Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Robert Frost was a Cool Guy

While waiting for snow, I think of my favorite poem:

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound's the sweep
Of the easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark, and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Night Before Christmas - A Different Animal

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While visions of buffaloes danced in their heads;
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my cap,
Had just settled down for a long winter's nap,
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I flew like a flash,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.
The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the luster of mid-day to objects below,
When, what to my wondering eyes all aglow,
Came a miniature sleigh, and eight buffalo,
With a little old driver, so lively and quick,
I knew in a moment it must be St. Nick.
More rapid than eagles his buffaloes they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name;
"Now, Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! on Cupid! on, Donder and Blitzen!

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Christmas Then and Now

Itchy brother, Bill of the Burbs, watches with Mom and Dad as I try to teeth my way to a present during Christmas 1949. I was nine months old. This is one of my favorite photos that I found while rumaging through ma's attic. Bro Billy will be 60 this Saturday. God that's old. Meanwhile, Red Chief (here with me in the latest photo) has visions of Star Wars dancing in his head for Christmas. Thomas the Train is no longer the star in the Chief's eyes. Darth Vader is the man.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Birthday Boy

My son Tim is 23 years old today. Now with shaven head, tattoos, and an attitude, he will always be my little boy.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Grizzly Man: Death by the Claw

The Grizzly Man and a fox friend

I watched the movie "Grizzly Man" this weekend. I like documentaries about wildlife, and this one intrigued me. Timothy Treadwell, the Grizzly Man, mingled with grizzly bears and other wildlife in Alaska for many years. A self-proclaimed grizzly protector, Treadwell was devoted to the bear but his fate, ironically, was being mauled by one of these giants. He knew perfectly well that grizzlies are wild, ferocious, and unpredictable animals, yet he would walk up to them dangerously close, even petting one on the head. One day, and it is not known exactly what happened, Treadwell and his girlfriend were killed by a bear. The story of their deaths, which the documentary spends a lot of time on, is tragic; even the sounds recorded by a lens-covered camera left on during the bear attack is not included in the film because apparently it is too horrible. For more details, read this.

The best parts of the film were a brawl between two grizzlies, filmed by Treadwell, complete with bear fur flying all over while the two giants wrestled violently; and Treadwell's befriending of foxes, whose almost petlike behavior with Treadwell is something to see. Beautiful animals. A good documenary that shows all too well the violence of nature and man's interference in the world of wildlife.

Musicians would appreciate the making of the soundtrack of the film, which is included on the DVD. By the way, is there anything better in rock music than the last two minutes of Black Magic Woman by Santana? Solid. Blasted the volume while hearing it in the car during lunch hour.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Things that Bother the Word Sheriff

Stuck in the craw of the grammar police:

Unique - One of a kind, so it's not "very unique," or "most unique." It's unique. Period.

Irregardless - Double negative. The dictionary claims it is a word, but it should not be used. Amen. Just say regardless.

Could care less - Aaaargh. This has crept into the language. Should be "couldn't care less." If you could care less then what's the point of saying it?

Nuclear - People hear this mispronounced as "new-cue-lar", so they follow suit. What could be simpler to pronounce? Nu=new, clear=clear. It doesn't help that the leader of our nation always mispronounces it.

Got beat - Common error by sportscasters and those who would listen to them too much. A team or individual "was beaten," or the Illini were beaten.

It's and Its - Common error in writing is putting an apostrophe for the possessive, which is wrong. Correct - "The buffalo drank its fill." Apostrophe is inserted only for "it is." "It's a nice day."

From the sheriff's file of infrequently used words: Clowder. No, not a short version of clam chowder, but . . . a group of cats. Fancy that.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Road Trip: Buffaloes Behaving Badly

Me and Buffalo Dave.

Buffalo Bull magnet Arathi lures in Cousin Don and the Riddler.

Scarface and our hostess Lynn.

Wonder Calves, Buffalo Dave, and Deer Banger.

Whacky buffalo Jay Pineapple about to devour the camera.

Scooter and Scarface. Scooter has run the Mahomet trail and partied with the herd, thus he is a full-fledged canine bison.

Two-fisted wine woman Kissalamb (my buddy Arathi).

The photos pretty much tell the story. Buffalo glee Friday evening in Bloomington as the buffaloes celebrated herd member Wonder Calves' (Duane Frichtl) 50th birthday. Duane's wife Lynn covertly e-mailed us to drive to Bloomington and surprise Duane at a small gathering of his friends. Twelve buffalo showed up. I made the trip in the Bombay Express with Jay Pineapple driving and Kissalamb (Arathi), both natives of India. Their real last names are Palaniappan and Kylasam, last names that beg for deviation. The drive home was a little rowdier with Devil Dawg, Scarface, and Party Marty. With no restroom near, we managed to create a small river in a field in the middle of nowhere between Champaign and Bloomington. I think Wonder Calves had a good time. I hope his neighbors didn't mind.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Buffalo Brew Ha Ha

After a 6-mile run through campus last night I went to Murphys' Pub to have a beer with fellow buffaloes. Being "under the influence" of a rowdy group, before I knew it one beer turned into three and a full meal of laughter. Bison present: Devil Dawg, Cousin Don, One Beer Mudless, the Mechanic, Jay Pineapple, the Cable Guy, and the Ultra Turtle. Jay admitted to being a beefier buffalo thanks to work on his thesis and no running, but soon we'll be calling him Dr. Pineapple. Conspicuously absent: Scarface.

Powow with Red Chief tonight. I'll be preparing buffalo fodder of spaghetti for the little bison. Being only four years old, Red Chief will probably live up to his name when spaghetti sauce coats his face.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Moonlight on Ice

Although the herd turnout was not as pictured above (only 4 showed), the 81st edition of the ongoing full moon run last night at Buffalo Trace trail was worth the drive to Mahomet. An almost cloudlesss sky and very bright moon lit up the ice-coated tree branches and grass, making all appear as glass. I ran the five miles with fellow buffalo Devil Dawg, the faithful mut of the herd. One can only hope now for ice and snow for the Riddle Run, my favorite running event, which will be held at the end of January. I'll have plenty of photos of that event to post.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Why I Run Trails

Saturday, December 2, 7:15 a.m. Buffalo Trace Trail, Mahomet. 15 degrees, sunny. I have seen this trail wear many coats, but none more eye-pleasing than Saturday's ice trimmed with snow. Spectacular. Nippy 5-mile run though. The herd will have a full-moon run out there tonight, which I hope to do.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Winter . . . Gotta Love It

Had the alarm set for 4:20 this morning to run with the Iron Bison (buddy Bruce Rodgers) at Buffalo Trace Trail in Mahomet. Hoped to be running in a nice snow, but 39 degrees and rain just didn't make it. Bruce calls: "I'm not running in this slop." So, I went back to bed. Hibernation is good at 4:30 a.m. Naturally it starts snowing as I'm getting ready for work. I love running in snow on a trail; there will be plenty of opportunities.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Mystery Solved

Just as I suspected, the incident of the bear being crushed by a grain combine (see Nov. 16 post) happened in northern Wisconsin, not in Illinois. And this is at least the second time this has happened in Wisconsin this fall. The state has a large population of black bears, and this excellent article gives all the details, including a great photo of a momma bear and her cubs in a den. The two bears crushed in their dens by the combines were males, who usually den by themselves.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Wrath of Red Chief

When Grandpa gets annoying with the camera.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Cat in the Corn: Vegan Feline Caught in the Act

Caught! My cat Maddie is not the sharpest knife in the drawer, as those who know her can attest to. In stealth quickness, she bolted onto the table after a Thanksgiving meal and, amid leftover slices of turkey all around . . . went for the sweet corn. Normally a lover of cooked birds, I cannot explain this behavior. But, it is Maddie, so nuff said.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Thankful Buffaloes

If the first Thanksgiving had been in, say, Pennsylvania instead of Massachusetts, maybe the feast would have featured buffalo, not turkey. The Native Americans in Massachusetts didn't have buffalo, the staple of most other Indians, because herds did not extend that far north. A single 2,000-pound buffalo, though damn difficult to put in the oven, would have yielded leftovers for many meals.

Monday, November 20, 2006

When ya gotta go . . .

. . . ya gotta go. Four-year-old Red Chief, up from bed and still very sleepy, didn't quite find the bathroom. Off by just a few feet, in his weariness he did find something that sort of resembled a toilet - the dryer. The Princess Mom managed to stop the flow before it became a flood.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Fiction is Funnier than Truth

About the bear in the cornfield posted earlier today (see below). I don't see it as being here. I think the photos were taken in another state, perhaps in Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, or Maine, where there are well-established populations of bears. Someone is having fun pretending the bear was in Illinois. The fact that there has been no publicity on this in Illinois is a good clue. In the states that do have black bears, the bears are known to enter cornfields and feast.

Oh Give Me a Home . . . Where the Combines Don't Roam

My first reaction was disbelief when I received these photos from a fellow buffalo runner. Seems an area farmer was combining corn when a wheel dipped into a depression . . . a bear's den, with a black bear inside (top photo shows crushed bear). The farmer who discovered the bear said the Illinois DNR told him to shoot the animal. Black bears have been long gone from Illinois, the closest states having wild black bears being Wisconsin and Arkansas. So how can you explain a black bear in a central Illinois cornfield? I'm still not convinced this is real, that the scene was faked. But, I could be wrong. After all, some strange creatures have been sighted in Illinois, including cougars and armadillos. So how come this black bear encounter didn't make the area news? And no one saw a 300-pound bear (this was a small male) roaming around central Illinois? Black bears are primarily nocturnal, so I suppose it's possible that it could remain undetected. I suspect it escaped from someone's holding pen. Afer all, there are untold numbers of exotic animals that are secretly kept. I hope to find out more.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Elf Murders on Maplecrest Drive

cutesy poem:

"A little elf
Sat in a tree
Painting leaves
To throw at me.

Leaves of yellow
And leaves of red
Came tumbling down
About my head."

I love autumn leaves . . . when they are on the trees. Tired of bagging and tagging dead leaves. I have big trees . . . and an army of elves. No more smokey cremation of leaves as in the past, just silent, rumpled burial in a sack. CSI Champaign: Elves at the morgue. They asked for it.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Abe on the Big Screen

For years I've been waiting for an accurate and somewhat realistic movie (it is, after all, Hollywood) about the American Civil War, but in vain. Why can't someone put together a meaningful film about the most crucial time in our history? Now that Steven Spielberg has purchased the movie rights to Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, a well-done book about Lincoln and his cabinet and the war, there is hope. Spielberg is careful about historical detail, as evidenced by "Saving Private Ryan" and "Band of Brothers." He is reportedly working on Indiana Jones 4 right now, but hopes to start filming the Civil War movie in about a year. The script is being written, and Liam Neeson has been tabbed to play Abraham Lincoln, which seems like an excellent choice given Neeson's acting ability and physical similarity to Lincoln (above). Of course Spielberg and Neeson worked together on "Schindler's List."

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

You don't know Jack . . . but my sister does.

My little sister, who I always call Kid, met and spent three hours last week with Kiefer Sutherland, the Jack Bauer of "24" fame. Being a Chicago radio DJ has its perks. Seems Kiefer was in Chicago promoting a band he likes. The Kid says Kiefer was very nice, personable, down to earth. And when the Kid complained of the cold weather, Kiefer gave her his cashmere scarf and told her to keep it. The Kid says she'll have more stories for me about Kiefer. I haven't gotten into 24, but I have always liked Kiefer as Ace, the "dime store hood" in one of my favorite movies, "Stand by Me." And I'm a huge fan of Kiefer's dad, Donald Sutherland, who has given standout performances as Hawkeye Pierce in the original MASH, and in "Ordinary People." Incidentally, my bro-in-law Norm, radio program director for WXRT-FM in Chicago, sat next to and freely chatted with a pretty well-known guy at an event last year - Russell Crowe. Sheesh.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Mud, Manure, Camo, and Cold in an Indiana Forest

My running shoe and pants at this point show some of the Hoosier mud, but the shoe was often fully encased in mud.

Why I call her Mudless: Kim with my shoe on the left next to her fairly clean shoes. She would go well off the trail to avoid deep mud, but thorns could also be a problem.

Mudless fixed grilled cheese sandwiches and soup at our camp site the night before the run.

Mudless relaxes with a beer and the Wall Street Journal after the run.

Fellow Buffaloes Nancy (left), Wrong Way (Marla), and the Cuz (Don)

If you like prancing around on a cold fall day on a forest trail that has steep ascents snd descents, thick mud and occasional manure churned up by horses, and shoe-drenching creeks, then this was your place -- Owen-Putnam State Forest in southern Indiana. Mudless and I drove down there this past weekend and camped (in the 20s at night) with Devil Dawg. Mudless and I did the 13-mile "fun run," which was tough enough, while other buffaloes did the 50K and 50-mile runs. A large group of self-described local rednecks camped near us and gave us oak firewood and invited us to sit around their campfire, a bonfire actually. I think they consumed most of the beer supply of southern Indiana. The rednecks then played golf the next morning, drunken golf I'll bet, because it was quite a sight to see the cavalcade of tipsy cowboys and their golf clubs and bags enter camp after we had soberly tromped the trail. In the last two miles of my 13-mile run/walk I hooked up with a National Guard recruiter dressed in his camouflage and combat boots. I guess he thought this would be good training. Thirteen miles in combat boots took its toll on him but he was a good running companion.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Road Trip! Sleeping in a Hoosier Freezer

Leaving later today with others of the herd for Owen-Putnam State Forest in Indiana where I'll be doing a 13-mile trail "fun run" as part of an ultra race event. Other Buffaloes are doing 50K and 50-mile distances. And camping out tonight and Saturday night after the run. Plenty of firewood, wine and blankets will get me through it. Trip should present good photo ops in camp and on the trail.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wildlife in Our Midst

Despite all the steel, concrete, asphalt, bricks, lumber, drywall, and machinery we install on the planet, wildlife still manage to survive and mingle with us despite our invasions of their habitats. One of my buffalo buddies had this to say about a run on the trail at Allerton Park last weekend:

"I was running along the river bottom, a couple hundred yards before we turn to head to the sun singer. A runner ahead of me yells, 'LOOK OUT FOR THE DEER.' I look to my right and see and hear a deer running at full speed -- leaves flying, branches breaking, eyes wide open in a look of total panic -- full speed. This is a huge buck -- I'd guess at least 10 points on his huge rack - a beautiful animal. It crossed the race course about 10-15 feet ahead of me in one giant leap and hit the ground once more before plunging into the river with a giant splash. For a moment I stood in awe - what a sight . . . . a sight I'll never forget."

This is a good account of a buffalo sighting. Nature is magnificent.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Red Chief All Abuzz

Albeit a small group, Red Chief finally met the Buffaloes, including Buffalo icon Devil Dawg, at a post-run dinner at the Mudless house on Halloween. When the four-year-old Red Chief blasted into the party accompanied by his Princess mother, his powers as Buzz Lightyear were aglow when he sniffed out the candy supply. It wasn't long before a sugar jolt and the late hour caught up with the buzzed chief, and the Princess had to unceremoniously carry out the Toy Story warrior amid much protest from the little guy. The Dawg now knows that the Princess and Red Chief are indeed real, and genuine members of the herd.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Wildlife Watching, Buffalo Beer, and Turtle Fear

Watched a great documentary about bears on the National Geographic channel a couple of nights ago. I certainly knew bears were powerful and resourceful animals, but this really brought it home. And I can't believe I missed the one documentary I've been waiting for for years, one on the Yellowstone buffaloes. This is a new documentary, and can be purchased (which no doubt I will do) here and here. The Trailwood version is a bit longer with more footage. The bear documentary is on again this Saturday and next Wednesday, and the buffalo program is on this Sunday and Nov. 17 (see listings).

And speaking of buffaloes, the Ultra Turtle (aka Buffalo Laura) is shown in her terrapin crown, ready for tonight's buffalo Halloween bash. Appropriate warning signs have been posted in the neighborhood of the herd gathering.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Buffalo Sentenced

Is "Buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo buffalo buffalo Buffalo buffalo" a "legal" sentence? Yup. Here's the judge.