Thursday, January 31, 2019
How cold is cold = cold enough to freeze waterfalls. Here is a view looking outward from beneath Minnehaha Falls in Minneapolis. What is called an "arctic vortex" or "polar vortex" is in the midst of holding captive the Upper Midwest, bringing the coldest temperatures since the mid-1990s.
Since this turned out to be a very long post, I will move right along. The first song included today is, "It's Only Make Believe," written by Conway Twitty and Jack Nance, and recorded by Twitty in 1958. It became a No. 1 hit for him and later for Glen Campbell, as well. I sort of stumbled on to this cover of it by Ronni Rae Rivers. She recorded it in the Bojangles Saloon & Restaurant at Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia, which seems as good a place as any since she was born in Australia and drifts back and forth between there and Texas. I like her rendition and I like the sign just as the song is getting under way: "Cowboys leave your guns at the bar."
The second song is, "Tiny Dancer," by Elton John, who sings it here, with lyrics from Bernie Taupin. The title of this post comes from the action in the video for this song:
Blue jean baby
Seamstress for the band
You'll marry a music man
Ballerina, you must have seen her ....
Ballerina, soon it will be summer ....
As I sit here writing this on Wednesday, January 30, 2019, ten in the morning, the actual air temperature outside is minus 29 degrees Fahrenheit (which translates to minus 34 Celsius). I guess that puts the wind chill temperature somewhere in the neighborhood of minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
What are the results of this weather "occurrence?"
For a start, there will be no mail delivery in Minnesota and all or parts of a number of other Midwestern states. Classes have been cancelled in every public school and at most, if not all colleges. Many businesses have closed and thousands of individuals are staying at home.
Minus 29 is nothing to sneeze at, but when I was a boy I can recall many days similar to this, some of them not only frigid, but in the grips of a blizzard, when I picked up my .22 caliber rifle, pulled my Golden Labrador (yes, golden, not yellow) from his snug as a bug in a rug nest and headed out the door to circle the nearest lake. There were times when it meant walking backwards against the wind or finding shelter behind a tree for a few minutes, but such excursions truly were enjoyable experiences.
Personally, I have experienced the actual air temperature at minus 56 degrees Fahrenheit and below zero weather which lasted a few weeks. It took time to adjust to it. It was tolerable, but no fun at all.
Life and living the hardships it brought and continues to bring on the American prairies are a fascination of mine. One book, "The Children's Blizzard," by David Laskin, describes weather conditions of the harshest magnitude. Among the words in the book are these: "In three minutes, the front subtracted eighteen degrees from the air's temperature. Then evening gathered in, and temperatures kept dropping in the northwest gale. By morning on Friday, January 13, 1888, more than a hundred children lay dead on the Dakota-Nebraska prairie."
The last quarter of the Nineteenth Century was an era filled with stories of horrendous weather conditions. Here are more words from the book: "They called the winter of 1880-81 the Snow Winter because the snowstorms started early and never let up. A three-day blizzard took the settlers of the Upper Midwest by surprise on October 15, and after that, snowstorms came at regular intervals ...."
".... Mary Paulson King, a child of immigrant Norwegian parents in Yellow Medicine County, Minnesota, remembers opening the door on the morning of October 15 to a wall of snow that 'just fell in the house.' Her father had to get up on a chair and make a hole in the snow in order to crawl out."
Laura Ingalls Wilder made the Snow Winter the subject of her novel, "The Long Winter." Every detail in the book matches up exactly with the memoirs of pioneers. By midwinter, Laura and her sisters had learned to scan the northwest horizon for "the cloud," the single sooty cloud that set the stage for another storm.
"No one knew how soon the blizzard would come again," wrote Wilder. "At any moment the cloud might rise and come faster than any horses could run."
The Little House books were made into an overly emotional television series in the 1970s and 1980s, but the books themselves are sparse and unsentimental. Wilder took for granted that schoolgirls, even her prim, ladylike sister, Mary, do not flinch when the conversation turns to death by exposure:
"'What would you do if you were caught in a blizzard, Mary?' Minnie Johnson was asking."
...."'I'd dig into a snowbank and let the snow cover me up. I don't think you'd freeze to death in a snowbank. Would you, Laura?'"
"'Well, what would you do, Laura, if you got caught in a blizzard?' Minnie insisted."
"'I wouldn't get caught,' Laura answered."
Actually, Mary was on the right track. There is an adage probably as old as time itself: The wind is your enemy; the snow is your friend. I have spent more than a few frigid, stormy nights outdoors warm and comfortable in a "snowhouse" or an "icehouse." Residents of the far/far/far north have done so for generations.
Sometimes I think it a blessing, sometimes I think it a curse that my interests lead me toward attempting to see into the past and to understand it. This I do by reading books by such people as Willa Cather, Frederick Manfred, Hamlin Garland, Mari Sandoz, Laura Engels Wilder, Herbert Krause, Ole Rolvaag and many others, some of whom actually experienced the winters of the 1880s and the horrific blizzards of that era and every other hardship imaginable. I also practice "archaeology by experiment" .... I might explain that further another day, but I assume most can figure it out.
One writer wrote: ".... in a way the entire pioneer period was a kind of children's disaster. Children were the unpaid workforce of the prairie, the hands that did the work no one else had the time for or the stomach for .... a safe and carefree childhood was a luxury the pioneer prairie could not afford." That certainly is a stark contrast to the "participation trophies" for children of today.
In, "My Antonia," Cather wrote of the 1888 blizzard: "It was as if we were being punished for loving the loveliness of summer."
This post started out on one note and ended on another, but I guess that is fine since both are relevant to life and to living as it was back then and as it is now ....
Thursday, January 24, 2019
Memories are nothing more than ghosts that we let in
Don't be afraid of them, do you remember when ....
The United States Marine Corps was born in 1775. Sometime between that date and 2019 I managed to enter and to exit with both my body and my mind unscathed. I think I can make the same claim about my soul. In as much as I can tell, it remains intact. I joined on a snowy, bitterly cold January 24.
No, I did not sign on because I wanted to escape a Minnesota winter to the warmer climes of California or South Carolina or Virginia. I joined in mid-winter, but actually did not go active until the following summer -- during which training often was cut short on red flag days = dangerously high heat and humidity.
I have some music with ties to the Corps today, beginning with the Jon Bon Jovi crew performing, "When We Were Us," a song from the band's most recent album. I am not saying Bon Jovi ever was in the Marine Corps -- but, both his mama and his papa were Marines. They, in fact, met while they were Marines and one might surmise there never would have been a Jon-boy if there never had been a Corps.
Just to fill in a few other blanks, Jon Bon Jovi was born John Bongiovi, Jr. in Perth Amboy, New Jersey. He was the son of former Marine barber John Bongiovi, Sr. and Marine Carol Sharkey. Carol Sharkey also was one of the first Playboy Bunnies.
Originally published in 1955 in French as, "Je t'appartiens,” the song, "Let It Be Me," became popular worldwide with an English version by Don and Phil Everly in 1959, known professionally as the Everly Brothers.
If you listen to some of the music by the Everly Brothers, you probably would never guess these boys were in the Marine Corps. Sort of an unusual mix of bedfellows turn up there. A few hundred singers and groups have recorded the song, but we will go with a live performance by the brothers on this one.
Just to round out the mix, also included is one of my personal favorites, a video of a Marine serenading a pizza delivery girl at Camp LeJeune in North Carolina. He actually serenaded any delivery person, but this time one of the other Marines had a camera and taped it. Fast forward in time and the singing Marine opened his own pizza shop and named it Pizza Lady ....
Semper fi, baby ....
Monday, January 21, 2019
I have somewhere between thirty and forty holsters in a variety of styles -- shoulder, belt, pocket, inside-the-waist-band, cross-draw, whatever -- so I certainly have no need for another. But, and that is a very big but .... hmmmm .... I have wanted a "chest holster" for a few years and finally decided it was now or never. A quality chest holster costs around a hundred dollars or more. The primary reason I never have bought one is because I am a penny pincher by nature. What you see here is my latest acquisition -- a handmade, Diamond D chest holster specifically tailored for a Model 1911 pistol. The Wasilla, Alaska, firm has a reputation for producing the best chest holsters on the market .... and, they should be the best when the price tag is $175. Only custom-made holsters cost more. That is nearly twice what I ever have paid for any other holster. Only boys who are filthy rich or those who spend every dime they make on firearms and related gear will toss out that much money on a holster. And no, that is not me wearing it. The photographs are from a Diamond D advertisement. I have been wearing mine around the house and yard since it arrived, and I believe it would be a bargain at twice the price. It is the most comfortable and convenient holster I own, and it could even serve as a concealed-carry holster with a heavy shirt or a coat. I think I will save my pennies and buy another one or two to fit other handguns I own.
History repeats itself .... sort of ....
I stumbled onto the blogs in August 2008 following a young lady who moved here from her newspaper blog. I started my own blog in January 2009, about two weeks before I began this one on January 21, 2009. Today is the anniversary of this blog -- the tenth anniversary.
My first blog centered on the outdoors and, more specifically, on canoeing. I dropped it about two weeks after I began this one, figuring I could include anything I wanted to write about the outdoors here, but a blog specifically about the outdoors was rather limiting in scope. I like to talk/write about anything and everything, as some of you probably have noticed.
Back on point: Ten years here on this blog, writing these posts -- an entire decade -- not even a blink in the concept of time, but a long time in another sense: Think of it in terms of the age of an individual transitioning from a ten-year-old child to a twenty-year-old adult. In that sense, it represents a tremendous change. In the instance of me being here ten years, I cannot be certain what it represents .... lost in space, maybe ....
I know a thing or two I've learned from you
When I think of the band, the Byrds, I think of Roger McGuinn, who actually is the only member whose name I do know. When I think of the Flying Burrito Brothers .... well, I do not think of them because I cannot recall ever hearing of the group until recently. When I think of Emmylou Harris, I think only of Emmylou Harris. When I think of Ingram Cecil Connor III, I think of .... whoa .... wait .... what was that name again?
The name does not ring any bells. Neither does the name Gram Parsons, which was Connor's stage name. If he had not died in 1973 at age twenty-seven from a fatal mix of booze and narcotics, his name might well be as recognizable as those of Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts who are the primary ingredients of the Rolling Stones. Parsons was their contemporary and a particular friend of Keith Richards. The two even performed, "Wild Horses," together, a song Parsons recorded before the version by the Stones came out and one some contend was written by Richards and Jagger for Parsons to sing.
Parsons is best known for his work with the Byrds and the Flying Burrito Brothers. He popularized what he called "Cosmic American Music," a hybrid of country, rhythm and blues, soul, folk and rock. He also recorded as a solo artist and with the International Submarine Band. Parsons has been labeled the "cosmic cowboy" and called by some the father of country-rock.
I am not a particular fan of Emmylou Harris, but I do listen to "her stuff" now and then, and that is how I encountered Parsons. She and he often sang together. Harris was divorced and Parsons was unhappily married; feel free to speculate. That is enough about Parsons for now. Anyone who is curious can easily learn more and listen to more by popping his name into an internet search pattern. I hope you do. In the meanwhile, here are Parsons and Harris singing, "Love Hurts."
Also present is a rendition of a song originally composed and performed by members of the band Nightwish. The piece is entitled, "Ghost Love Score," but the performers here are odds and ends musicians from a variety of countries. The singer is a young lady from Brazil, Juliana Furlani. A complete list of the performers is at the close. I have grown somewhat attached to this song. It is one of my favorite "chair dancing" tunes and I listen to it frequently.
Saturday, January 5, 2019
I frequently mention how I am drawn to water -- especially to "big water" -- like a moth is drawn to flame, which is why this photograph is here this day. It is a screen shot from the Jon Bon Jovi video, "New Year's Day," that I used in my December 31, 2018, post. The image so captured my memory and my inner longings that I thought of using it then, but let stand the "time machine" illustration .... sort of a superstition I have about switching things out at the last moment. Together, the water/the boat/the sky in the photograph form my conception of what I would have life be for me and, very probably, the manner of life I would follow if I could do it all over again ....
The words in this post are some I wrote a few days before Christmas, but did not publish them then. I am running them now because it bothers me to "throw away" anything I have written, no matter how nonsensical or irrelevant it might seem. It sort of goes along with liking to hear myself talk .... hmmmm .... while that is true, actually and more importantly topics which are illusory and off the beaten path interest me because they are among those which form questions which probably can never be answered.
Accompanying the post is an old piece, "Salt of the Earth," by the Rolling Stones. I have seen the Stones perform twice and like a couple of their songs, although no one could ever accuse me of being a particular fan. The second video involves segments of the band's 2005-06 tour. No matter what one thinks of the music, the Stones' ability to be a vital element of the music scene for 57 (fifty-seven) years and a band which currently is on tour yet today deserves respect.
The salt of the earth
I began to think/wonder about the "salt of the earth" expression from the Bible a few weeks ago .... it probably had to do with the approach of Christmas. I do have a King James version I received on the occasion of being confirmed into a religious faith as a teenage boy, so I fetched it (how is that for a word?) and proceeded to do a bit of research. Here is what I found, according to Matthew 5:13, King James Version:
"Ye are the salt of the earth: but if the salt have lost his savour, wherewith shall it be salted? it is thenceforth good for nothing, but to be cast out, and to be trodden under foot of men."
Utilizing the internet, I found a version "translated" into more contemporary words. According to the New International Version: "You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot."
Again, from the internet: Matthew is quoting Jesus Christ and is describing a time when Jesus leads his disciples up to a mountaintop to teach them and there he tells them that they are the salt of the earth. Salt was a valuable commodity in the ancient world. Salt was expensive in those times and was a necessary part of food preservation and flavor. The Bible has many references to salt, which was even used as currency.
In contemporary times, "salt of the earth" has come to describe someone who is earnest, honest and down-to-earth.
I really have no idea where the notion came from, but at some point along the line I came to think of the "salt of the earth" as someone (in this case, a man) who grew to adulthood, followed his family business, got married, had children, went to church regularly, was a life-long community supporter, grew old, sort of retired after forty or fifty years at the same job in the same town, died a respected member of his community and everyone in town came to the funeral. How many people actually liked the individual really was of little relevance. In the case of the woman, she would be the counterpart to the man in this scenario.
Growing up in a small, rural community and seeing life as it existed around me probably was the seed from which that notion was born and evolved. My own conception of the phrase is pure speculation based on childhood observations of the community around me, and the idea of the origin of the root makes sense and is logical. Not to be overly factious, but I probably am closer to being among the "pepper of the earth," however, I have been unable to find a reference to who or what that might be so it would seem to be a moot point.
All I know with certainty is that no way can I be considered among the "salt of the earth" according to my own definition -- although I believe the words "earnest, honest and down-to-earth" are among those which do describe me.
Hmmmm .... sort of reminds me of another quote from the Bible -- the one about vanity ....