Wednesday, January 28, 2009

RIP Major Brian Michael Mescall '97

Major Brian Mescall was the 14th Citadel graduate to pay the ultimate price in the War on Terror. He wore The Ring.....

Monday, January 26, 2009

A Musical Weekend

Saturday nite The Circle gathered at Guitar and Pic-E's place for a pizza dinner before heading to Swallow Hill for a concert. The main attraction was Chuck Pyle. Swallow Hill puts on basic concerts in an old church building. Nothing fancy at all and we were surprised to find that there was an "opening act" before Chuck performed. An unexpected twofer. Bill Hearne was the opening act and as we learned he is a star in his own right.

In the last year we've attended a number of concerts featuring regional artists and I'm beginning to see something I was totally unaware of. Regional around here includes Colorado, Wyoming, New Mexico and sometimes Texas and Arizona. The music style can best be described as country/western. This is not the "country" you hear on the radio. This is much more basic and acoustic. The artists are a lot less Hollywood....and actually a lot more interesting. The western part of the music includes a lot of influence from 1940's swing music which is my favorite part of the whole thing.

Anyway, there appears to be a group of regional artists that perform all over the area and are like a musical family. They all are artists by themselves but they also perform with others of the group from time to time. Their talent is equal to or surpasses many of the nationally known artists but they have remained local out of choice or circumstance. Check out this link and see how the likes of Nanci Griffith, Lyle Lovett and Jerry Jeff Walker considered Bill Hearn to be an inspiration.

I enjoyed the "opening" act immensely and at intermission bought one of Bill's CDs. He sat at the table autographing the CD covers during intermission.When was the last time you went to any type of concert where the artist mingled with the audience during the intermission?

Chuck Pyle struggled for the night. It seems he was in the midst of a full blown chest cold but he cowboyed through. He even joked about it. He said he had had the cold long enough to really get to know it and he named it in honor of a cold woman he once knew...Francine. Even with the handicap of a cold it's evident that he is a very talented guy and he provided an entertaining evening.

To continue the musical theme...if you follow this blog you'll remember that I bought a Native American flute a while ago and have taken one lesson so far in my effort to be able to play it. I've also searched the internet and found numerous sites that have provided me with useful information on the flutes themselves and how to play them.

One of the things I discovered on the internet is that there are groups called "flute circles" all over the country. A flute circle is just a group of people that have an interest in playing the Native American flute and who get together on a periodic basis to play and learn from one another. It just so happens that there is one in the Denver area and last night I attended a monthly meeting of the group. I had no expectations whatsoever. I just wanted to learn a little more about flutes, playing flutes and the resources that were available. I certainly got all that and more.

I brought my little internet purchased beginners model with me but had already determined that there was no way in hell that I would try to play it in public at this point. When I walked through the door of the house the gathering was held at it was clear that I was way over my head in terms of proficiency and quickly hid my flute under my jacket.

It was a great experience. There were between 12-15 people there. Everyone had at least three or four different flutes and if nothing else I got to see some serious flutes of all different designs, woods and keys. The participants were most gracious towards me and helped me understand a lot more about flutes and how to play them. Several members of the group also teach lessons so now I have several more instructors that I can choose from.

I listened in awe to a number of them as they took turns playing and it really reinforced in me the idea that I can and want to continue to learn to play this relatively simple instrument. I also became convinced that if I want to continue I need to get a more "serious" flute and this group can help me do that.

In addition to getting together to talk and play, members bring flutes to sell and/or trade. The flutes they sell or trade are very nice flutes, it's just that they are constantly trying new flutes and most people only feel comfortable owning a certain number at one time. Good for me because I'll know if I buy one that it's from someone in this group that it's good flute by a good maker....which brings up another point.

This type of flute is not mass produced. This is a cottage industry with a maker or artisan that makes these things one at a time by hand. There are a lot of people who profess to be flute makers but there is a relatively small group of quality artisans. I have now tapped into a knowledge base that will allow me to be sure that whatever I buy is something that's worth the price.

A musical weekend to be's high is going to be around 15 degrees so I believe I'll practice my flute a bit..........

Thanks for visiting.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Major Road Trip Plans

Guitar and I have roughed out plans for a major road trip at the end of February. I just wish it was next week instead of three weeks off. We've been wanting to do this for awhile and it seems as if everything is now coming together.

Here's the highlights. Guitar and I will leave in my RV on a Sunday morning and head south through Trinadad CO, Raton NM, Las Vegas NM on I-25. We will then get off the interstate and work our way through central New Mexico as far south as Las Cruces. At Las Cruces we'll pick up I-10 and head west to Tucson AZ. On Wednesday of that week, The Bride and Guitar's wife, Pic-E, will fly into Tucson and we will all explore the Tucson area until Sunday afternoon when the ladies will fly back to the Denver area. Guitar and I will then work our way back north through central Arizona and cut back into New Mexico at Gallup and then on back to the Denver area. We will get back home around Friday or Saturday of the second week.

Tucson was picked as the southern terminus for several reasons. First of all it should be warm in the 70's or 80's. It will be a refreshing break for February in Colorado. Secondly, Guitar's cousin has been wintering down there for a number of years and is staying at an RV park on the south side of town. He has lined up the sights for us to see while we are there. I met him about six months ago when he passed through town towing his vintage 1971 Avion trailer...a very cool trailer. He also writes a blog, Sandcreek Travel so if you want to see what we are getting into, give him a visit. Finally, I spent about 6 weeks at Ft. Huachuca, just south of Tucson, when I was in the Army and always wanted to go back and explore the area further Now I will be able to do just that.

Those are the highlights. The in between stuff we're still working on but you can bet that Guitar and I will find some interesting and probably weird stuff along the way. I'll keep you updated as the plans progress.

Closer to home, The Circle is going to meet tonight at Bud's Bar for our kinda regular weekly burger and then on Saturday we will be going to the Chuck Pyle concert that I mentioned in the last post.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Still Alive and Well

It's been over a week since my last post. I don't go that far between posts too often but I just didn't have the inspiration during the last week. There just wasn't a whole lot going on and I was pursuing quiet past times like reading. One thing I did that hopefully will bring some adventure to my life in a few months was to volunteer for two more Passport In Time projects.

If you will remember, this past September, Guitar and I spent a week volunteering with the US Forest Service, helping them do an archaeological survey in a remote canyon in SE Colorado. The first project I volunteered for will "curate" artifacts collected during this and other surveys in the past few years. The Forest Service description of the project is as follows:

"The Pike-San Isabel National Forest will host a curation project at the Monument Fire Center (historically known as Monument Nursery), established May 1, 1907, and summer home of the Pike Hot Shots. It is located in beautiful central Colorado at the interface of the Great Plains and the eastern Front Range of the Rocky Mountains. Over the years, FS archaeologists on the Pike-San Isabel National Forest and Comanche-Cimarron National Grassland (PSICC) have accumulated materials while recording and evaluating historic and prehistoric sites. We need your help to properly curate these artifacts. Participants will help clean, identify, analyze, and package some of Colorado's most important cultural resources. We encourage both those with archaeological curation experience and the interested neophyte to apply. In addition, if the weather permits, there may be an opportunity to conduct ground surveys or site and feature relocation activities associated with the nursery."

It's basically an "office" job but it will be fun to see the process of "curating" and to see what becomes of the artifacts I helped collect this past September. Besides that this project takes place at the end of March and by that time my cabin fever should be at a maximum.

The second project I volunteered for is in June. It will be a full week of the same type of archaeological survey activity that I did on my first project. It will also be in a remote canyon in SE Colorado. Picketwire Canyon is a lot better known than the canyon we went to in September. They have been doing surveys there for 15 years but are still finding important stuff. In addition to what the Native Americans left behind, Picketwire Canyon contains over 1300 dinosaur tracks frozen in the rock that was once a muddy lakeshore or swamp. Here's how the Forest Service describes the project.

"Join us for another year of adventure on the Picketwire Canyonlands Survey - a project that itself is becoming a heritage resource! The Canyonlands is a spectacular and rugged venue containing a great wealth of prehistoric and historic resources - and it offers wilderness without the crowds. We are recruiting volunteers to help us continue efforts to record and understand the human past of the Picketwire. Among the prehistoric resources are complex architectural sites, camp locations used by the antecedents of modern tribes, and a variety of rock art dating to all periods. We also anticipate Hispanic pioneering homesteads of the 19th century and the remnants of historic cattle ranches. PIT volunteers will help us thoroughly explore the canyon and its branches to record sites and features using specialized tasks including photography, botany, orienteering, site mapping, and artifact identification. We look forward to having you join us for our 15th year in the canyon!"

I said I volunteered but that is no guarantee that I will be accepted for the project. I'm thinking that my chances for the "office" job are pretty good but there will be a lot of people volunteering for the Picketwire project and there are only 8 openings. Hopefully my experience on the project in September will give an edge.

In the meantime, The Bride and I, the rest of The Circle and a whole bunch of our Moab on the Rocks friends are going to a concert to see one of our own perform in a local band. Next weekend the full Circle will be going to another concert by Chuck Pyle. I first became acquainted with Chuck Pyle last year when I attended the Cowboy Poetry Gathering across town and really enjoyed his music. I'm really looking forward to this one.

Finally, Guitar and I are beginning to plan a road trip to Tucson next month. The early plans are for he and I to drive one of our RVs on the scenic route to Tucson in late February. The Bride and Pic-E will fly down to Tucson to meet us for a long weekend and then Guitar and I will drive back, taking as much time as he can manage to get off from work. Much more to follow on this.

Thanks for visiting.

Friday, January 9, 2009

An Afternoon Knap

One of the things that fascinated me when Guitar and I helped the Forest Service with an archaeological survey this past fall was how the Indians made stone tools. Intricate tools like arrowheads and knives were made by banging on rocks with stones or antlers. When you look at some of the tools up close you begin to realize how difficult it must have been to create them....Or was it? I decided to find out by investigating the art of flintknapping.

There are any number of books devoted to this subject and I bought a couple. There are also DVD and online videos that illustrate how the process works. There is, however, no substitute for having a real live person ex
plain and show you how to do this. I had tried a little bit by myself, after watching the videos and reading some books but it's a difficult thing to do without a "teacher" I started looking for a teacher. Much to my surprise I found a very highly regarded instructor right here in the Denver area so I emailed him to see if he might be able to teach me.

Bob Patten is nationally if not internationally known in the field of lithics. He is the author of at least two books on the subject and is an expert craftsman in making stone tools. He also was willing to teach me so yesterday afternoon I had my first "knap".

It was fun and there is a lot to learn but it's not so difficult that a clutzy old guy like me can't do it. The picture above shows some of the native tools and some of the modern tools that I am using. The two items on the top of the picture are modern tools. The solid heavy brass rod is called a billet and it's used to do the heavy work of breaking down large pieces of stone. The tool with th
e black handle is called a pressure flaker and is used to flake off medium size pieces of rock.

The Native Americans did not have access to some of the tools we use today. They were limited to stones and antlers. The large stones are used as hammers to pound off larger pieces of rocks. Smaller stones caused smaller flakes and the antlers were used as pressure flakers to make the finest of flakes.

The black rock in the middle of the picture is a piece of chert that I found while on a hike last week. Chert is an excellent rock to use in flintknapping so I have something I can work with for now.

During the lesson we used some chert that Bob had gotten in Texas and we started by taking a big flake off of an even larger rock. The picture to the right is what I accomplished in about 45 minutes of knapping. It's just a rough form, about four inches tall and three inches wide. It's still too thick to be really useful and needs a lot more refinement. Like most things the roughing out is way easier than the finish work but I was thrilled that I was able to do this much.

So, it seems as if I have yet another hobby. This one also lends itself to RV trips to the mountains. Pretty soon I'm going to have to use a calendar to apportion time to my hobbies to every one gets equal time.....Life is good.

Thanks for visiting.

Monday, January 5, 2009

We Almost Made It

Before retiring last year my job required that I travel about 50% of the time so travel for me was not exciting. It was in fact a pain. I didn't mind being somewhere out of town, it was the getting there part that I really hated. Yesterday I found out that things haven't changed much and traveling is still a major pain.

The Bride and I left the house at a little after 10 am yesterday on our way to her Great Aunt's funeral in North Carolina. Timing was tight and we bought the best tickets we could on Friday. Those tickets required us to fly through Minneapolis to North Carolina on Northwest Airlines. That would not have been my choice....but we didn't have a choice.

To start things off, since we bought last minute tickets, we were marked for the complete security screening. This included the puffer bomb detector and an intense baggage search. I made it through the puffer ok but the baggage search turned up an unopened toothpaste tube I had bought the day before that was 1 ounce over the limit and was confiscated. Also, since they were last minute tickets both of our seats were center seats and the plane was packed.....I had almost forgotten the joy of feeling like a sardine with a big shouldered stranger on either side of me reducing my seat space to about half of the actual seat.

Even though it was a balmy three...degrees when we reached Minneapolis we were glad to be able to get out of the sardine can. At least it was clear and not snowing. We were almost looking forward to our three....hour layover so we could allow our bodies to recover from the first two hour leg.

So, The Bride and I ate a "gourmet" dinner at one of the airport restaurants and watched the Minnesota Viking football game. For my dinner I had the local specialty....Walleye Fingers? I've fished for many years but have never seen fingers on a fish. The Bride stuck to a less adventurous soup. After "dinner" we went to the gate to wait on our next flight which was scheduled for 7:15 pm.

At 7 pm the flight was posted as Cancelled. The Northwest agents couldn't give us a reason although one said something about "weather". Well, we knew the weather in Minneapolis was good enough to fly because we watched about 100 planes take of or land while we were waiting. As I was walking down the concourse just before the flight was cancelled I looked at the Northwest weather map on the TV screen and it showed no severe weather between us and the east coast. We had also talked to The Brides mother who was less than 40 miles from the airport we were supposed to fly into and she said the weather was gorgeous. I suspect the "weather" comment was just a device for them to cancel what was probably an unprofitable flight for them as there were only about 15 people in the gate area.

The agent told us that the earliest flight they could provide for us was the next day (today) at 7:15 pm. The funeral was today at 3 pm. There really wasn't any purpose in spending the night in Minneapolis and getting to North Carolina after the funeral so we asked to be flown back to Denver.

We were lucky that there was one last flight at 10 pm back to Denver and they squeezed us on. Squeezed is appropriate because every seat was full again and again we sat in center seats. This flight was really bad because everyone was carrying on luggage (including myself) and about half way through the loading process they had to start checking baggage because the overheads were full. It was horrendous. The crew offered no help at first and just allowed people to continue to go to the back of the plane with their luggage. That caused a massive jam when everyone tried to bring their bags back forward to check. Then the crew allowed people to put their bags on the jetway for checking and reboard without claim checks......Another jam when people had to come forward, identify their luggage and get a claim check.

We arrived back in Denver a little after 11 pm. I felt like a piece of paper that had been wadded into a spit ball. The Bride had checked her bag so we had to wait on that and wait and wait. Finally a Northwest representative made an announcement that they were understaffed and things were taking a little longer than usual....and oh, by the way, they can't get the cargo door of the plane open to get to the bags.

We made it home a little after 1 am this morning and just went to bed without even unpacking.

This morning I called Northwest to see about getting a refund for the $900 we spent to travel to a funeral and never made it to. I had a lengthy discussion with the agent about the weather. She said the flight was cancelled because of weather but couldn't tell me where the bad weather was. Finally after talking with a supervisor I was told they had requested a refund for me.......they couldn't guarantee that I would get it but I would know in a couple of days.

I'm not holding my breath and I'm trying to figure out what my options are if I don't get the refund.

I feel sorry for those road warriors that have to travel a lot for their jobs. It's a nasty part of today's business.

Thanks for visiting.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

We All Move Up In The Line Of Life

The Bride and I will be travelling to North Carolina tomorrow to attend the funeral of her Great Aunt.

Aunt Elaine was a unique individual. She was a "spinster"...a word probably either not understood or very much misunderstood in society today. A vibrant personality and very strong willed. Born in 1916, she grew up in pivotal times in America. She rode to school on a horse with her brother and sister in Nebraska before her family moved back to their familial roots in North Carolina.

She was a school teacher. A graduate of Appalachian Teachers College, Cl
ass of 1937, she taught school for her livelihood. I didn't know her in those years but I have no doubt that she could have given the Catholic nuns of my later school years, a good run for their money!

She was tough and ornery and strong willed and probably never married because of that. Her family was her brother and sister's family and she became an icon to the extended family. We will miss her greatly.

As to the title of the post, I think I have mentioned in earlier posts that I have this perception of life that we are all waiting in a line, the line of life. As our relatives pass on we move up towards the front of that line. I am now at the front of the line and The Bride is not too far behind me.The good news is that this line does not move at any pre-determined speed and judging from my parents time in line, I have many more years to wait.

Sorry for the melancholy happens.

So, today was pretty chaotic. Not only did we have to find airline flights at the last minute for tomorrow but we also needed to take down the Christmas tree and put away all of the Christmas decorations.

We'll be back on Thursday and there won't be any further posts till then.....

Thanks for visiting.


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