Thursday, December 29, 2011

Christmas 1942

For many years now my family has had a tradition of having a celebration on Boxing Day. We have a dinner complete with crackers and plum pudding. This year's plum pudding is shown in the picture below. After dinner everyone must perform a party piece. You can sing a song, play an instrument, show some of your handiwork or tell a story.

A few years before he died my father wrote out in long hand and told the story I am about to relate on Boxing Day for his party piece. This year while we were preparing for Boxing Day my daughter found the story he had written in a drawer with some other things we often use on Boxing Day. The story follows with a little editing on my part.

In November,1942 my father made the invasion of North Africa as part of an automatic weapons battalion. By Christmas they were still in the Casablanca area, charged with the antiaircraft defense of the harbor and the airfield. What follows is his story:

“After leaving one of our 40mm gun crews at about 10 PM I was traveling to my bivouac area to go to bed. No lights on the Jeep-war time-no-no at night. We did not need the lights. The moon was putting on a bright, bright show. It was Christmas Eve. As we were slowly moving on, we came to a scene out of Biblical times. There in a field on the side of the road was an Arab guiding a plow pulled by a camel and a donkey. We, of course, stopped to look and watch. With the Christmas star so close and the moon so bright, with an Arab, donkey and camel performing the same as in the days before Christ, I felt very close to what the birth of Christ should mean to all people. We sat and watched the three plow the field for a few minutes. About midnight German bombers operating from Seville, Spain sprinkled the harbor and airfield with bombs. One gun crew was mud splattered from an exploding bomb but there were no injuries.

I continue to recall the North Africa scene and believe more than ever the wonderful message and meaning of the birth of our Savior.”

I am so glad to have found this. He was not a person who expressed his religious beliefs vocally very often, so it is doubly good to have this written in his own hand. Thanks Dad.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree......

Some years ago I found myself stationed in Albuquerque, New Mexico courtesy of the US Army. Christmas rolled around and I discovered that the Forest Service was allowing personal Christmas tree cutting in one particular area east of the city. Being a long time desert dweller I had never cut my own tree but had always purchased one pre-cut from a Christmas tree lot. These lots always sprang up like weeds around Thanksgiving. I decided it would be fun to cut my own tree. Accordingly I took axe and saw,jumped in my pick'em up truck and headed for the mountains. The area they were allowing cutting was some 20 or 30 miles east of Albuquerque on what is now I-40, and then off on a side road a few miles.

I got to the area alright and tromped up a hill to where the trees were. I looked at a number of trees before finding the perfect tree—nice shape, no sparse areas, big enough—just right! I cut it down and wrestled it down to the pickup and loaded it in the back. It took up the whole bed and then some. It was a great tree! Got back on the main highway and headed for home. A few miles down the road at 60+ miles an hour I looked in the rear view mirror and horror of horrors! The tree had flown out of the back of the truck and was bouncing along the highway all by itself. Fortunately no one ran into it. I went back, got it back in the truck and managed to get it back to my quarters without further incident.

Then the fun really started. As an officer I had a sort of duplex, plenty large enough, sort of like a small house.I unloaded the tree and tried to get it inside. The bloody thing was huge! There was no way it was going through the door. I tried surgery, top and bottom, to no avail. I then discovered a number of limbs had broken in the fall on the highway. As I remember I scrapped it and visited a local Christmas tree lot.

Several years later Christmas and New Years were over and it was time to take down our Christmas tree lot purchased “fresh” tree. We had a burning pit on our ranch and I took the tree out and placed it in the pit. I then touched one match to a small branch. The tree seemed to explode in flame, top to bottom. I've never seen anything quite like it.The tree had been cut in Oregon sometime in October or November, been on a lot, been in our house and it was now early January. It still gives me a chill to think we had that torch standing in our living room. From that day to this our tree comes in a box, which we assemble and decorate. And lovely it is.

Saturday, November 26, 2011


Chaps are a leg covering worn by cowboys to protect their legs when riding through brush, for warmth, and to get a better grip on the saddle. They are usually made of leather, the cowboy ones anyway, sometimes smooth finished, sometimes rough. Sometimes worn by non-cowboys as part of a costume, sometimes worn by motorcycle riders for basically the same reasons cowboys wear them. Cowboy chaps come in two main varieties—batwing and shotgun. Shotgun chaps are sort of like a stove pipe: they cover the legs all the way around and close by a zipper that runs the length of the leg. Both types are attached permanently to a belt from which the leg coverings hang. Batwing chaps are basically open on the back, closing at the back of the thigh with a couple of clasps. Batwings are cooler and are easier for the cowboy to move around in while wearing them. Occasionally you will see a pair of chaps with the wool or hair still on them-usually shotguns-more common in the northwest.The top photo is of new chaps hanging in a tack store.

Chaps for me were very utilitarian. Mine were rough leather, undyed, batwings. The photo above shows me cutting wearing these chaps. Very useful in rough, brushy country. Everything in the southwest has thorns or needles on it. One day I rode in some brush without chaps and came back with thorns buried on the inside of my legs at the knees. I think one of the thorns is still in there. Cowboys are slow learners, but I didn't make that mistake again. Anyway, after cowboying for awhile my chaps had a mixture of my sweat, horse sweat, cow sweat, cow blood, cow urine, cow poop, thorns, and whatever else I had come in contact with on them. So imagine my surprise when I discovered that Ralph Lauren was marketing a men's cologne called Chaps. $45 for 1.8, thank you very much.

Well I'm sorry but if I wandered into the house wearing my working boots and chaps I would be thrown out so fast it would make my head swim. Even if I left the boots outside. How do they make this stuff? Take old chaps and boil them down? Or do they make an alcohol extract of old chaps. Eau de chaps! Umm, boy, that must smell good! I wonder what odor extracts best—the urine, the sweat or the manure? Maybe the cow's blood. I can hardly wait to throw a little of this on me and slip up alongside my honey and give her a little peck on the cheek. I'd be taking my meals with the horses in the barn and sleeping in the hay for a week.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Canyon de Chelly

The photo above is an iconic image of Canyon de Chelly with Navajos riding on horseback,taken by Edward S.Curtis in 1904.

Canyon de Chelly is a National Monument located in northeastern Arizona, headquartered at Chinle. It is on the Navajo Reservation and is jointly administered by the National Park Service and the tribe. There are actually two large canyons in the park which come together just before Chinle. Chinle means “place where the water runs out of the rock” in Navajo. “Chelly” is a bastardization of the Navajo word “tsegi” which means “rock canyon”; it is pronounced “shay”. The major south canyon is called de Chelly and the major north canyon is called Canyon del Muerte, named by the Spanish. To enter the canyon you go east of Chinle into the wash formed when the canyons come together. To enter the canyon you must be accompanied by a Navajo guide. There are two rim roads (North and South) which provide overlooks, anywhere from 600 to over 1000 feet above the canyon floor; no guide is needed for these drives. The canyon floor is about 5500 feet in elevation. The photo below shows Gnorbert reunited with his foster parents at an overlook on the North rim drive.

Thunderbird Lodge, which is owned by the tribe, as well as being a good place to stay and eat, provides guided half and full day tours. These are called “Shake and Bake” tours. The vehicle looks like an Army 2 ½ ton truck, open bed, with bus seats provided. On the full day tour lunch is provided. I highly recommend a full day tour.
Shake and bake truck shown below.

Canyon de Chelly has been inhabited for almost 2000 years. The Anasazi inhabited it from about 300 AD until around 1200 AD, followed by the Hopi and then the Navajo. There are still some Navajos who occupy parts of the canyon, farming and grazing some sheep, goats, cattle and horses. There a number of Anasazi ruins, petroglyphs and pictographs and Navajo hogans.

The photo below is of First Ruin-so called because it is the first Anasazi ruin you come to driving up the canyon floor.

The next photo is typical of the canyons. A beautiful place.

Antelope ruin, another Anasazi ruin, is shown below. The pictograph associated with this ruin is shown in the next photo. The antelope was painted by a Navajo artist approximately 1864.

The next photo shows a Navajo hogan with some pictographs on the rock wall of the canyon. The cow is a Navajo painting.

The next photo is of White House ruin, called this because of the white ruin at the top. It is Anasazi.

The photo below shows a natural window or arch on the left side of the canyon. It is called appropriately Window Rock. This is not the Window Rock that is the seat of Navajo tribal government.

Spider Rock, shown below, is as far up the south canyon as the tour goes. It is sacred to the Navajos. It is here that Spider Woman taught the Navajos how to weave.

Finally, as we were heading out of the canyon, here was this yellow horse under a yellow cottonwood tree.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Autumn at Bear Lake

The opening photo is taken from Temple canyon looking east to the south corner of Bear Lake. The east side of the lake is in Wyoming.
Bear Lake is on the Utah-Idaho border, at an altitude of about 6000 feet. The primary trees that turn good colors in the fall are big tooth maples and quaking aspens. On this particular expedition my son Dean and I stayed at the Edwards Lodge on the shores of Bear Lake and enjoyed a tour guided by the Old White Haired guy and The Saint. Dean and the guides are shown below.

Below: View from Edwards Lodge

The series of photos that follow are from an area called Temple Flat. The trees that have turned yellow are quaking aspen("quakies"). If I remember my GPS readings right they are about 7500 feet high.

I love to shoot quakies backlit to capture the glow that the sun produces shining through the yellow leaves. You have to be careful doing this to keep the sun from shining directly on the lens. I have a lens shade that came with the lens but my favorie and most effective is my hat. If you are using a tripod it makes it a lot easier to use your hat as a sunshade. The effect of backlighting is shown in varying degrees in the photos below.

The image below was taken in Logan Canyon.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

The Eagle and Bluebell, Eureka, Utah

The Eagle and Bluebell mine is an old mine in Eureka, Utah. Silver and/or gold was found in this area in the 1860's and the Tintic Mining District organized in 1869. The Eagle and Bluebell was begun around this time although under a different name. About 1897 it was purchased by the Bingham Mining Co, the same company that developed the huge copper mine in the Salt Lake Valley. The Eagle and Bluebell sits about halfway up the mountain to the south of the town of Eureka. Over time a very large tailings dump developed. A railroad spur was brought in to allow ore to be loaded directly from ore bins and transported to a smelter/mill. Between 1897 and 1916 220,000 tons of ore was taken out of this mine. From this ore 35,000 ounces of gold, 3.2 million ounces of silver, 1.4 million pounds of copper, 34 million pounds of lead and 23,000 pounds of zinc were extracted.

The photo above shows the Eagle and Bluebell surface plant.The head frame is positioned over the shaft; to the left the grayish building houses the hoist, basically an electrical winch, by which men and equipment are raised and lowered into the mine. The photo below shows the interior of the hoist room with the massive hoist.

The next photo shows the belt/cable running from the hoist out of the building. This belt goes over the wheel at the top of the head frame and attaches to the cage containing the men or equipment. The two large discs are part of the method by which the depth of the cages in the shaft was determined.

For me the most intriguing thing about the Eagle and Bluebell was the ore bins, shown below. Mine cars were run out onto the top and then dumped down chutes into the ore bins. The railroad track ran between the bins. The construction is massive. Many of these timbers are tree trunks. I do not know when this was constructed, but I believe it was early in the 20th century.

Below is a photo taken in the space between the ore bins where the train ran.

Below are two views from the top with Eureka in the valley below.

Below is the top of the ore bin structure without the shack. The tracks lead to the chutes via which the ore was dumped from the mine cars into the bins.

This is the shack on top of the bins. I don't think anyone will be running any mine cars out there any time soon.

The Eureka mines ran off and on during the great depression, then full bore through World War II. After that some of them ran sporadically into the 1970's.

My grandfather ran the substation for the electric company from 1917 until his retirement in the 1950's. His house and the sub were just down the hill and to the east of the Eagle and Bluebell. The miners generally walked to work and had worn a trail in the snow about wide enough for a man to walk on. This trail got nicely packed down and was a great sled run for my dad and his friends, at least until they encountered a couple of miners on their way to work. Miners and lunch buckets flew everywhere. Being wise and afraid of the consequences, the boys kept going.

A note on the photographs--I have photographed in and around Eureka several times over the years, although not recently. The only recent photo I could find on the internet of the ore bins was taken in 2006 and showed the top shack gone. I'm not sure what else has gone on in the interim. I guess I need to have another go at Eureka.

The photographs shown here were all taken in 1990, when I got permission from the caretaker to be on the property. The photos were all originally in color, 35mm transparency film, probably Fuji. They were scanned using a Minolta film scanner. The black and white conversions were done with Silver Efex Pro 2

Monday, September 12, 2011

Barns of Cache Valley

Cache Valley is a high mountain valley in northern Utah, home to Utah State University. Logan is the largest city in the valley. Cache Valley was a site for mountain men, fur traders and trappers to rendezvous in the first half of the 19th century. It was first settled by white men in the 1850's. The valley is very agricultural with a number of barns scattered around, some new and others in various states of disrepair. What follows are some that I have photographed over the years.

This first barn is on a hillside in Mendon, a small community on the west side of the valley.

This barn is also in Mendon. I love the pattern the lack of shingles makes with the light coming through the roof. The cupola is also from this barn.

I believe this handsome old barn is in Trenton.

The barn shown below is in Clarkston. I'm not sure but I think it may have been a house at one time. The horses don't seem to care one way or another and were singularly non-communicative.

The barn and old house shown below are in Clarkston. There is a newer, modern house on the place as well, not shown in the photographs.

This mural is on the side of a modern farm building/barn in Trenton.

This bit of whimsy is on a barn in Whitney, Idaho. The northern end of Cache Valley extends into southern Idaho.

The photo below is obviously not of a barn, but it is an abandoned bit of agricultural equipment. It is near Mendon.

This is what eventually happens to the old structures if not maintained. I hope the truck isn't needed in a hurry.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Hallowed Ground

The dictionary defines hallowed as something regarded as holy; venerated; sacred. On our recent road trip we saw three places that are definitely hallowed ground.

Island No.10 is in the Mississippi River, just south of Cairo, Illinois. It was held by the Confederacy until the spring of 1862, when it was attacked and put under siege. After a protracted struggle, the Confederate troops realized they were in an untenable position and surrendered. The captives were sent to Camp Randall in Madison, Wisconsin. They were generally in poor condition; many were wounded and diseased. Some 140 graves were soon filled, and thus the most northern Confederate cemetery came into being. Their graves were lovingly tended for over 30 years by a gracious Southern lady, Alice Whiting Waterman. Next to the Confederate graves is a group of graves of Northern soldiers who died in the vicinity of Camp Randall.

Above is the Confederate Section of the cemetery and a couple of graves with flowers.
Below is the Union section.

The Battle of the Little Bighorn occurred on June 25 and June 26, 1876 along and just north of the Litle Bighorn river in southwestern Montana. It was a battle between the US 7th Cavalry led by Lt. Col George Armstrong Custer and the Lakota Sioux, Cheyenne and Arapaho Native Americans. This battle and battleground is one of the most studied in the world. 268 US soldiers and scouts were killed, including Custer, and another 55 wounded. The number of Native American casualties is not known.

Below is a view of the battlefield from just below the hill where Custer and the troops that were immediately around him died. At the bottom of the hills in the trees is the Little Bighorn River, where the Native American encampment was.
The next photo was taken from the same place as the first, the photographer turning 90 degrees to the left(east). The monument is to the men of the 7th Cavalry and is on the spot Custer's body was found. The gravestones in the fence below the hill are for the men that died near Custer, with the attempt made to place the markers where their bodies were found.

The photos below look southwest across the graves near the top of the hill to the Little Bighorn in the trees at the bottom of the hills.

The photo below shows the Native American Memorial just north of the Custer memorial.

The photo below was taken from the bluffs just above the Little Bighorn. Major Reno and Captain Benteen established defensive positions on these bluffs and managed to survive with some of their troops.

This photo is on the east part of the battlefield with markers placed where soldiers died.

Standing on the battlefield one gets the feeling of great tragedy for all involved and for our nation as a whole. Hallowed ground.

In May of 1856 a group of Mormon converts, known as the Willie company, sailed from England to the United States. Their ultimate destination was Salt Lake City. They traveled to Iowa and Florence, Nebraska where they put their belongings and provisions in hand carts and began the trek west. By now it was August, and although warned they were too late and should winter over in Iowa or Nebraska they decided to go on to Utah. There were about 400 people who left Florence, Nebraska on August 17. They had a number of problems: the handcarts were made from green wood and broke down; their cattle got mixed up with a buffalo herd and 30 of them were killed; they thought they were to be resupplied at Fort Laramie but there were no provisions for them at the Fort. They ran out of provisions about October 17 , near the sixth crossing of the Sweetwater River in Wyoming. A blizzard struck at the same time with winds, heavy snow and freezing temperatures. A rescue party sent from Salt Lake City found them on 21 October. Eight people died and were buried at the sixth crossing. The night of the rescue they held a meeting and voted unanimously to send half the rescue party on to find the Martin company which was about 70 miles behind them. That selfless act resulted in the death of another 12 people as they fought their way up Rocky Ridge and down to Rock Creek Hollow.

The photos below show the Oregon-Mormon trail leading to the sixth crossing of the Sweetwater, which is hidden by the trees. The Bureau of Land Management, who has control of this land, says that this area is unchanged since 1856. An awful place to be trapped in a blizzard. Frozen ground, snow, wind and no cover.

The campsite at the sixth crossing is marked by a monument to one of the pioneers who died there, John Linford. It is in the middle of the trail, about one-half mile from the river itself. I know of no ground more hallowed than this.