May 242020
 

I started my first newspaper when I was in my mid-20s, in Grays Harbor, Washington. The harbor is the largest natural deepwater port on the Pacific Coast north of San Francisco, and has been an important shipping center since the days of the earliest settlement.

Located at the base of the wild and beautiful Olympic Peninsula, the area is a sportsman’s paradise like no other on earth. The dense forests are home to elk, deer, black bear, mountain lions, and many believe the legendary Bigfoot lives there, too. The rivers offer fishing for everything from trout to steelhead salmon, or you can drive out to the beach and surf fish or walk out on a jetty to wet a line. If you like shellfish, you can dig for razorback clams during the open season, drop a crab trap off a dock and haul up Dungeness crab, or charter a boat out of Westport, on the south entrance to the harbor, and go deep sea fishing. When I lived there, Westport billed itself as the Salmon Capital of the World due to the many charter boats that operated from there, as well as commercial fishing boats.

I had a friend who operated a very successful taxidermy shop in Grays Harbor and was well known to sportsmen throughout the Pacific Northwest. I was always amazed at the number of people who caught a huge salmon and brought it in to be mounted and didn’t want the meat. All they cared about was a trophy to hang on their wall. Not wanting to see all of that meat go to waste, my buddy tried donating it to local food banks, but due to some glitch in the law, they could not accept it. So if you were his friend, you could expect your freezer to be well stocked with salmon steaks and salmon fillets, and you always had a good supply of smoked salmon. By the way, if you are ever friends with a taxidermist, don’t ask when he hands you a piece of meat and says, “Here, eat this.” Salmon were not the only animals that came through the shop!

One day my friend got a call from a commercial fishing boat that had netted a seventeen-foot great white shark offshore. They wanted it mounted and contacted him. Now, just how in the hell do you move a fish that big? I borrowed a big flatbed truck from another friend, and we went to pick up the shark. It took a forklift in the middle and several men on each end to get it onto the truck. Just seeing that critter was enough to keep me out of the water for a year!

Driving home with the shark in the back of the truck, we stopped for fuel. While we were filling the truck’s tank, the old gentleman working at the station asked where we caught that creature we had strapped down in the back of the truck. We told him it came out of a small creek a mile or so south of there. His jaw dropped open and his eyes became almost as big as saucers. “My grandkids wade in that creek all the time,” he said. “But they ain’t gonna do it anymore. No, sir, no more!”

Sometimes I feel bad for those poor kids who were probably never allowed back in their favorite creek. And I’m sure that old-timer got razzed by his pals about his wild story since the creek was no more than a foot or two deep. But at the time, my friend and I laughed all the way back to his shop.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – Apparently responding to a wedding RSVP with “Maybe next time” isn’t a proper response. Who knew?

May 232020
 

We resisted as long as we could, but yesterday we finally had to don our masks and leave the house for the first time in a couple of weeks. I had to stop at the post office to mail a couple of items off, then we went to Publix for groceries. And just like every time we have been there, maybe half the people were wearing masks, and a lot of them are ignoring the one-way arrows on the aisles and standing together talking. We were glad to get what we needed and get out of there. Then we stopped at Walgreens for a couple of things and came home.

I know a lot of places are opening up, and I have friends who keep telling me that COVID-19 is all a hoax and way overblown, but we are going to do what is right for us. I remember when I was learning how to drive, my dad was in the car with me and someone was riding my bumper, even though I was doing the speed limit. I started to speed up and my dad said “no, let him go around you. You’re doing the speed limit and you’re an inexperienced driver. If you wind up in a ditch, that clown isn’t going to stop and pull you out and he’s not going to pay to fix your car.” I have always remembered that. Then, many years ago, I was invited to take part in a celebrity stock car race in our little hometown in Arizona. When I got in the car, the fellow who owned it and raced there every week told me, “don’t worry about the other guy, just drive your own race.” I remember that, too. By the way, that was my first and only time driving a race car, and I won. Yes, we may be overcautious, but we will do our thing and let everybody else do theirs.

Does anyone else hate the Geico commercial with the cloggers, or it just me? I have a hard time deciding which is worse, those commercials or the Liberty Mutual ads with Doug and LiMu the Emu. Hey Geico, bring back the gecko. Or even better, the caveman!

The other day I posted on Facebook that we had binge watched all of the episodes of Call The Midwife and Bloodline on Netflix and were looking for something new to watch on either Netflix or Amazon Prime. I got a lot of good suggestions and have a list of shows we will check out. But last night as I was looking through Netflix I saw the movie Jersey Boys, based on the story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. It was an excellent movie and we both loved all the old songs we used to listen to on the car radio when we were youngsters. If you get a chance, check it out.

Today I will make the last of the changes to my new book and print it out so Terry can begin proofing it. As I’ve said many times, quite often the characters take control of things, and the storyline changes when I am writing a book. That happened in this one too, but something else happened. The original title I planned on using was Big Lake Dispensary because the story is about a robbery at a medical marijuana dispensary. But as it turns out, more people ended up dead than I expected, and the title changed to Big Lake Massacre. As I’ve said more than once, I don’t write the books, I just repeat what the voices in my head tell me.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – The biggest problem with stupid people is that they aren’t smart enough to realize they are stupid.

May 222020
 

Note: This story is from my book Highway History And Back Road Mystery II.

A half-mile north of the Roosevelt Lake Bridge on Arizona State Route 188, a stone monument marks the spot where one of the Old West’s most colorful characters was killed. Even today, a hundred years later, there is much debate over whether Al Sieber’s death was simply a tragic accident, or something more sinister.

Born in Mingolsheim, Germany, on February 29, 1844, Sieber came to America as a child. His family settled in Lancaster, Pennsylvania for a while, then moved to Minnesota. Like many European immigrants, Sieber enlisted in the Union Army at the age of 18 and saw service in the Civil War. He was recognized for his actions at the battles of Antietam, Fredericksburg, and Gettysburg. He was seriously wounded at Gettysburg, and his injuries would trouble him for the rest of his life. Sieber spent five months recovering from his wounds, then was assigned to guard duty at a prisoner of war camp in New York.

When the war was over, Sieber went West, like many adventurous young men of his day. He tried his hand at prospecting in Nevada and California before showing up in Prescott, Arizona. This was still the Wild West, and Arizona’s Indian tribes were actively resisting White incursion into their lands. Sieber quickly made a name for himself as a scout and Indian fighter.

In 1871, General George Crook appointed Sieber Chief of Scouts. Over the next two years he was involved in most of the major engagements during Crook’s campaign against the Tonto Apaches.

The Apache Scouts were Apache Indians hired by the Army to help hunt down their own people and bring them to the reservation. Sieber and his Apache Scouts criss-crossed Arizona hunting down renegade Apaches and forcing them back to their reservations. Sieber’s favorite strategy was to locate Apache camps and attack at dawn, overwhelming the Indians before they were fully awake and aware of their peril.

These were hard times, and Sieber was a hard man. He maintained strict control over his Apache Scouts, and any disobedience was dealt with quickly and harshly. A bullet or a hangman’s noose kept the mutinous Scouts in line, and Sieber had used both as examples of what any Scout could expect if he stepped too far over the line. Still, the Scouts knew Sieber to be fair. One story relates how, when it was discovered a woman killed in a raid on an Apache camp was the mother of one of his Scouts, Sieber stopped his pursuit of the rest of the renegade band for two days so the grieving son could observe the traditional Apache mourning period.

When the Apaches under war chief Chalipun surrendered to General Crook at Camp Verde in April, 1873, Sieber was assigned to remain at Camp Verde to help oversee the tribe. Though Al Sieber was known to be harsh and fearless, he was also highly respected by many of the Apaches, who recognized and appreciated his fairness.

When the Camp Verde Reservation was closed in February, 1875, Sieber was responsible for helping relocate the Yavapai and Tonto Apaches to San Carlos. This was a difficult and dangerous duty, and the events of the transfer are among the most tragic in the history of the Old West. The weather was terrible and the Army failed to supply promised food and blankets. The half-starved Indians were forced to travel overland. Several died on the trek, and Sieber is credited with keeping the majority of his charges alive.

Sieber was stationed at San Carlos for the rest of his time as Chief of Scouts, though he often went on the trail of renegades and made several incursions into Mexico in search of Geronimo.

In 1882, a band of Apaches fled the reservation, and Sieber and his Scouts tracked them to Chevlon Creek, where a short but vicious battle took place. Sieber was often credited for being fearless in battle, and this was no exception. His actions quickly broke the Indians’ resistance. This would be the last skirmish with Apaches of any significance in Arizona.

Al Sieber was friends with one of the most famous of the Apache Scouts, Haskay-bay-nay-natyl, better known as the Apache Kid. The Apache Kid had a commendable reputation with the Scouts and was highly regarded by Sieber. In 1887, the Apache Kid left the reservation without permission to hunt down and kill another Apache who he believed was responsible for the death of one of the Kid’s relatives. In Indian terms, this was a simple matter of honor, and something that Al Sieber probably could have understood. When the deed was done, the Apache Kid returned to San Carlos to report in to Al Sieber.

The details of what happened next are debatable, but what is known is that the commanding officer at San Carlos ordered the Kid arrested. A scuffle broke out and one of the Indians with the Apache Kid fired a shot that struck Sieber in the left ankle and crippled him for life. The Apache Kid fled and began a reign of terror that was to become legendary in the annals of the Old West.

In spite of his injury, Sieber continued in his position as Chief of Scouts until he became angry with the treatment of the Apaches by the San Carlos commander, Major John L. Bullis, and confronted the officer about it in December, 1890. Bullis fired him, and Sieber spent the rest of his life prospecting around Globe, Arizona. It is said he became very bitter about his injury and carried a grudge against both the Apache Kid and the United States Army.

When work began on Roosevelt Dam, north of Globe, Sieber was hired to oversee a crew of Apaches building roads to the dam. On February 19, 1907, his crew was trying to move a large boulder, and Sieber crawled partially under the boulder to see what was holding it up. What happened next nobody really knows, or if they do, they have never told.

Somehow the boulder shifted and crushed the old Indian fighter, killing him instantly. The official report called Sieber’s death an accident, though rumors have circulated ever since that some of his Apache workers actually set a trap for him and then rolled the massive boulder over Sieber to exact revenge for his actions against the Apaches during his days as Chief of Scouts. Nobody was ever officially accused of the deed or charged with a crime, but resentments live a long time among the Apache people, and it is not inconceivable that Sieber’s death was more than a tragic accident. Or does the romance of the Old West refuse to allow us to believe that a giant piece of rock was able to do what neither Rebel bullets and bayonets, nor Indian arrows and lances could accomplish?

Al Sieber is buried in the cemetery in Globe, Arizona,  a short drive from where he died. The next time you are in that part of Arizona, stop and pay your respects to one of the most memorable characters of the Old West.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Nothing in the world can trouble you more than your own thoughts.

And It’s Done!

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
May 212020
 

Yesterday was another good writing day for me. I cranked out 6,300 words and finished my newest Big Lake book. It came in at 83,265 words and took me three weeks and three days from start to finish. And I wasn’t writing every day.

I will spend today and maybe tomorrow reading through it and making any needed corrections I see and checking to make sure I don’t have any major plot holes. Then I will print it out for Miss Terry to start the editing and proofing process. By the time it makes its way through two more proofreaders after her, I expect an early June release.

This is my third new book this year. I usually release four books a year, but I am shooting for five or six this year. My next project will be starting the family historical saga I have been researching for quite some time now. But fans of Big Lake and/or John Lee Quarrels don’t need to worry, I have many more books in both series that I am eager to write and share with you.

While I was finishing the new book, Terry was busy in the kitchen. First, she made a batch of her fabulous chocolate brownies, which are what she used to lure me away from the single life. Since I was already smitten with her, it wasn’t all that hard to do, but the brownies did get my attention.

And then for dinner, she made this delicious beef roast, which she served with mashed potatoes, homemade gravy, and veggies on the side. I ate so much that I almost didn’t have room for two brownies later as we watched TV. Almost. But I did force myself. That was just about as hard for me to do as it was for Terry to get my attention all those years ago.

It’s Thursday, so it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an RV camping journal donated by Barbara House. Barbara makes several variations of these, and they all have pages where you can list the date, weather, where you traveled to and from that day, beginning and ending mileage, campground information including amenities at RV sites, a place for a campground rating, room to record activities, people met along the way, reminders of places to see and things to do the next time you’re in the area, and a page for notes for each day. To enter, click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – I just read an article that said Japanese men only have sex five times a year. This is very upsetting news for me. I had no idea I was Japanese.

Negative… Maybe

 Posted by at 12:39 am  Nick's Blog
May 202020
 

Some readers have asked me if we received the results of our COVID-19 antibody tests, which we took last Thursday at the Volusia County Fairgrounds. Yes, we got the results two days later, and both of us tested negative for having the antibody. Well, maybe we did since when we were getting the tests, the gentleman who was drawing my blood said they have had a lot of false readings, both negative and positive. I don’t know what that means except that we don’t really know any more than we did before we went there.

The reason we went and got the tests was because we had been so sick in late  February while we were in Arizona, and we thought if we did have the antibody, we could donate plasma to help somebody else who has the virus. At this point, I guess that’s not going to happen.

We are still doing our thing here at home every day. Terry finished weaving another shawl yesterday, and today she has to hem it and then take it off the loom. Me? I wrote somewhere around 10,000 words on Sunday, and another 8,000 on Monday. Yesterday was spent making corrections to all of that. I’m over 76,000 words into this book now, and it’s starting to wind down. I think I should have it finished in the next couple of days. Then Terry can start the editing and proofing process, and I’ll have it out sometime by early June if all goes well

After mentioning our MCI bus conversion in the blog a few days ago, I have had a dozen emails from people asking me all kinds of questions about converting a bus into an RV. One question I’ve been asked several times was how long does it take to finish a bus conversion.

We had our bus for 8½ years, living in it while we were converting it. During that time, we were also traveling fulltime around the country publishing the Gypsy Journal, vending at RV rallies, presenting seminars at RV events, and we still were not finished when we sold it. But I know many people with bus conversions, and almost all of them will tell you the same thing – they are never finished. There’s always something you want to do, something you want to improve upon, something you want to try out. I’m sure someone working from home with a full shop and a lot of knowledge could get one ready to go within a year, assuming they worked on it fairly steadily. But even then, there is always going to be something more you want to do to it.

Another question was, in hindsight, would we do it all over again? If you asked us that back when we started converting the bus in our late 40s, I’d say heck yes, let’s do it again! If you asked me now, 20 years later, I’d say no way, it’s way too much work.

There are pros and cons to everything in life, the Detroit Diesel 8V-71 with an Allison automatic transmission in our bus would run forever, but it was underpowered, and they all tend to overheat. And I don’t believe they’ve ever made a two-stroke Detroit Diesel engine that didn’t leak oil. In fact, I had two different diesel mechanics tell me the same thing – if you bought a brand-new Detroit Diesel engine from the factory and took a picture of it and hung the picture on your refrigerator, two days later there would be a streak of oil running down the front of the refrigerator from the picture. It’s just a fact of life, they leak.

But they are also bulletproof. When we sold it, our bus had over a million miles on it, and it was old and tired. But it still went down the highway fine, and the ride was very comfortable. Now, climbing hills was a different story altogether! I can’t tell you how much time we spent in the far right lane of the highway, with our flashers on and engine misters pumping water onto the radiators to keep it cool, while we crawled up a steep grade at 10 miles per hour. It was not a rig to travel in if you needed to get someplace in a hurry.

The flipside of that is that the whole bus was like a giant roll cage, and we felt absolutely safe in it. If you have ever seen an RV that rolled in an accident, it’s not a pretty sight. They pretty much disintegrate. Our bus was built to DOT standards to haul passengers in comfort and safety, and to withstand just about any mishap we could have gotten ourselves into.

People have asked why we bought a Winnebago diesel pusher and sold the bus. That was a hard decision to make. As I said, it had a lot of miles on it, and it was tired. We considered putting in a factory rebuilt engine, but two different MCI mechanics we knew and trusted told us the same thing. If we upgraded the engine, we would also need to upgrade the cooling system, since both radiators were also worn out. And then, we would probably need to replace the transmission, too. By the time we were done, we would have spent almost what we paid for our 2002 Winnebago Ultimate Advantage with two slides, but we’d still have a 1976 bus with little resale value. So it was time to make a change. And while we shed a tear or two to see the old bus being driven away, we knew we made the right decision.

Thought For The Day – I am on a seafood diet. I see food, and I eat it.

Meteor Crater

 Posted by at 12:35 am  Nick's Blog
May 192020
 

50,000 years ago, a brilliant fireball streaked across the sky at 40,000 miles per hour and slammed into the earth’s surface with an explosive force greater than twenty million tons of TNT. The iron-nickel meteorite’s impact was so great that it created a massive 700-foot deep crater measuring over 4,000 feet across. Hundreds of tons of rocks and debris were flung into the air by the impact, raining down on the surrounding countryside for miles around. The shockwave created by the meteorite’s impact was felt for hundreds of miles.

Today thousands of travelers on busy Interstate 40 in northern Arizona pass by the scene of this ancient event every day and never realize how historic and scientifically unique this place is.

Early Indians from the region knew of the crater, and when White settlers came into the area, they believed it was the remnant of an extinct volcano. In 1886, a sheepherder found iron-nickel meteorites in the area, but believing them to be silver, he did not report his findings.

In 1902, a Philadelphia mining engineer named Daniel Moreau Barringer visited the crater and was convinced that it had been formed by the impact of a large iron meteorite, which he assumed was buried beneath the crater floor. Barringer formed the Standard Iron Company and filed mining claims to the crater.

For the next 26 years, Barringer dug shaft after shaft in the crater, seeking the meteorite, without success. Finally, in 1929, he gave up his quest to find the giant meteorite. He died a few months later, a broken man.

In 1941, Barringer’s family leased the crater to the Bar T Bar Ranch Company, a cattle operation that owns or leases most of the land surrounding the crater. In 1955, the owners of the Bar T Bar Ranch formed a separate corporation, Meteor Crater Enterprises, Inc. They entered into a long-term lease with the Barringer family to develop the site as both a tourist attraction and a scientific study area.

Most craters on earth have been leveled by erosion. Over time, nature has also impacted Meteor Crater with inevitable erosion by wind, water, and heat, though the crater’s shape has changed relatively little since its formation 50,000 years ago. The crater walls have been slightly modified by erosion and, in places, still exhibit some original fallout from the debris cloud. The rim crest has been lowered by erosion but still stands some 150 feet above the surrounding plateau. The majority of the debris blanket is still present. Although there are many larger terrestrial impact sites, Meteor Crater is the first proven and best-preserved impact site on earth.

Today Meteor Crater offers visitors an enjoyable educational experience and the opportunity to learn more about our planet’s history and geology. The Visitor Center includes a museum with exhibits on meteor impacts and collisions in our solar system, a process that continues still today and will for eons into the future.

Every day over 1,000 tons of meteorite materials fall to earth, most going unnoticed as they land in remote areas or at sea. Most are small enough that they are slowed by the atmosphere and drop harmlessly to earth. But occasionally, large meteorites make it to earth, causing craters and damage. In 1982, a six-pound meteorite tore through the roof of a house in Wethersfield, Connecticut, bounced off the living room floor, ricocheted off the ceiling, and came to rest under the dining room table, shocking the family who was watching television in the room at the time.

Incredibly, this was not the first time a meteorite struck a house in the small town! In 1971, a half-pound meteorite came through the roof of a home and lodged in the ceiling while the occupants were asleep. They were not aware of it until the next morning when they saw the black rock sticking out of their ceiling. The two houses were located less than two miles away from each other.

In 1992, thousands of people saw a fireball caused by a 27-pound meteorite streaking across the sky, before it landed in Peekskill, New York, slamming into a Chevrolet Malibu. Nobody was injured in the impact, but the car was heavily damaged.


The only documented case of a person being injured by a meteorite took place in Sylacauga, Alabama, in 1954. That is when an 8½ pound meteorite tore through the ceiling of a home and struck the woman who lived in the house in the hip as she slept on her couch.

By comparison, the meteorite that formed Meteor Crater is estimated to have been 150 feet in diameter and weighing several hundred thousand pounds. Scientists say that if such a meteorite were to land on earth today, the results could be catastrophic. The impact would cause a substantial initial blast, followed by tsunamis, wildfires, prolonged darkness, and atmospheric effects such as increased cooling or warming.

The Meteor Crater Interactive Learning Center features 24 exciting exhibits, making it the most extensive and informative museum of its type in the world. The Learning Center also includes two interactive computer displays that contain information and high-tech graphics on space, meteorites and asteroids, the solar system, and the Shoemaker-Levy 9 comet that impacted Jupiter.

Many specimens of meteorites are on display for visitors to view and touch, including a 1,400-pound fragment from the meteorite that formed the crater, the largest ever found in the region.

An 80 seat, widescreen theater shows a video titled Collisions and Impacts throughout the day that explains meteors and meteorites and their role in science.

Outside, there are four observation areas behind the Learning Center, where visitors can view the crater from inside the rim. Although Meteor Crater today is over 4,000 feet across and 550 feet deep, observation telescopes give visitors a close up look at points of interest in the crater. The sheer size of Meteor Crater is not comprehendible until you stand on the rim and look down into the hole itself.

Daily guided rim tours take visitors 1/3 mile around the crater rim. The tours leave hourly from 9:15 a.m. until 2:15 p.m. and last about one hour, weather permitting. Because the terrain is rough, proper hiking shoes are required for the tour.

From 1963 to 1970, astronauts trained at Meteor Crater for Apollo missions to the moon, and today the Astronaut Memorial Park features the names of America’s astronauts displayed on a Wall of Fame. An Apollo space capsule is on display in the outdoor park.

The gift shop at Meteor Crater sells souvenirs, unique gift items, and jewelry, and includes a sandwich shop. Elevators and lifts provide access to the Learning Center, gift shop, and observation area immediately behind the Learning Center.

At the base of the hill leading up to the crater, Meteor Crater RV Park features 71 pull-through spaces. The park has private individual restroom and shower facilities, including two designated handicap accessible restroom/showers. The park also includes a recreation room, playground, laundry, country store, and a gas station.

The RV park makes an excellent base for exploring not only Meteor Crater, but also other northern Arizona points of interest, including Flagstaff, Route 66, the Grand Canyon, Sedona, Walnut Canyon, and Winslow.

Meteor Crater is located 35 miles east of Flagstaff, Arizona, at Exit 233 on Interstate 40. The Visitor Center is open daily from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. from Memorial Day to September 15, and 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. the rest of the year. Admission is $22 for adults, $20 for seniors age 60 and older, and $13 for children ages 6 – 12. Children age 5 and under are free. There is parking for RVs at the Visitor Center.

For more information on Meteor Crater, call (800) 289-5898 or visit their website at www.meteorcrater.com. For information and reservations at Meteor Crater RV Park, call (800) 478-4002.

Thought For The Day – Non-alcohol beer is for people who don’t want to get drunk but do like to pee.

May 182020
 

In last week’s Newspaper Days column I told you the story of a woman who called me because her teenage sons were playing with an unstable World War II-era hand grenade. I said that once I determined it was a live grenade, I called my buddy Rusty, who was a lieutenant with the police department. He, in turn, summoned a police department to deal with the grenade.

Rusty was a great guy with an evil sense of humor, and some of the pranks he pulled were awesome. So awesome that the statute of limitations may not have run out on all of them. And occasionally, when I wasn’t participating in them, I became the target of one of Rusty’s pranks.

For example, always wanting to keep abreast of what was happening in town, like most small-town newspaper people I knew, I had a police scanner in my office, one at home, and one in my car. Now I’ll admit, back in those days I may have occasionally ignored a traffic law or two. I wouldn’t think of speeding through a school zone, but occasionally I might not come to a full stop at a stop sign if there was no other traffic around. But hey, at least I slowed down!

One day I went to the post office and when I left, I made a “California stop” at the stop sign on the corner. I was almost through the intersection when a voice said, “You really need to stop at those signs, Nick.” Okay, we all hear voices in our heads, don’t we? Or is that just me? But usually, those voices don’t speak out loud. This one did!

Since I was the only person in my minivan, I looked at my big German Shepherd, Magic, sitting in the passenger seat, wondering when the heck he learned to talk. Then that same voice said, “Don’t blame it on the dog. You’re the one that ran stop sign.”

By then I thought I really was hearing voices, and I might need to call my shrink. But about that time I heard a siren and looked in my rearview mirror. And there was Rusty in his patrol car with his lights flashing right behind me, holding up his radio’s microphone and grinning. So I did what any law-abiding pillar of the community would do in a situation like that. I gave him the finger and went on about my business.

The story quickly made the rounds around town, and over the next few days several people asked me if I wanted to sell that talking dog of mine. I told them no, while I quietly plotted my revenge.

A few weeks later, a new business was opening in town and they had a ribbon-cutting to celebrate the grand opening. Members of the Chamber of Commerce, other business owners, the mayor, and the Town Council all turned out for the occasion. I was supposed to be there to cover the event for my newspaper, and I was running late. I jumped out of my van with my camera, and Rusty, who was there representing the police department, told me I had not locked my car. I said that was okay, I knew a cop who would keep an eye on it for me. Rusty said no, I had to go back and lock it. So I did, just to humor him.

After the ribbon-cutting and the celebratory round of applause, I went back to my van and realized that Rusty’s car was running. Looking around, I saw him talking to the mayor. So, once again, I did what any law-abiding pillar of the community would do in a situation like that. I reached in and turned on the siren and roof lights, then I locked Rusty’s car and beat a hasty retreat.

A lot of cops I knew kept an extra key to their vehicle in their pockets. Rusty was not one of those cops. So everybody got to stand there and watch his lights flashing and listen to his siren wailing while he went into the new store and used their phone (this was before the days of cell phones) to call the police department and ask them to send an officer to his location with another set of keys. It turns out nobody could locate an extra set of keys, but an officer with a Slim Jim was able to eventually open the car.

I made myself scarce for a week or two, always looking for Rusty anytime I ventured out, until the heat more off. Who says cops and news reporters can’t get along?

Congratulations Barbara Bowers, winner of our drawing for an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. We had 44 entries this time around. Stay tuned, a new contest starts soon.

Thought For The Day – Decaffeinated coffee is as useless as a hooker who only wants to cuddle.

Not Holding My Breath

 Posted by at 12:08 am  Nick's Blog
May 172020
 

Have you received your stimulus check or direct deposit yet? If not, do you know anyone that has? Or is it just another myth, like the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny? I’m beginning to believe the latter.

A week ago yesterday, on the 9th, the IRS website said our stimulus check was being direct deposited into our bank account on Wednesday, the 13th. They already had our banking information and confirmed it with the last four digits of our account number. That never happened. On Friday, the 15th, the IRS website still said it was scheduled to be deposited on the 13th, two days earlier. Then last night, the 16th, the same website says it will be mailed on May 22. Would our government lie to us? Is that possible? I don’t know, but I’m not holding my breath.

We are fortunate in that we don’t need money to pay our bills or purchase food. It’s just going to be sent back to them to help cover our huge tax bill for 2019. But I can’t help thinking about the millions of Americans who do need it. What about them? I’m to the point I don’t believe anything that anybody connected to the government in any way tells me. They’re all like used car salesman – if their lips are moving, they are lying.

Yesterday was another working day for me. I spent the first part of it making corrections to the 10,000 words I had written the day before, and when it was finished, I wrote another 8,000 words before Miss Terry told me I had to quit playing with my imaginary friends and eat dinner. I guess it goes without saying, you know what I’ll be doing again today.

Somebody asked me if I have any idea when my nerve ablation procedure will be back on the schedule since it was put on hold due to the coronavirus pandemic. I really don’t know, but I’m sure looking forward to it. The last few days have been very painful for me. Not the worst I’ve ever had from my back, but definitely no fun at all.

Meanwhile, Miss Terry is hard at work on another shawl. I can tell she’s excited to be back weaving again after so long away from it. I’m just happy that she’s happy.

I had an interesting email exchange yesterday with a young couple who have just purchased an MCI bus they are going to convert into a motorhome. They asked for my advice on some of the things we did when we converted our bus and showed me a picture of the one that they bought. It was a déjà vu kind of moment because it was a 1976 MCI Model 8, which was the same as ours, and had also been a Gray Line tour bus, just as ours had been. The paint scheme was even exactly the same. That brought some back some memories for sure! If you began reading the blog after our bus days, here is a picture of the old gal. She was as solid as a tank and we loved her.

I answered their questions to the best of my ability and pointed them in the direction of a couple of resources that might help them. It’s been almost 20 years since we began our bus conversion, and I’m sure a lot of things have changed in the way of technology and materials that are available. They promised they would keep in touch and let me know how the project is going. I’m looking forward to seeing how they do.

The other night we were watching something on DIY Network about people building a straw bale house. That’s something Terry and I have talked about many times over the years. But we decided that at this point in our life, we really don’t want to take on a project like that. Building our bus while we were living in it full-time and traveling around the country was a heck of an adventure, and that old bus was a great home to us for over eight years. But as Miss Terry says, after that project, she hung up her toolbelt. We are content here in our cozy house on Florida’s Central Coast.

Today is your last chance to enter our Free Drawing for an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn this evening.

Thought For The Day – When things get hot, they expand. So I’m not really fat, I’m just hot.

Ninemile Remount Depot

 Posted by at 12:41 am  Nick's Blog
May 162020
 

At first glance, the Ninemile Remount Depot, with its white fences and Cape Cod style buildings, might lead you to believe you have been transported to a Kentucky horse farm. But one look upward at the mountains looming in the distance reminds you that you are still in western Montana.

Located just west of Missoula, the historic Ninemile Remount Depot was established by the Forest Service in 1930 to provide trained pack animals and packers for firefighting efforts. For 23 years, the Depot’s nine mule, one horse pack trains were the Forest Service Northern Region’s lifeline. During the fire season, up to twenty pack trains were ready to carry the equipment needed to fire lines. The Depot’s mules were also used to carry the necessary materials for trail construction and building lookout towers and bridges in the backcountry. Packers from Ninemile were known throughout the Northwest as the best in the business.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), the Ninemile Remount Depot was the home roost for more than 1500 “Rocky Mountain Canaries” (also known as mules), as well as prime breeding stock. The Depot’s upper hayfield was used for training smokejumpers in the early days of the parachuting firefighting program. It was common for the old Ford Trimotor airplanes to have to buzz the field first to clear it of grazing livestock so the jumpers could land. During the winter, up to 1500 horses and mules were pastured at Ninemile.

Why mules? A mule is the sturdy but sterile offspring of a donkey and a horse. Mules are preferred as pack animals due to their sure-footed gait, and because they can carry more than a horse, require less feed, and many packers believe that they are much smarter than horses. Old-time packers used to say that if you packed your breakfast eggs in on a mule, they could be cooked to order, but if you packed them on a horse, your only choice was scrambled.

While rangers loved mules as pack animals, they usually preferred to ride horses. An extensive breeding program went on for years at Ninemile Remount Station to produce mounts for the Forest Service.

During fire season, four pack trains consisting of ten animals waited in the corrals for their call to duty. Whenever the Depot’s big outdoor bell rang, crews had fifteen minutes to be ready to roll, with trucks loaded with nine mules and a lead horse, along with supplies for 25 men. Before they pulled out, they always stopped on the Depot’s truck scales to be sure they were not too heavy for the bridges they would have to cross on their route.

Though primary operations ended in 1953, Ninemile is still a working ranger station and pack depot. Mules and horses are still stabled here, waiting for the call to head into the backcountry with their heavy loads. Retired Forest Service mules also come here to live out their days after a lifetime of hard work. Sometimes these veterans are pressed into service for training purposes, helping rangers learn about mules and basic packing skills.

Today, visitors to Ninemile can take a self-guided tour and see exhibits on wildfire fighting in the Visitor Center, which is open daily from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. during the summer.

The Depot’s outbuildings include shops and stables, and visitors can poke their heads in the door to watch blacksmiths forging horseshoes, ranch hands repairing saddles and tack, and mules and horses in the corrals and stables. During the Depot’s busy years, blacksmiths hammered out nine horseshoes an hour, up to 72 a day, totaling 15,000 a year!

Not all horses and mules appreciated the shoeing process, but according to our tour guide, any animal that went into the building came out with shoes. One reluctant mule jumped through the small window in front of the hitching rack to get away, but was brought back inside and shod.

Ninemile Remount Depot is located four miles from Exit 82 on Interstate 90. The last ¼ mile is not paved, but is suitable for any size RV. The Depot has a small parking area, and if there were more than a couple large RVs visiting at the same time, it might get tight. For more information, call the Depot at (406) 626-5201.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audio book of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – The leading cause of injury to old men is them thinking they are still young men.

Quick And Easy

 Posted by at 12:12 am  Nick's Blog
May 152020
 

No, I’m not talking about that girl everyone knew in high school. I’m talking about our trip to the Volusia County Fairgrounds yesterday to get the Covid-19 antibody test. We arrived at about 2 P.M. and were in and out in about a half-hour. No lines, no waiting, no problem.

It would have taken us less time, except they had to stick poor Miss Terry three times to get a vein. So even though she was ahead of me in line and they started on her first, I was done and waiting for her.

Then, somewhere between when I checked in and had to show them my driver’s license and insurance card, and the time we got back out to the Explorer, I somehow lost my United Healthcare AARP supplemental insurance card. I went back inside and retraced my steps, and a couple of the staff people looked all over, but we could not find it anywhere. I very seldom lose things, so it really bothered me that I managed to do that. Fortunately, we called United Healthcare and told them what happened, and they said I would receive a replacement card within 5 to 10 business days.

A couple of blog readers have told me that getting the test is a waste of time, and others have said that staying home, or wearing a mask when we go out in public, is foolish and not going to make a difference. Maybe not, but I don’t tell you how to live your life, so how about you let me live mine the way I want to.

Everything about this pandemic, (and yes it’s a worldwide pandemic so don’t start any nonsense with me about it just being a typical flu), is disastrous. I understand that people are losing their incomes, businesses are having a hard time surviving, and many of them won’t. Unfortunately, a lot of people who have been infected are having a hard time surviving, too, and many of them will not.

It’s also destroying friendships and family relationships. Sadly, it’s even caused a rift between one of my best friends and me. And while I am hopeful, I don’t know if the relationship can ever be mended. I have had to block a number of people on Facebook who post vicious comments about people exercising what they consider to be unreasonable precautions.

How does it hurt you if someone else wears a mask when they go out? One of the people I blocked was an author I have known for a long time. He is convinced that this is all a scam by the Democrats to hurt President Trump. I watched him viciously tear into another author friend who said that not everything in the world is a giant conspiracy, calling him all kinds of filthy names because he disagreed. I’m sorry, I don’t need toxic people like that my life.

Someone else insisted that I must be a liberal Democrat because I don’t buy into the president’s theory that it’s all going to be okay before too long. I had to laugh, because that reminds me of my newspaper publishing days. Half my readers thought I was a card-carrying, commie pinko fag, and the other half thought I was a gun-toting, sheet wearing, cross-burning bully. I keep telling people that there is a middle ground between either extreme where common sense lives. Unfortunately, it’s a lonely place these days. Just for the record, I’m neither a Republican or Democrat. I’m an Independent because I prefer to do my own thinking, not simply buying into any party line.

I keep hearing terms like libitard and sheeple. I have no tolerance for that nonsense. Name-calling went out somewhere around the third or fourth grade, didn’t it? Every time I hear someone say something like that, I want to reply that they have cooties.

In other news, people keep asking me when I will be bringing out more audiobooks. At this time, I don’t have any plans to do so. I have quite a few audiobooks available on audible.com, but they never sell enough to cover the cost of production. I know some authors that do very well with audiobooks, but they have never been successful for me.

I mentioned that we had been binge-watching Bloodline on Netflix. We finished the third and final season, and while the series itself was good, the ending sucked. It left too many questions unanswered. I don’t know if a fourth season was planned that would wrap things up, but they pulled the plug before that could happen or if they planned it that way. Either way, we were left hanging and disappointed in the ending.

After seeing the two latest shawls Terry wove in yesterday’s blog, someone asked me if there is anything she can’t do. I replied that she’s not real good at using a hula hoop while standing up in a canoe in white water rapids, but that’s about it.

And finally, here’s another chuckle to start your day from the collection of funny signs we see in our travels and that our readers share with us.

Be sure to enter our latest Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of undone, the first book in my buddy Jason Deas’ new Burt Bigsley mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on this Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name (first and last) in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

Thought For The Day – Sometimes you have to be done. Not mad, not upset. Just done.