Wednesday, April 1, 2015


Credit: & Google

I’ve been involved in public safety almost all my life---with the Civil Defense (Boy, that dates me!), Homeland Security, fire service, police, etc.---but there are still two areas where I remain forever mentally challenged.  To me, warnings that involve public safety, and that require that the public respond immediately in a specific way for their own good, should be clear, concise, and 100% free of possible misunderstanding or misinterpretation. 


Here’s the first problem.  About 2:15 this afternoon, a siren sounded.  As I was washing the truck, I stopped and looked around, and there was not a cloud in the sky anywhere.  However, I still have this problem of frequently being unable to immediately determine by the second warble if I’m listening to a fire siren or a tornado siren.  One tells me that if I don’t smell smoke, I should just listen to hear which way the fire trucks go.  The other means I should be running flat-out for my tornado shelter.   I’m sure if I heard them one after the other, their difference would be unmistakable.  However, hearing one or the other only once a week or so, it takes a finely tuned ear to tell them apart, and then only after standing there for the duration of the siren doing a mental juggling act between fire, no, tornado, no, can’t be, fire.  If it is in fact a tornado warning, by the time one decides what the siren is for, you’re being sucked through the front window.


I called the town office and asked what the siren was for.  I was told it was the storm siren.  I asked if there were two different sirens used so they could be distinguished one from the other, and was told, “No, it’s the same siren.”  “Well,” I asked, “is there a different pattern or something between the two?  They sound the same to me.”  “Yeah, one sounds like a fire siren that goes up and down, and the other sounds like a dead animal.”  “Well the one I just heard went up and down, so was that the fire siren?”  “No, that was the storm siren.  It’s the one we sound every Wednesday at noon.”  (Of course it is now 2:15.)  Apparently they were having other problems that prevented the siren being sounded on time.  None of this helped me.  Besides, it’s April first, so I wondered if she was serious or just putting me on.  I guess I have to listen to more dying animals or sit dutifully at noon each Wednesday to listen for the tornado siren.


Forecasters often talk about not being able to understand why people hearing a tornado siren immediately go rushing outside to look around when they should be heading for their shelter.   I understand it perfectly.  They don’t hear a tornado siren.  What they hear is a siren, period.  Then they rush outside to see what the heck is going on.  They are checking to see if there is a glow and smoke in the sky, or a funnel.  Then they will know what the siren was for.


The other issue I’ve never understood is storm watches and warnings.  There are 1,025,110 words in the English language.  So why did they have to pick two words confusingly close to one another to represent two totally different things?  After 50 years, when I hear one of the two words, I still have to stop and think about whether that is the less serious one or the more serious one.  Between watch or warning, either one could be either the lesser or the greater.  Does watch mean to watch for possible weather developing during the day, or does the word warning warn about possible bad weather?  Why don’t they take one of those two words---it doesn’t matter which one---and use it to indicate that bad or severe weather may be possible and that people should pay attention to weather updates during the day.  Then they could pick another word, like BOKAG for the serious alert requiring immediate action.  BOKAG, of course, being the acronym for 'bend over, kiss as- goodbye.   Now, no one would have a problem understanding that!

Monday, March 30, 2015

Discovering Eden

Discovering Eden: A Lifetime of Paddling Arctic Rivers, by Alex M. Hall (pub. by Key Porter Books, Toronto, Canada, 2003, 218pp plus index, pb.)
The Canadian Barrens are many things, but one thing they are not is barren.  Imagine, on one trip of 19 days, seeing 50,000 to 100,000 migrating caribou, 237 muskoxen, 32 wolves, three wolverines, and two grizzlies.  Imagine a land where you can travel without seeing another human, and perhaps plant your feet where no other human has trod for hundreds of years.  This is a country where 50% of it is water.  There are still hundreds of rivers and hundreds of
People were the one thing missing from the Barrens, at least until the mid-1970’s.  Alex Hall decided in 1974 to spend his life being a canoe expedition guide, against the advice of the Canadian government, which couldn’t see such a venture succeeding.  Canoe Arctic, Inc., existed in name only for a few very lean years, but is still operated successfully by the author to this day.  Here is the link to his site, where you can view 25 photo galleries, and begin to plan your dream trip.
This is a fascinating and informative book.  Every paddler will find takeaways from these pages.  You will learn things you likely never knew about the native aboriginal peoples, the habits of caribou, and the life cycles of blackflies and mosquitoes, finding wolf dens and coexisting with wolves, close encounters with grizzlies, stampedes of thousands of caribou right through camp, and learning to keep provisions safe from bears.  Above all else, you should feel an even deeper appreciation and understanding of the wilderness and nature’s delicate balance.
Having run canoe expeditions all his life, you will find clear insight into what makes a successful canoe trip vs. a tale of horrors.  He makes it clear that an expedition is no place for democracy.  Someone has to take the lead, and that position needs to be respected by everyone in the group.  Trips are run at the pace of the slowest, weakest paddler.  There is never an argument over tactics.  Since safety is the foremost priority, discussions may be held over whether to line, portage, or run a rapids,  or the miles or hours to be run, but the least hazardous or threatening point of view is always accepted without further comment.  Everyone agrees to and adopts these standards beforehand or they don’t go---period.
In the latter half of the book, Hall will explain the changes that have occurred on the Barrens in the size of herds and packs, the changes that come as money and greed invade the territories to dangle the perpetual promise of jobs, the exploration and exploitation for diamonds, gold, copper, uranium and other metals, the desire to build year-round, all-weather roads that will open the territories to more mine building, and the damning of rivers to create the hydro-power needed to operate the mines.  Unlike other areas where these problems damage and destroy habitat, the changes that would occur in the Barrens wilderness will destroy ecosystems and the balance of nature itself.  With such short growing seasons, there are trees now standing that are hundreds of years old, some as much as a thousand years, and it would take that long again for their replacement.  Beds of lichen through the wilderness, upon which migrating caribou depend for food through the winter, take 40-60 years to be replaced.  The destruction of this food source would destroy the herds and all forms of wilderness life that feed upon them.  This book offers a great opportunity to learn about the area and the efforts being made to protect it, and get these lessons from a man that has made the Barren Lands and its wildlife the guiding forces of his own life.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Rescuing An Easter Bunny

Go ahead and fill 'er up.
A neighborhood lady looked out her window to see their large dog walking about the yard with something in its mouth.  She went outside to investigate, and found the dog carrying a roughly week-old rabbit.  There were no other rabbits about, nor any indication where it had come from.  She took the bunny and put it back on the ground, but then saw a bunch of cats assembling.  The small creature could not expect such gentle handling from the felines, so the woman and her husband brought the rabbit to Jean. 
Jean started the bunny on PetAg’s KMR (Kitten Milk Replacer), which she served every three hours with a curved-tip Monoject feeding syringe.  For the first week, the bunny lived in a heated tub with two young squirrels that Jean is also rescuing.  Neither the rabbit’s nor squirrels’ eyes were open yet, but they constantly found each other, and all three stayed huddled in a ball.  The rabbit knew enough to claim the warmest spot by sandwiching itself between the two squirrels.

I'm lookin' gooood!
After a week, they were separated when the rabbit began to experiment with solid food.  The experimenting was quickly over, and the rabbit’s growth spurt turned nibbling into a voracious appetite.  It would start at one end of a piece of Romaine lettuce, carrot, apple, or celery and just keep chomping until it had inhaled the whole piece.  A couple times it was found to have contentedly fallen asleep with a piece of celery still sticking out of its mouth.  Besides the fresh produce and Timothy hay, it also began to learn what the rabbit pellets were for, and has doubled its weight in two weeks.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Official Sounds of Spring

Great Blue Heron

Prairie Dog with his personal tornado shelter.

The tornado sirens were sounded as a test an hour or so ago, and that makes it official.  Spring has sprung on the Plains.  Tornadoes are on the ground in the City of Moore as I write.  They should have had enough bad luck a couple years ago with the major EF-5 tornadoes to last a lifetime.  It is a fact; lightning does strike in the same place twice, or more often, and so do tornadoes.

This was a noisy little fella.  He just barked non-stop.

Master of all he surveys.

On a happier note, the paddle last week gave us a few wildlife shots.  There have been quite a few RV campers staying at the lake.  Camping is free until April first, so several have turned out to enjoy the warm weather.  While loading Buddy back on the Ram, I spent awhile chatting with a fisherman that had decided to wet a line for a couple hours before his evening Bible study.

Monday, March 23, 2015

How Hard Will It Blow?

I’m glad I took advantage of a second chance to get some paddling exercise in before the winds returned.  Right now it is gusting to 25 mph, and will keep increasing until tonight when it is supposed to be reaching 50 mph.  While on the subject of weather, I’d like to recommend a site that I’ve been using and have found to be more reliable for planning than even local weather stations.  It is called  When you pull it up, you can do two things at once.  In the top right corner, you can reference the region of the country you want.  On this site I’m using as an example, I’ve pulled up Florida and a section of the Southeast.

While the local forecast may be giving predictions for thousands of square miles, you can determine conditions right at the lake or river area you want just by putting your cursor on the arrow at that location.  A window will pop up to give you every piece of weather-related information you may want now, and for the next 48 hours.


The second thing would be to obtain a forecast, and it doesn’t have to be for the same area.  There is a window top-center where you type in the name or zip code for a place you are concerned about.  For example, I’ve watched weather for friends paddling around Florida on the WindMapper at the same time that I’m getting a forecast with local conditions for a lake I want to paddle in Oklahoma.  I’ve found the information to be accurate and reliable, even down to an hour-by-hour analysis of conditions as they change.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Great Horned Owl

Look at those beautiful eyes.
This was a Great Horned Owl Jean got as a rescue animal.  It had flown into a barbed-wire fence around a pasture.  The farmer found it hanging there while riding the field to check on some livestock that were calving.  It had apparently been there some time, at least since the previous day, and was seriously dehydrated.  When Jean tried to give it water, it just about attacked the eyedropper.  When it was stabilized, we transported it to Wild Care south of Oklahoma City.  The avian veterinarian examined the owl, and unfortunately determined that the bird would have to be euthanized since the main artery to its injured wing had been severed, and the wing was dead, and would soon poison the bird itself.  While the objective in rescue work is to rehabilitate the animal, sometimes fate and the seriousness of the injuries make it impossible to create a miracle.

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Best Information Ever on Lyme Disease

John F. Sullivan found and posted a video on the Facebook Mississippi River group this morning that is the best description of Lyme Disease that I've seen.  Even after having an exposure to this two years ago, there was a lot of information here the I didn't know.  Also, one of the problems with the disease is that a lot of doctors don't understand it or take it seriously, so self-education is all that more important so you know what to expect, how to detect it, what to do about it, and most importantly, how to try to prevent exposure.  Prompt action is critical to recovery, and I was fortunate that I was visiting our doctor on another issue when my wife suggested I discuss being bitten by a tick in Wisconsin, one of the nation's hotbeds of the disease.  He didn't waste a minute, but jumped on the problem right away, which undoubtedly prevented many more serious complications. 

Since not all of you may subscribe to the Mississippi River group, I thought it important to help spread the word by offering it here also.  Please take a look at this.