Saturday, January 31, 2009

Baedeker, 1914

The last post was about maps and this one is too. These maps are from "Southern France Including Corsica; Handbook for Travellers" by Karl Baedeker. Sixth Revised Edition. Leipzig, Karl Baedeker; New York, C. Scribner's Sons, 1914. Of course in 1914, all maps were hand drawn and I can imagine some of the technology available to them.
They would not have had aerial photos unless someone went up in a balloon with a camera, which I doubt in this case. So these maps are most likely done from observations on the ground. They would have been based on earlier maps, municipal surveys, from measurements made on the ground, and in Carcassonne’s case, drawings by Viollet-le-Duc, the architect and historian who restored the citadel in the late 19th century. Most maps today, especially of a city, are based on air photos. As you might imagine photos from airplanes and satellites improved the accuracy of maps immeasurably.

Draftsman and cartographers would have worked on these maps on some kind of parchment to enable tracing. If they were quite technologically advanced, they probably worked on overlays; a layer for the physical features; a layer for the man-made features; and a layer for the lettering. (Or some variation upon that.)

They no doubt used some kind of architectural scale to make distances on the ground easily transferable to the paper. They would have used india inks of different colors, and a dozen or so pens with different sized metal nibs. They probably would have penciled in rough reference lines and later erased them. These cartographers would have been proficient in hand lettering, an all but lost art today. Those old artisans would have had years of practice doing cross-hatching with a triangle and pen. Line after parallel line, one after the other. They would have to be quite artistic to do the squiggles showing the hills and berms. On the map they resemble thumbprints. And there are stipple patterns too. They would have used French Curves to make nice smooth curved lines, and used compasses for the circles and semi-circles.

Coastlines are shown by a series of lines mimicking each other, each additional one softer until they become quite smooth and flowing. Freehand or with French Curves, I can’t tell.

Needless to say, I’m blown away by the artistic beauty of these maps. You can appreciate them on several different levels. One; they do a good job of showing what’s on the ground and help you find your way around, which is all they are really supposed to do. Two; they were works of art, and even if they were not useful, functional maps, they would be beautiful things to look at. And three; you have to respect the sheer amount of tedious work that went into these maps. It must have be tiresome to take all the measurements and transfer them onto rough drawings in the field. Tiresome to convert the rough drawings and measurements to a scaled down, rough map. And tedious to take the rough map and convert it to a beautiful, understandable, functional map.

Today, aerial and satellite photos, computers, computerized drawing programs do all the work. I sincerely doubt that anyone goes into the field and takes measurements with a measuring tape. No one sets india ink on paper with a slotted nib anymore. Today, no one hand letters "Ocean Atlantique" in such a beautiful manner.

Click on the maps to enlarge them.

I Love Maps

I've always loved maps. Road maps, topographic maps, thematic maps, hand drawn maps, new maps and old maps. In my second stint in college I had a few classes in cartography. We learned about scale, latitude and longitude, different types of projections that have been used, and all kinds of other rigmarole. Lots of the knowledge from that class has disappeared from my memory bank. I enjoyed the cartography class immensely and did well in it. But the less than practical information has vanished.

However, when I think back on those years at Montana State University, and I think of maps, I think of the first day of "Cultural Geography" taught by a Professor Wycoff. On the first day of class he assigned homework: to draw a map of the city of Bozeman without using any references. He told us it would not be graded so just sit down with a pencil and paper and draw a map of the town and to include various landmarks for reference.

It was astonishing to compare my map with the other student's maps. Obviously, some students were more familiar with Bozeman than others. Some students were better draftsmen and artists than others. Without fear of exaggeration, as a former graphic designer and lover of maps, I can say mine was one of the best looking. But maps drawn from memory are interesting not because of their accuracy, but because of what they reveal about the map maker.

I think I could have looked at those maps and told you with some accuracy about the life of the map maker. Some maps had incredible detail about the location of the various bars and taverns. Others highlighted the high school, or the ski area, or the hiking trails, or the football stadium. Most maps showed where the map maker lived and the MSU campus. It was obvious to me that things included on the map were important to the author. I remember one young lady had delineated all the shoe and clothing stores on her map. I didn't know her, but I'll bet I could have picked out the best dressed young lady in the class and it would have been her map

It was also interesting to see the level of accuracy and how it varied. Of course, everyone was most accurate about the things they were most familiar with. Some students got the campus "right on" but the city streets of Bozeman were nearly non-existent. These were students new to to town. Others had street detail that made you think they worked for Bozeman City Planning. Bozeman natives, no doubt.

Some maps showed lots of care and precision, attention to detail and an attempt to put things in the proper scale. Others had inattention to scale and detail that was pure fancy, and you expected to see a hand scrawled "Here be dragons", or a picture of a ship sailing off the end of the world.

So, with the above in mind, I'll let you look at a map I drew the other day of Leran. I haven't been there in four and a half months and this is from memory. You might be able to discern the important landmarks in my mind; the bar and the boulangerie and l'Impasse du Temple where I've had some really fine meals. So, given that the purpose of the map was to give someone who's never been to Leran an idea where to find our house, how did I do? For those of you who live there or have been there, or you wish you could go, you can give me a grade if you like and any input will be appreciated. It's not too late to change it. I'll give you a headstart and point out one glaring error: there is no compass rose or reference to north. You can click on it to enlarge.

A Blast from the Past

Due to a lack of any new blogging material, I am re-publishing a post by Nancy, from February 9, 2007. Our readers had told us it was very funny and well written. Some of you may remember, we were in Leran for a month, looking for a house to buy. We were renting the Simmons' house and we'd used rather a large amount of firewood and decided to replace it. It was titled "Thirty Midnights from Now, None of This Will Matter".

It seemed like an easy enough task. Call Eric Vidal and order some firewood to be delivered. But first we had to anticipate what questions M. Vidal might ask: how much do you want, what length, what kind of wood, where do you want it delivered and when, etc. Not to mention that we needed to negotiate a price. All in French. We wrote out a script and Doug made the call. I don't know whether he was more relieved or anxious that all he got was an answering machine. In his best French he identified himself as an American with a little French, in need of firewood, and please call me at the following number....

The gentleman on the phone that evening was saying something about firewood and did I call that morning. Oui, oui! I would like to buy firewood. I am an American and only speak a little French I respond in my limited francais. He queries me about something and I ask him to repeat and speak more slowly for me. The second time round I pick up that he is asking me where I live. Leran I proudly reply and I can tell he not only understood but knows where it is. Hey, I'm thinking, I just might pull this off. But then the hard questions started. And I faltered.

I look to Doug who is trying to talk to me at the same time that M. Vidal is talking to me at the same time that my brain is shutting down. On the phone there none of the usual crutches available, no pantomimes, no writing. It's either there or not.

Doug suggests that we call back later with a French speaker. Brilliant. I suggest this to M. Vidal who must also think this is brilliant, but when? I suggest demain nuit, tomorrow night, but I can tell that won't work, so I ask how about this evening. That gets a positive reaction, so I want to tell him that we will call him back at at 6:30 pm. I totally forgot the 24 hour clock and couldn't quite remember how to include the half-past part, but I was hoping he'd get the gist. There was a long pause, and I realize I just told him we'd call at "six noon". On to Plan B. Tell him I'll call back in 30 minutes! Piece of cake. Another long pause, then finally, Oui.

Off we go to John and LeeAnne's to beg mercy. She made the call, arranged for delivery, he knows Leran well since his parents live here. Our firewood will be here Saturday before lunch. After the call, over drinks with John and LeeAnne, I recounted my conversation with M. Vidal and pieced together some of the things said. M. Vidal was wise to pause at the phone arrangements I was making. I apparently had told him that I would call him back "in 30 midnights" rather than 30 minutes. Better put that on the calendar, as I'm sure he'll be waiting.

Monday, January 26, 2009

More Reports from Leran

Reports are filtering in from Leran as they get their power back. Here's what Julian has to say about the event. (I told Julian some time ago that here in Utah the word "picture" is pronounced "pitcher" and he has picked it up like he's a native.) Julian and Gwenda live across the street from the village church, which like most French villages, has bells on the hour and half hour, if I remember correctly. Twelve chimes at noon is irritating I suppose, but twelve chimes at midnight must be maddening.

Dear Doug and Nancy

We had a short-duration hurricane-force wind here, Saturday morning and early afternoon, that did a lot of damage to trees and took some tiles off some roofs. Your favourite department store Bricomarche lost the whole of the roof of the outside store, the one where they keep bags of cement and all their bulk sheet material. Quite dramatic. I'll take a pitcher tomorrow to send you. No-one injured but the staff quite shocked.

In Léran we have had a 40 hour electricity power cut, ending a short while ago. The church clock stopped at 3.29 pm Saturday for the duration of the cut and we were the beneficiaries of nearly two days without the damned bells! The main cross-country electricity feed had been cut by a falling tree just outside the village, near the river bridge on the road to Aigues Vives. EDF mended it this morning (Monday) and the power was restored just in time for lunch.

During the cut Léran was without any street lighting and was silent as a morgue at night. We went to 5 rue du Four for dinner Saturday evening and Eileen and Alan did wonders without electricity - fortunately they had gas for cooking and we had a great feast. On the way home we saw the stars like never before and, in contrast to the storms on Saturday, Sunday was one of those dream days with wall-to-wall blue sky. At that time the prediction posted on the Mairie notice board was that we wouldn't have electric power restored for a few more days because of the widespread damage in the area. So Gwenda and I lit the barbecue and cooked everything raw from the freezer that might otherwise go to waste. I now have to eat my way through about one-and-a-half metres of cold barbecued Toulouse sausages - I'll have it with everything for a few days I guess.

14 rue du Four looks to be OK but I'll check the surrounding streets for remains of your furniture! Actually there was very little damage in the village. Our nearest neighbour lost her TV arial together with the top section of the chimney to which it was attached. But that was all we could see around our place.

So we had a little drama but not as fierce storms as people elsewhere. Fortunately for us we had just installed a wood burner last week and we lit it for the first time Sunday afternoon by which time the underfloor storage heating effect had worn off.

Report from France

I got this e-mail from my friend Ian who lives in Rivel, near Leran, about the situation in France after the storm. We're hoping that all our friends and everyone else in Leran are doing okay and that power is restored soon.

Hi Doug and Nancy,

As one of the millions without power, I'd just like to say its a bit grim now and we're all getting a bit bored of the situation. The Storm hit very early Saturday morning, and was pretty much over by the late afternoon. Pompiers (firemen) were out during the day telling all to stay in. We lost power in Rivel, Saturday morning and up to this morning (Monday) it was still off, and seeing many a powerline felled around the village, I think it's gonna be a few more days like this. It seem to be mostly affecting the small villages. Lavelanet, is fine, as that's where we are now at some friends. Chalabre, St Colombe, Leran, all seem to be out, although bizarrely Bastide sur l'hers seemed unaffected...I'm sure you'll get a fuller report elsewhere.

All the best

Ian & Jo

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Storm Batters Southwest France

A severe storm has hit France and Spain leaving a large portion of Southwestern France out of power. Yesterday evening I e-mailed a good portion of our friends in Leran. As of very early Sunday morning, I have not heard from any of them. My guess is that everyone is ok (I hope) but they have no electricity and can't reply. I did see pictures of wind damage in Toulouse so I'm sure there were high winds in Leran. Below is a news report from Bordeaux, but it sounds like the worst hit area was Perpignan, on the Mediterranean coast near the Spanish border. I'm hoping to hear from all of our friends soon.

BORDEAUX, Jan 25 - Hundreds of technicians from across Europe were Sunday trying to get France's electricity and rail networks back on track after hurricane-force winds wreaked havoc in the southwest and killed four people. Twelve helicopters flew over the storm-struck zone to help a thousand workers deployed from electricity grid operator ERDF's rapid intervention force to try to restore power to the 1.1 million homes left in the dark. More technicians from Germany, Britain and Portugal were on their way to join the operation, ERDF said. High winds gusting up to 184 kilometres (114 miles) an hour were reported at the city of Perpignan during Saturday's storm, bringing down trees onto roadways and rail lines across the region that borders Spain. The tempest brought all rail traffic to a halt in the Midi-Pyrenees region. Rail operator SNCF said it had deployed workers since late Saturday to lift fallen trees from tracks and try to get services back to running normally again. It said services were slowly resuming Sunday but that the electricity cuts were hampering its work. Four people died in southwestern France during Saturday's storm, including two drivers who were killed by falling trees in the Landes department. A 78-year-old man also died when he was hit by flying debris outside his home, local authorities said, while a 73-year-old women died in the southwestern Gironde department when the storm cut electricity powering her breathing machine.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Good News from the Bar

Dear Doug and Nancy

It's official! You can now get gorgeous frites (plus sausages and eggs or ham and eggs etc) for Sunday lunch at the Bar.

Hurry back!


Thanks Julian. Wow, this is good news. An English breakfast is a welcome addition to the menu and the French Fries are too. This is a good picture of the bar. I see Shirley, the proprietress in her striped apron, and Bill at a table, giving us a big smile. Eileen is happily getting ready to dig into the eggs and frites. Monsieur Simmons is either graciously presenting his plate to the photographer, or shocked speechless to see Julian behind the bar with a camera. I can't tell. In any case, Alan looks very healthy with a ruddy complexion, like he spent the day before skiing or walking.

It is not an exaggeration to say we'd head back to Leran today if we could, but our arrival is about four months away. Thanks, Julian and keep the news coming.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Fast Trip to the Grand Canyon

Bill and I agreed to meet somewhere to toast in the new President and say "Good Riddance" to the old. Grand Canyon was not exactly halfway between Moab and Phoenix, but we decided against Tuba City, Arizona and Mexican Hat, Utah. If you've been there you know why. This is Nancy, Bill and Kathy on the steps of the Bright Angel Lodge on the morning we left.

The canyon was gorgeous, as always, and the visibility was excellent. You can see the North Rim in the picture above, and it is ten miles away. This was taken just as the sun came up on second and last morning.

After the inauguration, we walked along the rim for several miles to the visitor center and a series of overlooks into the canyon. The snow from a month ago had been compacted into ice and as the temperature was just above freezing, it was slippery, especially where the trail was at a slight slope. We didn't walk down into the canyon this time, but Nancy is inspired to walk from the North Rim to the South Rim. She'll have to do it without me.

This is the view from our room, taken by Bill. It was a great room and a nice little getaway from Moab. My only complaint, and it is small and picayune, is that the maintenance staff was chipping five inches of ice from the trails. Chunk, chunk, chunk all day every day.

Thank God and Greyhound, He's Gone

That's the title, slightly changed, of an old County-Western tune that seemed wholy appropriate. This is a picture from the television screen in our cabin at the Grand Canyon. I'm going to delete this post after a few days so that I no longer have to look at him. Good riddance, Mr. Bush.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Doug’s Excellent Mexican Adventure, Part Dos

Our route to Mexico City, in two Dodge Motorhomes was similar to the one on this map, without the detour to Guadalajara. Other than wandering around, I couldn’t tell you what I did for three days in Mexico City forty-three years ago. I know some of the 20 guys went to the National Museum of Anthropology. They talked for days about seeing the preserved arm of Benito Juarez. I’m sorry I missed it, because I can’t find any reference to it on the internet. Has it been removed? Or was it never there? I did go out for dinner with three other guys and we were able to get cold draft beers with our steaks. It felt so awfully grown up.

I recall street markets in many places, similar to the markets I would see in Europe years later. At one of those markets, I bought something that I just had to have and could not possibly live without. I spent 30 minutes bargaining with the street vendor. I walked away in phony disgust and came back again, but I think he knew the sale was only a matter of time. What was the prize that I wanted so badly? A set of bull horns mounted on a plaque. I wrote the name "Cuernos de Toro" on the back so I wouldn’t forget, and I haven’t. I hung them on my bedroom wall. The last time I saw them, my nephew had somehow latched on to them and they were in Washington State.

We set off for Acapulco one morning and passed through the old silver mining town of Taxco. I believe the mines still operate and the silver is used to make all kinds of beautiful jewelry and ornaments such as candlesticks and salt and pepper shakers. The town sits in the mountains to the south of Mexico City and was absolutely beautiful. We were red hot to get to Acapulco and only spent an hour or so there wandering through the narrow, steep streets packed to the rafters with vendors selling silver. I’m sure the town deserves at least a day or two. I have never been back, but I think I will get there one day.

We lumbered into Acapulco late in the day and found a motel where we could park the motor homes and get some rooms. I think we flipped coins to decide who would get a room and who would sleep on the bus. Acapulco at that time, 1966, was a considerably different town than it is today, judging by recent pictures of the huge skyscraper hotels along the beach. It was better known to the wealthy inhabitants of Mexico City than to wealthy Americans. Our motel was two blocks from the beach and had seen better days. There was only one water faucet in the bathroom; lukewarm. One faucet in the shower; lukewarm. But the toilet was clean and stocked with toilet paper. The bed was comfy so I was happy.

We immediately went to the beach and swam even though it was after dark. We played in the surf until the Acapulco Police forced us to come out of the water, for our own safety, I guess. We spent about five days in Acapulco and had a fabulous time. Every day we went to the beach until we got too sunburned to be in the sun.
One evening, a handful of us went to see the cliff divers and to this day I marvel how brave those divers were. I suppose we thought of them as men, but they weren’t much older than we were. They dove mostly for tips and it couldn’t have been enough money to risk their lives. The divers stood on the cliff for what seemed like a very long time, (I suppose it seemed very short to those doing the diving) judging the water and waiting for the perfect wave to come in and make the dive possible. Eventually, they would cross themselves and leap as far out from the rocks as they could. Magnificent and brave. Years later, now that I know something about tides, I can only assume that the divers performed at certain times of the day and month when the water was safe.

It was hot in Acapulco, I suppose, approaching 100F. Being gringos, and recently arrived from the frozen north, we sought relief; air conditioned bars, or cool, shady, breezy beach cabanas. The other place we congregated in the late afternoons was in our "luxurious" motorhomes with the air conditioning running. There was an American expatriate in residence, white-haired, skin brown as a coffee bean and wrinkly as a prune and dressed only in shorts and tennis shoes. He stormed out of the motel room where he lived, and berated us for several hours about the noise and the selfishness of our habit. He pointed out the little ninos who suffered from the heat without complaint, the poor old women who suffered all summer. He said he couldn’t take his nap with the bus and compressor roaring outside his window. He called us weak and spineless, told us we lacked gumption and good manners. Spoiled brats, insensitive Yanquis, wealthy gringos, filthy putas, resource wasting, caca eating Americanos. Of course he was right on all counts, but we didn’t turn off the air conditioning until dusk when it cooled off. Then we walked downtown for dinner.

Of course, the high point of the trip to Mexico was the morning we set off for home. We had to drag Tom out of his bed, hungover and stinking of gin. As we rolled north, Tom told his story, and the nine other students on my bus were green with envy. Tom, and a chap on the other bus, had visited a brothel the night before and had surrendered their virginity to a couple of young Mexican professionals. No doubt the same covert conversation was going on in the other bus. We had to know every detail. And Tom did his best to inform us but could not remember a lot of what had happened. Too much gin at a downtown bar, a knowledgeable taxi driver, a madam who took all of Tom’s remaining pesos and five minutes in a little room with Maria. We were enthralled and Tom was our hero.

We were done with Mexico. Five long, boring days in the bus stared us in the face. By this time we were irritable, cranky and homesick. We wanted American food and wanted it now. All of us, including the teachers, were sunburned and had peeling, itchy skin. A popular pastime was seeing who could peel off the largest patch of dead skin. We sat in our respective vehicles and picked on the perceived weakest member, as well as our skin. By the time we reached the border, the frustration and anger was boiling over. Bill, my future best friend and college roommate, got into a shouting match with another student who had called him "a silly clown" while the U.S. Customs Service inspected our baggage. Fisticuffs ensued and was broken up, hard feelings all around.

Cheers erupted spontaneously as our busses crossed the border into the good old USA. We took a short detour and headed for the nearest El Paso fast food joint for "high quality" American food.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Grand Canyon, Tampax & Obama

Doug and I are meeting some old friends at the South Rim of the Grand Canyon on Monday to toast Barack Obama’s historic inauguration and celebrate the end of the “W” era. I don’t think we’ll be doing much hiking this trip, merely exercising our champagne elbows.

We’ve been down to the bottom of the Grand Canyon twice, both times in winter, just about this time of year. The first time, in 1978 or 1979 I think, we waffled back and forth whether to splurge on a dinner at the El Tovar or a hotel room before hiking down. Dinner at the El Tovar won the toss, and we froze our butts in the back of the pickup later that night with pleasant dreams of a fantastic dinner.

The first stretch of the Kaibab trail, a series of S-curve switchbacks, was like a skating rink. It was January. Even though the trail was sufficiently wide, the drop-off was not forgiving. I perfected the 'baby-step' walk while pretending to be seriously interested in the striations of the rock wall. We had a reservation to pitch our tent at the Phantom Ranch Campground on the Colorado River, some 9 miles down, for a few nights. In the pickup in the parking lot, we brilliantly left a six-pack of cheap beer on ice for the return.

At the beginning of the hike, you could not have convinced me that walking downhill could be that difficult. But with each mile, my pack became a source of greater agitation and my hip flexors screamed louder and louder. I was glad that we had an extra day to rest at the bottom before we had to make the long haul out. One of the mule trains passed us on the way down, carrying what we called the “sissy” tourists. We cursed the foul stench the mules left in their wake as they pissed where they pleased. Or, was it the tourists?

The temperature at the top was well below zero, but with each mile down into the canyon it became balmier. We pitched our tent as we lost daylight and decided to wander around. We followed the sound of music to the Phantom Ranch house, a most inviting place in the bottom of The Canyon. We had been clueless to its existence. Inside, there was a guy singing and playing mediocre guitar, other hikers hanging out at tables exchanging stories, sipping beers. BEERS? They served beer down here? Suddenly we realized that we left our wallets locked in the car at the top of the canyon. We checked all our pockets and came up with $3.75. We checked the prices. A small plastic cup of beer was $.75. We were going to be here for two nights. You do the calculations. It didn’t look good. We each got a beer and quietly cried in it.

By the time we got back to our camp, it had started gently raining. Our tent was too small to keep our packs in it, so we slid them under the picnic table for cover. During the night it continued to rain, never too hard, but continuous. Also during the night, as was usual for me on a backpacking trip, I knew I began my period. I decided to wait until morning to retrieve a Tampax from my pack. There was always one sidepocket of my pack that was filled with a baggie of Tampax, just in case. It’s the first rule in the woman’s code of backpacking.

When I pulled my pack out in the morning, I discovered all the rain pooled under the picnic table. Unfortunately, I had set the pack Tampax side down, and apparently the baggie failed. When I pulled the baggie out of the pocket, it practically exploded. The Tampax had swollen up to the size of rolling pins. The outer cardboard covers boinged off like rubber bands being shot into outer space. There was no way these were going to work. I told Doug I would have to take some of the remaining money and go down to the Phantom Ranch and buy some Tampax. Oh, the look on his face said it all. But he quickly gave me the remaining money.

I came back from the Ranch dejected and handed the money back to Doug. They wouldn’t sell less than a full box, and I didn’t have enough money. He asked me what I was going to do. I wasn’t sure, but I’d think of something. Then the idea struck. I took out our little backpackpacking stove, lit it up, undid the cook kit and put the frying pan component on to heat up. Then, a few at a time, I started drying out the Tampax, constantly stirring them over a low flame so they wouldn’t burn. I kept the strings out of the way.

I was well along in my project when one of the Park Service backcountry rangers came up to our camp site to check our permit. He asked all the usual niceties “where are you from?”; “have you hiked here before?”; “what route did you take?”; but all the while, he was staring at the unusual concoction simmering away in the frying pan. He never asked about it, but he never took his eyes off of it. Perhaps he just wondered what sauce one served with Tampax. I can only imagine what he was thinking, and what story he told later that night to his buddies.

All I know is that the rest of our money was spent on beer, the pan-fried Tampax worked OK for the purpose intended, and life was good. The ice-cold beer in the cooler at the top was pure motivation every inch of the 9 mile grind going out. I won't be cooking any Tampax on this trip. But I will be looking forward to life getting better. The King is dead. Long live the King.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Taxi Ride to Remember

I think that my favorite Yellowstone story is one that is not even my own experience. Rather, it was one that was told to me by an old Bozeman neighbor, Ron Hess. It is one I borrowed and incorporated many times. When I worked as an interpretative ranger, my evening ‘campfire’ slideshow program was on the Fires of ’88. So, Ron, I hope you don’t mind me sharing your adventure one more time.

During the summer of 1988, the Year of the Fires in Yellowstone, Ron was moonlighting as a taxi driver. This was just one of his moonlighting jobs. The other was host of the Torch & Toes Bed & Breakfast in Bozeman. His primary paycheck came from the university where he was an architecture professor. The taxi driver gig, as he put it, was to gather stories to tell his students. So, here’s one of them.

Volumes have been written about The Fires of ’88, but for the point of this story, let’s leave it that on any given day that summer roads might be open or they might be closed because of smoke, flames, and winds. Campgrounds and hotels might be evacuated with little notice. But visitors, as if on a religious pilgrimage, insisted on eye-witnessing the damage, the destruction, the devastation…the “D-words” as we called them. Doug and I weren’t working in Yellowstone yet, but were living in Bozeman. We remember nearly gagging on the smoke in our sleep and having to put a piece of paper over a glass of water by the bedside or there would be an accumulation of ash on the surface.

Ron’s taxi company got a call in early September from a group of eight senior citizens whose tour had been cancelled. Would he be willing to take them on the Grand Loop tour, lunch at the Lake Hotel, watch Old Faithful erupt, and have them back in Bozeman for a 6:30 pm dinner engagement? Sure, why not? It would be a long day, everyone was up for it. They entered the Park through the West Entrance (West Yellowstone) and were duly warned about the smoky conditions, but were told all roads were open. So far so good, and the group elected to continue. The eruption of Old Faithful was lost in choking clouds of smoke. The entire geyser basin was engulfed. Firefighters were hosing down the Old Faithful Inn in an attempt to save the historic structure, and guests were being forewarned of an impending evacuation.

The eeriness that Yellowstone presented itself that day was spooky, even to someone like Ron who had been there numerous times. As he reached West Thumb Junction (Grant Village), there were no closure signs, so he pressed on to Lake Village and lunch at the Lake Hotel. They drove through pockets of intact forest, seemingly untouched by the fires, and then through areas charred beyond recognition. A Yellowstone war zone. The only conversations at lunch were about fire.

After lunch they piled back in the van to head off toward the North Entrance (Mammoth) and back to Bozeman, only to discover that entrance had now been closed. They would have to double back through Grant Village and Old Faithful and out the West Entrance. But, by the time they reached Grant, a sign was posted that the West Entrance was now closed. The only way out of the Park was south, through the Tetons.

In an effort to make up for some lost time (and overcome the addition of a few hundred extra miles) Ron barreled through Teton National Park…and got a $80 speeding ticket. Several hours late and several hours later, the group finally arrived back in Bozeman around 2 am, well past their 6:30 pm dinner date. When he dropped the eight senior citizens off, Ron apologized for getting them home sooo late. They tossed off his apology, tipped him, just about enough to cover his ticket, and moreover, they all confirmed that “they had just been on the ride of their lives.” Well worth the ticket, eh, Ron?

Quoth the Raven...

I could almost picture the ravens snickering behind the snowmobilers backs, their mantra being “If you leave it, I will come”. Even with warnings in the Park newspaper, and flyers with ‘robber raven’ photos plastered in all the warming huts, careless snowmobilers persisted leaving their backpacks behind. They returned from a geyser basin tour only to discover not only their snacks and lunch, but also any brightly colored curiosities strewn around the parking lot. Or worse yet, missing.

Did they ignore the warnings, forget about them, or…were they just unable to read or understand the obvious meaning behind the photos? Perhaps they were in disbelief---really, how could a stupid bird open a zipper? Some folks actually tied the zipper ties in knots, still to find their possessions in utter disarray.

I must admit that after numerous attempts extending a friendly word of advice to clueless people who assumed I was being neurotic; I gave up and relished my observer status. As a winter instructor for the Yellowstone Institute, my class and I traveled Yellowstone’s grand loop in a snowcoach. In addition to our backcountry ski and snowshoe adventures, we hit the frontcountry thermal areas: Norris, West Thumb, Midway, Upper, Lower, and Mud Volcano.

The ravens had the drill down pat. As soon as the people would walk away from their machines, they would start inching forwards. They were always ready to bolt. Once on the machine, they would start working the Velcro flap on the back compartment. They perfected an all-in-one movement of grabbing the flap, pulling it up and under them so that they could then poke their head into the compartment. Brilliant! They had an easier time working zippers than I do on some jackets. They just grabbed the slider and gave it a good tug, and once they had an opening they could grab the fabric itself to increase the opening size.

Sometimes our group would sit in the snowcoach for the better part of an hour, just mesmerized by the performance. On one particular day, a very persistent raven started pulling something red and green out of a pack. It went on endlessly, and we determined it to be about an 8’ long scarf. The raven kept going, so there must have been something else of interest. Sure enough, out comes a baggie with a bagel sandwich. The raven opened the baggie, peeled off the lettuce and threw it to the ground, and flew off with one-half of the sandwich to a nearby tree. It quickly flew back and retrieved the other half. Besides lots of food items, over the course of the winters I worked in Yellowstone I saw mittens, audio cassettes, maps, hair scrunchies, keys, and I’m sure even a few condoms end up in some ravens secret stash.

Until recently, Edgar Allen Poe might have been one of the few people to appreciate ravens. The group term for ravens is “an unkindness of ravens”---go figure. Ravens in Yellowstone are now being studied at great length---by scientists that is, not just voyeurs like me. Not only is there a symbiotic relationship between ravens and snowmobilers, but there is also a symbiotic relationship between ravens and wolves. Ravens are scavenger birds, feeding on carcasses, kills by other animals. But, they also ‘find’ carcasses, winterkill or natural causes, and their circling flight patterns can actually lead other animals like wolves or coyotes to the carcass. Since a lone raven could easily be kicked off a kill by a wolf or bear, ravens will group up on a kill site, sometimes more than a hundred at a time.

Bernd Heinrich, a raven researcher out of the northeast, has documented his findings in “Ravens in Winter” and “The Mind of the Raven”. Spend a little time with either, an all those raven myths will be Nevermore!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

It's Not Just Alice's Wonderland

From the beginning of Yellowstone’s tourist history (1872), a reputation as a “wonderland in winter” established itself. Trees are enveloped in an eerie hoar frost. The air is as if it has been stretched to an unimaginable thinness, and sounds travel great distances. The steam that rises from the thermal pools is pea-soup thick and renders you absolutely sightless as you walk closer. The blissful tradeoff, thankfully, is that you suddenly feel like you are on a Caribbean island when you are enveloped in luscious warmth. After you make your way through the billowing clouds, you discover you are drenched---but only for a brief time as the water droplets seize up in the sometimes 30 below temperatures.

Ask anyone what the best thing about a winter visit to Yellowstone is, and they will tell you: NO CROWDS! It’s true; it’s an inhospitable place in the winter. Days are short, nights interminably long. It is a demanding environment. Fewer services are available, fewer places open. You can’t just show up and expect everything else to be taken care of---you have to prepare. Many have learned their lesson. But to experience all this wonder without having to be overrun by hordes of people pushing and shoving….aah!

I worked several winters in Yellowstone, both for the Park Service and the Yellowstone Institute. In 1999 I accepted a winter position in Yellowstone’s interior from early February to early April. I was told that I might not be able to leave the Park for those eight weeks; and therefore, plan accordingly. ‘Accordingly’ meant to bring adequate provisions to last me for the entire time. This was an emergency hire and I was given little notice, so my preparation included lots of list-making. How long would fresh produce last---certainly not 8 weeks? I attempted to write sample menus with little result. What it boiled down to was that I needed to second-guess everything, because there wasn’t a 7-11 down the block. Not only food (and I include wine in this category) but also planning for clothing, bedding, toiletries. My apartment would have a bed, chair, table, and little else. Every few minutes I’d think of something else and panic. I was informed that I had to limit my gear to a certain number of plastic packing crates. Luckily, Doug has always called me “The Lone Arranger”, so smart packing is my forte.

I met the mat track over-the-snow vehicle in Mammoth for my several hour ride to Canyon. It was also transporting supplies for the Ranger Station, thus the reason my space was restricted. Things were tight, but when we finally headed out I felt a great sense of relief. There was no turning back. I had never been into the interior in winter before, and I quickly fell under its spell. The mat track, a Suburban whose tires were replaced with track system for travel on the snow-covered roads, plodded along at 20 mph. Light was fading as we arrived in Canyon and my driver, in an effort to unload as quickly as possible, could only dump my crates along the road. I began cursing my ‘smart packing’ methodology, as the crates were beyond my lifting and carrying capacity. I dragged and pushed them down the walkway, over the 4’-high berm of hard-pack snow that had slid off the roofs, and finally, finally into my apartment.

A week later, Doug called to tell me he was offered a Park Service job in Moab for the winter. Since he would have to find housing when he got there, he couldn’t take O’Malley with him. My studio apartment in Canyon was in a complex affectionately dubbed “The Dog Pound” because it was the only place employees with pets could live. So, O’Malley became my roommate that winter. I transported him to my duty station (about 35 road miles) by snowmobile from Park Headquarter in Mammoth, hauling him in a kennel on a pull sled. I would stop every 5 miles or so to monitor his condition. I could barely feel my cheeks (either pair) but he was grinning from ear to ear.

Because dogs are not allowed off-leash in national parks, due to that nasty habit of chasing wildlife, O’Malley and I engaged in numerous daily outings. The first was at 5:30 am, before coffee, for about a 4-mile run. In order to leave the door at 5:30 am I had to start dressing about 5:00 am to prepare for the frigid weather. When I would get to work later I would always check the temperature---38 below was my record. It was great to get out there just after the road graders had plowed for the snowmobilers (who use the road system in the interior of the park), because this left a super hard-pack surface on which to run. The “surface” of the road was about 8’ lower than the top of the berm formed along the sides of the road. So, it seemed as if we were running through a tunnel of sorts. O’Malley insisted upon running on top of the berm wall so he could get a better view. Luckily I had a long leash and a good rotator cuff.

At lunch, I would ski or snowmobile back from the Ranger Station and take O’Malley out for a quickie business walk. This would hold him until later in the afternoon when we usually headed out walking the loop road towards the Lower Falls of the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone. By 4:00 pm, snowmobilers were off the road, at least the smart ones, and the Park resumed its much-needed solitude. You could hear the roar of the Falls a long ways away.

My next door neighbor in the Dog Pound, Wes, was a law enforcement ranger. He spent his days patrolling the roads on snowmobile, attempting to maintain the 45 mph posted speed limit. He told me that one time he stopped some guys he had clocked doing 75 mph. Even if you were lucky enough to ride immediately after the graders had plowed the road, and lucky enough for it to be just the right temperature, cruising at 75 mph would have been enough to have caused permanent back injury to anyone.

Wes had a golden retriever that he had trained to ride on the seat of the snowmobile with him. With a headband around the dog’s ears, after ear plugs were inserted of course, goggles over his eyes, and his paws hugging the handlebars for balance, Wes and pooch rivaled any Duckboy postcard I’ve ever seen.

Since I started this assignment after the beginning of the winter season, I met all the other employees at Canyon one by one that winter. But, because it was always well below zero, no one dared to removed their face masks or balaclavas to introduce themselves and talk. Most of the time, they never took off their snowmobile helmets. So, I got to know people only by their voices. My life in Canyon that winter was an adjustment. No newspaper, radio, TV, and this was well before the days of being an internet junkie. I skied/jogged/walked with O’Malley, read a book a night, rarely socialized---pretty much led the life of a hermit. Exposure to two somewhat famous Yellowstone spectator sports quickly hooked me as a fan: shoveling the roofs in Canyon Village and observing the robber ravens. The interaction between ravens and snowmobilers deserves an entire post to itself, so I will not elaborate now.

The roofs of the buildings in Canyon were constructed apparently ignoring the snowload factors of Yellowstone Park. Every year, as the snowpack mounts up and compresses, mathematical formulas are calculated to determine when the winterkeeper will perform his/her most significant duty---clearing the snow. It was an activity that captured the attention of tourists and employees, watching the winterkeeper mark off sections of hard-pack snow into giant sugar cube-like blocks. Special shovels had been constructed for this task. After marking off the checkerboard pattern, each sugar cube was carefully wedged out and slowly propelled down the roof.

At the end of the season, we all waited with baited breath for the plows to reach us as they cleared the roads of snow in advance of the opening of the summer season. That year, there were lots of equipment problems as the plows encountered layers of ice that derailed their progress. All the delays were causing depression to set in at Canyon. Somebody suggested an end-of-the season bonfire and then a potluck. It gave us something to look forward to, and planning committees formed.

On the day of the potluck, we all showed up at the warming hut at the appointed time with little scraps of whatever food items we had left in our stashes. Suddenly I realized that I didn’t know who some of these people were. None of us were wearing our face masks or balaclavas anymore. I almost had to close my eyes and listen to the voices to figure it out. The conversations were bizarre. I kept hearing the same question being asked: “So, how long has it been since you’ve been out?” If I didn’t know better, I would have sworn I was in a prison waiting room. I overheard a lengthy discussion about how Yellowstone in winter is living in sensory deprivation. You look outside your window, and everything is white, white, white. Broken up by black spikes, the remaining standing charred lodgepole pine from the fires of ’88. But the rest is white. It drives some people near-mad.

I packed up my stuff and left Canyon that morning. The sun was brilliant, the melting snow twinkling so bright I could barely see. Bison were calving, bears out of hibernation and feeding on winter kill, osprey returning and nesting, ravens no longer making easy prey of the snowmobiler’s backpacks for food and trinkets. The annual rejuvenation of Yellowstone had begun. And for O’Malley and me, our winter was also over. It was time to move on.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

We Get Letters

You regular readers will remember Harley, who, some time ago sent us some reminisces of her trips to France. She wrote us again and told the story of her trip, when she was just 15, to Mexico City. She's a gracious lady and a wonderful writer. So here goes.....

Dear Doug and Nancy,

I enjoyed Part I of Doug’s high school Mexican adventures. As it happens, I had some as well. My sister Angelette graduated from Mexico City College and married an American and settled down for a time in Mexico City, before moving to the jungles of Yucatan, then to New Orleans, and finally to northern British Columbia, where she has resided for the past 20 years.

Angelette and Mike had a baby boy in February of 1956, although we didn’t get word of his arrival until late May, when I was a few months shy of 16. My mother’s previous experience with mailing gifts to Mexico had been very unsuccessful. The packages tended to arrive, if at all, between six months and a year after being mailed and the contents were always missing the most desirable items. Hence, one of my first great adventures.

After hearing about the birth of the little boy, my mother declared that her first grandchild needed a layette and other essential equipment, such as a hand operated food grinder for making baby food. Since she knew that the child would be walking before it arrived if she mailed it, she said to me, "Harley, why don’t you take the things to Mexico City that your sister needs?" Not yet sixteen and completely undeterred by any misgivings, I called a similarly disposed friend, Martha Ann, and invited her to join me on the journey as soon as school was out. She got her parents’ permission and we started getting ready.

Since my parents did not do for their six children what they could do for themselves, it never occurred to me to ask advice in planning the trip. So, one steaming hot June morning, Martha Ann (still my dear friend) and I set out for Mexico from Jackson, Mississippi, on an un-air-conditioned local (I didn’t know there were such things as expresses) Trailways bus that stopped every time someone waved at it from Jackson to Laredo, Texas.

I have no memory of being disgustingly dirty and smelly, but it must have been so after our 30 hour trip on narrow country roads to Texas. (This was before any big highways.) I do remember that Martha Ann and I bathed in the wash basins in the bus station in Laredo. There, we meandered across the border, a casual affair, and boarded the Aztec Rose, a train which was replaced a few years later by a new model that did not break down every hour or two. 802 miles later we pulled into Mexico City and found our way to my sister’s apartment. She was quite surprised to find us at her door since there had been no way to give her the wonderful news of our coming. At least, we assumed it was wonderful. Anyway, she acted glad to see us.
Martha Ann and I spent about two weeks in Mexico wandering about, seeing Mexico City with my sister and also taking local buses to such great places as Cuernavaca and Taxco and being treated wonderfully by the local citizenry. Once, we missed the last bus out of Taxco to Mexico City and had to hire a decrepit taxi to catch up with the bus. He drove at breakneck speed, around mountainous curves with no regard for which side he passed on-coming cars. Martha Ann still gets queasy when we recall that journey.

We had a lovely time with Angelette and her little family, which included a precious small dog named "Dinky" who bounced upwards one foot for every foot forward that he took. Once he bounced right down into a big hole in the road and had to be rescued, undeterred, by a nearby workman, who kissed him before returning him to us. At that age, long before I was a mother or grandmother, I was much more entranced by the dog than by my cute little nephew, who was a few months older than my parents had been told, my sister having been married only the previous August. I brought some photos of him to my parents, including one of the baby practically sitting up. My father, a physician, said, "Hmmm, remarkably advanced for six weeks of age." Nothing more was ever said.

Being gently raised young ladies, Martha Ann and I, unlike Doug, drank no beer in Mexico. Maybe a little tequila just once. Maybe.

My word, I did not intend to go on like this. Thank you for your wonderful blog. I have loved Doug’s stories of Yellowstone, which has reportedly been doing some extra shaking lately. How about some tales from you, Nancy?

Happy New Year! Harley

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The Leran Walkers Walk Again

Julian Gray sent words and pictures once more about the January 9th walk from Belloc to Camon and back. It looks like Nancy and Fergus and I are missing good times back in old Leran. The south of France looks very wintery and cold. I don't suppose anyone had anything to drink?
Dear Doug and Nancy

We went from Belloc to Camon and back, taking a circular route. It was a cold and drizzly day, with a thaw setting in following two small snowfalls but, as you can see, we were in good spirits in more ways than one, attending the Bar in Léran on our return and then adjourning for a magnificent lunch at Brian's house. He and his brother John are excellent cooks and they had prepared a superb meal. 21 of us squeeeeeezed into the dining room - it was very cozy. Brian entertained us with some Irish ballads - he has a great tenor voice.

The disused railway tunnel at Camon was on the route of the walk. When I went a couple of years ago it was dark inside and, because it is not straight through, it was dangerous to try to navigate around the bend without a torch. Since then it has been equipped with lights that come on when people are detected inside. A close look at the stonework shows some skilfully assembled masonry, in perfect condition after perhaps 150 years. The walls of the tunnel have interesting rows of slots. I guess that they are for inserting beams to span the tunnel, to provide support for the construction of the stone arch above.

With very best wishes for 2009 from your friends here.

Julian and Gwenda

I know this tunnel. We drove through it several times in 2007, but last year it had been converted to a walking, bicycling tunnel only. I am going to guess that it is a half to three quarters of a mile long. Very spooky before the installation of the lights.

Our Thanks to Julian and Gwenda for keeping us informed about the goings-on on Leran.

Doug's Excellent Mexican Adventure

In the Spring of 1966 I made my first trip to Mexico. I was attending a private high school and taking Spanish to fulfil the language requirement. I had mentioned to my parents that the Spanish teacher was organizing a trip to Mexico. I hadn’t thought about going. I had planned to spend my Easter Break skiing in the Colorado Rockies. My folks, however, thought the price of the trip was a steal and too good to pass up. I think it was a $1000 for two weeks of travel, food, lodging included. I remember taking $150 for walking around money. I never imagined that they would cough up the money for the trip and until they encouraged me to go, I hadn’t even thought seriously about it.
The plan was to rent two 1966 Dodge Motor homes. Twenty students and four teachers would make up the crew. Forty-two years later, I remember very few of my fellow students on that trip, and only three of the teachers. Mr. Rider, a young Chilean, taught Spanish as did Mr. Dayton, a gringo. Mr. Terrinzini was from Vermont and had never been to Mexico nor did he speak a word of Spanish. For the life of me, I can’t remember the fourth teacher. All of the students were boys between the ages of 17 and 19. Basically, two busloads of pimpled, hormone fueled idiots.

The Dodge Motor Homes slept about eight, as I recall, which meant we had to sleep in shifts. The food provided was industrial, gallon sized cans of peanut butter, pickles, beans and the like, anything the cafeteria at school would let us have.

We left Denver Friday afternoon a soon as school was out and drove almost non-stop to Mexico City, which took us five days. We were told to bring very few belonging as there wasn’t much storage room. The bathroom situation was dismal. As you might imagine the toilet and bathing facilities were for emergencies only. When we would gas up, we’d hit the bathroom en masse. This worked fairly well until we actually got to Mexico. The first gas station in Mexico was a lifelong lesson in how things operate in the third world. The urinal, toilet and sink were brimming full of waste. I doubt that any of us used the facilities, and I’m sure all of us still remember that event. I recall nearly gagging and losing my lunch when I walked into the hombre’s cuarto de bano. After that we would stop by the side of the road for bathroom breaks. When we got to Mexico City, we took a taxi to the "Hilton" and used their luxurious bathrooms in the reception lobby. I know I bathed in the sink and left five days of by-products in the toilet. My compadres did likewise.

I remember being surprised as we crossed the border from El Paso, Texas to Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico. For some reason, I thought that the transition from the U.S. to Mexico would be gradual. It wasn’t. As poor and dismal as El Paso is and was, it was nothing compared to the poverty in Mexico. And it was immediate. As we drove away from the Mexican customs, I remember seeing a fence marking the border, and however bad the homes on the U.S. side were, they were eclipsed by the hovels in Mexico.

We made a few short stops in the afternoon and evenings as we approached Mexico, D.F. I remember Zacatecas with it’s 16th century Spanish Aqueduct bringing water down from the mountains and across the valley to somewhere else. The aqueduct was, at that time, the oldest man-made structure I had ever seen. Later as we would drive through Mexican towns and villages, we could look into the casitas in the evening and see the ninos playing on the dirt floors. The villages seemed to come alive after dark, as they do in other hot countries. After work, and without television, the villagers would congregate outside their homes or in the town plaza, or around food stalls. We went to the markets and bargained with the vendors, which was an amazing novelty for us American kids. We were playing a game and they were fighting for every peso.

We went into a bar in some little village, I do not remember where nor can I name it, but I remember the experience as if it was last week. It was a small place, about six tables with chairs, and four or five campesinos standing at the bar and drinking beer. We all ordered cervezas from the bartender, the first time for all of us, and he brought us bottles of Corona. While we laughed with pleasure at our first legal beers we watched one of the campesinos go to the corner, open his fly and piss in the corner. There was a hunk of plywood screwed to the wall forming a triangle. Until then we hadn’t noticed it. From the triangle came a flow of water in a gutter along the side of the room and it went through the wall into the street outside. We were some flabbergasted gringos, I can assure you.

We stayed for three days in Mexico City, saw all the sights, and had all kinds of adventures. Our main form of transportation was the taxi. Until you’ve driven through Mexico City at rush hour in a Mexican cab, you have not felt fear. Horns were bleating as the cab screamed through the roundabouts, as if that alone would keep us safe. Italian drivers are slow and timid in comparison. We would always arrive safely, but with white faces and churning bowels.

To Be Continued

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Scatological Tale

Every summer that I worked for Resource Management in Yellowstone, we counted fish. A study had started several years earlier to track the abundance of the native Cutthroat Trout. Due to the illegal introduction of the exotic and predatory Lake Trout, wildlife managers were worried about possible crash of the Cutthroat population. One method was a fisherman’s survey. A more accurate method was our Spawning Survey.

What we did was walk several streams that flowed into Yellowstone Lake. These streams were among the many that the Cutthroat spawned in. They seemed to like the small creeks with sandy bottoms and they returned to the same watercourse they were born in. Once ice had melted off Yellowstone Lake and the snow had mostly melted, the streams subsided to a relative trickle, the spawn would begin and we would start our survey. We’d do it once a week until we counted no more fish for two weeks.

We would generally start at the lake and walk up the stream, one person would hold a counter and click it each time a cutthroat passed. Sometimes, on some creeks, we’d click the clicker hundreds of times. As spawning ended, we’d not click it at all. As I’ve explained elsewhere, we would gather a whole bunch of other information that was available to wildlife managers. Bear activity was important and we’d look for grizzly and black bear tracks and scat. If we found scat, we were supposed to examine it to see if it contained fish parts. And often it did, and this was confirmation that a bear was using the stream for a food source.

The way one would determine if there were fish parts in bear scat was to first make sure it was bear scat, then take a stick, break open the scat and look for fish scales, fish tails, bones and other indigestible matter. We’d do this as a matter of interest wherever and whenever we found bear scat. You could tell if they were eating meat as often there would be indigestible hair and the scat would be more like an oil slick than a turd. If the bears were grazing on clover and roots, the scat would smell like green tea. (I no longer drink green tea.) This was an acquired trait and I’m sure we looked like fools to our new SCA’s, but they would generally be doing it themselves by the end of the summer.

Each year our team in Resource Management consisted of several paid rangers like myself, and some SCA (Student Conservation Association) volunteers. These were kids in college or just out of high school and were in general really goods kids. Most often they were female and very sharp, and on occasion,, that is.

And here I’m going to change names to protect the innocent (me). Becky was a really good volunteer, worked very hard but sometimes seemed to lack common sense. One day Bill and I and two SCA’s were out at Heart Lake with the purpose of killing a patch of Dalmation Toadflax. Becky spied some scat and called us over. When I arrived, she was already poking the scat with a stick and tentatively raising the stick to her nose. "What kind of bear, do you think?"

"Not a bear at all," said Bill.

"Wolf?" asked Becky.

"Fisherman," Bill said. "Bears and wolves don’t eat canned corn."

Becky had found the sign of a fisherman caught unprepared and without toilet paper.