May 31, 2009

And Now a Word from Fisher

In solidarity with oppressed dogs everywhere, I hereby declare a sit-in and occupation of this Jeep Liberty, until our non-negotiable demands are met! First, no one shall depart in a vehicle without taking dog(s) ... Hey, is that a tennis ball?!

May 30, 2009

Spinning Reels Should Be Black

I re-spooled my veteran Mitchell spinning reel tonight and decided to hit eBay for some of its cousins.

My once-favorite Mitchell reel still lies at the bottom of the Arkansas River, casualty of a rafting wreck, which was the first time I actually had to save someone's life. (And as I held onto to him, all I could think was, "If I let go and he drowns, I will have to go back and tell his wife what happened.")

(I do have one Daiwa 1500C spinning reel--I saw one like it listed on eBay as "vintage." It is silvery and plasticky and just not the same.)

Like all vintage or antique machinery, Mitchell reels have an online museum.

I recall starting out spin-fishing with an early half-bail model, and once I mastered it, the full-bail models seemed to be le dernier cri.

The newer models are not all black. Sacrilege.

May 29, 2009

Blog Stew with Mystery Mustelids

• A landowner near Granada, Colorado, sees more water after tamarisk is controlled--but it's a constant fight.

• An Englishman tries to "go green" with a home wind turbine. He goes through all the planning bureaucracy, builds it, and ends up facing the dreaded ASBO, not to mention a big fine.

"Everyone is encouraged to be environmentally friendly, and we wanted to do our bit. We never dreamed that going green would land us in court and £25,000 out of pocket."

• A game camera verifies that re-introduced fishers have been reproducing in Washington state. As for our mystery beasts of four years ago and earlier, the jury is still out whether they were fishers or just big pine martens.

• Playing paintball with coyotes.

May 27, 2009

Park Service Works on the Concealed-Carry Issue

As predicted, the guns-in-national-parks issues has created both "aiieee, it's the end of the world!" vaporing and some bureaucratic re-thinking on the Park Service's part.

Parks officials are also scratching their heads about how the new rules will affect enforcement of laws on things like gun permits, which vary widely and will still hold sway even on federal park lands, and wildlife poaching. Some people believe that the change will be immense, others that it will not be noticeable at all.

Put me in the second group of "some people": I doubt that there will be much change at all--except possibly in parks along the Mexican border.

The second linked story, from the New York Times, makes some mis-steps:

The National Parks evoke equally deep emotional feelings — about place. Setting aside specific spots for the celebration of nature, or history, or spirituality, is an old tradition — as old as the Second Amendment.

Let's see: Bill of Rights, ratified 1791. Yellowstone National Park, our first, created in 1872.

At least some reporters are beginning to understand what the law will do--and not do:

Colorado, like other states, also recognizes concealed weapons permits from some states but not others. A permit issued in Texas or Pennsylvania is valid in Colorado, for example, and would thus eventually be recognized in Rocky Mountain [National Park]. But a permit holder from California or New York would still have to leave his or her guns locked away, because permits from those states are not recognized here.

May 26, 2009

Green Hell

Rain, rain, unceasing rain! The green walls of the forest seem to creep closer and closer. We are low on firewood, and nothing is dry.

Members of the garrison grow mopey and quarrelsome. Only Lieutenant Fisher remains obstinately cheerful, if somewhat thick-headed.

It is, however, perfect weather for reading David Grann's The Lost City of Z: A Tale of Deadly Obsession in the Amazon, about the search for Colonel Fawcett's lost expedition of the 1920s.

May 23, 2009

Columbines, Wild and Domestic

I ran across an interview with Bob Nold about growing and viewing columbines. He also garden-blogs from Lakewood, Colorado.

A Wet Mountains Weather Shot in the NYT

This New York Times article about bringing more terrorists to the federal prison complex in Florence is pretty bland, but it has a good weather photo. More than two inches of rain in the last two days at our house, which is 1,600 feet higher than Florence.

I think that is the Locke Mountain ridge in the photograph--the Wet Mountains do not have many distinct peaks.

May 22, 2009

Would You Do This for Your Dog?

Man sucks snake venom from dog.

2nd Amendment Restored in National Parks

Earlier this year, I commented on the rule change that would allow concealed-carry permit holders to have concealed weapons in national parks—subject to the rules of the state in which the park is located.

A lawsuit by gun-control advocates led to an injunction blocking the new rules.

But now President Obama has signed a bill he wanted that carried Sen. Coburn's amendment restoring the weapons provision.

And as Colorado blogger Michael Bane notes, the new law is even stronger than the old rule change.

In fact, if I read Say Uncle correctly, the concealed-carry permit part is gone. You are merely under the surrounding state's rules. See also Sebastian, and note that the new law is not in effect until February 22, 2010.

The amendment's text says that the Interior Dept. shall not prohibit someone from possessing a firearm in a national park or wildlife refuge "if the possession of the firearm is in compliance with the law of the State in which the unit of the National Park System or the National Wildlife Refuge System is located."

The NRA offers some crime statistics for national parks.

I expect further hair-splitting and hand-wringing though, along with inevitable jokes about whether a Park Service outhouse is a "federal facility."

May 18, 2009

Neanderthal? Yum!

Part of an ongoing series: a more culinary explanation for the disappearance of the Neanderthals.

"Cave bull," we called it then.

May 17, 2009

Where Seldom is Heard a Discouraging Word

National Geographic posts a county-by-county map of "mental distress" in the United States. Maine, Kentucky, West Virginia, and southeastern Oklahoma look pretty unhappy.

On the other hand, west Texas is pretty cheerful--or else there is a lack of data. Colorado's High Plains likewise. I think you either learn to be happy in that country, or you leave.

Crossbills and Ripped-Up Cars

Some red crossbills have been around this spring--they appear erratically hereabouts.

One was in the sunflower-seed feeder on Friday, crunching away.

Saturday I was in a vehicle-extrication class down in Florence, helping to rip up some junked cars with various amazingly powerful hydraulic rescue tools.

And every time I watched the cutter crunch through a B-pillar, I thought of the crossbill's "odd bill shape" -- although maybe a giant parrot would be an equally good comparison.

May 13, 2009

Firefighting and Local History

I was editing a journal article on the veranda when Fisher (the new dog) cocked his head at the sound of the answering machine picking up. It was a fire call, the first in weeks.

Just a mile down the road, a patch of deep, fluffy pine duff had caught fire near a home—I never learned how exactly—maybe no one wanted to cop to it—and scorched a couple of ponderosa pines and some Gambel oak.

After an experience last March, we are being more careful with mop-up: raking and spraying water back and forth down to mineral soil, me down on my knees barehanded feeling for hot spots. You think you have it out, but oh look, here is a little pine cone core glowing like a cigarette.

And then T. and I refilled the brush truck from the creek (with the floating pump) at the exact same spot where Fisher revealed on Monday that he has a water-freaking issue.

I am picking up local history on this job: I discovered a barn that I did not know existed, got some background on a coal-mining company that built it and the house it sits near, found an old irrigation ditch, learned where another dirt road goes—all not a mile away from where I have lived for 17 years.

Haiku for May 13

I splash cold water on my face. 
The young dog sniffs 
at the old dog's grave.
Chesador's Hardscrabble Jack 1996-2009

May 12, 2009

Chasing the Creek like a Animal

More on the new dog, Fisher. I decided to take him down to the "swimming hole" yesterday afternoon. Piled up branches and rocks (reinforced by the neighbors) make a tiny swimming hole, enough for the dogs to paddle around and make a very short water retrieve. I thought that Fisher might like to try it.


I let him off his leash, and he dove in and swam to the other side. Then he swam to the dam. Then he scrambled over the dam. And he was off downstream--swimming, running, being swept through white water.

And barking all the time--not a panic bark, but a bark as though he were chasing something, in hot pursuit.

I was the panicked one. Was he going to go for miles? I scrambled back up to the county road and walked/jogged downstream. The creek was below my line of sight, but I could hear the barks echoing up its banks.

I went about a tenth of a mile downstream to an irrigation diversion, where I knew I could get down to the water. There he was, a little above me, splashing in a pool.

Clinging to vines and boulders, I worked my way up to him and waded out in the knee-deep water to grab him. Back on shore, I snapped his leash to his collar. Fisher just wanted to get back in the water, but I had had enough aquatic drama for one afternoon. And my shoes and jeans were soaked.

So today we are going to some ponds. They are an old gravel quarry. The banks are gently sloped, and there are no underwater obstructions. He can swim until he is exhausted, if that is what it takes.

His previous owner said that he had swum in Steamboat Lake and enjoyed it, but I do not think that he has had much water experience. We will have to change that.

To think that when I had my first Chessie puppy twenty years ago I worried whether he would take to water (he did). This one seems to have months and months of pent-up water lust in him.

May 10, 2009

A Non-Traditional Student

We brought the new used Chessie home last evening: Fisher, 20 months, of good lineage but not much training--essentially a backyard dog for people who did not have enough time for him.

It is a good thing that he was at least crate-trained, or we never would have made it through last night. He is a speeded-up mixture of excitement, anxiety, and curiosity, seemingly stuck on "High."

This afternoon, after two walks in the woods, I took him down to the far end of the driveway, out of sight from the house, to try some retrieving and to start introducing him to whistle commands.

I kept it short: a few "single tweet means sit" lessons, some bumper tosses, and a no-pressure "happy bird" at the end.

I kept it short because I was growing sadder and sadder, thinking of Jack up there on the veranda, still within earshot, with his arthritis, bladder tumor, and newly sprained shoulder. The medication may help a little, but we know he suffers.

Was he hearing the whistle, wondering why it was not for him?

He was calm when we returned though. Maybe as long as he could not actually see me working with the new dog, he was not so jealous. Maybe we humans always read more into our dogs than we should. I would have to be tougher-minded if I ever wanted to be professional trainer, not that I do.

At the university, undergraduate students over 25 are called "non-traditional." They are often the most eager learners. I am hoping that Fisher will be too.

May 09, 2009

A Few Facts about Fowler, Colorado

Today, students, a one-question quiz about Fowler, Colorado.

Fowler is known for

a. its speed traps
b. having the nearest livestock sale barn to Pueblo and Fremont counties
c. being named for a noted phrenologist
d. all of the above
e. none of the above

The answer is d.

Orson Squire Fowler was born in New York state, attended Amherst College, hung out with the famous abolitionist clergyman Henry Ward Beecher, and "had a vision" while passing through southern Colorado on a lecture tour, according to David Dary, author of Frontier Medicine: From the Atlantic to the Pacific, 1492-1941.

He leased 5,000 acres of land thirty miles east of Pueblo on the Arkansas River and filed a plat .... He wanted to build an irrigation ditch and import a colony of fruit growers. Land improvements were started, and a mile of the ditch had been completed when Fowler became ill and returned to his New York home, where he died on his large estate near Amenia, New York, in August 1889.

And is anyone interpreting skull bumps in Fowler today?

Dog News, Maybe

Today I will go see a man about a dog. Really.

May 07, 2009

Sandhills Blog Stew

• The Outdoor Woman online newsletter profiles Nebraska-born writer Mari Sandoz and suggests a visit to the Mari Sandoz High Plains Heritage Center in Chadron, a stop I should make on my next trip to or from the Black Hills.

Chadron has long been on my short list of "towns to disappear to." (Whoops, so much for that. Better not reveal the others.)

• In total beer production (103 breweries), Colorado tops the nation.

• In belated honor of Cinco de Mayo, Iowahawk gives us a history of lowriders.

May 06, 2009

"Spring" Happened Last Week

Something happened last weekend when I was away. Spring turned into summer. Or early spring turned into late spring. Does "spring" exist in Colorado? Discuss.

Over the weekend, as I sat in short sleeves and sandals on the porch of my Florida cabin, M.'s voice on the cell phone reported rain and drizzle. I came home in the wee hours of Monday morning--daylight brought broken clouds and sun, (male) black-headed grosbeaks staking territories, apple trees starting to flower.

Meanwhile, my Colorado bird-knowledge betrayed me in Florida. It was good that I had brought a field guide. Two almost-tame sandhill cranes strolled through the campground--should they not have migrated? Nope, resident population.

Canoeing on the lake, I saw a big, dark bird with white head and tail swoop low over the water and then rise to the top of a longleaf pine--which, incidentally, lack the wonderful smell of ponderosa pine, despite their similar appearance. It flew like an eagle, but bald eagles should have migrated, right? Nope, the guidebook showed a year-round population.

And if I did not notice this on last year's trip through Virginia, I am now convinced that every mockingbird in the South includes "Car Alarm" in its repertoire of songs.

Now, back home, it is suddenly hot, and the voice of the lawnmower is heard in the land. The air smells of wild plum blossoms.