Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Circle Dinner and Other Stuff

The Circle has been broken for some time due to the fact that The Bride and I have been out of town. It was decided among the ladies of The Circle to have dinner Sunday night at Guitar and Pic-E's place. Since it was a Sunday, and most of the rest of The Circle had to be at work on Monday, we decided to make it a relatively early evening.

Early however, did not keep us from having a great time catching up on the goings on and talking about potential future adventures. The menu consisted of a stuffed pork loin as the main course and plenty of side dishes. It was great! K and Too Tall-Two Timing provided the desert pictured above. Very appropriate, the circle smiley face, don't you think?

One thing we did plan at this get together, was to book tickets to a show that I've been wanting to see for some time now, the Patsy Decline Show, which is a spoof on the life of Patsy Cline. The performer, Lannie Garrett, is local talent but she is definitely of national caliber. The venue should prove to be as interesting as the show itself. The Clocktower Cabaret is in the basement of the remains of one of the great old department store
s in Denver's history. It was the first "skyscraper" in the Denver downtown and was built in 1910. I am really looking forward to this event.

The weather has been relatively decent for the past few days and I have been getting in some walks with Molly dog. Over the past few years I have noticed an increase in the number of hawks and kestrels in the area and during our walk yesterday I got a glimpse of what I believe is a red tailed hawk. It's not often you see them perched this close to the ground...

Two other items of interest for this post. First, I'm thinking seriously of doing a road trip to Moab, UT for the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. I had such a good time at the event here in the Denver area, I really want to do it again. The weather will be the ultimate decider....if it looks like I can get over the mountains, weather wise, I believe I'll give it a go. T
his is shaping up to be a winter of epic proportions in the mountains however so I'll just have to wait and see.

Item #2 is that I'm seriously considering buying a small Class A RV and selling my trailer, Bivouac. Bivouac is a great trailer but when I tow it, car and trailer are almost forty feet long. That limits me a lot on the places I can go and where I can stay at night. I have found what I think will be a suitable smaller Class A and am going to look at it on Sunday afternoon. The interior will actually be smaller than the interior of Bivouac but the "tow vehicle" is built in. Total length about twenty-five feet.

If everything works out, who knows, maybe this is how I'll get to the Cowboy Poetry Gathering. Stay tuned.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Recent Read

Among the Indians, Eight Years in the far West, 1858-1866 by Henry A. Boller is yet another of the fabulous Lakeside Classics. This edition was released by the R. R. Donnelley Co. in 1959. The original manuscript was prepared from Boller's journals and published in late 1867 or early 1868. The title is somewhat confusing because the actual time period described in the book spans only four years 1858-1862.

Even if the title is misleading, it doesn't change the fact that if you like this type of first person historical narrative about the early fur traders and Indians, this is an absorbing, vivid, can't put it down type of book.

Boller came from an upper class family and spent three years at the University of Pennsylvania. Despite his privileged background and the chance to lead a life of relative luxury, the call of the frontier led him to abandon college in his senior year and obtain a clerkship with the "opposition" fur company of Clark and Primeau. This company was in direct competition with the American Fur Company owned by John Jacob Astor. In 1860 Astor bought Clark and Primeau in an effort to eliminate the competition and Boller found himself without a job. He quickly secured a spot in another "opposition" company, Larpenteur, Smith and Company

During the four years he chronicled he spent time in numerous fur trading forts and Indian villages all along the Missouri River and up to the Yellowstone River in eastern Montana. Boller describes not only his day to day activities, but he also gives us an in depth glimpse of Indian life before the demise of the buffalo.

Unlike settlers who tried to avoid all contact with the Indians, Boller's livelihood depended on constant contact with the Indians. His "career" demanded that he interact with both friendly and hostile Indians on a regular basis. Because of this, Boller is able to give us an intimate look at the everyday live of the many Indian tribes in the area. Both the fur traders and the Indians faced tremendous challenges in everyday living that they both accepted as a normal state of affairs. Life was hard and uncertain and there was plenty of excitement and danger to go around. Boller is an accomplished writer and is able to paint a vivid picture of events that make you feel as if you were right there with him.

I've said it before, but if you want to journey back into the very beginnings of American Western history, if you want to feel like you stepped out of a time machine and found yourself in that exciting but dangerous era, read this book.

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Rockmount Western Wear

Some sad news from an iconic Denver business today. Jack Weil, the Younger died after an 8 month battle with cancer. He was 79.

This Jack Weil is called the Younger because he is survived by his father, the founder of Rockmount Western Wear. His father "Papa Jack" is 106 years old! That is correct one hundred and six years old.

Papa Jack started Rockmount in 1946 and the business has occupied the same downtown Denver location since that time. Even if you've never heard of Rockmount Western Wear, you have undoubtedly seen Papa Jack's products. Elvis, Eric Clapton, Clark Gable, James Cann and Tom Hanks are just a few of the celebrities that have worn Rockmount western shirts.

These are not just your run of the mill western shirts. These shirts can be considered works of art. From the snap buttons, which Papa Jack used before anyone else, to the fantastic embroidery, to the outlandish designs, these shirts have become classics. So classic are they, that the Smithsonian Institution has several in it's possession.

Now, if you think that is something, listen to this. Papa Jack still comes in to work every day! After all he still is the president of the business. His grandson Steve, is the vice-president and takes care of the everyday business,
but Papa Jack still puts in his time on the job.

When I first moved to the Denver area and learned about this great story...and business, I was determined to own one of these classics. I now own two. I have a shirt of the same design as the picture at the top of this post and I have the design shown to the left. This is the shirt I'm wearing in my profile picture.

I am proud to say that while shopping for these shirts, I spoke with Papa Jack. Jack, the Younger, will be missed but the business is in good hands and promises to continue for many years.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Back From North Carolina

It took two different flights but the entire family made it back from NC yesterday. The Emmer, CaJenn and I, were up and on our way to the airport at 4:30 am yesterday. All three of us flew to Cleveland where The Emmer and I continued on to Denver and CaJenn caught a different flight to San Francisco. The Bride was to follow on a flight from Greensboro/Atlanta/Denver later in the day.

It was the culmination of a sad week. One of those things that unfortunately seems to happen more often now that I am growing older. It was gratifying to see how many people came to the services and sent letters, cards and emails of condolences. Big Don touched an awful lot of lives and was a very respected member of the community.

I could not be in Winston-Salem, NC without visiting my most favorite culinary parlor...Mr. Barbecue. I wrote about Mr. Barbecue in a previous post and it is a ritual for me to eat lunch there whenever I am in the area. This time I brought The Bride, The Emmer, CaJenn, my brother #4 and The Bride's mother, Big Don's wife.

All of us except my brother #4 have eaten there on numerous occasions. I particularly wanted to see #4's reaction to the traditional meal, especially the red slaw which is a local variation on standard coleslaw. This slaw, which is circled in the picture to the right is made with a vinegar based sauce and quite honestly, it's an acquired taste. Like the locals, I have acquired it big time!

#4 heartily agreed that the barbecue was top notch but it would take him some time to get used to the slaw.....his loss....more for me!

CaJenn is quite fond of the hush puppies which she says are completely unknown on the left coast. Even with this fondness however, she couldn't eat her allotted portion...her loss...more for me!

The other ritual for me, when I am in the area, is a visit to Mrs. Hanes' cookie factory. Moravian cookies are one of nature's wonders and one of my gluttonous passions. All of Mrs. Hanes' cookies are hand made. A lot of food products claim that but I can tell you for sure that these cookies are HAND MADE. If you visit the factory, which is a relatively small building way out in the country between Clemmons, NC and Lexington, NC, you will see 10-15 women hand rolling these delectable delights to a thickness of about 1/16 of an inch! The miracle machinery in this factory is the wrists of the women who hand roll the dough. This is just a wonderful product and a fascinating small business success story.

I've been sending these cookies to my brothers as a Christmas present for over 25 years now. At one point I asked them if they were tired of cookies and would like something else for Christmas. I can't
repeat their exact replies but they did threaten bodily harm if I stopped sending the cookies.

Anyway, after a fulfilling meal at Mr. Barbecue, I took #4 to Mrs. Hanes' factory. It was like the pilgrim going to Mecca... #4 purchased several different flavors to try and left there a very happy man!

Back here in Colorado, it's cold with a forecast of more cold and snow, turning to colder and snowier. I believe the dinner forecast will be for chili. Oh well, it is January after all.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Rest In Peace Big Don

It wasn't unexpected but that doesn't make it any easier. The Bride's father, Big Don, passed away last night.

I'll be out of town for a while..........

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Cowboy Poetry Gathering

Friday afternoon, Guitar and I went to the Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering that was held in Arvada, CO. I had never been to an event like this and really didn't know what to expect. I didn't have very high expectations and thought that after an hour or so I'd be ready to say "Been there done that".

What a great, entertaining time it turned out to be. After the first hour I was sorry that I waited till afternoon to come and that I missed several hours of events. There was poetry all right, and there was music too.

The way this thing worked was that there were five sessions going on at any one time. Each session lasted about an hour and had a different theme. Several poets and/or musicians participated in each session. Some of the themes were, "Good Horses, Bad Rides", "Cowboy Humor", "Cowboy Songs & Range Ballads" and "Down Under".

The Down Under session featured poets guessed it, Australia. There are plenty of ranches, cattle and sheep in Australia and the cowboys...and cowgirls there have a strong tradition of "Bush Poetry". Milton Taylor from Hartley, New South Wales kept me in stitches with wonderful rhyming stories. The delightful Aussie accent just made things even more interesting.

There were plenty of North American cowboys and musicians too. Most of the poets are or were actively engaged in ranching so the material was realistic....and often hilarious. About 40 entertainers participated.

On the musical side, one of the most entertaining artists was Chuck Pyle. I didn't think I knew anything about this guy until I read his bio and then I realized that I had listened to a number of his songs that were sung by other artists. He has written songs for John Denver, Chris LeDoux, The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and Jerry Jeff Walker to name a few. This guy is GOOD and to be able to listen to him in a room with only 30-40 other people was a real treat.

Guitar and I stayed until the last session at 5 pm and vowed to make sure we put this high on the priority list for next year. If you ever get the chance to attend an event like You won't regret it.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

This retirement stuff can keep you pretty busy. This is the first week since my retirement that I really considered myself "retired". In my former work a day life, I normally took whatever vacation time I had left for the year during the Christmas, New Years period. With a lot of other people on vacation too, I really didn't feel seriously retired till the beginning of this week.

I have managed to clear a few things off my "to do" list around the house but the list is long enough and dynamic enough that I cannot foresee my ever eliminating it completely. My daily routine once again includes exercise....and to top it all off I have been taking it upon myself to do a lot of cooking around the house.

I have been able to sleep about a half hour longer on some days, but most of the time my body clock still gets me up pretty early. The picture above was taken a few days ago on a particularly fine morning. The wind mill is from the original ranch on which my housing development sits. Makes for a nice picture...

Right now I am limi
ting my cooking adventure to crock pot dishes. I figure once I get comfortable with that I'll expand into other things. So far I've done some pretty decent hearty soups, a Basque style chicken stew and tonight I'm working on a lamb stew.

On Wednesday I needed to take my trailer, Bivouac to an RV dealer to take care of a safety recall related to the propane refrigerator. Driving it there to get the work done ignited a small bit of road fever. It felt darned good just to be towing it anywhere, although I wished the direction of the tow could have been south towards
New Mexico. I have a trip all laid out that will take me from here to Carlsbad, NM over about a two week period as soon as the weather breaks a bit. More on that in a future post.

Last night Guitar, Pic-E, The Bride and I went to the RV show downtown. K and Too Tall-Two Timing were supposed to accompany us but Too Tall has come down with the very nasty cold that seems to be making the rounds. I have been to the event several times and I always enjoy seeing what's available, even if I can't afford most of it. In past years I have gone either on a Friday or Saturday afternoon and it was somewhat of a hassle because of the size of the crowds...It gets a little cramped when 15 people try to get into the same RV at one time, regardless of the size of the RV. I've gotta tell you that Thursday night is the time to visit this one if you don't like crowds! What a great time. Everything was fully open but there were very few people.

We spent about two hours looking and dreaming and then decided to get some dinner. Bubba Gump Shrimp Company has opened up just about across the street from the convention center so we decided to give it a try. For Denver...not bad. Guitar and I both had a
bucket of peel your own shrimp. This is a favorite of mine from way back when I lived in Savannah, GA and would catch my own shrimp and eat them this way. A good time was had by all.

Today, Guitar and I are headed for the Cowboy Poetry Roundup. I'll post later about how that goes. Also tomorrow we are planning on going to the National Western Stock Show. If Too Tall-Two Timing is not feeling up to it we may just wait until next week but check back soon to see.

Because of the Stock Show, many buildings downtown have not taken down their holiday lights. I tried to get a picture of a few of the buildings with The Brides new digital camera but only one turned out ok...that the one above.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, January 5, 2008

Happy Birthday #1

I've gotta tell ya that winter time is a busy celebration time in my family. Not only do we have the standard Christmas and New Year's holidays, but there are also numerous birthdays and anniversaries. It was just a few days ago that I was wishing my brother #4, a Happy Birthday. The time between Christmas and New Year's is also my oldest brother's wedding anniversary and my parents anniversary.

Tomorrow is my oldest brother's birthday. I won't say exactly how old he is other than to say of the four boys in my family, he is the only one that cannot be considered a "baby boomer" and next year Medicare will likely become part of his world.

Geesh, most people consider us baby boomers to be a bit on the old side....and he's too old to be called a baby boomer! He was even born DURING WW II!

On this blog he has the moniker of #1. I need to be perfectly clear that this moniker is not intended to mean that he is 1st in anything other than chronological order. He certainly is not #1 in terms of good looks as I have occupied that family position just about all of my life.

Strangely enough during his teen years, he gave me a run for my money in the looks department. While most teens are gawky and just about bustin' out of their bodies with ugly, he entered his James Dean phase. He was actually a good looking teen....but as we all know that phase only lasts 7 years.

Somehow I guess his hormones got reversed and when he was supposed to be ugly, he wasn't but both before and after that time....well I'll be discrete and not hit below the belt with an ugly stick.

I think now that he is entering the old f**t part of his life he is mellowing out somewhat. Some even suggest that he might be able to make an end life career of impersonating an old movie star???

What do you think?

Happy Birthday brother!

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Semi-Circle Lunch

Too Tall-Two Timing emailed Guitar and me a few days ago, wanting to know if we wanted to get together for lunch at the B & B Cafe in Castle Rock on Friday. Since my calendar is now totally open almost every day I was in for sure. Guitar is fighting a cold but said he would make it if he could...and he did.

At noon we all met at this quaint little "joint" in the middle of downtown, metropolitan, not to be confused with a city of any large size, Castle Rock, Colorado. This is more of a local hangout than a culinary extravaganza but if you're a weird seeker like me you will enjoy it. Not only does the B & B have a great old sign hanging out front, but it's got a great old lunch counter and back bar that the owners bought in the old mining town of Leadville early in the last century. Both the counter and back bar are made of Italian marble and black onyx....circa 1880.

If that was not enough to entertain, the piece de resistance is a bullet hole in the ceiling. That's right, the owners have preserved a bullet hole through the old metal ceiling. It seems as if the local sheriff and a Denver desperado had a shoot out in the restaurant in 1946. Unfortunately, the law lost and the sheriff was killed. The desperado was caught later and met his maker too.

This is my kind of lunch. A weird, kitschy, kind of place. Lots of interesting locals to watch, and on top of that friends and conversation.

One of the topics of the Semi-Circle's conversation was how do we cram everything we want to do into the next few weeks??? There are a lot of things going on in the Denver metropolitan area in January and I don't know how to cram them into the 31 days allotted to this month. Here's our list so far:

Colorado RV Show
National Western Stock Show
Indian Market
Colorado Cowboy Poetry Gathering
Concert at The Ogden Theater by The Subdudes
Snowshoeing in the mountains
Road Trip to AZ or NM??

It's going to take some real planning to be able to get even half of all of this stuff into the next couple of weeks....I guess we'll have to establish some priorities. Stay tuned to see how we do....

Thanks for visiting.

Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Lucky Beans

Every year K and Too Tall-Two Timing hold a "Lucky Beans" party on New Year's Day and yesterday was that day. The name is a bit of a misnomer as the main dish served at the affair is actually black eyed peas. I guess Lucky Peas just doesn't have the same ring as Lucky Beans. It is a Southern tradition to eat black eyed peas on New Year's Day for good luck and this way we could not only fulfill the tradition but all get together as well.

The Bride and I have been attending this party for about four years now and we always look forward to it. The members of The
Circle have all been busy with family during the holiday season and this party gives us the opportunity to get together and compare notes on holiday "doins". There are also other friends that attend and all of us always have a good time.

This year we may have started another tradition....the champagne cork shoot. K and Too Tall's home backs up to an open space and from their back deck it's quite a ways to the next row of homes. Too Tall told us that he and K on occasion have tried to see how far they could get
a champagne cork to fly off of their deck......Just so happens that I brought a bottle of champagne to the party!

We decided to see if my unshaken bottle's cork was up to their standards? I was torn between shaking the bottle for more distance or not shaking it for more champagne afterwards. I opted for the latter. I managed to get about 100 feet out of this first attempt...and unfortunately we only had one bottle so that was it for this year.

After toasting to the new year, I went to the back yard and found the cork in the snow and marked the spot with a driveway reflector. Hopefully, Too Tall will leave this marker in place and next year we can see if someone else can "best" my initial shot.

Black eyed peas and a host of other goodies were next and the entire group had a great time for the next couple of hours. I made sure I ate lots of black eyed peas because I want to be absolutely sure that I have good luck in this coming year......and besides they are mmmmmm good!

As I write this we are in the second day of 2008. It's my hope that the year will bring nothing but good things for The Circle and our families.......I ate an awful lot of black eyed peas.

Thanks for visiting.


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