Friday, June 30, 2006

Was I to Sleep with the Fishes?

My buddy and fellow buffalo Bruce Rodgers appeared at my office doorway this morning with a package that was about the same size and shape as the box that held Clemenza's shotgun in "The Godfather." But there was no sudden opening of the box and blazing away. I opened the box to find two hiking poles that were a gift for my Appalachian Trail jaunt in August. I had casually mentioned these to Bruce, and it's just like him to do this sort of thing. The poles will be used to steady me on climbs and descents of the Virginia hills. They can also be used to stab at snakes and to whack Cassandra if she gives me trouble.

The overweight and sweating Clemenza had difficulty in climbing the stairs to carry out the assassination of a mob leader in a hotel elevator. Bruce, who could probably eat more than Clemenza, has managed to stay in shape. To make Bruce an offer he can't refuse, just put a plate of Mexican food in front of him.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Beer Run

While trying to get Field Guide to the Mammals of Illinois to the printer soon for work, I have a busy weekend ahead, with hours of yardwork, cleaning and some rearrangimg of the house, possible backpacking trip to Forest Glen south of Danville, volunteering for the Fourth of July race, triathlon training, major buffalo herd party Saturday night, and powowing with Red Chief.

But it's Holy Thursday and time for the weekly beer scoot with the herd at the Buffalo Trace Trail.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Buffalo Cops

You were going 55 in a 30 zone. I'll have to eat your car.

May I see your license and registration?

Traffic enforcement

Wildlife Protection

Highway Patrol

Speed Trap - Radar

Morning at Mingo

While fellow buffaloes Devil Dawg, Wrong Way, the Cable Guy, and Dr. Ken and his wonder dog Cayenne were running the trail around Lake Mingo Sunday near Danville, I hiked the trail to break in a new backpack and boots for my Appalachian Trail trip in August. With fellow buffalo Srini Muthekepalli (he needs a buffalo nickname), I hiked the 7.1 miles in two hours. Glad I wasn't running Mingo; tough trail.

All went well on the hike until we stopped to see what we thought was a nice view of Lake Mingo at the shoreline. Then we walked farther out and came upon about 20 discarded beer cans floating in the water. Someone had fished or partied there and used the lake as a dumping ground. Just ruins it for everybody. Made my blood boil too see such a scene.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Princess and Red Chief

My daughter Angie and her son Ethan, age 4. I kiddingly call Ethan Red Chief after the short story "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry. In the story kidnappers of a boy find their captive to be so onery and difficult that they actually pay the father of the boy to take him back. Ethan isn't quite that bad. He is my best little buddy. Whether it's a walk on a steamy day to the park in Wally, his wagon, or watching a favorite movie "The Bear" on a cold winter day with a fire blazing in the living room, Ethan and I always have a good time.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Royal Birthday, Part II

In celebration of my daughter Angie's 28th birthday - Pictures of the Princess

First birthday party, 1979

With little brother Tim

Royal Birthday, Part I

My daughter Angie, aka the Princess, is celebrating her birthday today, so I will be posting a gallery of photos of Her Majesty during the day. Here's a recent photo of the Princess with one of her many pets.

Happy birthday, Princess!

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Buffalo Back

If I were into tattoos, I would be jealous.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Allerton Appreciation . . . and Depreciation

After a run this weekend on the 5.5-mile trail at Allerton Park, I strolled over the park grounds and the Allerton House. I usually don't visit Allerton during the summer, but the trail is very lush and green now and in good shape, although there are some downed trees and limbs blocking the path. As for the house and grounds, I had mixed emotions. My buddy Bacchus (photo), god of wine and merriment, is on the side of the Allerton mansion. It's one of my favorite sculptures out there. Of the two bare-breasted sphinxes (half woman, half lion) in front of the mansion, one is in good shape while the other needs some facial work, her face being cracked. The large pond in front of the house, once covered in a nasty coating of pond scum, is now clean and looks good, thanks to a UI student project that cleaned it up. The flowers in the gardens were nice, but many of the rows of bushes needed trimming badly. The Allerton House itself needs work, the brickwork deteriorating and some of the wood trim rotting. And of course the entrance road is rough and the unrepaired bridge that has forced closure of the main road entrance is still not in use.

Much money is obviously needed for repairs and reconditioning at Allerton, and I hope it is forthcoming in some form. For now, the place is still a gem in the Illinois prairie.

Friday, June 16, 2006

Gimme a B, gimme a U, gimme an F . . . .

After a very hot run with the herd at the Buffalo Trace Trail at Mahomet last night, I quickly headed over to Marj and Wes’ house for a swim in their neighborhood lake. I was the first to arrive for their party, and quickly changed to my swimsuit. Waited for a few other buffalo to arrive, then into the water. The thermal layers in the water felt strange, with cold water from about the thighs down and warm water at the top. This was perfect, and with a pre-swim beer I felt good and had one of my better swims. Later on, after a couple more beers, I swam even better. This was good training. Far cry from swimming boring lane laps in a pool, and no kicks in the face from other competitors while doing a mass swim at a triathlon. I was perfectly at ease and didn’t tire the whole time. Maybe a beer or two before a triathlon would do the trick for the swim, but then again I’d probably plow my bike into a tree.

Newlyweds Marj and Wes gave us a party for the ages, and when Marla and the Great Byroni did their Saturday Night Live cheerleading skit (Buffalo Spirit!), we all ached with laughter.

And yes, Arathi, I did make it home. The beer with wine chasers just mellowed me.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Flak for the Flock

White Sox third baseman Joe Crede licks his chops upon catching a cardinal. "Tasted like chicken" said Crede after he devoured the bird. More feasting for Crede and his teammates next week when a big flock of cardinals from St. Louis invades Chicago.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Little Lion on the Trail? I Don't Think So

After reading this, and knowing there are black bears in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, maybe I should bring my cat Maddie (photo) with me to that section of the Appalachian Trail in August. Hah! Even with two confirmed mouse kills this year on my screened porch, a first for my spoiled feline, Maddie is the most skittish cat on the planet. At the sight of a bear she could outrun a cheetah.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Buffalove: A Wedding in the Herd

Big gathering of the herd is planned for this Thursday evening as we run the Buffalo Trace Trail at Mahomet, then gallop to Marj and Wes' house for a Buffalo wedding party. Marj and Wes were married this past weekend. With plenty of buffalo bait flowing, rowdiness will rule.

Monday, June 12, 2006

On the Trail with Weed Whacker and the Flower Child

Much fun this past Sunday with fellow Buffalo Jeff Riddle and Pokey Allsup (above photos) hiking the Clinton Lake trail. Tested my new backpack loaded with about 22 pounds to see how it would feel. This in preparation for the Appalachian Trail. With the tall grass and plants overgrowing the trail in places, Jeff, in desperation without his lawn mower, used his walking sticks to whack away at the grass, while Pokey planted flowers in her hair and studied plants along the way, all the while keeping up with us quite nicely. I must give credit to the chigger-chewed and tick-attacked Pokey (aka Cassandra) for again hitting the woods after days of walking through forests for her job as a field technician plant guru and insect landing zone (photo is of her on the job in the field).

Hot Dog and Pizza

Just had to post these photos from, a website of Appalachian Trail enthusiasts. The pizza box illustrates the advantage of being near a town by the trail. I don't know who these hikers are; these are samples of a host of photos posted at the website from all over the Appalachian Trail. I am now registered as Buffalo Tom on this website and may post a few questions and comments about my upcoming AT trip.

Friday, June 09, 2006

Appalachian Dreaming

Scenes in the Shenandoah Valley, Virginia

After a good run last evening on the Buffalo Trace Trail with the herd, followed by a healthy dose of hops and barley and a mean game of wiffeball with Buffalo Nancy's inexhaustible sons, I basked under the light of the moon with several of the herd. So, Tom, what about the Appalachian Trail? Glad you asked. Told them I’m backpacking the entire Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, a little over a hundred miles, in a week this August. That’s the goal, anyway. In my quest for lightweight equipment, I bought a backpack that weighs just two pounds and I've ordered lightweight boots that are supposed to cushion the transfer of a 30-pound load on my back.

For this trip I have also rejoined the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, where I can get great maps of the trail at a discount, and I’ve read at length forum postings at, a network of Appalachian Trail enthusiasts, and the "Get Out Fast" section of Backpacker magazine’s website. A wealth of great information about backpacking equipment and the trail is at these sites. These forums often start with a question from a novice hiker, and a chorus of experienced hikers then give their thoughts on the subject, all online. The section "Hike the Trail" at the Backpacker site gives descriptions of the entire Appalachian Trail state by state.

Backpacking buddy Cassandra is already booking our next trip on the trail - Maine, considered the best part of the Appalachian Trail by hikers who have trekked the entire trail from Georgia to Maine.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Tatanka Wicasa

Only recently did I learn of the 2004 death of Dale Lott (photo inset), author of American Bison: A Natural History. The book has been called by the Library Journal "the most extensive description of bison natural history ever published." Lott, a professor emeritus of wildlife biology at the University of California, was always quick to answer my e-mail inquiries about buffaloes. He literally grew up with bison, his grandfather having been manager of the National Bison Range in Montana, where his father was also employed. Lott studied the behavior of many animals, but the buffalo was his true calling. In American Bison, Lott mixes the science of buffalo behavior, historical accounts, and an entertaining writing style. One of my favorite passages in the book:
"I'm watching a mature bull standing alone on a dirt road on the National Bison Range. He's the only buffalo around, and I have set up my movie camera, so I'm watching him through the viewfinder, finger on the shutter button. He stands broadside to the road's line of travel, his front feet at the bottom of the cutbank where the road is in a trough cut through a low hill to ease the grade. His right horn slips into the cutbank and cuts a horizontal groove. He glances up to the top of the cutbank, six feet above the road, cuts another groove with his left horn, glances up again, then--without seeming to gather himself--leaps to the top of the cutbank, lands upright on all four feet, and calmly surveys his new view. My finger is still on the shutter button, and I still haven't pressed it. I've just seen 2,ooo pounds of buffalo do a standing high jump of six feet. My breath is quick and a little shaky, but the bull is perfectly calm. After standing for a minute he plods off. No high fives, but his patient, confident amble seemed an understated celebration of its own--'Not bad for a big bull with a skinny butt, eh?' "

With this account of a buffalo high jump, I've included a photo of escaped buffalo in Maryland that made the news last year when they were finally rounded up on a tennis court. Another track and field event--hurdles.

I borrow a term from the Sioux Indians, Tatanka Wicasa, which means buffalo man. A fitting title for Dale Lott.


Monday, June 05, 2006

Oh the Shark, Babe, Has Such Teeth, Dear

The Tri-Shark Triathlon at Moraine View State Park near Bloomington Saturday almost ate me up, especially in the swim portion, where I really struggled. Maybe if I had a modicum of training I would have not felt like I was about to be devoured. Once I got out of the water and into the transition area to peel off my wetsuit, the darn thing just didn't want to come off. Once on the bike I felt fine, and the run was decent. But my overall time was awful, and I can only blame myself. The weather was near perfect. Last year I managed to get an award, this year zilch. Still, the event was much fun as usual, with about 450 participants. This is a very popular event, a horde of Chicago-area athletes and others from all over Illinois and elsewhere converging here every year.

My buddy Bruce Rodgers, for the first and last time, whipped me in the swim, and he had a great race despite still trying to heal an injury. Bruce, get off that leg and rest.

Friday, June 02, 2006

A Date with the Daughter of the Stars

The sport that preoccupies my mind these days is backpacking the Appalachian Trail (AT) in Virginia's Shenandoah Valley (photos above).

While planning the trip I’ve been careful to lean toward lighter gear. This from a lesson learned during my first trip to the trail in 2001 when I crossed the Shenandoah River at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia, and immediately had to ascend a steep bluff with a way-too-heavy backpack. This was early November, but it was unusually warm and I paid the price for overloading. That was work. I have read of backpackers who go to unusual lengths to lighten their loads; for example, cutting a couple of inches off a toothbrush handle, trimming the margins of maps to get rid of excess paper, or maybe not taking a tent, just throwing down a sleeping bag and calling it home. I can see the reasoning behind all this. Every ounce counts, and those ounces add up to pounds on your back that you have to carry step after step. I've ordered a backpack that is a full four pounds lighter than my other backbreaker pack. Ultralight but strong titanium cookware is also ready.

Much more planning to do, but the mountains, streams, and wildlife will wait. Shenandoah - an Indian word meaning Daughter of the Stars. Beautiful name, beautiful place.