I have probably shown you other photos of these old farm buildings with Beaver Mountain in the background, but it seems that every time I see the place, the light is different and I can’t help but take another photo. I think I should change my blog to “Things I See on our Dog Walks,” because 95% of the photos I show you were taken when we were out walking the dog.
Every fall we take the geraniums that grow all summer long in our window box, dig them out, cut them back, put them in pots, then take them inside and put them on the window sill in my bedroom to overwinter. I only water them when they really get dry and the pots feel light when you pick them up. The skeletal looking stems slowly develop new leaves, start to grow, and form into recognizable geraniums again.
One of the geraniums is presently blooming. It seems rather disjointed to see the brilliant red bloom against the snow covered whiteness of winter on the other side of the glass.
When winter is over and the warm weather returns, we will cut them way back and plant them back outside in the window box where they will again spend the summer.
Lonesome Dove, the 1986 Pulitzer Prize winning novel by Larry McMurtry
Many years ago, on my mother's suggestion, I read Lonesome Dove which I really loved and it opened my eyes to other "western"-oriented novels that I had avoided for years, thinking they were just action packed "shoot 'm ups".
I think I am fortunate to have such a poor memory. While I remembered vividly that I was tremendously impressed with Lonesome Dove when I read it, and I remembered how much I liked Augustus, one of the main characters, I had forgotten most of the things that happened in the book. Re-reading it allowed me to discover and enjoy the novel all over again.
In many ways Lonesome Dove is a carefully crafted and humorous character study which examines the wide range of flawed characters that inhabited the western frontiers of America after the Civil War. McMurtry is a master of characterization and location, as the films based on his novels, like Terms of Endearment and The Last Picture Show attest.
I think there was a popular TV mini-series of Lonesome Dove, but I never saw it and didn't know what the title "Lonesome Dove" referred to. It refers to a southern Texas town, a bleak, dusty, run-down collection of buildings, corrals, and people located close to the Mexican border. McMurtry really doesn't spend much time describing Lonesome Dove. He mentions a store, and a church, but the central focus is the Dry Bean saloon, which supplies the cowboys with alcohol, a piano player, card playing, and Lorena, the town's only prostitute, who is the dream of all the love starved cowhands.
The main storyline follows the activities of the Hat Creek Cattle Company, a handful of ex-Texas Rangers headed by a no-nonsense man named Call and his partner, Augustus, who just can't keep from talking. After hearing about the cattle potential of the grassland of Montana, they slip over into Mexico and steal a herd of cattle and horses from a Mexican rustler, and prepare to herd the cattle north across the continent to the unsettled wilds of Montana. A couple of other storylines arise from actions of the characters and parallel the otherwise monotony of the long cattle drive. These subplots keep the novel moving and interesting.
One of the things I always notice about McMurtry's novels are the unusual names he gives the characters. Some of them in Lonesome Dove are: Pea Eye, Deets, Dishwater, Call, July, Spoon, Needle, Soupy, and Lippy. Despite the strange names, McMurtry is able to build realistic human characters with individual foibles out of each of them.
Call, who is a main character, is one of those quiet men who can not express or show their feelings. He has a son, Newt, whose mother was a prostitute, now dead, and although the boy works for him, Call can not bring himself to tell the boy that he is his father.
My favorite and a central figure in the novel is Augustus, who has become one of my all time favorite characters in all of fiction. Gus has no problem at all expressing his feelings, much to everyone's dismay. He has more education than the rest of the cowhands and that fuels his nonstop talking. He enjoys using his talk to get under the skin of his fellow cowboys, but underneath, he possesses a compassion and a humanity that makes him both endearing and memorable.
Upon my first reading of Lonesome Dove one of things that surprised me and struck me as true, was the way so many of the cowboys in the book were terrified of women. The stereotypical cowboys in most films and books are macho men, McMurtry's cowboys are painfully shy and lack all social skills whenever they are confronted with a female. They have spent so much of their lives only around men that women seem like alien creatures and they don't know how to react to them.
This is, of course, a western and so there is plenty of Wild West action in the novel. There are dust storms, stampeding cattle, Indian attacks, and outlaw brutality, but what I enjoyed the most about the novel were the interactions and conversations between the characters.
It is a long novel, 950 pages, and its length allows the reader to experience just about all of those important events and emotions that life throws at us: Love, hate, fear, regret, birth, death, joy, and sadness. It is a very human story, written in a humorous and touching way. Lonesome Dove is one of my all time favorite books, and it was as enjoyable the second time as it was the first
While the Cariboo Mountains are experiencing snow squalls, the fields in the foreground are practically snow-free. The fields in the Robson Valley bottomlands get a lot of wind that sweeps the snow away and piles it in drifts along the edges and in ditches, so when we get a bit of warm weather, what snow that is left on the fields, melts quickly. Our yard , on the other hand, is fairly sheltered and is still covered with a foot (30 cm) or so of hard crusty snow.
Yesterday morning when the phone rang, the last thing on my mind was buying another guitar. I certainly didn’t need another one, I have plenty of them already. I have 2 acoustic six string guitars, I have an acoustic 12 string guitar, I have 2 electric guitars, and I have 2 amplifiers. I felt content, but it was an acquaintance on the phone, who told me that she had a guitar and she wanted to get rid of it. Her brother had given it to her as a gift, but she didn’t really like it and wanted to get it out of her small mobile home. She then said the magic words, “If you want it,I will sell it too you cheap.”
In the afternoon I went over to see her. It was a really nice guitar, a combination acoustic/electric Ovation. She also had a tiny amp she wanted to rid herself of.
What was I too do? Clearly she wanted the things out of her house, and I really didn’t have a combination acoustic/electric guitar, so I bought it and the amp. It’s always exciting to get something new, but the whole time I realized I didn’t really need it. My bedroom already looks like a music store.
I took my new guitar and tiny amp to our jam last night, and I must say it was nice just to carry one guitar in, rather than to have to lug both an electric and an acoustic. I was able to take all of my equipment into the building in one trip, instead of two.
I do realize that we are “possessed by our possessions,” and I try not to accumulate a lot of stuff, but those cursed magic words, “I will sell it too you cheap.” are often to much for me to overcome.
About once a month we make the 135 mile (217 km) drive up Highway 16 to Prince George for shopping and to restock our supplies. Making the trip is not something we take lightly, especially in the winter, because it can be dangerous. Deer, and moose, can unexpectedly run up from the sides of the highway, large trucks barrel down the road, and the road is full of hills and curves.
Winter is especially bad because of snow and ice on the road and whiteout conditions during bad storms and whenever a big truck goes by. Deep snow can make the car hard to control and the short daylight means you might have to drive in the dark when everything is worse.
As a result, we carefully plan our trips to PG, looking carefully at the weather forecasts, but sometimes if you have an appointment, you don’t have a choice, except to cancel at the last moment if the weather looks bad.
Yesterday, Joan and I had to drive up for eye checkups. We were lucky, conditions were not too bad. We ran into some snow squalls, some misty rain, some snow accumulation on the road surface, and the ever present logging and freight trucks on the highway, but it was good compared to some of our trips. It is always such a relief to get up and back without incident.
I, along with 40 others, gathered in the McBride Community Hall to get information about something that is a terrifying thought--one’s death. The forum was about what people need to do in order to have some control over the situation where you may be incapacitated, both physically or mentally, to the point where you can no longer communicate to medical staff or legal representatives.
Do you want extraordinary intervention to try to keep you alive even though that might leave you in a vegetative state, or do you want nature to take it’s course? One’s mortality is a difficult fact to face, but I think most people have wishes about what they want to happen when it occurs, and the discussion was very helpful about how to achieve a bit of control in a situation where you are no longer able to communicate your wishes.
Despite the grim subject, it was a very pleasant forum, that served up humor along with all of the information and serious talk. I was very glad that I attended and I plan to fill out the forms and do the things that were recommended.
The photo shows Dr. Martin giving his presentation, as Linda Fry, Notary, looks on waiting for her turn to speak.
We really burned through a lot of firewood during those cold spells we had this winter, and I don’t know how many more cold snaps we can expect before winter fizzles out, so every time I look out at my disappearing woodpile, I can’t help but worry if I have enough firewood left to get me through. That worry was the inspiration for the cartoon.
I was very much opposed to the Vietnam War, and during the early 1970’s my number came up on the Draft Board. I refused to be a part of the military; I was adamant that I wasn’t going to kill anyone in the Vietnamese civil war that the US had gotten into. At age 16 when I was forced to register for the draft, I had applied to be a Conscientious Objector, and after a bit of a fight with the Draft Board, was finally given that designation. As a result I was required to spend two years, away from home, doing “alternative service.”
I was assigned to work those two years at the Indianapolis Goodwill Industries. It was a pretty memorable experience for me. Not only did I meet a large spectrum of society that is often hidden from the public, but everyday there was an amazing amount of fascinating things that came in, that had been donated to Goodwill. You could never predict what items would be delivered to our Goodwill facility. (One day a dead baby was brought in after being dropped off in a Goodwill dropbox.)
The piece of fabric you see in the photo was a corner of a bedspread that some had been donated. The bedspread itself was too worn to sell, but my boss saw the corner and cut it off because it was interesting, and asked me if I wanted it. Since I have always been fascinated by old things, I happily took it from her.
Every time I see it I wonder who, in those years before the US Civil War, made it, how they lived and what the bedspread looked like newly draped across the bed.
I have often blogged about how much I miss seeing open water during our long, snowy, and icy BC winter. Lately we have been going through a warming trend when the temperatures have risen above the freezing point and as a result the snow that was covering my pond has melted, leaving water pooling on top of the ice.
While it is not exactly the open water I have been looking forward to, at least it is reflecting some of the sky, which is one of the joys of open water. It will probably be another month, at least, until the ice melts, but for now, it is nice to see the reflections when I look down at my pond.
I am always surprised at the interesting and unexpected things that seem to pop up around here while we are on our walks. Yesterday Joan, Skye, and I were out on Horseshoe Lake Road, when a group of McBride Secondary School students arrived carrying shovels. They headed across the ice on the lake and headed over toward some snow drifts.
I asked them what was going on and they said they were digging snow caves and would be spending a night sleeping in them as part of their Outdoor Education Program. I thought that was pretty unusual. We certainly never did anything like that back in the ancient epoch when I went to school. The students started to work digging 6 different caves.
I can’t believe that they will spend a very restful night when they climb into their caves, but I think it will be a great adventure and give them some survival skills that might come in handy some day.
During our long winter, there just isn’t any open water to see. My pond is frozen over and covered with snow, and so is the Fraser River. It makes me long to see some open water, probably as a sign that Spring is coming. The temperatures have risen above freezing over the last few days, and this morning as Skye and I walked around the pond, when we got to the outflow, there was a bit of open water running. To top off the joyous sight, there was also a clump of green moss to add a bit of color.
I am ready for winter to end, and I wouldn’t mind at all if this was a sign of things to come.
The photo above shows you what I saw as I walked down Horseshoe Lake Road yesterday. Just above the second fence post from the left you can see a small clearing in the distance. There are some white dots there that are the snow covered roofs of farm buildings.
I like to take photos of farms nestled beneath the mountains. When I saw this farm with the mountains behind it, I thought that might make a interesting photo, so I whipped out my camera (actually its a camcorder, that I use) and from the spot where I was standing, I zoomed in to the farm. It gave me exactly the scene that I wanted. (Photo below) Zooming in really gives you a sense of how big the mountains are.
Even though my camcorder is 6 years old and so 6 years behind whatever the current technology is, I am still so impressed at its range. I can kneel down and put the lens an inch (3 cm) away from a subject and it will focus on it, or like the example I have shown today, zoom in on something that would probably be overlooked by the eye, and get a good picture.
For February, the McBride Library Book Club chose the theme “The Old West.” I picked out the novel “The Last Ranch” by Michael McGarrity to read. Although it is set in the West, it takes place in more recent times. Here is my review:
The Last Ranch by Michael McGarrity
This is the third novel in the trilogy written about the Kerney family that established a ranch in the San Andres Mt. in New Mexico. The first book in the trilogy, Hard Country was about John Kerney, who first created the ranch in 1875, and struggled with Indian raids, cattle rustlers, and murder, as he tried to eke out a living for his family in the desert-like mountains, as the western frontier closed.
McGarrity's second novel, Backlands revisits the family and examines it's next generation, by following the life of John Kerney's son, Patrick Kerney, Emma (Patrick's ex-wife), and their young son, Matthew. It spans the time from the Teddy Roosevelt's Rough Riders in Cuba, the First World War, the Depression, and ends at the beginning of World War II, as members of the Kerney family, are forced to survive these external disasters while at the same time trying to maintain a living on the isolated ranch.
The Last Ranch takes up the family's story, spanning the period from World War II through to the Vietnam War. It begins with Matthew Kearney returning from the war, discharged from the military after losing an eye in the Italian campaign. He is hoping to cement a permanent relationship with a single mom and her daughter, who is hesitant about marriage, but happy with just living with Matt.
Much to Matthew's dismay, the relationship falls apart after the woman is forced to kill an intruder at the ranch, who is bent on killing her and her daughter as retribution for Matt's causing his imprisonment decades before. After the incident she is so traumatized that she can no longer tolerate being at the ranch and moves to California.
This leaves Matt floundering, seeking love, but not securing it for any length of time. Finally he meets Mary, the right woman, they marry and have a son Kevin, but life remains a struggle, first with a five year drought in the already arid mountain where the ranch is located, forcing the family into selling the livestock and taking work in the city, while the aging Patrick Kerney, his cantankerous father, maintains what is left of the family ranch.
Then the military, who has taken over all the land surrounding the ranch for the White Sands Missile Range, slowly begins to put it's enormous pressure on the Kerney's to sell them the failing ranch. The family is able to hold off until Patrick, the family patriarch, finally dies, then reluctantly sells their long time family land.
At this point the novel begins to follow the life of Kevin, the son, now living in town, through his high school and university years, his search for stable relationships, and then his entry into the Vietnam War. Although The Last Ranch is supposed to the final novel of the trilogy, it's ending sets up a situation which is very similar to the beginning of this novel, so I wonder if this Kerney family epic will continue.
While I have previously read and enjoyed all of the books in this trilogy, I have forgotten most of the storylines in the first two. I remember being quite taken with the first two, but I was not quite as enthralled with this latest, but in its defense, it did keep me entertained and eagerly reading to the end.
We had a snowfall over night, and so I was going to have to clear the driveway. Prior to 2015 that meant shoveling it, but in December of 2014, after getting two consecutive days of 15 inch (38 cm) snowfalls, I decided I was getting too old for all that shoveling and bought myself a snowblower. I am so glad I did.
I have been suffering with a back problem over the last two days. I am okay when I am vertical, and okay when I am horizontal, but being in between those two positions causes problems. Shoveling the drive would have been a disaster with my back, but walking behind the snowblower didn’t cause me any trouble, and my driveway is now clear.
It is always so good to eat salads during our long winters here in the BC Interior, but we often have to just shake our heads when we get to the produce section of our small grocery store and survey what is available. The items there are often old, wilted, and many levels below prime. Considering what a small community we live in, our winter climate, and how far away we are from agricultural areas, I guess we should be happy to get anything at all, but still I would sure be nice to get produce that was fresh.
The photos you see are from the early 1980’s showing my uncle’s commercial green house in Indiana. We lived just down the road, so if we wanted lettuce, it was easily available, and very fresh. Unfortunately, that greenhouse where I spent so much of my youth, no longer exists, but seeing these old photos sure makes my mouth salivate, and want to have a nice crispy salad.
The photo below shows my uncle cutting some lettuce as my aunts, and second cousin look on. Look at those pants, I didn't remember that my uncle was such a fancy dresser.
Our house reeks of Bengay and I when I stand, the upper portion of my body veers off at an angle, yes, I have thrown out my lower back again. It is something that has plagued me for the last 40 years. I remember the first time it happened; I was working for the BC Forest Service and I was reaching over a rack to pick up a coil of fire hose. When I lifted, lightening, pain streaked through my lower back and I couldn’t do much of anything for a week.
Like the cartoon, it often happens to me whenever I use a shovel, but its hard to not do that when you live where we do in rural BC. Another time I remember it happening was when we were just beginning a vacation to Dinosaur Provincial Park in Alberta. We had stopped in to visiting friends in Banff, and I was on the floor playing with one of their kids. We were taking turns tying each other up with a small rope, I bent forward, arms outstretched with the rope to tie him up and again, lightening. Joan had to do the driving to the park while I tried to avoid pain in the lowered passenger’s seat.
Throwing my back out doesn’t always happen with a streak of lightening. I first noticed my present back problem on Tuesday night as I was driving home from out music jam. I don’t know if I did something when I was picking up my amp or carrying the instruments, there wasn’t any obvious start to the condition, but I just noticed things not being quite right with my back as I drove home. Once I got home things deteriorated rapidly.
When I first experienced throwing out my back I used to have to just wait it out until I slowly recovered. Then someone said I should make an appointment to see a chiropractor. We drove up to Prince George and the chiropractor laid me on my side and suddenly pushed down on one of my bent legs and AMAZINGLY, I was no longer in pain. After that every time I messed up my back, we drove up to the chiropractor, but his “adjustment” didn’t always work. Often when it worked, we had to make the drive home for 2.5 hours cramped up the car on the bumpy highway, and I would be just a crippled up when we finally got back to our house.
These days I just wait it out. I have a inversion table which allows me to hang upside down, that helps. I rub stinking Bengay on my back with to relax my muscles in hope things will go back into thier proper place. I spent most of yesterday in bed hoping that just staying horizontal might cause an improvement, but it didn’t. Today I am back just trying to live my normal life. It usually takes a couple of weeks for me to recover, although once I had low level pain that lasted for a year and a half. Naturally, I am hoping for recovery in a week or so.
Beaver Mountain is one of the prominent landmarks around McBride. I have taken hundreds of photos of the peak over the years, but this is one of my favorites. It was a very clear, crisp day which emphasizes all the contours and slides of the mountain. I really like the snow-dusted trees that cover the flanks.
I was looking though some old stuff trying to come up with a topic for this blog, when I came upon this photo from my high school newspaper, probably printed back in 1965. I was really keen on folk music at the time and organized a group of classmates who had the same interest, into a “Folk Club” where we periodically got together to play music. The photo made me realized that I still had the same interest in music that I had way back then.
I no longer have a banjo, now I play mandolin or guitar, but I still love to get together with other musicians to play. We do it every Tuesday. I am not the only retiree still clinging to old loves.
I know people my age that are still buying old cars and fixing them up just like they did in high school, because they enjoy messing around with cars, and others who still drag their old bodies out on the ice to play hockey with that childhood dream still in their head. My cousin, who as a child was fascinated with tractors, doesn’t have a farm but owns a handful of the machines because he still loves them.
I guess we are just hardwired to like certain things and that doesn’t change with age.
Skye really likes to chase balls. In the summer we throw a tennis ball for her to run after. Throwing a tennis ball in the winter however, doesn’t work too well because it doesn’t bounce in the snow and can disappear in the white fluff.
The blue ball with the hexagons that you see in the photo is a great solution. It tends to stay on top of the snow, it is easy for Skye to snag it because of all of it’s holes, and Skye likes to have a tug-of-war with me by holding it in her mouth when I am pulling on the other side of the ball. It is a great winter dog toy.
One of the things we have learned to fear the most during winter is loosing our water. We get our water from a waterfall, with an underground waterline 1.25 kms (.75 of a mile) long. I am always glad to see a big snowfall before a hard cold spell because it insulates the ground, thus helping to prevent a freeze-up of our waterline.
On Thursday evening when we turned on our tap we noticed that our water pressure was really beginning to drop. We filled all kinds of containers and pots, knowing that soon the water itself would stop flowing. This was a very distressing occurrence. It meant one of three possibilities had happened:
There was not enough water flowing into our water catching culvert on the waterfall.
The screen on our water intake pipe was clogged with debris.
Our waterline had frozen up--this was by far the worst possibility. One winter when this happened we didn’t get our water back until the middle of April.
Because it was dark, walking and working up on the waterfall is very dangerous, even during the seasons when there is no ice, so I decided to wait until the following morning and daylight before trying to tackle our loss of water problem. Of course, thinking about trying to solve the problem gave me a very sleepless night, and meant going outside in the cold to go to the bathroom. I was happy that I built an outhouse years ago.
Bruce, a neighbor and I hiked up to the waterfall the next morning. The photo above shows what the waterfall looked like. Our culvert was completely covered with a dome of thick ice. I knew it would be and had brought an axe to chop through it, which we had to do so we could see what was happening in our culvert. Bruce did most of the hard chopping of the ice with the ax, (photo below) it was hard work, the ice was 2 feet (60cm) thick. Finally we broke through the ice dome into the the open space below and we could see that our culvert was still overflowing with water, so that wasn’t the problem.
We pulled up the watergate that drained our culvert and then we could see that our screened intake was all clogged up with debris. This was a big relief, because it was something we could deal with. I climbed through the small hole we had chopped in the ice and got into our culvert, where I removed the clogged screened intake and replacing it with a new one. We then closed the watergate and watched as the water slowly filled the culvert and our waterline.
I gave Joan a call from the falls and with great relief in her voice, she told us that the water was again flowing from our taps. It was a wonderful feeling to know we had succeeded, we gathered up all our tools and hiked back to the truck, happy with the knowledge that we again had water.
The blue cloth you see in the photo is normally called a “Hot Pad,” but in this case however it is really a cold pad. We have a fairly small refrigerator, and whenever I make soup in a big pot, often there is not enough room in the fridge to store it, so during the winter I just put the pot outside on the balcony.
The soup was outside yesterday when the outside temperature was -24C (-11F). I was not about to hold the pot with my bare hands to carry the frigid metal container down to the kitchen (very cold metal feels like it is burning the skin) so I got a hot pad to protect my hands.
Yesterday I wrote my blog denigrating the month of February because of its lack of anything positive. A few hours after I wrote the blog, we went out for our afternoon walk, and I was just blown away at how perfect that February day was. It was a bit cold (-9C, 15F), but the sun was very bright, the colors crisp and intense, and there was not even a breeze. It was one of the most winter beautiful days I can remember.
As a result, I was so busy taking photos that I fell way behind Joan and Skye as who continued their walk down the road. It was a great start to February.
Of all of the twelve months, I think that February is my least favorite. I can’t really think of much to recommend about it. It does feature Valentine’s Day, and Joan usually makes a flan for me, and the days are beginning to get longer, but other than that it doesn’t offer much. Weather here will be cold and it doesn’t give any signs that Spring it just around the corner. It is something that just has to be endured.
This February began with clear skies and cold temperatures (-15C, +5F). The snow is crunchy and hard. I am hoping that the next 28 days pass quickly.