't quite sure what to make of it. At first I thought it might be cracks but on closer inspection, they looked more like trails. What animal lives under the snow all year long? I really didn't know the answer so moved on with my life for a few days until I happened to be listening to our local NPR station in the car and heard someone talking about how the winter was great for the rabbit and vole population who both enjoyed the deep snow pack insulation. So I googled "spring lawn trails vole" and sure enough found many articles and pictures that look exactly like above. 

Nobody refers to them as voles here and just call them mice, although technically they are field mice. (I don't know, but probably as opposed to laboratory mice?) We definitely have lots of them around and they infest many a house or building. Fortunately, our house was tightly built back in the day and after I repoured my garage floor and put on a new door sealing that opening, I was able to kill the ones calling our attic home and we've been free of them every since. Occasionally though, always in winter, I will be heading outside early in the morning to clear the driveway of snow before the wife leaves and when I open the door, I am greeted by a mouse sitting there eying my much warmer garage. Despite my efforts, the inevitable get by my defense and make it inside somewhere forcing me to put out some poison to eliminate the problem. It always puzzled me of why it always happened in winter when I presumed they were burrowed underground in a nice cozy den drinking red wine and doing whatever mice do to entertain themselves. But now I know those little boogers are actually using the snow to disguise their blatant disregard to the current pandemic banning get togethers.

I'm not sure what I will do with this knowledge right now. Since they don't infest my house, I'm inclined to let them feed the local hawks which love to sit in the trees below our house all summer. Maybe a couple signs saying no stopping is allowed along the major thoroughfares is in order.