Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The annual itch

Our vet, Cherise, and her assistant, Kate, came to visit one day last week. They came armed with flea medicine and worming potions. I'd called after watching our Annie Dog demonstrating signs of the annual itch. Last year it was fleas. Another year it was a skin irritation probably brought on by her swimming in the pond at the old place.

Seems Annie gets the itch every year. I think she's got ultra-sensitive skin. I figured this year's itch must be signaling the beginning of flea season when I called Cherise, cuz she found several little critters crawling around on both Annie and Kiwi last year about a month after we moved here. So, last August, two dogs and five cats got the treatment, and once again in September. Cherise says as long as it's hot and dry, those fleas can rise again.

This year Cherise didn't find fleas, which made me happy, but we treated everyone as a prevention tool anyway. And, since Annie still itched, she got a low dose of steroids in hopes that she won't have to rub her body along the side of the house or anywhere else she can get relief from the itch. It seems to be working so I'm sure Annie is feeling a lot better.

Now, I've got the itch. Don't worry. I'm not crawling with fleas or lice or anything like that. It's those damn bees. They've been stinging me. Two days, two stings. One on the bridge of the nose Sunday, just as I was putting the water hose away. Felt like someone had swung a hammer at me. That sensation lasted about 15 minutes, long enough to know I wasn't gonna die if stung on the head.

Yesterday's assault occurred just as I'd begun watering. A yellow jacket got me this time right on the flab hanging below my elbow. For the second day in a row, I moved quicker than usual, grabbed the soda box and doused the wound with watered-down soda. This time the stinger stayed put. I could feel it throughout the day. This time, the sting also swelled a tiny bit.

This morning my nose itches, and so does my elbow flab. I think the amount of flab where said bee strikes makes a difference in the amount of swelling and itching. No swelling on the nose but pretty noticeable on the flab. I don't know how long the itching will last, and I probably won't call the vet. I'll just try not to scratch too much.

I'll also take a lot more care and vigilance while watering. It seems those bees are pretty thirsty this summer, and they'll fight for their right to get a drink. The hornets haven't figured out how to drink out of the water containers on the deck without falling in and drowning. I've got one vase out there with at least an inch of hornet corpses, but like the fleas, those pesky hornets keep rising again.

Bill says every time he goes out in the woods he discovers a new nest. So, I guess we've got plenty of stinging and itching possibilities ahead. Guess there's just one general way to avoid these discomforts:

BEE careful.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Sights along the way

I'm in my usual Monday laziness mode, although I've found that downloading photos takes a heckuva lot more time than writing. Then, once I download them, I've gotta write about them anyway. The blogger gods were nice this morning and allowed me to download in a timely manner, so that's a good indication of how this Monday's going to go---I hope anyway.

I played with some saturation on this top shot of the house and my pilfered wagon wheel. There's a story in the new book of just how I acquired it about 30 years ago. We pontooned last week off Hawkins Point on Sunnyside Road, and I included a shot of Lake Pend Oreille's majesty just for fun. We're so lucky to live in summer paradise, and so lucky that we can go out on hot summer days and have that much of the lake to ourselves, for free.

Last night Bill and I took a drive up Rapid Lightning Creek to one of his favorite lunch spots. The sun had just gone down over the Selkirks, and if you look closely at the little knob sticking up, you'll see Chimney Rock. Bill's spot, a little further up the road, provides views of the South Fork of Grouse Creek, those Selkirk Mountains and Lake Pend Oreille. He says we need to go up there sometime in the morning when we can get the sun shining on it all.

And, of course, the garden is growing, so I had to show the corn and the sunflowers which are doing very well at the Lovestead this year---after all, we've had a LOT of sun.

Life is good on this Monday morning, and I've got to head to the fairgrounds to take pictures of Clancy's Royal Parade. He's the subject of my current Appaloosa Journal assignment, and he even lives in our neighborhood at the Stockdale ranch. Clancy just got registered as a blueblood Appaloosa, and he's only 27.

Have a great day.
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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Yakitty Yak and Yaak Attack

Bill went to the Yaak, and I went to yakitty yak. I think we both had a good time yesterday. He took his fly rod and Kiwi. I took my book bag, a prepared speech and a pen.

I haven't heard the fish count yet this morning. He arrived home long after dark. I arrived home just as the full moon was beginning to brighten right after dusk. Bill said Kiwi, who loves to assist any angler around, sure can swim. He worried about her a bit in some of those rapids along the Montana River, but she instinctively knew how to maneuver her way out of danger.

I worried about having to give a speech. There'd been mixed signals about just what was expected at the Hastings Book signing yesterday. Publicity said a reading; the bookstore staff said probably not----too much noise in the store and they could remember only one reading ever---and that was a special situation. Helen Brockway, whom I hadn't seen in years, came with her daughter Jackie. They expected a reading.

So, Kathy, the book manager, moved a few chairs around in the coffee shop, while I asked folks seated at the tables visiting if they minded having me read. Two women said no; they were leaving anyway. Two gentlemen and a lady sat at another table. They said they didn't mind, but one of the gentlemen suggested he might give me a rough time. Pointing my finger directly toward him, I announced that I was a school teacher and that he'd better mind his manners.

"So am I," he said, "only I'm a counselor who keeps all those teachers in line." The banter began, and it continued throughout the reading, especially when Erica showed up. I changed my planned read and went to the segment from "Stay Outa My House," where Erica anonymously stars as one of the post-high school vandals who entered my house and decorated it with post-it notes and toilet paper one New Year's night.

My niece Laura came with her friend. Richard walked in, seeming a bit unsure of what was going on.

"Sit down," I told him. "You're welcome to join us." Come to find out, Richard knew exactly where he was. Richard's a writer, writing a book. Richard had called me three weeks ago, asking to get together. He wants information about small-town changes resulting from mini-exoduses from big cities. Richard seemed to enjoy the reading and all the accompanying side comments. Turns out the other man sitting with the counselor who keeps teachers in line is a writer too.

He freelances for the Spokesman, so he was pretty thrilled to meet Erica in person, and I was pretty thrilled she was there. After all, I'm proud to call her one of my products. She behaved a lot better yesterday than she ever did in sophomore English class. Erica knew how I ticked cuz she'd known me nearly all her life, so she sometimes held a healthy disrespect for my wishes that she button it up. Those moments were always fun, though, cuz Erica knew I loved her through the hate stares I feigned her way.

Later, I turned around and saw Ann and her grandson Tyler. Hadn't seen her since she retired from the school district two years ago. And, while signing books for the folks who came to the reading, I spotted Florine. Hadn't seen her in at least 20 years. She'd contacted me and suggested we go to dinner at Moon Time after the signing.

I got a lot of talking done at Hastings, and the marathon continued at Moon Time. Florine and I had lots of catching up to do since the days when we were the two sophomore English teachers at Sandpoint High School. I confessed to Florine yesterday how her revelation a wet-behind-the-ears rookie that she taught nine weeks of history of the English language had practically disordered my vacant brain way back when.


More later............the rest of the yakkity yak involved a few minutes of crashing the Class of 1987 reunion last night. Some of those former students are going to meet me at the Hoot Owl, so I'll finish up with the yakkity yak after yakkity yakking some more at Sandpoint's best breakfast spot. Later ....

Well, I'm back, and I'm a rock richer. C.A. (whose name I must keep under wraps cuz he's an undercover man in Iraq) handed me a heart-shaped rock he'd brought home from his latest assignment. We talked eco-therapy, IED's, editing and politics. We all represented significantly different political leanings but we agreed that if the world could take a cue from our little group on showing respect while passionately disagreeing, we could move mountains toward peace.

I've enjoyed some great visiting over the past twenty-four hours, and I cherish the opportunities of reconnecting with old friends and appreciating how they've stayed generally the same folks over the years but continued to spread their branches in fascinating directions.

Not a bad way to live life, if you ask me. Plus, their individual stories are great for those yakkity yak sessions.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Dry days in Oden

Well, we're starting our second day with no water, and the fun of roughing it will soon wear off. Yesterday an 800-amp breaker blew, causing the Oden Water System to go down. That blown breaker has affected 350 homes using the system.

The immediate effect was the realization that all those water taps and garden hoses would remain empty until things get fixed. I also learned really quickly that a toilet is good for one flush in such situations; after that, plan to keep the seat down. Also, upon seeking information on how long this pipeline drought would occur, I heard at noon yesterday that an electrician doing the repairs headed to Spokane to get a replacement box.

Once that got installed and the computer that tells the water network what to do was up and running, operators would have to flush out the entire system before restoring water to all those homes.

The official prediction indicated a general target of last night or this morning, with no specific time indicated. I know these folks are working their hearts out to get the water flowing as fast as possible. One family very instrumental in management of our rural water system own the only dairy in the area, so they need the water as much as anyone.

Besides the obvious need to go purchase bottled water and to use creative means for washing up, this outage has caused our Miss Kiwi to be temporarily out of a job. Besides keeping track of all errant Folgers coffee cans at the Lovestead, a major part of Kiwi's self-imposed daily work load consists of standing watch over all hoses loaded with water.

It's important for a Border Collie to keep that water in tow, and it's important for a Border Collie's owner to make it perfectly clear that the water does not need to be kept in tow while being sprayed over thirsty beets, lettuce and 'maters.

So, Kiwi and I have come to an understanding that her work is limited to transitional periods when the hose is being transported from garden spot to garden spot. She can chase that water all she wants during trips across the lawn, but once I start spraying the vegetables and flowers, she's to stand at rest.

Kiwi is very conscientious about her hose duties. In fact, she's been known to sit watch over the nozzle for several hours, if by chance, I've been detained in the midst of my daily watering and have left the water running but the nozzle shut down. Consequently, this level of dedication suffers a real blow when a day passes with no watering chores. I'm sure that Kiwi is suffering withdrawal as we start our second day with the potential of no garden watering.

I also know that my lettuce is not dealing well with this situation. With the intense heat beating down on an otherwise happy, prolific garden, the Romaine lettuce seems to be the weakest link among the veggie crop. Instead of standing at full attention, all those lovely green leaves are limp as boiled noodles. I don't know if they can take another day of this.

We went out to dinner last night with our friends, the Raihas who also subscribe to Oden Water, so we didn't need to worry about dirty dishes. Our only struggle last night were those clouds of communal gnats who kept insisting on screwing up our visiting at our outdoor restaurant table.

Ever try talking with a cloud of unruly gnats bouncing up and down directly in front of your mouth? As I complained through pierced lips, Margarete assured me the critters were so small that if I happened to swallow one, the calorie count would be low. That was reassuring.

As darkness came, the gnats either disappeared or turned invisible, so we had a great meal and a good visit. While bidding adieu at the Sand Creek Grill entrance, we all expressed the hope that by the time we got home, the water would be flowing. No dice. I'm sure throughout Oden land today, some creative measures will be employed and maybe even some creative thoughts about life with no running water.

As this outage continues, the dirty clothes pile, the stagnant water trough, the limp lettuce and the dog without a job could take its toll, but we'll hold hope the folks fixing the system have some good luck today. And, we'll definitely appreciate their efforts once those water faucets are flowing and toilets are flushing. Then, Kiwi can go back to work.

Hallelujah! The water came back on at 8 a.m. The plants are happy. Kiwi's happy. The toilets flush. Life couldn't get any better than that. Thanks, Oden Water folks!

Speaking of water, I have to mention CREEKside Gifts. I went there yesterday for the first time to get a little something for a friend. I walked into a warm atmosphere where gift displays skirt the pharmacy and its wide offering of meds, compounded meds, vitamins, supplements and homeopathic products.

I found a collection of reasonably priced gifts, nicely displayed in this attractive new store, which opened a couple of months ago in the same mall as the Ponderay Starbucks on HWY 95 North. As a person who hates to fight summer traffic in downtown Sandpoint, I figure this will be a nice place for me to pick up my gifts without a hassle.

I also enjoyed visiting with Karen Kontra, who wrapped my gift, and Katie J. Smith, the pharmacist at the newest Well Life Pharmacy in the area. Both are friendly, accommodating ladies who are interested in suggestions for making the store into a destination stop for numerous needs.

I learned that the store is owned by Jeff Foster, who also runs the pharmacy at Boundary Trading Co. in Bonners Ferry. It was a good discovery, and I plan to make many more stops there, especially during the next several weeks of gridlock downtown.

Friday, July 27, 2007

Bits and Tids

I came up with a new potpourri title this morning, so I guess that's what I'm gonna do: potpourri. Bits and Tids has a good ring to it, and one must be careful not to spoonerize in anyway. To spoonerize Bits and Tids could get a person into big time trouble with the political correctness police. So, if you go out there today and tell folks you read Marianne's Bits and Tids piece today, be extra careful how it dribbles off your lips.

Bits and Tids No. 1: A few days ago, I commented to Bill that we sure haven't seen the numbers of wild game here at the Lovestead that we enjoyed last year. I mentioned turkeys in particular. Bill said he thought it was late July last year when we spotted the first turkeys slinking through the pasture from Stan Meserve's place. I got to thinking about it, and I agreed. We were too busy moving boxes and trying to organize this place to notice turkeys in the grass throughout most of July last year. I've noticed through this first year how sights and sounds tend to come at certain times. For example, those hawks, crows, barking dogs, and bellering bulls were piercing the outdoor airwaves the week we moved in, just as they did during that precise week a year later. So, it stands to reason that while retrieving Miss Lily from the pasture yesterday noon, I noticed some black movement in the next pasture over, near the woods. Studying for a second, I chuckled at the sight of two turkeys and their babies slinking through the grass. This morning, Bill and I both enjoyed the double treat of our resident mother deer and her spotted fawn in the pasture next to Lily's and the turkey couple with their polts in the next pasture over. The deer left before Lily went out for the day, but the turkeys hung around, inciting some close inspection from Lily as she trotted out to her favorite spot in the field. So, I guess we have game, and we can expect to see turkeys from now 'til winter. It's nice to cue in on the annual cycle.

Bits and Tids, No. 2: How many out there are getting as weary of the Presidential candidates interminable marathon as I am? And, what difference does it make which blowhard with a gimmick gets elected? Furthermore, what have any of our politicians in Washington, D.C. from either party done to improve America in the past several years? Seems to me this time around Republicans screwed things up, and Democrats just keep screwing with the screwed up messes rather than offering anything any different? Why do we allow hundreds of billions of dollars which could be spent on something more productive, like smarting up America rather than dumbing it down, flow into perpetuating this ongoing political misery? And, to think the Presidential and Congressional elections are still more than a year away.

Bits and Tids, No. 3: I'm starting to hear and see the name Lyle Lovett more and more as Festival Time approaches. I've thought of that name and the strange hairdo that accompanies it with great disdain ever since the last time Mr. Lyle Lovett came to town. Back then, the story was that his wifey Julia Roberts came with him and hid out at the Deshon mansion. That was back in the mid-'90s. Who's Lyle's wifey this time, and what's she gonna do now that Deshons don't own that mansion? I think of Lyle with disdain because of the way our ushers were treated the night of his concert. We always had to arrive at Memorial Field by 5 or 5:30 to be ready for the gates to open. So, as we gathered that evening with our usher crew, we began our usual visiting, only to be rounded up like cattle and herded into the athletic field house by some obnoxious tough guy while Lyle did sound checks. His crew of hit men even guarded the door to see that we lowly Festival volunteers remained incarcerated while Himself continued his warm-up on stage. It was demeaning and insulting at best and a far cry from the graciousness we saw from Festival performers like Wynton Marsalis, Maureen McGovern and Michael Martin Murphey. I'm wondering if Lyle has mellowed in the past decade and if his crew still slings those F-words as freely as they did throughout their stay here way back when. I know I'll not be anywhere near Memorial Field when Lyle and his band of thugs show up in town this year. It was the Lyle era that gave Bill and me the first hint, after five years, that heading up the Festival Usher crew needed to become someone else's responsibility. We haven't missed those days, but we do miss the fun visits and camaraderie of all those great volunteers who helped us out every night.

Bits and Tids, No. 4: I don't want to sound like a griper this morning. I was just trying Bits and Tids out for size, and it seems to work okay. So, I'll use it every so often as a slight detour to slightdetour. On a positive note, a fun weekend lies ahead---dinner with the Raihas tonight, hopes of SHS Class of 1987 sightings, book signing at Hastings in Coeur d'Alene tomorrow at 2, which means more reconnections with old friends and former students. And, with the temps dropping to the 80s, summer doesn't get any better.

Bits and Tids, No. 5 (posted just after noon). Water water everywhere but we have no drops to drink. Something went wrong with the Oden Water System----a transformer fried or something like that----so we, in the Selle Valley, may not have water until tomorrow. Why am I thirsty and suddenly feeling pretty gritty?

Have a happy Friday, and go mind your bits and tids!

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Pontooning 101

I'm struck by the fact that I've been having some recreational fun this summer. Not that it's such a rarity, but having time to go pontooning three days in a row is certainly a milestone after the past 18 months or so.

It's nice to finally reach a point where the "Must get this done" list is finally subsiding after our big move, et. al, and allowing some welcome opportunities to spend hot afternoons recreating in beautiful North Idaho settings. Plus, I'm learning a lot about personal preservation while paddling my own pontoon.

Yesterday we went to Hawkins Point on Lake Pend Oreille. It's a boat launch, complete with dock and well-maintained outdoor john. And, there's no subversive milfoil eradication action out there, designed to kill off all the weeds and people in the lake.

After getting our feet wet, both literally and figuratively, in Sand Creek as novice pontooners, we decided to try a different spot yesterday, one where launching didn't include sliding down a steep rocky hillside, hoping to avoid bodily injury while fighting off brush and an unruly pontoon.

I've decided there's no graceful way to carry a pontoon. My sisters, who were veterans of two outings prior to my pontoon purchase, showed me how to pick up the thing and start walking. Though they aren't too heavy, they're pretty cumbersome, and once you head toward the water, these paddle boats have a tendency to keep readjusting themselves, trying to push you over as you're holding on for dear life, pretending that the weight of those metal frames really isn't digging into arms and leaving bruises in your soon-to-be geriatric skin.

While heading down gravelly hillsides, the fear of suddenly sliding into the water with pontoon above you rather than beneath you, calls for extra care with each step, especially since Crocs don't have caulks in the soles to halt your descent. Once those infant steps have you safely in the water, the process of getting on the pontoon isn't too bad. The proper way is to face the boat to the shore, turn around, aim for the seat, plop down and push off.

Then, for novices the next challenge is learning how to move the damn thing on your personally charted course rather than around and around in circles. My sisters didn't warn me prior to my first launch that paddling pontoons requires a few different moves than paddling row boats. I think this was a perverse plan plotted after they'd gone through their own early experiences.

They already knew how funny they must've looked---paddling in circle after circle---to all those folks whizzing by on the highway above in cars and trucks. So, I'm sure that Barbara and Laurie were ripe for the enjoyment of watching their older sister look just as ridiculous. They had also tried one trip down Pack River, only to learn that paddling a pontoon UPSTREAM ain't no easy feat. About wore their arms out getting back to the pick-up, they told me.

Meanwhile, back at Sand Creek, after enjoying plenty of laughs at my expense, snapping lots of photos and commenting on that "tongue action," which urgently accompanied my attempts to get the pontoon 15 feet offshore, they finally showed me how to paddle. Anyone who knows me knows I can't do anything of a dexterous nature without chewing on my tongue.

Anyway, to pontoon forward while chomping one's tongue off, I learned that the paddler must push the paddle forward, not backward as I'd been accustomed to doing on all previous oaring experiences. That takes some getting used to and some coordination. That's when Barbara turned riding instructor and said, "Keep those hands together." Well, I did my best, but since I've never been coordinated, it took some doing before I caught up with my sisters in their boats.

Once I gained a bit of control over my canvas/metal raft, I started thinking of how nice it would be to dangle my entire body from the boat instead of just my toes. I thought about this a lot through two Sand Creek experiences, but it wasn't until yesterday's adventure to Hawkins Point that I finally put a plan into action. After we'd floated around in the relatively still waters, even wishing more of those big motor boats out on the lake would send us some wakes, I decided it was time to leap in.

I had looked and plotted long enough. So, I removed my hat and sunglasses, stuck them in the side pocket of the pontoon and got ready to jump into the water. Well, folks, that's easier said than done. If you jump forward, there are a couple of metal foot rods about six inches apart that could do a number on you, either impaling you or grabbing your feet when you push the rest of your body off the boat.

Behind, the oar edges, neatly packed into their slot, could leave some pretty artistic black and blue marks on your not-so-pretty legs as you try to slip on past them. During this stage, my sisters were really enjoying the preliminaries of my descent into the water, and my pontoon kept drifting too close to the shore to make this experiment worth its while. The two guys sitting on the dock did their best to ignore the three crazy ladies who were wishing the two guys were somewhere else.

Eventually, I turned around on the boat and carefully slipped off the back, happily missing the oar blades. My only problem was realizing that I hadn't emptied my pockets of the $11 in greenbacks, my pocket knife and my Bobbi Brown lipstick tube. I quickly retrieved each before they sank to the bottom and put them in the boat pocket.

While I enjoyed a short swim, my sister Barbara was nice enough to tend to my boat, should it decide to drift off to Trestle Creek. Then, it was time to complete the experiment: getting back onto a pontoon while treading water over the top of your head.

I chose the front of the boat for my ascent. Turning around, pushing those leg rods down, grabbing them with my feet, I used my arms to push myself back up on the boat. Mission accomplished and no new bruises.

We had a great time at Hawkins Point, and we figure the next time we go, we'll bring our mother along. We might even figure out how she could sit in one of our pontoons and dangle her tootsies in that clean, warm lake water. And, if she really wants to learn, I could teach her how to de-pontoon, but I'm not going to hold my breath on that idea.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Idyllic sanctuary of past times

I returned to my youth yesterday. While walking over the bridge, I pointed to the shady waters where my fish hook could find any snag willing to be pierced. I parked my pickup alongside the turnaround where my brothers and I once collected leaves from the bushes to substitute as tobacco for our makeshift cigarettes.

Cars and trucks rolled by incessantly on the highway to the east, but nary a jake brake from big trucks burping to signal a slowdown while coming off that hill and rounding the bend at the old curve near the railroad trestle. That hair-raising highway hazard disappeared long ago, but Union Pacific trains still cross over the local stream that some newcomers like to call the "jewel of Sandpoint."

We never thought of Sand Creek as a jewel while growing up at our farm on North Boyer. It was our playground, and that bridge, now known as the Popcicle Stick Bridge, provided the centerpiece for a day's fishing (and smoking) activities once we left the house, grabbed our poles and cycled to the creek about a mile away. We spent hours there almost every day all summer.

Occasionally, we'd go to the creek across Best's hayfield, where once the level field ended, we'd make our way down to the water via steep dirt trails forged by Clarence's Holsteins. Naturally, lots of cow plops and potential snakes in the grass kept us vigilant with every step downward.

I remember a day nearly almost 48 years ago when my folks told Mike, Kevin and me we were going to have a new brother or sister. I was 12 and the baby at the time. We arranged a sibling meeting down at Sand Creek to talk about the possibilities and whether we wanted a brother or a sister. Our rendezvous took place near the remnants of an old bridge which used to cross Sand Creek, and that day we never dreamed that one baby sister would lead to another and then a baby brother.

Well, yesterday's trip to the past did not include my two older brothers, but those two younger sisters were there, paddling their pontoons and giving me a good work out. They made it look so easy as they sat back, rowing and enjoying the sights, sounds and peace. We paddled north from the bridge. Barbara and Laurie immediately headed to the east shore where they could snap pictures of colorful wildflowers on the hillside.

We paddled around little peninsulas with tall grass and rustic goose stands, we paddled past service berry bushes loaded with big fat juicy berries. No wonder the birds were singing happy songs. We paddled in the shade and almost felt cold while looking at thin fingers of light coming through the heavily wooded landscape just below a huge housing development, which was once home to just the Bottchers and the Bests.

We passed the Co Op Country store, then a small mall established by Lorraine Bowman, and we could see the backside of Rokstad Ford. As we paddled on, civilization seemed so far away. Toward the end of our trip to the north, we reached a point where Laurie announced, "If I were an animal, I'd want to live here." It was at that same point where my sisters reminisced about bringing their horses for illegal horseback swims.

My dad had told them not to do it, and as far as he knew, they had obliged---until that day further on down the creek toward the Schweitzer Cut-off Road when a newspaper photographer had snapped their picture and published it on the front-page of the paper for my dad to see. Illegal horse swimming was no longer a secret and still frowned upon by my dad.

Barbara had horse-riding lessons to teach at 5:30 yesterday, so at 4:20 we turned around and paddled back into the present. For each of us, however, the pontoon experience took us on a pleasant afternoon outing and on a trip to some cherished times of youth.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Reunions and remembering Caesar

I heard from Joey Walker yesterday. She signed up a few days ago for the www.sandpointhigh.com alumni site, so I shot her an email and asked her what was new. It had been quite a while since I'd heard anything about Joey who sat in my English class back in 1984-85. Joey's coming home this weekend for her 20th-year class reunion. With luck, maybe we'll see each other, and maybe I'll get to see some of Joey's classmates.

The Class of 1987 holds a special place in my heart. They probably have no idea that they saved me from insanity as sophomores at Sandpoint High School. Our house burned down in December, 1984, just before Christmas vacation (they still called it that back then). Anyone who's ever had a house burn down knows that it kinda upsets your apple cart----and everything else you know as a regular routine.

You basically start all over, so any hint of normalcy in your life is cherished. That's how those students kept me from going nuts. Even though everything was chaotic at whatever home we happened to be occupying during those months after the fire, I could always count on my students to lend some comfort to my life. Up until then, I never dreamed that a school setting could do such a thing because school settings are generally unpredictable.

On any given day, anything can happen. But there is a routine. The kids show up about the same time every day, they often ask you the same questions, e.g. "Are we doing anything interesting today?" and they gather in their same little klatches to catch up on all the action that happened the night before. I had a bunch of friendly students that year. With more than 30 students in first-period English, many often showed up early to visit with each other and to visit with me. I liked that.

It took my mind off from weighty subjects like filling out that interminable insurance form where we had to try to remember every single item that resided in our house, or there was the even more complex decision of what we wanted for a new house (that we could afford) and who was going to build it. Every contractor approached us like we'd already chosen their firm, and that didn't make it easy. We had to tell all but one "no," and that was hard because we knew them all very well.

So, the routine of kids showing up in five English classes a day doing what kids do every day at school kept me anchored. And, the fact that all my kids that year were engaged and anxious to make my life better really endeared me to them forever. Joey was one of many who make me smile every time I see their names because they made me smile every single day after that fire.

When I heard from Joey, she told me about another "given" associated with my English class way back then and throughout the years I taught English: the Julius Caesar speech and their individual presentations which involved memorization. It was nice to know 20 years later that the class assignment still had value to Joey. Here's what she said:

Well, I thought of you last October when I was in Rome. It was another of my solo trips abroad. I was minding my own business in the forum when a young american man started making announcements aloud that he would be conducting a free, English-speaking tour.

Of course, being the jaded girl that I am, I wondered, "what's the catch." There's always a catch right? No catch. As the tour began, I followed, and discovered that this guy was both a good speaker, and was well versed in his Italian history. As we made our way through the forum he told stories that made the area come alive in our minds.

And, at the end of the hour's tour we sat on some steps overlooking the forum, and after telling the events that led up to the murder of Julius Caesar, our guide put into exact context the very speech that is indelible in the memories of all of your students:

Friends, Romans, countrymen, lend me your ears;
I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him.
The evil that men do lives after them;
The good is oft interred with their bones;
So let it be with Caesar...

The most glorious part about it was the rich context. In class it was (for me) a collection of words, and I admit that at the time I did not absorb its meaning or context. But sitting there in Rome with an incredible storyteller ending his session with that speech, it all became crystal clear and meaningful. And, I thought of you. :) So there. Y'dun good!

It was definitely a thrill to hear from Joey, along with the added testimonial to the perennial Julius speech assignment, which she says remains indelible.

Some thoughts and experiences tend to stay with us forever. And what remains indelible in my mind is the caring nature of Joey and all her classmates from the Class of 1987. Thanks to all of them for coming along at a tough time in my life and making it better. Seems there's always talk about what teachers do for students, but in my mind, that's a two-way street.

Monday, July 23, 2007

A visit to Bootsville: Artists' studio tour

My mother needed a "Boots Boost." She'd lost her Kitty (18-year-old deaf cat), and she was feeling kinda sad. So, I told her to be ready by 1:30. I'd pick her up, and we'd go see Boots. My mother just loves Boots, who claims she's one of his wives. Well, Boots does that with a lot of women, but I'm not telling my mother. Boots is pretty darned loyal to his one and only, Becky, who's appearing in this picture in his art studio near Trestle Creek.

A "Boots Boost" for Mother means getting together with our funny friend, getting a hug or two and doing a lot of laughing. We achieved that goal yesterday afternoon while visiting Boots and Becky Reynolds who were hosting anyone who'd come through the door as part of the 2007 Artists' Studio Tour. There's a lot more to the Reynolds' household than the last time we visited: the completed studio, and upstairs bedroom with Boots' boots around the bed, which has a bedspread adorned with cartoons scrawled by many of Boots' fellow and lady cowboy cartoonists. There's a new patio and a conference room, but the cockatiel still rules the roost as it did before the addition.

We knew we'd arrived at Bootsville when two shiny gold pigs serving as gateways greeted us at the driveway on the side of a mountain. Plus, downtown Bootsville with its quaint Western motif was having a rather quiet Sunday except for the occasional tourists like us. As we pulled into the main drag, Tess and Foxie, the Reynolds' canines, issued the proper greeting. Soon, Becky came out and offered us some iced tea. We sat with her on the patio until the visitors prior to our arrival toured the studio.

For those who don't know, Boots Reynolds is a famous cowboy cartoonist. His humor appears in monthly one-page segments in the Western Horseman magazine. In addition, you can find it in just about anywhere Leanin' Tree Cards has one of their stands. And, that's a lot of places. There's always a good story in each piece of Boots' art. And, there's a hanging boob or two. You might see a skinny dog or horse, and you may recognize some of the caricatures if you know anyone who hangs around with Boots.

I'm still waiting to see something of Boots' art featuring that self-proclaimed Ugly Waitress at Katy Jacks in Trout Creek, Mont., whose shirt buttons are so tight over his big belly that they're likely to pop out in your huckleberry ala mode. Boots and I share a common appreciation for that guy, and just talking about him this morning makes me want to get in the car and head over there to see if he's still charming the customers with his cowboy stories and his unique service.

Boots' studio is one of 18 featured on this year's Artist Studio Tour around greater Sandpoint area. And, the best part is there's one more weekend for folks to go see sculptors, jewelers, potters, glass artists and painters at work in their studio. Come to think of it, I didn't see Boots pick up a paint brush while we were there, but he sure did a lot to lift my mother's spirits---and that was A-okay.

I appreciate my friends Boots and Becky because along with the talent comes a guaranteed good time and a lot of jibing. We give each other heck a lot of time, but I believe there's a mutual appreciation for that need to create, whether it's with words or paint. Because of my great fondness for Boots and Becky, I'm happily encouraging any local readers to go pay them a visit during next week's tour: Friday, July 27 through Sunday, July 29. They're No. 13 on the tour list (www.ArtTourDrive.org), and you just have to drive to the Trestle Creek Road, turn left, go a mile, and you'll see the No. 13 sign on Trestle Creek Lane. Plan to drive up a steep hill, but when you get to the top and see those gold pigs, you'll know you're in the the mountainside Shrangri-la where Boots creates so many wonderful laughs for folks across the country.

That setting certainly made my mother's day yesterday. So, thanks, Boots and Becky.

Note: Just letting folks know I'll be at Hastings in Coeur d'Alene this Saturday, July 28 at 2 p.m. for a signing and possible reading. Would love to see you there. More pictures from Bootsville below.

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Sunday, July 22, 2007

Centennial aftermath

It was a good idea, but the Bonner County Centennial celebration at the fairgrounds this weekend barely sputtered to life. After arriving about half an hour after the 9 a.m. opening to find four cars in the parking lot, I detected my first hint that yesterday's event wasn't going to be a sell-out----and it was free.

As I walked through the door to the main exhibit building, an American Legion member greeted me with the great news that they'd had one person show up at the flag raising ceremony yesterday morning. I learned later that the sole audience member for two days of flag raising was county commissioner Louie Rich.

Since it would be a while before Amie, my publicist from Keokee, showed up at the Keokee booth, I decided to walk around and see what was happening. I saw tables with empty chairs and an occasional person in a booth. I met Paul Rechnitzer and his wife sitting at the Bonner County Historical Booth.

They still maintained a healthy sense of humor after having sat in the booth all day Friday and catering to one visitor---a local newspaper reporter who was looking for some action. Since she couldn't find any, she interviewed Paul extensively. Paul lucked out in the publicity department with lots of information about his upcoming book.

Museum curator Ann Ferguson showed up during our visit to set up a video at the museum booth. While we talked, we kept seeing a tall man walking around pulling his suitcase. He appeared lost, which is a bit hard to do in that main exhibit building, but he wasn't having too much luck at finding anyone to tell him to where he needed to go.

Finally, I saw one of the event organizers directing him over to the table near the main doors where Rhonda, another organizer, had told me the day before that I could set up for my reading. They'd provided a podium, but I told Rhonda I needed a table because of the large history books I'd be using for my presentation. She assured me that the table near the door would be just perfect.

The man emptied his suitcase onto the table and set up a television set. Seeing that, I figured I'd better find out what Plan B was for my reading. I was told by the organizer to use the podium provided. When I said I needed more space for my materials, I was told to take the table out of the Keokee booth, where Amie had stacked all the Keokee books and Sandpoint Magazines for display, and use it for my reading.

Then, I asked where I was supposed to do my presentation. She told me to set up just inside the doorway where I could attract people. I said that might be a bit distracting during my reading. She didn't seem to mind. So, I went on my way to the Keokee booth and noticed that the television at the table where I was supposed to be was playing Kalispel Indian powwow dancing. With all due respect to the Kalispels, I figured I'd have to talk pretty loud to drown that out.

A little later, the organizer came by and told us that we could use a table in the storage room. So, Amie and I set up a table and a dozen chairs. At 11 a.m. two women sat in my audience, so I summoned people who were sitting at other booths, not seeing a lot of action, and told 'em to come on over, sit in the chairs for a picture and make it look like we had a crowd.

A couple of booth people actually stayed for the whole presentation. The rest of the audience consisted of unsuspecting souls (very few) who came through the big doors during my hour-long presentation. I yelled at them (with a humorous tone, of course), told them they were late and to please sit down. Some did. Some got up right away and hurried on their way. Some stayed.

My audience turned out to be a lot of fun. They seemed to enjoy the presentation, and the Converse crowd from Sagle was among them. The Converses took home the only book from the reading/signing, and that copy had already spoken for through a gift certificate purchased by Brett's sister several months ago. We made the most of a pretty vacant celebration, but to say I was disappointed in the county's designated 100-year anniversary blow-out would be understating an understatement.

The Holly Barn Dedication, et. al., however, was a different story. A crowd filled the new barn to nearly two thirds full to dine on dollar hamburgers and hotdogs and $1.50 pieces of pie. Three longtimers, Corny Poelstra, Bud Lang, Sr. and Francis McNall received plaques and recognition as the county's oldest dairyman, bull of the woods, and beef man, respectively.

The actual dedication went quite well, and folks were pretty impressed with Bill's harmonica playing. The barn stands as an impressive memorial for a young lady who definitely touched a lot of hearts during her 14 years on this earth. Yesterday would have been Holly's 19th birthday. So, the gift of the barn with its ceremonial key to the fairgrounds was even more poignant.

Both Bill and I felt honored to play a part in the program. It was definitely a great success.

It's too bad the Centennial celebration overall didn't have more participation. I don't know if it's a reflection of the times, if it occurred at a bad time when too many other weekend events were drawing people, or if the event could have used a lot more publicity.

We still can't understand why the Centennial wasn't incorporated into this year's Bonner County Fair---the one event each year that automatically unites the entire county. We thought that idea was a no brainer. This year's Bonner County Fair does not even honor the county centennial theme. The reasoning: the fair is not 100 years old.


We're scratching our heads about this logic, as are a lot of others, but figure we must be suffering some flaw in our own logic? Oh, well, the organizers have another hundred years to think up a bigger, better county Centennial celebration, and we probably won't have to worry about that one.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday Slight

It's Bonner County Centennial Celebration weekend at the fairgrounds, so I'll be heading over there soon to do one of two events for the day. The first is a reading and signing at 11 a.m. for my new book Lessons with Love.

I have the lesson plan all ready and am prepared to keep the class busy with historical tidbits and stories for almost an hour. Then, I'll be signing all three of my books for anyone who stops by the Keokee Booth. Amie Wolf, Keokee's and my publicist, will be there too. She's a fine young lady who's working really hard to help promote the book.

Today's Bonner County Centennial event has received some publicity in the local paper, but who knows how many will show up. Yesterday people were putting together their booths for the weekend's activities. I saw a library booth, the Co-Op, the Bonner County Cattle Women and the local Historical Society among the group.

Tonight Bill and I are emceeing the dedication of the Holly Barn. The program will be part of a hamburger, hotdog and ice cream social beginning at 6 p.m. We'll be doing our thing at 7. I'll be reading an overview about what went into the construction of the barn, and Bill will play a few tunes on his harmonica.

The market animal committee, who spearheaded the barn's construction, will hand over the ceremonial key for the facility to a Fair Board member. Then, Frank Moore and his one-man band will provide music for a Country-Western dance. It should be a good time for all who attend, and I'm figuring on seeing a lot of familiar faces who've all had a part in seeing the barn built in memory of Holly Peterson who died five years ago in a vehicle rollover.

The new multi-purpose barn also memorializes Paul Davis, Werner Paulet and Justin Doty who were familiar faces at Bonner County Fair and 4-H events. It will be a bittersweet night with reminders of the sadness associated with each person's passing and the joy of a symbol so permanent to honor their memories.

A big day lies ahead, so I'd better bid adieu and wish everyone a happy weekend. Maybe I'll see you at the Centennial this morning or evening.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Good bye to one of my PAL Z

I heard the news yesterday from my friend Connie. One of my PAL Z had died in a work-related fall. Andy Harvey's picture appears twice in today's morning paper---on the front page in a story about his accidental death at a local furniture warehouse. He apparently fell and hit his head. On the back page is Andy's obituary with that same picture. He was 25.

I haven't looked at the online memorials for Andy yet, but I'm betting that everyone's memory of him will reflect the same basic impression---a nice, responsible, caring young man who always did his best. Andy was gifted with goodness. That's how I'll always remember him because that's what he showed me every day that I knew him.

I first met Andy when he came to my English class out in the portables behind the middle school. I had quit teaching for a semester and then returned to a classroom in the hinterlands, far away from the main Sandpoint High School. That was the era of the school shootings. We had bomb threats during that time, and sometimes the office folks would forget to tell us in the portables to evacuate.

Things were really crazy in the schools for a couple of years, both nationally and locally. Schools seemed to be in constant uproar, often because of kids that felt left out or bullied. Something had to be done to create a more positive and safe school climate.

That's where the PAL Z came in, and Andy came in as a perfect choice to be a member of PAL Z. I proposed a class where students from all walks of life could meet each day, gain understanding of the groups within the school and attempt to do something to keep kids from falling through the cracks.

After getting the go-ahead, I began selecting a kids from diverse groups. They were leaders based on the influence they had on others and on their willingness to make a difference in the school atmosphere. I selected Andy because he was polite, he cared so much about others and he was always willing to go the extra mile carrying out his responsibilities for me or anyone else. I don't think Andy had a prejudicial bone in his body.

Once chosen, the group needed a name, so I came up with Peer Assistance Liaisons (altering the spelling of Liaison to Liai zon) translating into the acronym PAL Z. That Z gave it a certain ring that seemed appropriate for the flavor of the group. We were fortunate to have received a grant for our first year of operation, thanks to the help of my friend Ann Knapp who worked in the district office at the time.

PAL Z did make a difference in Sandpoint High School, and PAL Z made a difference for the kids within the group. We learned together---conflict resolution, ways to stop altercations in the hallways, ways to make kids feel included. Whenever a new student checked into school, one hour of the first day was spent in PAL Z class where individuals provided a warm welcome and a tour around the school. The kids loved doing this, just as they loved wearing their shirts and helping out with assemblies. Their presence was noticeable, and their work was effective.

Andy Harvey was especially proud and happy to be one of the PAL Z, and he took his work very seriously. Who couldn't love Andy? People were important to him, and he maintained his friendships. I saw Andy two or three times after he graduated from high school. He came out to our house to update me on what was happening with his life. He spent some time at a Bible College in Boise, then came back to Sandpoint.

The last time I saw him Andy had signed on at Litehouse, Inc. He was very proud of his job and his wages. It looked as if Andy was on his way. Sadly, an accident has taken an angel from our midst. Andy exemplified goodness in every way.

I'm glad I had the opportunity to know this young man, and I'm sure I'm not alone. I'm gonna miss my PAL.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Critter news and views: Lefty, Dusty and Charlie

Well, yesterday was a big day for Lovestead Naturals. This young stud above was probably dreaming about his new home in Idaho after my sister Barbara and I paid a visit to Ravenwood Ranch in Ronan, Montana, where he lives with his mom. His name's Lefty, and his buddy Dusty, seen below, and prancing around the barnyard with the mamas, will be moving to Sandpoint in mid-August. Lefty will be a new member of the Lovestead family of critters, while Dusty will join 11 new friends at Tibbs Arabians. They've got to spend a little more time with their moms so we'll anxiously await the day we can drive over and pick them up.

I went down to visit Rambo and Casey's graves last night and told them about the new addition, assuring them that he would receive the love they enjoyed as members of our family for so many years. I'll always think of those two friends as our Lily and Lefty move on down the road on their life's journeys, and if both of them turn out to be half the horses and friends Casey and Rambo were, we've got good times ahead at the Lovestead.

Yesterday turned out to be a banner day because just before we left for Ronan, Charlie, the Persian, showed up after a two-day absence. I can't remember too many days in my life of feeling so much relief. Charlie disappeared Sunday night, and we'd all but given up on her because she'd been a total house cat for 13 years until this spring when I decided to see how she did spending some time outside. Charlie thrived each day sitting next to the flowers or hiding under the deck. But when she didn't return after we'd tried to round up the cats for their beddy by in the shop Sunday night, we didn't hold much hope for her survival. I was downright depressed for two days thinking of the awful things that could have happened to this cat who'd had no experience with the ways of the outside world beyond the deck. Someone suggested maybe an owl; others thought coyotes. Thankfully, we were all wrong, and Charlie has the mettle and intuitive instinct to find her way home. She's been purring ever since, and I've been thanking God that she's okay.

So, Lovestead critter news and views are A-okay this morning, and that's mighty good.
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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Centennial weekend talk

Hard to believe it's been 15 years since a bunch of young people got to see their work in print, but all those young people have achieved some pretty monumental feats in their lives since the Beautiful Bonner History book was published in the early 1990s. I'm gonna talk about that project this Saturday while doing a reading at the Bonner County Centennial celebration at the fairgrounds.

On Saturday, I wish there were time to mention each and every of the 70 or so students who participated in that project because each has his or her own unique story to tell. Back then, however, they were telling stories about folks who'd lived in the community for a few decades. Originally, we wanted everyone featured to have lived here for 50 years, but we had to lower our standards to 40 for various reasons.

During the three months or so that we worked on the project, those kids put up with a lot of cheerleading from their English teacher about how much they were going to appreciate this assignment some day. Most of them interviewed longtimers they'd met at the Old McFarland Inn (anyone remember that one; I think it's now a title company, and it's located on the corner of First and Hwy 95 South as you head out across the Long Bridge). My colleague and friend, Judy Hunt, the French teacher, came up with the idea because she knew the proprietors, and she thought it would be neat to connect young people with oldsters in that historic house.

So, one afternoon we boarded the school buses, went to the Inn and spent a couple of hours visiting during an afternoon tea. If only someone had videoed the event, we would have had a wealth of information for the museum, but it was a writing assignment, and it involved getting acquainted, selecting a candidate, interviewing, writing, interviewing some more, if necessary, revising, writing, revising, writing and polishing to the best of one's ability as a sophomore in high school.

The students did a magnificent job of capturing their individual interviewees, and the resulting stories, all packaged together in Beautiful Bonner, provide a potpourri of historical information about this area laced among the individual anecdotes of each individual who told how they got here and what they did to survive here. Most of the kids went to the homes of their inteviewees and described the atmosphere in which their subjects operated in their daily routines.

I've been skimming through the stories, and, though I'm sure a few would love to have a chance to do a little more writing polish now that they're adults, these kids succeeded at the overall goals of the assignment: they got to see their work in print and they provided a sense of permanence for each individual interviewed. I read through these stories from time to time and enjoy them more with each reading. Why? Many of the interviewees are no longer living. The sophomores who graduated in 1992 kept their memories and their stories alive for many generations to enjoy.

I'm looking forward to trumpeting these students' efforts and doing a little bragging about some of them in the process. Plus, there's a pretty fun story in my new book to go along with it all. And, there's a phenomenal young lady among the group who's featured in that story. This young lady taught me a few years after that assignment an awful lot of about the value of what we offer our students as teachers. I'm very proud of what all of those kids did, and as the county celebrates its centennial, I'll be celebrating the opportunity to direct some public attention to their valuable work in the history book.

See you at the fairgrounds Saturday at 11 a.m.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Hay bale visiting

Bill and I put out some sweat last night. We stacked 139 bales of hay from our own field into the north bay of the machine shed. We hadn't planned to handle the hay until winter when it becomes Lily's main menu, but it would have been a tight fit for Doug Stockdale to get his bale loader inside the shed. He stacked them just outside.

Bill has worked for over a week moving lumber, spreading crushed rock and putting in palettes and plywood as a floor of sorts for the bales. Though it was sweaty work last night, we didn't wear ourselves out too much and had the bales stacked within an hour or so. It's pretty satisfying to have most of our own hay, and Doug is encouraging us to remove a couple of those goat fences to enlarge the field.

"Do that, and you'll have enough hay for yourselves and maybe even some to sell to recover your expenses," he told us.

Doug's told us a lot of stuff in the past week or so because he's been here several times to determine whether the hay was worth cutting, to cut it, turn it, bale it and remove the hay from the field. Whenever Doug's finished with his work, he likes to visit. We enjoyed a marathoner Sunday night while sitting out on the bales near where he parked his tractor. Eventually his wife Cari came and we talked on.

Doug, with his sense of humor and vivid memory, reminds me a bit of my dad. Each summer Harold worked like a trooper taking those tractors round and round the fields every year at haying time---but when there was time for a break and a visit with family, he took advantage of it. We used to have lots of good visits on summer nights surrounded by each year's crop. Sometimes we might be sitting on our horses; sometimes we may have just driven to the field to bring him some water.

Whatever the reason, our appearance meant Harold's cue to shut down the tractor, pull out his Bull Durham and cigarette papers, meticulously roll a good smoke, light up and begin the story telling. Maybe it dealt with this year's hay yield or quality, maybe this horse or that horse, maybe even his memories from Millard Easter's ranch in Montana's Madison Valley back in the 1930s, but Harold always made time for plenty of talk.

I always enjoyed those gatherings in the fragrant field on summer evenings. They meant a few moments with relative simplicity, sitting in the midst of a sea of 50-pound bales. While there, listening to Harold's stories, we felt the peace of being temporarily removed from the frustrations, noise, and pitfalls of civilization, which was really no further away than those rigs rolling down the bumpy roads surrounding the field.

So, when Doug, dressed in his farming bib overalls, got down from his big tractor and to start telling his stories Sunday evening, I felt like we'd recaptured a little bit of Harold. Only difference was there were no cigarettes. Harold was usually good for at least four or five roll-yer-owns during each session, always flicking the ashes and butts into his rolled-up pant leg.

I'd say Sunday's hayfield visit with Doug and Cari coulda been a ten-cigarette visit in Harold's day. We cussed a few things going on in the community, talked a lot about kids, animals, life experiences and even learned about Doug's pygmy goat which shares breakfast with him every day. We bemoaned the news that folks who go to the county fair this year will have to pay to park, and, along that vein, we touched on the luxury life that's creeping into the area and slowly eating away at this simple farm life we've all enjoyed for so long.

Next year, we plan to take Doug's advice and have an even bigger hayfield. We'll be looking forward to July when he harvests it for us. His presence will not only help feed any barnyard critters we may have at the time, but, more importantly, it will sustain us with another welcome pleasure of enjoying our good neighbors while sittin' on the hay bales.

Life on the farm doesn't get any better than that.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Catch-up day

Well, the horse show has ended. It was an astounding success for the North Idaho Appaloosa Club with lots of entrants competing in the 100-plus classes. Moreen Leen and her cohorts do a phenomenal job of putting on a great show for exhibitors, and she works hard at it too. We went to get our motorhome at about 9 o'clock last night, and there were Moreen and her family still working, cleaning up the garbage and cleaning out boxstalls. That's dedication after a full day which followed a Saturday show which lasted until almost midnight.

I posted a couple of pictures of Miss Lily with my sister Laurie. Being stuck in the isolation booth, I never had a chance to see Laurie up close and personal with her new jacket purchased just for showing Lily. So, the pictures, taken from my announcing perch, helped give me somewhat of a look at her ensemble. I think Laurie will want to show Miss Lily again because that leather jacket wasn't cheap.

I also posted a photo of my sister Barbara with her mare April. April is 8 years old. She's half-Arabian and half Quarter Horse----definitely a winning combination. In what had to be the largest and highest quality halter classes I've seen at a local show in 30 years, April came out on top for all breeds, sexes and ages. And, Barbara came home with a really nice belt buckle. We're all proud for both of them.

This is catch-up day. After two long days at horse shows, this place needs my attention, both the house and the yard. And, this week is filled with a long list of "to do's," including two stories, preparing for a book event and emceeing a barn dedication. So, I'd better get busy.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

I think I won't plant trees, continued

We're halfway through the horse show. I sat in a different announcing booth, mostly by myself yesterday---except for the dozens of hornets and wasps who refused to go away even after almost two cans of wasp and hornet spray. It was a long, hot experience.

Miss Lily got beaten soundly in her two classes. We did come home with a fifth-place ribbon, but she needs some more experience at "standing still" while the judge looks her over. My sister was pleased with her behavior, considering the fact this was her first trip to the fairgrounds since leaving Oklahoma last year, and when she was shown as a younger youngster, she always had her buddy nearby. Miss Lily and Laurie looked mighty pretty yesterday, and I'll post a picture tomorrow. We're all thrilled that Barbara's mare April took grand champion over all breeds, sexes and ages. Barbara has a beautiful belt buckle to show for it.

Now it's on to the incomplete story. I've gotta finish this one cuz I haven't quite gotten to why I don't plant trees for a living, but there's still some fun memories in it. Enjoy . . .

Through his involvement, I have earned a healthy respect and appreciation for all involved in the forest industry. Each year in Bonner County an event brings many of these people together. It’s called Timberfest, and it’s held each June at the Bonner County Fairgrounds. Bill and I always make it a point to attend. On Timberfest Saturday, the fairground is crawling with people who participate in and or observe many aspects of the forest industry. Before timber sports begin, folks gather around the huge spit-shined logging trucks and chat while watching lumber-grading and log-truck loading contests. Within minutes of our arrival, Bill usually runs into someone he knows like Ray and Fairy Delay who host the annual Idaho State Forestry Contest every year at their tree farm 25 miles south of Sandpoint. They also provide timber for Timberfest sporting each year.

“They’re [those who select logs for the contest] pretty particular,” Fairy says. “They come about a week beforehand and walk through the woods looking for cottonwoods that are just right. They cut ‘em down and then bring them up to the yard to get them ready for the contest.” “They” are Bob Bosworth and his son Carson from Bonners Ferry, Idaho. If ever there were a gentle giant of a man living the role of the mythical Paul Bunyon, Bob Bosworth could fit the bill. A retired forester who distinguished himself nationally and worldwide with his passion for and knowledge of forest practices, Bob is also a legend with an axe. I doubt that too many people would disagree when I say Bob’s contributions to timber sports are epic. Easily recognizable at any woodsman’s show by his characteristic flat top covered with a beat-up red fisherman’s hat, broad jaw outlined with a neatly trimmed graying hairy hedge and his massive, powerful upper body, Bob has outswung the best of ‘em with his axe, outsawed the pack with his crosscut partners and outbuzzed the line-up with his Stihl chainsaw. Son Carson has followed in Dad’s footsteps but has advanced several steps further by being the man to beat worldwide in all aspects of competitive sawing and chopping. This has all come from hard work, consistency and dedication toward seeing the sport continue to flourish and improve.

This Bosworth duo has earned so much respect from their fellow competitors that their judgment is seldom questioned when it comes to selecting the ideal wood props for the annual Timberfest competition. And because of the Delay’s reputation and contributions to the forest industry, their trees-turned-logs are used annually for the fast-paced saw and axe competition, pole climbing and log rolling which keeps the fairgrounds outdoor arena buzzing for several hours.

After visiting with Timberfest earlybirds for most of the morning, Bill and I slowly make our way toward the outdoor arena. Before joining the crowd in the grandstands, we always stop at the Idaho Forest Products booth where Bill’s friend Betty Munis stands within a small tent. In front of her, a folding table loaded down with a wide assortment of products evolving from trees features toothpaste, vitamins, a kitchen sponge, a bottle of nail polish, some mouthwash, catfood samples and even Rolaids. Betty heads the Idaho Forest Products Commission, and she travels the state helping to promote the forest industry and its products. So she’s armed and ready to explain to John Q. Public exactly why those trees are so important, even though when John sees the Rolaids next to the catfood, he probably doesn’t need to ask.

Now, Betty and Bill have been good friends for years. They share a common bond through their jobs, which both have a statewide focus when it comes to Idaho’s trees. Betty comes by being a tree lover naturally. She grew up on a ranch over near the Pintler Wildnersess and the Continental Divide in Montana. She’s a lifelong outdoors girl, and I’ve always felt that she and I have shared a kindred spirit because her rural upbringing was so similar to mine----the 4-H, the cows, the eventual gravitating toward a profession once dominated by men. My own Forest Service days back in the late 1960s and early ‘70s put me in that category when Chris Moon and I were the only “girls” working for the Forest Service Engineers during the summers. So whenever Bill mentions Betty, I’m thrown into brief nostalgic journeys to my past. One of my full-fledged sessions of reminiscing was triggered after Bill and I attended Betty’s wedding in October, 1999, which was a memorable event itself.

“What are you doing October 2?” he had asked several months before the occasion.

“I don’t know. Why?” I said. “What day is that?”

“Well, Betty Munis is getting married and we’re invited,” he replied. “Ya wanta go? It’s on a Saturday.”

“I guess so,” I said apathetically. My less-than-enthusiastic response had nothing to do with Betty. It’s just that anything planned on a weekend outside of town during the school year requires a lot of planning. That fall I’d been invited to a Brown family reunion in Pasco, Washington, during the second weekend of September, and I knew I’d never make because of so much weekend preparation needed during those first few weekends after school started. The chances of my showing up over in Montana a month later for someone’s wedding were pretty slim since I’m not the best at attending very many local marriage ceremonies.

“There’s going to be pitchfork fondue,” Bill added.

“What’s that?” I asked.

“The reception is going to be out in a cow pasture, and they’re going to cook the steaks in a big pot,” he explained. “The pitchfork works like a giant fork.”

“Hmmm, that sounds interesting,” I said. My mood instantly changed. Bill had said the magic words. The thoughts of such a setting enticed my appetite for off-the-wall occasions inspired me to make darned sure we made it to Betty’s wedding. I wasn’t gonna miss pitchfork fondue for anything. I could see a story coming, and I knew I’d get lots of mileage out of it.

We went to the wedding, armed with cameras, curiosity and hungry stomachs. After a touching ceremony in a Catholic Church perched on a hillside offering spectacular views of a lake below, everyone piled into their rigs and followed the signs to the reception five miles away. A piercing wind tested the mettle of guests as they stepped carefully their way to avoid hundreds of dried-up cowpies toward circus-style tents in the middle of the vast pastureland. Inside, however, any mistaken concept of redneck cornpone disappeared as a host of tables elegantly adorned with colorful flower centerpieces and fine crystal wine glasses greeted the guests. A tastefully and colorfully prepared smorgasboard of meats, salads, breads and desserts beckoned as a band warmed up on an elevated platform.

While most guests huddled inside, some diehards stood outside shivering and visiting while waiting for the bride and groom to show up. Eventually, a shiny tan Model T convertible pulled up to the tents. From the rumble seat, David, the groom, climbed out and walked to the passenger side to escort his bride to the reception inside. Their entrance was delayed slightly when a family friend in a white suit met them with two glasses and a bottle of Serbian brandy. . . .

. . . . To be completed some day---highlights include whitepine seedlings as wedding favors and whitepine seedlings at an earlier time to be planted at the Sundance Burn, which ravaged 55,000 acres in the Selkirk Mountains in 1967. My planting numbers---for one day---in 1968 did not yield any records, but I'm still proud to know that I had a hand in at least a few of those trees up there in the Pack River drainage.