Monday, October 5, 2015

Chickasaw Cultural Center

The Chickasaw Nation is made up of the Five Civilized Tribes: Cherokee, Muscogee, Seminole, Chickasaw, and Choctaw.  They were forcibly removed from their homelands east of the Mississippi in the 1830’s along what became known as the Trail of Tears.  Their move to the Indian Territory (Oklahoma) was to allow for white expansion westward.

The Exhibit Center, Tribal Lodge Theater, Trail of Tears Exhibit
at the Chickasaw Cultural Center

The Chickasaw were first encountered by Hernando de Soto in 1540.  He immediately recognized their sophisticated governing system with their own laws and religion, and that they lived in towns and maintained themselves through farming.  The Chickasaw and Choctaw both continue to be well organized, industrious, and, honestly, unlike many of the whites around them, are quite far-sighted in anticipating needs and planning for their future.  They have their own constitution, ratified in 1856.  Dates often fail to make an impression until you realize this was a half-century before Oklahoma’s own statehood and constitution were ratified in 1907 by Pres. Theodore Roosevelt, making it the 46th state.  The Chickasaw Nation has its own Governor, Lt. Governor, legislature, judicial system and three-member Supreme Court, and are proactive in advancing education and health services for their people.  They maintain a list of approximately 200 services for tribal members that cover a broad spectrum from fine arts education, behavioral health and counseling, diet planning, sports and youth programs, employment services, voter registration, child care and elderly assistance programs, and too much to continue listing here.  They even have a program that supplies a landscaping package for new homeowners where they put in the grass, trees, shrubs, and flowers.   Their financial impact on the state’s economy in 2011 was $19 billion.  Besides the casinos they are most often recognized for, the tribal nation owns six radio stations, 18 tribal smoke shops, an inn and motel, seven motor fuel outlets, two truck stops, a family fun center, commercial golf course, health care facility, and even an outlet for fine chocolates.  They also operate and maintain a number of historical sites and museums, including the wonderful Chickasaw Cultural Center, in Sulphur, Ok., and this brings us to our visit of this facility, which I’ll feature over the next couple posts. 

The Kochcha' Aabiniili' Amphitheater with seating for 320.  The extreme heat
on the day of our visit had forced everything inside.

Friday, October 2, 2015

Hei Matau

The Hei Matau

Ancient cultural tradition of the Maori people of New Zealand hold that the great fisherman and mariner Maui caught a giant fish with a woven line and a fish hook carved from the jaw bone of his grandmother.  The hook caught in the fish’s side, requiring it to be dragged ashore in Hawke’s Bay on the North Island of New Zealand.   The Maori people call the North Island of New Zealand “Te Ika a Maui,” (The fish of Maui), so in acknowledgement of this tradition, the hei matau is an ornately carved hook that resembles the shape of Hawke’s Bay.  It was always carved from whale bone, but with bans on whale fishing, they had to find alternative materials, such as green stone, cow bone, or even ground cow bone in resin.  New Zealand law, however, allows the Maori the right to harvest the bodies of any whales stranded on the islands that are unable to be refloated.

The significance of the hei matau is that it is considered a taonga, or cultural treasure, and is commonly worn as a necklace to honor both their culture and Tangaroa, the God of the Sea.  It acknowledges their close ties to fishing, and is believed to show a great respect for the sea, and to insure safety while traveling on water.  International trade has carried the hei matau around the world, so it is now seen elsewhere.  It is supposed to carry particular significance when presented as a gift, so Jean purchased one and made a gift of it to me.  The beads that I have added to the cord each represent 100 miles of paddling.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Odd Jobs

A summer spent dealing with health issues really takes its toll in wasted time sitting around waiting to heal, or sitting around waiting on doctors’ appointments.  As I started feeling better, I took on a few odd jobs, and this was one.

The little elevated edge added to keyboard surfaces looks simple enough, but has the very important job of helping to avoid carpal tunnel syndrome and hand and wrist arthritis.  It does this by helping to maintain a neutral or zero-degree angle between hand and keyboard.  As with most modern furniture, however, little is intended for long-term use when materials like plastic and hardboard are used for building materials.  On our computer desk, the vinyl cover had worn through.  That exposed the underlying hardboard and the contact adhesive used to bond the vinyl cover.  Some wide plastic electrical tape kept us from the constant irritation of sticking to the adhesive, but this was a passing and very temporary way of dealing with the problem.  Once I got back in the shop, I measured the angles needed to duplicate the original piece, created a replacement out of fir, stained it mahogany to match the desk, and finished with several coats of varnish.  The original hand rest had been attached to the deck with two-sided sticky tape, another concession to cheap construction.  With that removed, the new replacement was properly affixed to the keyboard surface with concealed screws inserted from below.  It was a simple job that looks nice, and has paid high dividends.

Friday, September 25, 2015

A Death in the Family

The first thing my urologist/oncologist says when he walks in the room is, 
how are you doing?"
A picture is worth a thousand words---really.

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Down The Wild River North

Down the Wild River North, by Constance Helmericks (pub. by Little, Brown & Co, Toronto and Boston, 1968, 501 pp., illus. by Michael A. Hampshire)

This story would have been highly improbable for anyone but Constance Helmericks, a seasoned explorer, adventurer, Alaskan camper, hunter, trapper and canoeist.  For her, however, she’d had enough of the daily humdrum, the closed-in small sky in the U.S., and smog, so she found homes for the family pets, and took her two daughters, ages 12 and 14, on a two-year trip paddling through Alberta, Canada, while living out of their 20-ft., 180-pound Chestnut freight canoe.  They paddled the Peace River to Lake Athabasca, and then the Slave River to Great Slave Lake, and crossed it with intentions to spend the winter in Yellowknife.  The second summer they came back down Great Slave Lake, went up the Mackenzie River, crossed the Arctic Circle, and concluded the trip in Inuvik.

The experiences they shared were life changing for all of them.  They faced several near tragic experiences, but in seeing them through, you see the girls mature.  There are those experiences on the water, and then those that threaten to wreck the trip, like when Ann suddenly requires two major operations that test the ingenuity of pilots, doctors, and hospital staffs in order to get her from the wilderness to medical facilities.  Experiences unfold when they meet missionaries, native peoples, true wilderness recluses, fishermen, tug and barge crews, homesteaders, all of whom they live and interact with.  Through their eyes you see the wilderness change as it is threatened by oil exploration, over-populations, and government manipulations, and the resulting impact on the land and wildlife.

For real adventure and excitement, this book is unbeatable.  Short of making such a trip yourself, you will be unlikely to find better insight into a real canoe adventure and life in the Northern wilderness.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

A Walk in the Woods

Book jacket photo from Amazon.

We have to have a good memory to recall when movies told a great story with a good plot that was informative, uplifting, and motivating, and developed wonderful characters.  Values, morals, the struggles between right and wrong were all explored, and we left the theater feeling good, challenged, encouraged, even somehow better for the two-hour experience.  Now movies are all aimed at thirteen-year-olds with anti-social sentiments who need to be shocked and propelled to the edge of sanity.  It has to start with a 737 loaded with orphans and tons of deadly toxins and pathogens, a fiery crash through a children’s hospital with the debris sliding and exploding in a packed NFL stadium.  There appear to be no survivors, but wait, hundreds, no, thousands of zombies and walking dead begin trooping from the apocalyptic scene (there always has to be an apocalypse) to begin either consuming or invading the bodies of the living.  Rubbish!  Well, I have good news.

I longed to see “A Walk In The Woods” from the moment I saw the first preview.  Robert Redford, Nick Nolte, and Emma Thompson and a long list of casting successes bring the true story by Bill Bryson to life.  Redford plays Bryson, Thompson is his wife, and Nolte is the intentionally long-lost friend, Katz.  You don’t want to miss this film.  There is a great story, and it is hilarious while frequently stepping a bit too close to some of life’s challenges.  Unlike many ticket costs, this is an investment in great entertainment that will send you from the theater with a smile on your face and leave you retelling scenes and jokes from the movie for days to come.  Best of all, it is a story dear to all our hearts, spending time in nature recharging our souls, and maybe even reclaiming our lives by stepping out to do something bold, even noteworthy.

I knew a visit to our daughter and son-in-law’s would coincide with the movie’s release, so seeing the movie immediately upon reaching Pennsylvania was top on my agenda.  We quickly put together a foursome with our daughter, son-in-law, our grandson who was home from his first semester of college, and myself.  I loved the movie, and was determined to see it again, but suddenly everyone was too busy to accompany me, so I went by myself for the second visit.  Then, Jean was finally available after watching the grandkids during my first trip, so I took her to walk in the woods.  That made three trips to the theater for this movie in a week.  Did I say it is a great movie? 

With some of the mature subject matter and language, I will say that I’d rate the movie PG-18, rather than 13, but you can see them as fitting between two old men facing struggles with nature, as well as with their own pasts and the courses their lives have taken.  Also, forget reading the reviews by a bunch of condescending pinheads that make a living by snootily and jealously looking down their noses at everyone else’s work.  One said the movie was a predictable rehash of their efforts to walk the Appalachian Trail.  Here’s a shocker for a reviewer that obviously hasn’t lived long enough to understand this:  when you reach a certain age, waking up every morning is a predictable rehash of all your efforts.   For those of us that are long-time patrons of the Last Chance CafĂ©, the challenge becomes finding something about life worth rehashing.  I don’t get paid for my opinion, but I say it’s a movie worth your time.  I wonder when the DVD will be available? 

P.S. - The DVD will be released in Jan '16.

Friday, September 18, 2015

Entering the Winter's Nap

These daylily  pictures were taken awhile back, but are appropriate now to celebrate the great season we've had this year.  We've had the first real growing season of rain in nine years (or five years, depending on who you ask).  But, everything is a compromise, so with a wetter year, we get bagworm caterpillars.  There are several mats of them in our pecan tree.  Today is not a great day for playing with fire, with up to 65 mph winds and rain, but as soon as this front passes, I'll burn the little buggers out of the tree.  Since nothing puts on a show like a daylily, I hope you enjoy the pictures.