Jan 24

Naming of The Beast – a 1999 Ford motor home

The Beast as it was tentatively named now is The Heffalump, a name that son Dylan insists is the right one for this creature of ours. Reading Winnie the Poo stories to him and his sister some years ago I always imagined Heffalumps as being large, ominous but ultimately harmless foes. The only defense against them appeared to be the Heffalump trap. However, none were ever captured using that method. Except the odd cast member from the Poo universe would sometimes stumble into one. I don’t know who is responsible for modern representations of The Heffalump. I’m guessing Disney is involved. But in truth The Heffalump is an ill-defined, shadowy figure, all the more to play on the imagination of the reader. 

So far, The Heffalump has led a mundane existence. Primarily getting it from Chicago to Laramie with stop in Saint Paul to pick up a passenger. Through the whole trip, I’ve paid for all of a one-night’s stay, the last on the road, so that I could empty the “blackwater” … oops, that should be black water, not the notorious security consulting firm … the black water tank. Not nearly so unpleasant a task as I thought it might be. I’m just hoping all of that has not had the effect of de-winterizing The Heffalump. I have poured copious quantities of antifreeze down the various drains and left valves open that drain the plastic plumbing. Fingers crossed. 

Jan 24

Effectiveness of Heffalump traps

According to my friend is back there in Albany County, the temperature is minus five degrees. Based on the photograph she supplied on her Facebook profile the snow is fresh and the horses are dressed in hoarfrost. And I am supposed to leave and return there tomorrow by way of the 20 Mule Team crossing Ronnie Reagan’s death valley hauling  a load of sodium borate. Goal: To keep the cost of running The Beast below a respectable 50 cents per mile. 

It’s exciting hitting the road with $140 worth of food loaded into the fridge and pantry. I am sorry to admit that much of it is frozen meals. I won’t have the means to meaningfully prepare food until I can raid my own kitchen in Sun Chase Village (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). 

I will be plenty busy learning about this remarkable machine that is both home and means of transport. Will I be like the Lone Ranger and Tonto appearing from behind a Cretaceous Strata? Who was that masked man someone asks. “Hi ho Silver away” and he races across a landscape impossible for me to imagine as a kid living in suburban Philadelphia. 

I have been thinking about a name for my new home on wheels. Heartbreak Hotel? Dylan likes The Heffalump a never-seen creature in Winnie the Poo stories but for whom Heffalump traps are laid. 

May 15


Do we require greatness of great people? Or can greatness come through a neighbor buying bottles of water or offering his home to shelter strangers? Can greatness come from First Responders arriving on the scene of unimaginable devastation; then thinking first of people who needed their help. We don’t think about what might be out there, one policeman said later. We just turn on the lights and breathe after it’s all over.

When one thinks about all that goes in to responding to a mass casualty event like last week’s Amtrak derailment in Philadelphia, there is so much that can go wrong. But this time things went right and that was due to greatness. The greatness of people. The greatness of the people of Philadelphia. It brought tears to my eyes knowing that so many good things happened at that dark and lonely place where the Train 188 left its rails. A policeman, first on the scene, calls in … this is really bad; send me everything you’ve got. In minutes there were hundreds of police, firefighters. Organized chaos, they called it, at the crash scene and at the hospitals receiving the injured.

Reminding one that this is a different century, even in Philadelphia, we see women on scene, doing themselves proud.

Women's new work





Jul 13

Western fire

A FRIEND WANTS TO KNOW what I would do in regard to people building houses in and immediately adjacent to wild lands. My response does not fit onto one or two iPhone screens. It is impossible to long live here in the West before being touched one way or another by range and grass fires. We have quite a lot of federal land here. All of it managed as open space and much of that is wild lands.


States also own large swaths of land managed to benefit public education and other state funded institutions. The above map shows federal lands. One almost might wonder, looking at Idaho or Nevada, where the population resides.

Continue reading →

Jun 13

Buy 2 get one free

Sometime in the 1960s I am sitting in front of the black and white TV in our home in Penn Square Village and on comes this commercial for a new type of pen. A ball point pen. You don’t buy new ink cartridges for it when it needs refilling. You just throw it away. Part of our new disposable society. The quarterback says to his fellow players: “OK boys, here’s the play; buy two Bic Clic pens; get one free.”  

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Apr 12



THE SANDS OF NORMANDY slide down inside the legs of my camouflage trousers as rubber erasers zing past. Crawling along golden sands; sunbathers glare at me and return to their umbrellaed mai tais. Now chalkboard erasers are incoming fired from booming cannon miles inland. As the black felt erasers strike the sun-drenched beach, puffs of white dust rise up.

A baseball cracks off of George’s bat and he ambles to first base. The ball bounces off a tree in the infield and it’s foul. Disappointed he returns to the dugout nervously watching for snipers. We take our platoon into the forests of Verdun. But we are in the Pacific, an isolated atoll watching for enemy aircraft. We take some casualties and call on our walkie talkies with giant whip antennas for air support. But it doesn’t come. It is time for dinner. Continue reading →

Dec 11

The purpose of a cowboy hat

WHAT IS THE PURPOSE of a cowboy hat?

Is it to keep us warm? To protect our heads and thinning hair from the sun?

I have puzzled over these questions and more during the long years I’ve been living west of the Missouri River. A cowboy hat is usually fairly stiff. Sometimes reinforced felt. Others a felt coated shell. Summer uniform accepts a just off-white straw version to keep the head cool. So what IS the purpose of a cowboy hat? Continue reading →

Dec 11

Our returning children

I DEPLANE INTO A COMMUTER terminal at DIA at 9 PM on a Saturday and there is pandemonium. The place is jammed. Really, the airport is jammed. I know semesters are ending and holidays are approaching but that’s not entirely it. More like what happens at the end of a war.

Norman Rockwell and The Saturday Evening Post capture this moment from another era in “The Homecoming.” The weary, bedraggled, young man standing there as his family explodes with joy.

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May 11

The Rocking

SUNDAY WE ALL LOADED into AF2 and headed for the hills. I should explain that AF2 is our designation for black 1998 Volvo station wagon number 2. Air Force One (for the original black 1998 Volvo Station Wagon) and Air Force Two (for the “new” 1998 black Volvo Station Wagon with AWD).

Sunday we all loaded into AF2 and headed for the hills in the area of Centenniel, Wyoming, to hunt rocks. Not valuable rocks. Not rock climbing. Rocks. Big rocks that I can add to the rock garden that has been expanding steadily around our building like creeping charlie.     Continue reading →

Jan 11

Bread, bread everywhere and not a crumb to eat

I’VE JUST RECENTLY RETURNED from my first out-of-town trip since beginning an experiment with going gluten free. Sleeping past the free hotel breakfast I find myself wandering the empty streets of downtown Lincoln, Nebraska, looking for breakfast. I pass the Starbucks and the Panera Bread Company. No gluten-free bakery and coffee shop? I wander into the local branch of what happens to be the bank we use. I ask only for suggestions about breakfast places. A woman with a clipboard and a pleasant South American accent starts thinking but is interrupted by a hurried, important, man in a suit who asks where he can exchange money. She suggests the bank tellers right behind her. Then it comes. Panera’s! I thank her for this bit of advice and simply follow it. Continue reading →