Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Dust If You Must

Dust If You Must
Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture or write a letter,
Bake a cake or plant a seed,
Ponder the difference between want and need.
Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim and mountains to climb,
Music to hear and books to read,
Friends to cherish and life to lead.
Dust of you must, but the world's out there,
With the sun in your eyes, the wind in your hair,
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain.
This day will not come around again.
Dust if you must, but bear in mind,
Old age will come and it's not kind.
And when you go--and go you must--
You, yourself, will make more dust.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Tornado Crosshairs

One thing that hasn’t been reported well is the tornado outbreak’s real size south of Oklahoma City. They didn’t have just the twister that hit Moore, but were actually hit by eight tornadoes over two days.  Now, we’re literally in the meteorological severe storm crosshairs for the next three days. The dry line shifts a bit each day, but the severe systems just pinwheel around us. At least we have a good chunk of the rest of the country keeping us company this time. The trip we had scheduled for this week, paddling the remainder of Kaw Lake, had to be cancelled. Winds are forecast in the 25-35mph range for the entire week. Altus, OK, had 100 degree heat yesterday and 45 mph winds. The high winds are to be accompanied by severe thunderstorms, large hail, and a tornado potential each day. There is an ‘enhanced’ probability for tornadoes on Thursday. Our tornado shelter’s delivery and installation is still a few weeks out. Not only is it hard to contemplate fitting in a paddling trip, but it’s a bit like Russian roulette as to whether we will still be here when the shelter arrives.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Oklahoma Trivia

The Bending Branches bent-shaft paddle is still dry and dusty.
I haven’t even scratched the varnish on my paddle yet this year. We’ve spent $60 this month alone just on reservation cancellations. As the folks in Moore can attest, as well as those from many other areas of the country this year, the weather is just determined not to give us a break. When our last trip got blown out, literally (60 mph winds, intense lightning, even more intense hail to tennis ball and baseball size), we made a road trip to the Plains Indians and Pioneer Museum, in Woodward.

Here are a couple bits of Oklahoma trivia we picked up that we can share.

1. The parking meter was invented in Oklahoma in 1935, by Carl Magee, and first put into service in Oklahoma City.

2. The first shopping cart was invented in Oklahoma.

3. The electric guitar was invented in Oklahoma by Bob Dunn, in 1935.

4. Radio station WKY, from Oklahoma City, was the first station to broadcast from west of the Mississippi River.

5. Clinton Riggs designed the yield sign, and first put it into use in Oklahoma City.

6. Not surprising, Oklahoma has the largest Native American population of any state in the United States. They represent 67 tribes that inhabited the Indian territories, and thirty-nine of the tribes are headquartered here.

7. Will Rogers, a Cherokee indian, was born on a ranch in the Cherokee Nation, in 1879. He became a cowboy, stunt rider and roper, Wild West show performer, writer that published over 4,000 newspaper columns, and appeared in 71 movies in the 1920’s and 30’s.

8. Oklahoma is the only state with a capitol building that has an operating oil well on its lawn.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Tornado Shelter

Photo credit: Weather Tech Shelters
This is not a paddling post, unless you view it as something to keep us around long enough to paddle another day. I’ve waffled for several years, since moving to and building in Oklahoma, on whether or not to make the expenditure for a tornado shelter. The devastation in Moore has been a jolt that makes spending several thousand dollars more a bit easier to swallow. Oklahoma has had seven EF-5 tornadoes, the strongest on earth. This puts Oklahoma and Alabama in a tie for generating the world’s strongest winds. We have had a couple occasions requiring us to duck and cover in the closet, but the Moore storm proved that unless one is comfortable with really long odds, a closet is not worth betting your life on. Like buying a liferaft when we were ocean sailing, it’s money you deem as prudent to invest, but hope you’ve wasted, in light of the fact that you hope to never get to use it. But, like the liferaft, if you do need it, there are zero alternate options. A couple other considerations also weighed on this decision.

One is that the town no longer has a municipal storm shelter. The shelter the town had been using, and a couple alternatives they had considered, have all proven unsatisfactory. We either shelter in our home, or not at all. Two, we also have to consider the safety of kids and grandkids when they are visiting.

We’ve spent the last couple days weighing the number of different types of shelters, and drew upon friends that have also had to face this issue. We found very quickly, again just like with liferafts, that capacity ratings represent the number of very intimate people that can be pushed into the smallest possible space. However, there is a difference in how long you expect to be in the box. You may spend a month in a liferaft, but assuming you have the shelter location registered or make family aware of where it is, one shouldn’t have to spent more than a day or two locked in the box under even the worst circumstances. For most of the survivors, their voluntary incarceration didn’t exceed minutes. So, we placed the order today, and delivery and installation should occur in about a month.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Oklahoma Tornadoes

For some local perspective for those watching the horrifying destruction in Moore, OK, this has been a three day weather event. We had packed for a paddling trip, but the forecast indicated it was best to hold in place. Even today conditions are still unstable enough that tornadoes are possible a bit more to the south, where we were headed. And SE. On day one, we were dead center of the high-risk area, but the cap held all day, so the storms never had a chance to go vertical.

On day two, the threat moved a bit east, but the dry line was still just west of us, leaving us under a slightly reduced threat. We went to Enid for our grand-daughter’s dance recital. We were anxious to get back, as the threat included the risk of hail of tennis ball and baseball size, with occasional potential grapefruit-sized hail stones. As we came back home, we could see the storms going vertical just SE of us. As soon as we turned on the TV, we learned of the tornadoes touching down in Shawnee.

On day three, a cold front was driving the system just a bit more SE. Then, the storm went through Moore. The storm was so devastating, that nothing was left. Even the grass was ripped out of the ground. The death toll was 51 when we went to bed last night, but 91 this morning, however the situation is still so fluid, that they caution that the toll may be lower, closer to 24, since in the confusion some victims may have been counted twice. The area of destruction was 30 square miles, and identifiable items from Moore were found falling in Branson, MO, 300 miles away. The good news was that 100 people had been pulled alive from the wreckage overnight. The search will continue today, with the school still being searched for missing children.

For readers in the local area, we just returned from the firehouse, and donations are being accepted at door 10 at the rear of the firehouse, in the alley between the fire bays and the civic center. They are looking for bottled water, sunscreen, Gatorade, wipes or hand-towels, diapers, baby formula, individually wrapped snacks, leather work gloves non-perishable foodstuffs, and shovels. Since they do not want people driving to Oklahoma City or Moore, they will collect the items and make arrangements to move everything in one vehicle. Our thoughts and prayers are with all the victims of this disaster.

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Road Tripping the North Canadian River

We went out for another road trip to explore the North Canadian River. I wanted to see if there was enough water to canoe the river. I had met a woman who said she had canoed the North Canadian at some point in the past. That was a shock on two fronts---that there was another person in NW Oklahoma that had ever been in a canoe, and that they had paddled this river. The North Canadian flows into Canton Lake. Since it’s rare that there’s water in the lake, how could there now be water in the feeder stream? The problem with the lake is that Oklahoma City has an insatiable thirst for water, and they are shameful stewards of the water. So since they waste all they get, there’s always the need for more. I have nothing to base this assertion on beyond a sense of the obvious, but someone had to get paid off for this agreement. According to newspaper reports, Oklahoma City has a contract with the Oklahoma Water Resources Board that permits them to take water any time they want, in any

One of the best sections of the road, but pretty, with lots of chittering birds.
 amount they want, for as long as they want, in total disregard of the consequences for communities up stream. There is no expiration date for the contract, no oversight, and no review, and according to the report, an act of Congress would be needed to reverse or modify the agreement. The only limiting factor is they have to stop stealing water from Canton Lake when the lake bed is dry.

A small alligator gar.  The largest captured was 215 lbs, and
the largest in Oklahoma weighed in at 153.1 lbs.
We crisscrossed the river at a number of bridges, and headed back into a protected area where we felt we would find the most pristine conditions. The road kept getting more and more primitive. Finally it degenerated into a grass path where we found a sign saying the road was closed from November 1 to February 15. We negotiated ruts, mud wallows, and ridges, places obviously better suited for a Jeep or Landrover than our Nissan. The lane finally ended abruptly at the south bank of the North Canadian. While we watched young gar swimming about, and enjoyed the placid scene, it was doubtful there was the 6” we would need to stay afloat.

A very shallow North Canadian, currently
discharging only 40 cfs.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

One Little Did

This poem by Shel Silverstein is the whole foundation of paddle-trip planning---in seven little lines. It should be tattooed on our foreheads, so we see it every time we look in the mirror.


All the Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
Layin’ in the sun,
Talkin’ ‘bout the things
They woulda-coulda-shoulda done…
But those Woulda-Coulda-Shouldas
All ran away and hid
From one little did.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Bison & Twisters

The area around the lake south of here was beautifully forested until swept by a tornado a couple years ago.  The gnarled remains of the trees still offer testimony to the intensity of the storm.  In just a few seconds numerous square miles of forest and the nearby Canadian Campground were gone.

I had camped there just a couple months before.
Now only this remains.
The Cheyenne- Arapaho tribe ranch bison both to repopulate the plains and for commercial use.  The buffalo is reportedly much better suited to ranching on the plains than cattle, create less bio-waste, less damage to the soil, and graze in a way to allow the native praire grasses to return and thrive.  While still small in herd size, bison are making a come back in many areas of the plains.
A local Cheyenne-Arapaho bison.
In South Dakota, for example, the Lakota Sioux are raising bison herds for commercial use, and buy only from other Native American tribes to support other communities.  They have produced a high-protein buffalo jerky and cranberry energy bar that is based on a Native American pemmican recipe called wasna.  It is great for anyone seeking a stable, high-energy food, such as runners, backpackers, climbers, paddlers, and training athletes.  For this reason, this small Native American company was able to place their protein energy bar with REI, the national outfitter, as well as Costco, Amazon, and of course may be purchased directly from  It is heart-friendly, having the lowesr saturated fats of all communcial meats, the lowest calorie and cholesterol counts, while being high in iron, protein, and vitamin B.  Some childcare facilities have reportedly even replaced the children's sugary afternoon snack with Tanka Bars and Bites.
A shy group of bison find a comfortable spot at the edge of a grove of trees.
Here's a 7 1/2 minute You Tube video on the company.

Monday, May 13, 2013

View From a Country Road

Whenever we go anywhere, I mark the trip route on the map with highlighter.  As much as possible, we pick a different route each time.  One thing that doesn't change from one road to the next is the array of abandoned homes and farms, some of which must date to close to the time of the land rush.  I can't help but begin to wonder how it came to pass that one day the family would just walk out the door and never return, leaving decades of backbreaking work to decay, rot, and termites.

Sunday, May 12, 2013


Most living near-by know canola when they see it, but others may not recognize their cooking oil in its natural state. Canola was developed at the University of Manitoba from rapeseed, and thus the “can” in canola stands for Canada.

The “ola” was just added to help the word roll off the tongue, like Mazola and Ricola. The word “rape” in rapeseed comes from the Latin for turnip, so some of canola’s relatives are the turnip, cabbage, rutabaga, Brussels sprout, and mustard. Besides human and livestock consumption, canola can also be used as a biofuel. Hundreds of years ago, rapeseed oil was already used as a lamp oil in Europe and Asia. 


An advantage to it being used as a crop on the plains is its great drought resistance. Ninety percent of the nation’s canola is grown in North Dakota, but each year it appears more like Oklahoma farmers are wanting to challenge their dominance in its production.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Lost in the Wild

Illus. credit:

Lost In The Wild: Danger and Survival in the North Woods, by Cary J. Griffith (pub. 2006 by Borealis Books, St. Paul, MN., 302pp.

The book tells of the experience of two men who find themselves lost in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness. Both make it out alive through the efforts of search parties. One spent six days without food and only about a half cup of water a day from melted snow. He was discovered only after he had written goodbye letters to his family on tree bark.

The two stories are about the experiences of Jason Rasmussen and Dan Stephens. The first revelation is that both men were experienced and skilled. Rasmussen decided to take a short hike around an established trail. Nothing could be simpler, but he disappeared. Stephens was a guide taking a Boy Scout group from Chattanooga up a paddling route. He became separated from the group, slipped on a rock, struck his head and became disoriented, and disappeared. The author leads us through their experiences.

The book not only tells two stories, but relates a lot of information of value to every paddler and camper. There are dozens of valuable lessons to be learned. Sometimes even those who know the lessons just need to be reminded of them. One lesson I learned as a professional mariner. A ship is almost never lost as the result of a single failing. The loss is almost always the synergistic result of a chain of failures or events that were ignored at the time as irrelevant, or insignificant. Synergism is a product that exceeds the sum of its parts. In other words, those insignificant, seemingly unrelated elements combine to create a catastrophic and unmanageable, perhaps unrecoverable, incident. In both of these cases you will find yourself repeatedly thinking, “Wow, he should have known better.” Those little oversights, little things that could seemingly be taken for granted, would suddenly combine to put both men in life-threatening and unrecoverable situations. Success, even survival, is found in the details.

Another lesson appears when Dan Stephens greatly complicated their situation by allowing himself to get separated from the group. There’s an old saying that refers to navigating your way with a group. “It’s always better to be wrong together than right alone.”

You follow each man through that sudden realization that they are lost in the wilderness. They have lost critical equipment, made poor decisions, become hypothermic, suffered thirst and then dehydration, have had to fight panic, then starvation. Along the way, you will uncover the many lessons that could allow you to survive in similar situations. For example, what are the three elements most critical for survival, and in what order are they prioritized? Reading this book will answer this and a lot of other critical questions, while at the same time being a great adventure read.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Spring Finally Wins

When I can't get out paddling, the trail bike helps to keep the ol' body working.  A ride out through the country can yield an occasional sign that perhaps spring has finally beat old man winter into submission, at least for the balance of this week.  The spring wheat is coming on.  Yesterday I saw cattle in a wheat field, and a new calf lying in the wheat could barely see over the top of the grass.  That is part of the Glass Mountains in the background.

I had to follow this meadow lark from tree to tree before it finally agreed to allow me a picture.  I can understand it feeling crowded.  I was the only other living thing anywhere in sight.

It's really cumbersome trying to type with my fingers taped together. It was the end of March when I took the whitewater paddling class.  When I came down off one Class II rapid, I capsized and did something to my left hand.  It all happened so fast I don'r know what happened, but the hand was sore.  By the next morning it was swollen and stiff, and it took some time to get the hand loosened up enough to grasp a paddle.  Ever since, it has been a debate over whether I broke a bone or just really tore up a lot of soft tissue, but it remains sore.  I finally got it xrayed yesterday.  The doctor says he sees no fracture, but it is still swollen and painful after a month.  The fingers are taped together to minimize movement as it hopefully heals faster, come on, faster.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


I had just gotten vinyl lettering made for both Ibi and Buddy.  Buddy's lettering was put on while preparing for the last paddling trip.  I think it looks great, was simplicity itself to apply, and is supposed to be waterproof.  Since we so often know people by their boats, it will be nice for Buddy to no longer be anonymous on the water.  I'll just be known as "that guy who paddles Buddy."

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

An Urgent Message

All dressed up and no place to go.
This is an URGENT MESSAGE to anyone that will be older tomorrow than they are today. It is a theme you’ve heard from me before, but here I can give an actual example. I’d like to say the reason I haven’t posted in a few days is because we’ve been off on a paddling trip. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been the case. The lesson is to get on with it, regardless of what ‘it‘ is. Or, as Nike says, “Just do it!” The longer you wait, and the older you get, the more likely that your decisions will be made by circumstance, rather than by you. Whether for retirement, or when the kids grow up, move out of the house, go off to college, whatever, WAITING is not a solution; it is an excuse. Illness can strike anyone and at any time, but as you age, personal and family issues, and health problems all increase exponentially. Waiting for a better day, a better time, just increases the likelihood that ‘it’ will never happen. You need to decide how important your bucket list is. You need to be passionate about your passion. If it’s more important than a fancier car, bigger house, or impressing the neighbors or coworkers, then you need to get on with it. As the Pardey’s have always said, “Go small, go cheap, go now.”

So, after a week’s preparation, we were all packed and ready to go. In twelve hours we would be on our way to do a 108 mile paddle. There were four of us going on the trip. The afternoon before departure, one member of the party started feeling ill. They were certain the poor feeling would pass, and they didn’t want to inconvenience or disappoint anyone else. They toughed it out until evening, when discomfort became pain. Within a couple hours, pain became crippling. The inevitable decision was made, and the call went out to cancel the trip.

They headed to the clinic as soon as it opened in the morning. The clinic shipped them off to the emergency ward as soon as the blood tests came back with a white cell count of 14,000. The emergency ward arranged for the admission to the hospital, and antibiotics were started by IV to combat the infection. Since it was impossible to eat or drink, hydration fluids were done by IV as well. The paddling trip turned into a four-day hospital stay. The obvious good news is that the health problem was handled, they are feeling better, and got real food to eat last night for the first time in three days. The greatest blessing in all this is that the problem surfaced before departure rather than in the middle of a river trip.

The greater the number of days that pass, those days that will never come again, the greater the odds one of your trips will end this unexpectedly. This is not anyone’s fault. It just serves to emphasize that the older you get, the greater the odds that the unexpected can be expected. Tomorrow is not guaranteed, and there is no tomorrow as good as today. The weeds, grass, painting, and the thousand other supposedly urgent tasks are guaranteed to still be there when you get back. Get on with it.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Loading Buddy

I was seriously overloaded for the St. Johns River trip in Florida. Part of the reason was Ibi’s huge capacity allows it, but I was even pushing that. There was no dragging through the shallows. When she ran aground, Ibi was indeed aground. The other reason was being so far from home and not knowing what to expect. A year ago they were experiencing freezing temperatures clear down to Everglades City, so I went prepared for a wide range of temperature extremes. With the acquisition of Buddy (Hornbeck 14), it was obvious that a major trimming of gear and weight was in order. I spent part of three days going through every bag and pack, and finally got the load down to 110-pounds, and that includes a week’s provisions and three gallons of water. Everything was weighed and distributed to keep the canoe in trim. Best of all, it all stows mostly below the gunnels (or gunwales), so the center of gravity stays low. Then I screwed eyestraps into the gunnels for the lashings.

I had hoped to get Buddy to some water where I could capsize and swamp her just to see what happened, but the weather has been atrocious, as most of you the country over have experienced as well. I just couldn’t bring myself to stand out in 20-degree windchills, with 40-50mph winds, and play in the water.  

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Yellow-headed Blackbirds

According to the National Geographic Society's "Field Guide to Birds of North America," yellow-headed blackbirds aren't supposed to be seen here in Western Oklahoma.  While we've seen them before, it's been like a rare one or two a year.  This year they've apparently made a wrong turn somewhere, because we've seen them nearly everyday in groups of 20 or so, and on a few days, had flocks of hundreds of them here.  The whole front yard, side yard, and back were covered with them.  Jean puts out large quantities of wildbird seed, and that is probably what kept the few coming back every day, and their presence may well have been what attracted a large migrating flock.

Anyhow, they've been interesting to watch.  They fly away quickly at the least provocation, but quickly return.  On their departure, the roar of wings is loud enough to be clearly heard inside the closed house.  When they come back in, they appear to literally fall out of the air.  Their call is unmistakable, and one not to be forgotten once you've heard it.  It starts with a loud hoarse croak and then trails off in a descending buzzing sound.

Today has not been a normal, run-of-the-mill day by any definition.  This, of course, starts with 35-40 mph winds for most of the last week, so we're a bit weather-weary to start with.  Fire sirens start first thing this morning, and shortly thereafter, the electrical power goes out.  We were to learn later that the fire caused damage at the electrical sub-station, destroying equipment for which they had no replacements.  Those were ordered and arrived, and the repairs had service repaired by around 3:30.
This was while a severe cold front was coming through that dropped the temperature 13 degrees in an hour.  From a high of 85 degrees yesterday, the mercury is supposed to keep falling until wind chills will be in the mid-20's in the morning with snow and sleet---in May!