Lady Bugged

There’s simply no way to explain how I came to paint a ladybug sporting a handle-bar moustache. I think it was to be the insects legs, but somehow I managed to put them under the lip, so I went with it — deciding to write a silly little poem to go with my ‘masterpiece.’

This ladybug’s a him,
With waxed moustache,
His color bright red,
And spots for panache —
Bug doctor beware:
He is not for your stash.

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Sweat House

Eleven, that’s the age Sandy Sanderson invited me to partake in a ‘sweat-house ceremony.’ At first, I wasn’t going to do it, fearful that I was about find myself in a position to have to endure more teasing than I was already going through at the time.

But unlike other times when I felt frightened and uncertain, I asked Sandy, “Why me?”

He smiled, “Because you’re a good kid, on your way to being a good man. And you need this.”

Admittedly, I didn’t fully understand what he was saying, but I heard the compliment, so I was willing to go and see what this ceremony was all about. Saturday morning couldn’t arrive soon enough.

Up at 3:30, I met Sandy out front of our house. I’d never been up that early before; five in the morning to go fishing – yes — but never that early.

Initially, I figured we’d go to the sweat-house overlooking the Klamath River and sit inside it until we began sweating. Wrong; I learned quickly that we sat near a fire, that once it died down, water was poured on the rocks buried among the embers, creating a steam that engulfed us so completely that we couldn’t see each other.

Once the steam evaporated, more wood was added to the fire, to heat the rocks and we’d rush out and jump in the river to cool off. Then the entire process would be repeated.

This is where I first met Merkey Oliver. He wasn’t real happy having a ‘white Man’s child’ on ‘sacred ground.’ Sandy was able to calm his ‘anger’ reminding him that I was an invited guest and that he ought to treat me as such.

It was like ‘day’ from ‘night’ as Merkey agreed, even taking me under his wing encouraging me to hang in long as I could after I started to feel sick from the heat, the humidity and the sweating. “That’s all that white-man’s poison coming out of you, boy,” he stated in his most serious tone.

That was about the time the south bank of the Klamath became visible. By then, the men were chanting and singing and I had no idea what was being said.

When I asked, Sandy told me not to worry about the singing and chanting as they were speaking with ‘their God.’ He told me to make a mental picture of ‘your God,’ in my head and think on that.

I did.

We wrapped up about seven that morning with one more lengthy dip in the Klamath. I swore I would never do it again, but twice more Sandy invited me and twice more I went and enjoyed the sweat-lodge.

Sandy left us in my 13th year, shortly after basketball season started. One of the last things I recall him saying, “Basketball isn’t your thing. Stick to running. It has more meaning.”

(I knew Sandy was right about basketball, I couldn’t even hit the back board with the ball. Running, especially sprinting, on the other hand…)

After his passing, I would learn from Merkey (I had to ask him of course, he would never have volunteered it) why Sandy would think running had meaning. “Someone who runs is usually enlisted as a messenger and can be trusted to deliver the message and to keep it secret.”

How I wish I could return one last time to the place of my youth. I’d walk the old trails, wade in the creek, lay in the grasses of the pasture and the field across from my childhood home and I’d want to visit the sweat house on the Klamath.

Twisted Strand

Writer and blogger, H.R.R. Gorman wrote ‘Designing Assassins,’ in 2014. I’ve taken the liberty to write a 100-word follow-up to this dystopian masterpiece…

—–

Cal’s keyboard chatters, his fingers busy typing. We work on the same project, so he has no reason to be so hard at work.

It was only a few minutes ago that I handed him a vial in secret. Now this.

It’s exactly as I suspected – my best friend, my only friend really — is a killer and has no problem murdering me for Internet points. Perhaps he should have taken his own words to heart, after all he’s the one that told me it was bad idea.

Poor Cal, he hasn’t any notion that the vial actually holds his genomes.

Patriotism Rebounding

Zooming southbound on Pyramid Highway at noon-time, I heard the first subtle strains of the National Anthem come through my truck’s radio. Initially, it surprised me as I was certain I had music station Easy 104.1 (KEUZ, Fallon, Nevada) blasting away and not some sports broadcast.

The sound also left me confused momentarily about what the proper procedure should be while the Star Spangled Banner emanated from my cab speakers. Should I keep driving or should I pull to side of the road, get out, come to attention and salute?

If I were still in the service, the answer would be resounding: “Stop..!” as all activity comes to a halt when it comes to posting or retiring the colors. It still marvels me to see men and women, both uniformed and civilian, driver and passengers, pour from vehicles stopped on the main drag to face the music if they cannot see the flag or the flag if it’s visible.

But I’m a civilian now going on decades and decades and I haven’t heard the National Anthem aired as an ‘element within the programming’ of a radio station since I was a child. Needless to say, the music was exactly that to my ears – and it sent my heart soaring.

So, thank you to my friend’s at Easy 104.1 (Colleen Martin, Elizabeth Rose and Dave Mencarelli) for returning Northern Nevada and Eastern California’s airwaves back to a more patriotic place in our lives, even if it is for only a few minutes. As they say in the military, “Hand salute!”

By the way — I did safely pull to the side of the road, get out of my truck and place my hand over my heart. It simply felt right at that moment and I’ve never been shy about offering to show how I feel about our nation.

Winged

Thirty-five stories and she had to trudge her way to the top. It was something she didn’t want to do, but had to do.

Carla was on a mission. She had to try out her new wings.

She stood before her reflection in the glass door. They were light, delicate and very nearly invisible.

Carla found the stairway. “But the elevator would be so much quicker,” she complained.

Reaching the top floor, she stated, “I gotta rest a couple of minutes.”

Once out side, she step onto the ledge. New wings or not, Carla had entered the ‘no fly zone.’

A Day at Andelin

Following a spate of deaths in my life, it felt good to do something creative and refreshing. Creative because I took my camera with me; refreshing because I’d have the chance to see newly born animals.

To that end I visited the nearby Andelin Family Farm in Spanish Springs, Nevada as they held one of their community events. I thought I’d get there early but even though I was there half-an-hour ahead of opening, I was around two-hundred people in the back of the line. There is also something nostalgic and reassuring about a neatly manicured road, whether it be dirt, gravel or paved. It’s even more nostalgic and reassuring when it’s lined with budding trees.

Andelin Farm is teeming with new Spring life including ducklings, chicks, lambs, and kids…

Watch out for the emu though. As I was photographing one, the other sneaked up on me and bit the back of my left hand.

Honestly, the broken skin and scabs are nothing compared to the force of the bird’s striking capabilities. My palm remains extremely sore.

Worse has happened to me in life, so I’m laughing this off as jus’ another odd thing I can add to my list of strange stuff that’s happened to me.  (Huh? What do you mean you don’t have a list?)

They have a lot to do from horse and pony rides, large and kiddie hay rides, to static-roping, mazes, rocking horses, to real people food and feed for the animals. That was what really made my heart sing — seeing the excitement on the faces of the many youngsters as they interacted with the animals.

So if you grew up around the barn yard but moved away from and miss it, you’ll come away remembering the many wonderful scents from your childhood. It may also be jus’ the thing you need to recharge your sense of purpose in life.

As for me — today I have a deep feeling of renewal in my spirit.

Fred North, 1956-2018

Sometimes there is simply no relief from the pain of life – or more to the point – death. Tuesday night as we lay in bed, me trying to fall asleep, my wife was on her device when she learned that our friend and former next-door neighbor had passed away earlier in the day.

We first met Fred North while looking for a church to attend. He was playing his base-guitar at Living Waters, a church that folded a few years back when our preacher retired.

At first, we figured that we’d never see some of these folks again and for the most part, we were right. One person though, popped up in our lives again; Freddo (I always called him that) purchased the house next door to us.

It was a wonderful surprise. We spent a lot of time traveling back and forth from one front porch to the other and it was amazing how his computer tech business, ‘Doctor Geek,’ took off.

Freddo used to write a blog about his experiences with the business, but stopped posting in 2010. It can still be found here.

Not only did we have Christ in common, but we also had our dogs. He had two, including his favorite, a very old lab retriever named ‘Worf.’

Yes, Fred was major Trekkie fan, having named his dog after Michael Dorn’s character on the Star Trek reboot , “Next Generation.” The dog was nothing like his TV name sake though, as he always had a ‘wag and a lick’ handy for everyone.

After ‘Worf’ died, Freddo changed and his health took a downward turn. In early 2008, he packed up his last remaining puppy-dog pal, ‘Joshie,’ sold his house and move into town.

We didn’t see him very much after that, though we did stay in touch via social media. That’s why I had no idea how ill he’d become — in fact I found out later that he’d been hospitalized after nearly dying once before.

One afternoon, he called me, asking if we could take Joshie for a few days because he was heading home to Battle Mountain, Nevada for a visit and the dog was too old to travel. I jumped at the chance, having him here for three or four days.

The getaway was good for Fred as his health improved, even getting rid of his walker for a while – maybe even permanently — after that trip home. The next time I saw Freddo, he was scootering around downtown Reno on his little red Vespa.

That was last September, during Hot August Night, where he was enjoying his newest hobby, photography. And now I find myself amazed at how quickly things can change in six-months.

Beyond his passing, I also missed the opportunity to stop and see him the day before his death. I was taking some product to my wife’s sandwich shop and drove by his place, telling myself, “When I come back this way, I gotta stop and say ‘hi,’ to Freddo.”

Somehow, I got side tracked and forgot and this has me ‘bummed out,’ as Fred would have said. If he were still here, I’d apologize for having forgot and he’d have said, “No big deal.”

That in a nut-shell was Fred’s mantra – “No big deal.” Laid-back, easy-going, always smiling and friendly — we’re gonna miss that and you too, Freddo.