Wednesday, December 28, 2011

How To Make a Personalized Children’s Book

For Christmas this year I put together an illustrated children’s book featuring my family. It was fun and took a really long time. The finished product was put together at the local copy store twenty minutes before they closed on the eve of Christmas Eve. Some of the paint was still wet on the illustrations when I scanned them in last-minute and the cover was done last-nanosecond. Wish I'd left more time for that.

Here’s some tips and things to keep in mind if you’d like to write and draw a book starring your nieces, nephews, sisters, parents, in-laws and Aunt Donna.

It’s deucedly difficult to draw a convincing likeness of people, especially if you want to remain on their good side.

Good caricatures exaggerate features. Nobody in my family has forty-two fingers or fish gills behind their ears or a foot growing out of their forehead, but still you sketch something out while looking at a picture and it just . . . I don’t know. A sketchy artist on a boardwalk somewhere can draw a giant forehead or little tiny ears or whatever and get away with it. Not that anyone in my family is sporting giant foreheads or tiny ears, but you rip something out and think, well, that’s not unflattering but somehow not flattering either. I think I’m going to buy scented candles as gifts instead of this project. But you push on.

 ‘Caeser salad’ doesn’t really rhyme with anything.

My niece Claire adores Caeser salad and that was a pivotal point for my little book. You can go through the alphabet in your head (, then search the internet for ‘rhymes with.....’

I ended up with ‘valid.’ Definitely a stretch, but, hey. Nobody really wants a scented candle.

 It helps if you put the pages in proper order.

A Dr. Seuss-like ripoff already doesn’t make a whole lot of sense so when you switch pages around at the copy center and insert a rhyming couplet about a sea turtle where it should be rhyming a snippet about a metal detector, you risk confusing the reader. And yourself.

In your defense, back-to-back pages that come out of the copier with page 7 on the back of page two look an awful lot like page 9 through 12 and it’s almost closing time so you need to throw this thing together because you don’t have the industrial stapler at home and you should have started and finished this way earlier and remember when you were going to send this off and have it bound professionally? Do they still make soap-on-a-rope? Maybe Dad would like some nice aftershave. Anna could use a nice Barbie, I’m sure, and everybody else can get a calendar from the hardware store.

Cost and putting it together.

Seven bucks a book. Seven pages of double-sided color copies on 8 1/2 x 11. Folded in two, so each page out of the printer makes 4 pages when folded up. Cover was card stock. Back cover had a little illustration just because. So that made for 26 pages with either text and image or just text or just an image.

I found it helpful to make a little mock-up from notepad paper sheets with the proper number of pages, then you can layout how each chunk of text fits with your illustrations and fit the thing together. Also helpful or even absolutely necessary when you start making the actual pages. I used a brochure template set up for two pages back-to-back, which helped keep things orderly. Ended up with seven pdf files and in theory this should have kept things in order as they came off the copier. In practice, it got jumbled and I wound up figuring out how to reinvent the layout of the wheel and getting it wrong on one copy. Oopsy.

So there you go. To make a picture book about your family vacation to Hawaii, you should write a story, then get some crayon-slash-paints or whatever those things are and pretty soon all your pictures will have the same four colors in them, but whatever, and then do some trigonometry to figure out how many pages you need and what goes where and look for a template to lay it out and make a pdf and -- boom. You got yourself a book.

Easy peasey. 

Monday, December 12, 2011

The Wind Doth Blow and the Hot Tub Stove Doth Glow

 Ma Nature cranked up her box fan a few weeks back and I cranked up my chainsaw after seeing the results:

Hello firewood.

The timing of this was interesting, as I planned to move the lawnmower inside for the winter on that very day. And the day before that and etc.

So missing the lawn tractor by inches was awfully decent of the falling spruce. Downright thoughtful.

Some of those limbs will find a new home in the hot tub stove, pictured here after I didn't crack the drain valve before single digits froze up the works.

Fire and Ice: not just a title for romance novels. 
...or I'm assuming it would be a title for a romance novel....I don't really know because I don't read stuff like that. Seriously. I just....c'mon, it sounds like it would be a title for a romance novel, doesn't it? Not that I'm familiar know what, I don't care what you think.

It's harder to get the wood fired tub up to temperature in windy conditions, but bad weather and hot tubbing go together real fine. Watching big flakes of snow come down in the moonlight while sitting in hot water is proven to reduce your stress index by a factor of four. I did a scientific test with a control group of somebody shivering in the cold. And I was way happier by a factor of four. Results to be published in The Journal of Hottubbing vs. Hypothermia

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Santa For President

Got pretty good feedback on the last Furthermore column in the Chieftain. But you can't even write the word 'wolves' without getting a big spread of reaction. I haven't heard back from Canada yet.

And Furthermore: An open appeal to North Pole's leader

Dear Santa,
Thank you for the nose hair trimmer and the Candy Land game last year. Candy Land is the best! You’re the best! The trimmer works way better than the old way of burning out my nose hairs with a candle. Also, thanks for the first-aid kit and the burn cream. It’s healing nicely.
Don’t let the wolves get your reindeer when you come to Wallowa County, Santa. Are you giving presents to Canada this year? Because they’ve been naughty and gave us a case of the wolves. Yessir, broke out like a rash all around our north end and thank goodness it hasn’t spread to our south end just yet.
I’ve got some requests here, Nick. Can I call you Nick? Rose Caslar says she would like a mule this year for Christmas. A mule with fuzzy ears. Along those lines, ‘The Ruby Gap Mules,’ the old-time band that just played with ‘Homemade Jam’ for the Wallowa County Museum fundraiser, well, the Mules are toying with the notion of going by another name but haven’t settled on one. So they asked if you’d bring them the perfect band name. I suggested ‘Kiss My Bluegrass,’ but they weren’t going for it. They had some excuse about not playing bluegrass, but with a name like that it sure seems like you’d adjust. Maybe just get them a Candy Land game instead because if they’re that hard to please. . . .
We could use another wind storm, Santa. That last howler didn’t quite strip all the shingles off my garage roof and I was hoping for one more gusty day to finish tearing it off before I climb up there to re-roof. Make it blow from the other direction, though, so it will pry the Enterprise football goalpost back into position.
What I’d really like this year, Santa, is for you to throw your fuzzy red hat into the ring and announce your candidacy for president. I don’t think you’d win, with that string of breaking and entering counts on your record. And there would be the question of a birth certificate, because if Hawaii doesn’t count, no way the North Pole is going to fly. Then there would be allegations of your elves being illegal. All that.
The coverage of these debates has been so painful to watch, Santa, I want to put some of that burn cream on my eyes. If you were president, I just think politics and the world in general might get along better if we applied Christmas thinking to every day. Not just naughty or nice and throwing a quarter into the Salvation Army kettle, but reasonable. I asked for all sorts of stuff when I was a kid. You remember. But I didn’t threaten to recall you when I didn’t see a battery powered Jeep in the living room on Christmas morning. I didn’t put a NoSanta bumper sticker on my Big Wheel.
What I like about your system is we all know there’s a reason. There’s trust. Maybe we’ll shoot our eye out, so that’s why we didn’t get the Red Ryder BB gun or a new war. Toys are great, but in all fairness we do need socks and underwear and education funding. We may not be thrilled with paying for highway maintenance or getting a hand-knit sweater, but we recognize it’s thoughtful and practical so we thank our aunt or state legislature and stay warm in our ugly sweater while driving smooth roads.
I don’t know, Santa. I haven’t seen your books so maybe you’re running a massive deficit and this notion of you bringing a fresh approach to politics is a bad idea. But I like your style, Claus. Everyone figures they get what they deserve from you and trusts you’re not funneling pork barrel projects into building unprofitable doll factories in one corner of your workshop to buy votes. I just wish you could leave some of your mojo in all of our stockings.
Could you at least be a consultant in D.C.? A lobbyist? Endorse a candidate?
You know what, I’ll just take Candy Land again. Or Battleship or Chutes and Ladders or something. Let’s keep this simple.
Merry Christmas, Santa. Don’t forget to vote.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Lloyd Tommy Doss

Came across a real treasure today. Signed photo from Lloyd Doss. One of the Sons of the Pioneers and just a great guy.

Lloyd died not long ago. And that makes me sad. Rich Wandschneider wrote a nice piece about Lloyd in the Chieftain.

Rich is who sent me to meet Lloyd, back when I was doing a radio show. Said I had to meet this guy.

Lloyd's life story is one of the best I've heard. Goes like this, in a nutshell:

Wants to be grow up to be in the ultra-super-popular band the Sons of the Pioneers.

Grows up and by God if he doesn't pull it off and get into the super-ultra-popular band the Sons of the Pioneers.

Lloyd was working as a garbageman in La Grande, Oregon when the break came in the form of Bob Wills and His Texas Playboys. They came to town, Wills heard Lloyd play and sing, Wills liked it and said they could use a guy like him and he could join if he wanted to.

So he did. And years later the Sons of the Pioneers were wondering how they were ever going to replace Bob Nolan, who was retiring and was the same guy Lloyd had modeled his singing after. And Lloyd sounded an awful lot like Nolan and that was that and his dream came true.

The Pioneers already had Lloyd Perryman, so Lloyd Thomas Doss went by Tommy Doss for that part of his career.

Some boys say they want to grow up to be astronauts and some of them make it -- but c'mon. This would be similar to being a big Rolling Stones fan and eventually joining the Rolling Stones. With a lot of hard work and dedication and natural ability and -- plus, he's a handsome devil, isn't he? Look at that photo.

So I got to know Lloyd and his wife Naomi. Their son Tim is my neighbor. I tried to get Lloyd on my radio program but it was no dice. The guy was proud of his work, loved music, but just genuinely was not interested at all in limelight. Not even the tiny bit of local limelight being a guest on my little radio show would have put on him. He told me being in parades was one of the worst parts about show business for him. This from a guy that's been in Disney movies. John Wayne movies. Played Carnegie Hall. Did not like waving in parades.

So I tried to talk him into doing a book instead. Because naturally if you don't want to be on the radio and talk about your life, you'll want to have a book written about it. Sure. And for a brief while we were working toward that. He thought about it, wasn't sure, said no, then OK.

And I was excited. Because Lloyd's a straight-talker and nice and had interesting observations about a glitzy world he didn't necessarily embrace. Once he came home from being on the road and strangers were in his house. His family had had to move while he was traveling with the band and his wife had no way of letting him know. I think the strangers gave him his new address. 

So Lloyd would tell me awesome stories and I had to go out on his porch when I went to leave and scratch notes down, because he frowned at my tape recorder the first time I plunked that down to do an interview. So I put that away and started to take notes but he was comfortable just talking and not interested in being interviewed. So no taking notes.

On one hand, I like that approach. If the stories are interesting you're going to remember. But it sure makes it a challenge when you get down to names and dates and whatnot.

I showed up for our last interview, which I was thinking was an early interview in a long string of them, and I remember I had suggestions for increasing the times we got together so we could step up the pace. Also there was already interest from a publisher. And I was always pushing him and knew I shouldn't but couldn't help it and he heard me out with my interview schedules and all that and apologized, but said he just realized he didn't want to do it.

We'd kind of had similar starts and stops like that before, but he meant it this time and I don't know if that's when he gave me this picture or it was another visit -- but I suspect it was that one because I've always associated it with him being very sincere and very clear that he loved the music but he just did not want to talk about himself. Or talk up a subject that had already been talked up enough.

I like how he writes 'to you' in smaller letters below 'Always My Best' on the picture. I don't know. I just like it because it seems kind of like an afterthought. In a good way. Like always my best is something you would write on every picture if you had to sign a bunch of pictures over the course of your life because you were in a legendary band that had a song called 'My Best To You' but you were like, what the hell, I'll throw 'to you' in there in a different size, make this personal.

That was just my initial reaction so I still think that.

I framed that photo and hung it over my desk at the radio station -- I even moved the signed picture of Willie Nelson to give Lloyd the top spot. No offense, Willie.

And when I hung up the microphone and headphones and got out of the radio business, I moved Lloyd's picture into my office at home and it had another top spot, above a bookshelf by my desk.

My visits to Lloyd after waving off the book project didn't get uncomfortable, I guess, but maybe. Because I'd still work on him about it, despite believing he wasn't interested and telling myself to back off. Still, I'd lose my resolve to just talk to the guy and enjoy his company and pretty soon I'd start in again on blah blah blah amazing story blah blah blah.

So my visits tapered off and I kept wanting to go visit but didn't and I was cleaning up my office when I saw something behind the bookcase and it was this picture that Lloyd had given me, which I'm delighted to have and somehow it had been knocked down behind the bookcase for I don't know how long and I was very disappointed in myself for allowing that to happen and not noticing.

So just like every time a person I've been privileged to know crosses to the other side, I confront the fact that I didn't pop in more to say hi when I thought about it. Instead there were other things somehow more pressing that I can't remember now and that, my friends, is a no refund policy.

I've shined up and Windexed the glass on the picture frame. I've got some Sons of the Pioneers recordings here and copies of solo stuff Lloyd gave me. I've poured a whiskey and I'm going to listen to you sing, Lloyd. And tomorrow I'm going to try to go see Naomi and say hello.

Thanks for the picture. Always my best to you, too.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Someone please do an intervention with Huffington Post headline writers

I don't understand myself. I recoil at Huffington Post headlines. They are bad. Often so is the content on HPo. I'm embarrassed by Rhianna's dress being scandalously low cut not because it's low cut but because it's right next to a news item announcing some actual atrocity where, you know, people have been hurt or killed or pepper sprayed or got embezzled or outraged for genuine reasons. The juxtaposition is rough now and then.

And still I go read stuff on that site from time to time. Despite my longstanding frown directed at AOL, for reasons too numerous to go into here, but which shouldn't have to be gone into at all.

I think I go to Huffington Post because the links to The Daily Show and Colbert are handy and I can get a smattering of what else might be going on, so your recipe works in that regard, Arianna. But the headlines your writers come up with are dangerously low cut in the making sense department.

Take this one for example: Couple Shares Awkward First Kiss Ever At Their Wedding.

Sounds like they're trying to say, Most Awkward. Partly because they do that a lot. Most This Most That. Also seems like there should be a hyphen in there somewhere. But this one does make sense, I guess, if you squander precious minutes of your life and watch the clip, which I'm now encouraging because it is worth seeing, as the people have waited, they say, to kiss for the first time until they're married.

Lots wrong with that, but check it out for peculiar fact that they appear to be two fish that you put in a tank to keep it clean except they got confused and started cleaning each others' faces instead. It's something.

I will remain a virgin in regards to watching this show and feel dirty just having watched the preview. But I will get an aquarium now.

Monday, November 28, 2011

I Will Save the Post Office. You're Welcome, Post Office

I haven't written a personal letter since right after the Magna Carta got ratified and I remember I was exchanging thoughts on that with my friend Marcus who was a crew member aboard the Merrimac at the time and we used to marvel at how our handwritten missives scrawled with goose quills might travel by zeppelin -- ah, but then the internets came around and I haven't licked a stamp in so long I still tried to lick a stamp the other day but they're self-adhesive now.

But wait just a minute. What's this? New letterhead from the desk of J Lee Rombach Enterprises, Esquire, featuring a snappy cartoon of me and my dog Boo, just out for a stroll. Just whistling along, not a care in the world. Just starting out letters like that.

Yeah. I'm back in the letter writing biz. Just feel like it. It feels good. Try it. Go buy a pack of stamps and send somebody a real live thing on paper. It's like getting in a time machine, only the time machine is sometimes closed when you want to send your letter.

We'll see how long my letter writing craze lasts.

If you would like to receive a limited edtion archival quality collector's series letter from me before I get tired of this retro fad, just send a first class stamp along with an idea of what you would like me to say plus $1.99 shipping and handling to my address, scratched out above.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Frugal Carpenter: Storage sheds for pennies per square foot

Chances are that if you've come to Rombach Manor for the first time, you've been directed to take some turns and then look for the big plywood carrot fixed to the side of my outbuilding.

A genuine Steve Arment carrot, no less. It's a collectors item. Don't rip it off.

One end of that building was teetering. Held up by spit and a whole lot of nails and black magic.

I jumped into action. I let it slide back into the earth for a number of years. Then ignored it. Then tore down the worst of it. Went back to forgetting about it. And then....then I got busy.

And started to fix it and then I went to Hawaii for a while and it snowed while I was gone and nobody wants to pound nails when it's cold so I would tap a few nails and then retreat to the woodstove.

But I finally got roofing on it. Behold:

Whoops. My ladder fell over. Luckily it didn't fall under the other ladder,
which would have caused 7,000 years of bad luck.

26-feet by 10-feet of covered storage. All salvaged material. Roofing tin, 2x4s, screws, the whole shebang.

Except for nails. I ran out of sinkers and had to go to the hardware store, otherwise this would have cost me nothing. Granted, it kind of looks like that.

But except for the hours and hours and hours it took me to salvage all the stuff -- nuthin'.

Except for 3 pounds of nails at $1.49 a pound.

Divided by . . . or into . . . uh . . . you know what? I'm not good at math. But for 260 square feet of storage, that ain't bad.

And the wind came up the day after I got the roof screwed down . . . it's still on there and the thing is still standing so this concludes our latest edition of The Frugal Carpenter.

Review: Thomas McGuane 'The Longest Silence'

Double-linking, I guess is what I'm doing here, but hoowee . . . I'm just barely into this here book and already urging everyone with eyes to read it. Or ears. It's probably on tape. If not I'll read it to you over the phone if you're on my Friends and Family plan.

Thomas McGuane. The Longest Silence: A Life in Fishing.

Review over at The Gearboat Chronicles, which is already linked on this site, but just pasting the whole thing here seemed wrong. This seemed less wrong.

Seriously. Good book.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Signs of Hawaii-ishness

The Talk Story bookstore in Hanapepe, Kauai is one of my new favorite places to get stuff to read. Also, it's the westernmost book store in the USA, as the owner pointed out. Which was good, because I wasn't sure and was about to leave and keep looking for the westernmost bookstore because I don't fool with middle ground booksellers.

Many folks would say the Aloha Theater sign, also in Hanapepe, has seen better days. They would be wrong. I like to see some weathering on cool old signs I'm looking at and this one is perfect. Don't question me on this, I apprenticed with Papa Joe Dawson at Avalon Signs in Ben Lomond, CA and Joe taught me some things.

I find it endearing that there aren't even speed bumps in Hawaii. Strong evidence for their claim to being a good place to reside.

Even stop signs have more to say in Hanalei. Good info.

Even lizards forget to apply sunscreen now and then, and just look at the condition of this guy's skin. I tried to put aloe on him, but he resisted.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Pipes seem to be in no danger of freezing on Kauai

11 degrees the morning I left for Kauai.

Drained the pipes on Rombach Manor just so's I wouldn't have to worry about busted copper joints back in Oregon while simultaneously worrying about sunburn on Kauai. I can only fret about one temperature extreme at a time.

A pot of gold at the end of . . . awww, man . . . it says Keep Off. . . .

Even ponytails grow pretty flowers over here. You need special shampoo, though.

Here's nieces Emma and Claire toward sundown at Baby Beach --

And little miss Anna. . . .

I don't know this guy's name, but he was a way better snorkeler than the rest of us.

Be something of a bother when I go to trade in the flip flops for insulated winter boots again.

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Occupy Scott: Protest Hits the Poker Table

Here's a longer, king-size version of the last 'Furthermore' column....which irritated one commenter on the Chieftain site, who challenged me to document one instance of TARP funds being used for bonuses. Well, HondoLane, I had to look up TARP funds first, because I'd forgotten that's what they were called. And then the exhaustive research really began. I googled "bailout money used for bonuses?" and about 30 seconds later was reading an article about a junket for executives at A.I.G. right on the heels of the bailout where the spa charges alone came to 23-thousand.

And then I quit reading, because research just tuckers me out. So I take your challenge, Hondo, and reverse it by challenging you to document that it has not been documented that following the release of bailout funds, somebody got cucumbers on their eyes in a spa and they probably wouldn't have if taxpayer money hadn't been kicked out for the general good of the nation. Get back to me on that.

Here's the revised version of Occupy Scott:

Occupy Scott: Protest Movement Hits the Poker Table

I joined an economic protest movement last weekend called Occupy Scott. It was on a much smaller scale than the Wall Street-related protests—Scott’s just one guy—but there were enough similarities that I now understand what drives the big-time protestors and got some insight as to how these uprisings function.

Scott’s a good guy. But he’s also an investment broker and when people like that have more money than you, it rankles. Particularly when some of their money used to be your money and they got it through an outrageous transaction. Like bailout funds becoming CEO bonuses. Or Scott beating your three-of-a-kind in poker with a ridiculous hand he had no business playing. Technically it wasn’t a criminal act for Scott to call my large bet and stay in with two horrendous cards that he eventually beat me with, but it sure seemed like it should be illegal and I felt he should go to jail for many years.

That's him, in the foreground. Probably been stealing golf balls or something.

Scott, myself and other buddies from college get together once a year and have ourselves a poker tournament. Scott got on a roll this year, his pile of poker chips growing until they developed a gravitational pull on even more of our chips and everybody except Scott resented this trend.

So we organized and began a grassroots poker table movement to Occupy Scott. Our demands were simple: quit taking our money. Or at least stop gloating about it. There may not be many parallels between Wall Street shenanigans and a game of Texas Hold-Em, but rubbing things in does seem to bring on the protestors in both cases. If you’ve run a bank into the ground, sent the economy into a tailspin and rewarded yourself for your good work with taxpayer money, that might be viewed as taunting and send the wrong message.

But that’s the game, on both Wall Street and at the poker table. You collect as much money as you can, however you can. Bluffing, playing some hands you normally wouldn’t. And now and then it pays off. And big payoffs lead to more opportunities. Scott could afford to risk his money against my solid hand because he had a tower of chips and it wouldn’t hurt him to wager. Then he caught his flush on that last, hateful card and I wanted to go live in a tent in his yard and poop on his car.

You can push people around at the poker table when you’ve got more chips. You make reckless moves against the little guy because they can’t afford to call you, even when they know what you’re doing is wrong . . . heeeey, wait just a minute . . . maybe there are more parallels between poker and Wall Street than I thought.

Those of us in the Occupy Scott movement couldn’t really call our congressional representatives and demand fiscal reform or that the cards be dealt differently. I tried, but they didn’t answer. So I’m afraid our tactics weren’t that sophisticated. There was no violence, but lots of verbal abuse. Unflattering names, disparaging remarks, that sort of thing. Which Scott welcomed. He encouraged the outrage, in fact. Because when emotions cloud your judgment at the card table you go on tilt, doing things you shouldn’t without the bankroll to justify such behavior.

Poker and life do not parallel on that point. I’d bet if Occupy Wall Street accomplishes something, it will be because elected officials do answer a call to deal certain cards differently—and the occupiers being on tilt will have been the reason. In poker, going on tilt usually just speeds up the process of losing and going home.

I wonder how long the occupations will last, with winter coming on. That’s an all-in situation, where you decide whether committing everything to this one situation is the right move. All-in situations are usually intriguing to watch and seeing the next few cards in this game should be interesting.

Scott went home with about 350 of our dollars, but that figure was significantly higher before the Occupy Scott movement gained momentum. He claims that market fluctuations in the form of bad cards were to blame for his slight dip in earnings, and not the protest. But of course he would say that.

Hard to say what the impact of the real Occupy movement has been, or will be. But there’ll be time enough for counting when the dealing’s done.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Pros and Cons of Fishing with Dave Kesey

Take a look at this:

That's Dave Kesey with a steelhead on the end of his flyrod. On one hand, I'm happy for him. Yay, Dave.

On the other 5,000 hands, I get just a little bit tired of seeing that happen, followed by this happening:

Dave Kesey holding a fish. I have to take ibuprofen to relieve the carpal tunnel I get from working the camera button, taking all those shots of Dave Kesey holding another fish he's caught.

It's just plain tiresome.

He'll let me take the first crack at a piece of water and I'll run my gear through, fish it real careful and get nothing. Then I throw a few grenades in there to make sure he has no chance of picking up a fish, but somehow the guy fishes the same water and just conjures steelhead out of the same drift I managed to do nothing with.


Here's our camp, down on the Imnaha, across from Lightning Creek. Photo taken at early morning. I was all bleary-eyed, but Dave had been up all night, sharpening hooks and cleaning the guides on his fly rod.

Here's a contorted view of sumac along the trail leading down to Eureka Bar on the Snake River. Not sure what I was doing with the camera angle on that one. But in my defense, I was delirious from hiking 10 miles in waders.

Dave had set out at dawn and hiked on ahead. Mike Baird and I stayed back at camp for the frivolous activity of having a cup of coffee and eating breakfast. Dave doesn't really eat when he fishes....just sort of draws sustenance from the air through some kind of osmosis.

And I passed him on the trail without seeing him, somehow, though I can't figure how. You can see the river the whole way down so the only explanation, really, is that he becomes invisible so the fish can't see him or whatever.

I can practice casting all I want, but some aspects of Dave's fishing technique I'm afraid I'll never be able to master. Like being magic. Nobody caught nothing that day. Except Dave. He caught a steelhead the day before, when nobody was catching steelhead. Caught another one the next day. Hooked a gigantic adult salmon that ran his line out to the backing before shaking the hook. Landed a smaller, five-pound jack salmon--on top of the steelhead. And then he yawned and said, "Ah, the fishing wasn't great...."

But the fish threw me a bone on the last day and I at least caught one. Pretty sure they just felt sorry for me.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Water Trees

Darren Senn, everybody . . .

Just spent a roaring weekend at Black Butte Ranch for the annual Get Together With A Bunch of Guys I've Known Forever celebration.

Fourth grade is when I met some of these fellers. Then high school. Then college. Same fellers, you understand. Couldn't get enough of sitting in the same classrooms so we just went ahead and all went to the same college for a while.

At that bastion of higher education known to scholars the world round as Southern Oregon State College . . . except they call it Southern Oregon University now, I think . . . SOSC to SOU. That turns the nickname from "sock" to, I dunno . . . "sow," I guess. Nice move, SOSC/SOU transition committee. Way to rebrand. Sucks you had to buy so many new doors because students started beating them down trying to get in after your snazzy updated name.

Where were we . . . ah, yes. SOSC. So the merry band of Pleasant Hill High School graduates Mike, Darren, Jude and myself arrived in Ashland and straightaway got into a big gang rumble with Cyrus Cain, Scott Milani and Darryl Coppedge. They called themselves "The Warriors." The PHill gang cruised around on rollerskates, we had our brawl, which is really hard to do on rollerskates, but then we patched things up and now we're pals.

So we play poker for three days every year, interspersed with hiking, poker, frisbee golf where Darren hits Scott's rental car with one of the little frisbees . . . also real golf where we should have tried to hit Scott's rental car with golf balls but I just thought of it now . . . and swimming pool football and whatever else.

That pose of Darren's is really something. Reeeeeaaaally something.

So before you look at the following pictures taken on our hike this year, I must warn you that they are startling. I assure you they have not been run through photoshop, but will make your eyes exit your face all the same just from sheer amazement.

The trick, my friends, is -- no. I simply cannot reveal my secrets. But check out these trees here.

Or are they?

What? Grass growing out of the sky and ripples around that tree on the left? What in the name of Zeus is . . . .

Now pine needles and pond scum? I don't . . . I just . . . how can . . . .

OK, that's too much. Now the pine needles are scattered all over the trees like some sort of Jackson Pollock-y scratchboard thing combined with an otherwise plain-jane painting of trees.

Aside from mind-bending photos of trees reflected in a shallow pond, we managed to have enough of a good time that there's talk now of making this a bi-annual event. I'm for that.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Ghostly image of frozen turkey carcass

Started out the week with a bonfire. It looked like this.

Then I'm just toodling through the yard one morning and glance down to see this --

Which is . . . uh . . .

At first I thought it vaguely resembled the outline of a Thanksgiving turkey. Kind of stretched out, but you see it, right? A turkey outline?


After much paranormal investigation I narrowed it down to a ghostly bird carcass emblazoned on my frosty yard . . . or the spot where my dog was laying--or is it lying? down. And her body heat melted the frost.

Either one.

Not sure.

Jury's out.

Could go either way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Wallowa County road closure reaction

Reaction to the last Furthermore column--posted below about how crappy it is I can't get to firewood and the Forest Service wants to close more roads--has been positive. At least from the focus group of people I've bumped into who talked to me.

I've even got a secret source who cuts firewood for their own home, but also works for a certain government agency (rhymes with "Florist Circus") who, after agreeing with me that the proposed road closures are, and I quote, "dumb," went on to request anonymity.

At least they requested anonymity after I said, 'Sweet, I'll do a follow-up story saying I've got agreement from within the machine.'

And then they were like, 'Uhhh....but then I'd be an ex-employee, don't do that.'

I shall call this person "Zanthabar," because usually I find pseudonyms to be, well, dumb. You're reading some expose' and the writer quotes Dave or Sally with some earthshattering thing or another and then they point out they're calling Ron or Susie this or that because Ron or Susie fear for their safety or job or whatever.

Why not 'Roscoe The Brave' or 'Shantar, Queen of Earthshattering Facts.' I mean, if you're going to give out fake names at least make them snappy.

So rest easy, Zanthabar.....your secret identity is safe and known only to myself. I will tell nobody. Unless they say they can keep a secret real good and then maybe I'll tell them.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Bowhiking and firewood that you won't

Here's the Chieftain 'And Furthermore' I sent in for next week. Kind of an expansion of the bowhiking post put on here earlier.

I’d like to thank the deer and elk of the Minam and Imnaha units for another fantastic bowhiking season. Once again, I got my exercise for the year out of the way during archery season and will be filling my freezer with veggie burgers after never getting off a shot.

I consider bowhunting my version of a gym membership, where I pay ODFW to get in some cardio, or whatever it’s called when you move around and sweat. I don’t ever fill my tag, but I do get kind of in shape from all that walking around while carrying my bow. Bowhiking, I like to call it. Exerting energy doesn’t generally strike me as a good idea and I need motivation if I’m going to walk any distance or climb something steep. Like being chased. Or chasing something else. Like an elk herd.

Mike Baird does not share my cautious approach toward exercise. Baird let me tag along on a few of his elk forays this season, though they struck me as more of an Iron Man competition than the ‘little strolls’ he would describe them as. By late afternoon, I would be looking for materials to build a hut with, resigned to never getting out of the wilderness, when Baird would hear a distant bugle from three drainages away and merrily set off, saying if we just climbed this ridge, got to that summit, traversed that rock slide and scratched our way through miles of underbrush, we’d be there in no time.

And by golly we’d do it and Baird would bugle an elk in, but we never got a shot. Mike suggested I quit using my cow call and try to get my money back because it didn’t sound natural. Almost like something was suffering. I hadn’t been using a cow call, just wheezing, trying to breathe after an endurance march he would call, ‘just hiking right over there.’

Aside from the forced exercise, another bonus of bowhiking is finding firewood. Now and then you stumble on a patch of wood you may not have seen without wandering around. I found some prime tamarack this year. Cords and cords of it, just on the edge of old logging roads that all turned out to have tank traps blocking access.

If the Forest Service goes through with closing more roads, I hope they’ll offer some public education meetings about switching to propane or oil heat because I don’t know a thing about it. How do you stick your tag on a cord of propane? Do I need to use bar oil if I’m cutting a load of heating oil? I’m confused, Forest Service. Can we have access to all the paperwork generated by the road closure plan? There might be enough BTU’s there to power Wallowa County woodstoves for a winter.

I went to one of Ron Thies’ woodcutting meetings where I heard a good point: if the Forest Service is interested in fuels reduction, firewood cutters are doing their job for them. And paying for the privilege. I’ve also been to a Forest Service meeting where they explained needing to reduce fuels in the woods, and were going about it by spending lots of money.

If these road closures happen I’ve got another request: that the thermostats in the offices where this plan was cooked up be blocked by filing cabinets or cubicle dividers—some obstruction that makes it a challenge to get heat. Policy makers will be able to see the heat source but not get to it, a lot like that tamarack in the woods I can’t get to. If there’s a fire in that part of the office and fire crews can’t get there because a path that used to exist has been blocked off, well, at least the carpet has had a chance to regenerate because you haven’t been trampling on it.

I suppose I’d get more exercise if the road closures happen, walking around with my chainsaw and not finding anything to use it on. Just like bowhiking during archery season.

Around the old chrome microphone

And Furthermore column, Wallowa County Chieftain August 31, 2011

There’s an old chrome microphone at KWVR Radio that stood in the corner when I worked there. A cool old microphone. Something that would be on the bandstand back when poodle skirts were in fashion. The kind of microphone newscasters in fedoras would have used to announce that Prohibition was over. It reminded me of the grill on a sedan a mobster would drive to a tommy gun shootout. I really liked that microphone and when we started an evening show with live broadcasts of local music, I finally got to use it. Some musicians admired the mic, discussing the merits of its sound properties. All I knew was it looked reeeeally good and putting noise onto the airwaves was just classier using that chunk of chrome.

I hauled that mic around the valley, broadcasting Jimmy Lloyd Rea from the lake, fiddle contests at Cloverleaf Hall, did a show from the Imnaha Tavern. Bronze Blues and Brews. Lots of venues. But the best fit with that microphone was in the lobby of the radio station with Bob and Jan Casey, Charlie Trump and Len Samples circled around the mic stand. Bob squeezed his squeezebox, Charlie fiddled, Jan on keyboard and Len guitar.

It was old-timey barndance hoedown toe-tappy, smile-on-your-face feelgood music. They were having fun. I was having fun watching them have fun. I wished we had video as well as audio so the folks listening could see this too. Len Samples did this thing with his shoulder, where his whole torso was involved in his guitar strokes. It started when he put his shoulder into it, went down to the strings and seemed to come back around in a loop. I’m no musician, but I’ve watched a fair number of guitar players and never seen anyone play quite like Len. I think of how easy and content Len’s guitar playing looked every time I see a guitar player wincing, seeming to be in pain while battling it out with their guitar.

So I miss Len Samples. Charlie Trump too. And I’m going to miss Bob Casey. He told me he learned the squeezebox from a Basque sheepherder. Met him out amongst the sheep. Heard him play squeezebox back at the wagon, figured he’d like to try, so the herder said go get a copy of the National Enquirer magazine and there’s an ad in the back to send away for a squeezebox. So Bob did. The hardest part being the embarrassment of buying a National Enquirer.

Bob Casey was awfully good at making me laugh. I’d only run into him now and then, but it was pretty much a guarantee he’d get me to laugh. Even the time he explained a major trauma he’d just gone through years ago, he somehow got me to laugh when that was the very last thing on my list of things to do.

I noticed grey hairs in my sideburns a month ago. Pointed them out to friends who pointed out they’d been there longer than a month. Getting old is still new to me. My least favorite part so far is trying to adjust to the growing list of people who aren’t here anymore that I’d rather were still around. I don’t care for that part.

I’ve driven by Bob and Jan’s place many times since I got to know them, singing into that old microphone at the radio station. Often times, passing their place, I thought someday I just might stop in. Visit. Never did. Didn’t want to bother them. Bob’s gone. That bothers me. You were a good guy, Bob Casey. Glad to have known you. See if you can trade that harp in for a squeezebox.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Bowhunting season ended yesterday. No elk, nor deer, hanging in my shop. But I sure enough got my exercise in, which is how every hunting season goes for me.

Here's Mike Baird bugling from above the Imnaha River. He gets a feather in his cap for his bugling skills, which did bring the elk in....we just never got a shot. Also, he gets a feather in his cap because he found a feather and put it in his cap.

Saw this guy when I was tromping through the woods. Which is one reason I like the bowhunting. Get to see things you normally wouldn't.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Wallowa Lake kokanee

This here is up from Wallowa Lake right next to the cabin I've been moving. Right where I dip Bula's water bowl. Wish I could take the stream along with the cabin but I don't have a trailer big enough.

Got some video too that I'll splice up when the splicing's right. That big guy chases off the little guys. Bully.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Log Cabin Rescue Mission

Some people save whales. Others rescue kittens. Me, I can't stand the thought of old log cabins being euthanized.

So this cute little bundle of logs from Wallowa Lake will live on after I finish moving it, replacing some rotten logs...then drawknifing it back down to natural and putting it all back together.

Sounds easy. Probably would be with an energetic crew and a crane. Instead, I have me. A crowbar. Some rope.

I did have Andy Fairchild help yesterday and he knows his stuff, even if he's never moved a cabin before. Neither have I. We managed to not get hurt, the roof and top logs got safely on the trailer and it's coming together nicely....I mean: coming apart nicely.

Here's a cool time capsule message written on one of the logs: Somebody Sprague signing his name, with the date August 11, 1920. I think that says 1920 anyway. '26?

And here's an interior shot. Fireplace will be repurposed into a pile of rocks. There's a limit to what I'm willing to move, and I don't have the same attachment to heavy rocks as I do old log cabins.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hot chicks in diapers

More photo imagery from the Salmon River last week. In this particular moment that's been captured forever in time, we see the river diapersuit modeled by Elizabeth, Karen and Dionna.

Stunning. Simply stunning.

Constructed of two durable yet elegant personal flotation devices, the PFD diaper ensemble is ideal for floating around gigantic eddies on a hot, hot day while drinking a beer or cocktail that can be stowed by sort of cramming the drink in between the upper part of your life jacket.

Sadly, there's also a men's version. It looks like this:

Not as stunning. It's just not.

The river diaper is strictly for floating. Not pooping. We practice Leave No Trace camping and strictly

Is that a piece of corn right there up near the top?

Monday, August 29, 2011

Salmon River landscape ruined by a bikini

I tried to edit out that lady in the picture because she just gets in the way of the hills and pretty sky I was trying to focus on, but, whatever, I guess it'll have to do.

That's Karen, exploring around on a beach in the vicinity of Flynn Creek Rapid on a float last week.