Friday 30 June 2023

The Nasty Canada Thistle

    My hatred of the Canadian Thistle is high, right up there close to my hatred of mosquitoes.  The name Canada Thistle (Cirsium arvense) is misleading because the nasty plant did not originate in Canada, but in Europe.   Ae terribly invasive plant, it has become a problem around the world.

    It spreads not only by its many seeds that are blown in the wind, but also via its extensive root network spreading underground.  The plant has nasty, sharp, spines on both its stem and its leaves.  It is a very persistent plant and even though I have been cutting it down every year before it blooms, it keeps coming up.  I have been doing this for over forty years, without any visible decline in its numbers.  (I won’t use poisons).

   When we first moved to the Valley, I used to cut the thistles down with a hand scythe that once belonged to my grandfather, but now I use a gas lawn trimmer with a metal blade.  It is faster and a little less work.  Cutting the thistles down is part of just cutting all of the grasses in my pasture to make hay.  I no longer have animals to feed the hay to, but I use the hay in my garden for mulch.

    The spiny leaves on the thistles remain sharp and nasty even when they become “hay.”  Many a time while spreading the hay around, I have gotten small painful splinters in my hands from the dry old thistle leaves.  Thistles are really hateful plants.  

    In pulling up the thistle plants that come up in my garden, I have sometimes found them with vertical roots more than 18 inches (45 cm) long, and I don’t know how much further down they go before they hook on to their horizontal roots, see photo below,  My foot is 12 inches (30 cm) long.

    To summarize:   I hate Canada Thistles.

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Thursday 29 June 2023

The Scar Left by our Forest Fire


    I am still not used to seeing the large scar on our mountain left by the forest fire that swept across it in May.  The places where conifers grew are black with char, but the areas that had the deciduous trees are gray.  Some of those deciduous areas are now beginning to show greenish hues, as new leaves begin to develop on the branches.  Aspen trees reproduce using their huge network of roots, so hopefully they will return quickly if their roots were not damaged by the fire.  

    What you see in the photo above is not the entire fire, there is a huge section continuing right of the photo that was also burned.

    Below is a closeup of part of the photo above that better shows the details.

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Wednesday 28 June 2023

HowTo Get A Washtub Bass To The Jam

    Realistically, I guess there are multiple ways a washtub bass can be transported to the jam, but we were surprised to see the mode of transportation that Lennie has chosen.  Luckily, Lennie’s washtub bass is easy to deconstruct for traveling in the small trailer.  Lennie travels 2 miles (4 kms) to get to the jam.

    Like most of our group, I always have to drive my car because of all of the instruments, music stands, and amplifiers I need to take, but our fiddler can just strap the fiddle across her back, put her dog on a leash, and peddle in on her bicycle.

    I am always surprise when I watch Ernie, who makes the hour long drive from Valemount to come to the jam, unload his car, because of all of the amps, guitars, and guitar accessories, he manages to stuff inside his very small day-glo yellow, electric car.  

    However, they get there, I am always happy that they made the effort to gather together to play some music.

    Below is a photo showing Lennie playing his bass.

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Tuesday 27 June 2023

A Little Sunlight

          One of the things I always enjoyed during my time working for the Forest Service, was all the tasty snacks that appeared in the coffee room during our breaks.  People were always bringing in cakes, and cookies for the staff to munch on.

    Now, at 10:00 A.M.  and 3:00 in the afternoon, when I go down to the kitchen and try to find something to munch on, I think back on those Forest Service days fondly.

    Of course, not all of the coffee break memories are positive.  There is one of the negative variety, that will always stand out.  I don’t remember all the details, but I think we must have had a staff potluck for lunch, and for dessert, someone brought in a tub of vanilla ice cream, and some butterscotch topping to drizzle over the top.

    Luckily, when the afternoon coffee break came around, there was still some ice cream and topping left over, so I joined the others in a bowl of the sweet and creamy treat.  Ah, ice cream and butterscotch. 

    When the break was over, and my bowl was empty, we all took our turn washing out our bowls.  There was a line up at the sink, so as I waited for my turn, I reached over and grabbed the bottle of Sunlight dishwashing detergent from the counter and squirted some into my bowl so that when my time came for the sink, I would be ready.  

    I stood there for a while waiting for the others to clean their bowls, and as I did, I glanced down at my bowl and noticed some syrupy golden liquid at the bottom.  My brain quickly registered:  “There’s still some butterscotch left in the bowl.”  

    Eager for another hit of the sweet butterscotch, I took my spoon and scraped out the syrup and stuck it in my mouth, but it wasn’t butterscotch.

    “Uggh,” was the response when the liquid hit the tastebuds of my tongue,  triple “Uggh,”   It was the Sunlight detergent, and my whole mouth recoiled at the astringent taste.  

    I excused myself as I pushed myself through the sink lineup to the sink, explained in the panic, “I’ve got to get a drink of water.”

    The memory of that acerbic chemical taste in my mouth, still forces its way into my brain, even now, decades later, every time I see a bottle of Sunlight detergent. 

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Monday 26 June 2023

Dramatic Clouds Over the Mountains

    Seeing these dramatic looking clouds building over the mountains the other day, had us wondering if they foretold turbulent weather ahead, and they did.   There was some heavy showers and some thunderstorms in the evening, but they turned out to be less wild than I had feared.

    We often see clouds building over the mountains, but these were more spectacular than most.  It would be interesting to know just how high in the sky these billowy plumes got.

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Sunday 25 June 2023

A Pollinator-Friendly Lawn

    A lot of people strive to have a mono-cultured lawn, with only one type of grass that they keep shorn low.  To me those types of lawns look sterile, and they might as well have a concrete or plastic turf, for all the good they do to Nature.  I try to keep my lawn more on the wild side.  It doesn’t look as neat, it is more shabby, but at least it helps provide food and shelter for the bees and other pollinating insects.

    In my lawn I have a variety of plants, and if I spot an area where some wild, flowering plants have come up, I mow around it so they have a chance to seed and establish themselves for next year.  I enjoy watching the succession of plants that bloom throughout the spring and summer.  First off the mark in my lawn are the blue Forget-me-nots, followed by the bright yellow dandelions, a favorite of lots of bees, bears, and even my dog Kona likes to eat them.  After the dandelion flowers are over, I do mow down the dandelion fluff balls.

    At present it is clover that is covering a large expanse of my lawn.  There are also some patches of the purple flower shown below, that I don’t know the name of, as well as daisies, and buttercups.  These last two are considered “noxious” weeds by cattleman, but since I am not a cattleman, I tolerate them in my lawn.

    I am willing to put up with a bit of “unsightliness” in my lawn for the sake of diversity and the well being of Nature.


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Saturday 24 June 2023

Lottery Cartoons

        I heard a news story yesterday about a $70 million dollar lottery in Ontario, despite the fact that a winning ticket had been sold, no one has brought in the winning ticket to claim the prize and the allotted time period is about to expire.   

    Here are some old cartoons I did about lotteries.

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Friday 23 June 2023

An Inside Day

    We are having a rain shower as I write this.  My energy level has always depended upon sunshine.  When it is sunny outside I have lots of motivation, but when it is gray and overcast, it is hard for me to get moving.  That is still the case, but after the long extended dry spell, that ended in a forest fire on the mountain beside our house that we had in May, I do welcome any precipitation that we get, even if it affects my energy level.

    Despite the showers and gray sky, this morning I did have enough motivation to take this photo of some hostas that were sparkling with jeweled raindrops.  

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Thursday 22 June 2023

Daisy Jones & And The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid

    The McBride Library’s Book Club is a bit different than most.  Usually, everyone in a book club reads the same book and they discuss it.  In McBride, a theme is chosen then everyone can just find a book that fits the theme and discuss what they read.  I like it that way because within the restrictions of the theme, I can read something that interests me. 

    The theme for June was books about music or musicians.  I read the book Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid.   Here is what I had to say about it:

I was aware of this novel for some time, because I had read it was being made into a mini-series.  I knew it was about a rock and roll band, but assumed it was a band in the 2000’s, something that didn’t intrigue me.  When I saw the book on the library shelf for our music theme, I was tempted, but let pass, but after reading a non-fiction book about Ian and Silvia, and still having a week to go before the Book Club gathering, I did check out “Daisy Jones” to read.

I am glad I did because I really enjoyed it.  I was delighted to discover it was about an LA rock band in the 1970’s, a time period and subject I was very interested in.

The character Daisy Jones, was a stunningly beautiful blue eyed (unlike the woman on the book’s cover) young woman who grew up starved of love.  She had wealthy parents who provided for her all the material things she needed, but deprived her of the one thing she wanted;  love.  As an unloved teen, she gravitated to vibrant and dynamic music scene in LA.  She became a groupie, having affairs with musicians, drinking, and doing drugs.  

She was dissatisfied with her life and strove to become a songwriter.  She had a natural talent for songwriting and an amazing textured singing voice, but when she was finally picked up by a record company, they ignored the songs she has written, and forced her to record the songs of others.  Her album had moderate success, but she wanted to sing her own songs and began to rebel against her record company. 

At the same time when Daisy was growing up in LA, in Pennsylvania, the Dunne brothers were growing up with their mother, after their deadbeat alcoholic father had abandoned the family.  The brothers found comfort in playing rock music and starting a band.  Billy, the older brother was a natural leader, great songwriter, and singer, with the rare magical aura some musicians possess.  Graham, was also a competent musician.  The band they formed had growing local success, and they were soon offered a recording contract, if they traveled to LA.

This was a dream come true for Billy and Graham, but Billy had fallen madly in love with Camila, a stabilizing force in his life, but he left her behind and moved with the group to LA to pursue a musical career.  

The band called themselves “The Six” and released a competent album that sold well.  The success, money, and loneliness, drove Billy to drugs and alcohol when the band began touring.  Fortunately, Camila. who began to worry, visited him, and demanded that he get clean if he wanted to stay a family.

After their album, Rod, their manager, wanted The Six to do a duet single with Daisy Jones, on a song Billy had written.  The Six wasn’t keen about Daisy joining the band, and Billy really resented it, but in the end they relented.  While recording the Billy’s song, Daisy sung it in a way that changed the songs meaning from the way Billy had written it.  Billy was incensed, but once the single was released, it became a mega-hit.

There was a lot of tension between Billy and Daisy, both extremely talented songwriters and singers.  Billy, recognized Daisy’s talent, but was jealous of Daisy, and afraid of her.  He recognized her drug addiction and feared for his own relapse which would break up his marriage with Camila and their young family.  It was his family that enabled him to keep stable and straight.  He was aware of his weakness for alcohol and tried to keep away from Daisy, even though they were now constantly thrust together in the band.

With personal difficulty, Daisy and and Billy co-wrote all of the songs for the band’s next album, which became a nationwide blockbuster.  However, the personal dynamics between members of the band changed and produced ever increasing tensions between the musicians.  The author did a good job of showing the misunderstandings and tensions that arose, and the resulting struggles between the novel’s characters.

The novel is unique, in that the prose was written in the style of a documentary film, using just interviews of the characters.   These interviews show the perspectives of the band members to the different events that occur during the rise to fame of the band.  

Like I said at the beginning, I really enjoyed the novel and now that I have read it, I am anxious to watch the mini-series.

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Wednesday 21 June 2023

Solstice Solar Alignment

    Today is the Summer Solstice, which marks the official start of Summer.  Living in the the Interior of British Columbia has made the sunrise and sunset positions of the sun during the year pretty obvious, because you can see it in relation to the mountains.  Today marks the most north/western position where the sun comes up.  I find it interesting that on the Solstice, the sun comes up over the mountain lining up with the direction of the dam of my pond.  Today we had a light overcast so I couldn’t really see the distinct orb of the sun, but from the photo, you can make out its position from the brightest part of the sky.

    At the Winter Solstice, the sun comes up way off to the left side of the photo, and doesn’t even come over the mountain range, as it is viewed from our house.  

    I have always been fascinated by the architecture of past civilizations that were built to highlight the position of the sun, usually the Spring Equinox.  Stonehenge is the most well known example, but in the Americas many civilizations built massive structures to mark the sun’s Equinox position at sunrise.  The Mayan pyramid “El Castillo” at Chichen Itza in Mexico, famously makes a curvy shadow down the steps of the pyramid that joins the statue head of a snake at the bottom, at the Equinox. 

    Of course, the dam of my pond doesn’t come anywhere close to those ancient structures that were purposely built to accent the position of the sun.  In fact the Solstice alignment was a complete accident, but still, I am happy to have noticed it, because it helps me register the relative position of the sun as it changes throughout the year.

    While it is nice to officially be in summer, it is also a bit depressing to know that from now on, the days will be getting shorter and shorter, as we move toward winter.

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Tuesday 20 June 2023

"Zion Tree" Painting Finished

    Yesterday I had the last square of this painting to paint.  I mixed my first color, but then the power went out and my computer went down and the lights went out, so I couldn’t finish it, but today everything was back to normal and I completed “Zion Tree”

    The image is one that of a Cottonwood tree that I once saw on a visit to Zion National Park in the US.  I had taken a photo of it and it had been one of my favorite images for years.  I always thought that one day I would like to paint it and finally did.  The skeleton of the tree standing against the massive sandstone rock cliff, was a slow paint, requiring a lot of color mixing.  I started painting it in September and the 24” X 36” (60cm X 90cm) canvas took me 205 hours to paint.

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Sunday 18 June 2023

A Little Music at Dunster

    Our Jam was asked to play for the season opening of the Dunster Museum yesterday.  We are always eager to play music so seven of us packed up our instruments for an hour’s worth of playing.  It was a coolish overcast day yesterday, and just before we began to play a few sprinkles began to fall from the sky, so we set up and did our playing clumped together under a small tent.  Luckily, the few drops that came down never materialized into a real shower.

    I always need something to worry about and yesterday it was the use of a sound system.  During our weekly music sessions we don’t use any microphones, but they are needed when we play outside, so we used several of them at Dunster.  The whole time we were playing I was worried about the volume level and what it sounded like to the audience, but it seems that our volume balance was good according to the reports I got later.

    I know that I need practice using a mike and I am considering to start using a PA system on the porch of the McBride Train Station, where we play every Tuesday evening.  Of course that means I will have to start dragging microphones, mike stands, cables, a PA amp, and speakers along with my mandolin and guitar, and I already have to take all of our music stands and books to our sessions.  If I decide to take my electric guitar, I have to add it and amplifier to the load.  In university when I was in a rock band, it was hauling around all of the equipment that finally just became too much of a hassle.  It is starting to feel like deja vu all over again.

    Before we began our playing yesterday,  there was a group of beginner drummers who were sitting in a circle having their first lesson.

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Saturday 17 June 2023

1986: Secondhand Smoke

I try to be an easygoing person, but sometimes I get to the point where I have had enough and feel like I have to do something, even though it meant ruffling some feathers.  I reached that point, one morning during the second week in January, 1986, when I walked into our Forestry office.  As soon as I had gotten through the door that morning, I was confronted with the stale odor of cigarette smoke that saturated the space.

I think what brought me to that point of finally complaining was the lingering memory an incident that happened when I was out snowshoeing on a crisp, sunny, cold, winter’s day in the mountains of the Upper Goat River, helping a crew searching for Mountain Pine Beetles.  Mid-morning, needing a rest from tramping through the deep snow, I decided to stop for a snack.  I settled down on the snowy mountain slope, looking out through the trees toward the pristine forested peaks on the other side of the valley.   I unzipped the back of my cruising vest and dug out an apple that I had remembered putting there weeks before.

  The apple still looked okay, but as I moved it up toward my mouth, the apple got within range of my nose, I let out an “Ugh!”

It reeked of cigarette smoke. It must have picked up the smell during the time my cruising vest hung in the office.  It made me think; if an inanimate apple, inside a cruising vest for a week, can pick up all that cigarette smoke, what is happening to my lungs as I breathe in all that office air all day long?

First thing that did that morning after smelling the smoke-saturated office air, was to pen a letter to Management stating the dangers of second-hand smoke and how it was endangering the health of all of the Forestry employees who were being forced to breathe it all day long in our office.  Surprisingly, my letter got some results.

Two days later Management called a staff meeting to discuss smoking in the office and as one might have expected, the meeting got to be quite tense at times.  Smokers, of course, enjoyed sitting at their desk, leisurely fingering their cigarettes and puffing away on their fags, but there were others in the office that felt the same as me.  After some heated discussions, a compromise was finally reached:  Smoking would only be allowed in the Staff Room, and non-smokers could take their coffee break before the smokers took theirs.

I knew I would be making some enemies with my letter (and did) but I felt strongly that it was grossly unfair that the health of all the non-smokers should be jeopardized by those who chose to smoke.   Of course, the compromise meant that cigarette smoke was not totally eliminated in the office, but it was a first step, and the air quality in the office did greatly improve. 

For decades now, smoking is banned inside all public buildings, but that was certainly not the case back then.   My letter in 1986, which did upset a lot of my co-workers, was the first shot in the war against second hand smoke in buildings around here, and certainly things were moving in that direction throughout Canada.  Later, smoking would be totally banned inside our office, forcing the smokers to go outside, even in below zero temperatures, if they wanted to take a drag on their cigarettes.  

    Below is a cartoon that I drew at the time.

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Friday 16 June 2023

Reducing The Fire Hazard

    After our recent evacuation because of a forest fire, we have been a lot more concerned about what we could do to reduce the fire hazard around our house.  We attended a public meeting on the subject and came away rather sobered after realizing just how hazardous our property is, so lately I have been working doing things to reduce the hazard.

    I have always loved the wildness of our property, and tend to let nature take its course, as a result there are now a lot of things that I need to change.   Coniferous trees are much more of a fire hazard than deciduous trees.  Luckily, most of the trees around our house are deciduous (Birch, Cottonwood, and Aspen) but there are a few Spruce conifers.   One thing that can be done to reduce the hazard of conifers is to cut off all of the branches within 6 feet (2 m) of the ground.

    That is what I did to one yesterday.  The photo shows the before (on the left) and after of my work on the right.  The tree now looks a little manipulated, but I guess I will get used to its new shape.  It does seem a lot safer from a fire. 

    This particular Spruce was not the healthiest and seemed to be on decline, but I do have a really beautiful Spruce with branches down to the ground that will be more of a sacrifice to trim, because I love the natural way it presently looks.  It will be harder for me to “trim” it, but we live in dangerous times and we have to do what we can to mitigate the danger as much as we can.

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Thursday 15 June 2023

Unexpected Tree

     This morning when I looked outside, I thought, “Oh no, more figured it was just a morning fog.  When I was out with Kona for our walk, I noticed the sun trying to show itself through the fog, then I noticed the silhouette of a tree against the orb of the sun.  That was totally unexpected because the fog had totally obscured the forested slope.

    Anyway, I thought it was an interesting sight so I took the photo above.

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Wednesday 14 June 2023

Wet & Smoky

     Surprisingly, while the eastern part of the US and even countries as far away Scandinavia have been suffering beneath a blanket of smoke from Canadian forest fires, the Robson Valley has been relatively smoke free.  This, even though there are really huge forest fires in BC north of us.  However, this morning when Kona and I stepped outside, that first breath we took told us that the smoke had found us.

    It was unexpected since we had pouring rain all through the night.  I always assume that rain will somehow cleanse the air, but it doesn’t seem to do that.  Instead it just makes smog.

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Tuesday 13 June 2023

Garden Pest: Kona

    Kona is a very high maintenance dog that is constantly getting into trouble.  Yesterday I was weeding in the garden and Kona came in and sat in the shade beneath the garden gate.  I glanced up and saw her chewing on something and thought, “It is sure nice just to have her content and occupying herself.  I resumed my weeding, assuming that Kona had picked up another stick and was chewing on it.

    I was wrong.

    What Kona was chewing on was one of my small cabbage plants.  You can see it in the photo, laying in the grass, just below Kona’s leg.   

    I then noticed that she had pulled up several of the other cabbage plants.  

    Kona probably didn’t know why I was mad at her, but I had to express my feelings.  I took two of the damaged cabbage plants she had pulled out, and stuck them back into the soil, and watered them.  They still had a few roots, so I hope they will grow.

    I thought that being fenced in with me in the garden was a safe place for Kona to be.  I was mistaken.

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Monday 12 June 2023

Some Ducklings

    Years ago I built my pond to create habitat for wildlife, so it was rewarding this morning, when Kona and I were walking around the pond, to see that there had been a new family born on the pond.  I saw a mother Mallard and her six ducklings swimming around.  I often have broods of baby ducks born on the pond, but I don’t recall seeing any last year, so I was happy to see them today.

    Many years ago I had broods of Wood Ducks born.  Wood Ducks nest in trees and I was able to watch the little ducklings, just balls of fluff, jump from their nesting box high on a tree, and gently fall down to their mother who was calling them from the ground.

    It would be thrilling to see Wood Duck babies again, but I am content at just seeing some young Mallards.

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Sunday 11 June 2023

A Bear Spray Story

    Back in the 1990’s, the introduction of bear spray for protection was a great innovation for outdoors enthusiasts and those that worked in the bush.  It gave a sense of protection from bears to my co-workers at forestry that often had to go out into isolated areas alone to do their jobs.  Fortunately I never had to use it, and I don’t recall any of my workmates having to use it on a bear either, however I do remember one event where one of my fellow employees did spray the cayenne-based spray.

    I usually biked to work, but one day, for some reason, I drove.  Just a kilometer or so from our house, I saw a neighbor, who also worked at Forestry, pushing his bike down the road.  I assumed that his bike must have broken, so I slowed as I approached him, rolled down the window, and asked him if he wanted a ride into work.

    I noticed that there was something wrong with his face as he answered, “No, I will be alright in a minute.”

    Then I heard the story:

    Dave has just left his house, riding his bike to work.  As he peddled, he noticed that his can of bear spray was working its way out of his pannier, or bike bag.  He reached back with one hand to push the bear spray back deeper into the bag, but while doing that he accidentally triggered it and spray shot up toward his face, burning his eyes, so he had to stop, get off of his bike, and just walk the bike until he was well enough to continue riding it.

    I have never encountered the spray, but many times while cutting hot peppers, I had accidentally rubbed my eyes, and suffered the intense burning the chilis caused.  I imagine bear spray would be a whole lot worse.

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Saturday 10 June 2023

An Interesting Map Request

On that first day back to work after New Years Day in 1986, as I was working on updating the maps, I got a call to come up to the reception area of the office to help someone wanting a map.  Being the person who was responsible for the maps and air photos, meant that whenever anyone came into the Forestry office looking for a map, it was me that was called “up front” to help to help them out.  

Usually, the map seeker was a local farmer, a hiker, or someone interested in buying a property, but this time, it was grizzled old prospector, wearing a rough looking heavy winter coat and a pair of old felt-pack boots, who had come into the office seeking a map.

I accompanied the bearded old prospector back to the area containing all of the map cabinets and asked him what area he needed a map for.  He told me he needed a map showing the land between Loos and Humbug Creek, then added, that he needed the map so he could register a mineral claim. 

He then relayed an interesting story about why.

According to the prospector, “A meteorite had fallen there and made a hole.”

He had heard the story from a “half-breed,” who has been working on the railroad and had heard the sonic boom made by the meteor.

I gave the old guy the maps he wanted, but never heard anything more about the meteorite or the old prospector.

I wasn’t very convinced he would ever find the meteorite, because the story he had heard sounded rather dubious; like something one would hear late at night in a bar, but who knows, maybe the reason I had never heard anything more was because after finding and selling the meteorite, the old prospector quietly took his riches and retired in Hawaii.

My encounter with the prospector was one of the more interesting map requests that I had received in my twenty-plus years working for the Forest Service.  His story was one that elicited a lot of thoughts and fantasies, as I returned to my desk to continue working on the maps.

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