Ghost Along The Yellowstone

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If you’re lucky enough to be up along the Yellowstone river as it flows through the Hayden valley right now you’ll see the last remnants of the snow pack slowly melting away. It’s been nearly hip deep for months and now it’s about gone. This is where Otter creek joins into the Yellowstone and in the past it has been a place where the Hayden valley wolf pack has had a den.

At this time of year unless the weather is bright sunshine this long sweeping bend in the river is shaded by large pine trees and with an overcast day like today it can look pretty forbidding. It’s perfect for wolves however. They come and go silently, moving from one shadow to another like ghosts. The den is very likely tucked in under a boulder or dug into the side of a low-lying hill where the pups can come out and play on the loose dirt in front of the den, yet skittle back in if a low flying eagle happens by.

Being placed back in the ravine means that whatever would approach the den site would first have to swim the Yellowstone which at this time of year means a very cold crossing and they would still have to deal with the pack once they got to the den. It was a good choice to have it there.

This is one of the adult members of the pack returning from visiting an elk carcass the pack brought down several days ago. She stops and watches the watchers before disappearing into the gloom of the ravine. That den is inactive now. The wolves have moved onto another place equally remote and hidden to raise another litter. Fortunately there are lots of places like that in Yellowstone. Hidden, remote, distant, just right for the young ones to grow up into young adults. If we’re lucky we’ll get a chance to see them too, maybe even see their offspring but we’ll have to be extra lucky for that.

Memorial Day 2016

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!

Like many of you out there Memorial day is a very important day for me as a veteran and one who has lost friends to conflict. I think of the waste of human life, the fact that they’re gone and I’m here, and the senselessness of it all. Looking back from the lofty perch of over 50 years of time passed for my particular conflict, I know that although the matter of their sacrifice seemed to be a part of something very important at the time, now I realize it was just a colossal waste of good men and women. I would gladly trade the lives of those ego-driven politicians that sent them to their deaths as casually as they send someone out to tell the next door neighbors their party is too loud, for those lost. It would be a fair trade.

There is a very interesting website * http://abcnews.go.com/US/memorial-day-12m-people-died-fighting-america/story?id=39475580  put up by ABC News where they give the statistics of those who have died in conflicts here in the U.S. and abroad. Go there and check it out. I’m going to borrow some of them to show you here but it worth going to the site and seeing for yourself. As a species we have a tremendous capacity for violence. Here’s a breakdown of the casualties in each war.

American Revolution (1775-1783)

Battle Deaths: 4,435

War of 1812 (1812-1815)

Battle Deaths: 2,260

Indian Wars (approx. 1817-1898)

Battle Deaths (VA estimate): 1,000

Mexican War (1846-1848)

Battle Deaths: 1,733

Other Deaths (In Theater): 11,550

Civil War (1861-1865)

Battle Deaths (Union): 140,414

Other Deaths (In Theater)(Union): 224,097

Battle Deaths (Confederate): 74,524

Other Deaths (In Theater)(Confederate): 59,297

Spanish-American War (1898-1902)

Battle Deaths: 385

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater): 2,061

World War I (1917-1918)

Battle Deaths: 53,402

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater): 63,114

World War II (1941 –1945)

Battle Deaths: 291,557

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater): 113,842

Korean War (1950-1953)

Battle Deaths: 33,739

Other Deaths (In Theater): 2,835

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater): 17,672

Vietnam War (1964-1975)

Battle Deaths: 47,434

Other Deaths (In Theater): 10,786

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater): 32,000

(These cover period 11/1/55 to 5/15/75)

Desert Shield/Desert Storm (1990-1991)

Battle Deaths: 148

Other Deaths (In Theater): 235

Other Deaths in Service (Non-Theater): 1,565

Global War on Terror, including Iraq and Afghanistan (Oct 2001 – present)

Total Deaths: 6,888.

In addition to those, the State Department Office of the Historian lists the Philippine-American War, 1899 to 1902, citing the deaths of more than 4,200 U.S. combatants.

War is defined by the numbers of casualties. We see huge numbers and say how terrible it was and is, but the numbers are made up of individuals, those who died one at a time, alone. Death comes to us alone, even if it happens while others are experiencing it also.

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You can get the feeling of that when you see one gravestone such as this fallen trooper at The Battle of The Little Bighorn. You can also experience the sense of loss when you read the story of one individual who gave his all like my best friend David L. Hollingsworth.

Memorial Day 2014

Memorial day means a lot to me even if I’m not out waving the flag in the middle of the crowd. I believe that considering the deaths of close friends and brothers-in-arms to be a personal thing that doesn’t have to be shared. Lately it has been meaning more and more.That’s probably because I’m realizing that I may be seeing some of those folks again before too long, and when I do I’m going to say Thank you and I’m sorry you had to miss the rest of your life, and I remembered you.

 

*   This article was published by By CALVIN LAWRENCE JR. under ABC News heading

 

Your Left

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Your Left, Your left, Your Left, Right, left

Let ’em blow let ’em blow
Let the four winds blow
Let ’em blow from east to west
The Padre Island Gulls are best

Standing tall and looking good
Ought to march in Hollywood

Hold your head and hold it high
Short beak Platoon is marching by

Look to your right and whadta see?
A whole bunch of feathers looking at me

Dress it right and cover down
Forty inches all around

Three to the front, Two to the rear
That’s the way we do it here

Padre Island Marching Gulls, Hep, 2,3,4. Turn it around and do it once more.

Listening To The Fog

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Carl Sandburg wrote a poem about the fog saying that it crept in on little cat feet, sat on its haunches and then moved away. When you are at 14,000′ and the fog moves in you can hear the sound of those little cat feet. Sound travels magically in the fog. You can hear little hooves click on the boulders a half a mile away. You can hear the rustle of the fog moving over the lichen. There is no wind when the fog comes in, but you feel the movement of the fog as it envelopes you and goes along its way.

The inhabitants of Mt. Evans are used to the comings and goings of the fog. They are comfortable with it. Although there are few predators up this high, none the less they listen to what information the fog brings them. Mountain lions have been known to walk through this high country seeking the unwary kid and in a fog like this when you can barely see the wool in front of your eyes, the sound travels best. Even the sound of big cat feet moving silently. So you listen to the fog. And you listen close.

Wolf Wild

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Some years ago, well ten to be exact, the Hayden pack had killed an elk along Alum creek. This was before the authorities began removing carcasses from being viewed from the road as a form of crowd management. If too many people stopped and watched the pack feeding on the carcass then there were traffic jams, crowd buildups, and rangers had to be sent to the scene for crowd control. So they began hauling away the carcasses to be dumped somewhere out of sight. Another opportunity to observe animals in their natural environment doing what animal do was lost. But money was saved and they could lay off some of the rangers so the balance sheet looked good.

Those were simpler days, before budget cuts and the natural fun aspect of the park was lost. When the rangers were more like teachers and helpers and founts of knowledge about the park and its residents, than like policemen who were more concerned with citations and keeping a tight control over the citizenry. Sometimes back then, to everyone’s surprise, folks chanced across a kill and could watch the natural course of events unfold in a civilized manner and no rangers were needed to police the area. It was a visual participation where you felt as if you were part of the activity. A respect was granted to the animals involved and to the other observers. No one ran up to be closer to the action. There wasn’t any interference with the wolves feedings, they basically ignored you. You just reveled in being part of the scene unfolding before you feeling like you were very fortunate to be able to witness nature at work.

This was the dominate female of the Hayden pack back then. We watched her walk along the ridge line, drop down into the valley where Alum creek flowed into the Yellowstone and approach the carcass along the creek side. Before long another young female approached and with submissive behavior politely asked if she could join the grand dame in her feeding. The pack leader graciously allowed her to and the two worked at reducing the nearly consumed carcass down to nothing but hide and a few bones.

This wolf is not with us any more, she  was apparently struck by a car and killed sometime later. But she lives on in the memories and photos of those who were lucky enough to have been in her presence for a brief while. The simpler days are missed. It isn’t often today that you get to witness the wolf wild and up close.

 

How About Some Art

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As a fallen away sculptor, which means for a long time I was one and now I isn’t but I still think like one, I can speak to art. What it means, how it’s done, where it comes from. For years  I worked and taught in bronze, stone, wood and I still see in three dimensions. My photography is based on how I used to conceptualize when I was creating a new piece of sculpture. I could not begin a new work unless I could see it from all sides, including the top and bottom. When it was firmly fixed in my mind then I could begin.

My photography is much like that. I want to be able to think I can see what the back of the sculpture in the image looks like. I want the flowers in the background to give it the depth it needs. Basically what I’m really waiting for is that new Nikon holograph camera, the D99000x HoloStill VR 1.2 mm Infi-Zoom with revolutionary non-removable lens that lets you move around inside the image after you take it. I have repeatedly queried Nikon on its release but they’re being really close-mouthed about it.

The sculpture in the image above is from a collection called Chapungu from Zimbabwe and is made by the incredible Shona sculptors there. The gorgeous stone used is from the serpentine family of stone and dug from the Great Dyke that runs across Zimbabwe and is called Springstone. This particular form of sculpture seems to bring out more emotion and story content that I have ever seen in other stone. I don’t care if it is Carrara marble from Italy or alabaster from the mines of Colorado. When you see the black forms from this grey stone appear you are seeing life caught in stone.

Art is in the eye of the beholder and I think that is what every beholder sees when they first view these sculptures. I know I did and I’m an art guy. You can be one too, whether you are or not,  just get out and look.

 

 

 

 

The To Do List

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The To Do list. Everybody’s got one. Even here at The World Renowned headquarters of *The Institute. Our time is usually spent investigating scientific mysteries, discovering new frontiers in Math, Geography, the Arts, building our own Hyperloop out near Cleartop Mesa, numbering the stars visible in our night sky with Roman Numerals for easier identification, discovering new facets of Origami, research of all types, publishing, finding out new ways to have fun with cast iron, the list is endless.

All of that activity takes a lot of  manpower, Man/woman power (NOTE: OK, this whole man/woman thing is getting awkward, we’re changing it to Manoman power for clarification. That means everyone, man, woman, or some combination of both whether they’re equal or not, are going to be under the heading of ‘manoman’. We had some flack from some our middle-aged female staff who were lobbying for WoMan power but The Director said no freaking way that sounded too much like runaway feminism, so Manoman it is. After all this is a benevolent dictatorship here, not some loosely run democracy. ) manoman power to get everything done. As all of our staff has some incredible responsibility they have to complete if they want to eat and can’t be excused to work on the To Do list, we have had to take steps. We have had to go outside our organization for the first time to find qualified To Do list completers. That’s why we brought back Aunt Pheeb and Uncle Skid.

Some of you may remember them from previous posts. We swore we would never again on this Earth have anything to do with Uncle Skid. Aunt Pheeb too, except she does have some redeeming qualities and is the only one who can control keep Uncle Skid in line. She has got this voodoo power over him and if things get too weird she will withhold her patented, free will offering monkey-love and that does the trick. Skid pops right back on the straight and narrow then. So they come as a package.

Uncle Skid just got out of seven years of rehab and seems ok, but if we know anything about him we know that he is a recidivist of the highest order. That’s why we have closed down the Buenos Noches Cantina on campus for the duration. This nearly caused a riot amongst our interns but we had to err on the side of safety. Because if Uncle Skid gets into the Everclear, ain’t nobody safe. Even Aunt Pheeb can’t do anything with him until the following Thursday.

Apparently Skid got some training in construction while he was away and consequently we assigned him the task of repairing the fire escape that leads out of the back entrance of the main campus area here at The Institute. The picture above is after Skid worked on it. Granted it looks a little rough at first glance but it is better than the rope that was hanging there before. Skid has been in the office every single day wanting funding for three 60′ aluminum ladders so you don’t have to scramble up the rock face to get to the bottom of the fire escape. Plus a little extra for the wire to lash the three together so they’re long enough. So far our cost and regulatory department has been reluctant to release the $2800 and change to do this. That and no one will sign off on Uncle Skid going off campus with that kind cash. We’ve had to up our insurance just to have him on the property as it is. So it looks as if we’ll have to use the rope again. Just to get to the bottom of the fire escape anyway.

Aunt Pheeb has been the rock of that family. If it wasn’t for her the whole bunch of them would have fallen on rack and ruin. She has supplemented the family income with her distillery and quilt repair business. And since she installed that brand new cigarette rolling machine her income has risen dramatically. That’s good because the 73% we skim receive off the top helps our coffers too. And what with times being like they are everything helps.

So far we’ve been proceeding with cautious optimism with Uncle Skid. Aunt Pheeb went out and purchased 37 of the newest strongest Abus 37RK/80 Granit Extreme Security Steel Padlocks made in Germany and available through Taylor Lock & Security Co. to add to the welded shut doors and windows of the Buenos Noches Cantina. These padlocks meet highest security standards and are considered to be among the most secure padlocks in the world. Their tensile resistance is over 6 tons. We thought that it was overkill but then she told us that Skid had also taken lock-picking classes while in rehab so we authorized her to get a few more just in case.

In the last four months we have been able to cross one item off our To Do list. Well half cross it off. We still have to deal with the aluminum ladder issue. We have had reports that maybe Aunt Pheeb has been a little free with the results of her distillery, selling small bottles of hooch out of the back door of her quilt repair store instead of to her regular customers in town. But we haven’t been able to catch her. The security people we set to watch the backdoor have told us through blurry eyes and slurred speech that they haven’t seen anything yet but then they were some of the biggest complainers when we took the campus dry. There’s always something.

Maybe, just maybe we’ll get some real productivity out of Uncle Skid. You never know. Seven years in rehab ought to have had some effect, but then you’re talking about Skid here, so we’ll wait and see. And keep our fingers and toes crossed. And our insurance paid up.

* Note: For those of you unfamiliar with The Institute and what it does, please see the page labeled The Institute on the Menu Bar above. That should explain everything. You shouldn’t have one single question remaining after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind.