Damp Secrets

Note to Readers: Some of you are no doubt aware of the closing and disappearance of *The Institute and its Director some time ago. It was a great loss to the scientific world and others who came to depend on it for its constant focus on the mysteries and unbelievable occurrences that take place daily in the unique world of science and beyond. Also some of you may know that The Director and I were very close and consequently when the time came for the storing and protection of the thousands of records, papers, dissertations, reports, receipts, photographs, line drawings, notes, candid recorded conversations, DVD’s, CD’s, books, magazines, letters, everything that an Institute would produce in the every day workings of a huge but giant scientific endeavor he turned to me and said “Can I dump this crap on you for awhile? At least until I can find some suckers investors to get this Institute thing back on its feet?” Of course I couldn’t say no to my friend of so many years and accordingly two and a half large U-Haul’s arrived stuffed to the gills with countless black trash bags containing the entire recorded history of The Institute. In the attempted cataloging of all of this material I came across what appears to be an un-submitted report titled The Aquatic Life of The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep. It is in a very rough draft form and I have elected to publish it exactly as it was found, warts and all. No redactions, no alterations, no dressing it up. After all, life and science aren’t always tidy or even pretty. A lot of stuff is glossed over and hidden by the various organizations that prepare these types of publications as the paper goes into preparation for submission to the various scientific journals that publish this kind of work. And The Institute was not an exception. The large unwashed and uninformed layman or laypeople (and even some of the small slim ones) that read it because it’s free, who don’t have a scientific background and usually couldn’t care less about this stuff yet do read it have to be pandered to. So with that thought in mind here follows what is the initial draft of the report in its entirety.

Title proposals for the Bighorn sheep report:

The Aquatic Life of The Rocky Mountain Bighorn Sheep

” Wet Sheep and Those That Love Them”

“Damp Hooves and the Sheep that Own Them”

“Heavy Boney Horns and How They Help In Keeping Bighorn Sheep Submerged”

“The Untold Story of Bighorn Sheep and Their Aquatic Adventures”

“Why Bighorn sheep will Willingly Spend Much of The Winter At the Bottom of Large Bodies of Water and How This affects Their Ability to Behave Normally in the Spring When They emerge and Why they Walk Funny for Days After”

“Damp Secrets” (Use this one. It’s a grabber. Sounds vaguely dirty. HBO fans will click on this one)

Premise: Bighorn Sheep are suspected of entering and remaining at the bottom of deep pockets of water in lakes and rivers in Yellowstone National Park to hibernate over the Winter when food supplies are minimal. Much like bears but wetter. Although this behavior has never been reported by Naturalists or Biologists or anyone else who knows what they’re talking about, that doesn’t mean that this can’t happen. It just means they’re probably doing a shoddy job. Grab this premise and run with it. The Enquirer and the Star have both raised their payment structure for this type of material. See if you can’t work “aliens” into the premise somehow. Also see if our contacts in Washington with the Department of Interior want to get in on this before their funding is completely cancelled due to the prevailing thought that Nature and wildlife and even the Interior are no longer necessary. Might as well grab what we can out of this debacle while there is still some money left.

Documents proving the theory: A crumpled up photo of a Bighorn sheep marked “Destroy not relevant unless you’re fabricating story”, that shows a Bighorn lying in an awkward position on a bank above the Lamar river. Still damp. (The sheep not the photo) Midges surrounding it after a hatch. ( could this midge behavior be one of the triggers that cause the Bighorns to awake and leave the depths of the water where we believe they hibernate over the winter. If this can’t be documented use it anyway as it’s a good tie-in that we can pitch to The Nature Channel, they’ll use anything if you can put an English accent voice-over on it.) Animal appeared to be lethargic and unresponsive to questions hollered at it. Noticed small trickle of what appears to be water dripping from nasal passages. Could this be the undocumented and completely unfounded Nasal Transference Reacclimation or “NTR”  where the water in the lungs is slowly replaced with oxygen so the sheep can return to their terran lifestyle?

The Bighorn rams appear to be extremely vulnerable at this state of their emergence due to their horns having been softened by their prolong submergence in the deep mineral rich waters found in the park. The composition of the horn is normally very dense and is made of a concrete-like material called “concreto” or sometimes “Acme Horn Hardener” that the sheep obtain by licking the surface of highways and parked concrete trucks. Those rams living nearest to construction sites will normally have the largest and hardest horns. But as this is uncured concrete which is not completely non-soluble, they are vulnerable to the leeching and decompositing of the horn material and the longer the submergence the more the horn becomes soft, and at extreme time intervals the horn will be completely absorbed by the watery surroundings. This is bad. If this happens the ram cannot be distinguished from the ewes and enters a transgendered state known as Hornlessness and can be made fun of by the other rams and even some of the less compassionate ewes. We don’t know what this does to the Ram’s psyche yet but a full investigation seems warranted. Note: check into suicide rates for hornless rams.

Some additional questions to be answered and documented, or at least made plausible sounding so we can put this out there and still be able to stand unashamed under any close scrutiny.

Question #1: What about ewes an lambs. Are they any better to eat after being submerged?

Question #2: How do the smaller animal stay anchored in some of the swifter flowing streams they enter? We surmise that the sticky almost tar-like coating on the bottom of their hooves becomes even stickier and adheres to the larger rocks and boulders at the bottom of the waterways. Also we believe they turn facing upstream and hunch down into a wedge-like shape that makes them streamlined. The force of the water rushing over their bodies helps push them down onto the surface of the stream bottom much the way scoops and spoilers keep a race car on the track, holding them in place. Plus they deflatulent themselves as they enter the water making them less buoyant. If you have noticed any bubbles or minor disturbances on the water’s surface this may be a clue to hibernating Bighorn sheep. This is a confirmed fact as I, and I know countless others have seen Bighorn sheep flatulently entering into bodies of water. We just didn’t understand what all the noise and hopping about and giggling was for.

Question #3: Can we get someone less intelligent to dive into these warm to boiling waters in Yellowstone, someone with a higher than normal pain tolerance, to photograph a small group of Bighorns or even a fairly large herd at rest beneath the surface to add more credence to this story? Maybe some shots with native Cutthroats acting as remora type attachments to the sheep’s back. Or possibly them feeding on the seaweed that grows on the bottom of the rivers or lakes?

Initial Summary for Submission:

We have found a unique new unknown behavioral pattern for the Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep. After observation by our highly trained research professionals, each one a specialist specializing in a different discipline of animal behavioral patterns that are not your normal animal activity, and in fact tend to be grouped into Goofy, Unsubstantiated, Outright BullPucky, and the Difficult to Swallow but not Fake News categories, we have come to the conclusion that Rocky Mountain Bighorn sheep do something really weird. If it weren’t for finding a beat up wrinkled old photograph (see above) of a Bighorn sheep damply resting by the edge of the Lamar river we wouldn’t feel confident in making these surprising statements.

Rocky mountain Bighorn sheep hibernate through the Winter below the surface of various lakes and rivers in The Yellowstone area. Now, we’ve said it. There it is. Surprising? Yes. Impossible? Ah, maybe, but then again we got some good evidence here. And remember if we say it often enough you’re going to start believing it. That’s just a short jump from getting back in the funding business. And The Institute could be off and running again.

Hard as that may seem to believe the evidence is growing in support of this premise.

  • We have the somewhat damaged image of a damp Bighorn sheep resting on the river where he had just emerged from hibernation.
  • We have water emitting from the Bighorn’s nose as it undergoes Nasal Transference Reacclimation  or “NTR” where it trades the water that had been filling its lungs all Winter long with life giving oxygen so it can resume living on the land.
  • We have a Bighorn ram anxiously looking around for enemies and threats as its horns reharden in the afternoon sun.
  • We have documented sightings of bubbles and other small disturbances to the water’s surface indicating there are hibernating sheep below.
  • Plus a myriad of other inconclusive but sort of facts that we created to substantiate this theory.

So in general we feel pretty good about putting this out there. End of first draft. Get this proofread and ready for submission ASAP. Signed The Director.

This is the first of many scientific reports we know that are mixed in with all the other storage stuff from The Institute. As we sort through and find more unique studies we will be bringing them to your attention.

* 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 regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

The Rosetta Stone



While travelling the inner depths of Capitol Reef National Park we stumbled on to what we believe is one of the most significant finds in recent history as it relates to the progression of artistic skill in Anasazi rock art. This discovery is bound to shake the art world to its very core and set Art historians on a new path of understanding as to how the Anasazi went from being rock pounders to major artists.

If you remember your history you know that the smartest minds in the archaeology world could not begin to decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics. It was like Chinese arithmetic, really hard and it made their brains hurt, so many just gave up, feeling dumb and ashamed. They just went home, defeated. It wasn’t until some lucky guy found this stone called the Rosetta stone that had three different languages on it translating the same off-color joke into all the other languages. If we remember correctly the languages were Greek, a form of Inuit called “Inuktitut”, and of course hieroglyphics itself. That made it easy. A group of guys and one woman made up of Greek, Inuit and Egyptian scholars soon had the hieroglyphics translated and now practically anybody can just pick up something written in hieroglyphics and read it like it was yesterday’s obits. Because that was what most hieroglyphics were, stuff about dead kings, kings that were already dead, kings that were about to be dead, people who wanted to be king but changed their minds because they didn’t want to become dead, and so on. The obituaries of the day.

So what does this have to do with the art world you ask. Plenty. People who study petroglyphs, Anasazi rock art, have wondered for years “Why didn’t these guys ever get any better ?” Look at any rock depiction of Bighorn sheep. They all look exactly the same no matter when they were created. For like a hundred years these Anasazi petroglyph makers never changed how they created an image of a Bighorn sheep, or any other subject for that matter. You would think with all that practice they’d have gotten better by accident. But they didn’t. They just hammered away in the same old style.

Then the image above was taken showing what was to become the Rosetta Stone of the art world. On this newly discovered rock panel you can see there is a petroglyph in the upper right hand corner of one of the Anasazi’s favorites subjects, an undefined lump or something, maybe the start of another Bighorn sheep that they screwed up and just abandoned, (there is no erasing in Petroglyphs) and this splendid but remarkable painting of foliage in the style of Monet, Renoir, Mr. van Rijn, O’Keeffe. This was a quantum leap forward for the Anasazi, as it showed that at least one of them got sick to death of painting sheep.

*The Institute immediately sent in its crack team of art historians, restoration-ists, and gawkers to secure this painting and to analyze how it was done. They have slowly been taking this image apart piece by piece, picking at it with sharp things, rubbing it gently with 36 grit sandpaper to see what’s underneath, asking themselves “How did they do it? How did these Anasazi’s go from no-talent rock chippers to this level of  sophistication without attending some prestigious art school?” The questions kept building the more they reduced this image to a mere shadow on the wall.

Some new facts were gleaned from this process. One was that the painting was done with brushes made of wooly mammoth hair wrapped onto a slender willow switch, and another was the paint was analyzed and found to be a combination of crushed berries which were used to create the Alizarin Crimson seen in the leaves, acrylic paint from the Artist Den, some off-brand oil paint of the type found at Hobby Lobby all bound together in a matrix of Toad fat. Our experts are still trying to come up with an explanation for the inconsistencies that this brings up, but these are smart people and they’ll come up with some plausible answers. After all their jobs depend on it.

While we are hard at work figuring out all this stuff so that you don’t have to, take a moment to study the image. See how wonderfully clear the artist created the leaves and stems. Look how every leaf conforms to the rock surface it was painted onto, yet shows the brilliant colors that make this image come alive. It ‘s hard to believe that this was painted 1100 years ago.

The Institute will be studying this image plus any more we find, to discover just what new stage in the art of the Ancients this led to. We’ll have those answers and more as this story unfolds. Stay tuned.

* 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 regarding The Institute after reading it. None. For those of you favored few who already know about the Institute, Nevermind. Return to your daily activities. Thank you for your support.

Double Dog Dare Ya

DoubleDogDare6650click image to enlarge

Rog mom said we weren’t to get this close to the edge unless she was with us.

Yeah she always says stuff like that. Look how cool it is down there.

It looks awful steep to me. Remember when you fell and rolled halfway down the hill. It wasn’t nearly as steep as this.

Gyp you are such a wuss. My foot slipped. Besides it was fun. Let’s go down there.

NO way. Last time you pulled something like this mom didn’t let us have any milk for a whole day.

Gyp, I dare ya.

NO Rog, no flippin’ way

Gyp, I double dog dare ya.

Un uhn, that’s not working this time, Rog, you want to go down there, you go. But if you do I’m telling.

Ok, then I’m calling you sissy, and in front of that little lamb you like.

Don’t go down there Rog. How you going to get back up. You’ll fall. I’m telling you. Rog don’t, Oh man, Rog come on, I’ll let you go first at the nursing station. Rog…

Ma! Rog went over the side. I can’t see him anymore. Ma!   Ma!


Road Trip


Every once in a while we take a chance here at The Institute and do something really nice for our employees. This year we shut The Institute down completely for the entire holiday season, banked the fires, put the computers in standby, turned off the electricity to the fence, turned our livestock loose to fend for themselves, gave all of our interns a bus ticket to the last place they remember being from and The Institute went into hibernation until the New Year’s bells rang.

Now we are ramping up again. Everyone is slowly trickling back from where ever they spent the holidays. Just yesterday the bright, shiny, baby blue bus that the Sheriff’s department uses to transport prisoners hither and yon, hither being County road 56G where they cheerfully spread blacktop for the entire fortnight of the holidays, and yon, back to the tent city up near the Soapstone Wildlife Preserve where they ate sagebrush and tried not to freeze to death, dropped off the interns and two of our PhD’s that had spent the Christmas holidays in the bosom of the Larimer County Work but not release program.

Fortunately our critical employees like our chef returned a day early to get the fires built back up again. Of course he returned because we kept the back seat out of his 1968 Buick Boattail Riviera as an incentive to come back. You can not find replacements for those anywhere, I don’t care if you look on Craigslist, eBay, AutoZone, or any junkyard from here to the Philippines, they’re just not available. It’s good to see that coal-black smoke roiling out of the commissaries chimneys again. It won’t be long before the scent of coal fires and Lamprey stew and frozen dinners will coat the buildings with a thin layer of grease again. I know some of our interns cannot wait. Which is good because they’ve already chewed so much bark off the aspen I don’t know what the elk are going to eat this winter,

Our Chief of Security was also an early returnee. She had to put new brushes in the generator that keeps the fence electrified and to test fire the AR-15’s that were stored in the gun locker. Plus she just likes shooting stuff and it’s difficult to find a place where you can discharge automatic weapons with impunity. Our med staff came back because there would be a lot of cases to treat amongst the returning interns due to their living rough as they call it. Rashes, bites, broken teeth, infected tattoos, malnutrition, loss of key parts of their bodies from unknown incidents, bruises from manacles and restraints, loss of body hair from attending New Year’s parties, colds, hypo and hyper thermia, hearing loss from listening to Mother’s and other loved ones telling them to get a real job, acute disorientation, many terrible nearly untreatable diseases from those who traveled outside the country to their home of origin, and sea sickness. Our med staff is ready, in fact some of them were walking around with their rubber gloves on already.

Our animals got time off also. The wolves went up to Yellowstone to visit friends, the grizzlies that watch the far-flung perimeter of The Institute had reservations at Sandals again this year. They just can’t get enough of the Turks and Caicos, Saint Lucia and Antigua. Our resident Elk herd made the short pilgrimage to Rocky Mountain National Park to see the in-laws. Our own Bighorn Sheep herd went to visit cousins and other extended family down in the Black Mountains near Kingman Arizona. They’re a little late checking in but they were sighted on Highway 34 near Allenspark just outside of Rocky Mountain National Park where they were going to stop for a night to see friends and drop off a few Desert Bighorns who wanted to see the park first hand, or hoof as it were.

It’s always a good feeling to get The Institute back up and running. Soon we’ll be having our meetings, setting agendas and summer trips schedules, putting the interns back to work with planting and watering and hoeing. They’ll be getting that lower 160 acres planted to Rutabagas again and be busy stirring up the carp ponds. Fresh fish again, they like that. We here at The Institute hope your holidays went well and you’re back in the grind with a fresh mind and rested feet. Drop us a line when you’re not busy. Let us know how your holidays went. We’ve already heard from Aunt Pheeb. Uncle Skid got out of Rikers in time to make it home for Christmas. She didn’t even know he was in New York, he had just gone out for cigarettes, but that’s a story for another time. Have a good New Year.

Animal Portraits – Bighorn Sheep

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Every blue moon we bring you an Animal Portrait. It’s not a blue moon but there is always time to present an Animal Portrait regardless of the Lunar calendar. This is a Bighorn Sheep ram and he is called Ishmael because he asked us to.

This is also a captive animal who resides at a nearby zoo. As always we prefer to shoot in the wild but sometimes one is presented with a situation where the subject commands a photo session. Such was the case with Ishmael. He is such an imposing individual, so full of character and strength, that nothing would do but to stop in our tracks and photograph him.

We usually don’t do much black & white photography but nothing else would focus our attention on the strength and iron resolve that resides in those horns. If you want to see others in our animal portraits project, type in Animal portraits or Captive beauty into the search box at the top of the post.

The Bighorn Ewe and The Stone of Secrets

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Deep in the heart of Yellowstone National Park there is a place that is holy to the Bighorn sheep that reside there. Every year they make the arduous and dangerous Pilgrimage from Calcite Springs, high up on the cliffs of the Tower falls area, where the Yellowstone river can be seen flowing deeply along the canyon’s floor below. A place where they birth their lambs and find safety on the vertical cliff walls, safe from predators, their only neighbors the Fisher Kings, or as we know them, the Osprey, to this hidden valley near the Gardner river. A place a short distance from the gray stone pathway with its shiny noisy beasts full of screaming beings that pass through here on their way to somewhere, perhaps they’re on their own pilgrimage. Most do not notice the valley and its stone, or the animals who come to pay it homage.

Upstream a short distance the Fawn, Panther, Indian and Obsidian creeks join to form the main body of the Gardner river. The Bighorn sheep don’t care about that, they’re here for a completely different reason. This is after all, a spiritual place. A place where they make a single pilgrimage to each year, to do one thing and one thing only. And that one thing is to visit the Stone of Secrets.

The Stone is a common enough looking boulder shaped by unknown forces millenniums ago and deposited with several others in the bottom of the valley where it has lain unmoving to this day. Unlike its brethren very little lichen has formed on the stone, perhaps due to what it holds inside its rough-hewn exterior.

This is the Stone of Secrets and it contains the countless secrets, dreams and desires, the wants and hopes of the Bighorns who lean up against it and tell it their innermost desires. Some of the younger ewes want to be selected by the most majestic ram, others want the lambs they have been unable to produce and pour forth the most heart-wrenching pleas, hoping that this year their wish will be granted. The young rams secretly and embarrassed by their wants, lean tightly against it, whispering, asking for bigger horns. The older ewes want to lean against it and feel the warmth and contentment that washes over them, some of them ask for just one more year to make the trek back and forth from here to there again.

The stone has been here for as long as it and the untold multitude of Bighorns have been living here, which has been a very long time. Originally the stone did not have the flat spot the ewe is leaning against. The countless animals, and it has been countless animals, for occasionally other creatures came and used the stone too. Rubbed against the stone, feeling its strength and wisdom, letting  their secrets pour out like a  roaring river of emotion, washing and wearing the stone away until it attained the shape it has now. The flat area becoming infinitesimally larger each year.

It is unknown if the stone will work its magic on humans. Occasionally you will see one carefully approach it and lay their hands on it rough surface. Some rest their faces against the stone, or spread their arms against it as if they’re trying to lift the stone from of its resting place. But the stone is unmovable, the only thing you can take from it is the strength of it presence. Some say they have received more, some say it’s just a stone. You will have to go there and see for yourself.


Last Call


A week ago the road leading up Mt. Evans to the summit was closed due to impending winter. The road goes way up into the sky until at 14,000′ plus, it stops and you can get out of your car and wheezingly look at the animals living here that have absolutely no trouble breathing. In fact they find it amusing that many of the visitors keel over and have to be dragged by the back foot to the waiting emergency vehicles where they get oxygen and the advice to go home.

So on the 5th of September you had last call to go up and see the mountain goats and their neighbors the Bighorn sheep, pictured here. In a very short time it will be soooo cold and snowy, what with the mountain top area being completely filled with weather, that it would be really miserable to be here. Guys who regularly go to Antarctica don’t like going here.

If you look closely at the picture above you will see adolescent bighorn sheep frolicking. They’ll run and leap from rock to rock and jump for the sheer irritation factor of it knowing it bothers the older ones a lot. If you were to try even one frolic your heart would explode in your chest and your eyeball would pop out. That’s right, pop right out of your head. Eyeball popping is very possible in super high altitude places where extreme cold is involved. That’s why they shut the road down. Otherwise people would go up there and try one frolic and then there you are, exploded heart and eyeball popped out. Plus you’d have to lay there for the rest of the winter because they don’t open the road until May or June.

Well then, there it is, if you didn’t make it to the summit of Mt Evans on September 5th too bad for you, you missed it. Now you have to wait until next year. The sheep and goats will still be there. They live up there fulltime. No exploded hearts or popped eyeball for them, they’re trained and experienced on how to survive living in ridiculous places so they’ll be just fine. Meanwhile if you are hell-bent on being miserable there’s lots of stuff you can do between now and the opening of the Mt. Evans road next May.

You can watch every single one of the debates between the candidates and talk to your friends about them until one of them sticks a pencil in your ear. Or you can intern on one of those crab boats up on the Bering sea. It’s just below eyeball popping cold up there. You could attend a seniors only party and listen to all of their recent medical procedures. There’s more, that’s just a few of the things you can do to keep your misery index up to your own personal comfort level. If you lack the imagination to figure out your own miserable activity to do this winter we have a list here at The Institute that we would be happy to send you. Just send us a stamped self-addressed envelope with $80 dollars cash in it and we’ll get it right in the mail for you. If you don’t have the exact amount in cash send five twenty’s instead and we’ll try like heck to get your change back to you.

P.S. Don’t think you can outsmart the system and sneak up to the summit and hold one hand over your eyeball and get away with it. Doesn’t work, trust me on this one.