Friday, June 29, 2007

How Many More?

I remember picking up this issue of Life magazine from the coffee table of my girlfriend's parents house on a summer day in 1969. I had just enlisted in the Army a few days before. Not a good thing to see photos of 242 Americans who had been killed in a single week in Vietnam, particularly at that stage of my life. Back then we were always reminded of the numbers, just numbers, of the Vietnam dead. That issue of Life magazine gave those numbers faces. Now we hear "roadside bomb" and "5 Americans killed", but it seems we learn more about the individual soldiers. Maybe that's because there aren't as many killed in Iraq as there were in Vietnam, but it's all basically the same once again. When will we learn? Being sheriff of the world has a terrible price.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ali Baba Meets Madeline Rose

The white-gloved lady on the left, my cat Maddie, was not impressed at her first meeting with the gentleman on the right in the tuxedo, Ali Baba. With ears pinned back, Maddie jumped to the top of the couch and let out the roar of a mountain lion as a greeting to Ali, who looked bewildered as my ferocious feline voiced her disgust. Ali is my son Tim's dog. Both will be living with me for a month until Tim moves into a new place. Maddie surprised me. She didn't seem all that afraid; in fact, I have seen her move more quickly to avoid my grandson Red Chief. At first Maddie hid as the well-behaved and very obedient pit bull entered her domain, but later she seemed simply annoyed at his presence. It will be an interesting month.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Evening on the Trail

I ran six miles yesterday morning but decided after dinner that I wanted to go to the Mahomet trail and run some more. Good decision. I saw no one else on the trail after 7 p.m. except two beautiful deer, looking very much like the one in the above photo, in the open fields on either side of me, neither more than 30 feet away. I stopped on the trail and looked at the does and said hi, and they just stood there and stared right back at me. This standoff went on for at least 30 seconds, and I thought they would dart off at any time. They made absolutely no move. I finally started running again and looked back; both of them were at their same spots, still staring at me. It was worth the drive out there just for this experience.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Lace 'Em Up, Move 'Em Out

Time for this buffalo to roam. Anxious to backpack . . . anywhere. Southern Illinois' River to River Trail is the likely place, sometime in the next couple of weeks. Spent a rain-drenched Thanksgiving weekend at the Garden of the Gods area in southeastern Illinois along the River to River Trail several years ago, but the rain didn't deter from some nice hiking. May go to the same area again.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Sun Bathing, Paw Cleaning

Took this photo yesterday of my cat Maddie at her favorite spot on summer afternoons - the dining room table with the sunlight pouring through the window. Her Majesty woke me up at 4:50 a.m. today with a wet nose stab to the face.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

A Rare Look at a Gentle Giant

I received in the mail yesterday a DVD about buffaloes from Roger Brooks, owner of Charlie (above, with Roger's wife Veryl; see June 5 "A Man and His 2000-pound Pet" below). Included in the DVD is fantastic video footage of Charlie growing from a week-old calf to a magnificent bull bison. The big shaggy guy was at times like a family dog, taking walks, licking his owners, even rubbing up to them face to face. At one point Roger calls for Charlie to come to him, and Charlie bounds over to him with head bobbing up and down, just as a happy dog might do. Normally, being face to face with a bull bison is dangerous, but not with this giant. Red Chief (my grandson Ethan) should be very entertained with the video of Charlie.

Paralysis and pneumonia caused Charlie's death at only three years, and the buffalo's passing deeply affected Roger, who now devotes much of his time helping preserve the Yellowstone herd of wild buffalo. From Roger's narrative of the video of Charlie: "We were so very, very fortunate to have shared our lives with this magnificent, gentle, kind and loving giant of an animal. All we have left are warm memories. The most meaningful statement we can make about our great journey with this big bull bison is, Thank you, Charlie."

For photos of Charlie growing up, click on these individual photos. I hope to make copies of the DVD to give to friends and family.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Water Buffalo: Red Chief Goes Aquatic

Click on the photo to see a closeup of a happy little kid.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Loner in the Wilderness

Dick Proenneke at his cabin door in Alaska.

Building his cabin.

Finished reading last night One Man's Wilderness: An Alaskan Odyssey. What a read. The story of 51-year-old Dick Proenneke, who decided to go to a remote part of Alaska in 1968, build a cabin, and live by himself, letting nature deal him whatever it would. It was his dream, and he lived it. The book, first published in 1973, is in its 26th printing, which vouches for its lasting popularity.

His journal while in Alaska is filled with the feats of this handyman, who could craft practically anything and do it well. In the depths of winter it got down to -55 degrees, and still his cabin, with only a fireplace for heat, would be 45 degrees; cold but warm enough compared to what was outside his door. Also just beyond his front door was the beautiful scenery of lakes, mountains, and forests, and all that go with them in the wilderness: bears, beavers, weasels, moose, caribou, ducks, badgers, and much more. I enjoyed his accounts of growing vegetables and collecting berries, then cooking fantastic meals. At times he was not totally alone, having a friend bring him supplies every few months by plane.

Dick's accounts of nature and how he deals with setbacks, scares, and the pure wonder of what is around him are riveting. Take this account of a night in March, temperature -22 degrees with the awe of the northern lights: "I put on my cold-weather clothes and went out on the ice to watch the show. It was the best I have seen. A weaving curtain of green . . . spreading large one moment and shrinking small the next. Streaks of red, yellow, and green shot like searchlight beams to a point overhead. Clouds of colored light like brilliant fog patches blinked on and off. All alone in the subzero cold, with the heavens on fire and the ice cracking and crashing around me. A savage scene, and one to remember."

Dick's accounts of nights in the deep freeze of Alaska made me shudder. The eerie stillness and solitude were haunting. He must have felt like the only man on earth.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

A Man and His 2000-Pound Pet

Finished reading A Buffalo in the House: The True Story of a Man, an Animal, and the American West last night, and early this morning e-mailed one of the book's main subjects, Roger Brooks (above, with his pet buffalo, Charlie), detailing my feelings about the book. Roger, a retired commercial airline pilot who had flown secret missions for the CIA over Laos in the Vietnam era, had a first-degree black belt in karate, and although now in his 60s still plays competitive soccer, is described in the book by author R.D. Rosen as a "handsome, big-boned man, over six feet, thick as a linebacker" and "just the sort of man you'd want by your side in a war or mud slide or barroom brawl." Roger and his wife adopted an orphaned buffalo, whom he named Charlie, that was wandering near Yellowstone National Park in the spring of 2000 and brought the calf to their ranch in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Basically, what was initially going to be a temporary situation turned into many months, and the reddish-orange buffalo calf grew up to be part dog, part kid and close companion to Roger. The book details raising Charlie and having him as a pet, interwoven with a history of the plight of buffalo in American history. There is a sad ending to Charlie, which I found very emotionally tough to read, but today Roger, who was devastated by the loss of Charlie, continues his respect for buffalo by trying to better the situation of the mistreated Yellowstone herd.

Roger returned my e-mail this morning almost immediately, attaching a six-page letter he wrote to the Governor of Montana about problems and solutions of the Yellowstone bison. He also promised to send me a DVD that "parallels" the book about himself and Charlie. I look forward to receiving that.

Monday, June 04, 2007


The 300 buffaloes of the Yellowstone herd scheduled to be slaughtered today have been spared as a result of a mass of e-mails, faxes, letters and phone calls requesting a halt to the slaughter. The e-mail announcing this development was sent by the Buffalo Field Campaign late Friday, but I just read the announcement early this morning. Makes my day. I am truly thrilled. Last week I fired off e-mails to the Governor of Montana, the Yellowstone superintendent, and other appropriate officials. The fact that there were so many others who did the same shows the power of people united in their concern for a true American icon and a living heritage. Now I must e-mail those same officials and thank them for sparing the bison.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Blue Moon Run

I snapped this photo moments before this group of buffaloes started the first full moon run in July 2000. Pictured are (front row, from left) Hiro Asari (the first MoonMaster, now living in Wisconsin), Speedy Scottish Dave (Dave Scott, now living in Missouri), and Audrey Ishii. Back row, from left, Chris Migotsky (current MoonMaster), Jeff Skibbe, Jeff Riddle, Wes Seitz, Joan Bessman (moved to Iowa), and Scarface (Tony Suttle).

The full moon run last evening at the Mahomet trail was under a blue moon, the second full moon of May. An orange hazy moon, wisps of fog, and fireflies made the scene reminiscent of the first moon run in July 2000, but a brighter moon and more fireflies still make that first moon run the prettiest on record.

Some moon run history:

Dec. 11, 2000 - Chris Migotsky and I ran in a blizzard at the trail. This still ranks as one of my favorites, with a wicked west wind practically stopping us in our tracks and biting snow slapping our faces. Running easterly though, we had quite a shove from the wind at our back.

February 8, 2001 - Big turnout of runners for a mushy run over a trail wet from rain and melted snow. Lightning flashes were around but not close. Tony Suttle is nicked by a thorny tree that refused to get out of his way, thus giving birth to the nickname "Scarface." Wonder Calves Duane Frichtl provides banana moon pies to runners.

With a huge stack of photos and all the Second Wind newsletter back issues, I am compiling a lot of material for a history of the Buffaloes going back to the herd's roots in 1999, and preface material before that. This thing could be the size of a book when finished.