Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Things Dogs Eat

We always called O'Malley "The Investigator" because he had a never-ending inquisitiveness about him. I accept the criticism that we attributed anthropomorphic powers to the old boy, because I know it to be true. Fergus, on the other hand, operates off of canine instinct---maybe bloodhound genes. On our daily excursions, he rarely if ever 'walks'; he leaps, excavates, twirls, pounces---he's a one-dog circus. He's usually got some found object of interest hanging out of his mouth at all times.

A few days ago, headed up Millcreek Canyon, Fergus skulked past me with a wad of white protruding from his jaw. I assumed he unearthed somebody's McDonald's debris and he was making sure I got no part of what little was left. But then I noticed he kept chewing and chewing. It was a real cat-and-mouse game as I tried to approch him to get a better look---he was way too stealthy for me. Then, a piece of his treasure separated and fell to the ground behind him. It was a soiled panty liner. Yum! I looked back over at him, and the puzzle pieces fell into place quickly. A string dangled from his mouth as he chomped away. He was chewing his cud on a well-fermented tampon! Well done, Fergie.

Who would have thought that used feminine hygiene products would have an after-market appeal as dog treats? Fergus now had no interest in dog cookies, no way. Finally, I tempted his sorry little butt with a great looking stick thrown into the creek. He lost his concentration for just an instant and dropped the tampon, and I pounced with poop bag in hand. I have never felt so victorious and did a little dance to prove my superiority.

Fergus, however, did get the last laugh, as usual. Later in the hike, shortly after consuming some snippets of either wild canine or wild feline scat, chose the most inopportune moment to plant a juicy kiss on me, his beloved friend---right when I'm a little indisposed taking a leak in the woods. Maybe he's just getting ready for all that French bissou-ing he'll be doing in a few weeks.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Before and After

I thought some of you might find these photos interesting. The first two were taken in 2005, when we had owned our property here in Moab for a little under two years. They show the newly constructed cottage and the old house that we had thought we might tear down. We had constructed the berm from the rubble of an old carport pad on the property. Some plants had been placed in the berm and a lawn planted. We had begun some renovation on the old house, Mr. O's Place, but hadn't gotten very far; I had put a new railing on the porch. The last two pictures were taken this morning. The old house has new windows, a new roof and a paint job on the exterior; we gutted the bathroom on the inside, as well as texturing and painting the walls, stripping and refinishing the floors, and refurnishing the house for conversion into a nightly rental.


Saturday, May 17, 2008

NOA Press Conference

A few of you have posed questions in your Comments, or made a Comment that could use a, here goes...A North of Anodorra Press Conference:

Q: Who was your dog Cisco named for?

* Our old dog Cisco was indeed named for Cisco, UT. Back in the late 1970's, as we were headed on a Canyonlands backpacking trip, Doug and I marveled at the abandoned cars and trucks strewn about this whistle-stop town. We were so taken that we stopped and clicked several photos. When we acquired our first pooch, the name 'Cisco' surfaced and stuck. The ghost town in Montana you are thinking of, Luke, was probably Elkhorn.

Q: Will Fergus teach Anna's dog to "kennel up"?

* Fergus, our current canine, would be pleased to instruct his yet-to-be-met cousin Ajax in Vermont how to "kennel up". It's the least he can do, Anna, as he'll be leaving copious amounts of dog hair behind as a memento.

Q: When are you going back to France?

* We are returning to France on June 14, Flag Day. Will you be wearing your lapel pin??? We will be in France exactly 90 days returning to Montreal September 13, the maximum allowed by the government---not sure who's government. The US dollar is not strong right now, but there's no telling what will happen. So, if you are thinking of visiting, let us know.

Q: Are you really driving from Moab to Montreal?

* Yes, it is true, we are indeed driving from Moab, UT to Montreal, Quebec, then flying non-stop to Paris, renting a car in Paris and driving to Leran. Sound a bit crazy? I have a perfectly rational explanation, and as soon as I concoct it I'll let you know. In the meanwhile, here's the truth: We are taking Fergus with us, as his French is much better than ours. Plus, it will give the lawn three months of dig-free healing. Flying from Moab to Toulouse (the nearest big airport) would normally require nearly as many connections as I have digits, and the airlines require 6 hours between connections. We couldn't score any frequent flyer tickets, as apparently booking six months ahead wasn't early enough. ZOOM airlines out of Canada is a low-cost flier who has personally promised me they will remain in business long enough to complete our trip, offered very competitive prices, a 6-1/2 hour flight from Montreal to Paris, and nieces in Burlington VT who will babysit our vehicle.

Q: Did you realize the similarity of the dates of the two WWII events?

* Luke, interesting observation about the dates of the Normandy landing and the massacre at Oradour sur Glane. Thanks.

Q: How did you get there so fast to take the Dewey Bridge pictures?

* We didn't take the photos of the Dewey Bridge burning. These were posed by 'lucky' people who happened to be there or were driving by at the time.

Q: Have you thought about changing the name of your blog?

* Harley emailed me and suggested that when we are blogging from Moab, we could be calling it "West of Andorra". Oh, you clever individuals.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Sixty-four Years Ago in France

Memorial Day is just a few days away. And so is the sixty-fourth anniversary of D-Day. On the morning of June 6, 1944 Allied Forces landed in Normandy to begin the liberation of Europe. Americans landed on beaches code named Utah and Omaha. British and Canadian Forces were also heavily engaged, landing at other beaches code-named Juno, Sword, and Gold. As everyone knows, Utah Beach was a veritable cakewalk, and Omaha Beach was a near disaster.

In 2001, Nancy and I made a trip to Italy, France and Ireland. We came up from Italy to Provence and spent a few days there soaking up the nice spring weather before going up to sopping wet Normandy. I was mightily impressed with the movie "Saving Private Ryan" and wanted to see Omaha Beach. The beach itself was somewhat of an anti-climax; there isn't much there excepting the monument pictured above. Some of the mulberries, or artificial harbours, may still be visible at low tide. Once I stepped out onto the beach itself, things were different. It was very unsettling to walk along Omaha Beach and know that some ten thousand soldiers had died in that very sand 57 years before.

The visit to Normandy was fascinating. We went to the D-Day museum, a wonderful accumulation of artifacts from WWII and D-Day. We visited the Pointe du Hoc, the scene of a very stirring and heroic, but ultimately almost pointless battle. Over at Utah Beach is the Museum of the Occupation that tells the story of French life under the occupation of the Nazis. Nancy found this museum especially interesting. And we went to Colleville-sur-Mer, the scene of the opening and closing of the movie "Saving Private Ryan", and of course, the final resting place of ten thousand American soldiers. Colleville is a stone's throw from Omaha Beach.
The cemetery itself is now American soil, granted to the U.S. by the French people. The administrator is an American, but all the workers are French and there is nowhere on earth a place better cared for. Not one blade of grass was out of place. The white crosses are interspersed with occasional stars of David, as they were when they came ashore on June 6, 1944. The names of the soldiers are carved on the markers which all face west, towards home. We wandered through the markers looking at the names and their hometowns. They had names that were Jewish, Irish, English, Polish and were from Alabama, New York, Idaho and California. They came from big towns, like Boston, and towns you've never heard of. But they all ended up in the same place. I don't think I have ever been to a place that was more emotional for me. I've been to D.C. and seen the capitol, the White House, Washington and Lincoln monuments and I've watched Old Faithful erupt, and gazed across the Grand Canyon. I've been to Civil War battlefields, Antietam, called the bloodiest day in American History. But nothing has been more moving than Colleville-sur-Mer. Perhaps because of the sheer number of crosses in the cemetery, but mostly because some of the survivors D-Day on Omaha Beach are still alive and it is not ancient history.

PARADE OF HOME$....Moab Style

I’m sure every community has different criteria choosing which houses to showcase when they plan their annual “Parade of Homes”. Leave it to Moab to ignore tradition and put a new twist on the event. Tom Lacy took his new "used" home, the former Cisco Hotel, directly to the people of Moab, from 100 West, right up 100 North, across Main Street, and another four blocks to its final resting place.

Moabites and tourists lined the street, chatting and snapping photos, creating an ever-so-slow procession as the huge flatbed truck ceremoniously hauled the stucco hulk. City workers managed the crowd and the power company dealt with the power lines---one block at a time, unhooking and rehooking. As the 90 ton hulk creeped onward, the crowd was asked to move this way and that or cross to the other side of the street. It was all very casual, sooo Moab.

A few grey-haired old women waved a finger at a particular window, commenting “That was my room”. I’m not sure if they meant here in Moab or when the Hotel was first constructed 100 years ago in Cisco, Utah, now barely an imaginary figment of a town along the River Road east of Moab.
The Cisco Hotel continued operating as a Hotel after its move to Moab some 50 years ago, but progress is dictating replacement by the spanking new Cisco Condominiums. So, Tom Lacy decided to buy and preserve a piece of history, for himself and his family. After the “parade” he hosted a morning BBQ dinner for everyone interested, and then begins the process of turning the Cisco Hotel into his family’s home.

This was the first Parade of Homes I’ve ever been to, and I think it will be hard to top.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Dog Psycho-logy 101

Over the years we have always attempted to train our dogs, Cisco, Pancho, O’Malley and now Fergus. O’Malley, apparently hailing from a long lineage of bad boy stock, inspired me to enroll him in dog obedience school. After dutifully paying a considerable sum at the time, I signed an agreement that if my dog disrupted the class for more than “X” number of minutes at any given time, I would remove him to the back of the field. When I finally realized that I was spending 75% of each class at the back of the field staring at blades of grass, I collected what shreds of dignity I had remaining and dropped out. Eight or nine years later O’Malley was controllable.

After deciding I couldn’t be quite as patient with Fergus, I decided to bring the canine behavioral academy to the house and hire a dog trainer one-on-one. I just wanted a few basics----coming when called, no jumping on visitors, no digging, coming when called again. That still left lots of room for creativity in his life. In an effort to be a responsible parent, I bought the proper collar, harness, leash, replacing all the perfectly good ones we already had. I kept telling myself that if they did the magic trick it would all be worth it.

When we are out walking or hiking and I call his name, I started noticing that the first thing Fergus does is look in the direction opposite me. I imagine he’s asking “What doesn’t she want me doing or where doesn’t she want me going?” He be right. So, before he would lower himself to actually come to me, he would have to check out all his options. It was humiliating to know that I was the object of last resort.

All good dog training teaches us that repeating a command you can’t enforce is useless, so standing out there yelling “Fergus, come” 15 times only made me madder. I thought maybe whistling could help out, but I can’t whistle no matter what contortions I put my lips through, and most regular whistles sound obnoxious on a trail. Luckily I came across a wooden whistle that sounds like a train, resonant and mellow, and started working with the lad. A couple toots, a reward upon coming. Slowly but surely, he began to follow me like the Pied Piper.

When Fergus turned six months, we decided to let him use O’Malley’s doggie door, giving him control over his own comings and goings in and out of the house. And, freedom for us, no longer having to constantly let him in and out. But, he refused to go through the door on his own. The sound of the slapping flap threatened him. So, I would have to crawl through the little alcove and out the doggie door, enticing him with doggie cookies all the way. Doug would stand on the other side calling him. In and out we practiced this for a week until one day we heard the flap slap and Fergus appeared inside unprompted. Within a few days, he was happily cruising in and out probably a hundred times a day.

Another dilemma I struggled with was teaching him to “kennel up” into the back of the pickup. He just outright refused. He sat and grew rigid when I raised up his front paws and lifted up his hind end. This nonsense had to stop, as the pup is tipping the scales at 70 pounds these days. It’s certainly not that he can’t leap---he’s a jumper extraordinaire. He just couldn’t make the connection---if he gets in the pickup he gets to go on a hike! We tried throwing dog cookies, his favorite “babies” and me sitting up there calling him. Nothing worked.

Then we realized that Cisco taught Pancho, and Pancho taught O’Malley all these essential canine street smarts. Fergus only has us, so it got us thinking…finally. We took him to a trailhead and waited for somebody with a dog to happen by. Bingo! The first dog we see runs over and jumps in the back of the pickup, and guess who immediately follows? None other than Fergus the fearful. We try it a few more times to reinforce it and we’re getting there.

Here’s what I think about dog training: The best way to train your dog is to find another dog. I can read all the books, buy all the gadgets, but maybe all I needed was a $0.25 whistle and 30 seconds with a dog. And lots of love and patience. And acceptance that the tiny lawn patch will have to wait for a more mature Fergus.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Photos Filed Under the Topic: Signs

I can't imagine any of these need any comment except the Baby Jesus Pur Porc. Why don't we have it here in the U.S.? (Click to enlarge.)

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Not Just Another Roadside Attraction


Oradour sur Glane was once a small, charming village in the picturesque Limousin region of central France. Life there was quiet, uncomplicated and prosperous and even during the dark days of occupation by Nazi Germany in World War II, the people of the village were content to live in the shadow of the spire of their 16th century stone church.
This all ended on the tenth of June, 1944 at around 14:00, when two hundred men from the 2nd SS Panzer Division Das Reich entered the town, ostensibly searching for weapons being stored by the French Resistance. Working to a clearly defined plan, they rounded up all of the inhabitants, separated the women and children and locked the latter inside the Church. Later, the men were separated into different groups and marched off to separate areas within the village.
At 16:00, a small explosion was heard, probably a signal to the troops to begin their "work", whereupon the groups of men were murderously machine-gunned to death. Simultaneously, the Church was set alight and the women and children were either burned or choked to death in the conflagration.
By the end of the massacre, six hundred and forty-two people had been ruthlessly exterminated in the most brutal fashion, two hundred and forty-seven of them were children. Three hundred and twenty-eight buildings had been looted, set on fire and destroyed.
Oradour sur Glane had been wiped out.

During our epic bike journey in the summer of 1987, somewhere in the beautiful valley of the Loire River, Nancy and I heard about a French village that had been destroyed during WWII. The village had been left intact, unrestored, unchanged to serve as a memorial to those lost in that village and in that conflict. A young Canadian/English couple we camped next to told us about it and I can't remember whether they had gone there or not. We never did find out the name of that village or where it might be, but the memory of such a place stuck in our minds. While in Leran last summer, we talked to someone, probably Alan and Eileen Simmons, who had been there and we learned the name of the village; Oradour sur Glane. It would have been a long day to go there from Leran and back in a day, so we didn't get around to a visit. We are hoping that during our drive from Paris to Leran, road-weary from our drive from Moab to Montreal, and jet-lagged from the flight, we'll be able to take time out to visit this poor, forlorn village.

I might add that a handful of people survived the massacre. You can learn more about this village by using Google.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Moab in the Morning

Fergus, like me, is a morning critter. If I’m not already downstairs with coffee and computer in hand by 6 am, he’s nuzzling my side of the bed to inquire what’s wrong. We have our routine, one of the things he did learn very quickly---that as soon as I’ve sufficiently caffeinated and nourished, I’ll take him out for a walk. His walks have progressed into hikes on my three days off, as the weather has warmed up a bit and it’s getting lighter earlier.

Off we head to what are becoming some of his favorite dog-friendly trails around Moab: Negro Bill Canyon, Hidden Valley and Powerhouse Lane. All are within a few miles of town, offer some spectacular scenery (mostly for me) and 2 out of 3 have creeks (for Fergus). I had pretty much stopped hiking when my back problems started several years ago, but it’s so dang much fun watching Fergus zoom back and forth exploring every nook and cranny.

Going out early in the morning on the trails has, in my opinion, tremendous benefits. As the weather warms up towards summer in the desert (hitting 110 F or 43 C), it’s tolerable. The light is soft, not the harsh glaring beating-down midday sun. But probably my biggest motivation for getting out there early is having the trail to us. This is high season in Moab. Professional recreationists of every ilk are making their annual pilgrimages to the desert, sporting all their latest high-tech gadgets and gear. Thousands of tourists easily slink past each other on Main Street, effortlessly cramming into T-shirt shops and restaurants---only because they are all wearing LYCRA.

There is no competition on the trails in the early morning because it is a well-known fact that professional sport enthusiasts must fuel up on Nonfat Quad Venti White Mocha Frappuccinos, Extra Hot, before they can hit the pavement or the dirt. This pastime requires patience, as well as deep pockets, and opens up a time slot for the non-lycra crowd.

This morning on our little hike as I stopped to empty the sand out of my shoes, Fergus apparently slid a bit too far down a boulder into a deep pool and was unsuccessfully scrambling to get out. I quickly abandoned my sand-filtering activity to rescue my dog and haul him up without hauling me in the pool, whereupon he immediately shook off, trotted over to my unattached shoe that must have been screaming out to him “STEAL ME NOW”! The next thing I knew, Fergus was off down the trail with shoe in mouth, grinning like a Cheshire cat. I waited him out, eventually got the shoe back, and leashed him up to my leg while I re-cleaned the stolen shoe. Lot of thanks for saving his life.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Goodbye Dewey Bridge

The first time Nancy and I ever travelled to Moab, in about 1977, we crossed the old Dewey Bridge. It was a one lane wooden suspension bridge that carried Highway 128 across the Colorado River. We had to wait to cross because a truck pulling a fairly large boat headed for Lake Powell was inching across it. Then we had to wait for the traffic coming the other way to cross before we could get across the river.
The bridge was 502 feet (153 m) long and 10.2 feet (3.1 m) wide. The bridge was completed in 1916 by the Midland Bridge Company. The bridge consisted of 2 metal towers, an all wood deck, 2 runs of 7 cables on either side of the bridge deck, and concrete cable anchors. The bridge was designed to support the weight of 6 horses, 3 wagons, and 9,000 pounds (4,100 kg) of freight. On the day of its completion it was the 2nd longest cable suspension bridge in the United States west of the Mississippi River. The largest was also built by the Midland Bridge Company, who used the same base plans for both bridges. The longer twin to the Dewey Bridge crossed the Little Colorado River along U.S. Route 89 in Cameron, Arizona. The Dewey Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in Utah. A dozen years ago the bridge was moved and a new highway bridge built to carry auto traffic. The old Dewey Bridge became a walking bridge and a curiosity. We crossed the new highway bridge fifty time and we never stopped to look at and walk across the old bridge because we thought it would always be there.
Last month, on April 8, a 7 year old boy was playing with matches and started a fire along the river bank. The exotic tamarisks caught fire and then burned down the riverbank till it caught the creosote soaked wooden planks of the bridge on fire. There is talk of raising money to rebuild the bridge, mainly by the group that maintained the historic structure.