I know, I know… I promised to cover our train trip on this post but I got side-tracked (in more ways than one). On Saturday, I was diligently working away in our library writing about the cast of characters who ride the rails when I looked out the window and noticed three deer madly dashing around our yard with their tails straight up signaling “Danger! Danger! Danger!” They charged up the hill, jumped the five-foot fence into the neighbor’s yard, did a 180, flew over the fence again and disappeared into our canyon going all-out. If you’ve ever watched frightened deer running, you know how fast this is. Seconds afterwards they burst out of the canyon and repeated the process. I called Peggy in to watch.
“Something big that likes venison must be visiting and the deer smell it,” I speculated and suggested that the local cougar might be back.
A few minutes later the deer had hightailed it up the mountain. Our property, which is normally busy with deer, squirrels, numerous birds, and other wildlife, had become eerily silent. Even the ever-squawky jays that I depend on to tell me when dangerous predators— like the local cat— are about, were uttering nary a peep.
Since we needed to do our daily mailbox walk and a fair amount of snow from the storm that I featured in my last post hadn’t melted, I proposed we keep an eye out for cougar tracks. The walk is close to a mile with the mailbox being at the halfway point. We do a round trip, leaving by our back road and returning by our front road. There would ample opportunity to look for tracks.
We found them near the mailbox! I confess I felt a bit like the deer, ready to raise my tail and dash off.
We were on the homestretch, heading up the hill to our home when we saw the next set of tracks. They came out of the canyon and headed straight for our house. That added a bit of excitement (he noted in understatement). Peggy and I quickly checked around the house. Sure enough, the big cougar had wandered around in our backyard the night before and possibly onto the snowless section of our deck. If so, it would have been about six feet away from where we were sleeping. That’s Peggy’s side of the bed. (Grin)
Things were more or less back to normal on Sunday. The deer were back, a bit jumpy, but none-the-less munching away. The bird feeder was a circus with six species contending over who got the sunflower seeds. And three squirrels were busy chasing each other in a row with love on their minds. They shot up, down, and around trees nose to tail, nose to tail.
Monday, Martin Luther King’s Birthday, had a slight twist. There was no mail, so we decided to hike up into the forest where we had taken our snow hike. This time, however we would veer off to visit what we call the bear cave. Not that we’ve ever seen a bear; it’s an old gold mining operation. We named it the bear cave to give our grandkids more of a sense of adventure when they visited. I once took our grandson Cody up there when he was five on a bear hunt with our sling shots. He’d been excited to go on an adventure with Grandpa. The closer we had got to the cave the more reluctant he had become. We’d stood back from the cave and lobbed pellets in to scare the bear out.
This time, my lovely wife was the reluctant one. She suggested we go for a walk on the road instead. Could it be that the cougar had her spooked? I laughed and away we went up the mountain. We had made the cutoff when we saw a set of huge tracks heading in the general direction of the cave. Bear tracks. Peggy let me take a couple of photos before she insisted that we beat a hasty retreat.
Following are some photos of the various tracks we came across.
NEXT POST: The train trip! Unless, of course, someone else comes to visit. 🙂
I am taking a brief break from the desert Southwest, today. Peggy and I just returned from a three day trip over to the Oregon Coast and explored the interesting town of Charleston near Coos Bay.
That we ended up in Charleston, Oregon was a complete happenstance. Peggy and I wanted to make a quick trip to Shore Acres State Park on the Oregon coast. The park puts on an annual Christmas display of over 300,000 lights that feature coastal themes focusing on Pacific Ocean wildlife. Normally we take Quivera, our RV, and camp at Sunset Bay State Park, which is just down the hill. This time we were motelling it and I found one named Captain John’s in Charleston. The town is three miles away from Shore Acres. It was just a convenience— until we went for a walk.
NEXT POST: Back to Georgia O’Keeffe at Ghost Ranch and Abiquiu in New Mexico.
I thought that normalcy had returned, that I could get back to putting up posts and reading blogs and commenting on posts and responding to comments. Ha! The keys on my laptop went bad. So I jumped to my backup computer. Bad decision. It crashed. Not just crashed, mind you, but crashed with two long posts I had just written about the 1908 22,000 mile automobile race from New York to Paris. It was a doozy. The race started in February— and no one had ever driven across the US in winter. Then the cars were transferred to Siberia by ship for the next leg! I became interested in the race when I found the actual vehicle that won, a 1907 Thomas Flyer, in the National Auto Museum in Reno when I was traveling down Highway 395.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the clock was ticking. Peggy and I are taking off on a one month trip through Arizona and New Mexico and it looked like I would be computer-less. Horror of horrors! So I went out and bought a new MacBook Pro. It arrived yesterday. We leave tomorrow. I couldn’t have cut it much closer.
It’a a beauty. The screen features a sand dune that adjusts to ambient light. Makes me want to head back to Death Valley. It’s so fast, I’ve named it Jack, as in jack rabbit. I have another Jack name for it when it misbehaves…
I’ll rewrite my auto race stories but I just wanted to give you an update on why I am still playing hooky from the web. Here are a few recent photos…
It’s time for a quick break from my Highway 395 series to bring you up to date on current events in our never-boring life such as a logging operation in our backyard. I’ll be back to Highway 395 and Virginia City in my next post.A note on photos: Peggy and I shared photographer’s duties on this post.
Removing 43 Douglas firs from our five acres was not anything Peggy and I looked forward to, either from an aesthetic or financial perspective. Global warming didn’t give us a choice. Severe drought weakened a number of our trees and voracious pine beetles took quick advantage of the situation. We decided to be proactive in hopes of slowing down or stopping the beetles.
I am no stranger to logging operations. My father was the electrician for a lumber mill when I was growing up. We considered the mill with its logging pond as part of our extended play area, much to the dismay of the nighttime and weekend watchman. He had an extensive vocabulary of swear words that he liked to share with us. We even had a logger with his logging truck living next door. He’d wake us up at 5:00 a.m. on summer mornings as he dashed off to collect his first load of logs. Since then, my backpacking trips have occasionally taken me through areas that were being logged.
None of this is anything like having a logging operation in your backyard, however. I didn’t actually hear anyone shouting “Timber!” but the buzzing sound of chainsaws accompanied by the crashing sounds of large Douglas firs (some over a hundred feet in length) was our constant companion for a week.
And Other Events…
NEXT POST: I return to my Highway 395 series and visit Virginia City where silver was king and Samuel Clemens adopted the name of Mark Twain.
I was with Marsh when he died on June 2, gently holding his shoulder. His hospice nurse, C, was holding his hand and quietly taking him through a beautiful meditation. She included the deer herd that had come down off the hill and stood around the RV. Coincidence? Probably. We normally have three or four that live on our property. But this time there were nine or ten. The extras had shown up when Marsh had come in from wintering in Arizona. Last summer he house-sat for us while Peggy and I were backpacking on the PCT. He was very generous with apples, a fact the local deer had shared with their country cousins.
When I went out to tell Peggy that Marsh had passed, the deer herd had disappeared. Only Floppy, named for her ears, was still there. She was Marsh’s favorite and had always been able to talk him out of an apple. She waited until the hearse arrived and took Marsh’s body away. She watched as it drove up the hill and then walked over and sniffed his chair. A final farewell, perhaps. She then hurried off to our canyon where she had hidden her fawn. I had hoped she would bring the baby by while Marsh was still alive, but a cougar hunting in our area made her more wary than usual. Our next-door neighbor had called three weeks earlier to tell us that the cougar was sleeping in her yard. We were all more cautious.
I found Peggy busy watering the honeysuckle Marsh had urged that we plant in our yard. It was her way of honoring him. He and I had grown up in Diamond Springs, California in the 40s and 50s with a large trellis of it outside our bedroom window. It was packed with flowers in the spring. At night when we went to bed, its delightful fragrance would come drifting in our open windows. Peggy had planted ours in April and it was in full bloom in May. Each time my brother walked by it, even when he could barely walk, he would stop and admire it, a fitting, living memorial.
Utilizing Oregon’s Death with Dignity law, Marsh had chosen the time and place of his death. When he had called in March, he had told me that his tongue and throat cancer were back. He had fought a valiant battle in Florida five years earlier. It had allowed him to continue doing what he loved to do— wander. He had spent two more years migrating between North Carolina and Florida as he had for 13 years and then moved West to travel between Oregon and Arizona. At 78, he had decided to let the disease run its course. There would be no ambulances, no emergency rooms, no ICU’s, and no tubes keeping him alive into insensibility. He requested that I be empowered to make decisions through an advanced care directive and a dual power of attorney to make sure his wishes were followed if he were incapacitated. I drafted a will for him based on his desires and we signed him up for hospice care. It was his intention to die in our back yard.
Marshall’s preference was to simply go to sleep and not wake up, peaceably drifting off to nothingness or wherever else death might take him. While neither of us is religious, we both believe the universe is a wondrous place, full of the unknown. He had gone through the process of signing up for Oregon’s Death with Dignity as an option. It was a detailed process. Two physicians had to agree that Marshall had less than six months to live and that he was mentally capable of making the decision to end his life. He had to state his desires both orally and in writing some 15 days apart. And, in the end, he had to be able to sit up and drink the medication on his own without help. Two End of Life volunteers, Tall M and Short M, had met with us to discuss what the procedure would entail if he chose to use it. Everyone, including doctors, end of life volunteers and hospice workers had emphasized that he could change his mind at any time, right up until he drank the medication. It was his decision— and only his decision to make.
As the weeks passed, Marshall failed rapidly. His tongue and throat cancer made it difficult to eat, drink and talk. Eating or drinking anything caused him to cough. Never big, his weight had dropped from 120 to 85 pounds from February until June. His skin draped over his bones. During his last week, his food had consisted of two 8-ounce bottles of Ensure. Earlier, he had desperately wanted to eat something else. He tried scrambled eggs and could only eat a couple of bites. “But those bites tasted so good!” he had exclaimed. I made him a fruit smoothie as recommended by his hospice team that he drank with delight. I cooked him one of his favorite veggies, acorn squash, to the consistency of baby food and he ate a whole bowl. But those were exceptions, and he didn’t want more.
When it became obvious that he had only a week or two left and he would be confined to bed, he decided to it was time to end his life. Being fiercely independent, he couldn’t imagine lying in bed while someone attended to his every need. He set Monday, June 3, four days away. Marsh decided to spend Thursday outside enjoying nature, which is what he had been happily doing for 17 years, except when driven in by the weather to his tent, van or RV. He had me cut up a bowl of apples for his deer visitors and insisted that I cover the apples with water so they would be fresh. Peggy and I sat with him. That evening, I joined him in the RV to keep him company. He asked for help walking to his bed and collapsed in my arms. I had to carry him. I worried that he had waited too long, that he would end up helpless, unable to meet the requirements of Death with Dignity.
His hospice nurse came in on Friday morning. I am convinced that these women and men who devote their lives to helping people ease their way out of life are as close to angels as we come on this earth. I say this not only for the expertise, peace and comfort they brought to Marshall, but for the knowledge and comfort they brought to Peggy and me. The End of Life volunteers that functioned as a support team under Oregon’s Death with Dignity law were equally caring and supportive. C talked to Marsh about his rapidly ebbing life. And Marsh, out of caution, moved his date from Monday to Sunday morning at 10:30. He also sat up and drank an Ensure in under ten minutes to prove that he could swallow the medication in the time required. Time is important because the medication contains a potent medicine that puts you to sleep in a few minutes. You need to drink all of the medicine before then.
While Marsh was meeting with C, I drove into Medford and picked up his medicine. Only two pharmacies in Medford carry it. Again, there are stringent safety rules. I produced both my driver’s license and my dual power of attorney. The doctor’s prescription had the wrong date for Marshall’s birth. Fortunately, the POA showed the correct date. I waited while the mistake was cleared up with the doctor. The whole experience felt strange and almost surreal. I was collecting the medicine that would lead to my brother’s death.
On Saturday Morning, I joined Marsh in his RV at 9:00. As I walked in he gave me a big smile and a thumbs-up. He had managed to get dressed, was sitting at his breakfast table, had drunk another Ensure, and had written up a to-do list for me. Among other things, he wanted to make sure that his beer found a good home. He’d bought a couple of cases of Miller Ice at Walmart to see him through his last weeks and then couldn’t drink it. (I gave it to Ed, my barber. Ed greets Pacific Crest Trail hikers as they cross the Oregon border into California with food and drink. Having hiked over 700 miles of the trail myself last summer, I knew how much the beer would be appreciated.)
I sat with Marsh all day while we listened to music from his 40s, 50s and 60s collection, sad songs and love songs from an almost forgotten era. He could barely talk. We communicated when necessary by writing notes. Mainly we sat in quiet, supportive silence as the music took us back in time to when we were young. He checked his watch often as the seconds, minutes and hours wound down.
I was out early on Sunday morning. I knew Marsh would want to be up and I needed some time on my own to prepare for the day. At eight I went out with a cut up apple and left it where I keep a deer block to supplement the does’ diets when they are nursing. I thought of the apple as an offering. Decades earlier, when I had been a Peace Corps Volunteer in West Africa, I often found food left at the base of towering cottonwoods as I hiked down jungle trails. It had been left for the spirits that resided in the trees. I’d been fascinated by the ritual. As I placed the apple on the deer block, I asked the forest spirits, or whatever gods that were listening— if any— to make Marshall’s passing easy and give him peace.
Marsh was in his bedroom. “I am so glad you came early,” he whispered. “I tried to call you on the walkie-talkie but couldn’t make it work.” Technology wasn’t his thing, to put it mildly. He was still in bed, unable to dress. I helped him pull on his pants and socks. He had me pick out a handsome, long-sleeved pullover. He wanted to look good. Marsh asked for my hand in standing up but insisted on walking out to his couch, carefully holding onto things as he went. It was to be his last walk; he wanted to do it on his own. He sat up straight, fighting sleep. Peggy came in, sat down beside him, and held his hand. She and I shared stories and even laughter, helping Marshall pass the time and letting what we feel for each other include him. He started coughing so I offered to place some liquid morphine under his tongue. C had told us it would relax him and help reduce the coughing. Marshall agreed since coughing might interfere with taking the medicine. Although the hospice team had brought the morphine on its first visit, he had refused to use it. He was proud of the fact that he had reached 78 without prescribed medications and had been feeling only minimal pain.
C drove down our road at 9:30 and joined us. While hospice nurses are not allowed to mix or provide direct help in consuming the medicine, they are allowed to give comfort. Their presence is totally volunteer. Marsh had wanted C to be there and she had readily said yes. I brought out the anti-nausea medicine he was supposed to take. Throwing up was not an option. I told Carrie some of my favorite Marshall stories while we waited for the End of Life volunteers, again helping him pass the time. He grinned when I told his favorite tales.
Tall M and Short M arrived at 10:00. Peggy and I went into our house to give the three time to meet with Marsh. Their job was to assure that he still wanted to take the medication and to determine whether he would be able to sit up and drink it. Short M told us later that he had dozed off while talking with them. He had awakened with a start. “Am I dead?” he had asked. All four, including Marsh, had shared a laugh. After a very long 15 minutes, the EOL volunteers came in and told us that he still wanted to take the medication and that they felt he could manage it.
While Peggy stayed with the volunteers to assure they had what the needed to prepare the medicine, I went out to share my last minutes with my brother.
Tall M came in with the medicine in a glass and handed it to Marshall. She also brought apple juice. The medicine is said to be extremely bitter. The apple juice would help counter the taste. There was absolute silence as Marsh took his first sip: silence out of concern and out of respect. The concern was real, intense. Could Marsh finish the drink before he fell asleep? Would drinking the medicine cause a coughing fit? Would his passage be easy? While people drinking the medicine go to sleep immediately, it normally takes 30 minutes or so to die. It can take up to 20 hours.
The seconds passed, becoming minutes. Marsh moved slowly. Stopping to look at the glass or to sip apple juice. I quietly spoke encouraging words to him. We all did. Then he was finished. He motioned for the apple juice, raising it toward his lips as C began her quiet meditation. It never made it. A tear formed in the corner of his eye. I gave his shoulder a squeeze and whispered “We love you.” And he died. A quiet, dignified death.
Peggy went out later to tell him goodbye. The EOL volunteers had laid him out. “He looked so peaceful,” Peggy told me. “His eyes were closed and his lips were parted like he was sleeping.” Or maybe he was smiling.
You can blame Leonardo for today’s post. That’s Leonardo as in Leonardo Da Vinci. I was reading Walter Isaacson’s magnificent biography about him on Monday and he attributed Da Vinci’s genius to “an omnivorous curiosity, which bordered on the fanatical, and an acute power of observation that was eerily intense.” So that’s what it takes to be a genius, I thought, and determined to test the theory by curiously observing my surroundings in an intense, eerie way. A large toad stared back at me. A sometimes doorstop, sometimes bookend frog was lying down on the job. I don’t know if my I.Q. jumped, but I did observe that weird things were hanging out in our home. I decided it was a subject worthy of a blog post.
Who is weirder than Bone? You’ve all met him if you follow this blog. This past summer he hiked down the PCT with me. And of course he loves Burning Man. He has traveled to over 50 countries with people on adventures that have ranged from being blessed by the Pope to deep sea diving. There is much more. What you may not know about Bone, however, is that when he is at our house and isn’t carousing with his wife Bonette or the jackass Eeyore, he likes to hang out on a pedestal.
Many of the ‘strange’ art pieces found in our home reflect that both Peggy and I like so-called ‘primitive’ art. Like children’s art, it carries a level of creativity and even power that is lost as children and cultures ‘grow up’ and lose their connection with nature, “omnivorous curiosity,” and “acute power of observation.” The mola at the top of the post was obtained by Peggy in Panama from an indigenous tribe. A number of modern artists such as Picasso have used primitive art for inspiration.
Our kids, recognizing our quirkiness, have contributed some of the weird things but I am usually the target. Mom gets more practical things, like chocolate.
Much of what we have simply reflects our own unique brand of quirkiness and can be found outside of our home as well as inside.
There are more, lots more in fact, but you get the idea. And that leads me to a question: What strange things hang out at your house?
I drove into the Pleasant Valley Campground near Tillamook, Oregon and there were bunnies everywhere, including this magnificent creature.
With Easter having arrived, I couldn’t resist re-blogging/modifying a post I did on some really cute bunnies a while back.
I had stopped over in Tillamook, Oregon to visit the cheese factory. It sends out tons of the stuff annually. I assume all over the world. I watched women whip around 50 pound blocks of cheese like they had been working out with Arnold Schwarzenegger. This made me hungry, so I ordered a sample plate of Tillamook ice cream. Bad idea. It’s really good. I mean really, really good. But eating all of those calories made me tired. It was time to find a campground.
And this is where the bunnies came in. I pulled into Pleasant Valley Campground, a few miles south of Tillamook, and was greeted by (drum roll please) RABBITS, dozens of them. There were black ones, and brown ones, and white ones, all of whom seemed to be chasing each other around in a glorious romp to make more bunnies. After all, isn’t that what rabbits do beside deliver Easter eggs?
Ignoring the obvious, for the moment, I asked the owner where all the rabbits came from. “Oh they used to live across the street,” she informed me. “One day, a few moved over here. They didn’t do any harm and the campers seemed to like them. So I let them stay.” The rest is history, as they say. Anyway, here are some photos I took of the rabbits. Enjoy.
I am going for the “awww” factor with this baby bunny.
This was only a few of the rabbits, but it makes the point.
This furry gal was napping when I snuck up on her, but then, her eyes popped open…
And she was all wiggly ears and twitchy nose.
It rained hard that night. I discovered I had several rabbits using my van as shelter. The step is my doorstep. My flashlight caught their eyes. Scary. Was it a case of when good bunnies go bad?
Nah. I’ll finish off with another baby bunny. It was cold out and this tyke looks cold. I almost invited it into my van to warm up.
I don’t know how many of these bunnies participate in delivering Easter Eggs, but any of them would be welcomed here! A very Happy Easter to our friends throughout the blogging world— Curt and Peggy
Our son Tony, his wife Cammie and our grandkids are visiting from Florida and wanted to go skiing, so we took them up to Mt. Ashland, which is where I started my journey south on the Pacific Crest Trail this past summer. It was a gorgeous day with lots of fresh snow so I thought I would share some of the photos.
NEXT POST: A wrap up on Burning Man’s mutant vehicles.
The climate here in Southern Oregon along the Upper Applegate River is worth crowing about, however. Mild winters are hemmed in by colorful falls and warm springs. The summer can get a tad warm at times, but they are mainly tolerable. Only the seemingly endless fires of August and September are a royal pain in the derrière. Pardon my French.
What snow we do get is always an invitation to go for a walk. I like to see what animals have left their tracks for me to peruse and to admire the beauty of the freshly fallen snow. And, of course, my camera goes along. It insists. As a result, you are pretty much guaranteed to get my annual snow post. I feel obligated. (grin) So here it is!
NEXT POST: I’ve been working hard at going through and categorizing and culling out my umpteen thousand Burning Man photos. Assuming I finish, it will be fun to go through and highlight some of the better ones. I’ve created 12 different categories!
One of the does that hangs out on our property brought her baby by for a visit yesterday. The small Canon Powershot camera I am taking on my backpack trek makes a small ding noise when it focuses. The deer were trying to figure out what the noise was.
The deer know we are taking off on our thousand mile backpack trip. They have been checking in on us regularly here on our property on Oregon’s Applegate River. We’ll be sitting in our living room and a head will pop up in our window. It can be disconcerting until you get used to it. I think they are eager to reclaim their territory. “Haven’t you left yet?” Last time Peggy and I were gone for an extended period of time, we came back and found them living around our house, using it for shade. They had even settled in on our back porch. This year they will be in for a bit of a surprise, my brother Marshall will be house sitting for us. They like Marshall, however. He’s almost as wild as they are. He sits outside and talks to them, buys them apples, and keeps the bird bath full as a deer ‘watering hole.’
We are used to deer peering in our back window, but not our living room window. So, we were a little surprised when this gal started coming by to see whether we were home.
Yesterday, one of the does brought her week old baby by for a visit. I thought you might like some of the photos I took. Enjoy.
Hi there. I am your new neighbor.
Are you talking to me?
I’m all ears.
We both are, in fact.
I think I’ll go prancing.
You won’t believe what i discovered, Mom. It has two legs.
It’s just the human, dear deer.
How about a bit of motherly love?
TUESDAY’S POST: Wrap up on preparation for the thousand mile trek.
FRIDAY’S POST: Wrap up of my MisAdventure series for now. It’s not smart to cuss out the chief of police of a town whose historical name is Hangtown.
The Bush Devil Ate Sam is an important record and a serious story, yet told easily, and with delightful humor. This is one of the most satisfying books I have ever read, because it entertained me thoroughly AND made me feel better informed. —Hilary Custance Green: British Author... Click on the image to learn more about my book, the Bush Devil Ate Sam, and find out where it can be ordered.
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