Thursday, April 30, 2009

That's better!

A few weeks ago we had a long spate of simply wonderful weather: warm, sunny— a real tonic after a prairie winter. And then, in typical high plains style, we had a blizzard and a long spell of really nasty, cold weather. During that balmy false spring my trees had put out a copious array of new buds. After the bad weather cleared the buds were gone, or seemed to be! I was getting worried.

But today, the last day of April, things seem to have exploded. Overnight the buds are throwing out new shoots and life begins again.

It's a miracle I never tire of watching, and being thankful for. If we were ever to move the date for Thanksgiving, I'd like to suggest May 1 as a candidate.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Lawn workers fired!

Finally got a window to get out on the lawn tractor and cut the front. These guys have been doing a great job, but they weren't as picky as I like to be.

They'll still be welcome, of course.

Not much green yet

That's the homeplace from the autogate that leads onto the buffalo range, a mile away, and the two-track to town. The trees should be leafing out in a couple of weeks, but we keep getting these bursts of cold weather which slows the process.

We'll get some rain and the plains start to green up, then it goes dry for a week and the green turns back to brown again.

I have high hopes for spring. That's change I can believe in.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Oh, Arlen!

If I may quote that great political commentator, Oliver Hardy—

"Now look what you've done!"

For real?

This has to be a hoax. It's hard to believe that anyone could be this stupid.

But on the other hand, it's also hard to believe how out of touch with reality some people are. Most of them seem to live in cities, where they are isolated from the real world that exists outside of their blinkered metropolitan lifestyle.

So this may well be a satire. Yet the best satire captures the truth in its special way.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Our Veep

Our veep. Said reverently, of course.

Well, maybe.

I remember when he made that good-ol'-boy presentation during the campaign about what a great shooter he was. I think he said, referring to his campaign partner, "He better not mess with my Berettas!" What a guy! Just like us. One of the gang! I'm touched. Have another beer, Joe!

I believe it was John Nance Garner who said the vice-presidency isn't worth a bucket of warm spit.

Any questions?

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Speed Goat, Interrupted

These citizens usually don't stand still for portraiture. This one, and a smaller buck, were about eighty yards off the road as I made my way down to stock the larder the other day.

I stopped the truck and managed to get one quick shot before he decided to haul. My current main camera needs a slightly longer lens. Guess I have to put that on the list.

These are wonderful critters and I enjoy living amongst 'em.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The turkeys are moving

Turkeys are always on the move around here, moving on their "visiting routes" from one abandoned homestead to another. But in the spring they always seem to get more active and there's usually a bunch (usually the same one) on the place or passing through every other day or so. I like to have them around. They're funny birds and eat their weight in bugs.

Word games

"Change you can believe in!"

I just noticed something. If you say "Change that you can believe in!", the word change is quite clear. But if you use the elided form, "Change you can believe in!" the g and the y, no longer separated by "that", he phrase becomes indistinguishable from "Chains you can believe in!"

Try it yourself. Say it aloud both ways.


Friday, April 24, 2009

Our first 90°

Yesterday it topped 90° here for the first time this year.

Lovely, balmy, cloud-piled "summer" day. Then about four o'clock the sky darkened slightly and a fierce gale-force wind came up out of the northwest, taking down some branches from my cottonwoods and running the tumbleweed across the prairie at very high speeds. The temperature dropped fifteen degrees and the "river of air" roared around the house like a raging river.

Then it was gone. The sun was out and the temperature began climbing again. The whole episode had taken less than ten minutes.

The plains can give new meaning to the term abrupt changes.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

A Perfect Day

And about time!

It had been over six weeks since I had done any shopping and I was getting kind of low of some the more perishable items, so I made a supply run yesterday. It was a perfect day to do it: bright and sunny, 75°, and not too much wind. Just an ideal day to make the 250-mile round-trip to the nearest decent shopping spot.

A distant neighbor and I usually share these runs. We stopped and had a nice store-boughten lunch and then stocked the larders. The truck was full on the way home!

We drove back along the river. The plains are starting to green up quite well, especially after all the rain we've had, but the scrub along the river was still stark and bare. It'll be another week or so until it starts to get some color.

When the land and the sky come together like that, it's hard to imagine a more beautiful sight. The Indians used to say "Only earth and sky last forever." That may be enough.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Take a boy hunting

My young visitor from back East a while back. I took him to a friend's ranch where they have a sizable prairie dog town and we spent an afternoon dueling with them. He used one of my ARs because the stock adjusted easily for him and he turned out to be pretty good with it. It's a half-minute rifle and does well at this kind of work.

He had fair luck, but was anxious to make a long shot. Lots of misses, but he stuck with it. He was shooting from sitting with a bipod support. Finally, toward the end of our session, he made a beautiful shot at a measured 284 yards.

I don't know know who was more proud, him or me.

(Yeah, I know: he shouldn't be handling the thing. But he grabbed it before I could give him the gloves I had in my pocket and I thought it better to just get the picture and then get him washed up real quick.)

Rain, rain, and more rain

Three full days of it.

It's starting to look like we're going to get our 12" annual rainfall in one dose!

We never have floods in these parts: the ground just soaks it up almost as fast as it comes down. And there's a new color on the plains now. Green. The country is greening up at a remarkable rate. The mulies, who are grazers and not browsers like whitetails, seem pretty happy with the new growth and since I have a lot of it on my place I am still on their Good Guy list.

It would be nice if we could get a few more (perhaps shorter) spates of good, soaking rain in the weeks to come. But if the pattern of the past holds, we will have a long, long dry spell to look forward to.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

The Road to Nowhere

The road into my place is a bit sunken. That means that when it snows, it fills up. It takes a long time for it to melt, and when it does melt the road becomes a bayou.

No problem. I just drive out in the pasture next to it and all is well. The prairie is actually smoother than the road anyway. If we have a really bad snow storm this whole flat will become impassable and I'll have to work my way out across the tops of the hills to the right, where the wind keeps them pretty clear of snow. Usually, though, I just stay put. (Those flimsy little electric poles can barely be made out on the right as well.)

If the road continues to sink and the maintainer keeps scraping it ever deeper, I'm going to suggest to the county that they roof it. That'll solve the problem.

Family Reunion

Yesterday I was looking for a piece of photo gear and went into a large camera bag I hadn't checked since the move. The piece I needed was in there all right, but so was an old friend that I hadn't seen in a while.

Teddy is actually older than I am, having been bought for me before I was born by an aunt. Over the years I experimented with names for him, but he was always best as just "Teddy."

He suffered a severe case of hair loss when I was about three and we visited the clinic where my mother worked as a nurse. A little boy there was being treated for impetigo and he snatched Teddy out of my arms and gave him a big hug. The head nurse grabbed Teddy and put him into the sterilizer. Poor Teddy!

I wish he could talk. What memories we could share together.

Friday, April 10, 2009

The President's Bow

I can't manage to get the image out of my head.

When I heard that our president had "bowed low to the king of Saudi Arabia" I thought "No, couldn't be!"

And the White House "spokesperson" then said something to the effect that this was ridiculous and it only looked that way because the president is taller than the king.

But then I saw a link to the video and watched it.

That is a full-on bow if I ever saw one. I don't know if he kissed his ring or not, can't tell about that. Hardly matters, though. Our president has bowed in the traditional mark of fealty and subservience to a foreign monarch. General Washington must be revolving in his grave at a high rate of speed. Tom Jefferson has probably dematerialized.

One other point. Even though technically illegal, slavery is still practiced in Saudi Arabia. Don't take my word for it. Go to Google and ask for "slavery saudi arabia." See what you get. So, our self-consciously "black" chief of state has made obeisance to the king of a country where they still keep slaves and, as they have for centuries, look down their noses at blacks as inferior and fit only to be servants.

I find this all very disturbing. And that's understating the case.

I'm disgusted. And ashamed for us all.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Planning Mode

For the first time since I moved out here I am returning to Ireland in September. I will meet a small group there at Shannon and we will spend ten days together exploring the the many wonders of Irish history, archeology, and culture. I suspect there may be a few jars downed and a bit of music enjoyed as well. I really enjoy these trips, and have been running them for twenty years now, save for the break I took to get myself settled in on the plains.

I tend to be a planner, a note-taker, a list-maker. I like and value and spontaneity, but on one of my trips I believe that the most rewarding spontaneity arises out of a measure of prior planning. And so I am now deep into 'planning mode' even though the trip is five months away.

I've done these trips all over Ireland (and Scotland), but my favorite region is rivaled only by the American Southwest in the incredible richness of archeological monuments— and, of course, in a much smaller area. The local archeological survey lists and describes almost sixteen-hundred sites, ranging from Neolithic shell middens, through Bronze Age tombs and stone alignments, to early Christian monastic establishments, to 16th century fortifications, and even the remnants of Cromwell's brutality.

We couldn't exhaust the sites I am personally familiar with if we were to stay for several months, but nevertheless I enjoy reviewing my notes and planing 'perfect days' for my groups. Of course, there are also the evenings of music, or poetry, or history, or local lore— or just good cráic— to arrange for.

Besides, I enjoy being in Planning Mode. It's part nostalgia and part anticipation and I like both.

Monday, April 6, 2009

A Hearth in Storm-time

All the pretense
brushed aside.

life itself—
to a good fire,

A warm hearth,

And a loved dog


April on the High Plains

This was written Saturday...

The blizzard we had been warned about hit us about ten this morning. By eleven the power began flickering on and off. There is a pattern to that: the brief outages become more frequent, and then there is that final click and it does not come back on again. Somehow you know. There is no logical explanation for it, but you know that it won't be coming back on again.

It's almost embarrassing to enumerate all my various dependencies on that little black wire carried over the hills by those slender creosoted poles.

Both my stove and my furnace are propane, but neither will function without electricity. And then there are the house lights, computers, printers, satellite uplink, camera and recorder battery chargers, and of course the water pump. On and on goes the list.

I have a generator, of course. Everybody out here does, in tacit and abject acknowledgment of our addiction to that empowering spark. But I only run the generator when it is really necessary: an hour or two of furnace, a little cooking, getting a few messages out on the internet.

My house is insulated to R-39 and the fireplace does a good job of keeping us warm even in 0° weather. I've had a good supply of firewood stacked up on the front porch, under tarps, for some time. Once the sun sets, I depend on the fireplace and the oil lamps.

And so life goes on. But it's chastening to have to admit the extent to which I am still dependent, and even more humbling to have to acknowledge my addiction to the various life-style items that depend on that thin, fragile wire.

Power was restored Sunday night, having been off for a day and a half.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Travelers, Passing Through

High, so high up
elegant windjammers
they ride the sky
all their sails aloft.

Once, twice,
in the frigid breeze
so faint, so high up
I hear their cries.

"We go! We go!"

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Odocoileus Hemionus Redux

Yep, more deer pix. Folks might get bored with my critter pictures, but I don't so shall continue to post them as they occur.

This morning I had nineteen mulies in the front yard. By the time I got out there with a camera they had moved over toward the east meadow and I was only able to get a dozen or so at a time in the frame. Mom and the triplets were in the group, along with the other doe/fawn pairs. No bucks as far as I could see.

Deer out here have a much larger working range than whitetails back east. I'm going to guess, based on observation, that they range two hundred square miles and maybe quite a bit more. In addition to plenty of places to find cover on the prairie, there are many abandoned homesteads and ranches, places with trees and brush cover, where they can make themselves comfortable and stay for a while. This particular band has been regular visitors on my place for several years. I guess we are used to each other, more or less.

They'll stick around for a few days and then go on the next leg of their rounds. I'll see them again in a few weeks and by that time there will probably be new fawns. Mom is gonna have to run those trips off pretty soon, and if she has another dose of triplets, or even twins, she's going to get really run down. It is likely that the next time I see her she will have a new baby or two and the triplets will still be hanging on. This is the common pattern I have observed. At least she won't be nursing all of them.