Friday, October 30, 2015

Chocolate Halloween Bats

Halloween Bats

The canoe (Ibi) was on the Ram in the parking lot while we gorged ourselves in the state park pavilion.  For dessert, Jean had made a couple dozen chocolate bats that quickly took flight from the pan.  These were dark chocolate cupcakes topped with a Hershey's kiss, with two dabs of red icing eyes for night vision, and a mint chocolate cookie cut in half for wings.  Happy Halloween.

Friday, October 23, 2015

Human Depredation

Jean does wildlife rescue.  Regular readers know of some of the unusual rescues she has done, but every year produces some regulars, like doves and squirrels.  She will get calls from all over the state, and even gets some referrals from Arkansas, Kansas, and Florida.  Some causes are obvious, like broken bones, abrasions and cuts, and stripped feathers, but some causes of  injury and distress are mysterious and sometimes never solved, but likely causes are poisoning and chemical exposure from the misuses, sloppiness, and even illegal practices of agriculture and the oil industry.

As small as they are, they still have individual personalities.  
It's fun to watch how some of them feed.

Spring and fall both bring numbers of squirrels that are blown or otherwise fall from nests.  Some are pinkies, naked of any fur, while others begin to get their coats, but are still blind and not ready for solid food.  People will find them on the ground, and even an occasional dog will show up at its home with an infant squirrel carefully held in its mouth.

As they take the warm food, you can see contentment replacing
hunger as their eyes begin to close...

Healing and raising unfortunate animals is the easy part.  After weeks and weeks of around-the-clock hand feedings and cleaning and warming, the hard part is worrying about them once they are ready to be released to fend for themselves with food, water, shelter, and avoiding predators.  Having had no mother but Jean, there is always the question of what instincts have been passed to them, and what they need to be provided with until they learn to forage and identify enemies.

..and their posture slips into relaxation.

Jean’s last four squirrels had been released, and while she tried to keep them wild, they know that for their lives until now a human has provided for all their needs.  As they make the transition to a life in the wild, they take some time to divorce themselves from human dependence, and even trust.  For some days they will still be seen scampering across the yard for a visit, or another night in the more familiar cage, until they feel comfortable on their own.  This method of returning them to the wild is called a soft release, and gives them time to make the transition on their own.

After being cleaned up, it is time to curl back up in some warm fleece.

So, it was a shock to find that a man had trespassed into our yard, walked right up to the tree where they were nesting, and was able to take advantage of one squirrel’s still undeveloped natural defenses, and crushed its skull with a club not more than 50-feet from our back door.  As though he had every right, he continued right through the yard with the dead squirrel in hand, and proceeded up the street.  Before I could understand why Jean had yelled and could get the car out of the garage, he had disappeared.  The police said we needed to post ‘no trespassing’ signs, and as unreasonable as it seems that we should need to erect signs to tell people they have no right to enter our yard and kill animals right behind our house, the signs are up.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Rainy Day Memories

2013 River Rumble on the St. Croix, WI

A tight community on the banks of the St. Croix.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Passow's Camel Ranch

Good morning, everyone.  The weather in NW Oklahoma is beautiful right now, except for the wind, but that's no surprise.  The air is as cool as silk on the skin, and the morning and evening light is perfect.  Even the mid-day sun has lost much of its harshness.

A llama in the stables.

Another day trip we took with the granddaughters was to visit the Passow’s Camel Ranch.  Owned by Ralph & Wynona Passow, the breeding ranch for camels, mini-donkeys, mini-horses, and llamas, is located south of Perry, OK.  The owners loaded all of us on their ATV’s and rode all over the ranch, and even to a number of distant fields, to allow the girls to hand-feed and watch the animals up close.  Camels, in particular the males during breeding season, are territorial and sometimes unpredictable, so they stayed right with us and made sure we moved safely about the animals.

A female camel.

We learned a lot about the camels.  Some interesting things were that only one-hump camels, called Dromedary, are generally raised commercially for food, milk, and transportation.  They have a better temperament, and the two-hump camels, called Bactrian, are an endangered species.  Camels do not have hooves, but broad, thick, leathery pads to keep them from sinking into the sand, and can run at 40 mph for short periods, and can maintain 25 mph.  When they drink, they will down 5-21 gallons of water a day, but they do not sweat until temperatures exceed 106-degrees.  Not sweating as much, and having the fatty hump to protect their bodies from the heating of the sun are what enable camels to withstand greater variations in availability of water.  Also, their red blood cells are oval in shape, allowing normal blood flow when the blood thickens due to dehydration.  They weigh between 500-1500 pounds, and live 40-50 years, and normally carry 200 pounds on their backs.  In windy, sandy regions, their eyes have a second, transparent inner eyelid to protect their eyes from dirt and sand.  One of the things you most often hear about camels is that they spit.  If treated well, camels are very docile and well-mannered.  If they are ill-treated, however, they can quickly lose their sense of humor and become cross and difficult to handle.  When they spit, it is not saliva, but even less appetizing regurgitated food.

Maggie and Lucie feeding the camels.

Having been on the ranch for generations, the Passows also provided a lot of local history on those that settled the area following the Oklahoma land rush.  A few of their homes still stand in some condition.  One still had remnants of newspapers glued to the interior walls that had been used for wallpaper.  He didn’t say so, but since they had no insulation in the walls, the layers of paper probably helped keep the winter winds from whistling through.

There was a root cellar on this property made from the stone found on site.  Besides preserving garden produce, it doubled as a tornado shelter.  When we prepared to check out the interior, he cautioned us about entering slowly and looking for rattlesnakes, as they often slither inside to enjoy the cool stones while escaping the sun.  Further down the road was another original homestead made of stone.

A root cellar of hand-hewn stone.

...and a view of the interior.

The homestead of an original homesteader.

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Chickasaw Village

The Chickasaw Village at the Chickasaw Cultural Center

The Chickasaw Village reveals a lot about how the people lived.  The first building that is obvious is the Council House.  Larger than the other structures, it was the focal point of tribal life and combined the functions of an auditorium, convention center, church, tribal dance arena, and seat of government.  It features a sunken floor in the middle, and a fire was built in the center of that.  A trap door in the roof, operated by ropes from the floor, opened to allow smoke to escape.  Council members daily sat around the step created by the sunken floor and settled current business.  Women and children were free to sit around the meeting council members, but could not participate.

When the Chickasaw were forced from their Mississippi homeland to the Indian Territory, they first had to ‘move in’ with the Choctaw.    In 1855, a treaty between the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes set aside lands for the creation of the Chickasaw Nation.  It was in a log lodge or council house like this that they created their own government and constitution, which served to govern the Nation until they built their two-story brick capital building in 1858.  The original log council house has been moved and preserved at the Chickasaw Council House and Museum on Capitol Square, in Tishomingo, OK.  The brick Capitol was replaced in 1898 by one of granite, but the Tribal Nation was forced to vacate their capitol building when Oklahoma achieved statehood in 1907, so it could be used as the Johnston County courthouse.  In 1992, the Chickasaw Nation was able to buy their building back from the county.

Just above and clear of the left roof line of the council house is a summer home.  It is basically a pole shed.  It is rectangular in shape, has a floor elevated 2-3 feet above the ground to allow storage beneath, a thatched roof for shade with open roof ends and eaves to allow free movement of any breeze through the home.  There were no sides to the house, but thin panels on frames were ready to quickly be set against the side of the pole shed and laced in place in the event of rain.  Shelves built between the poles allowed for storage and work surfaces.

Beyond the summer house are two winter homes.  These were built with a spiraling floor plan similar to the pattern of a snail’s shell.  The walls were of much heavier construction with logs set on end in the ground, and then chinked or daubed with a mix of mud, grass, and crushed shell.  The overlapping spiraling walls at the entrance would keep rain, snow, and wind from blowing into the interior, and also offered a narrow opening that could be further insulated with hung hides.  The conical roof was supported on four poles set in a rectangle in the center, and was thatched with bark or grass.  The floor was often dug out to a depth of 2-3 feet around the fire ring, like the council house, with a fire set in the center.  The shelf thus created was covered with work surfaces and bed frames covered with hides.

The village may be surrounded with a stockade wall, and the fields of crops would be set outside.  They typically raised primarily corn, but also squash, peas, beans, sunflowers, pumpkins, melons, and tobacco.  The village had a communal crib for crop storage, which was often raised several feet off the ground to provide for dry storage underneath.  They lived in a socialist society where all worked for the common good, and all prospered or suffered together.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Chickasaw Cultural Center - 3

The dugout canoe exhibit was central to our making the trip to the Cultural Center, and our visit was timed to make sure we had a chance to see it before it moved to another museum.  The area around Melrose, Florida, just east of Gainsville, is dotted with lakes.  In 2000, during a severe draught in the area, 101 Native American dugout canoes were unearthed in a dry lake bed.  Since then, a number of other similar, smaller discoveries have been made.  The canoes vary in age, some having been dated at 500 years of age, roughly coinciding with Columbus’ expedition to the ‘New World’, but others go back 5,000 to 7,000 years.  The Exhibition  Center was hosting the dugout canoe exhibit to recognize this discovery as well as the art of dugout canoe building in general.

The exhibit was not just about the Florida discovery, but included a wide variety
of sources, like this display of various paddle styles.

During work by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this Native American canoe was found in the bank of Steele Bayou, Swan Lake, Washington County, Mississippi.  An analysis and report by Dr. Richard S. Fuller, in 1992, reported that the canoe was made from a single bald cypress tree, hewn by controlled burning and chipping and scraping with stone tools, not metal, and made and used between 1500 and 1600 AD.  The two holes in the end of the canoe on either side of the crack were likely to lace the wood together and tighten the lacings to prevent further cracking.

This dugout is from the First Nations tribes of the U.S. and Canadian Northwest.

Considering the resurgence of dugout canoe building and efforts to revitalize tribal culture, you may wish to seek out the video "Canoe Way: The Sacred Journey."  At you can see a trailer for the 2011 award-winning film, but unfortunately it has gone out of production, and is no longer available commercially.  It featured interviews with tribal elders, and explored the return to building dugouts and using them for youth expedition programs.  If you find a copy on the internet, grab it.

Lucie and Maggie posing in a dugout at the exhibition center.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Chickasaw Cultural Center-2

Credit: Cultural Center photo
Turtle shell rattles on the dancers legs.

With our granddaughters visiting, we decided to attempt our first long outing since my surgery.  It would involve six hours on the road on one of the hottest days of the year, and with the tour of the heritage center, would make for a very long day.  We were greeted in the main drive by a Chickasaw man speaking his native tongue, which he thankfully translated for us.  He assured us we were just in time for the stomp dancing, one of the highlights I was looking forward to, and directed us to the Anoli’ Theater.  With the mercury hitting 104-degrees, the dancing had been moved into the air-conditioned theater.  Besides the dancing, we enjoyed an informative and very entertaining presentation on their tribal customs and traditions, and the common misunderstandings that whites have about Native Americans.

The stomp dances are accompanied by singing and the rhythmic rattles strapped to the dancers’ lower legs.  The dancers follow each other in single line as they form a tight spiral, which then dissolves from within as they follow a wave pattern to morph into a second spiral, but then it also dissolves from within to return to its origin.  The leg rattles were originally made from turtle shells filled with gravel.  The commentator joked that they have discovered that when turtles become a little scarce, there are these metal cylinders available at Walmart that come in six-packs and twelve-packs, that work almost as well.

Loaded for a trading trip, the canoe seems to contain items from both an
outgoing trip, such as the fur pelts in the bow, and a return trip bringing
steel tools and bolts of fabric.

A beautiful ceremonial robe made entirely of wild turkey feathers.

From the theater, we moved to the exhibit center to marvel at the many displays there.  We began in a theater in a simulated council house for an introductory film.  Displays included those highlighting tribal culture and lifestyle.  There is the Spirit Forest, which emphasizes their close association and harmony with nature, the Exhibit Gallery, which features everything surrounding their lives from beadwork, tools and ceremonial implements, a ceremonial robe made entirely of wild turkey feathers, a dugout canoe which illustrates how the canoe would be loaded for a trading trip, and much more.  The Removal Corridor tells the story of how Native Americans were impacted by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 by Pres. Andrew Jackson, their forced removal from their homelands, and the Trail of Tears.   

Several artisans displayed their skills in making Native American items, such as
the bow maker.  A flute maker showed a number of different flutes, some of which
he had made, and some that had been given to him by his music instructors. 

Thursday, October 8, 2015

The Chesapeake Bay

Credit: The Chesapeake Bay and photographer Peggy Colemane
Gorgeous Green Heron.

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.