Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Moment Apart

Last year, for the first time ever, Mom, Tiggy, and I attended a women's retreat. Held at the Rock Creek Resort just outside Red Lodge, MT, it was so near to perfection that the only improvement we could think of was to have Tina along. (And Jack and the boys, too, but after all, it was a women's retreat. Despite Devon's promises to wear a wig, he didn't get to come, either.) Now that she's no longer caring for Grandpa, Tina got to come this time.

Last year we all signed a card for a 92-year-old woman who had fallen and broken her hip just before the retreat. This year, we were delighted to get to meet her, and to find out what lay behind her injury. Probably she is one of the older people to collect Workman's Comp, when she fell while working at the nursing home taking care of the old people. Now she's 93, and going strong again. 

I led out in the music for both years, which was oodles of fun, joy, and blessings, and enjoyed the speaker tremendously. Tina already put quite a bit of info on her blog, so I won't repeat her. Though let me clarify that I was short-BLANKETED, not short-sheeted. And short-blanketing just doesn't work so well. A beautiful hotel in the mountains, with maid service and someone else doing all the cooking for me, was amazing, but the privilege of music didn't leave much time for photography. 

Still, early Sunday morning I managed to slip away for a short while in the fog. I came back soaked to the knee, damp head to toe, and purely delighted with my walk. Hope you enjoy it, too!

Rock Creek Resort

Rock Creek - after more
than 24 hours
of hard rain.

Dewdrop Landscape

Last but not least.....

And all too quickly, the moment of respite was gone.

Until next year, at the Yogo Inn in Lewistown, MT, September 12-14. Hope to see you there!

The Fair

Ok, so in retrospect I probably should have done this a little closer to the actual event, but if I accidentally forget what I won for some of the pictures and end up showing more first place ribbons than Tina, who's actually counting? (Besides Tina.) The Sheridan County Fair is held every year during the last weekend in July.

What is far more important to me than how placed is how much money I won. Hey, I'm just being honest here. Most years I break about even, and it's lovely to have a hobby that pays for itself.

What is second most important to me is how I came to have the photos in the first place. Some were snapped on impulse, and others, like the one below, came at a high cost to my tender flesh. All are a part of my life, and the experience has shaped me into who I am. Because of the fair, I actually get paid for this shaping experience - sounds like a win-win to me!

The first batch of images below were all entered in the enlargement category.

1. This alkali lake is just a mile or two north of our house, barely out of town. I expected to have to fight the mosquitoes, which are usually bad by the lakes. Instead, I was mightily beset by biting flies,each trying to get their pound of flesh in the first bite. For many, their first bite was also their last. I was rather thankful that no one went by, gawking as I tried to snap photos between convulsions. 1st Place

2. Technically not a sparrow, but looking very much like one, this little bird flew out of the nest before it was strong enough to fly back. Or anywhere else, for that matter. Devon held it for a moment for me before I hoisted him on my shoulders to put it back. You'll see its green-headed parent below. 1st Place

3. This boot picture was taken in honor of the young brother and sister who drowned together at nearby Medicine Lake. They both loved to wear cowboy boots on every possible occasion. Each time I see this picture, it reminds me to say a prayer for their grieving family. 2nd Place

4. This wild shot was of Clancy yawning while wearing the Cone of Shame due to an ear infection called Pillow Ear. He had to wear this for WEEKS, and was so thrilled when it finally came off that he could barely walk straight. 2nd Place

5. While at the farm, Damon and Devon both spent time in the pen with the bottle-fed calves. It was an entirely new experience to have their elbows, and any other bit of salty skin, slurped and slobbered on. 1st Place

6. This gorgeous flag is located at one of the ranger stations in Yellowstone National Park. Tiggy gets credit for finding the shot first, but since she accidentally mixed her entries up and couldn't enter her flag picture, I got to enter mine. 1st Place

7. This adorable little green-headed bird worked very hard to feed its babies, in a nest located just above the doorway of the farmhouse Mom, Dad, Tina, and assorted children occupied while in Wisconsin. 1st Place

8. As the only one with a tripod, I kinda have the time exposure slot all to myself. This sunset at the farm was made extra exciting by the field of fireflies in the foreground. Upon our return, I saw fireflies out here for the first time, along Tina's driveway. 2nd Place

9. Nearly all my fair pictures with a person involved contained Devon. Well, he moves really fast and is always in the middle of everything. Our spring trip to Makoshika State Park was no exception. 1st Place]

10. These lovely orchids belong to Eldine and Margie, our cousins who housed us in Wisconsin. 2nd Place

11. This was the moment before Damon and Devon almost blew away with this retired smokejumper, in West Yellowstone, MT. Thanks for Entering

12. These miniature snow drifts from last winter still give me a chill looking at them. It must have been about 20 below, not bad but a lot colder than it is now! 1st Place

13. Another wintertime photo, this portrait of Tiggy evokes shivers despite its warm tones. I adjusted the color myself so it wouldn't look so completely frigit. 2nd Place

14. Yo usaw this tractor from the rear at the beginning of the previous blog post, being driven by my cousin, Pat. When he was done, he conveniently parked it in front of a sunset. Thanks, Pat! 1st Place

15. Upon our arrival at the Wisconsin Dells, Tina was still trying to find a cooler place to park the dogs for our boat ride, since it was uncomfortably hot even in the shade. Just as she found one tiny little shady spot, we found out that if we rode the Duck Tours, we could actually bring them with us! The Duck Tours use some old amphibious vehicles recommissioned after WWII, and the dogs were just a tad bit nervous as our "cars" drove off the edge and into the water. 1st Place

16. This picture...about my favorite of anything I've ever taken...almost didn't happen. A certain husband, we'll call him "Mack" to avoid embarrassing him, hogged the window seat. I practically fell in his lap trying to lean through and capture this image at the right moment. It was close, but I made it! 1st Place and Special Award

17. While camping at West Yellowstone, we visited the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center. As I mentioned before, it's well worth the price of admission, especially since each ticket is good for two days. This incredible wolf posed for me in broad daylight, but a smidge of magic created the illusion of moonlight in the forest. 2nd Place

18. This photo gives no evidence of what happened just a split second later. By the time these two hit the ground, Devon had somehow managed to flip around and land on top of his opponent, neatly pinning him. 1st Place

The following photos were entered in the 4x6 category. Tina does not permit these ribbons to be counted with the others. But since the ribbons still came with cash prizes, I'm content to let the ribbon count fall where it may.

 1. Another fun moment at the Grizzly and Wolf Discovery Center - one of the few places you can get close-ups of grizzly nose hairs in complete and total safety. 1st Place

2. During camp meeting, some of the little girls discovered this colorful swallowtail outside our building. It must have just emerged recently, since it didn't fly away when they held their hands out to be walked on. Everyone who wanted to took their turn gently holding it, before putting it on this bush to finish hardening its wings and preparing to fly. 1st Place

3. Firework time exposures - my favorite part of the 4th of July, except for the veggie burgers. 1st Place

4. From the raptor section of the Grizzly and Wolf DC, comes this cute Great Horned Owl pedestrian. Found near a highway, having blown out of his nest during a storm, he imprinted on humans and has a few odd quirks to him. Thanks for Entering

5. These pink bits of wonderness grew in the flowerbed next to Eldine and Margie's house in Wisconsin. 1st Place

6. By now, you'll probably be surprised to hear that these wolves also come from the G&W DC in West Yellowstone. We were just about to leave, in the late afternoon, when a fender-bender just down the street brought a fleet of vehicles with sirens. Immediately, every wolf in the place began to howl, and I left the grizzly pen at a run. This particular photo was taken through a chain link fence, but one advantage of a zoom lens is the narrow depth of field. Translation: the fence was so out-of-focus it didn't even show. 1st Place

7. Without the trip to Wisconsin and the G&W DC I wouldn't have had much of a showing.This wasn't the only bald eagle image I captured, but the fair only has so many animal categories. 1st Place

There was one more piece of artwork, which I don't have a photo of. It was a mixed media art piece, taken originally as a photo of a hummingbird in Eldine and Margie's flowering plant. The hummingbird turned out blurry, along with some of the important leaves and flowers, so I printed up the photo and oil painted over any parts that needed it. I was less than thrilled with the results, but decided to enter it anyway, since even if it only got a 3rd place there would still be a small sum of money involved. If you haven't already picked up on this, I'm not exactly one of those art purists who believe that art should only be for the sake of art, with no considerations of filthy lucre. Though filthy lucre shouldn't be the center of our lives, or the recipient of our love, or even our main priority, without it there would be no important things like CAT FOOD AND TOILET PAPER, okay???

The big problem was that when I went to pick up the photo/painting on my way to the fairgrounds to turn it in, the paint still wasn't dry. Oh well, I had some wood sealer spray handy, and sealer is sealer, right? It didn't say NOT FOR USE ON PHOTOGRAPHS, so I dashed outside and sprayed away. And stared in horror, mouth agape, as the picture began to melt. 

Oh good, at least it was a quick-dry sealer, so the melting stopped fairly quickly. The peppery result somewhat resembled the salt technique used in watercolors. I convinced myself that it might even look better now than it had before. Surely my little mishap hadn't completely X'd me out of any chance of a 3rd place...

I was happy enough with the results of my photos that I almost didn't care how the poor, abused hummingbird had wound up...until I found out that it had not only place 1st, but won a Special Award besides!!! And if I haven't mentioned it before, Special Awards = Cash. THANK YOU LOCAL BUSINESSES!!!!!!!!!!!!

Tina was pretty happy with her Special Award, and gloating in a most unbecoming manner, up until she found out that Tiggy and I each had two, and Mom had THREE for her sewing projects. The only person who tied with Tina for Special Awards was Devon, who also had one. Suddenly, she no longer felt quite as Special. Or as Awarded.

So she consoled herself with the most number of 1st place ribbons. And I consoled myself with the most prize money. And we were both very happy!

We were already planning next year's entries before this year's had grown cold. She has some amazing portraits and landscapes already, and I have a stunning Least Weasel closeup. Cue the dueling banjos, boys, and get ready for Fair 2014, coming soon to a sibling rivalry near you!

On the Farm

Cousin Pat
June 23, 2013

One day and two nights, that was all the time we could allot for our visit. Far from ending our day, the conclusion of the services in the cemetery signaled the start of another round of visiting. It took only moments to change out of our duds so we could go to The Farm. As in dairy, not CIA.

Jack and Patrick
From my earliest years, The Farm was a place of mystery and wonder. My own first visit took place at the age of seven, with Grandpa and Grandma as my tour guides. At that time, my cousins seemed vastly old and mature compared to me, practically geezers, though the youngest was only twelve.

My kids were 5, 2, and 6 months on their first trip, and our cousins hadn't seen Devon since then, until he turned up for the funeral at the age of 12, and almost as tall as I am. Jack and I were able to stop by overnight a few years back, unfortunately with no children.

Jack went straight to the barn. Having lived his early years on a dairy farm himself, he feels right at home there. You’d never know the cousins were his only by marriage, since they all bonded immediately the very first time they laid eyes on each other. The rest of us paid a visit to the old homestead first, even Mom on her broken foot.

By this time, she had crutches, not that it was much of an asset while picking her way through near-jungle conditions to the abandoned site of Grandma’s birth. The original house, the one Grandma kept trying to walk to in her later years, had burned down long ago. Another house had been built on the same foundation, just large enough to accommodate her brother, Philip. After his death, it was no longer used. The old barn, which burned at the same time as the first house, still lies in a delightful ruin, full of exciting artifacts.

The Old Farmstead

Burned-out Old Barn

Our cousins' barn, which did not burn down, remains the hub of The Farm, and the family. It looks the same as when I first saw it 34 years ago. 

The Barn
Probably it looks the same as when Mom saw it never-mind-how-many years ago. More than 34. The descendants of Tina the Cow still roam the pastures, and come in twice each day for milking. A local cheese company buys all the milk from The Farm, and many others nearby. Our cousins grow their own hay and other crops, even producing their own maple syrup. It’s all wonderful, but the best part of The Farm is our family.
L-R: Me, Patsy, Pat, Cora,
Devon and Jack, Mom,
Caleb, Damon, Tina,
Peter, Tiggy, Harold, Dad,
and Dorothy. This was
only a small part of the family
that we saw.

We were up late that night, trying to crowd just a few more hours of visiting in. There just wasn’t enough time to say everything we wanted. I can’t wait to go back! Plus, I didn't get nearly enough pictures of my cousins.

The Trip Home

…was much less eventful than the trip out. No thunderstorms, no flat tires, no caskets in the trailer. We took a boat ride at the Wisconsin Dells on our way out, which was also my idea. Besides liking the Dells, I thought it would be a good chance to decompress a bit after the emotional week we’d all had, and visiting a neat place we’d been with Grandpa and Grandma seemed like it would be perfect. And it was.

I’d been working on photos to enter in the fair for the entire year, but on the trip to Wisconsin I greatly expanded my stock. Watch for the fair blog post to see the results. I’ll tell you right now that Tina got more ribbons than I did, and I’m fine with that.


Friday, September 6, 2013

Evading the Game Warden

Disclaimer #1: You all know me, right? You know that I would never advocate killing sweet (or not so sweet) little (or not so little) animals illegally, right? Or breaking the law at all, right? I mean, I even obey the speed limits when no one is looking. When I see a highway patrol, I don't even glance at my speedometer - I just wave. 

This post was written a few years back, and is completely tongue-in-cheek, at least on my end. (And not tongue-in-cheek at all on the part of my interviewee.) Bottom line: DO NOT POACH!

Disclaimer #2: All information has been changed to protect the identity of the person who shared this fascinating array of information with me. I will confirm that his actual gender was male (not that there would be any question in your mind after reading this), but all other details have been changed. I won’t even tell you which state he comes from. The fact that I’m thinking of him right after a visit to Wisconsin is probably just coincidence. But even if an enterprising game warden did correctly identify my male relative, he is now deceased, and beyond the reach of any law except God’s.

Great-uncle Danny was considered by many to be the black sheep of the family. If what he told me a few years ago was any indication, Grandpa and Grandma probably had to work very hard to keep my horizons from being too quickly expanded at a tender age, when I first met Uncle Danny. Mom said they probably had to work pretty hard when she was little, too, to keep her from learning a variety of colorful expressions and family anecdotes. `

When I saw Uncle Danny last, shortly before he died, I was a little surprised to find that he’d been carefully watching world events, and firmly believed that Jesus is coming soon. His growing convictions were a radical departure from the wild life he’d led. (Grandpa’s years of prayer on his behalf may have contributed to the change.)

Perhaps sensing that his time were getting short, Uncle Danny may have wanted to make sure that his extensive knowledge of poaching wasn’t lost to posterity, and I’m not talking about eggs. He’s what I would consider a vestigial mountain man, one of those old-time fellas who grew up back when you could kill anything, any time you needed to. Game laws have grown to be second nature for most of us, but for those who first saw them implemented, they must have seemed terribly restrictive.

Some adapted well to the increased regulations, and others went the road of Uncle Danny, doing everything within their power to outwit the game wardens. REMEMBER, NO POACHING!!!

April 25, 2008


General poaching rules:

1. Never poach in the same place twice.
2. Don't get caught.

How to poach fish:

(Note: in a certain unnamed state, spear-fishing is illegal except for Native Americans.)

1. Remember that the refraction of the light in the water causes the fish to appear in a position that is slightly off from its actual location, so aim the spear where its head is. You should then strike it in the middle.
2. Don't catch more than you can carry in one load.
3. As soon as you get back to the car, hide it in the trunk and change out of your boots.
4. When the game warden shows up, tell him you weren't spear fishing, but another car pulled away just as you got there. The warden will be fooled.
5. Quickly take your catch to your friend's house and pull into his garage with all the windows blackened.
6. Dress fish.
7. Eat fish.

How to poach deer:

1. Find a deer out of sight of the neighboring houses.
2. Shoot the deer in the heart. A gut shot, besides being cruel to the deer, will mean that you are not able to track the deer through the woods and it will be wasted.
3. Scoop up the deer as quickly as possible, and throw it in the back of your pickup.
4. Drive away hastily, but not in a way that will attract attention.
5. Take deer to friend's house, and pull into the garage with the blackened windows.
6. Dress deer.
7. Eat deer.

How to poach wolves:

1. Prepare a warm water bottle.
2. Make sure the wolf is not within sight of any houses.
3. Shoot the wolf.
4. Slip the water bottle under the collar around the wolf's neck, so the collar alarm does not go off.
5. Quickly put the wolf in your vehicle and drive away.
6. Do not drive over 30 mph, so the collar alarm does not go off.
7. Make sure no one is looking.
8. Dispose of wolf where it will be difficult to locate.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this lighthearted tribute to Uncle Danny, one of the last heroes of the Old Ways, when you took what you needed—and only what you needed—when you needed it. And there was always more.

We live in a very different world now. For good or for bad, it’s not the way it used to be.

P.S. Remember, no poaching. Except eggs.