Monday, December 31, 2007

Recent Read

Helldorado, Bringing the Law to the Mesquite - William M. Breakenridge This is the 80th volume in the wonderful Lakeside Classics series. Published by the R. R. Donnelley Company of Chicago in 1982, this is a reprint of the original 1928 book by the author.

Cowboys, Indians, train robbers, the Gunfight at OK Corral, Black Jack Ketchum, the Earps, Doc Holliday, Johnny Ringo, the Clantons, Bat Masterson, General it possible for one man to write about them all? Not only is it possible, but Billy Breakenridge knew them all, met them all, worked with them, fought them and survived as a lawman in one of Western history's most tumultuous eras.

What an absolutely fascinating book. A barn burner. Can't put it down book. It reads like the most fantastic fiction, but it's not. It's the real deal. Every bit is true and well documented. What makes it even more appealing is the fact that it's a first person historical narrative...That is, "Breck" (as Billy was usually called), is talking to you directly in this book. In his own words, describing the events as he lived them. No third party to interpret things and to "filter" the description.

Breck was born in Wisconsin in 1846 and sought excitement in the West before the Civil War. Boy, did he find it! He spent most of the 1860's in Colorado and was a courier in the infamous Sand Creek Massacre.

By the late 1870's Billy had found his way to Arizona and used the skills he learned on the frontier to become a lawman. He was known as perhaps the most courteous and modest lawmakers of the Wild West. He was loath to have to resort to gun play but if he was forced, he always came out on top. Take that little bit of information and place him in Tombstone, Arizona at the same time as the Earp Brothers and the Clanton family!

Interestingly enough, while he was on good terms with both the Earps and Clantons his story is not at all flattering to the Earp brothers. The Clantons were no saints but he paints a picture of the Earps being a plotting vengeful group that instigated the fight and most likely shot unarmed men and men who while armed had thrown their hands up.

After years of being a lawman, Breck became a "Special Officer" for the Southern Pacific Railway chasing train robbers. In 1903, the demanding life of trailing "bad guys" was getting to demanding for a 58 year old man and he became a claims investigator for the same railway.

William M. Breakenridge authored this book just a few years before he died in 1931. In the first sentence of the book he says; "Some of my friends say that my life has been eventful enough to make interesting reading and since a good deal of it was spent in helping to tame the Indians and bad men in Colorado and Arizona, maybe they were right."

Let me tell you, his friends were right. If you want to hear a fascinating story....let Breck tell you one. Read the book.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Happy Birthday #4

Having a birthday 3 days after Christmas and one day after your parent's wedding anniversary is not an easy thing! Ask my brother #4......He's the one on the right, in the picture above.

In the pictures below you can see that the timing of his birthday had a terrible effect on him! It's a good thing he is a good conversationalist and a good cook....

Happy Birthday bro....

I Wish I Were Dreaming....

OK, enough with the white please. Let's take a break for a while OK? A white Christmas was fun, and it broke a record here...7.8" on Christmas Day officially. The day after Christmas was nice then early Thursday morning it began snowing again.

With my new retired lifestyle that should not have bothered me, right? I just stay home....oh, but there was the matter of getting The Emmer to work. She has zero experience in driving in snow so it's either let her take the bus in single digit temps or I can take her at 6 am.

The Christmas spirit was still strong so I took her to work. Then there is the matter of going back and picking her up after a day of steady snow. Then there was the matter of CaJenn, who was flying back to the left coast late yesterday...after the whole day of snow...40 miles to the airport. I guess I can retire from work but I can never retire from being a father.

The Bride took the afternoon off from work so that she could see CaJenn off at the airport. Because The Emmer also needed a ride back from work, The Bride took CaJenn and I went for The Emmer.

We were sorry to see CaJenn go. The visits are always too short these days. We know for sure that we will see her again by June because that is when she is getting married....and there may be a trip or two before that.

The weather shaman say that the snow is probably over for this year...a chance of some flurries on Sunday, but it shouldn't be much. Then again they said we'd only get a "dusting" for Christmas too. So far this December we've had 20.9" of snow. That's a pretty good chunk but it looks pretty puny compared to December 1913 when Denver had 57.4". An old life expression comforts me in this knowledge..."It can always be worse."

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

I'm Not Dreaming (It Is a White Christmas)

I went to bed relatively early last night. A combination of a bunch of chores catching up with me and the fact that the cable was out so both TV and the internet were not available. The end result was that I awoke early this Christmas morning. At about 6 am I peaked through the blinds to see a light snow falling. This is the second year in a row that we have had a white Christmas.

The lighter it got the harder it snowed. The forecast was for the "possibility" of a light snow with maybe 1"-3" but by 10 am we already had 3".

The girls (in my household that includes everyone except me...including the dog) slept until about 9 am and then we had breakfast and assembled to open presents. The his-self family tradition is that the presents are taken from under the tree and placed in front of the person to receive the gift. We then all take turns opening a present while the others watch. This can make for a rather long event but it is always fun to thoroughly enjoy not only your own presents but to enjoy watching others open their presents as well. I must say that we all must have been on exemplary behavior this year because Santa was very good to everyone.

After opening gifts, The Bride started working on a traditional turkey dinner. One twist this year is that the turkey was brined. CaJenn said that she had done a turkey this way and that it was very good so The Bride decided to give it a try. The rest of the afternoon was pretty low key with phone calls to relatives and friends and just enjoying the day.

The turkey turned out fantastic and the the meal just made us happy to be together and to be able to enjoy not only the food but each other. The snow continued until late afternoon and it looks like we got about 8" total.

Life is good!!!!!!!!

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, December 24, 2007

'Twas The Day Before Christmas

The last couple of days have been non-stop action. My oldest daughter, CaJenn, flew in on Saturday afternoon from the left coast. She flew Frontier and actually arrived 15 minutes ahead of schedule! Strange as it may seem she said the San Francisco airport was not crowded at all, at the Frontier terminal. She arrived the prescriptive 90 minutes in advance and made it through security in about 10 minutes....Let's hope her luck continues on the return trip.

The good news is that the his-self family is now complete for the holidays. The bad news is that The Emmer has come down with a nasty cold and is not at all in the holiday spirit. We're hoping she can shake it pretty soon with a combination of medication and rest.

The weather has been hit or miss the last few days with a light snowy day coming every three or four days. The forecast is for a few snow showers on Christmas morning and then clearing. Sunday morning the sky was just magnificent. I woke up at about 7am looked out the window and then hustled for my camera. CaJenn leaves to return for the left coast on Thursday and right now it looks like we will get a couple of inches of new snow during that day!

Since The Emmer is under the weather I have taken up the slack as principle Molly Dog walker. Molly Dog is a "mostly" Australian Cattle Dog and walks with a vengeance. It's more like she is taking me for a walk than the other way around. Oh well, this will be good exercise for the newly retired guy!

Last night we went out to dinner at a very nice restaurant in the small town of Sedalia, CO. Gabriel's is located in an old 1889 mansion that was originally built for one of the
founding fathers of this little town.

For a small town, Sedalia has got it all. Not only is Gabriel's a fantastic restaurant but it sits right across the street from the famous Bud's Bar. We even considered playing a joke on CaJenn and going into Bud's like that was where we were going to eat dinner before we took her across the street. Unfortunately, Bud's is closed all this week so that ruined that idea. Our dinner party only consisted of The Bride, CaJenn and myself. The Emmer just didn't feel up to eating out. You know The Emmer is not feeling well when she turns down an opportunity to dine out. Dining out is one of her biggest pleasures.

I guess today is the lull before the storm. The Bride has to work today and I'm doing last minute chores to get ready for tomorrows festivities.

I want to wish all of my readers a Merry Christmas! May your every wish come true during this season.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, December 21, 2007

That's All Folks!!!!!!

Friday, December 21st dawned clear and cold. I had actually been awake for some time, contemplating the rest of my life, as the sun crept over the horizon. You see, this was the very last day of my chosen (well, stumbled upon might be a better description) profession for the past 35 years.

I got up, showered, dressed, had breakfast and was on my way to the office somewhere about 8 am. The ride to the office wasn't any different than usual, except I had a warm happy feeling that threatened to manifest itself in smiles and raucous laughter if I didn't carefully hold it in check.

This was a far different feeling than at other watershed events in my life. When I graduated from high school I was happy but also a bit concerned. I had no idea if I cou
ld succeed with the strict demands of a military college. It was a bit scary.

When I graduated from college I was happy that I had successfully navigated a harsh and demanding four years. I was eagerly looking forward to a life of military service but I was afraid as well because I was a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Army. Vietnam was a certainty for me and surviving this initial challenge was a crap shoot.

When I left the Army three years later, I was happy that I done relatively well and survived to boot. Civilian life however, was not something I had ever thought about growing up, and I felt woefully unprepared to make my way in this alien environment.

I found employment with an international company, in a "quirky" p
art of the construction industry. No one ever starts out to be in this profession. It doesn't happen that way. I just happened to be in the particular place at the particular time that "dumped" me into it and I survived. Not only did I survive in this industry but I prospered and did well. I did it for 35 years. That's unheard of today. Some of the young people who come to this company now have already had three or four other jobs. I am...was.. a dinosaur.

In spite of all of that, I don't feel any sadness today. I don't think, even after 35 years, I have a real deep emotional attachment to the business. It was good to me but it was a hard taskmaster. It used me and I used it....nothing personal, just business.

The real difference today is that unlike the other watershed events I just described, I don't feel any concern or trepidation about the future. I've survived the worst life could throw my way up to this point and from now on things are pretty simple. Oh, there will be challenges and there will be good times and bad times but I now have a PhD in life. I'll be able to handle it.


Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Slip Slidin Away...

"Slip slidin away,
Slip slidin away,
You know the nearer your destination,
The more you're slip slidin away"

From the Paul Simon song of 1977...and that's what I'm doing this week. In spite of what I posted almost two weeks ago I'm going in to work this week, for the last few times. I had agreed with my boss when we talked about my retirement that I would return to the office for one week to take care of any transitional issues.

If work had been like this for the previous 35 years I never would have retired! It's amazing how stressless work can be when you know it's really over and you're only there to answer a few questions. I've been going in at a little after 8 am (my work-a-day routine was to be in no later than 7am) and leaving at noontime if there are no pressing matters. My face hurts because I've been smiling so much.

The last few days are just "Slip Slidin Away".

On the home front, I have determined that with all this new available time, I should be able to help The Bride with the cooking. I'm not a total klutz as my "On Our Own" series of posts will verify. I decided that perhaps some technology would be helpful in this regard so I started investigating recipe software. After browsing the web some and reading some reviews on various programs I settled on The Big Oven. It was pretty inexpensive and got good reviews....Let's see if technology can "make the man".

I don't have grandiose visions in all of this and I intend to start simple. What could be simpler that a crock pot soup? If I mess it up it will be oh so easy to dump the evidence and no one will be the wiser! So my first attempt to be Chef His-Self will be Barley Beef Soup. That will fit in fine with the weather as it's supposed to turn cold again this weekend.

If all of this works out, I make someone a good husband some day.....and I may get a hall pass for a trip in the trailer right after the new year. Hmmm, New Mexico in January....

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Home Again, Home Again Jiggity Jig Jig

Last night I had a farewell dinner with The Colonel at a local Carraba's. The food was good and both The Colonel and I had a martini. That seemed to perk him right up and he turned on the old charm with the waitress. After dinner I took him back to the apartment and we said our goodbyes. It was a sorrowful goodbye, especially on my part because I never know if it will be the last time I see him.

I left Columbus this morning at about 4:45 am on a local shuttle to the Atlanta airport. For all the bad weather in the country, things went very smoothly for me! The flight left Atlanta on time and landed in Denver on time. The middle seat in my row was even empty! The only glitch was that because of the snow in Denver, departing flights were running a bit late and we had to wait to get into the assigned gate.

Yes, I said snow. It had been in the 70's all week in Georgia and when I landed in Denver it was 21 degrees and snowing. It was a light snow and the roads were fine but that's still quite a "change in latitude".

The storm is supposed to move out of here later today but it will remain cold for a few more days. I am not sure what is on my schedule yet for this weekend and I don't even care at this point. Frankly, I'm worn out both physically and emotionally so I think I'll just chill for the rest of today and probably tomorrow.

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

The Greatest Generation Lives

I have been visiting with The Colonel now for four days. It's a melancholy thing. I don't think I'm sad, just melancholy. During these four days I have taken care of the most personal things for The Colonel. I have dressed him and undressed him. I have washed him and shaved him. I have helped him in the bathroom. I am glad to be able to do these things for him but it makes me melancholy.

I have mentioned before that The Colonel is a member of the Greatest Generation. His generation literally saved world freedom during WW II. His generation was young then. His generation did the dirty work of the war. They were the Privates and Lieutenants. They were the "heavy lifters" and took the brunt of the violence that was WW II.

Last night I took The Colonel to the annual Retired Officers Association Christmas banquet that was held at the facility where he lives. The Colonel is a past president of this organization and many of his close friends are members. He was looking forward to the event.

This is where the title of this post comes in....You have to understand that Columbus, GA is the home of Fort Benning. Fort Benning is the home of the Infantry. It has been an Infantry post since well before WW II. Soldiers who were Rangers trained here. If a soldier was an airborne trooper, he trained here. This place is warriors on steroids. Most of the retired officers who live in the area are combat veterans.

There were about 75 people at the event last night. Most of them were members of the Greatest Generation. It was a coat and tie affair and most everyone wore their military decorations on their coat lapels. Among the decorations I saw were at least two Distinguished Service Crosses. There were also numerous Silver Stars and Bronze Stars. Combat Infantryman's Badge with multiple stars were quite common as were jump wings with stars.

I was in awe. The Distinguished Service Cross is the nation's second highest decoration for valor. Second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. The Distinguished Service Cross is ONLY awarded for "extreme gallantry and risk of life in actual combat with an armed enemy force". Silver Stars and Bronze Stars are also awarded for "valor in the face of the enemy".

The average age of the attendants had to be about 80 with a number of people in the 85+ range. The oldest was a good friend of The Colonel and was 94 years old. Because of my position in the scheme of life...being the son of a retired army officer, I am well aware of the sacrifices and contributions of this generation. I wonder if the generation after me has any idea of how great these people really are? I guess the reality is that they do not. It's a shame. The Greatest Generation lives, but they are fading fast!

Today is my last day here and I'll be doing whatever I can to make remaining time good for The Colonel. The good news is that brother #3 will be here for a visit in early January.

Thanks for visiting.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Visiting With "The Colonel"

It wasn't hard to leave Denver on Sunday morning (10 degrees/5" snow) and head for Atlanta (78 degrees/sunshine). While I don't mind the colder weather of Colorado it's still nice to experience the "other side" of winter.

Amazingly my flight was on time leaving. The plane was full but not packed and I lucked out with the center seat being unoccupied so there was plenty of room to stretch out. The bad news is that half way to the airport I discovered that I had left my computer bag back home! Not only was I planning on keeping this blog up to date, but also I had a large file of family pictures that I scanned, that I was going to show to The Colonel.

The Retirement community that The Colonel resides in has a business center with computers available so I will at least be able to keep up with text reports. I don't think I'll be able to post any pictures while I'm here due to the limitations of the computers.

At any rate, I arrived on time in Atlanta and was met by brother #4 who lives in the area. I enjoyed a wonderful evening with him and his spouse "4A". Monday morning before I caught the shuttle to Columbus, GA we ate breakfast at a local spot. I was in "cultural transition" from the Rocky Mountain West to the Deep South so my breakfast consisted of a western omelet and grits. Not a bad combination at all!

I arrived in Columbus shortly after noon and The Colonel and I spent the rest of the day catching up on news and family. The Colonel is now 89 years old and resides in the assisted living portion of this complex. For his age he is in relatively good health but he suffers with many of the conditions prevalent to that age. It is not easy to take him outside of the complex. That being said, it is my task while I'm here to get him out as much as I can.

Today's adventure will be to take him to the cemetery to visit his bride. This is difficult but satisfying for both of us.

It's now a little after 8 am and I have some chores to do before I go to him so I will end this post here.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

The Circle's Christmas Dinner 2007

Another year has gone by and it was time for The Circle to get together for our annual Christmas dinner. This years event was held at Cafe Prague Restaurant in Morrison, CO. We had eaten at this restaurant this past summer and enjoyed ourselves so we decided to choose it as the site for our Christmas dinner.

Before dinner however, Too Tall-Two Timing and K. picked up The Bride and me and we gathered at Guitar and Pic-E house to exchange gifts and partake of a cocktail or two. Now when we exchange gifts, the idea is to give something creative or useful and not expensive. This year's gifts included K's hand made shadow box of items gathered on our Mosquito Pass excursion, coon skin hats for the men from Guitar....yes coon skin hats....and a calendar for each member of The Circle with pictures of our adventures from the last year or two.

Too Tall-Two Timing was fascinated with the coon skin hats and before long decided that we could amend his moniker to include "Two Tail"? Let's see, Too Tall-Two Timing-Two Tailed....nah. I'm not gonna do it!

Once we exchanged gifts and enjoye
d the company for a while it was off to the restaurant. A light snow began to fall and really got everyone into the holiday mood...not that we weren't already! We were offered the choice of a square table in the main room of the restaurant or a circular table in a separate room. Being as how we are The Circle, we chose circular and it's probably a good thing as we were the only ones in that room. I sensed a little bit of curiosity from the other patrons as Guitar, Too Tall and myself filed by sporting our coon skin hats!

The dinner was excellent and the fellowship even better. We enjoyed the food and companionship for the better part of two hours and decided it was time to call it a night......with one last stop back at Guitar and Pic-E's for coffee.

It turned out to be a late night for all of us as we didn't break up until about midnight. I can easily remember the time when things were just getting going good at that time, but all of us in The Circle are well past that point in our lives.

One of the things we discussed during the dinner was potential adventures for the winter. One thing for sure will be a snow shoeing outing....just possibly a weekend up in the mountains somewhere as well...

Tomorrow I leave for Georgia and a number of days visiting my dad, The Colonel. I'm not sure if I'll be able to post while I'm on the road but I certainly will if I can.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, December 7, 2007

When "Almost" Just Isn't Good Enough!

I have been waiting a very long time to write this post. Thirty-five years and two months to be exact. In spite of this, I'm actually getting to write this 603 days earlier than I thought I would.

Readers know that I have not said anything definitive about my job or my employer in this blog, with one exception. In that post I voiced some misgivings about my employer and my career. Because of my feelings, about a year ago I started a countdown to my official retirement which was scheduled for August of 2009, right after I turned 62 years of age. I even went so far as to include this countdown clock on the left sidebar of this blog. In my profile I described myself as an "Almost" Retired Guy.

The title of this post says it all...."almost" is just not good enough....

The company I work for is closely tied to the construction industry and we all have read about the dismal state of housing starts. This is not really anything new. The construction industry is cyclical. My portion of the industry
normally goes in 3 to 4 year cycles. Business cycles down for 3-4 years and up for 3-4 years. We are currently in the second year of a down cycle.

The difference this time is that our current management had no background in this industry and either does not understand or they think they alone can flatten the business cycle out......My good. I won't belabor the issue any more other than to say that we are in a major reorganization/cost cutting mode. One way to cut costs is to eliminate jobs. Jobs can be eliminated without much pain if workers nearing retirement are "induced" to retire.

Oh, Lordy, I have been induced!! I admit it, I am weak. I am a wimp. I let them seduce....I mean induce me. What can I say? Did I want to retire? You betcha....big time you betcha.

If I had planned this I couldn't have come up with a better pla
n. I will have to pay close financial attention for about 6 months but the situation is very doable. The terms of inducement are very generous and for that I am very grateful. I am a very fortunate person. In the end, my company has acted honorably and in strict accordance with all of their published procedures and policies.

The official date of my retirement is December 31st but for all intents and purposes I am retired as of today. I will return to my office only to pick up some personal belongings and say goodbye to some co-workers.

So, I now have to decide what to do with the countdown clock in the left margin? Do readers have any suggestions? The next major event in my life is the
marriage of my oldest daughter. Perhaps I should reset the clock to that event? I guess I also have to change my profile description from "Almost Retired Guy" to something a bit more accurate. Suggestions are welcome.

I have already planned to do many things once I retire and so now I get to begin to do these things. Some of these things have been waiting to be done for 35 years....some not so long but all are worthy of doing. I am very much looking forward to the future. Another door in my life has opened and I plan to take full advantage of what's on the other side!

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Score One For The Weatherman

I have denigrated the profession of meteorologist in past posts so I think it only fair that I acknowledge that they got this one right....for my location anyway.

At the end of last week the local soothsayers were saying that the southern and northern mountains would get snow, the eastern plains would get some rain and ice and "his-self land", right smack dab in the middle, would escape untouched. Incredible as it may seem, that is exactly what happened! The San Juan mountains got as much as four (that's 4) feet of snow. The northern mountains got up to two feet. Just north of the Denver metro area they got rain and ice. If you've read the papers today you know what the Midwest and the New England area got.

I sat here most of the weekend looking at a sunny sky and moderate temps. We did get a little rain with snow flurries on Saturday afternoon but it only lasted for about 45 minutes. Go figure?

I'm not complaining at all. This is what I want Colorado winter to be. Snow magnets in the mountains and go easy on his-self land. The call so far is for this week to be mild as well.

This just in from the "Huh?" desk....the snow was so heavy in some places that they had to postpone the men's World Cup Super G ski race in Beaver Creek....snow cancels ski event...?

I'm hoping the meteorologists make it a string of two accurate forecasts because Friday night is the annual Circle Christmas Dinner. All six of us will be primed for a good time and a great meal and we don't need the hassle of bad weather to make things complicated.

By the way, if you remember my last post I said the guys of The Circle were going to have a Semi-Circle lunch last Friday. Well, we did and had an enjoyable time at the B & B Cafe in Castle Rock. This is an old restaurant that opened in the 1920's and is still in operation. They have a great old sign outside and a wonderful counter and back bar made of marble and onyx that was brought down from the mining town of Leadville. The food is so-so....road food kinda stuff but it's the place more than the food. The place is made even more interesting by a bullet hole in the ceiling that is plainly visible. The bullet hole is the result of a shootout between a Denver desperado and the local marshal in 1946...the marshal lost and was killed. I brought my camera so that I could post a few pictures of the place but when I got there I discovered that the battery was dead. Sorry.

Finally, this Sunday I leave to go visit my Dad, The Colonel, for a week. More on that later....

Thanks for visiting.


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