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Redneck Rampage

August 2nd, 2009

Look, I’ve spent my whole life bouncing from city to country and back to the city. And though I could write a book about the good traits that I do not possess, adaptability would never be one of the chapters. Being able to quickly adjust to my surroundings has always been my strong suit.

So when I moved as a kid from Denver, Colorado, where I went to school and hung out with the Coors kids (hey Brad, hey Holly!) to the small Southern Utah town of Richfield, I quickly began to embrace the local culture.

That meant horses, cows, guns, fishing and dirt bikes, to name a few of the things that I grew to love right away.

These days I’m fortunate to live a bit of a hybrid city/country existence, which allows me to  completely indulge my redneck proclivities once or twice a year. This year was special because I got to pass along a lot of my hard-won redneck knowledge to my sons and to my nieces and nephews who were in town for the Fourth of July.

Half the crew.

Half the crew.

It all started innocently enough with a fly fishing trip, which quickly spiraled into a carp hunt with bows and arrows, rocks and clubs. Now let me preface this with a bona fide scientific fact: Carp are  non-native fish that have been degrading waterways all over America, driving native fish to the brink of extinction.

So as a kid, we felt good about diminishing their numbers using nothing but our recurve bows and old cast-off hunting arrows that were missing a fletching or two. My brothers and I developed considerable skill in shooting the overgrown goldfish, even from some distance.

When we spotted a school of especially large carp in the stream flowing out of Fish Lake that used to be teeming with trout, all those old feelings came back. A quick trip to the attic of my dad’s old farm house produced the same bows and arrows we used decades earlier.

Picture in your mind 16 kids and adults stalking along the marshy banks of a stream. When the first carp was spotted, arrows, rocks and makeshift spears were flying everywhere.

Except into the carp itself.

None of my brothers felt the need to use the bows ourselves, wanting our boys and girls to have a go first.

For one hour we chased the school up and down a 300-yard section of that stream with no luck, until finally my oldest son, Spencer, got an arrow into one. It was a glancing blow and the arrow came out fairly quickly, but slowed it just enough for the rest of clan to pile it on.

Be warned, these pics are not for the PETA crowd.

Ten pounds of toughness finally succumbed to 13 wild kids that threw everything they had at it.

Ten pounds of toughness finally succumbed to 13 wild kids that threw everything they had at it.

As is often the case, the object of their obsession suddenly drew pity once they had it on the bank and saw the pain they had inflicted up close and personal.

The biggest goldfish these kids have ever seen.

The biggest goldfish these kids have ever seen.

The kids shook off the melancholy just as soon as another monster was spotted. Using their swarming technique they stirred the second fish into a confused fury, allowing my younger brother, Scott, to make a fine long-range shot. And again everyone felt sad when the prey was lifted onto the bank.

Later that same night, the local news covered a story about the massive effort underway to remove 10 million pounds of carp from Utah Lake in an effort to restore the water quality. We all got over the 20 pounds of carp we took that day pretty quickly.

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Lightning Does Strike Twice…

June 7th, 2009

Over a month after my oldest son got his driver’s license, I finally found the right car–a sweet silver Mini Cooper–and bought it. Not for him, of course. For me.

I had been saving my incredibly reliable nine-year-old Nissan Frontier for him and his little brother to share. That truck had just crossed over the 100K mile mark and had never required anything but an oil change.

Old Faithful and Sugarpotpie on an early spring kayak scouting trip on the Strawberry River.

Old Faithful and Sugarpotpie on an early spring kayak scouting trip on the Strawberry River.

Here is a brief and totally incomplete list of some of the more interesting places that truck had taken us over the years:

  • Mt. Hood, all over it for skiing, fishing, kayaking
  • Eddieville, the Euro-style grand prix MX track in Washington
  • Four National MXs at Washougal, Washington
  • Kayaking trips to Idaho, Washington, Utah
  • Pulled my home-built dory to the put-in on Deso Canyon of the Green River
  • Moab x 10
  • Fishlake and Capitol Reef
  • Caineville and Sideplate Alley
  • Snowbird and Alta, I don’t know, like a hundred times at least

Well, you get the idea. That truck had taken us there and back for the last nine years.

So day one of having my new Mini Cooper to commute to work in, we decide to let our oldest drive himself to school in the truck. He goes at 6:30 am, so we were thrilled to get out of the carpool business. And day one of driving home ended in an accident that totalled the truck.

Poor kid. We’ve all been there. But to have it happen on day one of driving yourself to school just seemed cruel.

Fast forward three weeks. No truck anymore, and still waiting for the insurance payout.

Same son’s report card came in for his sophomore year. All A’s except in Algebra 2, where he ended with a solid B. The kid has been doing what he can for penance: working hard in the yard, helping in the house, and beating the bushes daily for a summer job. Apparently all the dads and moms are taking the typical kids jobs this year.

So when he asks if he can drive to a party a mile from our house, I’m thinking it’s time for him to get back in the saddle.

“Go ahead and take the Mini. Just be extra careful.”

Famous last words. If anyone spots a deer with a really bad headache and the some shattered glass and mirror parts stuck in its hide, please call me. Pictures coming tomorrow.

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Black Hiawatha

February 15th, 2009
This girl got me. I don't know here name because everytime she finger-spelled it, it changed. She'd randomly add letters to the end, something different every day. I think about her every day.
 
 
 
Gary wasn’t surprised when I called him from JFK and said, “I’m a different person, and I’m going back to Africa.” He said, “I figured you’d say that.”

Let me give you the details. I worked in a deaf school, for a charity called Signs of Hope. No, I don’t sign well, but I know enough to get by. Mostly I just played with the kids, painted the school, and helped them pump water. The hardest part was pumping the water, because I tried to carry it on my head like they do. No, the hardest part was leaving the kids. I cried like a baby, and I’ve never been the same since.

I named my favorite girl, Black Hiawatha, because nobody could figure out her name. Every time she finger-spelled it to us, the letters changed. But it consistently started with an “h.” Don’t ask me why I gave her an American Indian name. It just seemed to fit.

I loved all the kids, but she was the one who got me the most. I tried to steal private time with her, but it was next to impossible because the kids swarmed me every time I set foot in the school. Nonetheless, “H” and I connected on a  level that surprised me. The eyes really are a window into the soul.

About two percent of the population in Ghana is deaf, mostly due to heredity and disease. The government is doing all they can to help the people, but because of the numbers, the deaf schools are crowded and inadequate.

Thousands of deaf, school-age kids wander the streets because their families can’t afford to send them to school. What’s more, they have no way to communicate because most families don’t sign. I was blown away at the number of kids I met in the school who had deaf siblings and parents.

So I’m learning to sign for real now. And I’ve joined the founder of the charity as the marketing/communications person. Once we get our press kit out, you’ll be seeing a donate now button on Gary’s blog.

Oh yea, I did see a few Africanesque things while I was there–an elephant in the wild, a bunch of crazy monkeys, many thousands of beautiful people, and a rainforest full of snakes, spiders and a freaky suspension bridge.

Check out the photos. But I have to say, they don’t do the country–or the people–justice. I’ve been to a lot of places around the world, but nothing can compare to what I saw in Ghana.

I’m smitten.

 

Meet Akwea. Her grandmother, mother and uncle were also born deaf.

Meet Akwea. Her mother, grandmother, brother and uncle are also deaf.

This is Akwea's grandma and brother. They are sitting at the door of their house in one of the remote deaf villages.

This is Akwea's grandma and brother. They are sitting at the door of their house in one of the remote deaf villages.

The boys in the school were tough and confident.

The boys in the school are tough and confident.

The kids line up for breakfast every morning. If they're late, they pay for with hunger and sometimes a hard slap to the head. Then they turn around and take it out on their friends. I noticed early on that few tears are shed over physical pain.

The kids line up for breakfast every morning. If they're late, they pay for it with hunger and sometimes a hard slap to the head. Then they turn around and take it out on their friends. I noticed early on that few tears are shed over physical pain.

 

The kids work and study hard. I told my boys the girls could easily whip them in just about everything.

The kids work and study hard. I told my boys the girls could easily whip them in just about everything. By the way, the girls have their heads shaved--mostly because of lice.

 
 
I've never been around happier people.

I've never been around happier people.

Seeing this elephant in the wild made my heart skip a beat.

Seeing this elephant in the wild made my heart skip a beat.

 

 

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