Shootin' the Breeze

and random targets

Archive for the month “August, 2012”

In the Eyes of the Beholder

This morning I am sitting in our sunroom as the sun rises and I wish my eyes were cameras so I could share what I see.

At our house, as with many other places, perhaps even at your own home, the sun is coming up in the East.  It has to come up between some low hills, lighting them with warm color.  As the light expands, the red and orange fades and spreads into neutrality no longer tinted but brighter. 

With the brighter lightness, I can see all directions, each with its own beauty.  To the North is a rocky ridge called Greyrock, half a mile beyond our red and white barn.  The ridge is not merely gray, however; it is interspersed with pink rock and green vegetation.  Beyond the ridge is a rock formation appropriately named Steamboat Rock. 

To the South are blue mountains.  They look like someone cut construction paper of two shades of blue and overlapped them.  Occasionally, traffic on the highway changes the still life landscape into a motion picture.  The highway is a mile from our lane so the noise is not disturbing.  Oddly, it is somewhat comforting because it connects us to the civilized world.

The view to the West is everyone’s favorite.   There is the mountain range for which Colorado is famous, the Rockies.  Basically, we are looking at Rocky Mountain National Park and Roosevelt National Forest.  Much closer, Dead Man’s Butte is to the Southwest, and the North Poudre streams by within thirty yards. 

If my wife lets me borrow her camera, I will post some photos of these scenes within my view.  In the meantime, use your mind’s eye.

Fine Art and the Pig

Those of us who know Miss Sugar, my trophy wife, know that she is what she calls an “art advocate.”  That means she plans events where local artists can get exposure and even sell their art.  Those of us who know me know that I am not an artist, exactly, but I showed great potential in junior high, before middle schools were invented.  Since then, I have cut back on my creative endeavors into the visual arts, unless you count building our courtyard, which is a thing of beauty, including a wall made of empty wine bottles.  The wall is not portable, so I did not display my works at the art show and silent auction yesterday.

Some really good artists did participate, as well as some non-artists, including a pig named Sausage.  Sausage was there with some friends, each in the role of  marketing assistant.

Miss Sugar, you see, had organized the event yesterday as a fundraiser for the Rist Canyon Volunteer Fire Department.  Remember the bad wildfire called the High Park Fire here in Larimer County, Colorado?  Well, the Rist Canyon fire department even lost one of its fire stations in that bad fire.  So Miss Sugar, who is nicer than me, thought of the fundraiser and spent many hours recruiting artists to donate to the silent auction as well as artists and artisans to pay booth fees to sell stuff.  And she recruited me to set up tables and carry pictures and pottery and the like.  Which is very important.  I don’t know what she would do without me.

Although I suspect many women in the community attended in hopes of taking a gander at me, none actually stated that out loud, probably because Miss Sugar was there.  Besides me and the art, another draw was Sausage.  Here is how it was explained to me by his owner — when he walks a pig or llama or goat, all of which were there taking turns, people notice and ask, “Why are you walking that pig (or llama or goat) down the street?”  Then he can say, “Since you asked, I am getting attention for folks here in Old Town Fort Collins to ask that question so I can tell you about the Rist Canyon Art Show and Silent Auction.”  That is an effective marketing technique.

So, in addition to the power of my personal presence as an advertising method, Sausage, the llama and two goats attracted some attention as well.  It was a fun art show.

Another fun thing Miss Sugar did was offer face-painting and cotton candy.  I, personally, am not allowed to paint faces, preferring to leave that up to my trophy wife.  However, with respect to cotton candy, who do you think carries the cotton candy machine?

Now, let us turn our attention to yet another interesting aspect of the afternoon.  I have hauled livestock in horse trailers and stock trailers pulled by a pickup truck.  You have seen me and people like me doing that.  What you may not have seen, nor had I until yesterday, is a Jeep Cherokee containing a llama, pig, and two goats.  It is an amazing sight.  I can show you a photo below.  You will have to use your imagination concerning the odors within that particular SUV.  I remain unconvinced about the advantages of hauling livestock without a trailer.

Miss Sugar’s Brew

For those of you who have read other posts of mine, you know that Miss Sugar is my trophy wife and that Miss Sugar feeds birds.  Today, I want to report on my involvement in bird feeding in a very tangential aspect of her hobby.

I try to be a good husband.  Sometimes, I even make the coffee.  Yesterday, as Miss Sugar was sleeping, I got up and did just that.  I know how to put the beans into the grinder.  I know where to put the filter in the coffee maker and also where to pour the water.  I had to think about it, but I remembered to put the ground coffee into the filter.  I pushed the correct button and the water heated up, ran through the coffee in the filter, and dripped into the waiting coffee pot.  So far, so good.

Then I tackled the more difficult tasks.  I selected two cups from the cabinet above the coffee maker.  Good planning. I had to open the refrigerator to find and remove the milk. I cleverly poured milk into each cup, just the correct amount.  Then, because we like to mask the taste of actual coffee, I needed to find the sugar.  I did not find it immediately.  Sometimes Miss Sugar keeps food items in cabinets, which is very inconvenient for me because I must either remember which cabinet or go exploring.  Nope, it wasn’t where the plates are.  It wasn’t in the silverware drawer, but I was glad to be reminded where she keeps silverware.  It wasn’t by the cereal boxes (which I think would be an excellent place).   Where did that woman put the sugar?

At last, I found a container of liquid labeled sugar concentrate.  Aha!  That seemed better than sugar granuals from a sugar bowl or bag of sugar.  Maybe I could get by without a spoon, although I now knew where the spoons could be found.

So I poured sugar concentrate into each cup and covered the milk and sugar concentrate with coffee.  I figured it would all mix together as I walked upstairs to the bedroom, where I would surprise Sleeping Beauty.

My grateful wife thanked me for the delicious concoction that I had delivered.  We sat in bed savoring the sweet beverage.

Miss Sugar jokingly inquired, “Why does this taste funny?”  What a card!  I took it as a compliment.

“I couldn’t find the sugar bowl but I found the bottle of sugar concentrate,” I explained with pride.

“That is what I feed the hummingbirds,” she revealed.  “It contains special nutrients and vitamins especially for hummingbirds because they are high energy creatures.”

I felt all fluttery inside.

We had a very productive day!

It says “Just Add Water” on the bag above, but coffee works too.

AARP Is Spying On Me

The American Association for Retired Persons, also known as AARP, scares me.  As soon as I turned 50 years of age, I received an envelope in the mail via United States Postal Service from AARP.  It contained an invitation to join the organization.  How did they know when I had reached the age that made me eligible to join?

In addition to the apparent invasion of my privacy by somehow investigating my age, AARP hurt my feelings by implying that I should be retired.  I am not retired. 

Miss Sugar, my trophy wife, who is much younger than me, yet receiving AARP materials too, is similarly offended. 

This has been going on for more years than I want to say.  I am still not retired and so it still hurts my self esteem that not only was I expected by AARP to be retired by age 50, but each year I don’t retire, I feel slow and poor.  AARP insinuates that all the cool persons have plenty of money to retire by age 50.  Otherwise, there must be something inept about those of us still working. 

The Social Security Administration, on the other hand, makes me feel that I am not behind.  It sends me publications clarifying that I am way too young to retire.  I am so young that it is against the law for Social Security to give me retirement benefits.  The only way it will pay me benefits at my young age is if I could prove I am disabled. 

Hey, maybe I should ask the folks at AARP to tell the Social Security people that I might indeed be disabled.  AARP could say that there must be something wrong with me mentally to have essentially “flunked” life by failing to retire by 50 as their organization proclaims is the proper age. 

But back to the original concern, how does AARP know who is 50?  Did they tell the girl behind the counter at Burger King to offer me the free senior coffee?  Is it a conspiracy?  “You are not paranoid if they are really after you.”



After the PowWow

Previously, I wrote about my introduction to Native American people, aka Indians.  Now I will tell you the rest of the story. 

As a dedicated young cowboy, interested in the American West, I enjoyed family trips  to places like Fort Robinson, where Crazy Horse was assassinated, and the Black Hills, sacred to the Sioux.  The Pine Ridge Reservation is in South Dakota on the border of Nebraska.  We visited Wounded Knee in the Pine Ridge. 

So, when I had to pick an 8th grade history project, I wrote about American Indians and learned a lot in the process.

Later, during my higher education, I signed up for a class called “Concentration in Cross Cultural Communication”  because it included a three week field trip as part of the requirement.  Some of my classmates went to Africa.  I arranged to go to the Pine Ridge Reservation.  In preparation, I read Dee Brown’s book, Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee.  Unfortunately, at the time I was to go there in the spring of 1975, the American Indian Movement folks like Russell Means had a standoff with FBI agents and took some hostages.  So, I was told that it was not a good time to visit.

Instead, I redirected my field trip to New Mexico, where I stayed at Ghost Ranch near Abiqui.  I was there three weeks.  I visited the seven northern Pueblos, including the Taos Pueblo.  I enjoyed the experience, meeting some nice folks and learning a lot.  As it turns out, many years later, I still enjoy northern New Mexico.  My trophy wife, Miss Sugar, and I frequently make trips to Santa Fe, Taos, Abiqui and Ojo Caliente. 

Miss Sugar has made friends with some artisans in that area and gets materials such as turquoise and silver to use in her own jewelry making business.  She likes the SouthWest stuff.  So do I.  Actually, our log house on the ranch is decorated with cowboy decor, including SouthWest items.  Plus, I use guns and antlers in much of my decorating.

Fortunately, Miss Sugar shares, no, improves upon my taste in decor.  Of course, there is a good reason why.  Not only did she grow up in Texas, but she is an Indian princess, no less than 1/16th Shoshone.  Get a load of that.  That first powwow became my destiny.

Pow Wow

My Grampa Carlson was a rural mailcarrier in Burt County, Nebraska.  His route included part of a reservation shared by the Omaha and Winnebago tribes.  Macy, Nebraska is a town on the reservation.  I had fun when Grampa took me to the Macy PowWow. 

The dancing and music was supposed to be the draw.  For me, however, I played with other little boys I met under the bleachers.  They were not old enough to be part of the show, I guess, but they were friendly Indians and invited me to play in the woods, away from the event.  There we had our own powwow, called making friends. 

I was envious of their situation because I came from a much more under-privileged background.  The particular privilege of which I was deprived was that my mother did not allow me to throw knives.  Can you believe that?  As a cowboy nearing kindergarten age, I deeply resented my mother’s unreasonable interference with my chosen lifestyle, which obviously required practicing skills with weapons.  So, in the woods, I was delighted that my new friends shared their knives with me and we took turns throwing them into trees. 

What happens in the woods, stays in the woods.   What Mom did not know did not hurt her.

Keeping Up With You Know Who

It must be difficult to come up with ideas for a candid reality show.  Do you have any suspicions about just how candid are the scenes?  Do you think that the Kardashians, for example, forget the cameras are rolling? 

Presently, Kris Humphries, the alleged spouse of Kim K, is daring to challenge whether there was a marriage at all, contending that he was just a dupe for a TV wedding that was not real reality.  Are you still with me?

Mr. Humphries and Ms. Kardashian broke up merely 72 days after their much publicized  wedding. 

Usually a wedding kicks off a marriage; however, this groom is claiming that this is not a divorce case to end a marriage, but rather a case about whether there was ever a marriage.  He wants an annulment, which means a determination that there was not a valid marriage.

If there was not a valid marriage, then there is no need for a divorce.  If this is not a divorce case, then the ironclad prenuptial agreement would not apply, his lawyers cleverly argue, because there was no nuptial at all. 

While I am rooting for Kris and not Kim, as a lawyer my own self, I am skeptical about Kris’ legal position.  I would not be surprised if the court finds the marriage was phony, but I would be surprised if it finds that Kris was tricked.  He does not strike me as naive.  I bet he knew the cameras were there.  I bet he knew he was being paid to appear on the Kardashian show.  I bet he knew that Kim has “been around” and I doubt one of the grounds for annulment exists, i.e., that the marriage was not consummated. 

So, Kris, I wish you wish you well, but I’m not betting on your success in this case.  Next time, pick a bride who is really real.  Maybe someone you can spend time with off camera.

The Visitor

Our nephew Max is visiting from Texas.  Lucky for him, and us, we have a Texas Lone Star flag to help him feel at home.

Max is fifteen.  He flew up here to Colorado all by himself and took the shuttle from Denver to Fort Collins to save us having to go to the airport, which I appreciated.

Max is a very polite young man.  He says, “Yes Sir” and “Yes Ma’m.”  He is so polite that he wanted to attend my Senior Olympics swim meet today.   Swim meets take a long time because there are many events.  He sat with me until my events and even took videos of me swimming, which was an extra incentive to win, so I did.

Our guest house is an old bunk house.  Max is staying there, but not alone, as our dog Rover is his room mate.  They have really hit it off.

He also has been hanging out with the horses.  Unfortunately, he is banned from riding horses this trip due to a sports-related back injury that happened earlier this summer, causing him to wear a body cast for a fractured vertebra.  I doubt his folks would appreciate it if we allowed an activity that might aggravate his condition.

This weekend is New West Fest in Fort Collins, so that will be another activity we can share with him.  And, as I have mentioned many times in other posts, Miss Sugar is a pretty good cook, which is a good attribute for an aunt to have.

It is a joy for us to host Max and we will miss him when he returns to Texas.  Maybe he will miss us, or at least the hot tub, and certainly Rover.

Home Building on the Range

In my previous post, I described moving two cabins from Estes Park to Cross Creek Ranch.  So, if you need to catch up, read Home on the Range first and come back to this, which is Part 2. 

So, we got the small cabin placed on its new foundation.  That was the easy part. 

The hard part took over a year.  Beginning in the Spring of 1993, Ray and Brian worked to put back together each log.  This house had a new foundation too, poured 12″ thick in order to support the heavy logs.  We used a steel beam below, under the floor where the heavy fireplace would be built.  (When I say “we,” I am referring to myself as the contractor and the people with skills who actually did the good construction work). 

One of the issues in many log homes is that they can be dark, probably because the walls are wooden and not normally painted.  To bring lots of natural light into our log house, I put in several skylights in strategic locations.  We needed a new roof anyway.  Also, the front of the house faces directly south and has eight windows, including two that are about fifteen feet higher than the floor. 

On the west side, facing the mountains, we have a bank of three picture windows totalling twenty feet wide.  We call it the sunroom.  It provides passive solar.  The floor is tiled with saltillo tiles to help retain heat.  This room was an addition to the original log house. 

Additions present another aesthetic challenge, which is that one cannot match 100 year old weathered logs.  Our solution was to do the addition with stone in order to complement rather than match the old logs.

We harvested the rock for our hearth from our own ranch, where there is a vein of what I call fieldstone.  Miss Sugar and I have made many trips to our “quarry” filling the bed of the pickup again and again and again.  We picked each rock for some dry-stacked outside walls and for a water fall and pond.  We were not willing to pick enough for the walls to the addition.  Thankfully, Mike, our mason, found stones that look like the ones we have on the ranch.  We love how it turned out.

The kitchen in the house as it was in Estes was too small and out-dated.  Miss Sugar, who is a great cook, deserved better.  So the old kitchen, which was small for that function, makes for a roomy laundry room, including the old kitchen sink. 

The new kitchen was built by enclosing what had been a covered porch.  The exterior is the same stone.  The interior is equipped with professional appliances for my bride.  Raphaelle, designed a wonderful deep farm sink of granite as well as granite counters.  Because our house is so rustic, we got cabinets made of distressed pine from a custom shop. 

We made a small bedroom into a large walk-in closet with a skylight.  We made another small bedroom into a big bathroom. 

Yesterday I wrote of the old becoming new.  That, in a nutshell, is how we did it.

Home on the Range

Here is a riddle.  What is both old and new?  What was built in the 1800s and by me?

The answer is that our home, which was old, became “new” through an unusual process and sequence of events.

 President Abraham Lincoln signed the Homestead Act, which allowed settlers to claim 160 acres of land and eventually own it after meeting the requirements of the law by staying on the land a requisite number of years. 

Pursuant to the Homestead Act, a log cabin was built on an original homestead in the area of what is now Estes Park, Colorado.  Later the homesteaders built a larger log house.  I did not build the cabin or the house, nor did I claim the homestead.  Someone else did all that before I was born. 

What I did was rescue those buildings when a developer purchased the last eight acres of what had been a 160 acre homestead.  Over the years, the homestead was cut up into parcels that became valuable parts of the Village of Estes Park.  The last eight acres were across from a golf course and up the street from the high school and the fairgrounds.  It became a desirable spot for building condos across from the golf course, or so the developer thought.

The Village of Estes Park interfered with his plans when the board refused to approve a demolition permit for the log structures on the old homestead site, which was probably unconstitutional since the homestead had not been designated an historic landmark.  The developer offered to donate the buildings to the town if it would move them off his land.  “Put them in a park if you like them so much,” he told the board.

Around that time, I came along.  As self-proclaimed King of the Wild Frontier, I offered to move the buildings to my land, which is in the same county as Estes Park, on the condition  that the Larimer County building inspectors would look at the buildings as they stood in Estes and pre-approve me for moving them to our ranch.  I knew we needed a new foundation and new plumbing and electric and new roof and new windows, and I knew we could not move the 30 foot high stone fireplace and chimney, but I wanted the structure of the logs approved.  I did not want to be told after moving them that the beams were not engineered correctly or according to current codes.

Well, the building inspectors did approve my proposal and the developer was glad to get me to do the removal, which turned out to be a complicated project.   That is when I became a contractor. 

I took a friend of mine to see the buildings before I made the deal, to ask if he thought it was worth doing.   He had moved a cabin out of the mountains himself, which he used as the core of a house he built.  An old cowboy, Ray offered, “Me and Brian could move them for you.”

Brian had just graduated from high school.  A rodeo bullrider, he was a big help as an acrobat tearing down the steeply peaked roof.  Ray and Brian and another guy lived in the original cabin while they took apart the larger one log by log.  I rented a crane for the job.  They numbered the logs. for each wall in order to put the walls back together in the same order.  It took from November 1992 until February 1993 to take it apart and get it off the Estes property. 

The small cabin was not disassembled.  It was jacked up and moved intact, then placed on a new foundation.  The big house was moved by log trucks.  It was too wide and tall and heavy to be moved in one piece.

Then the fun began of putting them back together.  I will write about the rest of the process in serial style.

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