Friday, December 30, 2011

The passage of time

Ah, the clock is ticking down on The Year Twenty Eleven.  The media is full of articles and video reflecting on the events of twelve months gone by.  Soon, we will have to re-train ourselves to write "12" instead of "11" on anything we need to date.  Ah, the passage of time.

Our own personal passage of time has been a genuine tribulation these past few days.  We wish the time would pass faster.  Alas, is seems to be mired in molasses. Each day seems much longer than a normal day.  Our own sense of the passage of time is becoming rather blurred this week.  However, time does indeed pass and that is a good thing indeed.

We began the cleanup of Mom's house early Monday morning.  So far, we have filled five dump trucks with stuff destined for the landfill.  We do not know how many more such trucks it will take to eventually clean out her place.  It could be two.  It could be yet five more.  We know not.  We wear an expensive respirator, industrial rubber gloves, irrigator boots and a tyvek suit to work each day.  What we look like at the end of the day is not a pretty sight.  There's no way to sugar coat the passage of our own time.  We and our two Angel helpers work hard and long each day. We do not even break for lunch and rarely even stop for a break of any kind.  Most of our communication is hand signals because it's so tough to talk when wearing a respirator.  Thumbs up or down, index finger pointing here or waving there.  It's a lot like traffic control at a busy construction site.  The trash hauler says we've been billed at the dump for almost 6,000 pounds of stuff so far.  To say that it is heartbreaking to see the detritus of a life disappear in this manner is a vast understatement.  The three of us have become rather hardened by the work we have done this week.  It has all become somewhat of a strange blur as stuff slurries past our eyes toward the truck parked outside.
I wish I could write a blog post about a cheery topic of some sort.  There's just really no way to describe what's going on each day at her place.  It is a grueling job. It is the toughest task I've ever faced both from a physical and a mental standpoint.  I arrive home each night completely and thoroughly exhausted.  A couple of days ago, both a ladder and I fell to earth together onto the asphalt driveway.  Luckily, I didn't break anything but am nursing a sprained shoulder, wrist and thumb as well as a very bruised hip.  Those aches and pains exacerbate each day's work.  They add a whole new spin to my daily challenge to "stand & deliver."  At some point, the intensity of this phase will begin to ebb.  We will be taking New Year's Eve afternoon "off" as well as most of New Year's Day.  My Friend who took me shooting Christmas Day had offered to take me again on New Year's morning.  That's a bright spot to look forward to.  Meanwhile, Sweetie Susun has been there in spirit, text, email, and on the phone to try to keep my spirits functioning.  Without her energy beaming my way, it would be impossible to make it through this phase.  Thank You, Sweetie!  I do not wish to dwell on what we have done this week and what we still face in the days ahead.  It is what it is. There is nothing we can do except slog forward through whatever circumstances loom in this dark tunnel. We all like to remind each other about the light at the end of the tunnel.   I can't yet see that light with my own eyes but my faith that the light exists as well as loving reminders from Susun about that light's existence keep me going.  We won't be posting any more about all of this but we thought you have probably been wondering "whazzup" back here.  Well, now you know.  We promise our next post and each and every post to follow will be back on the positive track and filled with fun.  We may be at a very low ebb now, but we won't be here long.  We will be back out there in the sunny, flower-filled meadow together with Mary Poppins & Sweetie Susun singing "The Sound of Music" soon.  No doubt about it!

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Camp Fire

Whoa! How do you like this?  Susun sent me a Camp Fire via her cell phone!  Now if that isn't High Tech, Buckaroos, I don't know what is.  Let's all give Sweetie Susun a big round of virtual applause.  Ya Dun Good, Honey!  THANK YOU, I really needed that tonight.

Well, we woke up here Indiana about 4 am Arizona Time and there was a message from Susun in the inbox.  Seems Susun is blossoming into a poet as the Year 2011 comes to a close.  The poem is a fitting addition to the little campfire note above.  Here 'tis:

We knew You needed a big dose of Campfire Light And Energy tonight.

The Love of Angels are in sight,

Like those of yesterday, tomorrow and tonight,

They bring YOU all You need

With God's speed.

You will return Home,  Here

Where You are so ...

Loved and Dear.

Christmas S & T continued

 It looks like our Christmas Show & Tell is coming to an end.  Siegfried made a fun comment on the blog yesterday that's worth repeating in a blog post of its own in case you might miss it.  It is below in italics. Thanks, Dave!  The photo above speaks for itself.  Gage (left) and Van enjoy their annual dose of Santa Claus.  Their happy glee during the holidays is a gift to all who know and love them.  We've been real busy lately but will defer discussion of such business until a later blog post.  Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

My best to you on this somewhat sad Xmas for you. My day started in church. Because it was Xmas Day we were to come dressed as we would be that morning around the Tree. So I came in my PJs, robe and slippers, as did a few other brave souls. Got a few remarks on my outfit, but mostly folks went along as usual in a Presbyterian Church on a Sunday morning! In the afternoon we had everyone for dinner and presents - 4 children, 2 spouses, 3 grandchildren, W/ 2 more spouses and a couple of great-grand kids. We had a feast of crab, home-made rolls, salad and cookies - also home-made on "cookie day" the previous week. Then the youngest person gets to pass out the presents which we all admire as each is opened. All ths time wine and beer are flowing freely. So, a good time was had by all. I got a North Face jacket - wind proof and water resistant - something I've always wanted. I gave my wife 2 pairs of amber earrings - replacing earrings taken when our house was broken into last summer. She also got an iPad from our Zoo Director son. So, we're also out of the "Dark Ages." Thus, a typical Xmas for our family, such as we've had or years and which we always look forward to. My thoughts are with you as you go through the sad business of closing out your mother's estate. Will look forward to the time when campfires will once again grace your blog.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Great Gifts Galore

Thanks to those who have (so far) responded to our First Annual Christmas Show & Tell.  Although we haven't had many responses (yet), we are very pleased with what we have received since yesterday.
Above is easily the winner in the Visual Category.  The artwork is entitled "Hershey Heavens Savannah Star" and was crated by artist Connie.  It was a gift to DF & LBR Nemac from Jean T.  Thanks, Nemac, that's a real beauty!

Mike V. was the first to reply to the First Annual S&T.  Here's his note with a photo of his gift at left.

"For Christmas I also received both love and family and agree those are the best gifts of all. As far as tangible gifts go, I received a leather holster for my 4" GP100.  For any red blooded Idahoan, the gift of a holster would be exciting enough, but this one truly floored me.  I was like a kid on Christmas when I opened it.  I couldn't even speak a coherent sentence when I tried to thank Camille.  You see, for the 21 years we have been married, when asked "what do you want for Christmas?", I more often than not showed her exactly what I wanted....down to the page and item number.  Not ONCE in 21 years had she ever ordered what I asked for, at least until this year!   On top of it all, it fits like a glove! That's my show and tell.  Merry Christmas, talk to you soon."
Thanks for sharing, Mike, that's one awesome holster.  Please pass along congratulations to Camille for selecting something that will be a joy to use forever.  Way to go!
It's safe to say anyone who showed up at Goatherder's house yesterday received a gi-normous gift in the form of his World Famous Christmas Dinner.  GH truly slaves away over this annual feast.  You wouldn't even believe the effort he puts into it.  Just reading the menu for the day let's you know what type of genuine gift it was.  Here's the menu:

Dry Aged Roast Prime rib with crimini mushroom demi-glace
roasted brussels sprouts with bacon and walnuts
roasted sweet potato puree with maple syrup and sweet onion compote
Herb salad with pears, Meyer lemon vinaigrette and shaved parmigiano reggiano
Assorted Orion Bread Co. dinner rolls
Bourbon pecan pie, whipped cream
GH & Son gave their Mom Katie, a new iPad.  Here's how GH described it:
"Kate is playing with her new iPad. She has finally come in from the dark side and entered the S. Jobs reality distortion field. Happy Christmas, we miss you!"  (Editor's Note: The "dark side" refers to a Windows system running on a PC.)
 Spudboater got right into the spirit of Show & Tell.  Here's her comment (also posted on the blog):

"Merry Christmas John. For me the best gift received yesterday was spending time with my daughter--we made my mom's fudge recipe, watched old VCR movies on a VCR I picked up for $7 at the Idaho Youth Ranch and laughed at Freaky Friday because the mother and daughter fight about the same stuff we do (played by Jamie Lee Curtis and Lindsay Lohan before she got off on the wrong foot). We cooked dinner together and watched her favorite Christmas movie-The Grinch; and we opened presents with a roaring fire in the fireplace next to us. Just hanging out with my kid was the best gift"  THANKS, SB--Norman Rockwell was smiling on you, even if he doesn't know who Lindsay Lohan is.
And, finally, Maggie joined in the fun, too.  Here's her touching tale:

"The best moment of my Christmas was reading a special edition of The Night Before Christmas to my two year old grandson. It is a "pop up" book of intricately cut three dimensional paper scenes on each page. Each page presents a new wonder for a two year old. You may see Santa going up the chimney or eight reindeer pop out right in front of your nose or a three dimensional village magically appear as the page is turned.  The wonder in his eyes put smiles on the faces of those listening and reminded us all of what the magic of Christmas is really about. I look forward to bringing the book out again next Christmas eve."  That's sure beautiful, Maggie.  Your account easily wins the Currier & Ives 2011 Award.

THANKS Nemac, Mike, Goatherder, Spudboater and Maggie for bring this contest to life.  YA DUN GOOD!

Now, as far as the remainder of you LBRs  (and you all know who you are) please don't be so bashful.  Please come to the head of the class and show the teacher and your classmates whacha got for Christmas.  

Have a great day & Many Cheers!  jp

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas

Well, here it is Christmas.  Who'd a thunk it would come along this fast.  Gee, one more week and we'll be a year older, if not wiser, as a world entering 2012.  We can all count many gifts in our lives.  As I reflect this morning on the Gifts of Christmas, I count LOVE as the Top #1 gift of all time.  It is the Love from our Family, our Spouses, our Friends and all those whose love shines around us that is the All-Time Best Christmas Gift.  And it is LOVE that continues to shine through each and every day of the year that makes living this life so special.  Thank You All for the Gifts of Love that you have sent my way during recent days.  Believe me, I can feel it and it sure makes a huge difference for my spirit and every step of the way during these difficult days.  We have a Dear Friend, Heather, whose telephone greeting has remainded the same throughout the years.  She ways ends her voice mail recording with these words, "Remember, LOVE Is It."  Yea, verily, Heather!

The Indianapolis Art Museum made a big splash back in the disco daze of the 1970's when they commissioned the sculpture you see at the top of this blog post.  I'm sure you've all laid eyes on this iconic iron word many a time.  Back when it was fresh and new, it was a genuine wonder in this neck of the woods--most more intriguing than a tire ball, for example.  I went down to visit the sculpture many a time in the late 1970's, standing smitten with its profound meaning.  Sometimes the presentation of a common word in an uncommon form brings new meaning to the resonance of a word in our spirit and our heart.  Anyway, I thought putting up the photo would be my gift to all the LBRs who dare to tread on Da Blog today.  THANK YOU for your love.  You are much appreciated and loved.

And now let's move on to a Brand New Once-A-Year Game, shall we?  It's called "Christmas Show & Tell."  Remember when we were little tykes and went to kindergarten or the early grades, bringing along something for "show and tell?" Oh, how fun it is was to stand up and mumble a few basic words about whatever gee-gaw you brought to class.  Well, how 'bout we resurrect that fond activity here on the blog once each year--on Christmas Day.

Please post a comment about what you received as a Christmas gift(s).  It can be tangible--as in something wrapped up in a box--or intangible, such as the Love we discussed above.  If you are really "all in" on this game, email a photo and I will post it either at the bottom of this post or in a new one, if enough photos come rolling in.  Even though I am sitting alone in a small room in a small house in a small nook in Smallville, my mind's eye is imagining all you LBRs out there having a real hoot tearing off gift wrapping and smiling and saying "oh" and "ah" over all of your great gifts.  I am sure we would all like to hear about them and hopefully see them, too.  Please don't be bashful or hide your candle under a bushel basket.  Come on now kiddies, bring us your Show & Tell!

Have a wonderful and delightful day in every way.  Merry Christmas and Many Happy Holiday Cheers, jp

Saturday, December 24, 2011

End of an era

Nothing lasts forever, does it?  Nope, that's the Fact of Life.  All things must pass--sooner or later.  Thursday's funeral and burial were but one milestone of many we shall pass on this road we travel now.
Actually, the services went quite well.  There was no friction over the Eulogy, either in verbal or written format.  Everyone loved the 16-page written version.  I made it through the verbal version until the final sentence before becoming emotional.  People said they really liked my verbal eulogy in the giant cathedral.  I said, "Well, I broke down on the final sentence." They said, "Well, that made it real."  I suppose they are right.  There were quite a few "criers" at the services.  oddly, none of the "criers" were relatives.  Nope, the relatives stood stoic.  The "criers" were mostly retail store clerks who Mom had befriended.  I'd guess 20-30% of the visitation numbers were store clerks who just showed up because they read her obit in the paper.  Some of them really cried hard.  She had a way with folks and really made them feel special.

So many people came up to me to ask how Mom died that I got tired of giving stock medical answers.  About the fifth person who came along I changed my answer and stepped back and raised my eyebrows and said, "well, you know, I DO have INSIDE information!"  Their eyes would grow wide and they would take a step back and wait.  Then I said, "Well, you know, Mom went to sleep and an Angel came and whispered in her eaer, 'Mai, we're having a half-off sale on air fare to Heaven' and she just signed on right away and didn't even take her carry on baggage with her."  Most people laughed pretty hard on that silly story since they knew Mom was the Bargain Hunter's Bargain Hunter.  Who knows? Maybe it was true for all I know.  The church ladies made a great lunch for all of us and I took home the leftover.  I've been eatin' funeral ham and potatoes ever since Thursday.

Well, it's the end of many eras as we said up top on this blog post.  In the last 24 hours the end of my "antique gun collector" era came to an abrupt end.  As I've noted on various posts about me and my Dad, our biggest "father-son" thing was roaming the musty old 1950's gun shops of rural Indiana.  It's what we did every Saturday that we could.  I started using my allowance money to buy old muskets probably as early as maybe 1955-1956, at least as far as I can recall.  What you see in the photo above are the last of the Mohicans as far as those old muskets are concerned.  I pulled eight old firearms out of the house yesterday and sold three within a couple of hours right out of the back of a pickup truck in couple of parking lots.  It was as Old Style gun selling as gun sellin' gets.  It sure brought back a lot of memories.  Anyway, I took the ones you see above up into my room late yesterday and proceeded to market them online on the Indiana Gun Owners Forum.  Bam, bam, people started hittin' on like hungry fish and a guy is coming by to give me $1000 for what you see above.  I probably sold 'em too cheap but I don't care--when it's their time to go, it's their time to go--it's the end of an era after all and there's no reason or time to look back as we march on to the future.  That was zen, this is now.

That gun owners forum has been a real gift to me.  A total stranger I met online invited me to go shooting at the local indoor range with him and his friend yesterday.  They paid my range fees and gave me pistols and ammo to shoot for no charge.  They were classic Indiana Men--very humble and very kind. I appreciated them so much.  Another guy I've met online but not yet in person doesn't have any family so he's invited me to a private shooting range on Christmas Day.  It will be just him and me having ourselves a holiday shootenanny.  He's providing the firearms and the ammo, too.  These guys are helping me feel right at home.  It's great and I am very happy about it.

Well, my landlady needs a tire fixed on the truck she's letting me use.  I took it to her tire place yesterday but it was too busy to get in to have it fixed.  That's not much of a story.  The real story there however, is that those Good Ol' Boyz working in that tire shop have set their minds on a goal--a world record.  It's as if Woody Harrelson (a famous honorary Hoosier who starred on the TV sitcom "Cheers") had come to life in the bays of that tire shop.  Those guys were so excited about their tire ball.  What the heck is a tire ball?  Well, there's a sticky label on all new tires that most people simply tear off and put in a trash can.  Not these guys.  They are using the sticky labels to make a tire ball.  Right now the thing weighs 75 pounds.  Their immediate goal is 500 pounds--so big it will have to have it's only trailer so they can park it out front and a "point of pride" for The Tire Barn where they work.  When I went ga-ga over their tire ball, their really lit up.  Nobody had paid any attention to it but me, so far, and I went ape over it and they loved it. I mean,  this is CLASSIC Hoosier-mania.  People here get all worked up over stuff like this.  When if finally makes the newspaper, I have no doubt that people will come from miles around and stand and stare at the tire ball like cows in a field stand and stare at passing traffic whizzing past.  If it gets as big as they hope, it could well be a tourist attraction and perhaps the business will have to have "Tire Ball Days" or something like that.  Meanwhile the guys I talked to yesterday can't wait until they get to pose for a group photo in front of their gi-normous tire ball.  I wish I could have captured the gleam in their eyes when they puffed with pride about their tire ball.  It was a Hoosier Moment, for sure.

Well, there will be more eras to come to an end soon.  Let me count the ways.  It's going to be a long road to travel between now and when I can come home to Arizona and then Idaho.  I will be here weeks at least and maybe a lot longer.  There is no end in sight at this point.  It's day-by-day, step-by-step, inch-by-inch and era-by-era.  Someday this whole era will end and we will move on.

May your Christmas be Very Merry and may your life be filled with Many Joyous Holiday Cheers.  jp

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The Shortest is The Longest

Winter Solstice Greetings!  Somehow it is poetic that the year's shortest day will be my longest day.  As I am writing this, I see it is a little after 4 am  Arizona Time.  It's just after 6 here.  Somehow, the end of today seems like a long, long distance away.  Although I am very sad about my Mom's passing, I must admit, I will be very glad when this day is done.

As I lay awake before arising this morning, I thought back to last year, when the Solstice marked what we thought was going to be the first event of an annual tradition.  You can click here to see the post about that fine party hearty. How ironic a year later to be typing on a little netbook in the small upstairs bedroom of an older home in a nondescript Midwestern neighborhood.  Ah, the twists and turns of the daze of our lives!

It's been raining here for the last couple of days.  It hasn't been heavy rain--just all day rain--the kind of light 24/7 rain for which this area is famous this time of year.  I think Mom arranged a hole in the clouds today for her funeral and burial as the rain is supposed to take a break until later this afternoon.  As you can see by the above graphic, it's supposed to start raining again shortly after we leave the cemetery.  Thanks, Mom.

I checked today's online version of this city's daily newspaper and there's no earth shaking local news.  There is, however, a story that's appropriate for the day of my Mom's funeral.  It's about how a 200-year-old oak tree got saved from destruction.  Mom would have been so happy to read that story. You can click here to read it. Anytime a tree was saved was cause for much joy and happiness.  She taught me to love old growth trees decades before they became a Cause Célèbre. Mom was a tree hugger before anybody thought it would be cool to hug a tree.

I spent over six hours yesterday writing her "long" Eulogy.  The priest is giving me only five minutes today for her "short" eulogy.  At the rate I speak, five minutes equates to 300-400 words.  I haven't written the short one yet but will do so soon.  Time is of the essence, as they say.  It won't be hard to write the short one.  I mean what can you say in fine minutes?  "Hi" and "Bye" is about it.  Well, anyway, I told the priest that I was doing a long eulogy and I was going to pass it out to all those in attendance.  He told me I could only put it on a table and let them pick it up if they wanted it so it wouldn't become litter in the pews.  Well, I am passing it out by hand.  What's he going to do?  Kick me out of the funeral Mass?  I doubt it.  Anyway, the long eulogy printed out at 16 pages, including one page with two photos.  Heaven only knows how many words are in that 15 page narrative.

The eulogy is all about The Gifts of Life of Mai G. Parsons.  That's way different than the typical "celebration of life" that most people do. I actually itemized the gifts and then described each of them.  Susun was real jazzed after she read it and wants to make a book out of it.  Um...I dunno 'bout that.  We shall see.  It's pretty good, though, I have to admit.  Susun says it's the best thing I ever wrote.  Mom's best Friend back in Virginia flipped out when he read it and basically said the same thing.  Who knows?  Anyway, I guess I have to give the priest some of the credit.  If he had put me on a Eulogy Diet, I wouldn't have written the long version.  I would have just done a nice verbal eulogy and called it good.  Interesting how things work out like that.

Catholics are real big on ritual.  That's not to say other religions aren't.  Nope, everybody loves rituals.  But Catholics take rituals to the next level.  They dote on rituals.  Catholic rituals have to be really carefully choreographed.  People get all weirded out if the ritual doesn't follow precise protocol.  The woman I am renting this room from asked me last night if I was nervous.  I told her the only thing I was nervous about was whether the ritual would follow the script and not p-off the priest.  When we met on Tuesday he was real big on making sure I understood the precise order of how things had to go, you know what I mean?  Yes, Father, I know what you mean. I get your drift, Honest, I do.  Yeah, so that makes me nervous.  But, other than that, no, I'm not nervous.

I was getting a little panicky yesterday when I felt I wasn't going to be able to get the long eulogy together.  It was coming down to whether I could process the two photos I needed.  I was in a CVS pharmacy and it was clear I was panicking.  The clerk came over to me and said, "Mister, SLOW DOWN!"  I told her the situation and she said, "Well, being in a hurry is only gonna make it worse.  It's gonna be what it's gonna be so just slow down and take your time and it will all come together."  She really gave me a good ol' Hoosier lecture like people are wont to do here in The Heartland.  She even shook her pointed finger at me.  Well, I was duly lectured and chastised so I slowed down and, you know what?  She was right.  Everything came together just fine.

Speaking of serendipity--how's this one for you?  So, I arranged to rent this room way back last July.  It's a long story best told around a camp fire.  Anyway, I get here to Lorna's Place and it turns out she is a full-time printer and has a big time print shop out in a separate building in her backyard.  So, she printed up my eulogy yesterday but didn't get around to it until like maybe 6-7 pm.  Then I needed some more stuff done and she just casually walks out back and gets it done and brings it back inside like she was casually taking out the trash to the alley or something.  It's really cool to be renting from a printer.  Maybe I will have to think up some other stuff to get printed.  Anyway, if I would have had to work with a printer who kept 8-5 business hours, there's no way I could have been able to pull this one off.  It was only because Lorna works whenever she feels like working that we were able to put together a sixteen page eulogy.

And speaking of that eulogy--as usual, I am certain there are some fugitive typos lurking in the eulogy. I have an Aunt and some cousins who are real ball hawks when it comes to typos.  I figure they will hunt down and "X" off every steenking little typo for me.  Heck, I will have a church full of proof readers, for that matter.  They won't be mourning Mom, they will be shaking their heads over what a bad speller and typer I am.  They won't be thinking of the deceased. They will be muttering under their breath about what a dog brain I am for messing up a perfectly good word.  I know what they will be thinking.  This is Indiana, afterall, and I know how they think here.  Typos can drive people to insanity here in Indiana.  It's been known to happen.  When I was a newspaper owner and editor in Zionsville, I lived in fear that certain old ladies would go postal over my typos and come into the newspaper shop and eliminate all of us.  I've never seen people get so worked up over a mangled word or two.  What's the big deal?  But, I digress.  Anyway, since I will have a church full of proof readers, I feel certain that I will be handed a fully proofed version of my eulogy at the end of the mass--with all the offending words neatly crossed through with a red or blue pencil, depending on just how badly the word was abused by the eulogy writer.  THEN and only then can I do the final version of the eulogy.  That's the version you are going to see--the one with no Forrest Gump mistakes.  Stupid is as stupid does, remember?

Some of you astute LBRs know what is going on here this morning, don't you?  Yeah, you're right.  I am procrastinating.  It's a heck of a lot easier to write this blog post than it is my short version eulogy.  But it's nearing 7 am here and I have been lucky enough to be able to procrastinate now for almost 45 minutes.  What a luxury.

Soooo....we gotta go.  Enjoy the Winter Solstice as best you can in whatever way maximizes your joy. Hoist a toast to Dear Mom and remember, YOUR longest day is only six months away on the Summer Solstice!  Me? I get to have 'em both on the same day.

Many Cheers, jp

(Editor's Note:  This update was added three years later on December 22, 2014.  Here are the links to the eulogies

Short Version spoken during Funeral Mass:

Long 15-page version passed out by hand before and after Funeral Mass:

And here's the post about Mom's Obituary:

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mom's Obituary

Greetings from Lafayette, Indiana.  We see our last blog post was long ago Saturday morning.  Hum...that's 3.5 days by the way we count our fingers on one hand.  I sure have wanted to post something--ANYTHING--here on this blog but haven't have a spare minute to do so.  I don't have much time tonight, either, but did want to get Mom's obituary linked for those who may care to read it.  It appeared in this morning's Lafayette Journal & Courier newspaper.  You can click here to read it.

Mom was proud of making all her funeral arrangements.  She even wrote her own obituary.  However, she didn't write much of an obit for herself.  I emailed it around to various relatives and they were all sad that Mai's own obit was so skimpy.  The task fell to me to amp it up.  Basically, I rewrote the whole thing and double it in size while also finding a much more suitable photo.  It received very good reps for those who reviewed the draft version.  Today, I've received some nice comments from various people who have read it.  I wish I could have written more but you wouldn't dare imagine what little I did write actually cost.  I can't believe this myself but it is true.  The newspaper charged $350 to print what little I wrote.  Back in teh day when I was actually in the newspaper business, we did obituaries for free and prided ourselves on their great length, depth and quality of compassion.  Now?  Not so much.  It's a different and much more corporate world these days.  There isn't even anyone at the newspaper who is capable of writing an obituary, much less someone who actually WANTS to write an obituary.  All obituaries must be written and submitted by the family or by a ghost writer (pun intended).  Back in the day, young pup Cub Reporters were always started out writing obituaries--that's how they could separate the wheat from the chaff.  Kids who did real well writing obituaries had honest potential.  Back in the day, you could spot a great budding writer simply by how they handling the lowly task of obituary writing.  Personally, I thrived on writing obits and some of them ran to a full page when I owned the newspaper and could do as I pleased.  Well, if they charged me $350 for today's obit, I reckon a full page obit could have bought the farm (pun intended).

Tomorrow, another deadline (pun intended) looms ahead.  I must finish her eulogy early in the day in time to be printed for distribution at the Thursday services.  No rest for the (.....).  Note, you can fill in your own term there between the parenthesis.  Back on Saturday I said I felt like a twig in a torrent.  Today that got upgraded to a twig in a tsunami.  By Thursday, I strongly suspect it's going to be a twig in a tornado.  Suffice to say there's been no time for Happy Hours and camp fires are a distant memory--both literally and figuratively.   As we mentioned to Goatherder in an email tonight--there time for only one primary task and that is to Stand & Deliver.  Although we are certain we shall prevail, we are nevertheless quite curious as to how all of the details of this carefully choreographed and wildly expensive American ritual are going to play themselves out.  I apologize for not putting up more stuff here on the blog.  The spirit, heart and intent are willing and there's been no lack of interesting stories to tell--there simply hasn't been enough time.

And on that note, we must run along--still more to do this evening.  Have a great night & Many Cheers, jp

Saturday, December 17, 2011


Most of our Dear Friends and Loyal Blog Readers know by now that my Dear Mom, Mai G. Parsons, has passed on.  We learned the news on December 15th.  Since then we have received a flood of condolences and each and every one of them has touched our hearts and spirits.  We thank you all so much for your wishes and prayers.  Many of the emails and phone calls have sure brought back a lot of memories.  Your kind thoughts are part of the healing process and truly make a huge difference in coping with this inevitable milestone on Life's highway.   Many of those milestones are joyous occasions, many mark difficult stretches in the highway but the milestone that lies at the end of of a Loved One's road is always perhaps the most difficult milestone to reach.

For us, the Journey Down Memory Lane is only just beginning.  We are writing this blog post in the 5 am darkness of Roger's home in Mesa.  We will be leaving here in less than an hour to go to the airport.  Our flight to Indianapolis takes off at 8 am and get there (hopefully) at 4:20 pm.

We have lined up a nice place to stay in someone's home as well as transportation.  Services and burial are scheduled for Thursday, December 22nd.  Time has become rather blurred for us since we learned the news and we can only imagine how blurry time will become between now and the upcoming Thursday.  One thing we know for sure, it is a process that takes its own form and energy and will carry us along like a small twig in a gushing torrent.  We will reach calm water once again, somewhere downstream.

There is much to be done and time is short.  Therefore we can't linger here on this blog.  We will be carrying our own netbook computer on this trip and plan to blog as frequently as we can.  Blogging has become one of the anchors of our lives so it would be counter productive to take a blogging break now when these posts are even more important to our spirit and sanity.

Thank You for all your care and kind thoughts.  You all mean so much to us both.  Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Hoar Frost

Second Chance Ranch is a fairyland of hoar frost this morning.  There's no way a camera can capture the beauty which surround us today.  We can take it all in with a sweep of our admiring eyes.  The camera only records a tiny slice of the frosty splendor here.  Hoar frost is rare at this locality.  It happens perhaps only once or twice each winter.  There's no way we can predict when it will appear and we still don't fully understand why it shows on one day and not another day when both days seems to be the same.  Maybe hoar frost is water's way of having fun on a chilly morning.  You can click here to read the Wiki on frost.  The article includes a little discussion of hoar frost.

We were visited by all sorts of creatures during the recent storm including: several deer, racoons, a coyote, a bobcat and....drum rolls, please...a Mountain Lion!  Yep, their tracks are unmistakable.  The lion came to within about 50 feet of the house before veering off.  The bobcat was a little more curious and came up to within 10 feet of the house.  We think there are some fox tracks out there, too but their feet are so dainty and their track is much harder to read in the frozen mud.

Back in the 1980's when I lived in Flagstaff, I signed on to become a substitute teacher.  That's back when I could actually hear good enough to understand what the school kids said to me.  One day I had to sub out at the Leupp School which is on The Navajo Nation (AKA: The Rez.)  All the Navajo kids in that 5th grade class were a bit put off by this bearded guy.  The teacher hadn't left any lesson plan for the sub so I was having to wing it.  No matter what I seemed to do, it just didn't connect with those kids.  That's when the lightbulb went off and I made the day's lesson all about animal tracks--most especially mountain lions versus coyotes.  Oh, boy, that class came alive and everyone was fully engaged.  They each were eager to go to the chalk board and carefully draw the tracks and then discuss both the major and the subtle differences between the tracks.  The kids were really keen observers of tracks and soon the day turned into a lively discussion of not only animal tracks but the behavior of animals and when they were seen by the kids and what their elders had told them about both the animals and the spirits of those animals.  The day ended all too quickly and I sensed that even some of teh Navajo children didn't want it to end.  If was easily the most thoroughly enjoyable experience I ever had substitute teaching.  Also, spending most of a day discussion the fundamental differences between a canine track and a feline track riveted those lessons in my synapses.  So, when we went out and saw the lion tracks yesterday, those memories of that day at Leupp School came roaring back once again.  Yep, no doubt about it--there was a lion roaming 'round in the rain here.

Well, ya'll have a great mid-December day with the usual Many Cheers, jp

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The way we were

Photo by Susun McCulla
It's been a great day and now time to fade away into the night.  I'm so grateful for so many incredibly kind comments today.  How to begin?  Who to thank?  So many nice things have been said to me today.  I am incredibly humbled for all your kind words and thoughts.  Each of you is the Light of My Life.  The Bright Spirit you bring to our Daily Ring Around The Sun makes Our World So Special.  I will never forget your word and wishes today.  It has brought back to life all those hard fought days of yesteryear when we stood shoulder-to-shoulder together for a Common Cause, knowing we could-would-should-maybe oughta-win one of these days in some Light Year so far distant from our frame of perspective at that time.  I wish to THANK each of you from the very bottom of my Heart & Soul for All YOU did to "Save The Verde."  Without YOU, it simply could not have been possible.   We were The Army of One that became an irresistible force that turned the tide to a bright future we can all enjoy forever.

And, finally, I wish to Thank My Soul Mate Susun for all she has done and continues to do without any praise or kudos.  Without her, none of this would have happened.  She is the one who made it all happen.  Bless You, Sweetie, Your Heart is Golden and I Love You ALWAYS and ALL WAYS!

Many Cheers, jp

When The River Spoke

Well, the blog post title is the headline over the story they did about me in today's Camp Verde Bugle and Verde Independent newspapers.  We actually made the front page.  I was scared to read the article so I had Susun, Goatherder and Wes G. read it first and give me the "OK" before I could look at it.  It turned out real well and we sent a nice note of "thanks" to Ace Reporter Steve Ayers.  The biggest thing I regret about providing the information and photos was forgetting to make sure Susun got photo credit for her fine pictures. Darn.  Steve left out a lot of stuff and that's probably a good thing.  He kept a pretty tight focus and the story flows and reads well.  We are very proud that Joshua's picture is in the article three times as well.  We sure wish we could see his face when he sees himself almost on the cover of Rolling Stone. (The online version only has two photos of Josh & me.)
Here is the link to the article:

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head

Here's yesterday's precipitation total for Arizona.  This graphic doesn't include what fell out of the sky on Monday, nor what has fallen since midnight today.  It's just for the 24-period of December 13.  The yellow is the color showing two inches or more of rain.  Note the location of the yellow blob.  It is right smack dab on the Wild & Scenic Verde River were Dexter is located right now.  We've been thinking of him and his crew and sending positive thoughts and energy his way.  Man, that has to be real bleak down there right now.  So, in honor of Dex & Crew this morning, we bring you the B.J. Thomas lyrics for "Raindrops Keep Fallin on My Head."

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
And just like the guy whose feet are too big for his bed
Nothin' seems to fit
Those raindrops are fallin' on my head, they keep fallin'

So I just did me some talkin' to the sun
And I said I didn't like the way he got things done
Sleepin' on the job
Those raindrops are fallin' on my head, they keep fallin'

But there's one thing I know
The blues they send to meet me won't defeat me
It won't be long till happiness steps up to greet me

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Cryin's not for me
'Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothin's worryin' me


It won't be long till happiness steps up to greet me

Raindrops keep fallin' on my head
But that doesn't mean my eyes will soon be turnin' red
Cryin's not for me
'Cause I'm never gonna stop the rain by complainin'
Because I'm free
Nothin's worryin' me

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Finally, THIS

Well, it's finally come down to THIS: a carpal tunnel wrist brace.  I have totally worn out my right wrist on the computer and also through reloading this year.  The combination has been THE END of my right wrist.  SO, it's now down to this--a brace I must wear for the foreseeable future.  This is what happens as we age.  The Good News is that the brace actually lets me think my wrist is OK and I can now do all the stuff to which I was once accustomed without acute pain.  Life is a series of tradeoffs and compromises.  So it is with our bio-mechanics.  You win some and you lose some but you hope to stay at least even in The Game of Life.  This wrist brace levels the playing field for me.  I feel like I am "back in the game again."  It might not look real good but I couldn't care less.  It works.  That's all that counts.

Have a great evening & Many Cheers!  jp

Low lingers long

We're having a real low old time here--a big low pressure system is parked on top of us and isn't moving.  It's been raining steadily for almost 24 hours and the weather pooh-bahs say it's gonna rain for 36 more hours.  We've received an inch of water so far and up to another inch is possible before the long low leaves.
Most low pressure systems that visit these parts are in a hurry to harass people to our East.  They huff and puff and blow on through pretty pronto.  They are known as a "fast moving low."  We're not sure the weather wonks have a name for lows like this.  The wind speed is precisely zero and it has been zero since yesterday.  Yes, the low lingers long.  No Tuesday Target Shoot this morning.  No hike for Susun and Friends of Phyllis today.  We are pretty much confined to quarters here--call it Mother Nature's form of House Arrest.

Pitty Poor Dexter & Crew.  Yep, they are on the river.  It's a nine day trip.  That means they are sitting through almost three full days of rain.  Ouch.  It sends shivers through us just thinking of the deep damp wet cold they are "enjoying" at the moment.  Dexter is such a trooper.  Whatever award they gave him in November is a mere token to what he truly deserves for the tireless work he does.  Hang in there, Dex, home and hearth are only a few days away.

Yesterday, Susun helped Betty once again.  Betty needs to see her Doctor fairly often now so Susun will be there for Betty whenever the need arises.  Betty is a Dear Friend, of course, but she is as sweet a Dear Lady as one could ever hope to know in this lifetime.  We both love her so much.

The blog author hustled off to the Verde NRCD meeting yesterday.  We gave our Advisor report and then left at 10:15 am to go meet with Ace Reporter Steve Ayers.  Yes, that's him down by the riverside.  He wanted to take our photo for the story coming out tomorrow.  Naturally, it was raining at a pretty good clip.  We took off our hat and jacket and posed in a short-sleeve shirt, acting as if it was a Blue Bird Day.
Steve, on the other hand, is basically saying, "Take the picture, John, I'm getting wet, let's get out of here!"  He's a good sport, though, and it was a fun vignette.  The spot where he took the photo hold special meaning to me.  It is the same spot where I first set foot into the Verde River over 30 years ago.  A few years later, I videotaped Camp Verde's first Mayor Bob Barker there as he called for the place to be made into a park.  Well, it took another 20+ years but, long after Bob passed on, the place is an actual real park.

During the soggy afternoon, Gary brought over a Dillon RL550B progressive reloading press.  We spent the waning hours of the afternoon fitting and bolting the press down to a bench in my workshop.  Progressive presses are akin to Swiss watches.  So, imagine if someone showed up with a dis-assembled Swiss watch all jumbled up in various boxes.  Putting the press together is going to be like doing a jig saw puzzle or repairing a Swiss watch or both.

Well, we're ending the brief controversy over our earth oven project.  You may have noted we received some well-deserved criticism over both the design and heat source for the earth oven.  COnsequently, we're dropping the word "earth" from the project.  It is now a project we're calling POOF.  That acronym stands for "Propane Outdoor Oven Facility."  We had to add an "f" word because without it, the acronym would have been a tad bit naughty.  Anyway, earth will be nowhere to be found on this oven.  It's strictly firebricks and sheet metal.  We're not even putting any adobe block on top of it either.  It's just a POOF.  That should nip the controversy in the bud.  Oh,and yes, the POOF will be up and done and running well before the end of the year--provided it stops raining down here in the "dry and warm" winter we were supposed to have.

Spudboater posted to her blog yesterday--click here to read it.  Goatherder is ripping his kitchen stove out by its roots and we suspect there's a blog post in the making there.  Wayne Ranney put up a tremendous blog post two days ago.  It's about the South Pole.  Believe it or not, Wayne worked down there 25 years ago.  Yep, true story.  You can read all about it by clicking here.  And, yes, the photo of Wayne was taken "back in the day" at 90 degrees south latitude.  Finally, we you know, we are always inspired and rejuvenated by Kirsty's blog, Momedy.  She has a knack of putting together blog posts that truly bring a glow to our hearts and a smile to our faces.  Sometimes, I think that both Erma Bombeck AND Norman Rockwell are alive in Kirsty's Spirit.  reading Kirsty's blog any time of the year is a great experience but it's always really special and endearing during the Christmas Season.  Click here to see some of her favorite things about the Holiday Season.  Thanks, Spudboater, Wayne and Kirsty for really livening up a rainy Tuesday morning.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

Monday, December 12, 2011

A Gem Night

Did you know there was such a thing as "gems?"  Yea, verily, they exist.  We learned about them from Lon Walter's book, "Old West Baking."  They aren't a cornbread.  They are Gems.  You really need a "gem pan" to bake them correctly but an ordinarily muffin pan will work OK in a pinch.  I recently challenged Susun to jump start her newly-revived baking carer but doing what I call "good gems."  Well, she really knocked one out of the park tonight.  They are very good gems.  I wouldn't give them a totally Most Excellent Grade quite yet but they are a very good start.  Thank You, Sweetie, for making gems come alive in our diet again.

Saturday stories

Saturday was a busy day, indeed. Sunday? Not so much. We both too way too many photos of the bank robbery and only a few are posted here. There are comments for each picture.
Susun went off to Clarkdale early in the morning.  Before the bank robbery and home tour began, she visited The Newstand Bar, a long-time Clarkdale institution.  She and I had one of the more special vignettes of your lives together there nearly 25 years ago the evening after our very first river trip together.  The place will always hold special memories for us.  Inside and out, the bar looks the same.  The "cast of characters" may ebb and flow but the bar's appearance is one of the very few things in the Verde Valley that has resisted all forms of change.
Below is Verde Valley Historican Bill Cowan looking "Bill At His Best."  Bill was in his element in the Sedona Heritage Museum Saturday.  We spent about an hour with him and it was a delight to watch Bill regale visitors with his wealth of stories.  Congratulations, Bill, that a GREAT way to debut your fine book!
Meanwhile, Susun was soaking up the Clarkdale Scene.  Senator Williams Andrews Clark (namesake for the Town) even made an appearance.
We both then met in Sedona at the Well Red Coyote bookstore and visited with Sedona Living Legend Jim Bishop.  His new book, "The Pink Nectar Cafe," is being very well received. Any time spent with Jim is quality time.  We agreed we should spend more time together and, hopefully, we will begin by taking short weekly hikes together beginning on the upcoming Winter Solstice.
After Susun and John parted ways in Sedona, he went to the 3 pm re-enactment of the bank robbery.  It was a real hoot.  The robbers are shown below next to their hot rod getaway car.
Here the robbers are herding some ladies into the bank where they locked them in the vault before grabbing $50,000 in loot.  They didn't even make it a block before the driver was shot by legendary Uncle Jim Roberts.  It was a tremendous stage play the Town put on.  Way to go, Clarkdale.  The woman with her back to the camera is Phillis W.
Here's Phyllis and Marsha enjoying a moment afetr the last re-enactment of the day.  Phyllis still has that "dear-in-the-headlights" look after the excitement of the bank robbery.
Later Saturday evening, Susun joined her friends Bonnie (left) and Rosa for a reunion of The Sangria Sisters.  The trio adopted that name when they both coincidentally visited Idaho Falls this summer.  Susun concocted a special Sangria and, naturally, a good time was had by all.
Have a great day & Many Cheers!  jp

Saturday, December 10, 2011

What happened?

So, the full moon comes up at last night's campfire and it was the Toast of Happy Hour.  The moon rose almost precisely at Due East and it was spectacular in the deep evening blue sky.  So, after dinner, we went to bed as us humans are wont to do.  By and by, Little Yonni gets up in the dark a little after 6 am and goes outside to fetch a milk bottle from the ice box.  As he steps outside and looks at the moon low on the western horizon, he goes, "HUH?  What happened?  Half the moon's gone?"  Of course, Little Yonni had forgotten about the eclipse.  Until his feeble brain could actually remember about the eclipse, he stood there in the night trying to figure out how half the moon could just up and disappear.  After he remembered, he heard echoes of Jeff Foxworthy's "There's Your Sign" ringing in his dim brain.  DUH!

One of Susun's Big Goals this winter is to learn how to make the same awesome Focaccia Bread that Robin does.  Robin has been giving lessons to Susun.  Naturally, Robin put together one of her famous Focaccia breads last night.  Talk about scrumptious!  Oh, man, that bread is off the charts good.  THANKS, Robin.  We had some last night during a break from the campfire and then again this morning with a great mushroom and cheddar omelet.  If Susun can get this one figured out, she is going to be VERY popular every time she decides to bake some.

Robin's other half, Gary, and I went out shooting for three hours yesterday.  You can read all about it on the shooting blog.  It was a lot of fun.

Today's going to be VERY busy.  Here's how it shakes out.  Susun heads off to Clarkdale early this morning.  She views the art exhibition in Clark Memorial Hall, then watches the bank robbery at 11 am and then goes on the Clarkdale Home Tour.  Meanwhile, Yonni heads to Sedona to attend Bill Cowan's book signing at 11 am.  Afterwards, he buys a 50-pound bag of fire clay (think earth oven) and then Susun and Yonni meet at 1 pm for Jim Bishop's event marking the publication of his latest book, The Pink Nectar Cafe.  Yonni then heads to Clarkdale to see the 3 pm bank robbery while Susun messes around in Sedona and then heads home.  Meanwhile, Yonni does some shopping and arrives home in time to wave goodbye to Susun who then heads over to Bonnie's Place to have a Girl's Night with Rosa and Bonnie B.  Yonni lights a campfire and he and Gary regale each other with tall tales for the remainder of the evening.  If it sounds is.

Well, time to run along.  Have a great day & Many Cheers!  jp

Friday, December 9, 2011

Chamber of Commerce weather

The past few days have been the type of times that bring huge smiles and lots of back slapping to the Chamber of Commerce People.  Blue Bird Skies, temps in the high 50's here, no wind.  It's Happy Face Weather.  Our campfires have been really nice for early December.  The lack of wind is always welcome whenever if fails to blow.

We've been doing our usual hither and yon thing.  One day morphs into the next day and Life is Good.
Yesterday, Susun helped her Dear Friend, Betty, too a Doctor's appointment.  Susun spent most of the day with Betty, returning after 4 pm.

Early in the morning, I went to Chip Norton's to work with him on The Verde River Guide Project.  He passed off a lot of the work for the guide back into my lap.  Nothing is every very simple and now this project is once again going to be very time consuming.  Guess I shouldn't be surprised.  Afterwards, Ace Reporter Steve Ayers came by for a 2+ hour visit.  He's going to write a story about me in next Wednesday's newspaper detailing my career with The Verde River.  We had a lot of fun.  He's such a great guy.  Anyway, he did an award-winning series of three-article on the Center of The State, a real scintillating topic, for sure.  One thing led to another and now he and I (and hopefully Wayne Ranney) will begin the planning for The Journey to The Center of The State sometime next spring.  It's a long story best told in a separate blog post.

Well, a couple of days ago DR & LBR Terry M. had a dream.  His was no ordinary dream.  Also, mind you, Terry is a very distinguished writer.  So, what does he do?  He gets up and writes down his entire dream and emails the dream to me.  Pretty cool, huh?  It's such a cool dream, we called him this morning and asked permission to reprint it here.  He agreed as long as I put in the disclaimer that he IS of Sound Mind and was not in a chemically-altered state.  Done.  OK, here is Terry's Dream:

Good morning--(I had a)....heck of a wild dream that woke me up at 5 this morning.  I thought you might get a laugh out of my dream so here it is. Of course it was in greater detail but basically:


You and I are in small town that sits on a hill overlooking a river down below. (this was probably Dunsmuir California).   We've driven there apparently to look at the river (the Sacramento) and are now wondering where to go next. I suggest Canada.

We take off, driving on the paved street and I say turn left. You do and the pavement runs out and we are now on a dirt road roundabout which is muddy and we're driving through mud puddles. We go around the island and down the hill toward the river, and through a gate which has an electrically operated entrance and exit following another vehicle. 

The vehicle drives into the river and we try to follow it but the rip rap on the riverbank has a big piece of rebar sticking out and we can't go any further.  We turn around to go back but the exit gate won't open and we can't get out.

We park the Suzuki in front of a building and now my car is there and i am out of tobacco.  I get out to get some more from the trunk and find that you and another man are having a high old time shoveling tobacco into the trunk of my car.  I'm boiling mad, you and the  guy just keep shoveling and laughing about it.  I'm frustrated, and put my pipe down on a nearby table and we enter the building. 

We go through room after large room with people in each room and discover its the USFS headquarters. You take the lead because you tell me you use to work for the USFS and can get them to open the gate for us to get out.

We wait in line while you try to see the head forest ranger.  I'm in the waiting room with three girls who are getting ready to take a forest service test. I tell them the question is:  "what is the most common color of trees", and the answer is "green"  Suddenly I'm a Jr Forest Ranger. The head forest ranger throw you out of his office saying the gate will be open in the spring and we'll just have to wait.

We return to the Suzuki and find out my pipe is gone..there are several other pipes on the table...none of which are mine.  Finally a guy comes up and says I had a cheap pipe, he cleaned it and hands it to me. It's now made out of nut shells. I'm frustrated and tell him I can buy 5 of those types of pipes for the cost of one Kaywoodie.  You're glad- handing around treating the whole thing as a big joke.

 Finally I've had enough, order you into the Suzuki and we drive up to the exit gate.  It still won't open but to the left  (and on our side of the gate) I can see a school yard where there was once a wall separating it from the road. There are Asian kids on the playground. The wall has fallen down, so I tell you to drive over the remains and onto the school playground where we find your pet elephant.  We try to get him into the Suzuki but he won't come with us.

Both of us chase him trying to lasso him..I give up.. you chased the elephant  down a road out of sight and I head back to the Suzuki and where I find Susun and another woman who I apparently am with.  The elephant comes back running and jumping like a young colt  you driving it. 

 I turn around to watch both of you come towards me and see a bunch of hippos with just their heads above the water, and each has one eye and I bemoan the fact we don't have a camera because its a great shot.  Susun just shakes her head in a "I give up its only John" type of gesture.


At this point I woke up, gave up trying to get back to sleep and decided to write it all down and send it to you before I forgot it.  Geeze what a night!!! 

have a great (sane) day

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Ten Years of Day Hiking

It's cold here right now--13 degrees outside!  The NWS says Flagstaff is 10 and it looks like it's one below at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.  Mighty chilly.  There was definitely no campfire last night--a cold north wind made the low temps even less user-friendly.  Tomorrow morning it's supposed to be even colder. Without any heat in the house overnight, our morning temp was 57.  Gotta love a straw house.

OK, what about the day hiking thing?  We came back in early October from our first summer of volunteering for the Forest Service up in Dixie..  That's what Utahans call the far southern part of their state.  We didn't know what to do with ourselves. We didn't even take the boards off the windows until early December.  Marsha and Phyllis came over one night and gave us a "talking to."  Forever thereafter we've called them The Two Wise Women.  Anyway, we took the boards off the windows and saw the light.  I wanted to buy the much-despised Red Rock Pass on December 7th, a "Day of Infamy" but circumstances made us buy and begin to use it the day before--December 6th.

Little did we know those first tentative steps would lead to many hundreds of miles of smiles spread out across the far flung horizons of not only Arizona but lots of out states as well.  Being proud to wear the OCD Badge of Honor, we didn't juist put a toe into day hiking--we went all out and became quite compulsive about the whole thing. 

We started out hiking around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte day after day after day.  The objective was to use a known hike to se could improve our hiking pace as well as tinker with our gear each day to make our personal packs better each time.  By the end of a week, we pretty much had the gear thing figured out.  One of the most fun vignettes of those very early days was when we realized we needed hiking sticks.  We thought that ski poles would work just fine.  (They don't.)  Well, were are you going to find ski poles in early December in the Village of Oak Creek?  It was a bright and sunny Saturday and as we round the backside of Courthouse, I looked off at the shimmering rooftops of The Village and pronounced to Susun, "Our ski poles are over there and we will find them today."  We jumped in the Samurai at the parking lot and zoomed off into the fancy homes of The Village looking for yard sale signs.  We jumped out at the first sale and I walked around looking for ski poles.  There were none.  So, I went to the woman collecting cash and blurted out, "Where did you put the ski poles?"  She looked aghast and chagrined and said, "Oh, gee, I'm sorry, I didn't put them out--they are right here."  So for a couple of bucks, we had our first of many hiking sticks.  Later, we met the same woman on the trail and became friends.  We even attended their Christmas Party that year.  The serendipity of getting those hiking sticks on such a lark kind of set the tone for the next ten years of our day hiking careers.  Whenever we've needed anything at all relating to day hiking, it has shown up as if right on cue.

We day hiked 45 consecutive days in our first "streak."  That streak was stopped on the way to the 46th hike when the fuel pump blew out on the Samurai.  Susun hiked to the top of Bear Mountain on her 55th birthday in 2002.  We hiked all over the Red Rock Country trail system, missing only a few "hikable" days that spring.  Our goal was to get in shape to day hike the Grand Canyon.  In April we went up and camped for a week in the forest outside Tusayan, going in each day to hike the upper portion of many of the Canyon trails.  We did a day hike down to Indian Gardens and enjoyed hot showers each afternoon on the South Rim. 

We had a 125 consecutive day streak going in the summer of 2002.  We were in Red Bluff, California, in September when that streak was busted.  We received a call that our straw house had been flooded so we drove straight through the night to get here the next morning.  We have another 125 streak going in 2003.  Susun kind of dropped out of the "streak" thing in 2004 but I kept slogging away.  I got a streak rolling that created at 400 straight days before I just couldn't muster up the mentality to keep it going any farther.  In the spring of 2005, I taught in community college class called Day Hiking for The Elderly.  As the years have ticked by, we have enjoyed many fine day hikes.  We've mellowed considerably from those obsessive compulsive daze.  For us now, day hiking is "second nature."  We always keep boots, pack, sticks, and all the rest of the day hiker paraphernalia within easy reach.  We can jump up and be ready to go day hiking a the drop of a floppy hiking hat.

It sure was fun to enjoy all the flashbacks of hiking around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte Sunday.  There was a genuine flood of memories cascading us back in time with each step forward on that lovely and largely frozen stroll.  We sure hope and pray that we will be able to continue day hiking forever.  Speaking of which, Susun will be hiking today with Phyllis & Friends at the Cockscomb near Sedona.  The tradition continues.  Carry it on, Sweetie!

Me?  Well, today is the weekly shooting sports day.  Target shooting with a pistol definitely isn't as rigorous as day hiking but it sure is fun.

May your days be filled with Many Cheers & Happy Trails Forever!  jp


Monday, December 5, 2011

Tenth Anniversary Hike

The date December 6, 2001, is a real Red Letter Day for us.  That's the famous day we started our Day Hiking Career by walking around Bell Rock and Courthouse Butte. It's a really long story we will tell tomorrow on the actual anniversary.  Meanwhile, we knew we wouldn't be able to do a hike Tuesday so we decided to do our 10th Anniversary Hike on Sunday, December 4th.  Naturally, our hike yesterday followed in the footsteps of that first hike ten years ago.  Conditions were near perfect, as least as far as we were concerned.  The cold weather, muddy trail and icy rocks kept most other hikers off the trail.  We encountered only six other people on the backside of Courthouse.  Two of them had turned around to head back because one of them fell after slipping on an ice covered rock.  Indeed, the hiking was treacherous in places.  However, the snow made the scenery spectacular and the puffy clouds played tag with their shadows dancing across the cliff faces.  Sometimes hiking in the Red Rocks can make you dizzy with your head spinning in all directions trying to take it all in.  Even if you've hiked the same trail a ba-zillion times, it's different each time, especially under conditions such as we enjoyed yesterday.  The air was as pristine as Arizona air can get.  It was a perfect 10th Anniversary Hike.
 On our way back to the trailhead, a solo female hiker took our picture with one hand 
while continuing to talk on her cell phone with the other hand.  Multitasking on the trail, eh?
 This 4.4 mile trail can be hiked in 90-100 minutes if you're hiking for speed and time. 
Today, we took 2.5 hours to enjoy and savor all the splendor.  
This trail is always at its best when some people think it  is at its worst.
 Kanab, Utah, has a slogan that says, "Greatest Earth on Show." 
That's a play on words to Utah's former slogan, "Greatest Snow on Earth." 
Well, Sedona has some of the Greatest Earth on Show, too.
  Alittle snow goes a long way to adding some class to the act.
Here's Courthouse Butte reflected in a still pool.
And here's the "real" Courthouse Butte towering over the tiny pool shown above.
 So much to reflect on!
This one's for Sarah & Stasea--"She's In Her Element Again!"

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Congratulations, Desi!

Desi Allen graduated from High School and Jodi and Dex and The Allen Family threw a graduation party for her yesterday.  Susun attended on our behalf and a good time was had by all.  We are so proud of Desi.  She is GREAT!  A Special Huge Congratulations also go out to Jodi and Dex and The Allen Family for all their love, support, encouragement and spirit they have contributed to Desi.  We are so Proud of you, too!

Snowy, Sloppy Saturday

We'd sure like to meet the guy or gal who pontificated it would be dry and warm here in Arizona. In the Old Days, whoever made such a wildly inaccurate pronouncement could have been tarred and feathered and run out of town on a rail.

This week ending storm stuck one on us, so to speak.  It's rare when it snows at our elevation of 3,500 feet and even ore rare when the snow sticks.  The photos speak for themselves.  Oddly, we did manage to go out into the white desert TWICE to shoot some new reloads through our 93-year-old relic, the Colt 1917 .45 caliber revolver.  The road was total pig sty slop and the desert floor a skating rink of slippery mud.  Luckily, we enjoyed perhaps the only two "holes in the clouds" that happened all day long.  Both times, the holes closed and it began raining and/or snowing within 3 minutes after we packed everything in Suzi Q.

It was quite the Wild Weather Day.  Up in the High Country, over a half a foot fell most everywhere and some "favored" locations reported as much as 18 inches.  The typical litany of accidents and roads closures were noted.  It's supposed to clear up today.  It will be very cold--at least for this neck of the woods--but at least it will be clear.  We hope to go hiking in The Red Rocks.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp

 Our snug little straw house really shines in such weather.  It stayed warm and cozy all day long.  Living in that house is like living inside a down comforter.
 Duh, no campfire tonight!
 This is the direction of that nice view of The Mogollon Rim.  Yesterday visibility hovererd between a mile and a half mile.  Nothing but white.
 There's our forlorn little target stand 20 yards yonder.  Brrr.
 This is what a hole in the clouds looks like.
And this is what it looks like when the hole begins to close--dark clouds ahead.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Happy December 1st

Gee, only 24 days to Christmas!  We worked our anatomy off yesterday.  It was our goal to be completely finished with the fall session of Weed Wars no later than November 30th and we barely made the deadline.  We spent nearly 8 hours cutting, whacking, raking, hauling and all the rest.

Mesquite trees are one of earth's most tenacious species.  They will survive practically anything.  About the only way to destroy them is with a large backhoe and even that's not a guarantee they won't come back.  If you prune a mesquite, the tree gets really upset.  It then proceeds to send out an explosion of wicked shoots from the point of your pruning.  These aren't ordinary shoots.  Nope, somehow the mesquite's DNA is wired to equip these shoots with the most wicked thorns you've ever seen.  They are as sharp as razors and will penetrate anything except pure THICK steel.  Working with mesquite sucker shoots as we call them is one of the two worst aspect of our Weed Wars.  I have scars all over my arms from these hideous shoots.  Luckily, yesterday, I somehow avoided any further physical damage from the thorny shoots and didn't donate any blood to the mesquites.  Susun wasn't so lucky.  She got swiped across the face but fortunately the thorn didn't extract an eye for an eye style vengeance.  Weed Wars is just plain old hand-to-hand combat in the trenches.  It's the toughest work we do here and easily the toughest work we do anywhere, for that matter.  As we joked yesterday, our Second Chance Ranch Weed Wars make mowing the lawn in Idaho Falls seem like a picnic in the park.  Well, anyway, we're done for the fall season.  Our next episode of Weed Wars will commence in March when the new crop begins to sprout and we once again don all the chemical spray apparatus and head back to the springtime Weed Wars front lines.

One thing that Weed Wars does is my me feel my age.  Most of the time I don't feel like I am 64 years of age.  The morning after the final battle of Weed Wars, I feel 84 instead of 64.  It's hard to move around, all the muscles are sore and we walk with a gimp, a limp and a hunched back.  OK, enough already.  It's done.

At some point during the battle yesterday, we had a sudden brainstorm.  When the day mercifully progressed into Happy Hour, we were able to shift our focus and think outside the box on the earth oven project.  We eagerly disassembled the whole thing--stripped it down to the cinder block foundation.  Then we put it all back together again with a totally new configuration.  It ROX!!!

Here was the brainstorm in a word: Propane. Why does an earth oven have to be heated with wood?  Is there some rule someplace that mandates a wood fire for an earth oven?  If so, who enforces this rule?  Why can't we heat our earth oven with propane?  Will we get a ticket from the earth oven police?  Who cares HOW we heat our earth oven?  Why would radiant heat from a fire be any different than propane heat?  An oven is an oven, right?  It's all about the baking temperature and the relative consistency of that temperature.  If you want to bake at 350, you really want your oven to hang at 350 to thoroughly bake your food, right?

So, we totally re-designed the earth oven and embedded a propane heat source below the oven chamber.  Then we built a really nice oven and topped it off with a lot of adobe block thermal mass and, voila, we got a winner!

Luckily, we remembered to put on a full face shield and wear two long sleeve shirts when we lit the oven.  KA-BOOM--you should have seen the fireball that lit up inside the oven.  Hopefully, we will figure out a safer, saner method of lighting propane in a confined space.  Luckily, there were no witnesses to the pyrotechnics and we survived none worse for the wear.  Meanwhile, the little oven heated right up to 250 degrees and then slowly climbed to 350.  After 90 minutes it eeked its way to 400.  It's a righteous oven and is definitely the design we're going to go with.  We finally have our so-called "proof of concept" oven complete and now we will move into the final design and construction phase.   There's absolutely no doubt the oven will be baking stuff soon and be totally complete by the New Year.  Even as tired as I was last night, I actually danced a jig in front of the oven--it made me smile and laugh and it was really exciting to get something workable up and running.  We are very excited about it.

Have a great day & Many Cheers, jp