Thursday, July 31, 2014

Arriving in Tidewater Virginia

It was a Sunday morning. Knowing it should be the last leg of our trip, we got a more relaxed start. Sunday is traditionally pancake day in our family. Doing Sunday morning pancakes is usually my role, but today we went to a Cracker Barrel down the hill from where we had slept in WalMart’s parking lot. It was 9:30 before we got on the road.

The Ram and RV in John's driveway.
We arrived in Chesapeake, VA, in the afternoon. Finding my brother’s (John) house, we got the RV set up in his driveway. That would be our home for 6-8 weeks as we helped him through his surgeries and recovery. The total trip had been l,786.5 miles. Once we had the RV settled, the birds and squirrels moved into the garage, and got Buddy, my 14-ft. Hornbeck canoe, under cover, we had the afternoon to relax and visit with John.

One revelation had me concerned. Before the trip, I had ordered six books from our library at home. They had been ordered, but failed to show before our departure. I was not happy about the prospect of 6-8 weeks with nothing to read. Fortunately, there was a library just three miles away, so first thing Monday morning, Jean and I were off to the library.

The library was beautiful. It could be the focal point of any prideful town or community. It had pleasing paint and décor, carpeting, meeting rooms, automatic doors, circle drive, computer-driven catalog and checkout system. There was nothing the library lacked---except books. There were plenty of novels, yes, but the non-fiction section was really weak. Half or more of every shelf was empty. Books were stood on edge, their covers and pages splayed out to fill space. I guess it’s another consequence of the e-book craze.

Another consequence of our decaying society and weak parental involvement was the uniformed policeman that patrolled outside and through the library. I couldn’t avoid asking him why a policeman was needed in a library. He explained that the students from the nearby middle school used to use the library as a hangout when parents failed to pick them up after school. Having kids spending long hours in a library would have sounded like a good idea in my day, but they resorted to horseplay, dealing drugs, getting in fights, damaging the facilities, setting the shrubs outside on fire, etc. I shook my head and lamented the state of our culture, and said, “The next thing you know, they’ll be having armed policemen standing guard in church.” “Oh, they’re way ahead of you,” he responded. “There were so many problems cropping up that a number of churches have officers on duty for every service.”

Back to my reading dilemma, I resorted to the logical standby. Surely, there cannot be a library anywhere in America that doesn’t have something by or about Mark Twain. There were indeed two books, and I grabbed both.


Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Through the Atchafalaya

Andy says about a thousand people have seen his video, and for good reason.  It's 36 minutes long, with a great message at the end.  Enjoy!

Victims of Greed-2

Jean first brushed them with mayonnaise, which softens and bonds with the oil, greatly shortening the cleaning process. They were stood in a pool of soapy water as they were slowly rinsed with handfuls of wash water. The cleaning was then continued with Jean washing them with Dawn dish detergent and I shuttled buckets of warm water. Each owl went through sixteen washes and rinses. To rinse them, they would even allow us to submerge them under water clear up to their faces with total trust and lack of resistance or struggling.

It looks bedraggled, but just because it's wet.  The white
feathers in the wings and tail are now visible.  Its condition
was to greatly improve.
The amount of crude oil removed from them was both amazing and sadly disturbing. With most of the oil removed, we began to see that they had sustained multiple scrape injuries each to their beaks, faces, legs, and wings. These undoubtedly were sustained while beating at the rim of the tank in an effort to pull themselves over the edge to escape.  Once the cleaning was done, they were put in a large bird cage with a heat lamp to keep them warm while they dried.

Jean tried a number of foods to induce them to eat and start moving the oil they had ingested through their systems---beef cubes and steak cutlets sliced in thin ribbons, chopped-up chicken legs, and chicken livers and gizzards. The first owl never responded to any enticement, and lasted until noon the next day, the 24th. It’s body was given back to the game warden to hold as evidence in the criminal investigation.

By evening of the 25th, it had stopped eating, and by midday of
the 26th, it had to brace itself in the corner to keep on its feet.
We were heartened by the second owl. It began to walk, stand erect, even perching on a section of tree limb placed in the cage, and began to eat well and drink large amounts of water and chicken juice. It would take strips of meat from tongs at first, and then ate from a saucer left in the cage during the night. We nearly celebrated when it began to void its intestines, feeling that such a good sign surely meant that it was clearing its system and doing well. By the evening of the second day, the 25th, however, it stopped eating in the evening. We weren’t immediately alarmed, thinking it would eat during the night as it had the night before.

During the morning of the 26th, it seemed sluggish and hadn’t eaten. It took no more food, but it did take water, during the day. We checked on it frequently during the day. I looked in on it at 5:30 to see it slouching in the bottom of the cage. It looked at me and staggered, beginning to fall, but caught itself and stayed on its feet. It went into the corner of the cage and put its head in the corner, leaning there to stay on its feet as its wings began to droop more and more. Minutes later, it turned and looked at me for several seconds, drool hanging uncontrollably from its mouth, and rolled over onto its side. Its breathing was rapid and shallow, and then lapsed into shallow panting, and by a little after 6 pm, it also was gone. The amount of organ damage and poisoning had obviously been too much for it to overcome, and in death it voided a substantial pool of black oily liquid.

The heart-breaking end---hunched, wings drooping, having lost
control of its own body, drool hanging from its beak.  It turned and
gave me a haunting and pleading look for some seconds before
rolling onto its side and expiring.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Victims of Greed

It seems a fair statement that paddlers, as a whole, are led to their passion by a love of nature. Therefore, while this is not a paddling story, it is indeed a story for paddlers. This love for nature will make this a gruesome story. Such gruesomeness is almost always glossed over, deleted supposedly for the benefit of sensitive eyes and hearts. Sensitive or not, this is a truth that must be viewed honestly to be understood.

To avoid politicizing this issue, I won’t divulge who Mark Twain was referring to, but he said, “The dollar their God, how to get it their religion.” This, this sin of greed, and the callous disregard for anything that doesn’t feed their greed, is what created this heinous killing.

It was about 9:30pm, 22 July, when our local game warden came to the door for Jean, since she is an animal rescuer. He brought her two owls that had been found in an oil tank at an oil well pumping site. The open-top tank was supposed to be covered with a net to prevent wildlife from falling into the oil, but it wasn’t. Why the owls went onto the surface of the oil can only be surmised, presumably going after another creature trapped in the crude. There was little we could do in the dark, especially since they were obviously exhausted and scared. One was so weak that we doubted it would survive the night.

Becoming calm, after its first wash it looks into Jean's
face with what looks like complete trust.
In the morning, I awoke in bed alone. Jean had long since been on the internet researching the best methods for dealing with their oil-saturated condition. She visited the town’s veterinarian, who graciously provided eye ointment to protect their eyes from the oil while cleaning them, and two rolls of 4-inch Vetrap to bind their talons to prevent them from injuring and infecting us during the process of cleaning. Jean also purchased four five-gallon buckets, leather welders’ gloves, and a quart of mayonnaise. The vet stressed that even with heavy welders’ gloves, he still had scars from a bout with an owl years before. Nevertheless, once everything was assembled, the operation began.

The sweet face of a creature in need.
As expected, the owls were scared, frantic, and ready to attack anything that came close. Getting them out of the plastic dog kennel they had been scooped into for transport was going to be a challenge. As soon as I started to reach in to remove one of the owls, they both flipped onto their backs with their long, sharp talons waving in the air, ready to set their talons into my hands as soon as I got close enough. I approached the bird a second time with a blanket, which it immediately locked its talons into. With its talons locked closed, we were able to lift it out and wrap it in a towel. We took turns, one holding the owl’s legs, and the other placing a block of foam in its talons and then wrapping the talons with the Vetrap.

The oil pellets (looking like gravel to the left) are from the second
 washing, and the oily water is the fourth rinse after the second wash.
This was our first encounter with owls, so we were anxious for any helpful input. The vet suggested we let the neighbors know what we were doing, because the ear-piercing screams of the owls might sound just like a woman screaming. To avoid having to answer a lot of questions while we were working, I called the police department to let them know what we were about, and that if they received any calls about a damsel in distress, it was just us and our owls.

Lying on a towel in the bottom of the cage, the first owl, unable to
recover, passes away.
The most amazing thing that happened was that I was able to talk the birds down from their panic. While Jean worked on them, I cradled them in a towel and softly talked to them. Each seemed to understand that we were trying to help, and the picture of the one looking into Jean’s face seemed to reflect a feeling of total trust.

Cont'd tomorrow.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

The Last Man on the Mountain

Jacket photo credit
The Last Man on the Mountain: the Death of an American Adventurer on K2, by Jennifer Jordan, pub. by W. W. Norton & Co., NY, 2010, 280 pp.

Paddlers are an active group that often have broad interests. Besides paddling, they may enjoy cycling, hiking, camping, skiing, sailing, or rock climbing. I think the latter may be the case here. When I went looking for paddling books, I tapped into titles from a broad range of sources. I think this is one of those examples of someone with a list of adventure books, rather than just paddling, so The Last Man on the Mountain was included. It has nothing to do with paddling, so I will be removing it my list of titles, which you can access starting in archives with 20 Feb. 11 and continuing several pages. In the meantime, you may find the story to your liking as well.

It is the story about the death of Dudley Wolfe, the first American to die on K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Dudley’s accident, or murder, occurred in 1939, and three native porters also fell to their deaths, making four the total death toll for the expedition. Dudley Wolfe’s remains were not discovered until 2002, 63-years later. The discovery, made by the author of the book, was possible because an avalanche had brought Wolfe, his tent, and camping gear down the mountain to the glacier near its base. Since his death, 83 others have joined him on the mountain, making K2 the deadliest mountain in the world. The last death occurred exactly a year ago this weekend, on 26-7 July 2013.

The thrust of the book is to show that Dudley Wolfe’s indictment as foolish, sloppy, and inexperienced are exactly the opposite of who he was. Not being alive to defend himself, he was the softest target of all. Anyone trained in leadership will see red flags popping up all over, making the expedition doomed even before it began. By the end, there was a lot of blame to go around, and as blame was being flung about, even Dudley Wolfe was accused of contributory negligence that led to his death. The things he can’t be accused of were being abandoned on the mountain in sub-freezing temperatures without adequate supplies, food, fuel or even matches to start a fire in his cook stove. His cameras and film footage in the tent with him, however, did come down off the mountain and found their way back to the US.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Cumberland Mountain State Park

We were up and on the road out of London, Arkansas, at the first light. The day was a concentrated effort to make miles and stay ahead of the severe storms behind us, and stop before running into those ahead. We drained the last of the light out of the day, and by the time we had the RV set up for the night, between the cloud cover and the woods, it was totally black. This brought us to Cumberland Mountain State Park, on I-40 at X-317, near Crossville, TN. The camp spaces were small and jammed together, but it was home for the night.

The oldest metal bridge in Virginia.
The next morning was April 26, and we awoke to 43 degrees. When the sun came up, however, the day warmed so quickly we had the AC on most of the day. Once we reached Eastern Tennessee, we met I-81, and headed NE for Virginia.

At mile marker 107, I-81, we stopped at the rest area near Elliston, Virginia, and just south of Roanoke. As a paddler, I don’t think we can avoid becoming fascinated with bridges. They represent our best landmarks, and if we’re in a stream deep within the surrounding banks, they are most of what we get to see. Here we saw a bow string arch truss bridge which happens to be the oldest metal bridge in Virginia. It was built in 1878 by the King Iron and Bridge Company in Bedford County, which is just ENE of Roanoke. It was in continuous use until 1971. It was later moved to this rest area, where it serves as the pedestrian crosswalk between the parking lot and the facilities. A stream that serves as home and training ground for a bunch of new Canada Geese still flows beneath the bridge.


Thursday, July 24, 2014

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Lake Dardanelle, AR

After driving 278 miles between home and Lake Carl Blackwell to shuttle squirrels and birds around, we finally got the squirrels repatriated, and were ready to continue east. We really weren’t sorry to leave Blackwell. It’s a beautiful place, but the campground was filled with oil field workers who were up every morning between 5 and 5:30 am, cranking up their huge diesel trucks, and letting them run while gear was thrown in the back of their trucks. They weren’t bad company once we learned to get to bed plenty early, since it was obvious that we weren’t sleeping any later than they were.

Up in a finger of Pine Bay, Lake Dardanelle.
The weather had been threatening tornadoes every night since before leaving home. We had to keep a close eye on the weather, and Michelle, a friend of ours, was keeping a close eye on the weather radar for us. Today, we had tornadoes ahead of us, and more behind us, so we tried to just move at the pace of the weather fronts. By evening, that brought us to Lake Dardanelle State Park in Russellville, Arkansas, where they were still cleaning up from a tornado that hit the week before.

For just a little sidebar on tornadoes that I picked up from the show Raging Nature, Tornado Alley is the strip of the Great Plains running from Minnesota to Texas. There are roughly 1,000 tornadoes in the United States each year, more than the rest of the world combined, and 95% of those occur in Tornado Alley.

The next day still had us between two huge weather systems, so we went to the park’s Visitor Center to extend our stay an extra day. We were told our space had been reserved for people coming in for a crappie fishing tournament. Since the whole park had been sold out, we had to not only leave our space, but the campground as well. A Corps of Engineers park was only a few miles away at Pine Bay, also on the lake, so we backtracked west a few miles.

The morning mist begins to clear as we sit waiting
to see what the weather is going to do.
It started pouring heavy rain, and we had severe weather advisories all day. We went into Russellville to Wally World (Wal-Mart) for some provisions, and headed for Pine Bay in London, AR. We were blessed there with a perfectly flat and level campsite, so I didn’t have to stand in the pouring rain blocking and leveling. Heavy storms paraded through all evening, but they were broken by short spells of sunshine before the next one moved in.

Michelle called during the evening to warn us that a possible tornado outbreak was expected in our area for the next afternoon, so she suggested we set the alarm early, get on the road, and start making some miles to stay ahead of it. The weather service was equating them with the El Reno, OK, tornadoes of a year ago. Even without the oil field workers, conditions demanded we were “early to bed, and early to rise.”

Jean wondered about the safety of all those fishermen on the lake during a threat of severe weather, possibly tornadoes, but I‘m sure the tournament organizers had all that planned for. Besides, I pointed out that they were fishermen, who like golfers, won’t let hail, rain, tornadoes, earthquakes or the second coming get in the way of a good day’s fishing---or golfing. I went down to meet a couple of the stalwart anglers, who were members of When Michelle called, I told her we had gotten to Russellville and fallen in with a bunch of really crappy people. She was getting all sympathetic over our bad luck, so, for the benefit of her husband, Bob, another avid fisherman, I had to explain that I was talking about crappie with an ‘ie’, the deep-bodied pan-sized sport fish. is promoted as America’s oldest and friendliest crappie fishing community on the internet with 36,148 members. This tournament was just one of many they arrange at various locations to get anglers out on the water. For those in other areas, the fish is also known as a croppie, or kroppie.

Monday, July 21, 2014

On Celtic Tides

On Celtic Tides: One Man’s Journey Around Ireland by Sea Kayak, by Chris Duff.
(Pub. By St. Martin’s Press, NY, NY, 1999, 269pp.)

We just got back from a week with the granddaughters at Kaw Lake, near Ponca City, OK. More on that later, but between no TV and two days of rain, I got to enjoy some overdue reading

By the time Chris Duff wrote On Celtic Tides, he had paddled 14,000 miles, including The Great Loop, and around England, Wales and Scotland. Here, he returns to become the first person to circumnavigate Ireland by paddle. It is not only a story of managing some of the worst storms, rips, overfalls, and other sea hazards that the earth has to offer, but a chance to visit the cradle of his own family’s heritage.

The trip takes him 1,200 miles and 13 weeks to complete. The account of the passage that he sets forth in the book is some of the finest writings about such an undertaking that I’ve read. The reader gets to visit 4,000 year old castles, crofter cottages, monasteries, and the stone beehive huts that had been the homes of monks at the dawn of Christianity. These un-mortared stone structures are so well constructed that they still stand intact.  The author even slept one night in a monk’s hut to share the experience of sleeping on a stone ledge protruding from the wall. The reader follows as Chris paddles around bold and threatening headlands, makes his way along 15-mile long unbroken cliffs that rise 600-feet straight from the sea, and meets some of the most interesting people who share their equally interesting stories of lives on Ireland and some of its remote off-lying islands. This is a trip narrative that reads with the intensity of a murder or spy mystery.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Moving on to Virginia

These are red squirrels, which are a bit smaller than gray squirrels. Going with us, these last remaining two were going to settle in gray squirrel territory in Eastern Virginia near Norfolk. When they ventured forth at my brother’s home, it was amazing to see that they instinctively began building natural squirrel nests in the oak tree there. Also, there seemed to be no hostility between them and the local squirrel population, so all went well.

In spite of the new location, they quickly settled into a pleasant routine. They would show up both morning and evening for their peanut treat. In the morning, they would come and sit on the fence that surrounded two sides of our RV and peek in the window at us until we came outside. Then they would scurry about the oak tree harvesting leaves and branches for their nest. About noon we would see one or the other having a siesta as they sprawled across a branch with two legs hanging off either side. Just before dinner, they’d appear again for another peanut or two. The first couple weeks they would return to the cage at night, and we would set them in the garage for the night, and then release them again in the morning. As they became braver and more independent, they stayed out more and more until they were done with the cage, and except for the peanuts, pretty much done with us.

By the time we left six weeks later, my newly recovered brother had been adopted by the two squirrels. He went out morning and evening to take them peanuts, and by the time we got home, had built them a squirrel feeder to keep them and their feed dry. They depended less and less on the commercial feed he was providing, but he enjoyed spending time with them when they did come down to the feeder.


Friday, July 11, 2014

Lake Carl Blackwell's New Settlers

When we left to head for the East Coast for a family emergency, our first stop would be at Lake Carl Blackwell, located in North Central Oklahoma, 9 miles west of Stillwater. This 3,350 acre lake is one of three surrouding Stillwater, and is owned by Oklahoma State University. We weren’t here for camping, however, but for a release of nine orphaned squirrels back into the wild, which Jean had raised from bottle babies. It was time for them to go, plus we couldn’t handle all of them while also taking care of my brother. Those pictures are back on 1 April in a post titled ‘Raising Howard.’

Immediately at home.
Our route was well traveled. While driving east on Rt. 51, just before reaching the lake, we crossed the west boundary of the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889. At the opening of the territory on 22 April 1889, 50,000 settlers were lined up along the west boundary waiting for the firing of a gun at noon that would signal their rush west to claim 2,000,000 acres of what were called unassigned lands. A successful claim would entitle the settler to 160 acres to settle on with his family to begin a new life. By nightfall, thousands of homes and businesses had been staked out in tents, and tent cities covered the prairie.

Howard, standing on his head, in his very own oak tree.
We hoped to give our little four-legged settlers a new life. We looked for a place with access to water, and plenty of wooded lands and natural habitat and food. We were doing what is called a soft release. That means their cage is opened, their food and water set outside the cage, and they are allowed to go and come as often as they like as they explore their new surroudings. A soft release can take as long as three days as they reconnoiter, reaching further and further, until they no longer feel it necessary to return to the cage, food, and artificial nest.

But this one was just too timid to let go of the apron strings.
I guess that is separation anxiety.
They often take different times to settle in. When we opened the cage, eight climbed onto the top of the cage, looked around, and took off in a run for a nearby oak tree. They never came back to the cage, but the ninth squirrel freaked out. It squatted in the grass, and seemed scared to move. When we returned several hours later, the first eight had already started to spread afield, leaving only four visible in the tree, but the last one was still too scared to move. As soon as Jean got close, it scampered up Jean and clung to her back. She was obviously too timid and not ready to go on her own. That still left Jean with two---this one and a younger one Jean was still raising.

For two nights, Jean put a handfull of feed at the base of the oak tree to make sure they could find a food source. Instinct was taking over, as we already saw them eating from the tree, plus a half-dozen deer that started hanging around were undoubtedly cleaning up the feed, since it would be gone each morning.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Old Bill Williams

Credit: Townsend Books
The Louisiana Purchase was completed in 1803, more than doubling the size of the United States at a bargain basement cost of 4-cents per acre. The problem was that we had acquired the land mostly to keep other countries from laying claim to it, but then didn’t know what we had purchased. Lewis and Clark set off in 1804 on their two year expedition, and Lt. Zebulon Pike immediately followed with two expeditions, one up the Mississippi River, and a second to the Rockies and the head of the Red River. He is little remembered by Americans except for his name being given to Pike’s Peak. By 1820, America had a pretty good idea of the nature of what they had acquired, but men were needed to move west and establish enterprises that actually gave the impression of ownership and control over the territory. These were the Mountain Men.

Credit: Wikipedia
These were usually loners with few family ties. They were trappers and hunters for the most part. Mortality among their numbers was high from starvation, thirst, injury, disease, animal and Indian encounters, and since very few maintained any journals or other writings, most disappeared from the earth without a trace. William Sherley Williams, known to most of his day just as Old Bill, was one of the few exceptions. A few others were Thomas Fitzpatrick, Kit Carson, and Jim Bridger.

Williams’ parents had migrated from Western North Carolina to settle on land along the Missouri River near St. Louis, a region then known as the Upper Province of Louisiana. William was born in 1787, and lived closely with the Osage, Delaware, and Shawnee tribes. He particularly related to the Osage, whose language and customs he came to know as well as his own. After leaving home, he became an itinerate preacher, holding camp meetings along his circuit throughout present Missouri. Finding after five years that this was hardly keeping him fed, he settled with the Osage, and resolved to convert them to Christianity. While they enjoyed his Bible stories, conversion didn’t take. In fact, over his life, the trend went more toward the Osage converting Old Bill. He married an Osage wife, the daughter of a chief, received an Osage name, and was adopted by the tribe.

The two daughters born to Bill and his wife were left with the tribe when she died, and he left to seek employment. Many trading posts were made or lost by their ability to communicate with the Indians. Trading required not just the ability to know and grade pelts, but to understand the mindset of the Indian. Bill spoke perfect Osage and several other dialects, but it was his understanding of the people that made him so successful and respected. Since fur trading was a seasonal occupation, he also continued his own trapping and hunting.

In 1807, President Jefferson promoted William Clark (Lewis & Clark) to brigadier general of the militia of the Louisiana Territory, and U.S. agent for Indian Affairs. In June, 1825, Clark traded the Great and Little Osage nations out of their land rights, creating the surrender of the largest land tracts of any Native American nations in the country. They gave up nearly all their lands in what was the State of Missouri and the Territory of Arkansas.

In 1825, Williams was employed by Maj. George C. Sibley as interpreter and guide for the creation of the Santa Fe Trail. Several routes had previously been used for passage west, but the effort here was to establish treaties with all the Indian tribes for a right of passage for public use, especially for settlers, the creation of a marked roadway, and hunting and camping privileges along either side of the route. When this job took Old Bill into the deep West, he never left. He would disappear for extended periods of a year or two, then pop up a couple thousand miles away, yet always appearing available to serve as guide for some of the most important expeditions of the period. Williams became so comfortable in the wilderness that when he returned to Missouri to visit family, he stayed outside and slept on the ground, even in winter, saying a bed was a tool of the devil.

For anyone with an interest in history, the exploration and settling of the West, the life of a mountain man, trapper and hunter, or the wilderness, this book is a gem. All the history I’ve referenced above only gets the reader to about page 100, with much more of interest packed in the pages that follow. Be sure to put this book on your reading list.

Old Bill Williams: Mountain Man by Alpheum H. Favour, pub by Oklahoma Press, 1936, 211pp.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

A Sunny Day on the Canal

Here's a video from Nige Ayers.  It's a beautiful day on an English canal, a couple canoeing bloopers, a steam locomotive, and a neat trick with a tin can I'd never seen before.  Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Canoe Picture

Credit: Buckhorn Canoe Company

We love to see beautifully restored classic canoes, but this is a new one built by Dick Persson of Buckhorn Canoe Co., Ontario, who does both restorations and new builds.  This is the 16-ft Legend Special, and if you'd like to see yourself in the picture, they ship worldwide.  Being closely associated with the Wooden Canoe Heritage Association and the Canadian Canoe Museum, Dick is not only a lover of canoes, but a student of the many classic designs. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum - 3

On other topics, the oldest piece of Native American art found in North America is a buffalo skull with a red lightning bolt painted on its forehead. It was unearthed at the Cooper archaeological site north of Fort Supply. This is a bison kill site dating from 10,900 to 10-200 B.C., or BCE. Bison would be herded into a ravine, or arroyo, and hunters lining the rim of the arroyo would kill the bison with spear and bow and arrow. The archaeological significance of the skull is it being the oldest known painted object in all of North America.  But, before we romanticize the Old West, here are just a couple of the realities.

Photo credit: Detroit Library
A 50-ft mound of buffalo skeletons.
These 1880 pictures of bison bones show just this one pile towering more than 50 feet at the Michigan Carbon Works, Detroit, where they were processed into fertilizer, bone meal, burned into charcoal for refining sugar, and used to strengthen bone china dishes. Homesteaders could often earn much needed money by gathering the skeletal remains of buffalo slaughtered on the plains. Buyers at railroad shipping points would pay from $4 to $12 per ton for the bones and horns. Just one of many firms buying and shipping bones estimated that in just a seven year period, from 1884 to 1891, they shipped 5,950,000 skeletons for processing. In one year, 1872, the Santa Fe Railroad shipped over one million pounds of bones. The next year the total reached 2,740,000 pounds of bones, but the record year for the Santa Fe was 1874, when they shipped over 7,000,000 pounds of buffalo bones. Extra money could be realized by separating the skulls and selling them as souvenirs.

A railroad siding with a continuous mound of skeletons.

Souvenir buffalo skulls and horns, sought by collectors in the East.
It has been estimated that when Columbus arrived in the New World in 1492, there were 60-million bison on the American plains. During a relatively short period before 1889, the buffalo had been decimated to a mere 541 remaining in existence. With the interest in preserving and protecting the American bison, by 1951 the numbers had increased to 9,252. With the current destructions of countless species of wildlife, there continues to be the irrefutable evidence that humans are the dumbest of all mammals with the least ability to learn from their own history. We write about our history, publish books about it, and still can’t remember it or understand it. We continue to confuse wisdom and greed, with greed winning every time.

There were also displays concerning the Indian Wars, which were waged in what would become the Oklahoma Territory, from 1858 to 1874. In the American West, the Indian wars continued from 1849 to 1890. The two battles that were fought locally, and which were most directly responsible for leading to the Battle of Little Big Horn and the annihilation of five companies of George Armstrong Custer’s 7th Cavalry were the Sand Creek Massacre of 29 Nov. 1864, and the Battle of Washita on 27 Nov. 1868. The latter massacre was personally directed by Custer from a nearby knoll. Little Big Horn then followed 25-26 June 1876. Both of the massacres were mostly on women and children while the warriors were away. Having been promised peace by the U.S. Government, the warriors had left their families to hunt for meat for the winter. As the first shots of the Washita assault were fired, those in the Indian village immediately began waving both the American flag and a white flag. Of the 133 Indians killed by Col. John Chivington’s 700 soldiers, 103 were women and children, many being infants still strapped to back boards.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Plains Indians and Pioneers Museum - 2

The Federal Eagle covers most of the top of the quilt, as seen
in the photo below.  Photo credits: Plains Indians and
Pioneers Museum

Other re-creations in the museum are Jack Garvey’s Saloon, a territorial sheriff’s office, a Parlor from an Officer‘s Quarters at Fort Supply, including a pipe organ carried West in a covered wagon, the 1903 Stock Exchange Bank, the Lee-Lienemann log cabin, and the photography studio of Frank L Saunders, whose home still stands in Woodward.

One of the displays that I found as fascinating as any other was the Federal Eagle Quilt. To me, at least, that any guy would be fascinated by a quilt is testiment enough to the incredible work that went into this quilt. I immediately found myself bending over the quilt to examine the perfectly-spaced hand-sewn 22 stitches to the inch. The quilting patterns are amazingly even, intricate, and symmetrical. The designs were created using a rare, complicated method called reverse appliqué, and the quality of the work is what makes this reportedly one of the best examples of the art of quilting in the country.

The quilt maker was Anna Catharine Hummel Markey Garnhart, born in 1773 to a couple of German immigrants. She lived to the age of 80, never needed to wear glasses, and spun all her thread by hand. She created a series of eleven such quilts to be given to her grandchildren upon their births. This one was made in Maryland, was handed down, generation to generation, and traveled west to Iowa, then Missouri, and arrived in Oklahoma following the 1893 Land Run. It has twice been flown to Washington, D.C., for special exhibitions.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Kevin Callan: The Voice in the Wilderness

Kevin Callan
Credit: from Kevin's Facebook profile
Mr. Callan is one of today's most prolific wilderness writers, commentators, and videographers, who always strives to promote conservation, safety, and the appreciation and enjoyment of canoeing and the outdoors.  His sense of humor is almost always stirred into all he does.  Here's a video he did that raises a lot of valid points we should all ponder, not as a passing thought, but continual introspection.
Click and enjoy.........

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Silver River Kayak Experience

This film was done by Carmen Williams.  It is wonderful, has great scenes, and is accompanied by nice music selections.  You'll enjoy it greatly.

Plains Indians and Pioneer Museum

Temple Lea Houston, 1860-1905
Credit: Oklahoma Today
One of our sojourns through Western Oklahoma looking for paddleable streams took us to the Plains Indians & Pioneers Museum in Woodward, OK. The search for 6-inches of water to float a canoe failed, but the museum visit was a wonderful experience.

The town of Woodward was established in 1887 at the junction of the Southern Kansas Railway and the Fort Reno Military Road, on the south bank of the North Canadian River. It was a primary supply point for Fort Supply, which I’ve written about previously, and was also a cattle shipping depot for cattle grazed on Indian land in the Cherokee Strip. In fact, the first government building erected in town was the railroad depot, constructed in 1893. By that time, there were 200 residents in town, and it was known as the wildest and woolliest town the Cherokee Strip. In spite of its miniscule size, as towns go, the town’s flavor was made obvious by a stroll down main street, which was lined by no fewer than 23 saloons and 15 brothels.

A favorite adopted son of Woodward was Temple Houston, and Houston’s law office is recreated in the museum. Temple Houston was the youngest child born to Sam and Margaret Lea Houston, and the only one of their eight children to be born in the Texas Governor’s Residence. (Sam Houston defeated Gen. Santa Anna at the Battle of San Jacinto, won Texas independence, served twice as president of the Republic of Texas, and supported statehood.) By the time he was seven, both of Temple’s parents had died, and he lived with an older sister. At the age of 13, he joined a cattle drive, later worked on a Mississippi River boat, and then received an appointment to work as a page on the floor of the U. S. Senate. In 1877, he returned to Texas to attend the Texas Agricultural and Mechanical College, now just called Texas A&M, and then received his law degree with honors from Baylor University. He became the youngest attorney to open a law practice in Texas, was appointed county attorney, then district attorney, and then won election to the Texas State Senate. In 1894, Sam Houston moved his family to Woodward, then known as the largest cattle town in the Cherokee Strip. There he opened a law office to serve as legal counsel for the Atchison, Topeka, and Sante Fe Railroad.

Houston was known as a theatrical attorney in the courtroom, and his summation from one case is still used in law schools across the country as the example of a perfect defense summation. This has become known as the Soiled Dove Plea, and was given by Houston to gain the acquittal of Minnie Stacey, a prostitute who worked at the Dew Drop Inn in Woodward.

Temple Houston’s life was saved by Oklahoma law, so to speak. He was walking down the street in Woodward one day when he was shot. He carried the 1,384-page 1893-edition of the Oklahoma Territory Statutes under his arm. The bullet struck the book and penetrated to page 654, leaving Houston untouched.