Sunday, August 27, 2006

The very last peach

Bill asked me to photograph the last peach of the season hanging from his tree by the pasture.

Which I did.

Then I picked it.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Old pictures from the attic

Beamis in Dinosaur National Monument, CO 1981
As I begin packing up for my move to Florida I've been encountering old photographs taken a long time ago when I fancied myself a decent photographer.

It has been fun unearthing them so I decided to share a few which ya'll.

See how young Beamis looks.
He was in fact.

Jenkins County, GA 1984

Jenkins Co., GA 1984

Arches National Park, UT 1981

Arches N.P. 1981

Martin, SC 1982

Philomath, GA 1983

Young baby Beamis, Los Angeles 1980

Congragee Swamp, SC 1983

Dust storm, St. George, UT 1987

Store front church in Jackson County, GA 1983

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Another walk with Kirby

Where are we going now? Huh? Huh? Huh?
Knowing that these are some of the last days I will be spending here as a resident I have been keenly aware of how the landscape has been showing off for me these past few days, constantly reminding me of why I sought out this country in the first place. Into this colorfully phantasmagoric scene Kirby and I took a walk at dusk on Wednesday.

This has been a great place to peacefully reside and grow. A wonderful land to reflect upon and hopefully help illuminate for others. I used to read a poem by Carl Sandburg, at the end of one of my favorite campfire programs when I was a Zion ranger, which still speaks volumes about why I sought out this particular territory and why a part of it will always remain deep inside my soul.

March of the Hungry Mountains

Across Nevada and Utah

Look for the march of the hungry mountains.

They are cold and white,

They are taking a rest,

They washed their faces in awful fires,

They lifted their heads for heavy snows.

White, O white, are the vapors,

And the wind in the early morning,

White are the hungry mountains.

The tireless gray desert,

The tireless salt sea,

The tireless mountains,

They are thinking over something.

They are wondering, "What next?"

They are thankful, thinking it over,

Waiting, sleeping, drying their faces from awful fires,

Lifting their heads into higher snow,
White in the early morning wind.

"Come and listen to us,"

Said the marching, hungry mountains.

"You will hear nothing at all,

And you will learn only a little,

And, yet listening, your ears may grow longer and softer;

You may yet have long, clear, listening ears.

Come and listen" said the mocking, hungry mountains.

It's now time to put these long clear listening ears to good use for the next chapter in this wonderful life of mine.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Winding down the road with Kirby

Tonight finds me baby sitting Kirby the Dog Who Thinks He's A Human in Springdale. We decided to take a stroll in the blessed darkness of the new moon after both spending the day trying to hide from blistering 100+ degree heat.
Our usual routine is to take the truck and drive the mile to the Bit & Spur, so Kirby can get petted by all the local girls who adore him more than most of the boys in town and for all the tourists who miss their pets at home. He serves a unique and necessary ecological niche in this lonely tourist village perched on the edge of nowhere. We then walk northward to the park boundary and back, about a 4-mile round trip, with more petting for Kirby as the walk progresses.
Tonight I took along my old Mavica camera to record some of the sights we might encounter and, sure enough, interesting subject matter materialized, including the largest rhinoceros beetle (Oryctes rhinoceros) I've ever seen. It was just a promenading its bad self on the sandstone steps of the Bit & Spur, attracting a crowd, much to the delight of this here nature photographer.
This member of the Family Scarabaeidae is supposedly the strongest animal in the world due to it's proportional strength. Scientists say that it can carry 850 times its own weight! Can you imagine an elephant carrying 850 other elephants on its back? Boogles the mind really. God makes some pretty spiffy stuff.

It was also great to run into David Ayala, former Bit & Spur bus boy, who is now in his second year of graduate school at Stanford studying theoretical mathematics. He was in town visiting his very lovely and charming mother Helen. He's been gone for six years? Lawd a mercy time is a shore flying by!

It's always refeshing to be with young people who help restore your faith in the future and David you are certainly one of them. Best of luck in the rarefied air of Palo Alto. I'm very proud of ya dude.

Bad red eye from the flash prompted me to convert this shot into an art photo. Cute guys, huh? Only one 'em is still unspoken for. (Hint: it's the one who lives in the Bay Area.)

Pee-wee reaches for his beverage.

Sergio & Omar working late, again.

The current and former house marionettes convene behind the bar.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Random scoot

Beamis sets for a spell.
Today Bob and I took a random scoot out into the great beyond that is the Utah desert. We headed west on Hwy. 56 towards Newcastle with a vague notion to go swim in the reservior above town. We decided to alter our route just a bit and ended up, as is normal on these trips, in an exquisite junkyard of desert artifacts. A museum of specimens that would have otherwise vanished long ago without the preserving qualities of extremely low humidity. God bless the desert and the junk it preserves!
Raditor with buck

Our best find was a 1920's Bekins moving van that was mostly made of wood. It had been sitting in the same spot for so long that the wheels and axles had sunk more than two feet into the ground. It was a wonder to behold.

Bob drives for Bekins.

Front view

Closeup of wooden cab

Hwy. 56 heading west towards Nevada.

"Are you ready for the country?
'Cause it's time to go!"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Tonight my old Dell Celeron computer, which I bought in 1999, will be put to rest with a few shots from my neighbor's pistol before being placed in the county dumpster. I have copied all of the relevant files I want to keep to my newer Apple computer and will say goodbye to an old reliable friend with a bang, as the full moon rises on the end of an era.

One of the things I ran across in the files was a short story I wrote, a part of the legendary collection titled The Park Circus, which was churned out in the months after leaving the National Park Service in early 1999.

This story is called Go Tell It on the Mountain and still makes me laugh out loud. Hope ya'll like it too. Maybe I'll print the entire collection one of these days, just for kicks and giggles.

Go Tell It On the Mountain

Dena Bother, National Park Service Education Specialist, surveyed the group before her and absently looked at her watch. It was 9:30 in the morning at the Angel Moroni Elementary School in Saint George, Utah.

The classroom was brightly lit and the children had been told to be quiet for their special guest of honor. Miraculously these second graders had dutifully obeyed and the only sound was the sizzling tingle of fluorescent bulbs, which began to buzz uneasily in Dena’s head.

“My name is Dena Bother and I’m a ranger here at Zion National Park. I’d like to welcome you to our nature center. Uh…er…I mean thank you for inviting me to come and give a talk at you at your…uh…school.”

Dena had misplaced her prepared remarks, and for the last five minutes had been trying to keep her composure while nervously glancing about the room desperately searching for the missing script her supervisor had prepared for her.

The children’s teacher, Mrs. Purgatory, stood in the back of the classroom clucking to herself, angry that she had been unable to schedule a district school bus for the one-hour trip to Zion’s Park. Instead she had been forced to settle for this irksome talk from Ranger Bother.

The classroom next door had gotten the last bus request granted for the semester and was at this very moment watching the wide screen movie in the park gateway town of Spring-a-leak.

She painfully realized that this stout, nerdy woman in her ill fitting green & gray polyester uniform was no substitute for a giant screen movie and a picnic lunch in the April sun.

Dena continued, “Has anyone here ever been to Zion National Park?”

A forest of hands and arms quickly arose.

Without even being called upon little Jared Howitzer excitedly replied, “my dad likes to shoot deers up in Zion’s. I went with him and my uncle last year and we shined a light in their eyes and my mom made chili out of ‘em. Do you make deer chili up in Zion’s?”

Little Eva Towhead then remarked, “we went to Zion’s and saw the rangers carrying a man who fell off a cliff and my dad said he was dead. He told me that man died from fright before he ever hit the ground. Is that true?”

Their teacher asked for the children to be quiet and not to interrupt their special guest. Dena continued to stare blankly out into the sea of blond heads looking hither and yon for her long lost script. If only she could remember what it was she was supposed to be talking about! Panicking, she tried to cover her confusion by asking the class “to guess how many national parks there are in the national park system?”

Mrs. Purgatory seemed a bit dumbfounded at this line of questioning to second graders, but attempted to be helpful by asking the children to put on their thinking caps. She also made a mental note to request a district bus much earlier next semester.

Dena’ s confused and unscripted state of mind struggled to bring into focus the one and only thing she had ever actually memorized. It was something about snails.

“Yes” she remembered to herself “gastropoda bumfungus”!

This was the predominate species in the last park she had worked in before coming to Zion. At the Onion Blossom State Weed Preserve she had done a short program called “Snails on Damp Wood”. It was a talk that came with a written script that she had inherited from a departed colleague and was truly the only thing she knew by heart. Dena decided she would have to adapt it to this current assemblage of students come Hell or high water.

“All snails must be about the same,” she hopefully reflected.

Clearing her throat Dena began, “snails are slow-moving mollusks that usually have a spiral shell and a broad flat foot.”

Mrs. Purgatory stared back in disbelief. Weren’t the children still supposed to be trying to figure out how many national parks there were?

“Some snails are only as large as a pinhead, while others can grow to a length of 2 feet. They are found all over the world and in Zion National Park. Has anyone ever seen a snail in Zion?”

The children began to look for guidance from Mrs. Purgatory who now cut in with “your boss Chief Naturalist Nutley told me that you were only going to talk about fun animals like bobcats and coyotes.”

Jared Howitzer took this opportunity to jump in again, “my dad killed a coyote and hung it up on my granddads barn. We dragged it with our truck first to make sure it was dead. That was really fun.”

The other children giggled at this welcome off-ramp from the strange and boring ranger lady talking about snails. Some of them began flinging the Junior Ranger patches Dena had given out earlier. These little cloth flying saucers zinged past her face and thudded against the unrolled map of North America draped behind her.

Undaunted Dena droned on, “snails walk slowly. The body is extended forward, and the frontal tip anchors to the ground. The shell is then drawn forward and the process is repeated. Snails provide food for many kinds of fish and can be used as a scavenger in your aquarium. Have any of you ever seen an aquarium in Zion National Park?”

Mrs. Purgatory, having to nearly shout above the growing disinterested ruckus beneath her asked, “weren’t you supposed to talk about pretty animals in Zion’s?”

Dena retorted in a superior tone “as I said earlier, some snails can grow to be 2 feet in length, the important thing to remember is that we need all of your support in keeping the national parks a place where all of the animals, including snails, can live together in harmony. You can help us in that effort by staying on paved trails and roadways and visiting only if you absolutely have to. NEVER go where you might disturb any of the animals! Humans make it hard on all other living creatures! We are very, very bad neighbors to the rest of nature, so please let’s try and be good little stewards by staying far, far away.”

A din of voices now permeated the classroom as the children had long ago lost any interest in Dena, snails or their personal role in the destruction of a planet. A cacophony of giggles and chatter now filled the air in a relieved air of merriment. Mrs. Purgatory, exasperated and desperate, motioned to Dena that she was stepping outside the classroom door into the hallway for a moment.

Dena now fully charged, wound up her final point to her young audience “the national parks are for all of us to avoid so that they can be preserved for future generations of the hopefully unborn.”

The restless activity was sharply and shockingly broken when the fire alarm began to bray loudly throughout the long hallways of the building. Mrs. Purgatory swept the door open and shouted, “all right class let’s move outside quickly to our appointed fire drill spot, where we can say goodbye to our guest Ranger Bother. Bring your jackets because we’ll be staying outside for extended recess.” The class gave a loud hurrah and sped out into the clanging hallway.

The raucous tumult had barely fazed Dena who happily spied her lost script sitting right under the teacher’s desk.

“Well at least tomorrow I’ll be ready for Hurricane Elementary.”

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

What style is it?

Whenever I tell my friend Bob about any new barbeque joints I've visited lately he always gets very excited and asks loudly: "What style WAS it?". He is very particular about categorizing the techniques, type of hardwood used in smoking and the various kinds of sauces flavoring the meat. He is a barbeque scientist. Is it Carolina style with slaw on top or a smoky Alabama vinegar based sauce soaking those delectable strands of pulled pork? Bob wants to know!

The Starlight Grill located in Florala, Alabama was quite good and I would reccomend it to anyone traveling south on their way to the beach along U.S. 331. As I mentioned in an earlier blog post definitely avoid the corn on the cob.

Bob-----it's Alabama style!

Pulled pork platter

345 feet!

Eating along the shores of Choctawhatchee Bay.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Tour with Judi & Roy

The Sentinel broods over August clouds
One of my favorite ways to earn a living is giving personal tours, usually with a couple, who allow me to take them out on a whimsical loosely structured journey through the natural world. I just had the priveledge and great honor to conduct what is probably my last personal tour of this area as a local guide with Judi & Roy, who were a very cute and loving couple from Los Angeles. I easily got as much from being with them as they could've ever gotten from me.

As I embark upon my own journey of union with another I could not help but see this encounter as anything other than a strong testament to the incredible power and sweep of love over all odds and circumstances. For exposing me to this exquisite joy and assurance I wish to earnestly thank you both very much.

This particular tour was a scenic circle from Zion Canyon up to the top of the Markagunt Plateau (11,307 ft.), through high mountain woods & meadows (sometimes on dirt roads) and back down to Springdale by way of the Kolob Canyons. My Blue Light Special with SUV.

Enjoy the shots-----I loved takin' 'em (click on 'em, they get bigger).

Roy frames Judi

Checkerboard Mesa

Entrance to a mysterious lava cave

Judi joins the herd

Cedar Breaks

South Fork of Taylor Creek

Friday, August 04, 2006

Sooner than I thought

Utah below
I had mentioned in an earlier blog that I would be moving to the Sunshine State sometime in the fall, but have moved it up to September 16th (still summer). Several obligations have been erased including my employment with the Bit & Spur which will now terminate at the end of August instead of October. (Thanks you guys, it has been a great run with lots of laughs and fond memories.)
My last interpretive production as a local naturalist will be given at the Desert Pearl on September 10th. Be there or be square.

I'm pretty excited about this trip, with Connie as co-pilot, because the route I picked out for the shortest journey was exactly the same when I checked on Am I good or what?

First we'll drop down to I-40 at Flagstaff and travel east for 610 miles, over the Continental Divide and across the High Plains, to Amarillo (home of the Cadillac Ranch and the free, if you can eat it in an hour, 72 oz. steak at the Big Texan Steak Ranch). From here (burp!) we'll head southeasterly on U.S. 287 for the 300 mile journey to Dallas. After a quick sightseeing excursion to Dealey Plaza, it's on to I-20 for the next 150 miles to Shreveport (home of the Louisiana Hayride) where we'll take our last great plunge southward on I-49 to Alexandria, LA (200 miles) and join up with I-10 (the Santa Monica Freeway) eastward for the last leg home to Santa Rosa Beach.

Total Est. Time:
31 hours, 30 minutes
Total Est. Distance: 2056.01 miles


Welcome home

Thursday, August 03, 2006

The latest on Divine Strake

An editorial from today's Daily Spectrum:

Keep tabs on Divine Strake

The latest delay to detonate the 700-ton ammonium nitrate and fuel oil bomb, Divine Strake, until the early months of 2007 is a strong indication that not all was well with the planned test.

Suspicions about the environmental safety from the low-yield nuclear simulation at the Nevada Test Site, 150 miles west of St. George, stemmed from questioning instigated by Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah, and later by Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah. A lawsuit from the Western Shoshone Indians and Downwinders from Utah, in addition to public outcry, rightfully influenced the Pentagon's Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the National Nuclear Security Administration's Nevada Site Office to withdraw its "finding of no significant impact" in an environmental assessment of the proposed test.

The biggest open-air chemical blast ever proposed for explosion at the Nevada Test Site should not be forgotten; its intended objective as described in Department of Defense budget documents is to, "develop a planning tool that will improve the warfighter's confidence in selecting the smallest proper nuclear yield necessary to destroy underground facilities while minimizing collateral damage."

Though the federal government has since denied the claim, it is evident the examination into developing new weaponry to destroy deeply buried, underground structures is the direct course of action it wants to take and means Divine Strake is not entirely off the boards, whether it is set off in Nevada or another location. Vigilance dedicated to its testing will not relent, which means neither should the local contingency with its legitimate outcry of opposition.

It is important the public keep this issue at the forefront with fearless tenacity - as if lives depended on it - because they very well may be. Holding the government accountable for its actions is a duty not to be negated, especially when it comes to the health, safety and welfare of Southern Utahns and the state as a whole.