Our little isolated community became the focus of national and international news yesterday when five snowmobilers, out roaring around in the mountains, were buried by a massive slab avalanche. As a popular snowmobile destination, we have had deaths before, but never so many all at once. Avalanche warnings were high, but in the morning we had the usual parade of trucks and trailers, full of snowmobiles, driving past our house heading for the Renshaw (a vast alpine snowmobiling area).
As I write this, the identity of those killed has not been released so I don’t know if they are local or from Alberta or other places.
Regular readers of this blog may remember back on Nov. 30, 2015, I wrote about a layer of hoar frost that was forming on the snow that could cause avalanches in the mountains:
It is strange to see the little Village of McBride plastered around on international news sites. Its a tragic thing that has happened here, and its too bad that we can’t be identified with something more positive.
I have to admit that our cat is pretty smart. Last evening on our walk around the pond, Lucifer fell way behind Skye and I. In the past when this has happened, the cat has intelligently figured out that it would be smarter for her to turn around and just retrace her steps and meet us as we rounded the pond.
Last night she had another idea, instead of turning around, she just short-cut her way by walking across the ice on the pond to meet us on the other side.
We generally don’t encourage our animals to go out on the ice, but there was really no danger involved, because the ice on the pond is probably a foot (30cm) thick. I figured that that could safely support the cat.
A night of rain has turned the packed snow on our driveway into sheer ice. It was difficult for me to walk across it so I could get the buckets of sand that I had stored in the garage. I then spent 20 minutes spreading the sand on top of the ice so that we would have enough traction to drive our car up to the road.
We usually get these conditions a couple of times every winter, but it was especially slippery today.
Freezing water has long been a winter fear of mine. Fortunately it has been many years since our water at home has frozen up, but there has been several winters when Joan and I have had to do without running water for months.
My first experience with freezing water occurred in 1975, when I was teaching in a one room school located on Takla Lake, BC at the Silvacan Resources lumber mill camp. ( Above is a photo of my students standing in front of the school.) Last night I was pouring through my diary of 1975 and read about the long period of time I had to carry water to the school because its water froze up. Here is what I wrote about the incident:
On February 13th of 1975 the temperatures plummeted even further, reaching -40F, and in the morning when I arrived for work I discovered that the school’s water had frozen up. I notified Frank, the camp boss, and I spent a few hours after school with him as he tried unsuccessfully to unthaw it. I soon came to conclusion that it was likely frozen under the dirt road that ran in front of the school, since the temperature in the crawlspace under the school felt reasonably toasty.
The camp maintenance men worked several days in a row trying to unthaw the waterline. They used a welder attached at two different spots on the copper water pipes to try to thaw any ice in between, but they too were unsuccessful in their attempts, and as a result, I had to carry buckets of water to the school every day for the kids to use. Fortunately if they had to go to the bathroom, they were allowed to walk across the road and use the facilities in the camp’s bunkhouse.
A few days later a broken water main was discovered that was causing flooding behind a couple of the houses. Once that was repaired, we got the school’s water back, and I was told to just let the water slowly run continually from the tap inside the school to prevent further freezing, and this I did. I made a grim discovery the next morning upon arriving at the school when I found that I couldn’t open the door.
During the night the water that I had been told to keep gently flowing, had backed up in the drainpipe, which I assume was still frozen, and as a result the school floor had been flooded. The flooded water had run across the floor to the school’s front door and when it had tried to run under the door, with the freezing temperatures, it had frozen. It was the ice that had formed there that had prevented me from opening the door. I didn’t record in my diary how I finally got the door open, but eventually I did.
That first freezing water episode was only a precursor of what was to come. On February 26th the school water again ceased to flow because of freezing and it would be months before we got it back. It’s interesting how quickly I accepted that reality. In my diary I don’t even mention the frozen water at school again until March 3rd, and then the next time was on April 17th, when I report that “..the water is still frozen at school.”
The ice in the pipes didn’t thaw until June 8th. It seems like that would be a tremendous event, but on that day all my diary entry said was: “School water finally thawed out and dribbled out of the drinking fountain unto the floor.”
When you live out in the boonies, you learn to do without a lot of things most people take for granted.
I took this photo a couple of days ago and really like it. I had walked passed these old farm buildings numerous times as we walked our dog, and I had taken photos of this cluster of buildings previously from the back, the side, and from the distance, but on this particular day, I noticed the image this way. I’m not sure why it hadn’t struck me before; was it the way they were lit at that moment, or was it the angle I was seeing the building from?
Whatever it was I was glad I became aware of the image, because really like this photo. Barns and farm building are often red because of a couple of reasons. In olden times, farmers would mix linseed oil with blood from slaughtered animals, or rust, to make a paint, or they could buy the paint and red was the cheapest color. Later, barns and farm buildings were painted red because it had become a tradition.
These buildings are part of an abandoned homestead just east of McBride.
Today was one of those days that you feel rewarded just by looking out at the mountains. This is what I saw as I was filling the bird feeder. The sun had not yet cleared the Canadian Rockies behind me, but was starting to illuminate the Cariboo Mountains in front of me. When I first saw them they were more pinkish, but by the time I had gotten my camera out and put myself into a position where I could take the photo, the peaks had lost most of their peachy color.
I apologize for the blurry photo, but it was the best one I had.
In the morning it has been the habit of our household to walk around the pond. I take the lead, followed by Skye our dog, and Lucifer our cat takes up the rear. This formation is the only way the walk works, because of the fear that Skye has for Lucifer. This can be demonstrated by what happened yesterday.
Our walk went fine until we got to the dam at the far side of the pond. At that point Skye got the scent of an interesting smell and stepped off of the path and walked about 5 feet (1.5m) to investigate. This deviation from the norm enabled Lucifer to catch up and take a position on the path, beside where Skye was. When Skye got done with his nose, she realized that the cat was sitting there on the path, so Skye, full of fear, refused to move.
Eventually the cat, satisfied with recognition of her power, moved on down the path. This allowed Skye to follow, but keeping a safe distance behind the cat. I, in the meantime, just kept on walking, hoping that my distance would make Skye so desperate, that she would build up enough nerve to detour around and just pass Lucifer, but Skye was just to afraid.
When I got to the house, I looked back to see if the animals were coming. They were not. Lucifer had decided to once again re-establish her power and had stopped on the trail. Skye of course stopped also, fearing to get any closer to the cat.
I walked on up to the barn and got the sunflower seeds and filled the bird feeder, then returned the seed container to the barn. Lucifer and Skye remained in their position. It had been about 10 minutes since either of them moved, and by this time I realized that Skye would never get frustrated enough to pass the cat, so I decided I had to do something.
I walked back down to the two, picked up the cat and pitched her into the deep snow. Skye, delighted to finally be free, darted past me and raced to the house. The cat, full of indignity, shook the snow off herself and hopped back to the path and now that Skye, her reason for stopping was gone, walked back to the house.
It seems that every morning I start out wondering what I can take a photo of to use on the blog.After five years of photographing and blogging, unused subject matter is becoming scarce.Fortunately the night before, many of the trees in the Robson Valley got a coating of frost.This gave some nice highlighting of the trees.Here are two shots I took while we were walking the dog on Horseshoe Lake Road.
I use a Sony camcorder to take the photos you see on my blog. One of the reasons I bought the camera was its huge range. I can take a nice clear photo of something one inch (3cm) away or I can zoom in to a far away mountain or a grizzly bear, making it seem like I am a whole lot closer than I really am.
The shot you see above is one of those zoomed photos. When I took this shot I was standing in the flat valley bottom which stretched out for 4.5 km (2.8 miles) before the lower slope of the mountain range even began. The peaks are more than 17 kms (10 miles) away from where I was standing. From where I stood, the clouds blowing up from behind the ridge would not be noticeable unless one really focused upon a tiny section of the whole view, but the camera makes it a dominant feature.
The soundtrack to my life lost a voice and composer yesterday. I was shocked to learn that Glenn Frey, one of the base-members of The Eagles, had died. From the first time I heard:
“Well I’m standing on a corner in Winslow, Arizona, and such a fine sight to see,
It’s a girl, my lord, in a flat bed Ford, slowin’ down to take a look at me.”
I was hooked. Upon hearing those lyrics, voices, accompaniments and harmonies,I knew that The Eagles were a group I was going to pay attention to, and they didn’t disappoint.
Frey was the guy doing most of the singing on “Take it Easy” --he and Jackson Browne had written the song. Through the years, I sang along with Glenn and The Eagles from my records, tapes, CD’s, and downloads. I followed their music through ballads, hard guitar rock, blue grassy and country songs, through love songs, failed relationships, and angry social commentary. I wondered about “Hotel California” and learned that in a ‘New York minute’ everything can change. The Eagles, as a band, had amazing depth and exceptional talent in song writing, musicianship, and alway tight harmonies. Frey was a core part of it all.
The Eagles, because they became so popular, where overplayed on the radio and saturated the media, which led to a backlash by many, but not by me. I continued to follow them and, their music just got better and better. The last album I bought was that of another Eagle: Don Henley’s “Cass Country” (Henley was the Eagles’ drummer and co-wrote most of the later Eagle songs with Glenn Frey.)
I can’t believe that Glenn Frey’s voice and guitar have been silenced.
Yesterday while walking around the pond I noticed these tracks in the snow. It looks like a mouse or shrew did a little scampering about during the night, coming up out of one hole, doing a walkabout, then going back into its under-snow home via another hole. There is a lot going on outside that we never know about.
I always find it interesting where computer searches will take you. At our Tuesday night jam session, players periodically bring in songs for us to try. Last week Dorothy, our lap steel guitar player, brought in the song “Buckle Up Your Overcoat” I vaguely remembered the song and the group tried it, but many of the chords in her song sheet were a bit difficult for us geriatric musicians. I figured I could probably find easier chords for the song and told the group I would investigate. Yesterday, I got on the internet in my search. My first problem was the name of the song. I thought it was “You belong to Me” but I soon discovered that that was a totally different song. Then I tried “Buckle Up your Overcoat.” and bingo, I found the song and clicked on the result that referred to a Helen Cane, who I was totally unfamiliar with. What came up was a youtube video of an old Betty Boop cartoon that featured the song. As a kid I used to hate Betty Boop cartoons and her “Boop-boop-a-doops”, but I watched the video and enjoyed hearing Betty again. I guess Betty Boop was partially based on Helen Cane and it was Helen that was singing the song. I listened to the song a couple of times to get the melody and phrasing right, then I did a search of the song lyrics. Reading through the lyrics I was quite impressed. They are very clever and fun. If you want to hear the song on youtube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=idO4H2eUiNg Here are the lyrics and my version of chords of the song (without Betty’s intro):
(G)Button up your overcoat (A7)When the wind is free (Am7)Take (D7)good (Am7)care of (D7)yourself You be(G)long to me (A7)(D7) (G)Eat an apple every day (A7)Get to bed by three (Am7)take (D7)good (Am7)care of your(D7)self You be(G)long to me Be (G7)careful (C)crossing streets, ooh, ooh (G)Cut out sweets, ooh, ooh (A)Lay off meat, ooh, (A7)ooh (D7)You’ll get a (Am7)pain and (D7)ruin your tum-tum (G)Wear your flannel underwear (A7)When you climb a tree (Am7)Take (D7)good (Am7)care of (D7)yourself You be(G)long to me (A7)(D7) (G)Button up your overcoat (A7)When the wind is free (Am7)Take (D7)good (Am7)care of (D7)yourself You be(G)long to me (D7)Boop-boop-a-doop (G)When you sass a traffic cop (A7)Use diplomacy (Am7)Take (D7)good (Am7)care of (D7)yourself You be(G)long to me (G7)Beware of (C)frozen funds, ooh, ooh (G)Stocks and bonds, ooh, ooh (A)Peroxide blondes, ooh, (A7)ooh (D7)You’ll get a (Am7)pain and (D7)ruin your bankroll (G)Keep the spoon out of your cup (A7)When you're drinking tea (Am7)take (D7)good (Am7)care of your(D7)self You be(G)long to me (G7)Don’t sit on (C)hornet’s tails, ooh, ooh (G)Or on nails, ooh, ooh (A)Or third rails, ooh, (A7)ooh (D7)You’ll get a (Am7)pain and (D7)ruin your tum-tum (G)Keep away from bootleg hooch (A7)When you're on a spree (Am7)take (D7)good (Am7)care of your(D7)self You be(G)long to me (Repeat last 2 lines)
I think it must be something left over from childhood, but I am always attracted to icicles. I noticed these draping the roof yesterday and couldn’t resist taking a photo. I always have some inward desire to break one off and suck on it.
Each week since the 1980’s I have been wracking my brain for ideas, drawing them out, then sending the cartoons to the local newspapers. Always in the back of my mind is the hope that people will get a laugh and appreciate them. In the grocery store or other gathering places, people often come up to me and tell me they “really liked the last cartoon,” or “I taped that cartoon on my refrigerator.” Those words of acknowledgement always makes me feel good.
I was especially touched yesterday when Joan brought home a scrapbook of my cartoons that Mrs Rosin, an elderly woman, has evidently been collecting and saving for many years. She cared so much for the cartoons that she had bought a scrapbook, taken the time to cut them out of the newspaper, and paste them into an album. Her daughter Trudy passed on the scrapbook to Joan now that her mother is in failing health.
While it is certainly nice to have the money I get for the cartoons, in the long run it is gestures like those of Mrs. Rosin, that are more valuable to me. Like I said I was really touched.
Back in my university days, during the bleak years of the late 1960‘s when my eyes were opened to the reality of human race with its wars, racial and sexual discrimination, and destruction, I discovered that Mark Twain, in the latter part of his life wrote about some of those same things. Intrigued, I sought out Twain’s writing and began to read him. Among his works of this period was Twain’s story, "The Mysterious Stranger".
The plot concerns three boys living in an Austrian village in the 1500's. They meet a well dressed, beautiful, and charming man who turns out to be an angel. His name is Satan (being a descendant of the original Satan). As an angel, he is thousands of years old and has unlimited abilities. Because he is so vastly superior to humans, he has an indifferent attitude toward them, (sort of like how an elephant might feel toward a tiny spider), although he befriends the boys.
Through this stranger's powers and the human’s reaction, Twain gives the reader an unbiased view of humankind. While humans use words like "humanitarian" and "moral sense" to give a positive spin to themselves and to infer superiority and separation from other animals, Satan shows that the opposite is really true. Unlike other animals, humans go out of their way to torture or kill others of their species.
The boys persuade the stranger to use his power to do what they think is "good", but when he does, those changes always do the opposite because of mankind's true nature. They ask him to create money for an impoverished and starving priest and he does, but then local power brokers and jealous villagers accuse the priest of witchcraft and he faces burning at the stake.
Satan explains that a human life is a chain of experiences, each link, building upon the links that proceed it. If one link is changed then life takes a totally different course. When again asked by one of the boys to use his powers for good, Satan alters the life of a boy by three minutes, making him arrive at a river later than what was predetermined, as a result a young girl, who he was previously destined to save, is now in deeper water and drowns, as does the boy who tries to rescue her.
When the boys complain that that is not doing good, Satan explains that had the alternation of time not taken place, the girl was predestined to have died a desolate prostitute at the age of 38 and a heart break to her parents, while the boy who tried to save her, would have contacted scarlet fever from being in the river and although he would have lived to age of 62, he would have spend his life "as a paralytic log, deaf, dumb, blind, and praying night and day for the blessed relief of death". Wasn’t what I did good, Satan asks.
Satan takes the boys on a whirlwind trip through the bloodbath that is human history and shows them the future:
"Before our eyes nation after nation drifted by, during two or three centuries, a mighty procession, an endless procession, raging, struggling, wallowing through seas of blood, smothering in battle smoke through which the flags glinted and the red jets from cannons darted, always we heard the thunder of the guns and the cries of the dying.
'And what does it amount to?' said Satan with his evil chuckle, 'Nothing at all, you gain nothing; you always come out where you went in'"
Twain wrote those words exactly 100 years ago, before WWII and all the millions of victims of the other wars since. I think he pegged humankind fairly accurately although he failed to foresee the immense advancements in human killing machines.
The Mysterious Stranger certainly gives the reader a lot to ponder.
Late yesterday the household took a walk down through the pasture and around the pond. I was in the lead, followed by our dog Skye, then Joan, and our cat Lucifer briought up the rear. Lucifer now goes on this daily walk with us.
When I got back to the house I had to wait a minute for Lucy to catch up and I held the door open for her. I couldn’t help but shake my head when I saw where she went immediately upon entering the house--straight for her litter box.
She had more than ample opportunity and a whole wide world to do her business outside, but I guess she prefers the familiarity of her own special place.
Throughout my adult life if I was asked who my favorite author was I would have answered “Mark Twain. I have always loved his sharp wit, and sense of humor, but also his dark view of mankind and his political views. I have not read Twain for a decade, but when the book club at the McBride Library chose the topic “Short Stories” for the January theme, I right away knew I was going to re-visit Mark Twain. I had lots of old Twain books I have been dragging along through my life and one of them was the “The Complete Short Stories of Mark Twain” Edited by Charles Nieder and that is where I read some of the short stories. Here is a description of two of them.
In the story "My Watch" Twain tells about a watch he bought that kept perfect time. Then one day after eighteen months, he forgot to wind it. Upon discovering that the watch had stopped, he just estimated what the time might be, set it, and re-wound the watch. He then later stopped in at a watch repair place just to have it set to the correct time.
The watch repairman, said, "This watch is four minutes slow, the regulator needs adjusting." Twain tried to stop him, saying the time just needed setting, but the repairman refused to listen and made the adjustment.
This being done, the watch began gaining time. Within a week it was "sickened to a raging fever," at the end of two months, it's pulse was over 150. It left all the other watches in town far in the rear. The watch was into the snows of November while the leaves were still turning in October. It sped up house rent and bills needing payments to the point where Twain could no longer stand it.
In desperation, he took it to another repairman, who said it needed cleaning and oiling and the regulator adjusting. When he got the watch back, it began slowing down time, causing him to miss trains, his meals, he began drifting back to yesterday, then the day before yesterday, and finally into last week and the week before last.
The story continues with more visits to the watch repair shop resulting in more absurd situations.
In "Political Economy" Twain has just sat down at his desk and begun writing the first paragraph of an academic and technical essay about political economy when he is disturbed by knocking on his door. Irritated by the interruption he goes to see who it is.
It is a salesman trying to sell him a lightning rod to protect his house. Twain, though irritated by the interruption, listens and is somewhat receptive and tells the guy, "yes". When asked how many points, Twain doesn't know what the guy is talking about so to avoid sounding ignorant he answers, "Eight". When asked about what kind and is given the choices, Twain, eager to return to his desk, picks the zinc twisted rods, the most expensive, walks back into his house to write.
It takes some time for his mind to get back to the intellectual state required by his paper, but finally he completes the next paragraph when another knock disturbs his flow of thought. Again it is the lightening rod salesman, who has finished installing the eight rods and tells Twain how beautiful the eight look on his chimney. The salesman, having realized that Twain doesn't know much and has money, tells him that to really be perfect, the house should have sixteen more rods.
Twain who just wants to get back to his paper, tells him, yeah, just do it. Later, there is yet one more interruption by the salesman advising even more lightning rods. The frustrated Twain tells him yes just so he can get back to his writing.
The humor builds to a crescendo three weeks later when Twain and his family are trapped in their house during a lightning storm and the house becomes the target of all the electricity in the atmosphere.
It is a very memorable tale that I remember from reading it forty years ago.
Not much happening around here. I did see some sculpture-like ice formation at the edge of my pond so took some photos. The brown bits that you can see are seeds from alder trees which break loose and spread by the wind during the winter.
Just look at our toaster; see all those buttons? This toaster is capable of doing all kinds of things. Do we use all those buttons--No. I do sometimes use the “Cancel” button to stop the toast from burning, but all the rest of them are never used. This is true of most of the things we buy. They are designed to do all kind of periphery tasks, but most of those “extras” are never used, even though we pay for them.
On our satellite TV we probably have more than 150 stations. I only watch about 5. My camera will do all sorts of extraordinary things, but I never use them. I’ve loaded all kinds of impressive apps on my iPad that I never open. We recently bought a new car that comes with all sorts of fancy “bells and whistles”, but I can pretty much guarantee that most of that stuff will never get used.
I guess people get “wowed” by all the extra functions available on an item which makes them choose one model over another, but the reality is that when it actually gets down to using the product, its just the basic function that is important and all of those “extras” are just useless window dressing. The problem is not only that the consumer thinks it is a bargain to get more functions, often the consumer has no choice because the fancy models are the only choices available.
While places south of McBride, like BC’s Okanagan which is a fairly dry place are getting above normal snowfalls, we haven’t had a decent snowfall in weeks. There is only about 6 inches (15cm) of the white stuff on the ground. The photo shows an area below my pond where the deer have easily scooted snow away to get down to the grass. Yesterday I walked around the bush in my winter boots. Normally I would need snowshoes.
While the snowfall is way behind schedule, our temperatures have been fairly normal for this time of year with highs about -6C (21F) and nighttime lows -15C (5F)
Yesterday afternoon, I took Skye for a walk down Horseshoe Lake Road. Normally on walks when Joan is along, we walk the length of the road then turn around and walk back to the car. Skye is fine with doing this, but if it is just me and Skye doing the walking, Skye is very impatient to get the walk over with so she can go home and eat her meal. That was the case yesterday.
On the walks as we head toward the end of the road, I generally throw a tennis ball for Skye to chase. She sprints after it then jumps around throwing the ball in the air and re-catching it with her mouth, then she drops it and waits for us to catch up to re-throw the ball again, until we get to the end of the road and turn around to walk back.
Yesterday about a third down the length of the road, I threw the ball and Skye raced to catch it. Once she had it, she streaked back to me with the ball in her mouth, but instead of stopping, she just kept on going toward the car. It was a pretty clear signal to me that she had had enough of this walking business, and she just wanted to get back into the car so we could drive home and she could eat.
Every summer I cut the tall grass in my paddock and make hay, which I use as mulch in my greenhouse the following summer. Every winter, the hungry deer find my haystack under a layer of snow and eat some of it. I don’t really mind if they do, but I was a bit surprised that they did this winter, because the hay I made got fairly wet during the summer and was somewhat moldy.
I guess if you are a hungry deer, you aren’t too picky. I would think that this has been a fairly easy winter for the deer so far, since there isn’t much snow, and it isn’t too hard to paw away the white stuff to get to the vegetation underneath.
I also expect that deer are like people and prefer a change in their diet whenever possible, so that is probably one of the reasons we see the deer hanging around our place in the winter. They have several varieties of food on tap: there is the haystack, the sunflower seeds and peanut butter I put out for the birds, and there is our compost pile with it’s menu that changes daily.
Looks like I am starting the new year out with a rant.
A couple of weeks ago I started to notice that every day when I shaved with my electric razor, I shredded my face. The head of the shaver had developed a few holes which allowed the movable blades to do havoc on my skin. I have had the shaver for probably 10 years and had already replaced the foil on the head twice. Since it was an older model I wasn’t sure if I could still get replacement foils at Canadian Tire or not.
Then I noticed that Costco was having a sale on electric razors, and so I ordered one just before Christmas. Yesterday Joan came home from the post office with a huge big box. “What’s that?” I asked.
“It’s the electric razor you ordered,” she replied.
I was amazed, because it was such a gigantic box for such a small item. You can see in the photo above what was in the oversized box. It seems like such a waste of materials and space, but it is way of the world these days.
Below is another example of over-the-top packaging. I always take melatonin at night and that is a brand new bottle of the stuff that I bought a few days ago. Notice the black line that I have drawn on the side of the bottle. That marks the level of pills in the bottle. They don’t even bother to put in cotton anymore to take up the space (air is cheaper).
I assume the reason for the oversized box for the razor was to protect the thing during shipping, although I think it could be protected just as well in a smaller container. In the case of the melatonin, the reason for the bottle size is just deception.