It Has Begun…

Look out Flatlanders! It’s coming your way.

When I drove up from Denver, last night, I didnt see these trees changing. It was dark. After work today, though, they stood out like…well, you can see.

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Over the past few days, down in the city, I thought I’d noticed a slight touch of fall. Up here? Not so slight. I’ll post some unbelievable images in the next couple of weeks.

Just thought I’d toss out a teaser. Fall is on its way, and quicker than you think.

That’s it for me. As always, thanks for following, liking and sharing.

~Enjoy the Life you’re living.

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“Daddy’s Gone…”

These are the words I heard on Wednesday night, and with them, another chapter of my life closed. My mother died on the Friday after Thanksgiving. So, now there’s no one between me and eternity. I’m next in line, waiting for my number to be called. Somebody hand me the little buzzer with flashing lights, and let me know when my table is ready.

I shared it on FB, and a very dear friend wrote “ Look at your role as the ancient one in your family and take it up bravely, outrageously, and deliberately.” Perhaps, I will do that, especially the “outrageously” part.

For some time, my life has been on hold, waiting for things to happen. My father’s passing was a big one. The things that are left, are to pay off the little debt that I have, do an actual conversion of the Stew Wagon, and learn to make money on the road. I think I can do all of these over the winter.

That doesnt mean I wont be traveling in the meantime. I certainly will. It just means that I wont be doing those long trips yet.

For now though, thanks for reading, sharing, and liking. Please, as long as you can…

~Enjoy the Life you’re living.

Missed Opportunity…

Yesterday was the day of the Great American Eclipse. Many thousands, if not millions, of people crossed the country, borders, and even oceans, to see it. Photographers, both amateur and professional, turned their lenses to the sky, to capture the the most unique astronomical event of their lives.

Me? I was working at a Molybdenum mill. I’m not complaining, though. The pay is good, and I got to see a partial eclipse, projected onto a Post-It Note, through a pinhole in another one.

What I did miss, though, was the opportunity to photograph all those people. A few hours north, in Wyoming, the view was total, and people flocked there to see. People of all types, colors, beliefs and disbeliefs. It was a veritable Woodstock, without music, but with plenty of other enhancement, I’m sure. (I understand that a pot shop in Portland was selling a new strain called “Moon Puppies”.)

The Woodstock reference wasnt just literary. Traveling to one of the small towns along the “Path of Totality” might have been remarkable. I imagine roadside diners filled with divers customers, streets teeming with pilgrims, vandwellers, RV dwellers, hitchhikers, cowboys, businessmen, and hippies. Yes, my imagination is fertile, and it tells me that I missed a marvelous human gathering, and a chance to capture it through my lens. Oh well. There will be other gatherings.

A friend and I were talking about that. Last summer, I covered several festivals, which is documented on this blog. This year? Zilch. It isnt that I’m disinterested. My life is out of whack, with so many personal things going on, and I honestly havent had time for them. Lots of places have Fall and Winter festivals, though, so I’ll be able to do some of that.

In the meantime, my dad continues to hang on. His condition is slowly deteriorating. Every morning, I wake up wondering if this will be the day I get The Call. When I do, it will mean one last trip to Oklahoma. Then, I probably wont go back again.

For now, though, thanks for following. Please, share what you like. Most of all, though…

~Enjoy the Life you’re living.

Hero

What is it about soldiers that sets them apart from every other person in the world? Those of you who know me, know that I detest war, in fact, cruelty of any kind. I understand that there are times when war becomes unavoidable, but I still hate it.

That doesnt mean that I dont respect the soldier. Anyone willing to put his or her life at risk, to protect others, deserves whatever honor can be bestowed. Courage, to me, does not mean that one is not afraid. It means to move ahead, despite your fears, and do what needs to be done. Heroes are those people who set aside concern for themselves to help others. With that in mind, I want to tell you about something that happened this weekend, but first, I need to give you some background.

The winter of 1944-45 was extreme, across Europe. Temperatures often went below zero, and snow piled up around Allied forces who were struggling against the German onslaught. Frozen ground made it impossible to dig foxholes. In January of 1945, the 3rd US Infantry Division assisted French troops, as they attacked the southern edge of an area called the Colmar Pocket. The 7th Regiment cleared the area between the Fecht and Ill rivers, enduring heavy shelling as it moved ahead. The following weeks brought more combat and shelling, as the regiment moved up the Rhine. Snow melted and the frozen ground turned to mud. Under heavy fire, the 7th marched on, ultimately taking Hitler’s fortified compound, a few miles outside the village of Berchtesgaden, on Kehlstein Mountain. That was the fourth day of May, 1945.

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This past Saturday, I went to a local tire store to get new treads for the Stew Wagon. After being blown off the road in a howling Kansas rainstorm, I thought it was probably time. The people at Peerless Tire, in Northglenn, always take good care of me, so that’s where I went. (Theyr’e great to work with, but you dont want to use their restroom.) In the waiting area, I sat across from an old man. He was alone, one shaking hand on the crook of his cane, and the other on his knee. The skin was wrinkled, thin, and spotted with age. Eyes looking ahead, he didnt speak. A hearing device was clipped to his pocket, and he wore black headphones.

I said, “Good morning.”

“What’s that?”, he asked, leaning toward me.

“Good morning,” I repeated, a little louder.

“Good morning,” he replied, ”I’m sorry. I’m deaf. Lost my hearing in World War II.”

“How did that happen?”, I asked.

He looked surprised. “Concussion!”, his voice was firm. “I was in the 7th Infantry Regiment. We were shelled in France, then in Belgium, and all the way into Germany.” His eyes looked directly into mine.

In my sixty years, I’ve met many vets. Some were proud, others bitter and angry, but I’d never met one who moved me like this man. The seeming helplessness of him contrasted keenly against my mental image of a young, vital soldier in fatigues, smoking cigarettes, and laughing with his buddies. Involuntarily, moisture filled my eyes, as I said, “Thank you.”

“I didnt do much”, he said, “Just drove a truck.”

“You gave up your hearing”, I countered, a little choked up. “What was in the truck?”

“Cans of fuel for our tanks and halftracks.”

Whoa! How terrifying must it have been for a twentysomething boy to drive a truck full of diesel fuel through barrage after barrage of heavy artillery fire!  Imagine, all those days, stretching into months, through the snow and muck, and never knowing if it might be his day. Maybe you’d get used to it, but I doubt it. That, in my mind, is courage, deserving of respect.

 

About that time, a younger man came in. “You ready to go?” As he stood up, so did I. I wanted to shake the hand of this man who sacrificed his hearing for me, all those years ago. It was thin, trembling, and the grip was weak, but I was honored to shake it. One more time, I said, “Thank you”, as the younger man held the door for this hero.

–==\\ * //==–

Life amazes me, by so often putting marvelous people and things into my path. Here’s the thing, though, I have to be open to it. If I had chosen not to greet this man, I would never have known his story. I am so grateful that, over seventy-five years later, I was able to say, “Thank you”.

That’s it for me. Enjoy the Life you’re living.

A Treasure Box in Kansas…

Well, maybe not. In another time, though, you can imagine what a wonderful place this must have been. At first, I drove past, but I knew I had to turn around. There was a story here, and I wanted to find it.

Pulling onto the property, just beyond the “No Trespassing” sign, I stepped out to have a look around. As you can see from the photos, it’s been a long time since anyone has done much in the way of maintenance. A couple of windows are broken, and the wooden porch sags. Oddly, the colorful paint has withstood the years well.

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On private property, before I do any photography, I always ask permission. In this case, I had to follow a pair of tire tracks up a small slope. From the top, I saw a pretty little house, and some out-buildings. The Bermuda grass is kept short, and a few manicured trees dot the property.

From behind a line of bushes came a long-haired little dog, yapping at me, followed by a galloping full sized English sheep dog. A deep bark welcomed me, as it’s paws landed on the fronts of my shoulders. “Hello, New Friend!”, is how I interpreted this greeting, “Petmepleasepetmepleasepetmepleasepleasepleasepetme!” So, I did. Although it’s difficult to walk in such a situation, I continued my trek toward the house.

The owner appeared from behind the same bushes; a senior woman, probably a little older than I am. Her silent gaze seemed amicable, if cautious, so I smiled and said,”I dont even get a welcome like this at home!” She remained stoic.

“I saw that marvelous building from the road, and had to stop,” I said. “I’d like to do a few photos, if you dont mind.”

“There’s a ‘No Trespassing sign”, she said, pointing back the way I’d come.

“Yes, I know. That’s why I left the car behind and walked up”, I replied.

“People dont respect your property, anymore,” she said, “They’ve broken windows, kicked in the door and torn up the inside.” Her finger pointed toward a place on the other side of the hill, “I had a statue of an eagle on the pedestal, down there. Somebody just pulled right up and stole it.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that”, I said, “but that’s why I came up to ask permission. If you dont want me to shoot, I’ll leave.”

“No”, she said, still stoic, “I dont mind if you take pictures. Just dont go on the porch, or inside. It’s not safe.”

This made me feel a little more at ease, so I ventured a question, “So, what’s the story with this building? It’s lovely, and must have really been something, at one time.”

Shifting her weight, she began, “We bought the place and set up a farm market. It was the only one around here, and we did alright. We had planned to expand to the upper floor and sell antiques, too. Then we got divorced, and the finances were just never there, and I finally had to close it up.”

What a sad, but all too common way for things to go. I didnt ask what caused the divorce, or how long she’d managed to make a go of it. “I’m sorry”, was all I could muster.

Turning back the way I’d come, I thanked her, and assured her that I’d stay off the porch and outside the building. The dogs also seemed to know we were done, as they just watched me walk past.

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Apparently, there are some who feel comfortable living there.

On the broad lawn, I found these huge mushrooms.

 

This bush was growing through the frame of an old wagon. Couldnt resist a few frames.

Once again, you never know what you’ll find, if you get off the interstate and travel state highways.

That’s if for me. I’ll share again soon. In the meanwhile…

~Enjoy the Life You’re Living.

As Summer is Winding Down…

…I’m reminded of how little of Life is in my control. Travel plans continue to be interrupted by more urgent, and arguably more important things. By order of importance, my father’s health has upstaged everything else. As I write this, he is in hospice.

The last weekend of July, my daughter and I went to visit him. Putting my arms around his frail, shrunken body was one of the most heartrending, and yet comforting events I’ve ever experienced. This man, who has been around for every one of my fifty-nine birthdays, may not get to see the sixtieth, just a month away. How does one prepare for this?

This coming weekend, I’ll make the ten hour drive, again. I’ll spend a couple of hours visiting with him, boondock in a parking lot somewhere, then see him again on Sunday morning, before heading back up here.

The theft of the original Stew Wagon set me back, in many ways. It hit my itinerary, my bank account, and my spirit. Now, though, a replacement vehicle is with my mechanic for evaluation (also hitting my itinerary and bank account). If it’s going to be my home, I’d like to begin with something reliable. Any major issues will be dealt with now, and others can be planned, for later.

I’m getting used to the new(ish) cameras. Some of my shots are pretty good. Nothing that I’d like to share, yet. Give me another week for that.

For now, though…

~Enjoy the Life you’re living.

August!

For most people in this hemisphere, it’s the Dog Days of Summer. The same is true up here in the White River National Forest, but at 9,000 feet above sea level, the temperatures a somewhat more tolerable. “Partly cloudy, with a chance of afternoon showers” is the usual forecast. Already, though, days grow shorter. Skies are darker when I wake up, and cool early morning temperatures have me reaching for an extra blanket.

Spent my first night in the new vehicle, and a few “to-do”s presented themselves. For example, I need to build a half-height closet that can be relocated when needed. Also, a layer of polyiso insulation is compulsory. Reflectix works well for now, but very soon it wont be enough. Not sure about the ceiling, yet. Perhaps I’ll hang some kind of textile treatment over the insulation.

If you get the feeling that I’m stalling on photos, it’s because I am. The new ride has some features that make it ultra-versatile, with regard to seating and sleeping arrangements. Also, there are a couple of things that need to be fixed before I show it off to you all.

What I will show you is my new Little Jumbo travel guitar, from Alvarez.

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It’s very light, but well made, with a solid spruce top.

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While it doesnt hve the deep bass you get in a dread, it’s much more suited to playing in the close quarters of a vehicle.

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Despite it’s small size, it does deliver a nice range, with unexpectedly warm tones that ring for a while. The action is high, which I sometimes think is an intentional way to get a set up fee for the dealer. Still, I’m digging it.

There are other things to share, but I’ll save them for later posts. Look for some videos soon. I’ll post links, when they’re up. In the meantime-

~Enjoy the Life You’re Living.