Blog Description

Weekly Posts Concerning my Sabbatical Research and Writing Project

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Writing, Cooking, and Hunting Bears

It has been a long time since my last blog post.  I am spending most of my days writing and editing, and after spending hours each day consumed with the book's manuscript, writing and posting a blog entry has taken a back seat.  By August my goal is to have the Lawyer Canyon book and two journal articles on Circlestone completed and submitted to the publishers.  Having the time to concentrate on writing is precious, and I owe a great debt of thanks to Maricopa Colleges' Professional Growth Committee and Bob Burlingame, the owner of the Flying B Ranch, for this research and writing time.  The faculty of the Maricopa College system are fortunate to have such strong support for professional growth to attend conferences, classes, find grants and be awarded time to do research.  And, my gracious host, The Flying B Ranch is the place to be anytime.

I received notice yesterday that the Cochise County Historical Society will release their Spring Journal in a week or two featuring my Sunnyside article.  They sent me the page proofs for a "sneak peek" before release.  I wrote the article a long time ago but never got around to having it published.  Local histories are not looked at by the academy as having a wide enough audience to be of "great importance."  Since most of my interest is in studying, engaging, understanding and describing specific places, my audience is usually limited to people familiar with the particular place.  Much like Lawyer Canyon in Idaho, Sunnyside Canyon in the Huachuca Mountains of southeastern Arizona is rich in unique American history.  Cochise County Arizona is home to the late 1800's boom towns
of Tombstone and Bisbee.  Sunnyside was a mining town very different from its more famous neighbors.

Anyone interested in reading the original paper I delivered to the Arizona Historical Society, it is available on my e-portfolio: "Research Projects" page at

Fred Rusch, the vice president of the historical society did a very nice job of editing my paper for publication to a  public history audience.  For that version you can visit their website or their Facebook page when it comes out.

 In April I went into the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness Area for a week to cook for one of the Flying B Ranch's "spot and stalk" bear hunting camps.  I thought I would share a few portions of my journal entries during the hunt and some of the photos.

Jeremi and Joseph checking loads.

Weasel Camp - Bear Hunt, Selway Wilderness
April 2, 2013
Tuesday Morning

       I have not been back in the Selway Bitterroots for many years.  I rode into the Flying B’s Weasel Camp, 14 miles up the Selway River into the Selway Bitterroot Wilderness Area, yesterday.  I’m the camp cook for two guides and four bear hunters.  The camp is just up the South side of the river after you cross the Mink Creek wilderness pack bridge.  Weasel Point is a mile and a half south of camp at 4546 ft.  Weasle camp is at 2159, above Weasel Creek.  After 15 miles on horseback, I was beat when we got here yesterday.  I unpacked 4 mantes, sat down on a cot and fell sound asleep for a blessed hour nap.  When I awoke, I set up the inside of my cook tent.  Today’s chore is to organize the camp. 

Weasel Camp

       Joe and Jeremi left camp this morning at 9:00am.  Arby and Jeremi will be back with 4 guests tomorrow between 1:00 pm and 3:00 pm.  I have today to organize and make camp pretty and clean.  I slept in this morning because Jeremi wouldn't make me a fire in the stove.  His rule is: “No guests in camp, no fire,” so I stayed in bed and dreamed.

 Same Day:
 Tuesday Evening

         My most odious and exhausting chore is getting the water jugs filled. Weasel creek is a couple hundred feet below my tent.  The trail down is steep, and the climb back up with full water containers is difficult.  The chore pushed me physically to my limit.  I knew it would tax me because when Joe returned with the jugs full yesterday, he was breathing faster than normal.  Not a good sign for me. Tomorrow I will ask one of the guides to help me.

My Cook Tent

April 3, 2013
Wednesday Morning
Day #3   
          The guides  and hunters will be here about 1:00 to 3:00 today.  I need to make Oreo No-Bake for dessert tonight. Nothing else needs to be made early.  I need milk, so will have to wait for them to arrive to prepare it.  Hope there is time to cool it.  It's not too cold this morning so no fire needed, but cloudy today, high clouds, white.  I wonder if my solar charger will charge my I-Pad today?  I'M listening to John Lennon right now.  Besides music the major sounds in camp are; Weasel Creek, the sound of water rushing through river cobbles in its hurry to reach the Selway is the dominant and unceasing, bubbly rumble; next is the hiss of gas for the stove and lights, but both are off now, so the creek dominates.  There is no wind now; the thumping of grouse is the next most evident sound, now that the camp has only me and no horses or mules.  Grouse thump sounds just like a Briggs and Straton engine almost starting, but failing just when you expect it to take off, like you didn't give it enough choke and it catches but then starves for gas.  If you didn't know better, you could think, "Who is starting a pump or generator this far back in a no-engines wilderness area?"  At least that was my first thought before I remembered, "Oh yeah, Grouse."  I have been in the city too long and way too much.  Bob Dylan is crooning from the iPad and the grouse is thumping away!  This place is truly magic.

I love dark places in the forest.

 Same Day
 Wednesday Early Afternoon

             The pack string should arrive in an hour or so. My camp is clean; I am clean, and everything else to do will have to await supplies.  The grouse up the hill is still thumping quite regularly.  He usually stops mid-afternoon.  The iPad is down to 22%, we will now see how well the solar charger works.  I just shut my Terry Brooks novel off.  

Mink Creek: Weasel Camp is on the ridge
between Mink and Weasel Creek.

I have finished my 3rd reading of Brian Herbel's thesis; "The Prehistory of Lawyer Canyon as Evidenced by Recent Investigations at Kittle Rockshelter, Near Kamiah, Idaho."  Joseph and I selected the artifacts to show in the museum type display of the 1999 archeological dig based on Brian's analysis.  I noticed he misses paraphrasing one of my papers in his thesis.  He says Tommy Robinson raised wheat in the canyon and cattle above on the prairie.  The opposite is the truth and is what my paper says.  Other than that reversal, he uses my work well and his citations and bibliography are excellent.  He will be my primary source for the prehistory of the canyon.  One of the most disappointing aspects of the archeoligical dig is that Jennifer, the paleontologist on the dig, never did her thesis on the final remains.  There are over 12,000 pieces of bone in the collection, still waiting for someone to analyze.  Brian has some experience in the field, and identifies deer, squirrel, rabbit and coyote bones, as well as burnt bones from both pre-Mazama and post-Mazama contexts. Yet, expert analysis still awaits, 14 years later.  I will make it one of my goals to entice one of Lee Sappington's grad students to take on the task of faunal analysis for a paper or maybe even a thesis.  

Lee's dissertation on the prehistory of the Clearwater Basin will provide the wider context for my book.  He and Brian's works are so well done, digging out the primary sources other than the Nez Perce culture primaries is superfluous.  I have a first draft of the geomorphic part of my book and much of the early history (1800 - 1890), the time of European contact.  After the prehistory, which I am writing now, I will dive into white settlement, farming and environmental restoration, all of which I have completed most of the research and document collection.  I don’t think I will complete the editing of the manuscript by the end of May, but will have a solid draft for editors to review.  This sabbatical is a dream come true for me.  I have been at this subject since 1993.

The sun has come out, time for one more camp inspection before hunters arrive.  Funny how some things endure.  I have no doubt camp was inspected awaiting hunters in the place called Kittle Rockshelter in the time before Mt. Mazama erupted creating Crater Lake in 6700 BP.  I haven’t heard grouse thump for a while, maybe the sun quieted him.

Same Day, Wed. 
Late afternoon.
     The hunters and guides arrived early, before 1:00, very impressive time riding in.  They brought in my coolers, two full of the rest of the food.        

The Hunters: Luke–Looks strong,  Kevin–Most refined looking,  Dave–Lithe and thin, probably able to out-hike everyone,   JB–He looks to be the leader, tall, 6’ 7” maybe.

      Joseph left quietly with the stock after the unpacking.  I’m not sure anyone even heard him leave.  He seldom says goodbye anyway.  When he calls me to rant about our governments' insanity: local, state, and national, he never says “Hello” either.  He just jumps right into the rant, usually with something like, “I was listening to NPR; what do think about . . . ?’  Extra words are apparently a waste; he chooses his words carefully, and unless on a rant, sparingly.  When he does talk, people listen.  It has always been that way.  The sheer scope of his knowledge goes far beyond his complete grasp of forest environs, worldwide flora and fauna, and his understanding and bewilderment of human nature.  When he does speak, the wise remember what he said. 


       Jeremy and Arby are the guides. No one could ask for better guides, or even better friends.  They never cease to try get-my-goat or trick me into saying something stupid.  They also do the hard work in camp for me, and Jeremy watches my health carefully.  I have never been in a camp with better guides and I have known very few better men.   Men like these are few, and every employee of the Flying B Ranch is the kind of person you can trust.


       Tonight is pork ribs, baked beans, cole slaw and Oreo No Bake.  I also have a bean soup for an appetizer, probably be some noise in the tents tonight.

       I started charging the iPad at 22%.  Last I looked it was up to 36%, but the sun is just going down behind the ridge.  I better go get the thing.  It has had a good four hours of sun on the solar panel charger.  What do you think, 50% now?  Not a bad guess, 53%!

Thursday Morning, Day 4
       Luke shot a nice chocolate-colored and big bear last evening.  Jeremy, Luke and JB didn’t get back to camp until 10:00.  Spot and stalk bear hunting is not easy, and a bear the first day out is impressive.

Bear Tenderloin for Appetizer.

Same Day
Thursday 1:05 PM
       My halibut is thawing, and the cheesecake is in the cooler setting.  I’ve figured out a way to steam my asparagus using a sauce pan lid to hold the spears above the water in the dutch oven.  Everything is still clean and the iPad is charging from 25%.  There are clouds today though.  I would be surprised if it made 50% today.  The hunters seemed to appreciate the eclectic playlist from the iPad last night.  None of the four have made it to 40 yet, and one, Dave, is only 28.  They are all good woodsman and in good shape, so I expect another bear today.

       I’ve decided to go for a walk.  I did this once many years ago and got lost trying to find my way back to the Mink Peak camp, a 22 mile ride into this wilderness.  Martin Creek is over the ridge to the east from here, which is the drainage I wandered into from Mink camp that day.  It was an Idaho Sucker Hole day, much like today, some clouds but the sun peaked out; my camp was in order like today, so I decided to walk. 

Selway River

     I stayed on the trail until the sucker hole closed into mist, then rain.  I thought I should get back to camp.  "If I drop off this ridge this trail is on, the camp should be just below me," I thought.  Big mistake!  Wrong ridge.  I dropped down at least a thousand feet before it came to me, “Must be the wrong ridge.”  I could hear water below, Martin Creek maybe.

       I was wearing a brown leather bomber jacket.  Wet leather sucks as an insulator and it’s heavy.  I knew I better climb back up to the trail.  I don’t know its real name; I call it elk brush.  There are elk wallows in it in the fall.  Its narrow trunks curve downhill before the rest of it reaches toward the sky.  It lets you through going down; it fights back when you are trying to go uphill.  Soon I was shivering, exhausted and trying to shimmy up fallen logs to avoid the brush.  The light was dimming, and I was falling into hypothermia. 

Off the Trail in the Selway Bittreroots

       This is why they call these peeks of the sun, Idaho Sucker Holes.  I finally made the ridge and trail just as it turned completely black.  Disoriented and shivering uncontrollably, I couldn’t decide which way to go.  One way should be no more than a couple miles to camp.  The other, 20 miles to Indian Hill.  I made a stone carin in the trail,  chose a direction, and with my feet to feel the dip of the trail, I headed off into the inky mist. 

       I don’t know how long it took before I started second guessing my choice.  Finally , I stopped.  Built another carin in the trail and back tracked.  Relieved when I stumbled over my first carin, I continue on until I started second guessing this choice.  I sat down, I tried to think.  Then, after trying to think for a while, I heard hoofs on rocks.  The sound was coming from the direction I had been going.  I can’t remember that Packer’s name anymore.  It’s been a long time, 1989 I think.  I do remember he wanted to quit smoking and he stuffed his pants with newspaper for insulation from the cold. 

Wilderness Bridge at Mink Creek

     When he reached me, I knew I was walking the wrong direction.  My first choice had been the right way.  The first choice is usually best when you are lost.  The packer had been delayed by the rain and was just coming into camp late with supplies.
       He asked, “What the hell are you doing?”

“Walking,” I said.  

“You want to ride Ernie; I can walk a while.”  

“No,” I replied, “I can walk.”  

After the first mile and I couldn’t stop shivering, I said “Can I ride Ernie?”  I opened my soaking leather jacket and leaned forward over the saddle horn and tried to suck in some of Ernie’s heat coming off his neck.  It was 4 miles back into camp.  I also would probably have missed the trail cut off to the camp in the dark.

    Everyone in the camp was looking for me.  Losing the cook when he should be preparing supper is serious.  They gave me brandy.  Soon I was cooking supper.  First choices are usually better than second choices.  This was also my first realization that the Selway Bitteroots can kill idiots very easily.  The packer didn’t last through the next hunt.  He took his jeans lined with newsprint back to Illinois I think.  When ever I came back to Idaho after that, I always gave Ernie carrots.

    I’m going for my walk now.  The clouds are thicker, but I am older and just a little wiser.  Oh, I also have GPS in my pocket.

Friday morning, Day 5
    Rained all night and most of morn, but the sun has arrived, hopefully not a sucker hole.  Last night, about 4:00 AM, I had an insulin reaction.  Jeremy, Arby and Dave did a better than professional job of handling the situation.  Dave persisted in getting me to drink the apple juice.  The first thing I was conscious of was Jeremi’s voice and name, then Arby’s name.  I couldn’t focus on anything visual.  Everything visual was distorted into an incomprehensible muddle, but my mind could grasp the meaning of "Jeremi" and then “Arby”; I knew was okay then.  I was safe.  At some point, Dave asked me the most intelligent question one could ask me to test my state of mind.  He asked, “What book are you reading?”  I knew. “Quantum Enigma,” I said.  I was back in the place of consciousness.  Arby and Jeremy took care of breakfast and making the days lunches for the hunt.  I slept.  The men in this Bear Camp are some of the best I have met. 

A Wet Forest

Same Day, Friday 2:12 PM
    I took a nap, felt good.  Joseph rode in a few minutes after I got up; good timing.  He said he napped for an hour at the trail head waiting for the rain to let up.  Naps are good, a gift from the Great Dreamer, who dreamed all this shit up.  

Joseph Communing With the Great Dreamer
      He, Joseph, not the Great Dreamer, stayed for a nap and at least 20 minutes more.  Might be a record.  Which side, long-stay or short-stay.  I’m not sure.  He brought some stuff and took the bear skin and meat and rode away.  He was wearing that grey cowboy hat he bought at the Isonti Rodeo forty years ago when he left.  Some people keep stuff a long time.  Others, like me, misplace stuff a lot.  He traded me 2 candy bars for a sandwich Jeremy made.  Good trade.  Most importantly he brought me my leather-bound special gold-leaf edition of Lamb my favorite book.  You can get it cheap in paperback.  Lamb:  The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal by Chris Moore.  I’m going to go back to reading it now  I got to page 15 before I put the red marker ribbon in to mark my place to come write this.  Ahuh!  I have a tick crawling on my leg!  Later – It's raining again.  

 Saturday 11:30 Day 6

Tyler Seems to Live Out Here

       I’ve had an exceptional morning.  Jeremy didn’t wake me and quietly made breakfast.  He is a better back country cook than me.  Maybe that’s why he didn’t wake me?  Just as breakfast came  to a close, Tyler the drop antler hunter came into camp to visit and have a cup of coffee.  He stayed and entertained everyone long enough that I made a fresh pot of camp coffee.  Tyler wanders these North-central Idaho forests, sometimes out here for month-long stretches, collecting drop antlers.  The conversation between he and the guides taught me much about the trails and geography of the forests and the preferred habitats in the area of Deer, Elk, Lions and Bears.  Jeremy and Arby argue some about who is the toughest mountain man, but Tyler seems to be the standard they measure themselves against.  Although, Jeremy does think he might be a match for Tyler, but then, Jeremy also described Jeremiah Johnson, the most famous Mountain Man, as “short and stalky.  Johnson was only 6’2”."  Arby and Dave were in the tent for Jeremy’s description and reacted with startled big eyes.  They are the smallest in camp.  When we told JB Jeremy’s perception of short and stocky, JB didn’t even flinch, but JB is 6’7”.  It seems “short” is a relative term.

       JB shot a nice black bear yesterday.  He, Luke and Jeremy were back in camp with the hide and meat mid-afternoon.  When Kevin got in and saw the hide, he thought it looked a lot like the mythical "Wooley Bear" of his dreams.  That puts Jeremy one bear for each of his hunters so far.  Today he’s hoping for a wolf or two.

       Luke is a dedicated predator hunter.  He’s from Minnesota and has taken many bears.  Minnesota bears are almost as numerous as Selway bears.  He and the rest of the party are using what the media likes to call “Assalt Rifles.”  Luke showed me his 308.

       This was my first look at what our military minds have created.  I am now convinced that this rifle is so far superior to my Remington 700s, these rifles designed for war are the best hunting rifle anyone could use.  

       Most hunters are very concerned that their animal kills be as clean and quick as possible.  No true hunter wants the animal he or she takes the life from to suffer or hurt any longer than necessary.  The rifle Luke showed me is the answer.  It is light.  It has minimum recoil.  His .308 has the light recoil of a .223.  The sights are high tech with adjustable light brightness and size of the cross hair and a 2 power flip over scope.  The gun is so much more efficient than the standard bolt action hunting rifle, there is no real comparison.  If you care about the animals, you hunt, what people call the “assault rifle” is really the most humane hunting rifle I have ever seen.  

      Instead of banning “assault” rifles, we should encourage hunters to buy them.  That would be the most humane action to take with what the military has designed for war.  Both Luke and JB’s bears went down with one kill shot at over 200 yards.  I am old-school.  I have always approached my gun choice practically.  Rem. 700s, black composite stock and three-power luepold scope.  But after seeing Luke’s rifle, a truly practical hunter would have Luke’s rifle in every caliber he or she needs for the size game they are hunting.  Instead of “assault” the name should be “ultimate hunting” rifle.  I am humbled by my ignorance of what these rifles really are.  They are simply designed to be more accurate and efficient than my tried and true Rem 700.  I probably will never buy one though.  With the current through-the-roof price increases due to public demand, resulting from the threat of another "assault weapons" ban, I’m just too cheap, and I already have my bolt actions. 

Arby in Story Mode

       Last night, story time dominated the evening banter.  Kevin’s mind is often bizarre.  From Strip Bear Hunting (if you glass the hillside, don’t see a bear, you must take one piece of clothing off), to describing his dream of “You can’t shoot wooly bears!”  Apparently in dreamland there is a protected wooly bear species.  It was determined that even though wooly bears were a protected species in Kevin’s dreamland, the 1st Friday of the month there is a special, one-day open season on wooly bears.  Also in Kevin’s dreamland, he uses a Jewish calendar, because you can also use lights for night hunting Thursday night.  Therefore, like the Jewish day, it is measured from sundown to sundown.  I’m starting to dream about wooly bears now too.

       Dave asked me to tell the Vampire-Goth chick stoled my dog and guitar story I had told him the other day.  I did, but then Arby topped all the night’s stories with his, true, dog story.  I asked him for permission to post the story on the blog, telling him I would surely cite him.  He replied that the last time someone cited him he had to pay a fine.

       Arby knew a young woman who worked as a nanny in New York City for a family that went to Europe.  As a member of a professional nanny group, the nannies got together to do nanny things, so she had a solid support group.  Well, the families dog died while the family was away on a trip, and she didn’t know what to do.  She called her nanny friend for direction and advice.  The friend asked her if she had called the family to tell them what had happened.  She hadn’t yet, so her friend encouraged her to do so right away.

       The family understood and reassured her suggesting she take the dog’s body to the veterinarian's clinic.  After the call, it dawned on her she only had public transportation available to her to get the 90 pound dog to the clinic.  She had no car.  She found a suit-case she thought the dog would fit into, and she proceeded to the subway.  As she left the train to walk the short distance to the clinic, a man saw she was having a little trouble carrying the heavy suitcase and asked, “What do you have in there that is so heavy?”

       Shaken, she replied, “Some of my stuff from work.  My computer and things.”  The man gallantly offered to carry the suitcase for her.  He grabbed it and took off running!  Her problem solved, she returned to the subway and went home.  

I wish I could have seen the thief’s face when he opened his treasure.  Arby insists the story is true, but so is my "Vampire-Goth Chick Stole My Daughter's Dog and Guitar" story.

 4/8/13 Sunday, Day 7
        The hunters are looking forward to having Joe in camp tonight.  The guides, Arby and Jeremy, have them convinced he is almost a god of the hunt and back country.  I might have encouraged the impression a little too.  I’m looking forward to tonight’s banter.  It should be entertaining and even illuminating.

       Well, I have Lamb to read.  Biff and Joshua (Jesus) are now 13 years old and heading to Antioch to find one of the wise men who followed a star.  They’re hoping he can help Josh learn about his destiny and maybe even help in teaching him something about how to be a Messiah.  You really should read this book, especially if you, like God, love comedy.  We pack out tomorrow.

Packing Out

       I hope my journal entries from this hunt are entertaining.  I just have too much writing to do to busy myself with composing weekly blogs.  I'll post another in June sometime.  Until then, "May fortune and Grace pursue you and overtake you.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Visiting with Face Rock

       Pinky and I got back to the Canyon on Monday.  I traveled back to Arizona on March 5th to get her, play with grand kids and clean up some fiscal issues.  It is so nice to have her back and to be back in the Canyon.  Yesterday, Tuesday, I went up canyon to visit with Face Rock.  He is a bit of a trickster.  I don’t think he speaks for the Canyon, but he has been with

Granite Outcrops at Tipi Flat

her for longer than anyone.  In fact, his white Granite head is much older than the Canyon’s basalt walls.  He looks down at Tipi Flat, a place where the creek has carved its way down to the granite bedrock covered by the lava flows of the time of the Miocene.

      The lava-flow layers of basalt poured out of rifts in the crust when the North American continental crust moved westward over the Yellowstone plume,  during the warm, moist time of the Miocene.  The lava flowed here between 17 and 12 million years ago, and the resulting layers of chocolaty basalt make up the Canyon’s walls and rolling flanks.   Face Rock consists of granite covered by those profuse basalt flows and then exposed by the slow but constant erosion of Lawyer’s Creek.  

     He speaks in a voice far more ancient than any other here in the Canyon.  He is extremely patriarchal, full of obscurity and talks out of the murkiness common to the planet before tricksters like Coyote and Raven came to live here.  Yet, I think as the eons of time passed him by, he identified with Coyote’s and Raven’s personalities, and he has come to embrace those trickster characteristics, almost to a fault; that is if you can accept that the “fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil” can even be applied to such an ancient personality.  Even so, when he does speak, he possesses the

Face Rock with a Shadowed Face

negative in his communication system, which of course is the root and origin of the knowledge of good and evil.  But I am wandering into the speculations of deep philosophy, something Face Rock detests.  Like most ancients, he likes things simple, likes to wrap things in stories, parables and analogies.

      He was in a bit of a dark mood today.  He was in a much better mood the day I posed with him for my Flying B Ranch business card portrait.  My mood overflowed with joy to visit with him again, and I didn’t let him intimidate me with his dark face.

Picture on the Flying B Ranch Historian's Card

    He has two faces whether he wants you to see them or not. His head is one; his exterior face, the stoic face. The other is in his eye, the window to the soul. Not everyone sees this inner face. I knew him for years and never saw it, until an especially perceptive and detailed friend pointed it out to me. Dana is often more aware of spirits than most. She directed me to his eye and the window to his soul. The trickster is more evident in this inner face, as opposed to his stoic granite head. It is a good and wise communication practice to look into the eyes.


Face Rock's Trickster Eye Face


     Because Easter is almost upon us, I wanted to ask Face Rock about the resurrection of the dead.  I always flinch a little when I hear the word or use the word Easter for the Jewish Feast of Firstfruits.  Easter is a cognate of Ishtar, a Babylonian goddess of fertility, an outlandish name for Christians to attach to the celebration of the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth.  If the prophets are right, Jesus defeated death a long while before sunrise on Firstfruits, which like all Jewish days began at sundown not sunrise.  Passover begins at sundown of the full moon, the first day of the week (our Sunday) is Firstfruits and the whole week of the Passover is called the Feast of Unleavened Bread.  How Istar got involved is too long a story here.  I want to tell you what Face Rock told me about the resurrection of the dead.

When I asked, "Old one, what do you know about the resurrection of the dead?"

He told me, "Remember this story."

Coyote and the Shadow People
Coyote [itsaya' ya] and his wife were dwelling nearby. His wife became ill, and she died. Then Coyote became very, very lonely. He did nothing but weep for his wife.

Then the death spirit [pa yawit] came to him and said, "Coyote, do you pine for your wife?"
"Yes, friend, I long for her most painfully," replied Coyote.
"I could take you to the place where your wife has gone, but, I tell you, you must do everything just exactly as I say. Not once are you to disregard my commands and do something else."
"Yes," replied Coyote, "yes, friend, and what could I do? I will do everything you say."
Then the ghost [ts' a' wtsaw] told him, "Yes. Now let us go."
Coyote added, "Yes let it be so that we are going." They went.
Then he said to Coyote again, "You must do whatever I say. Do not disobey."
"Yes, yes, friend. I have been pining so deeply, and why should I not heed you?" Coyote could see the spirit clearly. He appeared

to be only a shadow. They started and went along over the plain.
"Oh, there are many horses hereabouts; it looks like a roundup," exclaimed the ghost.
"Yes," replied Coyote, though he really saw none. "Yes there are many horses." They arrived now near the place of the dead.
The ghost knew that Coyote could see nothing, but he said, "Oh look, such quantities of serviceberries! Let us pick some to eat.

Now when you see me reach up, you too will reach up. When I bend the limb down, you too will pull your hands down."
"Yes," Coyote said to him, "so be it; I will do that." The ghost reached up and bent the branch down, and Coyote did the same. Although he could see no berries, he imitated the ghost in putting his hand to and from his mouth in the same manner of eating. Thus they picked and ate berries. Coyote watched him carefully and imitated every action. When the ghost would put his hand into his mouth, Coyote did the same.
"Such good serviceberries these are," commented the ghost.
"Yes, friend, it is good that we have found them," agreed Coyote.
"Now let us go." And they went on. "We are about to arrive," the ghost told him. "There is a long, a very, very long lodge.

Your wife is there somewhere. Just wait and let me ask someone." In a little while the ghost returned and said to Coyote, "Yes, they have told me where your wife is. We are coming to a door through which we will enter. You will do in every way exactly what you see me do. I will take hold of the door flap, raise it up, and, bending low, will enter. Then you too will take hold of the door flap and do the same." They proceeded in this manner to enter the lodge. It appeared that Coyote's wife was sitting near the entrance.

The ghost said to Coyote, "Sit here beside your wife." They both sat. The ghost added, "Your wife is now going to prepare food for us." Coyote could see nothing, except that he was sitting on an open prairie where nothing was in sight. Yet he could feel the presence of the shadow. "Now she has prepared our food. Let us eat." The ghost reached down and then brought his hand to his mouth. Coyote could see nothing but the prairie dust. They ate. Coyote imitated all the movements of his companion. When they had finished and the woman had apparently put the food away, the ghost said to Coyote, "You stay here. I must go around to see some people." He went out, but he returned soon. "Here we have conditions different from those you have in the land of the living. When it gets dark here, it has dawned in your land; and when it dawns for us, it is growing dark for you."

Now it began growing dark, and Coyote seemed to hear people whispering, talking in faint tones, all around him. Then darkness set in. Oh, Coyote saw many fires in a longhouse. He saw that he was in a very, very large lodge, and there were many fires burning. He saw the various people. They seemed to have shadow-like forms, but he was able to recognize different persons. He saw his wife sitting by his side. He was overjoyed, and he joyfully greeted all his old friends who had died long ago. How happy he was. He would march down the aisles between the fires, going here and there, and talk with the people. He did this throughout the night. Now he could see the doorway through which he and his friend had entered. At last it began to dawn, and his friend came to him and said, "Coyote, our night is falling, and in a little while you will not see us. But you must stay right here. Do not go anywhere at all. Stay right here and then in the evening, you will see all these people again."

"Yes friend. Where could I possibly go? I will spend the day here." The dawn came, and Coyote found himself alone, sitting in the middle of a prairie. He spent the day there, just dying from the heat, parched by the heat, thirsting from the heat. Coyote stayed here several days. He would suffer through the day, but always at night he would make merry in the great lodge. One day his ghost friend came to him and said, "Tomorrow you will go home. You will take your wife with you."

"Yes, friend, but I like it here so much. I am having a good time, and I should like to remain here."

"Yes," the ghost replied, "nevertheless, you will go tomorrow, and you must guard against your inclination to do foolish things [ha' ynaim waku']. Do not yield to any queer notions. I will advise you now what you are to do. There are five mountains. You will travel for five days. Your wife will be with you, but you must never, never touch her. Do not let any strange impulses possess you. You may talk to her but never touch her. Only after you have crossed and descended from the fifth mountain, you may do whatever you like."

"Yes, friend," replied Coyote. When dawn came again Coyote and his wife started. At first it seemed to him that he was going alone; yet, he was dimly aware of his wife's presence as she walked along behind. They crossed one mountain, and, now, Coyote could feel more definitely the presence of his wife. She seemed like a shadow. They went on and crossed the second mountain. They camped at night at the foot of each mountain. They had a little conical lodge which they would set up each time. Coyote's wife would sit on one side of the fire and he on the other. Her form appeared clearer and clearer.

The death spirit who had sent them now began to count the days and to figure the distance Coyote and his wife had covered. "I hope he will do everything right and take his wife through to the world beyond.," he kept saying to himself.

Coyote and his wife were spending their last night, their fourth night camping. On the morrow she would again assume fully the character of a living person. They were camping for the last time, and Coyote could see her very clearly, as if she were a real person who sat opposite of him. He could see her face and her body very clearly, but he only looked and dared not touch her. But suddenly a joyous impulse seized him; the joy of having his wife again overwhelmed him. He jumped to his feet and rushed over to embrace her.

His wife cried out, "Stop! stop, Coyote! Do not touch me. Stop!" Her warning had no effect. Coyote rushed over to his wife, and just as he touched her body, she vanished. She disappeared, returned to the shadowland.

When the death spirit learned of Coyote's folly, he became deeply angry. "You inveterate doer of this kind of thing! I told you not to do anything foolish. You, Coyote, were about to establish the practice of returning from death. Only a short time from now the human race is coming, but you have spoiled everything and established for them death as it is."

Here Coyote wept and wept. He decided, "Tomorrow I shall return to see them again." He started back the following morning. As he went along, he began to recognize the places where his spirit friend and he had passed and now he began to do the same things they had done on their way to the shadowland. "Oh, look at the horses; it looks like a roundup." He went on until he came to the place where the ghost had found the service berries. "Oh, such choice service berries! Let us pick and eat some." He went through the motions of picking and eating berries. He went on and finally came to the place where the long lodge had stood. He said to himself, "Now, when I take hold of the door flap and raise it up, you must do the same." Coyote remembered all the little things his friend had done. He saw the spot where he had sat before. He went there, sat down, and said, "Now, your wife has brought us food. Let us eat." He went through the motions of eating again. Darkness fell, and now Coyote listened for the voices. He looked around; he looked here and there, but nothing appeared. Coyote sat there in the middle of the prairie. He sat there all night, but the lodge didn't appear again nor the ghost ever return to him.[1]
 Easter is a good day to celebrate the redemption of Coyote's folly.  It is good to remember that the Marriage Supper of the Lamb approaches, because Jesus of Nazareth did for His wife what Coyote didn't.  

After reminding me of the story of Coyote in the Shadowlands, Face Rock said,

"Some days, it's a good day to die,

Most days, it's a good day to live."

Then, I remembered something Bob Dylan wrote, 
"Oh, the tree of life is growing
Where the spirit never dies

And the bright light of salvation shines
In dark and empty skies,

When the cities are on fire

With the burnin' flesh of men,

Just remember that death is not the end

And you search in vain to find

Just one law abiding citizen,

Just remember that death is not the end."

Sam the Chef's Old Tipi Fire Ring

I had a good visit to Tipi Flat and musing a little with Face Rock.  I walked down to where the Tipi used to stand, the one the flat is named for;  the fire ring is still there.

It's a good day to be back in the Canyon's warm embrace.

Lawyer Creek Reaches Down to the White Granite

[1] Donald M. Hines, Tales of the Nez Perce (Fairfield, WA: Ye Galleon Press, 1984), 82-85
[2] Bob Dylan, "Death is Not the End" Down In The Groove (Special Rider Music, Columbia & Sony, 1988) 

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Saying Goodbye to Winter-Spring & Searching for Basalt Words.

It has been almost two weeks since I uploaded a blog post.  I apologize for keeping you all in such great suspense. (Alright, that was sarcasm at my own expense.)  I like sarcasm and satire, but in the online world of texting, it can get you into deep trouble (oh sorry, that is the Communication Department part of me).  I don't want you to forget that I am a Communication scholar first at Mesa Community College and a historian/geographer/cartographer second, even though most of my degrees are as a historian.  I am definitely starting to miss seeing students everyday.  I think that is the main purpose of the college sabbatical tradition.  If you are starting to despise your students, it is time for you to go on sabbatical.  You can't teach what you no longer have to people you can no longer stand to see walk in!  Teachers need times of refreshing from the Holy Spirit (oh crap, that's the Jesus Freak in me!).  Maybe I've been a hermit too long?  I better get back to the task at hand:

It's been a quiet two weeks in Lawyer Canyon, and it looks like winter's spring-days are drawing to a close here in her bosom.  I have been out visiting her (the Canyon) while this anomaly of sunny days have been here.  There is no doubt in my mind now why Lawyer Canyon has served people as a winter shelter for so many countless generations.  Winter is more than comfortable enfolded in her arms.

February Winter Day on the Upper Flat

The famous Twisted Hair,  Lawyer's father, and the Nez Perce Chief who befriended the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery Expedition had a winter camp somewhere near the above picture.  Later that day I saw 12 Whitetails relaxing here.  The deer revel in this false spring too and meet in the early evenings to socialize.  I have seen herds of 40 Mule Deer on the sunny north side of the canyon during this warm winter spell.

Walnut Flat Tree

 I visited Walnut Flat this week.  This wooded meadow has always been one of my favorite places in the canyon.  As one of the MCC Red Mountain Campus earliest faculty (I started teaching at Red Mountain in 1997), I have discussed the problem of "signage" in many meetings over the years.  When building a new campus, the signage issue seems to be a reoccurring topic.  There are a few "signs" in Lawyer Canyon, not many, but they hold power.  

Here in the Canyon, rather than argue about the need for more signage, I debate what names to call places in the Canyon, not where to put signs.  As I have come across the historic names of places in the canyon, I endeavor to use the most significant historic name on my maps, and try to convince the people of the Canyon to use them.  But when there is a sign nailed to a gnarled old tree, no other name seems valid.  Beyond the enduring statement the sign makes, the character of the tree holding Walnut Flat's sign is such that no one could deny its commanding presence.

With the current melt associated with this springlike weather, Lawyer Creek is full.  I hesitate now when having to cross it, watching carefully for the depth of fjords and the strength of the rushing water. 

I'm told fish like a deeper channel, and the tendency of the creek toward the desire to braid out on the flats is constant.  The stream needs to meander through the flats to reduce flooding downstream in the town of Kamiah, but too much braiding is not good for the fish.  To maintain some good stream depths, yet encourage meandering, the Flying B Ranch is planting Black Cottonwoods, Black Hawthorn, Service Berry, Choke Cherry, Snow Berry, Willows, Wild Roses, Ponderosa Pine and Junipers, all native species.  The plants will stabilize the stream across the flats and provide bird and animal habitat.  This ongoing restoration of a natural habitat has been a central mission on the Ranch and the dedication of the people here to this ongoing work is inspiring.  The MCC, Red Mountain, 100-acre Campus could use the level of dedication to natural habitat restoration that I have seen here.

Lawyer Creek near Walnut Flat

One of the biggest struggles I have encountered this week is finding adjectives, analogies, metaphors and similes to describe basalt.  The rock of the canyon is the product of expansive Miocene lava flows.  Lawyer Canyon was born in Mother Earth's fire.

Between 17 million and 12 million years ago, lava flood after lava flood covered this area.  As each layer of lava cooled into basalt, the rate of cooling determined how the lava crystallized and formed.  Fluffy(can rock be fluffy?) looking tops of flows and slower-cooling, architectural-looking columns below grace the hills and sides of the Canyon.

Columnur Basalt

 One of the most intriguing places formed in the basalt of the Canyon is Kittle Rockshelter, which I mentioned in the last blog post.  Its name historically was the Kitchen Cave, named after one of the pioneering families, F. L. Kitchen.  But in 1999, in a decision contrary to my normal conduct, I rejected using the historic name.  In the 1970's, Lauren Kittle, an amateur archeologist, heard school kids talking about rock art in a cave in Lawyer Canyon where they were having beer parties.  Lauren worked for many years to collect evidence and convince the University of Idaho to conduct a dig.  Much to Lauren's delight, the Flying B Ranch financed the project in 1999.  The title of Brian C. Herbal's Master's thesis describing the results of the dig is, The Prehistory of Lawyer Canyon as Evidenced by Recent Investigations at Kittle Rockshelter Near Kamiah, Idaho, (2001).  Brian records a 10,000-year human use of the shelter in his finely written thesis.  Out of respect for the years of diligence on Lauren Kittle's part, Kitchen Cave is now "Kittle Rockshelter."

While out photographing basalt formations the other day, I stopped by the shelter.  With this special winter-spring melt, Kittle Rockshelter appeared exceptionally mystical to me.

Looking Out of Kittle Rockshelter

Old Cave Art

Newer Cave Art
The rock art in the cave  has weathered significantly over the past decade.  Even so, some people have endeavored to continued the tradition, as evidenced by the picture below.  I wonder what the anthropologist of the future will make of the "New Cave Art" symbol in a couple thousand years or so?  Maybe it's a Medicine Wheel symbol like Circlestone? (Sorry, that first paragraph spirit captured me again for a second.)

I am currently trying to track down Lauren Kittle's early photographs of the art.  They were in envelope "LP0001," the very first envelope in the "Lillian Pethal Archive," a collection she housed at the Kamiah Library.  Lillian showed me the folder there in 1999.  After she past away, the security in the small local library was established primarily on trust.  When the collection was moved to the Kamiah Historical Society Museum, Lauren's folder could no longer be found.  A lot of things had disappeared over the decade.  Nevertheless, I have tracked down a woman who assisted with Lauren's estate when he passed.  I know Lauren had the negatives and numerous copies of his photos.  I shared a picture of Carolyn Merrill's map of the art in the previous blog post.  I believe I can track Lauren's photos down.

(I'm beginning to understand why
Professor Wintz and I are never in the
marketing pictures of the school.)

I am enjoying being a hermit, but Pinky is coming back to the Canyon next week, so my hermit days are coming to a close.  (Thank God!) It has been lonesome without her, and my cooking skills have diminished significantly.  Maybe in the next blog I can share a couple of Chef Ryan's recipes.  He is making swordfish tomorrow I hear.  Maybe I can get some leftovers.  

Bird hunters are descending on the Ranch for the next few weeks.  The lion hunters are five for five so far.  There is only one more coming this season in March.  Six for six would be nice, and Idaho Fish and Game will be almost pleased.  They wish the Flying B could take a few more.  Predator control is a complicated science, and taking as many lions as the biologists say need to be harvested from the Bitterroot Forest is difficult.  I did read an excellent article on the Idaho wolf harvest the other day.  It almost made the science understandable.

  "Understanding Predation Management in Idaho."

As much as I have been struggling with turning the language of geomorphology and science into metaphor and dramatic prose, my writing is going well.  Taking time out to write these blogs helps a great deal in the quest for the voice of Lawyer Canyon.  

Thanks for visiting.