Thursday, November 14, 2013

Free beef at the dump

Let's see . . . household trash goes over here. Metal goes in the metal pile. Bloated dead cows? Uhmmm . . . just drop them by the bulldozer I guess.


I hear this is a precautionary wolf measure. Don't want to leave free beef laying around woof country.

(pssst, wolves . . . there's free cows up at the dump.)

Some bird with a crooked neck

I think this is a plumber bird. It's got a P-trap neck. It can get clogged with little fish or crawdads if you're not careful. And DO NOT put cleaning products down the beak. That causes all sorts of trouble.


This heron flapped in on a foggy morn and stopped to survey the little irrigation streams from the cottonwood snags over on the neighbor's patch.

For being so unlikely looking these thangs sure is graceful.

Stinging thing on sulu

Winter in the writing shack involves firing the woodstove in the mornings, which heats up the flying things apparently nesting in the walls. Then I get winged ouchy bugs zooming around the office, which offers a nice diversion from working on things to take a break and clear the area with a rolled up magazine. Any tendencies toward Buddhist practice goes away when there's a wasp in my air space.


The backdrop there is a sulu from Fiji, hanging over my window. It took some googling around and asking my friend Sara to even remember the word 'sulu,' which is a clear sign I need to stop wintering in a climate that requires a woodstove, which heats up the bees.

Get thee back to the tropics, Rombach.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Sold to a good home: Kifaru ParaTipi with stove

This two person shelter has gone to live on a farm with lots of room to run.






Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Changing the starter on a '97 T100 4x4

I was one turn of the key from a real cluster. Backed truck and trailer down to the river, loaded two rafts and gear after a fishing trip, started the trusty Toyota and pulled out of the ramp so the next guy could get his boat.
Happier times. Pre-starter failure.
Four of us were cramming in the extry cab for an hour ride, so after folding a six-footer in the back and breaking the legs on the 6-foot-six or so guy so he could fit in front, I turned the key and the Toyota wasn't so trusty.

One click. Then silence. Plenty of juice in the battery department but none of the starting effect that turning the key is commonly associated with.

On the plus side, we weren't backed down a ramp with the trailer almost in the water. Less cheery was being startless in a parking lot with a heavy-ass trailer, boats and gear connected. Passengers unfolded themselves, we unhooked the trailer and they put their shoulders into the tailgate for a push start.

Back home I got on youtube and watched a series of horror movies about how to go about removing a starter from the bowels of a Toyota. Wobble sockets, skill as a contortionist and being triple-jointed were standard recommendations.

Olly olly oxen free.

Lots of folks recommended just replacing contacts, as that's the problem 90% of the time. Cheaper, but they can be difficult to locate or even figure out which ones you need to then try and locate.

One helpful guy had a video about how to unbolt the starter, maneuver it around to gain access and replace the contacts without having to yard out a bunch of shit to squeeze the starter out. So that was my plan.

However. My '97 T100 4WD with a V6 and manual tranny is blessed with an easy escape route for the starter that none of the other youtube video folks seemed to have. So it came right out.

Heavenly shafts of light appeared to herald the miracle of the starter coming out easy.
Parts guys weren't impressed with the plan to just get replacement contacts and weren't sure they could get them. I could see where they were coming from, but various Toyota forums convinced me of the contacts-only replacement program. Rebuilt starter was 94 bucks and I could get it the next day. Didn't want to wait on internet-ordered contacts because I had a borrowed trailer hooked up to the startless truck, so 94 bucks it is.

Almost made it through the entire operation without busting my knuckle on a cold, unforgiving piece of metal. But right near the end I got the customary slip of the socket and resulting bloody knuckle. O, good.

Looking a little wrinkly. There goes my hand modeling career.
In conclusion, swapping the starter on a '97 Toyota T100 isn't as bad as I thought it would be. After 188-thousand miles, I don't begrudge the truck a new starter.

I've treated my knuckle wound with grease and dirt and it seems to be healing nicely. Now, hopefully we're back to reliable service from a truck that gets used pretty hard.

Good day.


Jack went up a tree

Shuffled tree limbs from the ground into the chipper for Jack Walker last week up at Wallowa Lake with his brother and Dave McConathy.

Here's Jack up a tree, but both of them are on their way down. Dizzying, I tell you.


Applying tension to nudge a section over:




Monday, April 22, 2013

New bridge

I expected this to go badly.

Neighbor Bill decommissioned the bridge that had been across his stream and asked if I wanted it. I didn't really need it, I guess, but it was free and, as my Uncle Bob taught me, that is one four-letter F word that is always a joy and a pleasure to hear.

Armed with my copy of the manual for Egyptian building methods, written on a papyrus scroll, rollers were placed. I expected calamity. 16-feet of bridge tilting into the little stream and sitting there useless. I was prepared to use it as a ramp to jump BMX bikes.

But the unexpected happened. She rolled right off, pretty as you please. No cussing or fighting involved. Here's the video.


Phase two was yanking the trailer out. Roll tape.



And there you have it. A new bridge.


Thanks, pyramid builders. And trailer makers. And neighbor Bill. And Toyota, maker of the T100. And Jacey Bell, technical advisor, engineer and film documenter for the project.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Trimming trees

Neighbor Gene and I rented a 40-foot extendo-ladder, or "man lift," as they say in the trades, to give his willow trees a haircut before they packed on their leaves and got unwieldly.

Looking down on TG. I've always looked up to them before this.

I'm not exactly afraid of heights, but I don't write love letters to heights either.

Moving this bucket around with the hydraulics with the boom or mast or whatever the hell that long slender thing holding you up is called, when the bucket is fully extended, can get . . . uh, well, it can make you re-think your relationship with heights.


But then I was distracted by running a chainsaw with one hand and getting slapped in the face by branches with the other, so what with the welts on my cheeks and sawdust being spit in my eyes, the time passed quickly enough.


Take that, willow trees.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

And Furthermore column: WC homing beacon

And Furthermore column, Wallowa County Chieftain. April 3, 2013

All roads lead to Wallowa County. Even a dirt road next to the beach in Baja Mexico a few weeks ago.


I knew Chris and Christina Geyer of Lostine would be at their place in Los Barriles. I was visiting Baja with my mom, dad and aunt Donna and hoped to see the Geyers, but we were staying a couple hours south of them and the timing didn’t look like it was going to work.

Then Chris put on an M. Crow & Company t-shirt. I’m convinced that’s what triggered the Wallowa County homing beacon. Our plans changed and we ended up driving by Los Barriles, where the Geyers have their place. I didn’t have a way to get a message to the Geyers on the fly. But I didn’t need to.


To calculate the probability of me driving by Chris Geyer at the precise moment we crossed paths would take one of those computers that fill a warehouse to factor in the chain of events, wrong turns and me getting lost on just the right dirt road at precisely the right instant for our rental car to be where it was when I saw Chris turn onto the road. Los Barriles has a population of around 5,000 and it’s spread out pretty good. Big enough that the magnetic force of an M. Crow & Company t-shirt is the only reasonable explanation.


Chris was coming back from a beach volleyball game. I performed a highly illegal U-turn that should have landed me in a Mexican prison and set off after him in a low-speed chase, tracking him down at his hacienda.


 This wasn’t the first time Wallowa County magnetism had worked for the Geyers in Mexico. They’d had a similar run-in when they knew Ted and Sue Juve were in the area but didn’t know how to – oh, look, there they are right there.


My last Wallowa County coincidence before this was crossing paths with Brady Goss in the Columbia Gorge. I said Hi, Brady. Instead of looking surprised he shook his head and said I was the third person from Wallowa County he’d seen in a few days while traveling from a music performance. I don’t know what’s going on, he said.

Well, Brady, it works like this. People are drawn to Wallowa County for various reasons. The natural splendor, Andy Griffith Show sense of community, outstanding warrants, whatever. Our law enforcement crew handles that last bunch. Once an individual resides in Wallowa Country for a particular length of time, they absorb certain characteristics and properties.

Some evidence that Wallowa County has a grip on you are simple enough. Recent studies indicate that 86% of Wallowa County residents have dog hair woven permanently into their clothing, vehicle upholstery and/or home floor coverings. 68% of that dog hair is from border collies. My husky dog accounts for 4% of the remainder all by herself. She sheds at a startling rate.

Another outward sign of Wallowa County connection is wincing when the words “Portland” and “traffic” are heard spoken together. Often this triggers a curling of the lip and looking away in disgust.


Swearing you can’t stand fast food but eating it on the down-low when you leave the Wallowas is another common trait. Confusion over popular culture. Becoming partial to Carhartt clothing. The list goes on.

The unseen effects of Wallowa County entering your double helix are the result of invisible magic laser beams sent from atop Mount Joseph. When you are outside the Wallowa County line, your internal processor searches for that signal, much like a cell phone that is roaming and trying to connect.

External antennas, such as Carhartt jeans, border collie hair on your clothing or an M. Crow & Company shirt boost the signal on the Wallowas frequency. If other signals are in the vicinity they exert the same magnetic draw that pulled you to the Wallowas. Next thing you know, you’re eating lunch in Baja with friends from Lostine. It’s a small world. But only when you’ve just had a strange coincidence, otherwise it’s still a pretty big world.

Jon Rombach is a local columnist for the Chieftain.

Monday, April 1, 2013

Imnaha pics

Here's some photos from a recent Imnaha steelhead trip, courtesy of Tony Tranquilli.

My, but that's pretty country.

Camp being attacked by sunbeams.
Hiking back.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Ice cap on Wallowa Lake

Wallowa Lake has been a hardcase for a good long stretch this winter, but the temperature of the water isn't all that much different than when you go swimming in August.


It's been doing that thing where the ice shifts or cracks and it sounds like Star Wars weapons.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Out of the ashes, into my Arment art collection

And Furthermore column, Wallowa County Chieftain. March 6, 2013

Steve Arment’s art collection and my art collection are similar in some ways. We’ve both gathered paintings and sculpture over the years. Arment recruits art that he likes, either because it’s easy on the eyes or has a good story. Same here. But Steve’s collection includes stuff by a whole bunch of people. Mine is mostly by one guy. Steve Arment. Another way our collections are different is that mine got started by pulling things out of a burnpile. 


When I first got to know Steve he was moving his studio from the old cheese factory on Hurricane Creek. He had a heap of things to clear out. Mostly wood scraps and lumber ends. But there were also abandoned or not-quite finished wood carvings. Fragments of carousel animal anatomy. A three-foot long plywood carrot. Unpainted kingfishers and songbirds. Stencils for a giraffe head and other exotic creatures. Pretty much a Noah’s Ark of the animal and vegetable kingdoms rendered in wood. Steve was planning to haul these to the dump. I have a burnpile that’s closer and offered its services. He took me up on it, thankfully, and once I saw what he was throwing away I started pulling out the good stuff. So began my art collection.

The plywood carrot got screwed to the side of my storage shed. Why? I don’t know. What else do you do with a plywood carrot? It makes a dandy landmark. I once saw someone on my property and went to see why. It was a photographer. He was shooting senior pictures and the student wanted a photo by the carrot with the mountains in the background. That’s why you hang a plywood carrot on your shed. Because it’s art.


You’ve seen Steve Arment’s artwork if you’ve been inside Wallowa County. The Blue Banana. Lear’s. Bookloft. TG. Gypsy Java. Old Town CafĂ©. Mutiny. Calderas. ToZion. 1917 Lumber. That list is just getting warmed up. The man carves so much wood that on more than a few occasions I’ve entered a place of business, noticed a dusting of wood shavings on the floor and asked, “Steve just here?” and the answer was always yes. It makes me feel like a tracker when that happens.


So it makes sense that a busy artist has been busy collecting art. Go see the exhibit, if you haven’t already, of artwork by other folks that Steve likes. It’s on display through March 24 at the freshly-squeezed Josephy Center for Arts and Culture in Joseph. That’s the old Community Bank building next to Sports Corral. Good things are happening there. Go in and take a gander. Say hi to Rich upstairs in the spiffy new home of the Alvin Josephy Library. And give Mike Koloski a high-five for doing such nice work with the art exhibits.

He actually carved that tuxedo.
Walk around those paintings and sculptures from the Arment collection. The artwork is worth seeing for its own sake, but I also think it’s interesting to see what Steve thinks is interesting. Nobody does exactly what Steve does. I’m not even sure what it is exactly that he’s doing, but nobody does it better. If you’re not familiar with his work, let me describe real quick one of the things he’s made and you’ll get the idea. He made a children’s toy that I guess would be called a rocking horse, except it’s a pig, with wings, painted with zebra stripes. Not something you just order out of a catalogue, you know?   


Looking around my living room at the art by Arment I’ve managed to collect, I see an Egyptian scarab beetle with a four-foot wingspan. Two giant codfish heads holding a stick between their mouths. They used to support pots and pans in Steve’s kitchen but now reside near my woodstove. I hang my waders there after fishing. There’s a set of butterfly shelves. A painting of a castle. Another of a heron. A little carved dinosaur with a broken leg. And this is just stuff Steve was going to throw away or didn’t have room for anymore.

I should really get Koloski over here to curate my collection. Until then, go see the exhibit at the Josephy Center. None of it came out of a burnpile, but it’s still pretty impressive.

Jon Rombach is a local columnist for the Chieftain.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Little Bunting could cause big local stir

'And Furthermore' column, Wallowa County Chieftain. Feb. 6, 2013


Most of our tourist attractions out here weigh a lot. The Wallowa Mountains, Chief Joseph Days Rodeo grounds, Hells Canyon. All on the heavy side. But the latest draw bringing visitors to Wallowa County would barely tip a scale.

Little Buntings are smallish birds, about five inches long. They normally flit around Europe and Asia, but we’ve got a Little Bunting visiting in Joseph. That’s a surprise, and the chance to see this bird so far from home has already brought bird watchers to Wallowa County from as far away as Canada and the exotic land of California.  

Hunting for buntings. photo – Kendrick Moholt
My informant in the birding community tells me that more binoculars and spotting scopes are sure to arrive before this Little Bunting fervor dies down. So brace yourself, townsfolk of Joseph. Draw the curtains if you must, but don’t be calling the sheriff because the streets are teeming with people peeking into yards with binoculars. Yes, they’re hoping to catch a glimpse of a little something, but in this case it’s a bunting. Whatever you do, don’t start skimping on the birdseed now.

Home turf for the Little Bunting includes Switzerland. So while our little visitor did get blown off course, at least it had the good sense to find the Little Switzerland of North America to remind it of the old country.

I got the bunting tip from Kendrick Moholt of Lostine. This guy has gone off to photograph tigers in Russia and penguins in Antarctica, so if he says a creature is worth getting off the couch I go along.

The first person to identify the Little Bunting in Joseph was Alan Contreras, who has written several books on Oregon birds and was formerly president of the Oregon Field Ornithologists. He recognized the Little Bunting, confirmed with pictures and sent out word on the wire.

Trent Bray came over the hill from La Grande and saw the bunting. Bray runs the Bobolink store in The Big, where birdfeeders, supplies and bird watching equipment are the specialty. Bray also operates Avitours, a northeast Oregon birdwatching tour guide service. Bray described the Little Bunting in Joseph as a “mega-rarity” in an e-mail to other birders.

This isn’t the first time a Little Bunting has stirred up excitement. During my exhaustive research for this dispatch, I typed “Little Bunting” into the internet and found a story from the BBC about another Little Bunting far from home that got the British riled up. You know if the redcoats get excited it’s a big deal.

I got dragged out to look for a snowy owl on the Zumwalt last year by local bird enthusiast Mike Baird. Didn’t see it. But I tried to return the favor by dragging Baird up to Joseph for a look at the bunting. Struck out again. But I did see a squadron of tundra geese fly over years ago and heard that was a rare sight. Maybe they were swans, I don’t know. I have not written several books on Oregon birds.

Kendrick sent along a list of other birds that watchers look for in Wallowa County during the winter. I’ve pulled out a few samples here, mainly the names that remind me of a superhero or a rock-and-roll band. The Gyrfalcon could be either a band or a superhero. Lapland Longspur, Northern Shrike and Townsend’s Solitaire are all sturdy band names. Then you’ve got your Buffleheads and American Coots, which could use a good PR firm.

With all this birdwatching going on, it’s time to dust off the binoculars and get to watching, Wallowa County. Not for birds, I think we should welcome the influx of bird watchers by compiling a list of all the birdwatchers we can identify. Keep your eyes peeled for the Downy Vested Californian. The Canadian Spotting Scope. Turtlenecked Midwesterner. You can put sandwiches out in feeding stations to draw birdwatchers to your viewing area.

Welcome to Wallowa County, Little Bunting. You’ve had quite the journey. Now just watch out for the Gyrfalcon. And picture windows. And cats. Especially one in Joseph named Domino. But if it makes you feel better, you’ve got people watching out for you.

Jon Rombach is a local columnist for the Chieftain. He offers free tours to view starlings in his back yard, with complimentary BB gun rentals.

Update: Little Bunting sightings have dropped off, but it's out there somewhere. Birders from Canada, Montana and Washington have also arrived.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

You're too kind, Imnaha River, too kind

Jim Hepworth and I stopped at the Imnaha Tavern for breakfast and rigged up our rods while waiting for Dave and Sally to open.

Local guy walking by took a lot at the rods and asked if we were hoping to get some exercise today.

Sensing sarcasm, I asked if by that he meant we weren't going to catch any fish.

Sensing I wasn't too bright, he nodded and said yes. Too early and too cold for catching steelhead, says he.

I kicked him in the nuts and said, Don't you ever, EVER, try to dampen my enthusiasm like that. I'm very fragile that way. I have delicate feelings. Very sensitive to such things. Then I kicked him in the nuts once more to punctuate the message and we went on our way after picking up some very tasty egg and ham sandwiches to go.

Six casts into the first spot and whammo. I started the workout he forecasted, but it was upper body, mainly in the forearm region, wrassling this fish.


Not the largest swimmer ever, but this 22-inch fish was missing its adipose fin, which is how biologists indicate which fish should go home with Jon to be fileted, marinated and put into the smoker.

At the next spot, known as 'Undisclosed Location,' Hepworth spoke of how fishy this run was, though I'd been here before and not done much good.

Sensing my doubts, Hepworth kicked me in the nuts and proceeded to land two wild fish.




What a great day. Doctor Hepworth had two more grabs, I caught a nice native 16-inch rainbow and missed another steelhead that took a swipe at my fly.

For being too early and too cold, it sure was more perfect.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Superbowl steelhead

Caught a fish and the last half of the Superbowl power outage yesterday.

Full report and river ethics questions at The Gearboat Chronicles.


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Presenting my new favorite photo

Lazy Uncle recliner at the Crawford residence, with Anna and tiny Jack.



Thursday, January 24, 2013

These birds are doing one of two things

I go out my front door a couple mornings ago, it's nosehair-freezing cold and I see a commotion underway, which looks to be a little chickenhawk or some such bird tussling with another bird out on the snow.

The snow, I say, the snow's so deep the farmers have to jack up the cows so they can milk 'em.


The snow's not really all that deep and this probably isn't a chickenhawk, but if both were true then that Foghorn Leghorn quote would have been about the best thing ever.

Before I got my camera the bird underneath was flailing its wings all around and what I thought was going on was some Trials of Life action on a cold morning with a hawk-like creature having picked off a quail, which bobble around my yard a lot.

It looked like the bird on top was eating the bird on the bottom. I mean, look at this –


But then top bird flew off and I expected to see it carrying a quail. 

Instead, now there were two of the same looking birds and they were flying around all zippity together, like everything was fine.

So I thought . . . no, it can't be. Surely romance can't be in the air when the air is single-digit cold.

Can it?

There are worse ways to stay warm, I guess.

So I went to investigate and found the wing fluttered snow with a little dislodged feather and a spot of blood.

Can't really see either in this photo, but I don't know how to photoshop in yellow circles to point this stuff out.


So I don't know what those birds were up to. Either (edited) or fightin', I guess.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Stomach cancer success story

Five years ago Mike Jordan learned he had a bad case of the stage-four stomach cancers.

And stomach cancer found out it had a bad case of the Mike Jordans.

Mike Jordan won that war.

Here's to your clean bill of health, Michael. Hallelujah.


Waltzing Right Out

'And Furthermore' Wallowa County Chieftain, January 2013

 My New Year’s resolution last year was to not make any New Year’s resolutions this year. I’ve broken most of my resolutions in the past, so it seemed best to break the cycle. But I’m going to break my resolution to not make resolutions because I came up with an even better approach. The weak link responsible for breaking previous resolutions was always me, so I realized I should just make New Year’s resolutions for other people. This is a much better system.

I’ll start with the important stuff. Road construction traffic flaggers, this resolution is for you. This year I don’t want you motioning toward the only possible route to take more than once per car. I know you’ve got a job to do. But believe me, we all know which way to go. We can see the bright orange cones. Not only can we can see the other line of cars that just went by, we’ve been praying for them to get here. The flashing light on the pilot car with a gigantic FOLLOW ME sign does a fantastic job of getting the message across. We get it.

Tom Farnam practicing tai chi with a road sign.

Yet you insist on pointing and waving and pointing and waving as if you’re going to avert some kind of disaster. The only people who would need that much instruction are screened by the DMV because they don’t issue drivers licenses to infants. So, please. Just stop with the constant arm waving. Every time you do that I feel obliged to act confused and pretend I’m going to drive over the cones like I don’t understand and I say we just call a truce. You can make your one arm motion per vehicle and stop at that. Just turning the sign around to SLOW is more than enough. But I’ll give you the one arm motion as a compromise. Thank you. That’s been bothering me for quite a while.

Now, pedestrians crossing our Main Streets out here, I’ve got a resolution for you. This may be unpopular with the Tourism Board because it’s directed at visitors. It’s pretty common practice out here for rigs to stop and let people walk across the street. It’s one of those quaint country living things. Courtesy. I’m all for it. But it’s a two-way street, this courtesy. According to a survey I did this past tourism season, everybody eating an ice cream cone on Main Steet in Joseph just waltzed right out in front of my truck paying no never mind. I know that’s not how it works in the city because there wouldn’t be anyone left in the city if that’s how you operated.

So my resolution for people about to walk out in front of me this year is that you look up first and wait half a second. I will slow down and wave you across – not more than once because that’s the new limit  – then you will say, Gosh, people sure are nice out here and that will be it. Otherwise I’m going to park, get out and start following you around, walking slowly across your path as you try to go about your business.

That’s about as far as I got on making resolutions for other people. Let’s see . . . world peace, I guess . . . no, I take that back. Most everybody’s been calling for world peace off and on since way back and it doesn’t seem to do any good. So I’m sticking with courtesy. Everybody, your New Year’s resolution for this year is just courtesy. It’s a nice one-word shorthand for “Do unto others” and “Walk a mile in someone’s shoes” and all those other fine guidelines that seem to lose traction at the first sign of friction.

You don’t even have to be especially nice. You can not like someone or something and still be courteous. It will look like sarcasm maybe, but that’s just a risk you’re going to have to take.

So Happy New Year to everyone in Wallowa County, also the fine folks at the Mayan calendar factory and everyone else out there. Now go be courteous.

Jon Rombach is a local columnist for the Chieftain. His mom taught him to look both ways before crossing the street. And to be courteous. She’s a nice lady. You’d like her.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Free Neutering for Brass Monkeys

Cold out there. Colder'n a gut-shot bitch wolf dog with nine suckin' pups pullin' a number four trap up a hill in the dead of winter in the middle of a snowstorm with a mouth full of porcupine quills.

That, I should mention, is some Tom Waits that I neither googled nor listened to again to be sure, so I could be off, but pretty sure them lines are engraved in my grey matter. Can't remember my pin number to the new debit card, but I've got Tommy Waits lines firmly committed to memory.


Notice the zero. And notice the red thing under it. That's the thermo at 8 this morn.


 And this is a horsey in the cold.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Heated doghouse floor

Miss Bula got an upgrade to her log home with radiant heat flooring, aka a heating pad from the hardware store under a new poofy foam mattress and upholstery.


Actually, it's wall-to-wall poofiness. I figured what the hell, pad the sides too. The arms and back on my couch have padding and she seems to like crawling up there, so let's give this house the full treatment.

Teaching her to use the controls wasn't nearly as hard as I thought it would be. For an old dog she picked right up on it.