I'm just sayin'

Hogback Bridge of Madison County

In 1992 a book written by Robert James Waller was published; Bridges of Madison County. It is a love story with  steaminess and a love that oozes from every pore, oh yea, and infidelity. When the book came out you could see women reading the book in airports, beauty salons, at bus stops or in their cars waiting for the kids to get out of school. In 1995 a movie was made with the same title. Clint Eastwood directed it and starred in it as the lead role with Meryl Streep. If you haven’t seen it and have a popcorn and rainy day kind of day it would entertain you. And open up discussions…

The setting for the story is in Somerset, Iowa  in Madison County, population about 16,000, located south of Des Moines. Madison County is home to covered bridges built back in the mid to late 1800s. Somerset, Iowa is also the birthplace of ‘John Wayne’ – ‘The Duke’, whose real name was Marion Morrison. Who would have thought that the Duke, a man’s man would have such a girly name? So John Wayne would have been familiar with the covered bridges of Madison County. Originally there were 19 bridges, six remain today, with several of them being restored over the last 15-years or so.

In 1997 I had the chance to drive from Des Moines Iowa to Minneapolis, Minnesota by way of Madison County. Of course I had to stop and take some pictures of the bridges – or at least one of the bridges. I photographed the ‘Hogback Bridge’. It was back in film days, no digital camera then. And I shot the photos in black and white and developed the film and printed the images in my darkroom.  However, I hand painted the black and white images – which really took some time. Today it would be quite easy to do so with Photoshop and other software such as that. I have not hand colored a photo in a long time – why would I? However, it is quite relaxing like coloring in a kid’s coloring book. But really important not to go outside the lines! The countryside along the way offered more photo opportunities of which I took advantage. But today I’m sharing my hand colored photo of Hogback Bridge. If you ever travel to the Des Moines, Iowa area it is worth a stop to see the town of Somerset – it looks a little like Mayberry, USA.

Hogback Bridge, Madison County, Iowa. This is a hand colored black and white image taken in 1997.

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I’m baaaaack…

My time away from this blog was longer than I expected. I took some of my time away to rethink the use of my blogging. I have tried to incorporate my love of photography and writing. Sometimes I have photos to go along with my stories – sometimes I do not. One reason is time, it’s difficult to have time for both. I am going to start posting more photos with a description of the circumstances surrounding the images.

I thought I’d start today with an image of the front end of my friend’s motorcycle with a little help from photoshop . I loved the original photo of this close up but I also liked working with the image and having a little fun with it. I have had several people interested in the photoshop version and have a friend who has this one hanging in their home.

My friend built this bike. It is a Harley Davidson, 1949 Panhead. I really like the visor over the headlight.


People watching and $5 bottles of Water…

A little desert oasis outside of Las Vegas proper. Also saw wild burros on the same hike.

I’ve got a date in another state… as in United States, not state of confusion. Looking forward to people watching at the airport, that’s half the fun. Oh, maybe there’s somebody watching me and thinking some of the same things I’m thinking about them. Hummm. I have done this often enough I know the security thing pretty well.  Basically, strip down. The secret is to be early so you don’t have to rush – in my younger years I typically would be the last person on the plane. Not fun to run like that anymore. So I am bidding you adieu. And will leave you with a couple of photos I have taken over the years on other travels. Enjoy! These are two from great extremes.

This is in Hawaii, on Oahu. We went to a place called Honey’s and listened to traditional Hawaiian music. It was a good day and good music!

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Who Needs The Training Here?

Daniel Beck, alligator trainer. Alligator and trainer don’t even belong in the same sentence. C’mon training alligators?How’s that working for you, Dan?  Over the weekend Beck was doing his job in front of a crowd at the Ohio County Fair; training a gators. However, and often times there is a however when a man eating animal is part of the equation. Ask Siegfried and Roy. However, something went awry and the gator got the better of Beck and chomped into Beck’s arm. Lucky for us Dan Beck tells the audience beforehand (no pun intended) to turn their cameras on and they did. So you too can witness the actual event. When the producer of the show, Bert Lucas,  realized the alligator had Beck’s arm gripped in his teeth, he ran to Beck’s rescue to keep the alligator from going into a death-roll. The show was on cement not in water, so I’m guessing that death-roll thing the gator does in the water with his prey is maybe a tad worse being slammed into cement with a six-foot alligator flopping around on top of you. But before the death-roll can happen, Lucas attempts to pry open the mouth of the alligator attached to the human arm. After about twenty seconds the alligator just lets loose of Beck’s arm. It’s all intact with some puncture wounds. The doctor said he can return to work in 6-8 weeks. Is that the usual amount of time Workman’s Compensation will allow one to heal from Alligator wounds? What about his emotional stability? A couple of weeks there, right?. Just like a paid vacation, of sorts. But really, I still can’t figure out what a trainer wants to train an alligator. Well, besides the ‘no bite’ thing. The gator all ready knows the ‘roll over’ trick. Do want him fetching your newspaper? Your slippers? Do you train him with intimidation tactics? Drive him by the shoe factory now and then. I really can’t picture an alligator sitting up begging for whatever an alligator would beg for. A human being? A cute little river rat? Seriously.

I’m really not so keen on wild animals being trained to do stupid pet tricks. Teaching my dog to sit and not run out the door when I open it for the UPS guy I think is a teeny-bit different than asking a gator to behave like, well I’m really not sure what an alligator trainer wants from his alligator. It makes me wrinkle my brow and squint my eyes, think real hard and try to come up with an answer as to the sense of training a gator. Or a tiger. Or elephant. Or a bear. Or a monkey. Or a whale. I would love to have a bird, a little chirpy bird that whistles and sings. But then I think about putting it in a cage and I just can’t. I can’t stand to see those beta fish swimming around in a little 2 cup fish bowl. So I probably wouldn’t have been watching the man vs alligator at a county fair. But I did watch the video and I think the alligator and I have some of the same ethics. But I can speak up and it, well, speaks up in a different way. Oh well, Dan Beck.

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Blowin’ In The Wind

If you’ve listened to country music you’ve heard of country musician and singer, Randy Travis.  Randy has been open about his troubled times as a young man. He also has been forth right about his sobriety and commitment to his faith. And the importance his wife, who has been his manager for 30 years. Well, that all changed in 2010 when the couple filed for, in  Tammy Wynette’s words,  D-I-V-O-R-C-E . According to articles I’ve read, it is not a divorce one would call amicable. It seems there are lawsuits, accusations and backsliding. Yep, Randy didn’t just fall off the wagon, he fell off a stagecoach. You have to have seen the news of it on the internet. The authorities released his mugshot. Holy mackerel. He was arrested after he crashed his car, a 1998 Trans Am. What the Heck? Please tell me it was all souped up and looked like it came off the showroom floor. Why would Randy Travis, mega-millionaire – well, he was a millionaire before the ‘Big D’, why would he be driving  a 14 year old car?

All right, so that’s not even the big news, he not only was drunk, he was NAKED. Naked. WTHeck? How in the world does someone end up driving around naked? I’m trying to picture it. No, Not Randy, the scenario. Is he home, looking around at all the stuff he doesn’t have? He pours himself a little Jack Daniels, maybe a beer chaser and looks from room to room feeling worse by the gulp. Pours himself another one. Gulp. And it continues until, what? He’s stumbling around his house in Tioga, Texas, and decides that maybe the house would look better if he was NAKED? Okay, so he gets naked. Temperatures have been hot in those parts for weeks now. Tioga, Texas, is just north of Dallas. But then at some point he decided to take the Trans Am out for a spin. NAKED. Maybe they have drive-thru liquor stores there. Maybe it was a beer run. Nevertheless, I don’t take my dogs with me without their leash, even if there’s no plans to let them out. What if? Flat tire, engine trouble.  You never know. But Randy didn’t even grab some flip flops ( do they wear those in Texas?) in case he ended up having to walk. Well, obviously something did happen because we all know he ended up in jail. He’s innocent until proven guilty. But just for the record, the sheriff’s office reported he “smelled of alcohol and showed several signs of intoxication.” What do you think was the clue there? The Nakedness? The fact he crashed his Trans Am into a tree? And now that you have him handcuffed and in the backseat of the patrol car,  he threatens to “shoot and kill the workers in this case.”

So fast forward to the next morning. He was bailed out and released to someone picking him up in a big ol’ pick up truck. In the film clip showing him being escorted out to the truck I could see he had on those paper throw-away scrub-looking outfits the jail has for people who show up naked. However, I took note that he had on a hat. Not a jail issue type hat, a baseball cap. So the guy who is coming to get him from jail, doesn’t bring him any clothes, just a hat? In his one phone call looking for someone to come bail him out, he forgot to mention he arrived with no clothes on? But said, “By the way when you pick me up, bring me a hat?”  I’m just wondering.

So after something like that happens and the news of it spreads like a wildfire, when does one make their next public appearance? How many drinks would it take to get the courage to go on stage again, knowing everybody knows this about you? Perhaps he should talk to George Jones, Rob Lowe, David Hasslehoff, Mel Gibson, Hugh Grant. Imagine that support group. One thing for sure that’ll be the silver lining in all this for Randy is, I am positive there’s a country song in there somewhere… I’m just sayin’.

  ” The night I was naked, I crashed my Trans Am.

The night I was naked, I threatened the cops.

The night I was naked, I drank til I dropped….”

PS – Randy Travis is the first country singer I saw in concert.I saw him at the MGM Grand in Reno, Nevada, 1989.


One More Man In My Life…

Sometimes it’s a little difficult to find things to write about in this blog that I think would interest at least some of you. I seem to have out of the ordinary things happen to me regularly. Sometimes they are not monumental things, sometimes they are just things that make you say, hummm. But are they worth writing about? Are they interesting enough to others? Hummm. Maybe the moment didn’t even impact my life that much. But what if it did to someone else?  And perhaps I don’t even know it. I can walk away and make up scenarios in my head of how it may have touched another soul. I think most people like to think there interaction has positively affected someone else’s life. But maybe it’s just a passing moment to that person who never thinks of it again. In most cases we will never know. I recently had a moment like that. You know, one where the stars must have been all aligned correctly for the meeting to happen.

I was in San Francisco for a few hours to show an out-of-town guest the city in a quick highlight tour of the wharf, the Presidio National Cemetery, of course “The Bridge” ( the golden one) Lombard Street, the trolley cars plus we took a few minutes to grab a bite to eat at a place I have been to once before. As usual for me,  I found a parking spot right outside the front door of the restaurant ( I have good parking karma in the city ). As my out of town guest and I were finishing up our lunch I noticed an elderly man, walking rickety but with purpose come through the front door and approach a vendor who had just come in to the restaurant. The way the old guy approached him I thought something must have happened between the two out front. The vendor shook his head no. So the guy moved on to the server and he pointed out towards the front door. But this time I overheard him ask about the truck parked out front. That was my truck. So I gestured to the old guy and he came towards me speaking in another language. I recognized it, he was speaking Norwegian. I don’t speak Norwegian. However, my mother did and I recognized a couple of words. I had to stop him and tell him he was a lot more fluent than I. He had noticed my license plate that acknowledges my Norwegian heritage and wanted to connect.

His name is David McGinnis, half Irish and half Swedish. He is 80-years-old and has traveled all over the world, including several trips to Norway. He spoke of his travels there and encouraged me to go visit the luscious green mountains and the fjords. He told about traveling on their trains. He shared how he ended up in San Francisco from Wenatchee, Washington. I told him I lived in Washington for two years in the area where Lewis and Clark made their expedition and met Sacajawea. He knew of it and had been there, too. He said he left Washington to live with his sister in Modesto some 60-years ago. I told him I graduated from Modesto Junior College. He got a kick out of that. He left Modesto to work in Oakland and then on to San Francisco where he worked at the Clift Hotel, a very exclusive hotel in San Francisco. He left the Clift because he wanted to work part time so he could dedicate more time to his religious studies. They wouldn’t let him work part time. So he went on to work at the Sir Francis Drake Hotel in the money cage and sometimes night manager. This allowed him to study and travel to meet others who studied the same religion as he did. He never married and still lived in the same building for 50 years.

David was dressed very clean and neat. His tan jacket had numerous repairs on it with areas that would need a little stitch here and there again. He had on a fresh looking hat like you see old time golfers wear. He was just delightful to talk with. I noticed he was carrying a plastic bag. He told us he had gone to the hardware store. The bag was from Mervyn’s, they’ve been closed for years. He managed to keep his bags as spiffy as he did himself and his clothes. By this time I was a little concerned  about my parking meter out front. Thankfully, I could see my truck and no meter maids. He blushed a little when I mentioned how great his skin looked for someone his age. When I reached out to shake his hand he took off his gloves.  He was wearing a pair of brown, inexpensive cotton gloves, which he said, he didn’t just wear for warmth but he stuffed them with wash-clothes so if he fell, which he had done several times, it didn’t tear up his hands. His hands were so smooth and cold, despite the gloves. I held them in mine to give them a little warmth, he seemed to like that and just continued talking while I held his hand. He told us he had spoken with a couple other people that day; one from South Africa and a local guy. But he said we were the ones who spoke with him the longest. With the doom of the meter maid hanging over my head I told him I needed to go tend to it. As we walked together to my truck  he said he was getting more and more forgetful and he wished he could remember every detail of this conversation. I think there’s a message in the whole scenario. But which message is it? I just hope when I’m 80-years-old and teetering around on my own someone will want to hear my stories. Simple as that.

Top of the mornin’ to ya! David McGinnis, 80, walks everyday through the streets of San Francisco chatting with those who will give him the time of day.


Got A Little Free Time?

Like most homeowners, I have a  perpetual list of projects needing attention around the house. It is not uncommon for one project to lead into another, whether you want it to or not and certainly you did not intend for it to go that far. Surely that has happened to all of us. You know the kind, your kid shakes a can of soda and upon opening, it sprays all over the kitchen, including the ceiling. If you’ve ever tried to wipe down a ceiling in one spot you know it can’t be done. One swipe with the sponge and you see the original color you loved so much, so many years ago. Now you have to wipe down the entire ceiling so it’ll match the one clean stripe you made with your soap and vinegar cleaner. If said child is old enough, they get the honors. But once the ceiling is clean you realize how dingy the rest of the paint looks in comparison. Dang. Okay, so you add ‘wiping down kitchen walls’ to your list. It doesn’t matter where it goes on the list, top bottom somewhere in between. But it gets added. Dang. Sigh. Another freakin thing to do.

So one day recently, I went to Home Depot to just get filters for the air conditioner/heater unit. On the way to the filter aisle I went down the aisle with the caulking for tub and showers. Humm, I’ve had that on the list for quite sometime. I thought to myself, I have some ‘free time’ ( what the heck does that mean “free time” ? I pay for my time everyday I get a little closer to that eternal dirt nap. I suppose when I die I have used up all my “free time”.  And I’m pretty sure I can’t pass it along if I don’t use it all up.) Well anyway, I looked over the caulking tubes and caulking guns and decided I just had a small job so I purchased the small tube, the one I didn’t need a gun for. But I did purchase the tool labeled ‘caulking removing tool’, I thought that would be helpful instead of using a screwdriver or box cutter to dig out the old silicone caulking. Wrong. I needed to use the box cutter to cut through the old caulking so I could use the tool that was supposed to do it all. And the caulking did not come out in a single strand like the educational caulking youtube video showed me it would. I guess if I had gotten to this project sooner, years sooner, it may have peeled off easier. But nooo, I kept moving the caulking project down to the bottom of the list every time I revised it as another project was completed. So now my one hour of  ‘free time’ project turned into a prescription-drug-kind-of-pain-in-the-back, a mess in my shower and not all of the caulking out of it’s caulked places. ( Did you know that caulking will stick to ANYTHING except caulking?) So while I was curled up in the shower stall, with a very sharp box cutter, of course I had to buy new blades for that, too, I thought my grout looked a little dull. Well, it didn’t make sense to add that to the list since I was in the shower working anyway. Why not ‘spruce’ up the grout. Let me set you straight, you can not ‘spruce’ up grout. That is why they have people who make careers out of being ‘Grout Doctors.’ They are not grout sprucer-uppers. But what they heck, I thought, “How hard can this be?” I’ve watched “This Old House”  and other do it yourself  HGTV shows. Where editing is their friend. So I go to the old reliable youtube video on ‘re-grouting your shower’. Wow, that guy made it look so easy. Okay, maybe not easy, but simple. And really it is simple, the concept; score the grout and put in new grout, wipe said grout with sponge, in circular motion, and wait to dry. Voila, new grout!  Easy concept, yes, IF you have been doing this as a means to feed your family of four for the last two decades. And are still young enough to have kids at home. The video did not come with a disclaimer “Not a project for grandmas with tendinitis in the shoulder.”  I’m telling you the video guy did not even break a sweat. He made the wiping off in circular motions look as effortless as the Karate Kid, “Wipe on – Wipe Off” scene. I’m pretty sure there was no mention of  how hard wiping off a thin layer of grout on tile is. But I’m pretty sure the video guy wasn’t expecting woman with a worn out pitching arm to take on a re-grouting job. But she did. Well, don’t you know, after the new grout and new caulking the tile looked a little dull. You guessed it. The tile needed a ‘sprucing’. But thank heavens for the Dawn soap and vinegar concoction. That was a breeze, well, except for the noxious fumes in such a small space. And the wiping in circular motion thing again. But I was excited to try the helpful tip the Home Depot guy gave me when he sold me the little grinder to help remove the old grout, love that tool by Dremel. The salesman told me he used car wax on the clean tile to keep a shine and let’s the water bead off.  Wow, only one more step to go to a fresh like-new shower. Yippeee. It is done and I have to keep going back in there to admire my work. And that’s when I notice how bad the paint in there looks! Stay tuned….


Puttin’ Up Pickles Or A Margarita?

During the day when I am just walking the dogs, sweeping the floor or watering the few plants the gophers haven’t gotten, yet, random questions, thoughts, ideas pop into my head. Well, recently while I was using a ‘recipe’ with equal parts of vinegar and Dawn Dishwashing liquid to scrub down my glass shower I wondered what the heck is vinegar? I’ve used it all my life – in food preparation, pickled cucumbers and pickled beets. It’s in pickles. There is at least more than twenty kinds of vinegar, white, apple, wine, rice,  the  list continues. So I had to look it up to see what it is. Holy mackerel. According to Wikipedia;

“Vinegar is a liquid substance consisting mainly of acetic acid (CH3CO2H) and water, the acetic acid being produced through the fermentation of ethanol by acetic acid bacteria.[1]It is today mainly used in the kitchen, but historically, as the most easily available mild acid, it had a great variety of industrial, medical, and domestic uses. Commercial vinegar is produced either by fast or slow fermentation processes. In general, slow methods are used with traditional vinegars, and fermentation proceeds slowly over the course of weeks or months. The longer fermentation period allows for the accumulation of a nontoxic slime composed of acetic acid bacteria. Fast methods add mother of vinegar (i.e., bacterial culture) to the source liquid before adding air using a venturi pump system or a turbine to promote oxygenation to obtain the fastest fermentation. In fast production processes, vinegar may be produced in a period ranging from 20 hours to three days.”

Oh, yeah, that clears it up. I did have to look up the ethanol reference. Just because I was pretty sure I have seen an ethanol sign at a gas station.  And yes, it is used as a fuel. It seems ethanol has numerous AKAs – fuel, booze, antiseptic, solvent and is used in the treatment of poisoning by other alcohols. This is what vinegar is derived from. Or partly derived from. We can clean our showers with a form of it. We can drink to get drunk with it. We can use it on a wound. Man, would that be like our moms pouring Iodine on our scraped knees? Or was that Mercurochrome that stung? Do they still make that stuff anymore.? Questions, questions. Anyway, it begs the question, are there other foods that we have multiple uses for? I’m sure there are some old family ‘recipes’ for healing or cleaning naturally. The first thing that comes to mind is peanut butter will take gum out of hair. Try that first before scissors. But right off the top of my head I can’t think of any others.  And frankly, I’m still thinking about vinegar and how did someone decide to try and use it in all those situations. Is it, one day a mom is at home wanting to clean ( Okay, wanting to clean is just an example) and she says, ” Hey, I put up pickles yesterday and have some vinegar left over. Let me see if it’ll clean my windows.”  And then there’s a moonshine guy in the Appalachian mountains and he has a little grain alcohol leftover and he wonders, ” If I can drink myself blind with this stuff what’ll happen if I put this here alcohol in my tractor?”  I am intrigued by the idea of trying things for the first time.Which for some it is their last time. Know what I mean? Like the guy who thinks his homemade parachute is just as good as the expensive store bought one. Or famous last words, “Man, I can do that.” I’m just sayin’ that vinegar and Dawn Soap is a miracle cleaner on glass showers – because of the soap factor I’ve only used it in a shower because I can wash all the soap off. Kind of hard to get all the soap rinsed off if you use it to clean your house windows. But if I have leftover vinegar I can control blood glucose and diabetes management or I can ‘put up’ pickles. I think I’d rather have leftover ethanol. It has more uses that I would probably use – like the drinking alcohol part and then I can fuel my riding lawnmower. See more uses. I can drink and mow your lawn. What could be better than that?


PS – The shower cleaning recipe is a must for your glass shower. Equal part of vinegar, heat it to boiling, mix it with the dawn soap ( remember 1-to 1 ratio ) shake and squirt it on the glass, let it set for a couple of minutes and then with little effort and a sponge, Voila, it’s clean. Try it. really. You’ll love it.


Go Like A Boy Scout, Be Prepared

After reading through the obituaries of my local paper I have decided i am going to write my own obit ( as they call it in the business). If you don’t write your own, those you leave behind can say whatever they want about you and your life and they will. It’s their interpretation. Oh for the most part people write nice things about you after you’re dead. And they can put a picture of you to headline the obituary. A picture they have picked out if you have not specified which one you’d like to have people remember you by. I have questioned some of those photo choices families have made. I’ve read some obituaries that read like a resume’, listing all the work the deceased has done, wherever they’ve done it and with whom. Some obits don’t give much insight into the person. You know the type, he was born, he died. He had parents and two brothers. You fill in the blanks. Was the family too cheap to memorialize them in a 1×8 column in the newspaper. Was there really nothing great to say about that person? And that could be true. If you didn’t like the person in real life does that mean you have to like them in death? What if they were not a nice person, ie Charles Manson, Jerry Sandusky, Hitler, the neighbor who shot my cousin’s dog?

It’s not unusual for the person giving the obituary information to report how one died; Joanie died peacefully. Harry passed away unexpectedly. Minnie went to be with the Lord. Sara died suddenly. Michael died with his family at his side. I saw one today, Mary “passed away suddenly with her family at her side”  What the heck does that mean? Mary’s family stopped by to bring her some freshly baked scones, she puts the tea kettle on sits down and “passed away suddenly with her family at her side”? You have to admit, when a person ‘goes’ like that a big part of the after death job has been done. You don’t have to call your sister and say, “Guess What?” Mom “passed away suddenly.” The sister would have been there, she baked the scones. Now you have to wonder did the sight of the whole family arriving with freshly baked scones send off a red alert to Mary who hadn’t seen all her children together in years. Maybe Mary thought they’re all here to discuss which old folks home they want to put me in. Maybe that scared Mary to death. I’ve been ‘scared-half-to death’ suddenly with family at my side. I’m sure it was my family who tried to scare me half-to-death with a fake mouse in my cupboard. They laughed the hardest. But that would not have been the case with Mary, there was no half-to-death thing about it. She went suddenly.

A lot of people say that’s the way they want to go. Boom. Gone. And it happens. But if  you haven’t prepared for the sudden death all kinds of scurrying goes on. One child scrambling to write something thoughtful, one child scrounging through drawers of old photos to use for the obit, memorial folders and photo boards ( the latest rage of the decade ) . So it is understandable under pressure that someone thinks it’s okay to put a photo from the deceased’s high school yearbook even though she died at 89-years-old. I’ve picked my photo already. And the obit should include, “Although she was not an accomplished equestrian she was the happiest when she sat atop the squeaky, leather saddle of a pony named Doodles.

Just for the record, had I known back in those days that the photographer shackled the pony’s feet together I would not have been too happy. I was so thrilled to sit on a pony I wasn’t aware. I’m sure that is one reason kids today do not have a picture of themselves sitting on a pony all dressed up in cowboy gear.


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