Night Flight

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Night time in the back waters. Frogs are calling, insects are buzzing, the reeds slowly brush together with a soft rustling sound only slightly louder than the water moving through the channel. This is night in the sloughs. Walking carefully along the wooden planks of the walkways that reach out into the back waters of the Gulf of Mexico, seeing only by moonlight, listening intently for the hiss of an alligator, or the quiet call of a nesting bird, when a misstep causes a plank to creak and suddenly there is a burst of movement as a Roseate Spoonbill takes flight.

It is nearly fully dark with a half-moon barely illuminating the water, too dark really for pictures, but instinct takes over, the camera is raised automatically and a shot is taken. Hopefully there is enough moonlight to catch it. There is no time for camera adjustments or thought about how to take the shot just get it in the viewfinder and press the shutter. There is an immediate reaction as amused you think, “No way that’s turning out, reflexes or not, you’re not getting that shot. “.

Perhaps, I didn’t. According to the photo rule makers who decide how you must take a perfect image, whether it is a good image or not according to the way they see things depends a lot on whether you follow their rules. I guess I tend not to. To me the emotion and feeling of the image is more important than the rules of thirds, or exact focus. Does it grab you or not, that’s the key for me. However you personally view it that’s the way it looked and felt that warm muggy evening on the Gulf of Mexico. What I remember was the sound, the burst of color, and the moonlight on the water. It’ll work for me until I can take a better one.

 

Tsunami

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Many, many moons ago, before people or any living thing was alive, the earth moved. It did not just move it convulsed. It was hot, the very foundation of what would be land was a molten sea of stone and storms of incredible size raged across the surface of the planet creating waves of unbelievable height. Since there was nothing solid to hurl themselves against they crashed into each other, plumes of stone rising into the air as if trying to escape the conflagration of which they were a part.

There was no escape. Everything was held to the planet by an invisible force which gave the illusion of freedom, seeming to allow the waves to rise to nearly unimaginable heights to escape, but actually keeping them bound forever to this new earth. The tempests raged on constantly over time that could not be counted. Eons of thrashing, and compressing, compacting, contracting, tossing spumes of molten rock impossibly high into the air, sending what would someday be mountains racing across the molten seas surface, the storms raged on endlessly.

But as in all things there came a time when even this constant turmoil had to cease. Through mechanisms that we think of as rapid but actually took millennia the seas of stone began to subside. Heat was lost and the stone began its slow process of cooling and congealing until at one point, nearly impossible to believe after the unending struggle, it stopped. It was over.

On the surface of this new landscape other forces were at work, wind, erosion, freezing and thawing, all conspiring to worry the naked rock away and create the terra firma we see today. But underground it was a different matter. Since the surface above protected it from the same forces that were changing the landscape, it stayed much as it had during its birth. Openings were left on the surface that would eventually allow people to enter this subterranean world and get a small glimpse of what it must have looked like when these formations were alive and moving. Not the scale, or the immensity but a snapshot as it were, of the tsunamis and magnificent waves that roared across the openness that was the world then.

Here is a brief glimpse of a Tsunami in stone.

 

Let’s Go In There

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See way back in there where there’s that black doorway? Let’s go in there. There has got to be something really cool back in there. Let’s go check it out. Many times you’ve been watching one of those movies where there are a bunch of teenagers in an old spooky place and one of them says “Hey, Let’s go in the basement. What’s the worst that could happen?” Why wouldn’t there be a deranged guy with a chainsaw down there in the dark.

But that’s Hollywood and this is real life. There’s no chainsaw toting guy in there. The Anasazi didn’t have chainsaws. It’s unclear if they even had metal. The darkness of that doorway draws you in, you know you want to see what’s in there. Was it simply a storage room or was it used for a far different purpose? Are there secrets you can see on the walls, written maybe way high up where the writer had to stand on someone’s shoulders to put his message there. Maybe it was the bedchamber of some Anasazi princess that waited endlessly for the King to visit. Or a place where they kept the royal scrolls filled with the history and exploits of heroes long dead. Can’t tell standing here. We need to go in.

How come we’re like that? Cursed with an undying curiosity to find stuff out. I guess you might not be but I am. For me it is the constant desire to find out the rest of the story. You may remember Paul Harvey, the man with a million stories. He’d start a story and you would be riveted in your seat as you listened to it unfold, knowing that was more here than met the eye, or in this case the ear, as he led you down the stories’ trail. Then just as he’d get to the part that explained it all he’d go for a commercial break and you’d be left hanging there, waiting for the rest of the story. He’d always come back and tell you the surprise ending, unless you were unlucky enough to have someone change the station, or the radio signal would conk out, then you’d be stuck.

Then you’d be left waiting for the rest of the story, sometimes for days, sometimes for years. I never remember the completed stories, they’re gone from my memory. But I do remember the ones I missed the endings of. Even now to this day, decades later in some cases, I’m waiting for the rest of the story. I’ll know it when I hear it. Every once in a while I would get the answer to one of those uncompleted stories and I’d feel like I had gotten a present. The, “Oh, So that’s the rest of the story” feeling. That was always a very good feeling, a satisfied feeling.

So right now we don’t know what went on in that room back there in the dark. The story’s not finished, Let’s go find out.

 

 

Blues and Purples and Greens

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OK, you know it is July right, and we’re heading into August, not typically your coolest month of the year. Some people say it is unseasonably warm even if it is summer. That’s the kind of understatement that makes it very clear we were once a British colony. It’s kind of like saying that Donald Trump is somewhat opinionated. We for one are comforted by our governments pronouncement that there is no such thing as Global warming, as otherwise this heat might cause us to despair.

Given all that we are still freaking hot. Even up here where The Institutes main headquarters are located, halfway to the sky amid the cooling breezes of the upper stratosphere, one feels like a guppy placed out on the blacktop to wait while your bowl is being scrubbed out. We feel like we could be quite sharp with whomever it is that schedules summer heat.

It is not unusual then that we turn our thoughts to cooler places. Not places like the Arctic, which as you know is melting away, and you have to use sunscreen to be safe out on the ice. What is wrong with a world where you have to put sunscreen on so you don’t sunburn to death while you’re standing on an ice shelf. That’s sort of a rhetorical question so no answer is expected as it is too ridiculous to contemplate anyway.

We’re thinking of places that aren’t so ludicrous. Places where you can walk into the cool shadows of giant cedar trees, where the deep spaces are filled with emerald green moss, and water drips quietly down the face of deep purple walls to splash into tiny pools of cobalt blue water.  A place where the silence is barely broken by a bird call or the slight rustle of branches swaying high above you. A place like this.

As you come down off the Going To The Sun highway on the western side, there is a hidden trail that leads into old growth cedar trees called the Trail of The Cedars. It is a wooden walkway elevated above the forest floor, with twists and turns and places to stand and look at incredible views that surely Tolkien must have used to create Lothlorien, the land of the Silvan elves. One of those places is located at an abrupt turn of the trail where you cross over a wooden bridge and can peer down into this hidden grotto.

The feeling of the cool moist air that floats out of the grotto to envelope you in its delightful mist is an experience that is as profound as is it is enjoyable. It is so enjoyable in fact, that we here at The Institute are in delicate negotiations with the National Park Service to move this grotto and its stream to The Institute grounds where we can keep it safe from any natural or manmade disaster. We do this with no thought of personal gain or benefit, but simply as a service to the American people. So far they have been tough negotiators but we are nothing if not persistent so our hopes are high at this time.

You too can visit this place if you are pure of heart and don’t throw anything in the pool, because if you do you are immediately transported to Death Valley in your skivvies. With no sunscreen. Rocks melt in Death Valley. Be warned. Just go to Glacier National Park and look for the small sign that says “Trail of The Cedars”. Be prepared to be stunned. Most people aren’t used to this much beauty in one place.

Blackfeet North American Indian Days – Parade

This post has been moved to OpenChutes.com. All future postings of Powwows, Indian Relay Races, Rodeos and Rendezvous will be posted there from now on exclusively. So if you’re looking for new images and posts for all those events attended this year, plus all the old posts posted on BigShotsNow.com check out OpenChutes.com. See you there!

The North American Indian Days is an annual event held on the Blackfeet Indian reservation usually in July and is billed as one of the biggest tribal get-togethers in North America. They say North American instead of the Unites States because some of the participants are from tribes that live in Canada. It lasts for about a week, four days according to the advertisements, but everybody’s there early and leaves late so plan on at least five or six days if you want the full experience.

Parades are special events. Whether they’re in New York city or Browning Montana they’re first and foremost about people. Who they are, what they’re like, what they do, what they love, what they believe in. It’s all about gathering together and sharing their lives. The North American Indian Days parade is no different. On a slightly overcast morning everyone that wasn’t in the parade gathered to watch it. The street filled up early with spectators and there wasn’t a space along the parade route that you could fit a folding chair into. Excitement began to build as you could hear the sirens of the escorts leaving the staging area a mile away. Suddenly two dogs, apparently unable to stand the suspense, took it upon themselves to open the parade by setting the pace for the oncoming participants. The crowd loved it and gave them a rousing round of applause.

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As always the colors were presented and led in by the towns police cars.

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First came the leaders

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Then individuals

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Then came the North American Indian Days royalty

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Queens

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and Princesses

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Those who serve

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Those who remember

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Those who can never forget

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New generations

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Those who love their heritage

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Those who participate

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Those who value togetherness

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Those who leave their mark

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Those just beginning

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Those who pass on their values

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Those who follow in their footsteps

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Those with youth and vitality

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Those who are proud of their past and who they are

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Those who look to the future

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Those that love life

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And those that bridge the past and the present.

This was a splendid parade, a handmade parade, full of all the strength and enthusiasm of a people who know who they are and celebrate it. It wasn’t a big flashy money driven parade with huge balloons and large floats but it didn’t need those. This parade was created with love and pride and a sense of continuity of people who have lived this life for a long time and will continue to live it no matter how they adapt to the future. Their past, their heritage, will always be a part of how they face whatever comes next.

Blackfeet North American Indian Days – Rodeo

This post has been moved to OpenChutes.com. All future postings of Powwows, Indian Relay Races, Rodeos and Rendezvous will be posted there from now on exclusively. So if you’re looking for new images and posts for all those events attended this year, plus all the old posts posted on BigShotsNow.com check out OpenChutes.com. See you there!

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The North American Indian Days is an annual event held on the Blackfeet Indian reservation usually in July and is billed as one of the biggest tribal get-togethers in North America. They say North American instead of the Unites States because some of the participants are from tribes that live in Canada. It lasts for about a week, four days according to the advertisements, but everybody’s there early and leaves late so plan on at least five or six days if you want the full experience.

Rodeo plays a huge part in the festivities at the North American Indian Days. There are events for everyone and they provide a chance for the contestants to show off their skills in front of an audience of their peers. Winning a pot full of money for being the best in their event doesn’t hurt either. There are numerous events and many contestants in each one so we’re going to present an overview of the rodeo. Some of the highlights of each event and some of the atmosphere that makes going to the Rodeo such an exciting experience. In the shot above you see that everyone doesn’t walk away a winner. At least not this time. But there’s always the next event and the outcome can be completely different. This is a longer post than usual because there is so much to take in. Read it at your leisure or just look at the pictures. Both work. As always click on an image to see a larger version.

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As in all events the rodeo is opened with presenting the flag and paying tribute to our great country. Because there were such a large number of Indian participants and visitors present from Canada they proudly displayed their flag with ours.

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The first event was Barrel riding where the rider enters the ring and rides a pattern around three barrels. The horse and rider have to act as one and you can see the effort and concentration by both in this shot.

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Rodeo is a family sport. Each member has an event they participate in. Here a dad is showing his son how to do it. The youngster is only three years old. Rodeo starts early.

 

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Whenever you deal with steers or bulls you are tempting the fates. The rodeo actually started in the chute before the door got opened and consequently the participants both human and animal, tumbled out into the arena. This is not an opportune way to begin your ride.

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Here the bull had divested itself of its rider and was celebrating. In speaking with the rodeo clown later he was asked what his plan was in running in under the bull like that. His reply was that he thought he could catch the bulls hind legs while they were in the air and hold him up while he wheelbarrowed him over to the catch pen. Unfortunately that did not work out. The clown is still alive though and already working up new ideas for the next event.

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In the team roping event the plan is for one roper called a header to get a rope around the calf’s head and the other roper called a heeler to get one around the calves back legs thereby immobilizing the calf so it could be branded. This time the heeler or back leg catcher got his rope around only one leg instead of both. Still counts but with a ten second penalty added to their score.

 

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This event is called the Tie down or break away event. The end of the rope used to catch the calf is tied to the saddle horn with a piece of string and the rider ropes the calf. The horse immediately stops and when the calf runs out far enough it breaks the string and time is called. Fast, fun event.

 

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Here we see “How to Catch a Cowboy”. The trick is to convince the cowboy to hop like a rabbit, while the cowgirl acts as a heeler and ropes his feet while he’s in the air. When she catches him, he’s quickly hog-tied and, well, caught. What happens from that point on was not displayed. This was not an official sanctioned event, but we were told it goes on all the time.

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Bareback bronc riding is the event that started rodeo. Everything else evolved from this event. It’s pretty simple, you climb on the horses back and ride. He tries to throw you off. Eight seconds pass and if you’re still on the horses back you wins. If not, there’s always next time.

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The horse will attempt all manner of things to dislodge the rider. He’s a coiled spring ready to explode.

 

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Steer wrestling is when a big cowboy deliberately jumps off his horse to catch a steer and wrestle it to the ground. This event always looks like a mistake that grew into a huge exciting event. It’s serious though and one of the more dangerous interpersonal contact sports there is in rodeo.

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However when it goes wrong, like here when the calf went another way just as the cowboy leapt from his speeding horse to bulldog it, you see that it terribly unforgiving of any error.

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Besides losing your horse, the face plant in the dirt and the resulting mouthful of arena soil just adds insult to injury.

 

2015-07-24Rodeo5320The amazing thing and the proof that you are watching truly exceptional cowboys is he never lost his hat.

 

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The storyteller. All around the arena you will find spectators sitting on the fence watching the action and talking. And as it has always been there is one that can mesmerize his fellows with stories of amazing adventure and incredible action. HIs rapt audience hangs on every word. This is one of those storytellers.

 

2015-07-24Rodeo5832Saddle bronc riding is just like bareback riding except you use a saddle. Still just as exciting.

 

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These are the pickup men. They’re out in the arena to catch the cowboy off the back of bucking horses after the ride is over, catch and return the riderless horses to the catch pen, and generally do the work that needs to be done to keep the events moving steadily through  the rodeo. It’s not a simple task and there is often a lot of action right up against the fence as things unfold. Besides the rodeo clowns these men are the unsung heroes of the rodeo.

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They are also the ones that handle the unruly bulls and other bucking stock. They need to be experienced, unflappable men and they are.

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Here’s another event straight out of the history books of ranch work. The calf roping. A calf is released, the cowboys chases it down, ropes it and he gets off his horse while it backs up holding the calf steady.

 

2015-07-24Rodeo6014He quickly reaches the calf, ties all four feet together immobilizing it so it can be branded.

 

2015-07-24Rodeo6018As soon as he’s finished you see his arms come up and time is called. The cowboy and horse work as a team and the better the teamwork the shorter the time.

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Normally the last event on the schedule is bull riding. It’s last because it is the most exciting and the one everyone wants to see. This is the event that puts the show business in rodeo. There is very little need for a bull to be ridden in normal ranch work. You’re not going to break them to ride, or to pull a buggy to town. When a cowboy crawls on the back of a bull it for one reason and one reason only. To see if he can do it, can he ride this monster beast for eight seconds without getting killed or maimed. It is a test of courage. And people love to see it.

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Many times the whole event is over before the bull clears the chute. But even if the event lasts for only a second or two it is packed to the brim with unbridled excitement. Enough so that entire events are held showcasing bull riding only. Lots of Ace bandages and liniment are sold at these events.

The rodeo is held several nights during the North American Indian days and it’s a new show every night. It’s an experience you won’t soon forget.

Bull Riding – Not Aways A Love Story

This post has been moved to OpenChutes.com. All future postings of Powwows, Indian Relay Races, Rodeos and Rendezvous will be posted there from now on exclusively. So if you’re looking for new images and posts for all those events attended this year, plus all the old posts posted on BigShotsNow.com check out OpenChutes.com. See you there!

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There’s not a lot of love lost between the cowboys and the bulls at the best of times, but sometimes things are a little more intense than others. As the soon as the chute opened on this ride you knew it wasn’t going to end well.

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The bull had been feeling peckish most of the day and wasn’t in the best of moods to begin with.

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When the cowboy with the unique headgear climbed aboard, well, that was the last straw.

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The bull decided to do his patented shake and bake and then tried to roll out the dough, so to speak. With the cowboy being the dough today. When he turned to look the cowboy in the eye the message was pretty clear, “I’m not done with you yet ,boy.” being understood.

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Fortunately for the cowboy, his angels in baggy pants were there to save his bacon. Distracting the bull from performing its next indignity on the cowboy, the rodeo clowns ran into the fray giving the cowboy a chance to get away with his parts intact if not his dignity.

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The bull remembering his original intention of dismembering the cowboy was somewhat upset that he got away, and looked around closely for someone else to vent on.

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Seeing it was pretty much over the bull let everyone know that things would be different next time. And there would be a next time. As long as there are cowboys and bulls and rodeos, next time is just around the corner.