A Welcome Memory

“I would feel more optimistic about a bright future for man if he spent less time proving that he can outwit nature and more time tasting her sweetness and respecting her seniority. ” E.B. White / Letters of E. B. White

At 66 years of age I still prefer primitive camping in my one man tent. I prefer to leave the conveniences of the modern day world at home. Right, wrong or indifferent if I am going to take a camper filled with the luxuries of home then I would rather stay home or just stay in a motel.

I set up camp on my property in Frank Clay, Missouri. It is 12.65 acres filled with oak, hickory, and walnut with patches of sassafras and cedar sprinkled in. There is abundant wildlife, deer, squirrels and turkey.

It is so quiet and peaceful you can hear yourself think. It is my safe place when I can’t go to the river. It is another place I can go to rid my mind of all the negative energy that I let in. Only positive thinking allowed.

The sun is starting to sink in the west so I get busy setting up camp. Once done I start a fire so I can get started preparing supper.

Sweet taters, corn on the cob and Cornish hens. No finer eating than food prepared in Dutch ovens. Once done cleaning up it is time to sit and relax around the campfire.

As I sit in my chair reflecting on my day I hear the lonesome bawl of a hound in the distance. There is a chance of rain in the forecast. There is a cloud bank in the west. I can just make out the sound of distant thunder. Lightning is visible as it dances among the clouds illuminating the night sky. What a glorious light show to see. Absolutely breathtaking.

As I become engrossed in the show Mother Nature has so graciously provided for my entertainment I lose track of all time. A breeze begins to move down the ridge into the valley and arouses me from my thoughts. The lightning and sound of thunder is closer. I can smell the scent of rain carried in by the breeze. Rain is close.

The wind begins to blow hard across the woodlands I quickly go to work putting my fire out and securing anything that might blow away. J wind is blowing hard enough my tent looks like it is dancing.

I can feel the mist from the rain against my face. I crawl into my tent and settle in not knowing what to expect from the approaching storm. The first raindrop lands on my tent and is soon followed II many more. My tent is being pelted by the rain that is now a downpour but the wind has slowed. I can only hope that it stays dry inside the tent. I love to listen to the sound of the rain upon my tent. I don’t know how long I lay there listening to the rain before Mr Sandman came to visit.

Equal At Last

Today was a day for pulling maintenance on the lawn equipment I use for caring for the cemeteries I maintain during grass cutting season. As I went about my work my mind dwelled on those buried within the three cemeteries.

The three are located in Farmington, MO. K of P, Masonic and Odd Fellow cemeteries. All three are rich with history.

There are those buried there that were famous, wealthy, middle class and poor. Some of the headstones are quite ornate and some are just plain and simple. There are family plots and individuals. Some are decorated with flowers regularly, some just at holidays and some never have anything placed upon their graves.

They come from all walks of life. Athletes, politicians, veterans, wealthy businessmen and those who lived everyday normal life’s who worked hard to make both ends meet. Those buried next to people they never knew. In life they may have never really been equal but now in their final resting place they are now equal in the end.

(Note: above picture is of Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery)

A Night of Solitude on the River

It’s 2 am and I am alone on the river. There is no moon and the night sky is black as ink. I hear the crackle of the campfire and the sound of the river as it makes its way across the rocks in the shallow rapids before finding its way into deeper water. Bam! A beaver slaps its tail on the water warning others that there is an intruder in their domain.

Yip! Yip! Yip! I can hear the coyotes on the other side of the river making their way along the river bank. The lightning bugs illuminate the darkness with their blinking tails. As a child they reminded me of airplanes against the night sky with their blinking lights.

The bull frogs had been eerily quiet tonight but the deep bass croak of a bullfrog begins to resonate throughout the river valley followed by the scream of a screech owl.

With the soothing sound of Mother Nature’s symphony I begin to relax and I let my mind wander. I wonder if there was someone camped on this very spot 250 years ago. Perhaps a Native American or a settler. Were they fishing or just passing through? Were they in search of a place to settle or were they making their way to the mighty Mississippi? How much different it must have been. No litter or tires along it’s banks. How clear the water must have been. Were they as mesmerized by the beauty of the river as I am? Did they enjoy the peace and solitude? Were they alone too?

I am brought back to the present by a ruckus behind me. I turn around and in the darkness I could discern five figures in the darkness. It appears to be a mother raccoon and her offspring. She seems to be scolding one of the youngsters. Maybe it had ventured too close to me and she was worried about its safety. They soon moved on in search of food.

I readied my bedroll and crawled inside it as the desire for sleep won over the marvels of the nighttime. I lay looking into the night sky watching for a shooting star but there would be none tonight. The smells of the river were crisp tonight. The smell of the river and the campfire were the most prominent and complimented each other. I begin drifting off playing the days events back in my mind. At the same time I wondered what tomorrow would bring. Would I catch my personal best smallmouth or would it just be a day of photography? As sleep began to overtake me I was one with the river rooted in my safe place. A place of peace and tranquility. A place to recharge my soul and mind and cleanse my spirit. Life is good. I am on the river.

Fear vs Freedom

Fear again. If you want to control someone, all you have to do is make them feel afraid.” Charles Eisenst

Fear: to be afraid of (someone or something) as likely to be dangerous, painful, or threatening. Fear is the most controlling emotion that we have. It can make us do things we would never do normally.

The bully controls people with fear. Criminals use it to intimidate. Out of fear witnesses refuse to come forward to testify against them. Street gangs shake down business owners for protection money. If the owner refuses they begin breaking merchandise until out of fear the store owner meets their demands. Abusive spouses use fear to control their mates. In areas of high crime whole communities live in fear. Governments use fear to control its citizens. Hitler was a master at using fear. He used “Brown Shirts” to instill fear in the citizens. They are infamous for their operations outside of the law. The rest is history.

One can overcome their fear of the dark, of heights, of clowns etc. but when one fears for their life it is a much more difficult.

So what do we do? All of the above prey upon the weak. Courage and strength can be found in numbers. If all the victims of the bully were to unite and face off against the bully they could defeat him. Business owners could unite and organize to run the street gangs out of their area. Communities can organize and take to the streets and take their communities away from the criminals that caused them to live in fear. Citizens need to organize and join together to defeat the tyrannical government. The colonists did just that and the United States of America was created.

I am in no way advocating it will be easy. We have to find the courage to take action. Courage trumps fear. It takes a lot of courage but the ultimate reward is freedom. Nothing in life comes easy but it is better than living in fear.

If you are living in fear you need to weigh your options carefully. Do your homework and don’t go off half cocked. You have to decide if you have the courage to change things. Examine your resources. Devise a plan and stick to it. Once you put the wheels in motion you can’t turn back. You have to finish what you started.

Abounding Excitement

“Camping: The art of getting closer to nature while getting farther away from the nearest cold beverage, hot shower and flush toilet.” Anonymous

I awoke at 5:00 a.m.excited that I was finally afforded the opportunity to go camping for the first time this year. Finally a weekend without rain.

I was headed to my property in Frank Clay, MO. I arrived a little after 10 a.m. I began the task of setting up camp. I soon found out that the seed ticks survived the winter. It was far worse than in years past.

I decided to take a break and parked myself in a chair. The woods were quiet except for the sweet sound of song birds. A donkey began braying in the distance and some Bluejays began fussing at one another.

When camping, time seems to move at breakneck speed. I dug out the lantern and readied it to bring light to the darkness of the coming nightfall. I gathered wood and started a fire.

“The fire is the main comfort of camp, whether in summer or winter.” – Henry David Thoreau

I settled into my chair and turned my attention into enjoying the glow of the fire. I pulled out my journal and began recording the day’s events. A donkey began to bray just east of camp. It was such a sad sounding bray. A whip-poor-will began sharing its song. To the north of camp a pack of coyotes began yipping playfully and the woodland insects began their nightly symphony. As I sat watching the flames of the fire dancing around, my eyes signaled it was time to turn in for the night.

Morning came early for me. I awoke at 4:00 a.m. and even though still half asleep managed to find my way out of the tent. I was met by temperatures in the low 50s. I added some kindling to the fire to rekindle it’s flames. I grabbed the coffee pot, added water and Cameron’s Highland Grog coffee grounds. I placed the pot on the fire and sat back and waited for the finished product. Caffeine! I need caffeine.

I don’t know if you have ever experienced the taste of camp coffee and if you haven’t I am here to tell you the flavor is in a league of its own. My childhood friend David Tripp has always been fascinated with the flavor of my camp coffee to the point he has mastered the technique and become a master at brewing camp coffee.

Finally the coffee was done and I poured myself a cup and sat back in my chair watching the fingers of light from the rising sun overtake the night sky bringing dawn to the woodlands. I was awoken from my trance by the barking of a squirrel. I finally located him. It was a gray squirrel moving erratically on the limb of a white oak. He seemed upset to find this human invading its territory. After about 10 minutes he lost interest and moved on. Two geese flew just above the treetops honking noisily as they went. The songbirds began filling the air with their music. My stomach began to growl and I heated up the Dutch Oven so I could begin the preparation of breakfast.

I loaded the oven with bacon and the morning air was filled with the aroma of cooking bacon. I then fried some eggs over easy but because some dummy forgot the biscuits breakfast would only consist of bacon and eggs. Food always seems to taste better when cooked over a campfire.

After breakfast I sat back and reflected on the weekends events and finished my last cup of coffee. It was time to break camp, clean up and head back home.

As a side note I had a phone conversation with my childhood friend and fellow blogger David Tripp telling him about my camping trip. David is doing a story about Hank (me) and Randy (David) on his blog and is doing his own illustrations. I urge you to check his blog out and follow the adventures of Hank an Randy. https://davidtripp.wordpress.com/. and check out his website Recollections 54 The Art Of David Tripp http://www.davidtrippart.com.

What Next?

I would imagine all farriers have some war stories to tell. The following is one of mine. No names are mentioned to protect the innocent.

Some years back I had just finished supper and the phone rang. It was a lady who wanted me to shoe her horse. She said a friend had recommended me. She told me that she had bought her first horse and was new to horses. Now I am not knocking first time horse owners but through my experience with them it was like the doctor telling me I only had a week to live.

She said that a friend had told her that “hot shoeing” a horse was the only way to do it and asked if I “hot shod”? I said yes ma’am and I set an appointment for her.

The day finally arrived and I showed up on time only to find that the horse was in the pasture. She apologized and grabbed the halter to go catch it. What followed looked like a scene from the Keystone Cops! I watched with amusement as this horse played her like a fine fiddle until I could “takes no more” and took the halter and caught the wild beast.

I began trimming the horse and got the shoe I needed. I placed it on the hoof to see what adjustments were needed for a correct fit. I placed the shoe in the forge and started to trim the other front foot as the shoe heated up.

I took the hot shoe and shaped it on the anvil and once shoe was shaped correctly I placed it back in the forge. This is where it gets good. I took the shoe to the foot and began to burn it on. Well if you have never seen a hot shoe on a hoof let me tell you, the smoke rolls and the aroma of burnt hoof is not the most pleasant smell that will ever reach your nostrils.

The lady begins screaming at me using words that would make a sailor blush. The horse becomes spooked and I am trying to get out from underneath it without ending up on the ground. This whole time I am holding a hot shoe that would leave a permanent horseshoe brand on any flesh, man or horse, that it touched. I was successful at staying on my feet and not branding anything. Then the owner proceeds to tell me to gather my things and get off her property. I gladly obliged.

That night I received a phone call. Yep you guessed it. The new horse owner. She immediately began apologizing and admitted she didn’t really know what “hot shoeing” was and got scared when she saw the smoke and smelt the burning hoof, even though I had already explained it to her. Drum roll; she then asked if we could reschedule. Let’s see now, I told her to have the horse caught up, which she hadn’t done and I explained to her how “hot shoeing” works but obviously wasn’t listening or didn’t believe me. Now I believe in giving second chances unless there is a great chance that I could get hurt. Maybe I am crude and rude but without saying a word I hung up on her. Maybe not good business practice but this client I don’t think I was going to be able to “charge her til I liked her”.

My beloved Kate. RIP

Hope For My Chronic Pain

On February 27 I posted a blog about my chronic pain. About 3 months ago I made the decision to find a new doctor and I was lucky enough to find Dr Paul Moniz in Farmington, MO. He didn’t waste anytime addressing my health issues. He has my piercing edema under control and referred me to a cardiologist to address my heart problem and that has been addressed.

I had asked him to order X-rays of my ankle because I wanted to make sure no stress fractures were present. He took one look at my ankle and immediately ordered a work up of my ankle and X-Rays. When he saw them he referred me to Dr Christopher Sloan, podiatrist, of Farmington.

My appointment was today and I am ecstatic with the news I received. Seems I have bone build up on the right side of my right ankle the size of a ping ball, and smaller bone build up on the left, and my heel has some abnormalities. He said the X-rays of my foot were quite evident of how painful it was for me to walk and that he would like to do an ankle replacement. He informed me that ankle replacements had been available for almost 25 years.

He continued to say I would be pain free and could walk normal. He went over everything with me very thoroughly and I agreed to let him do the procedure on October 27.

Needless to say I walked out of his office on cloud 9. Once I got into the truck and put the key in the ignition I teared up. For 40 years I have not known what it was like to walk without pain and I was looking at the possibility of finally getting that opportunity. I was saddened to think that because I wasn’t proactive and basically given up, that I could be living that dream years ago. I could only imagine how much it would improve my quality of life. Time will tell.

In closing I would like to encourage anyone in the same position as me to not be afraid to change doctors or at least get a second or even third opinion. Don’t give up hope even if you have exhausted every possible avenue. Try again in a couple of years. They are making new medical advancements every day and you never know when they might develop a way to address your problem. Don’t give up like I did. To think it might have cost me 10, 15 or 20 years of enjoying being pain free is a hard pill to swallow but it’s better late than never. Good luck!

Life Is Like A River

“Surrender to the flow of the River of Life, yet do not float down the river like a leaf or log. While neither attempting to resist life nor to hurry it, become the rudder and use your energy to correct your course to avoid the whirlpools and undertow.” – Johnathan Lockwood Huie

I spend as much time as I can exploring the rivers of Missouri. I am mesmerized by their beauty and amazed by how much they are like life itself.

Like life a river is long and winding filled with adventure and obstacles. It ebbs and flows, builds and falls. Like life it can be rough and at other times be calm and peaceful. One minute you can be making your way through a calm pool of water and at the end of it you find yourself thrust into the rapids dodging rocks and trees trying to keep your boat upright.

The river can be calm and pristine flowing within its banks then the spring rains can transform it into a raging torrent of water causing it to surge out of its banks destroying everything in its path.

Life is full of mystery and the unknown and the river is full of the same. As you approach a bend in the river you know not of what lies ahead of you. Like in life you can only hope that you are prepared for anything that the river places before you. Will you fail or will you be victorious?

Little Red Wagon

“If people concentrated on the really important things in life, there would be a shortage of fishing poles.” Doug Larson

For those of you who don’t know me, I live to fish. There is nothing as relaxing as sitting on the bank kicked back waiting to catch the new state record.

I do most of my fishing from my kayak. I can go a lot more places and I can fish water that I can’t get to on foot. However, there is a lake in Bonne Terre City Park they call Lakeview. It has a paved walking track all the way around it. At dusk lights come on to illuminate the track.

Well my dilemma was I had to park a long way from where I fished. I had to come up with some way to make it easy to pack my gear out there. Then it hit me. A little red wagon. I always wanted a wagon when I was a child and never got one. One day at a resale shop in Farmington I spotted one. At the age of 64 I finally got my little red wagon.

I took it home and started thinking what modifications needed to be done on it. Luckily all it needed was 2 rod holders. Once installed I was in business. It had seat belts installed to use on children and they work great to strap my gear down. It worked out great and it makes it a lot easier to pack my gear into my fishing spot.

“Many men go fishing all their lives without knowing that it is not fish they are after.” – Henry David Thoreau

Mother Nature and Respect

“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” – Walden Henry David Thoreau

The definition of nature is the material world, especially as surrounding humankind and existing independently of human activities. It is also defined as the phenomena of the physical world collectively, including plants, animals, the landscape, and other features and products of the earth, as opposed to humans or human creations. One could say that nature is everything.

There is a saying “Stop and smell the roses.” Relax and take time to enjoy or appreciate the beauty of life. Stop stressing out, overthinking or complaining. My version is “Stop and drink of the beauty of nature.”

As spring draws near camping season comes into view. The weekend warriors who live in the cities and suburbs will begin their assault upon the campgrounds. They appear in the parks pulling their 30 foot campers loaded with all the amenities of home. I don’t think this is what Thoreau had in mind when he advocated that people leave their urban and industrialized areas to explore nature. He felt that “modern life” robbed people of their best selfs and that living in harmony with nature was essential. In today’s society the campgrounds are so overpopulated that they are nothing more than smaller communities of which they were trying to leave behind.

In Missouri the rivers and Ozark streams become heavily congested with weekend floaters occupying rafts, inner tubes, kayaks, and boats. Sadly the amount of litter left behind is mind boggling. Thoreau often wrote about the importance of preserving the wilderness and the importance of living in harmony with nature. His ideas are completely lost on the minds of the majority of weekend revelers. One can see the evidence if they float the rivers on Monday morning. Sandbars and gravel bars are littered with aluminum cans, trash, and an occasional tent. It doesn’t have to be this way. If you pack it in pack it out. It is that simple. My motto is is,”Leave it better than you found it.”

We as a whole need to learn to respect Mother Earth and what she has given us. Preserve the magnificent beauty of Mother Earth so that future generations can enjoy it. We don’t know what we have until it is gone.

“I love nature partly because she is not a man, but a retreat from him. None of his institutions control or pervade her. There a different kind of right prevails. In her midst I can be glad with an entire gladness. If this world were all man, I could not stretch myself, I should lose all hope. He is constraint, she is freedom to me. He makes me wish for another world. She makes me content with this.” – Henry David Thoreau’s Journal