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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

The ABC’s of Whirlwinds

Back in the mid-70’s a tornado hit hard in the Northern Virginia area, where I grew up, much like a wild Indian. The resilient rain along with the gloomy storm front, severely damaged one of the local schools, flooded streets, and ruined several other local structures. The most notable destruction was at the local ABC (Alcoholic Beverage Control) store, where the relentless winds pushed an empty children’s school bus, smack-dab through its plate glass window. Local newspapers featured this on their front page, which gave much mirth to the community, both young and old.

Over the decades, I’ve reflected on this powerful synchronicity and wondered if there was a deeper meaning. After returning to my native roots, I discovered a Lakota reading that compares whirlwinds to falling in love. Only then, could I focus on a new metaphor for this unusual occasion; which is, “Children, the bright whirlwind of love can help defeat the severe darkness of alcohol addiction.”

Monday, October 26, 2009

A question for the Newseum (newspaper museum) repository



With the many complaints that the Statesman garnered from not having featured the eighth anniversary of September 11 on its front page; it made me wonder: What did the majority of front pages of our nations newspapers feature on December 7, 1949? And how loud was the thunder of patriotic-fevered citizens, whining to their local editors, in cases where the travesty of Pearl Harbor was not featured in large bold letters, on their local front pages, some sixty-odd years ago?

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Don't disparage one of Idaho's great small towns

READER'S VIEW KETCHUM
(Revised version)

The first year I moved here, there was an incident on Main Street involving two women in a fender bender. Instead of rushing out of their cars to blame each other, they both emerged to apologize profusely and peacefully. They each made sure the other person was all right and then gave each other sweet bear hugs. They then agreed that they should get together soon, because it had been too long since they had seen each other.

This remarkable event defined for me what the essence is of everything good about Ketchum, and perhaps for what is great about many small towns in the West: people who care about each other more than they do for their measly worldly possessions.
Therefore, it grates at me, when I hear intermittent comments that disparage the town and townspeople of Ketchum (and the Wood River Valley). Some will say, "I have no desire to visit Ketchum, or any of the people up there." That's too bad, because if you take a closer look, this pedestrian-friendly town offers much for young and old, rich and poor, sick and well.

Like most Idaho towns, Ketchum has changed over the years. Yet it retains many high-quality aspects of a hardy Western town. When it comes to weather, Ketchum is in the top 10 percentile of sunniest towns. The people here are equally sunny, and there is ample reason for this. A river runs through it, offering opportunities for enjoyable fishing and water sports. We have a popular YMCA. On summer Tuesdays, a vibrant farmers' market attracts vendors and customers from throughout southern Idaho. After that, music performers play freely til twilight in the Forest Service Park.

For the spiritual, Ketchum has more than a handful of sacred places to worship. When someone becomes severely ill or is in a crash, our community often bonds together, helping with fundraisers.

Wagon Days brings a festive weekend of olden-times coming alive, as craftspeople, blacksmiths and storytellers demonstrate their trades and speak their lore. Wagon Days also features the largest non motorized parade in the west.

Ketchum's Community Library has an extensive regional history section, with helpful staff and an oral history program. The library also hosts frequent lectures and enlightening events, featuring respected authors and adventurers from near and far.
Ketchum has dozens of fine restaurants. We have movie theaters, nine (and growing) outdoor parks, live stage and Huck Finn-like swimming holes. Free newspapers, magazines, maps and wi-fi are abundant. We also have a water park, bringing boundless glee to splashing kids. On the edge of town, Sun Valley Co. has installed a gondola for thrilling Bald Mountain rides.

This list of what good things our fine town (and valley) has to offer is much longer than this, but I hope for now this gives some hesitation to those who are quick to sneer at lively Ketchum.

I sometimes wonder if some of Ketchum's harsh critics have even spent much time here.

After Hailey's candlelight vigil march in July for Bowe Bergdahl, the Hailey soldier captured in Afghanistan, I sat with some friends, one of whom described an image she thought best captured Hailey's essence. One of the men attending the vigil had left his tools in the open on the back of his truck, parked in front of Zaney's coffeehouse, where the event began. The tradesman had drawn a large sign, asking passersby to leave his tools alone, because he was standing for Bowe. And the aura of respectfulness that evening permeated the atmosphere so thick that nobody dared tamper with his tools. Then we agreed that we all look forward to the day when Bowe can return to this pleasant valley, where his friends and family can give him strong bear hugs.

Good people make a community, and the spirit of that community is exactly what should define our towns. Those who have lived here long enough, know the truth is, that the Ketchum community is blessed with salt-of-the-earth type neighbors, who often bond together constructively. Come visit us soon, so you can dispel the rumor for yourself, that here, we are not all a bunch of rich jaded California snobs.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

How to Shoot an Anvil 200 Feet in the Air

Since we are in the middle of hunting season, here is the latest edited version of

Idaho’s Super Combination Winner


In the spring of 2007, my friend Mark Thornock hollered down the phone line from Maryland that he had won some sort of lottery regarding animals. His enthusiasm was ratcheted up to such a level, it took a moment to fathom that he had drawn the winning ticket for a Super Hunt Combo lottery operated by the Idaho Fish and Game Department. This made him eligible to go after a moose, an elk, a deer, and an antelope in any corresponding open hunt area in the state. Knowing Mark’s love of hunting, I realized his super-combo draw was better for him than winning money.

Destiny had chosen a highly qualified man to chase the prizes. His friends often remarked on the phenomenon of Mark’s broad frame, brim full of life, chugging almost effortlessly over steep highland ridges. When it came to hunting, his attitude is infectiously affirmative.

Mark invested his time wisely in the months preceding the hunts. He inspected the conditions of backpacks and insulated clothing and prepared other equipment. He sharpened dull knife blades, placed calls to check on the availability of butchers, and consulted with conservation experts around the state for advice and conditions, keeping in mind where the dozens of fires that had befallen Idaho that summer might have driven the game. When his plans were laid, he marked his map: moose around Island Park; Arco for antelope; an area near Mountain Home for deer; and a wolf-frequented territory high in the Lost River Range for elk.


He figured moose were abundant enough around Island Park, where he had previously shot one. When I won an antlered moose draw in 1998 and pursued my game in the Island Park area, Mark’s help impressed me because of his multifaceted knowledge of the outdoors. I’m relatively green at hunting and, for me, that quest was a classic example of how meticulous preplanning can increase the odds of a satisfying outcome.


Mark’s flight into Hailey showed up on time. His old hunting rifle appeared to be intact, but he soon sighted it in on a makeshift range to determine it hadn’t been jostled in flight. The next morning we arose at five and encountered little traffic on the way to Island Park. Crossing Craters of the Moon National Monument, we nearly slid into a mule deer buck, but aside from a porcupine (seldom seen anymore, it seems), we spotted little other wildlife that daybreak.

When we pulled into Island Park, we immediately noticed a group of at least six vehicles from the state’s Fish and Game and Forest Service departments. They were investigating a grizzly bear attack that morning on a hunter who had been dressing an elk he shot near Big Springs. This was the second local confrontation between a bear and hunter in recent weeks. The wounded griz was now limping around the popular summer cabin community, and reportedly ten to fifteen more were grazing in the immediate area, which raised our concern that Fish and Game would deem hunting unsafe and shut down the whole region. This didn’t occur, but when Mark and I saw a grizzly later that evening, it awakened us to what could happen once we zoned in on a moose. We knew wolves were in the area too, having seen one lurking near the highway by Ponds Lodge earlier that summer.

Most of the good information about recent bear activity came from chatting with locals. At the general store, pepper spray was selling like hotcakes. We were reminded that in Alaska, bears have learned to approach hunting areas once they hear a gunshot, recognizing it as signal for fresh meat. Bears can scent moose blood and meat for miles, depending on the wind. Sometimes, after swatting away hunters from downed game, Ursa horribilas will perch upon large mammal carcasses to speed up the process of tenderizing the meat.


On that first day, three young, agile and experienced hunters on a break from school helped us search for moose. The five of us walked along and drove by mossy creek drainages characteristic of prime moose habitat. Yet even with all those eyes glued to Island Park’s stunning autumn scenery, we did not spot much game until we saw the grizzly that evening. We figured the presence of bears was making the moose skittish. This situation, combined with our midday search and perhaps driving too rapidly through the quaking aspen for efficient wildlife spotting, probably contributed to our being skunked that day.

During our first night in the cabin, it rained constantly, and an intermittent drizzle kept up through days two and three. Our youthful acquaintances returned to school but two other experienced hunters, Jon and Gary, joined us. This was especially helpful because Mark hadn’t yet fully recovered from recent knee surgery. As for me, seemingly imbedded with these camouflaged experts in my laidback Ketchum threads, I must have looked laughable to passersby.

Gary shot a grouse his second day in, and fried it up that evening with some delicious spices, to everyone’s delight. The one most familiar with firearms was Jon, a former Special Forces sharpshooter in Vietnam, who also had been to Afghanistan and Iraq as part of the Blackwater private army.


Skill and experience notwithstanding, we were soon reminded that hunting, as with fishing, requires a certain measure of luck. In four hundred miles of deliberate driving, the only moose we spied were on a high hill above private land. It seemed that everyone we encountered in Island Park had seen an antlered moose except us. Most of our conversations focused around hunting, including this chase and others. My companions discussed the large mammals and birds they had stalked through the years, and considered future adventures for which they might like to reunite. But our confident joke about this hunt being as easy as shooting fish in a barrel soon wore thin.


I headed home for a week, while Mark drove by himself to the Arco area. There he bagged an antelope at two hundred yards, from a thick herd someone had told him about. But doing it alone was a struggle because of his knee problem, so he decided to hunt with others for the remainder of his journey. He headed over to the Lost River Range, where his two friends of his were set up in a comfortable wall tent.

From the valley below them, I could see the group would be experiencing snow, but it was difficult to gauge how much. A buddy and I drove to Lost River on Saturday and were pleasantly surprised to see the recently graded Trail Creek Road in the best shape we’d ever found it. No more rattling washboards, at least until we got to the bumpy Custer County side over the saddle. I knew the others were in a region where, ten years earlier, while changing a flat tire, I had seen the largest elk herd of my life: at least eighty head. The question now was how many elk had the wolves taken down?

Few hunters were in the hardscrabble upland. On the road, we encountered a covey of about eight chuckers. We speculated that the mild climate of the last eighteen months, combined with recent fires, might have lead to the small bird migration here. On the other hand, they could have hopped the hill from a nearby Salmon River fork, where the elevation was lower and the climate slightly warmer.

After the brief challenge of a mud traverse, we discovered the camp, where Mark already had laid out his bull elk. We admired its attractive, dark-reddish hue, and noticed it was a five-by-five point. Mark said while tracking in fresh snow that morning, he had had a close encounter with an alpha wolf. Had the animal shown more aggressive intentions instead of turning tail and whisking away, Mark thought it could have developed into an unpleasant situation on the high terrain.


We took photos of the elk, had a few celebratory nips, then helped pack up part of the camp. Mark’s two friends offered to take the elk to the butcher for him. They tucked it down low in the bed of the truck, which had been licensed at their other home in Northern California. They knew that transporting big game in a truck with out-of-state plates could carry a stigma, even for those who had lived in Idaho for decades and had contributed to the community in many ways.

As we packed up the camp, I sensed empathy between these longtime hunting companions. Some people live for the thrill of the outdoor chase, and their enthusiasm is infectious. Standing there in the snow, I recalled another inspiring experience in this same camp: my father bringing me out here many years ago for a taste of the West.

As we wheeled back down the road to the valley below, Mark said he had swung over towards Custer County at daybreak. In was early October, and he had been pushing two feet of snow with the truck. We were happy that Trail Creek was open, and considered ourselves lucky we had a warm house to head for. Even so, I caught the flu, and missed Mark’s second quest for a moose at Island Park. Nor was I with him when he bagged his mule deer south of Mountain Home, clambering over rocks the size of dining room tables to get within range. He had acquired trophies out of the super-combo four.

Later, I got this story from him about his effort to round-out the super-combo with his second try at the elusive Island Park moose: “Near the cabin, we saw six or eight cows with calves but no mature bulls. We did see a few smaller elk on their annual migration. By my eighth day of hunting moose ten hours a day, I had nothing to show. With only two hours of daylight remaining, my friend Spike and I headed thirty miles down the mountain to the river. We thought we might catch a moose stepping out for an evening meal or drink between the river and the mountain. Then things happened quickly. On a sharp corner, two huge cow moose suddenly appeared in range. It took a moment or two to see the third one, a dandy, mature male with an approximately thirty-five-inch rack spread. Its body was enormous as we walked up on it and begin the real work...”

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Sweet Bear Hugs


In some sunnier news, the Idaho Statesman recently published my second Reader’s View opinion piece. Funny synchronicity too, the evening this went to press, I encountered two thick-furred black bear cubs that jutted out in front of my truck on Broadford Road.


http://www.idahostatesman.com/opinion/story/931501.html


My first Reader’s View in the Statesman ran last summer. That one was about how the safety benefits of a cell tower at Galena, far outweigh its appearance.


A Reader’s View is different from a letter to the editor, in the sense that you get to complain longer. Usually for about 600 words or so. I think if you blather on much longer than that, then the reader’s interest quickly wanes. Thus, the popularity of so many stories of that size, on the web.


A friend offered some valuable feedback, which I think will fit better in the comments section, so I will post his feedback there. As well as this piece seemed to come out, I think I can improve it more, and then perhaps submit to High Country News or some such place. I try to be careful about promising that I’m ‘gunna’ do such a thing; because then it seems to take power away from the effort, almost as if you’ve tricked yourself into believing that you’ve already done it, just because you said you were going to do it. Ran Prier recently linked into an in depth story about this phenomena, which I believe ran on an anthropology website. I searched for it again recently, but could not find. Now, I feel I’m gunna have difficulty finding it again.


During the rewriting process, most dedicated writers have probably experienced a certain flow, which makes them feels as though they are getting closer to the goal of what they really mean to say. I remember trying to convey this to the poet and purple mermaid expert Darcie Chace; how sometimes poets and singers have pieces that shift form and how it’s possible to enjoy this merry rewriting process.

Friday, October 16, 2009

More Colorful Mary Anne Memories


Mary Anne with son Jason Kindred


At Mary Anne’s first memorial service, friends reminded me of how close we were.


I remember the first day that Mary Anne walked into Lone Star as the new freight manager, back in 2002. I could hardly believe that she was there. I instantly felt that her presence and conscientiousness would lead to vast improvements within the store and looked forward to establishing a good working relationship / friendship with her. And that’s exactly what happened.


Mary Anne was one of the most sincere and inspiring friends I’ve known. She had a great interest in the community and more importantly in improving the community. She must have known thousands of locals by face and name. She enjoyed music, the arts and, of course, local news. She also was a legendary baker. I remember driving by her classy Terra Cotta Café and seeing her enthusiastically baking away in the window, at six in the morning, as us newspapermen navigated through early morning icy roads.


Even when I wasn’t working, I would occasionally stop by her work to strike up a conversation, which usually led to something interesting or surprising. We probably had hundreds of stimulating conversations between us.


Mary Anne was kind enough to invite me to her and Robbie’s house several times to play badminton with family and friends. It was always a blast and I think she even made a few videos of the intense bird-by-bird flight action. For my second Express column, I gave badminton a small plug, specifically with those good times in mind.


She was a person who always tried to do the right thing and her pure nature still resonates through those who were close to her.


I probably spammed her with too many e-mails. But occasionally, I did find a subject that stuck a chord. One was this story about why music sounds so bad now. And another was the itty bitty kitty committee.



M.A. and I sometimes used to joke about Idaho's other famous Mary Anne; the mischievous Mary Anne Summers from Gilligan's Island. I reminded M.A. that the other Mary Anne was renowned for baking scrumptious coconut cream pies. When the news hit that Driggs's Mary Anne was busted for pot and then claimed that some hitchhikers had left it in her ashtray, we had a hearty laugh because everybody knows that hitchhikers simply do not leave behind doobies. Not even Gilligan would have bumbled that badly!


Another key memory I have of Mary Anne was the time
when Daniella fell in the bathroom, injuring her back severely enough that she could not get up. Since, I was in Ketchum, I called Mary Anne who instantly dropped what she was doing and rushed over with a friend to assist.


Mary Anne was kind enough to invite me to her and Robbie's Oregon Coast wedding. When I quit my newspaper job on that bright solstice day in 2006, she was the first person I told and she congratulated me sincerely.

The last few weeks, I've had a rush of good memories about her, I miss her very much and as I mentioned before, it helps me to write about her.
Missing Mary Anne

The second experience, I’ve been wanting to write about is much sadder. A few weeks ago, I was driving up Highway 75, approaching the same spot, where my truck has broken down thrice. (Actually, there was a bad crash there yesterday too – at high noon) Anyhow, that day, I felt a sudden rush that somebody I knew quite well was going to pass into the great beyond, and that it would be a girl. I didn’t hear a voice or anything, it was more like an inner voice or strong intuitive feeling – the kind of feeling that I’ve tried to pay more attention to, in recent years. Then, a few days later, I got the call that Mary Anne Kindred had died of heart failure. Mary Anne had been the freight manager for seven years, at one of the furniture stores, where I often help. Sadder still, is the fact that my new place looks across the alleyway, to the back loading dock, where I used hang out with her, sometimes when I wasn’t even working. I’ve made a long list of why Mary Anne was such a special person in my life, and for several days would choke up, whenever I tried to talk about her. Writing about it helps. Although, I am quite sad, I’m also very happy that she was in my life. With her unique outlook, she made other people better. Mary Anne was one of those people who if you hung out with her, it made you want to be a better person.

Last weekend, a friend was helping me organize some books. She is a professional Hypnotherapist from South Africa, and I’m helping her with her Biography. As I came out from an adjacent room, I realized that I had squeeze through the doorway sideways, because my shoulders were too broad. This could have something to do with all the heavy furniture I’ve been lifting over the past few years. Anyhow, I suddenly starting thinking about a photo taken a few years back, which showed me standing in contrast, next to a good friend, who is several inches taller, but fifty pounds lighter than I am. And as I walked through the next doorway, the friend who was helping me unpack, walked across the room to place that exact photo on a shelf, as it had been hidden in the box of books she was unpacking.

Thus, my first dynamite synchronicity.