October 08, 2017

Autumn Colors on the Burns

Just watching the seasons change and the forests change.
Burned in 2012, reseeded with grasses  2013; now the oak brush is taking over.
Nearest slopes (where the oak brush is turning) burned in 2011.

October 05, 2017

Make It Snow Make It Snow Make It Snow

1920s rain dance, probably at the Prairie Band Potawatomi agency in Kanas (WIkipedia).
Colorado ski areas and water managers keep employing rain-makers, but of the mechanical cloud-seeding variety, not the ritual variety, reports the Summit Daily.
The concept of cloud seeding has been around since the 1940s, when Bernard Vonnegut (brother of author Kurt) discovered that silver iodide could produce ice crystals when introduced into cloud chambers.

In those heady days, cloud seeding was heralded as a way to produce rain where there was none, boosting crop yields and filling reservoirs to the brim.

That was a wild overstatement, and cloud seeding's reputation suffered for it.
 • • •

Western Weather Consultants claims that its two seeding operations in the High Country generate between 180,00 and 300,000 added acre-feet of water per year, and that has been backed up by independent studies.
That's pretty impressive. Read the whole thing.

September 29, 2017

A Venue of Vultures & Other Links

Crappy phone photo from across a pasture.
It has been raining, and when it's not raining, drizzling. Matt Sellers, Beulah's own weatherman, called in "Seattle Week" on his "Wet Mountain Weather" Facebook page.

Driving through eastern Custer County yesterday, I saw big dark birds in a tree holding their wings spread like capes. Through the binocular, they were turkey vultures exhibiting (I just learnt this word) the "horaltic pose." Drying their wings? But it was drizzling. Thermo-regulating? With the temperature about 48° F., there was no need to cool down. Maybe they just do it to look menacing.

What surprised me, though, was that I saw vultures at all. I thought they all had migrated south by now. Time to talk to the raptor experts.

Yes, according to that supposed lingo of animal gatherings, e.g. "parliament of owls," vultures form "venues." I suspect that the whole business was made up by some 19th-century English sporting vicar sitting in his study.

And there is more . . . 

• Five weeks missing!  All of Alma, Colo., celebrated after this lost dog was found on Mount Bross

How to tell a bird's age by its molt pattern 


• Another lucky dog! A Minnesota wire-haired pointer dodges wolves. "' The dog jumped in the window of the truck, and the wolf did a quick lap around the truck,' Bailey said." I bet his owner will start carrying something on his hip for when a 20-gauge and #6 shot are not enough.

September 21, 2017

Smashing Painted Ladies

I was driving up the canyon into the Wet Mountain Valley, flinching every time that a Painted Lady butterfly hit the windshield.

They are migrating this time of year, headed south, and apparently this summer produced good breeding conditions.

"I must have killed millions of them," said the FedEx driver as she passed a package to the café owner in Westcliffe.

"We'll call her Butterfly Killer," said the owner facetiously, after the driver went out the door.

As usual, we go smashing along through beauty.

UPDATE: The migration was large enough to create radar echoes. That's kind of wonderful.

September 12, 2017

The Old Rifle Still Has Admirers

From the "Basic Field Manual, U.S. Rifle,
Caliber .30, M1903," published in 1939.
"Put the sights up to eight hundred, hold a yard left for the wind . . . "

Because of some ongoing research of mine, I perked up a few years ago when gun blogger and writer Tamara Keel, then employed at a gun shop in Knoxville, Tenn., announced that there was an M1903 Springfield, caliber .30-06, in the shop — from an estate, as I recall — at a reasonable price.

I contacted her, made payment arrangements, and soon it arrived at a pawn shop in Florence, Colo., for the federal firearms transfer.

Unwrapped, I found it slathered in Cosmoline preservative grease, a clue to its story.

I looked at the receiver, which proclaimed "US Springfield Armory Model 1903" with serial number 954801. A little web searching revealed that that serial number was assigned in 1918.

And someone had used a knife (bayonet?) point or nail to scratch a large "AK" on both sides of the stock." A doughboy of the Great War? Arthur Kennedy? Arnold Karlson?

And it had that way-too-complicated pre-World War One rear sight, with (count them) four different sight notches or peep holes, including the "battle sight," which is calibrated to 547 yards, says the later 1939 Field Manual  (not 500, not 600).  The rear sight itself is calibrated for a maximum distance of 2,500 or 2,700 yards, depending which notch you use. That is sort of like having a car speedometer that is calibrated up to 200 mph.

video 
But as I disassembled and cleaned the parts with gasoline (and the stock with ammonia-based oven cleaner), the rifle's origin story took a different turn. I fell down the collectors' rabbit hole.

For instance, the straight-wristed stock came before the pistol-grip stock (and the intermediate "scant" stock, which was the straight version re-cut to a semi-pistol grip). Right? Not exactly. There were seven different models of the straight stock. Collect the whole set.

What I possessed, I discovered, was a "Franken-rifle." At some time circa 1944, someone sat at a bench or by an assembly line in an American arsenal, rebuilding service rifles. A World War One-era Springfield receiver came from this bin, a World War Two-production Remington bolt from that one, a Remington magazine from another, a brand-new High-Standard barrel was threaded on, and the whole attached to a used rifle stock, bearing the initials AK. (The stock itself lacks the finger grooves common on early models, so it might be early 1940s production.)
Early and later 1903 Springfield stocks, with and
without finger grooves. (National Park Service)

So forget "Arnold Kennedy" of the American Expeditionary Forces of 1918. This rifle was an "arsenal mutt."

Maybe "AK" had not needed his rifle anymore. Consider this photo from the Guadacanal campaign of 1942-43. Two Marines, after the shooting has stopped in their sector, have stacked abandoned Springfield rifles on one of the island's beaches amidst other debris of war.

These rifles presumably would have gone somewhere for servicing; then they would have been re-issued or placed in storage. The Springfields were issued throughout WW2 to combat zone troops other than infantry — artillery crews, combat engineers, Signal Corpsmen, and the like.

My rebuilt rifle went into storage — and stayed there until it was purchased (through the Civilian Marksmanship Program?) but never unwrapped and cleaned.

I took my rifle to the my club range (maximum 200 yards) and shot it. The action was smooth as butter, and the accuracy was good if you remembered to hold low on a bull's-eye target. I considered making it a "deep woods" hunting rifle, but as sure as I did that, I would be in a situation where I needed my scoped rifle, so I never carried it afield.

Over Labor Day weekend, however, I found myself down at the Whittington Center shooting complex in New Mexico, where the rifle ranges go out to 500 meters (the high-power silhouette range), and where the target everyone wants to hit is the White Buffalo silhouette at 1,123 yards (1027 meters).

And I hit it, using a modern .300 Win. Mag. rifle with a scope.

Yet there I was, surrounded by synthetic stocks and powerful scopes, but everyone wanted to try the M1903.  Dylan M., who served with the Marines in Afghanistan just a few years back, picked it up, dropped into a military kneeling pose, and would have made the shooting instructors of 1939 happy.
Dylan M. shoots the M1903.

My old friend Galen Geer, himself a former Marine of the Vietnam era, was also shooting it. After a little while, he looked downrange at the White Buffalo, did some calculating based on my ballistics table, and selected the open battle sight, the one calibrated for 547 yards. Then he took a solid bench-rest position

Holding "six buffaloes high" and, as the song says, "a yard left for the wind," he fired. Nothing. He fired again. Nothing.

On his third shot, Dylan and I looked at each other.

"Did you hear something?"

"Maybe — not sure."
Galen sights in with Dylan spotting.

Galen fired a fourth time. A second later came a definite "tink" from down range.

If you're not a shooter, that might not sound like a big deal, but hitting a target more than a half mile away with no optical magnification and eyes no longer young — that's something.

I think I need to go back and do it again myself — with the Springfield.

August 23, 2017

Fighting for the Flock — The Life of Livestock Guardian Dogs

“Where the Dogs Are, the Wolves Cannot Be” (A Turkish shepherd) 

I grew up with hunting dogs, and I knew a few herding dogs. I knew about the world of little dogs riding in big motorhomes, the world of mutts who went everywhere, and the world of generic black-and-white farm collies who never sat paw in the main family house but still had full, purposeful dog lives.

But there is another dog world about which I knew little, and that is the world where dogs fight wolves.

Cat and Jim Urbigkit raise sheep on private land and public-land leases in western Wyoming. Living south of Yellowstone and Grand Teton national parks, their flocks must contend not just with “mesopredators” such as foxes and coyotes, but “apex predators” as well: wolves, black bears, and grizzlies, all enjoying some degree of legal protection. Nor do Cat and Jim wish to exterminate those wolves and grizzlies, merely to keep them off the sheep.
Rena was there to meet them when the wolves leapt into the pasture. One hundred thirty pounds of determined Akbash sheep guardian dog, she met the wolves head-on, brawling in the distance from the herd, in the darkness, in the rain. When the wolves attacked, Rena could face one, as the other attacked her rear. The wolves sunk their teeth into her haunches, nearly severing her tail at its based and biting her tender underside. Fighting for both her own life as well as the lives on her sheep, Rena battled on, keeping the wolves from reaching the herd.
Rena was the subject of her own book, The Guardian Team: On the Job With Rena and Roo, Roo being a guardian burro (effective against coyotes but not bears or wolves).

A few years ago the Urbigkits received funding from the state of Wyoming to study livestock guardian dogs in other countries, including Spain, Turkey, Bulgaria, Lesotho, and Central Asia — all places with long traditions of using guardian dogs in addition to herding dogs.

These dogs grow up alongside the sheep. They must guard the sheep against predators, yet not be too hostile to humans and other dogs. It is a difficult balance.

In her new book Brave and Loyal: An Illustrated Celebration of Livestock Guardian Dogs, Cat Urbigkit writes not just for the livestock producers who could use guardian dogs, but for anyone who might encounter them on the range — or for anyone who likes reading about dogs. You hear not from them, but from the herders and dog breeders (usually the same people) of Bulgaria, Turkey, etc.

She told one interviewer,
“The thing I liked most was that I got to meet Spanish mastiff dogs in Spain, and I wasn’t expecting how effective or large they are,” she says. “The dogs are very effective against wolves, and we visited ranches in central Spain that had bands of sheep living with packs of wolves on the same ranch. When you have 11 Spanish mastiff dogs with a thousand head of sheep and very few losses, that’s an amazing record.”
Finally, if you are out on the range and encounter guardian dogs, keep your distance. If you are bicycling, dismount. The dogs (and wildlife) regard a bicycle as a predator — it is quiet, fast-moving, and has big eyes in front (sunglasses, goggles, and they may react appropriately.

August 20, 2017

The Frontier American Log Cabin . . . Was Finnish


You may already know that in 17th-century America, there was New England (Plymouth, etc.), and south of that was New Amsterdam (New York), and south of that were more English colonies. But in between, in parts of what are now Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware, was New Sweden, which lasted roughly from 1635–1655, when the Dutch took over.

You may have even heard that the traditional American log cabin came from New Sweden. Further south in Virginia, the English colonists were building  houses with wooden trusses whose walls were filled with with wattle-and-daub and later with brick, "Tudor" style. In New England, they did something similar but with clapboards.

But the settlers of New Sweden, who were largely ethnic Finns, put their axes on their shoulders, looked around at the trees, and started building log houses. At that time, today's Finland was part of the kingdom of Sweden, and the two populations were intermingled.

As the log cabin building style was diffused on the American frontier, a lot the refinements were lost, such as how to build log joints that shed water.

Here, in some kind of "living history" village, you can see Finnish carpenters building a little house in the traditional way. Lots of nice broad-ax work there!

If you want to get deeply into the 17th-century history of the Atlantic seaboard, then I recommend The Barbarous Years: The Peopling of British North America--The Conflict of Civilizations, 1600-1675

Usually, all you get is Jamestown > Pilgrims > Salem Witch Trials > American Revolution, and this book fills in a lot of gaps.

August 18, 2017

An Owl in a High Valley Pasture

The Wet Mountain Valley
I was dispatched yesterday to catch an injured owl at a building site near the Custer County airport, Silver West. (True fact: it has a 6,954 ft./2.1 km. paved runway, in case you need a place to land your 737 in a hurry.)

I found the site, and there under a backhoe sat a great horned owl. It looked too alert to simply walk up and grab. The "toreador" technique of tossing a blanket over it might have worked, but the blanket might well have caught on the machine. So I took the big, soft net and ambled along, checking out the owl.

No slacker, the owl made a little hopping flight, landed — and then ran like a pheasant under a barbed-wire fence. #*@$%!

The woman who had called me asked if she and her twenty-something son, who were the only people working there, could help me. I said yes, I could use your help. She fetched him from where he was running a plate compactor on the other side of the site.

I arm-signaled: "The owl is there. Go around. Pincer movement."

We crossed the fence, made our pincer, and the owl, distracted, let me come close. When it tried to fly, I swiped  with the net, not exactly catching it. But it dropped to the ground and assumed its defensive posture — on its back, talons up. An easy snatch,  and it was time for a long drive to Pueblo and the raptor center.

I do not have the veterinary diagnosis, other than that the owl was probably "young of the year." That it could still fly a little makes me hope that it had only a soft-tissue injury, but I don't know.

Without the woman and her son, I would have been pursuing that owl solo across the landscape shown above, and would I have ever captured it, both of us tired and stressed?

Right now I am reading The Devil's Teeth: A True Story of Obsession and Survival Among America's Great White Sharks by Susan Casey,* who used to be with Outside magazine. Describing her time with shark researchers on the Farallone Islands near San Francisco, it has lots on hunting behavior, of course.

When I met the son close-up, after the owl capture, we had a brief conversation, and I thought, "I never saw this guy before, but he immediately understood through nonverbal signals what was happening and what we needed to do. Truly, humans really are pack hunters."

* Her website shows the nature writer in a little black dress, a change from the usual boonie hat-and-boots image.

August 12, 2017

Another Complicated Bear Story

Not one of the most recent bear cubs, but from a similar situation.



You saw the same story in the Colorado media and even nationally, which means that it came from a news release and that none of the reporters was actually on the scene. And how would they be, unless they had a radio scanner in the news room on Colorado Parks & Wildlife frequencies—which they don't. (Police and fire, yes.)
A mother bear died Thursday after Colorado Parks and Wildlife tried to remove her and two young cubs from a residential neighborhood just south of Colorado Springs.
Notice how reporter Ellie Mulder writes (or cuts and pastes), "The cubs, which can't survive on their own yet, will be taken to a rehabilitation facility and eventually released."

That reminds me how how my mother once told me that my cat and her kittens were being "taken to a farm." I still hate her for that lie, and hate myself for believing it.

Yet in this case it is true! I arrived at said rehabilitation facility today to deliver a load of food donations, having picked up a bag of "large breed" puppy chow myself.  (Black bears are a large breed, aren't they? Cubs need lots of calories and protein.)

They have eight cubs this year, and they are all hungry.

The cub pictured  — a different case — was hanging around a home on the edge of Cañon City with its mother. I saw a photo of the sow, and she looked emaciated. One day she was found dead at the house. The district wildlife manager (game warden) who investigated said that she had puncture wounds on her leg (fight with a bigger bear?) and broken ribs (hit by a car?).

Grimly but efficiently, the game warden and the homeowner loaded the sow's body into a culvert trap. Still seeking to nurse, the cub climbed in, was caught, and transported to the rehabilitation facility to dine on puppy chow and donated watermelon. It's doing fine thus far.

Back to the news story. The bear was in somebody's yard, and someone official had to do something, so they darted her, she climbed higher, and fell to her death — not the first time that has happened.

Some thoughts:

1. Why not use a culvert trap and catch both sow and cubs? Was the area too busy? Too much interference from people, dogs, whatever?  Or was it just a case of act now and wrap it up?

2. Not all game wardens will do even that much. They might just take their rifle out of the truck and solve the problem that way. (The higher-ups seem to have no problem with that approach.)  How much does the response depend on who is watching?

3. Some game wardens, however, will do all that they can to save bears. They counsel residents on how "bear-proof" their homes, do their best to catch and transport "problem bears," and issue citations to people who harm without cause. I can think of a couple like that in my area.

Mostly, I am just tired of a civilization(s)  that cannot coexist with other-than-human nations.

#colorado parks and wildlife #bears

August 10, 2017

Off to See the King

King bolete. Slightly past its prime, but with careful trimming and slicing,
onto the drying screen it goes.



After last Friday's hailstorm left our vegetable gardens looking bombed and machine-gunned, there was only one thing left to look forward to — mushroom season.

I envy people who live in wetter climates like Alaska and the Pacific Northwest for this one thing: they can hunt mushrooms much of the year. We get some in the early summer, but the frenzy starts in August.

The first part of the week produced a flush of "slippery jacks" (Suillus granulatus) near the house. They are boletes but low-grade ones (from the eating standpoint)  that quickly turn wormy and mushy — the window for picking them lasts about two days.  M. says that they are "too bland" but dries and adds them to her vegetable soup stock mixture.

Today M. and I  drove up to the mountainside that we call The Mushroom Store, and the first thing we saw was a car parked in "our spot," a little pullout that I like because it is is a couple hundred yards from where the picking starts, instead of right beside it. I pulled onto a nearby old logging road instead, and we got out as quietly as we could.

We started toward the first area that we always check — and saw movement through the trees. Time for another route. We wear muted colors and communicate with little whistles and hand gestures. You never know, there might be Russians.

So we faded off into the woods and in about an hour had 23 pounds of mushrooms, mostly boletes with some hawk's wings. That made for a couple of hours of processing — the dehydrator full and laboring, screens all over the greenhouse, another screen on the hood of M's Jeep in the garage — for now, because it's raining. We will be dancing them in and out of the sunshine for the next two days.

All this rain — the high water, flash floods, sandbagging — at least it's producing mushrooms here in the Southern Rockies.

August 02, 2017

iPhone versus Pentax Point-and-Shoot

M. and I went for a hike today — a mushroom reconnaissance, really — and I got to thinking about pocket cameras.

In this corner, my ten-year-old Pentax Optio E40, 8.1 megapixel sensor, 5x optical zoom plus digital zoom, 6.2–18.2 mm focal length.

In the other corner, my three-year-old iPhone 5s, also about 8 megapixel sensor, and a tiny lens (no optical zoom) coupled to software jiggery-pokery that produces pretty good pictures.

Both have built-in flashes, but today's comparison was outdoor photography.

Like almost everyone who has a smartphone, I carry it most of the time — especially in fire-and-flood season.

The Pentax Optio has a logged a lot of miles in my daypack, hunting vest pocket, etc. How would it hold up head-to-head against the iPhone? Should I still bother with it? With batteries, it's an extra 6.2 oz. (177 grams).

On to the test. Both cameras produced JPG images in the 4–6 MB range, about 45 x 34 inches (Pentax) or 45 x 32 inches (iPhone). For the blog, I have reduced all of them to 12 inches in width (no cropping) at 72 dpi.

1. Wildflowers
Monarda (bee balm) / iPhone 5s


Monarda / Pentax Optio E40
I have not adjusted the exposure, which was a little darker on the Pentax. Neither focused perfectly, partly due to the trouble of seeing the camera screen in bright mountain sunlight. (A through-the-lens viewfinder camera is what you really need in this situation.)

2. Long-distance landscape
View across the Wet Mountain Valley / iPhone


View across the Wet Mountain Valley / Pentax

The iPhone did a better job with the values in the clouds than the point-and-shoot Pentax did. Lightening the latter's photo to match the iPhone tended to wash out the definition in the clouds.

3. Maximum zoom
 
The town of Westcliffe from about seven miles away / iPhone



Westcliffe / Pentax, maximum optical zoom 

Westcliffe / Pentax, maximum optical zoom + digital zoom
The Pentax zooms more, but there is probably a spy satellite that could give a better street view of Westcliffe, Colo., on a sunny day. I wonder what sort of software jiggery-pokery they have.

4. Other considerations

Features: Both shoot videos. The Optio has built-in settings for close-up, landscape, portrait, action, night photography, etc.

Storage: With the right SD card, the Optio can equal the iPhone's storage capacity.

Weight: The iPhone5s is slightly heavier, about 5 grams. But it is a computer that takes photographs, whereas the Optio is only a camera.

Battery: Both suck in different ways. All cell phones run down their batteries too fast, even when asleep, unless you turn off GPS, wireless, etc. The Optio runs down its AA batteries just remembering the time and date, and when you change them, you have to reset those numbers. Figure on a set of batteries a day with active shooting, although you can use rechargeables.

Durability: I keep my iPhone in an OtterBox case, and so far I have not broken it. The Optio is susceptible to dust because of its zoom lens, so normally it rides in a tactical case, which is a plastic sandwich bag. If I dropped it off a cliff or it fell out of the boat, I would not feel so bad, which is a plus.

5. Conclusion

Smartphones are killing the low-end point-and-shoot compact camera market. The Optio and its competitors offer built-in shooting modes, which I like, but smartphone owners can add apps to improve their features. (I like Solocator, which adds altitude, compass bearing, and latitude and longitude to photos.)

My conclusion: I will probably keep using the Optio until it breaks, but I doubt if I will replace it, except possibly with a cheap used one. I will keep my digital SLR for the "serious" photography.

July 28, 2017

Links Taller than Your Head

It's a good year for wild sunflowers.
Links. Do I have links. They sprout like sunflowers on the prairie.

How to improve your outdoor photography. 10-2-4 is not about Dr. Pepper — 2 p.m. is when you are traveling to the place that you wish to photograph after 4 p.m. And "Zoom with your feet" does not apply to buffalo.

Predatory ducks. It's Romania, so maybe they suck blood as well.

• How older elk survive to a ripe old age (for elk).  They learn the difference between bowhunters and rifle hunters.

A poacher goes down hard. If only this happened more often.

• From Colorado Outdoors: "Five Tips to Catch More Fish This Summer."

Another article on bold, aggressive urban coyotes. Denver, this time.

• High country trails don't just happen. It takes people like this.

July 15, 2017

Lost Dog Survives Wolves & Winter — And She's a Chessie

So out of loyalty to this fine breed, I give you this story of a long-lost elderly dog who survived:

"The last [the dog's owners" had heard, a hunter in Jerusalem Valley had seen a brown dog in the forest, running from wolves.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/article160290474.html#storylink=cpy"

"The past year’s hard winter would’ve been tough to survive in the wild, even for an animal in its prime, Glankler said. The dog she had rescued, though a hardy Chessie (a dog known for its wooly, oily coat that was bred for the extreme cold of retrieving in the Atlantic), was completely deaf and clearly pretty old. Glankler couldn’t be completely sure this dog was Mo."

Read the whole thing.

This post approved by Fisher,
who is not lost.

Read more here: http://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/article160290474.html#storylink=cpy"

July 06, 2017

Nature, Symbiosis . . . Ticks

Lovely complexity of nature.
M. and I were in Pueblo today, and someone tipped off one of the game wardens, who called me to say that she was going out to the Transportation Technology Center (where the levitating ghost train once ran) to pick up an orphan fawn — and could we relay it to the rehabilitators who live near us?

Oh sure. We had to hang around for an hour at the public library, which was torture, until she and a state wildlife biologist pulled up in her shiny black Colorado Parks and Wildlife truck.

When they handed over the crated fawn, they mentioned that it had a lot of ticks in its ear. And when we unloaded it, we saw them, like a bunch of grapes.

C., the rehabber, said she would enjoy popping them and killing them. She has a macabre sense of humor sometimes.

It can be worse. This page, from an organization devoted to creating perfect private habitat for whitetail deer, has some gruesome pictures under the heading "Can Ticks Kill Fawns?"

Writing about ticks always makes me think of outdoor entrepreneur and author George Leonard Herter. (Before there was Cabela's, there was Herter's.) Steve Bodio and I form a sort of two-person George Leonard Herter appreciation society.

Herter wrote with no regard for the norms and niceties of "sporting literature," just saying whatever was on his mind. Dare I say it, he was the Donald Trump of hunting writers.

He frequently mentions ticks, as in the number of them found on African game animals. In The Truth about Hunting in Today's Africa: And How to Go on Safari for $690.00 (1963), a book that now feels as distant as anything by Hemingway or Robert Ruark, he notes,
A really large rhino with a trophy size front horn of 30 inches of more [sic] is now [c.1960] impossible to get. Tick birds feed off of ticks that inhabit rhinos and also off from the blood that continually uses out of the scars on their skins. By watching for tick birds you can often locate a rhino. The tick birds, however, warn the rhino of your approach.
And also this exchange:
Jacques walked to the rear of the rhino and lifted its tail. Its anus was ringed with huge ticks a half inch in diameter.

"Every time I shoot one of these pigs I can't help feeling sorry for it. How would like to go around all your life with ticks like that around your anus?"
Show me another safari/hunting writer who discusses rhino ticks. Not "unhinged" as the New York Times described him, but just untroubled by the niceties of sporting lit.

UPDATE: The fawn died four days later. Tick-infested fawns are often "compromised," the rehabbers  said, which fits with the article that I linked to.

July 05, 2017

Notes from a Small-Town Independence Day Parade

Kids and and early-model Farmall Cub tractor. Can't beat that.
Florence, Colorado, has joined the trend towards "wet" parades. The parade route is divided into two halves: all units move through the dry half first, and then at an intersection, those who do not wish to continue—such as units with lots of bunting and young children—peel off.
These spectators are staying dry.
As we frequently do, our little fire department contributed a unit to the parade — and a unit to another parade in another small town. For the second year running, I drove in Florence.
Hah, what is your puny squirter against a city water truck? (Florence VFD photo)
The wet half of the parade is a water battle between spectators and parade units. The former have all manner of squirting apparatus plus garden hoses hooked to spigots on buildings. The latter have open tanks of water, buckets, and squirt guns — plus some of us have fire engines.
Soak that cop! Soak his Can Am Spyder Police Edition! You know you want to. (Florence VFD)
In our case, the fire engine is a brush truck (small wildland engine) with a gasoline-powered pump. (Most large fire pumpers run their pumps off the engine, which means that the vehicle must be stationery to pump.) We restrict ourselves to one-inch hoses, two of them. Our complement included the oldest firefighter, a retired Navy pilot who loves this stuff, and the chief with his wife and three children.
Wet-zone combat.
Me, I just rolled up the windows and drove toward what I knew was coming — the downward blast from one Florence's aerial nozle.
Into the (watery) hell mouth.
I noticed this year a couple of purpose-built wet-parade units, like this one below. Also, this "Murica" thing is becoming meme-ish. Who started it?

Two views of the same truck, with water tank filled and ready.
Who says oil and water don't mix?
In the end, what makes a parade (along with high-school bands) is somebody riding something. I asked the two riders on the saddle longhorns if I could take their picture. They agreed, and said that they had been in the parade the last two years as well. "That's the trouble," I said. "When you're in the parade, you can't see the parade."
While we were waiting, the oldest firefighter remarked on the incongruity of devoting a parade to spraying water in an arid state.

"Maybe we're celebrating Florence's senior water rights," I said. "They go back to the 1860s, I think."

As I wrote once before, humans love orgies.