Monthly Archives: August 2011

About my twin and his town…


My brother called early last week.   He advised the time was now – right now – to visit mom, perhaps for the final time, and make plans for what will possibly occur in the next few months.   It made for a rough four day weekend in central Nebraska.  What a hell of a 14 months since our dad passed away.

Barb’s health and mobility have undergone a notable and steady decline; a non-reversable process that had greatly accelerated since my visit in the spring.  I was saddened beyond words at how fast her health had tumbled in the space of a few months.  Professionals in a better spot than us to estimate such things place the end-of-life time frame before year’s end.

The whole situation was covered in this week”s letter to Ellen and Reid; that note and some photos won’t be posted, however, until next week.

But even in the face of my mother’s predicament, this week is about my twin and his town.

My brother does taxi duty from the airport. He's a good guy - for a lawyer.

My brother, Ralph, has been attorney-like throughout much of our mother’s decline.  He’s has managed her finances, paid the bills, talked to the doctors, and kept her company.  It was at his insistence that mom was moved from Omaha to be near him.  That he lives in Grand Island (mom is in a care facility about 15 miles west in Wood River) doesn’t hurt.

Grand Island (GI) is a nice enough place.  A good spot to raise his family (wife Gayle and two sons – also lawyers – Andy and Joe).  He’s been an incredibly successful member of the bar, and don’t buy his ‘aw-shucks-I’m-just-a-country-lawyer” song and dance.  His clients apparently know where to send their checks.

A 102 car Union Pacific train breezes through Grand Island. I counted one train with 129 cars - literally one mile long. Most trains shuttle Wyoming coal to eastern power stations.

I took several long walks for the alone-time and just to see what drives the engine in my bro’s prosperous little burg of 70,000.  This chunk of Nebraska, and most of the environs around Grand Island, are table top flat.  If there was any elevation gain during my 3-4 mile jaunts, it was measured in the few feet of rise and fall as my path along the road momentarily elevated as it crossed twin sets of tracks that are Union Pacific’s major East-West rail artery.  The tracks run plum through the middle of Grand Island.  Incessant whistles warn motorists of the coming tonnage, but there is no stopping, and no slowing down.  Every 15 minutes, another unimaginably long train – the car count of one zephyr headed West: 129 – rumbles through town at just over 50 mph.

Ralph makes his money as you would expect in a small town.  Everyone knows everyone else’s business, and they bring their business to him.  Much of it is from Latinos, most of whom were drawn to town to work in the packing plants but they’ve spread their wings with all sorts of small businesses.  About one-third of GI‘s population is Latino or Hispanic and they’ve turned the

Dual signage on most buildings signals Grand Island's acceptance of its Latino population.

economic tide upward in central Nebraska and the town has had to adapt to a bilingual culture.  The Latino community is a portion of Ralph’s client base in part because he’s a Democrat in a very Red State and in part because he treats them fairly and with respect.  I don’t know what he does for fun when he’s not pushing paper since he doesn’t golf.  He played softball for decades but injury-riddled guys like him became an annuity program for orthopedic surgeons; he’s active in his church so that’s where a lot of his time goes.

The town chafes at its second-class status even in a small state like Nebraska.  But as I’ve told Ralph many times, locals still have high speed Internet, first-run movies, jets to whisk them out of town, a Best Buy and the same satellite/cable channels as anyone else, plus a Starbucks where the staff is incredibly friendly and polite.

All roads don't lead to Grand Island. They just sort of skirt it. But Hwy. 2 into the Sand Hills is the real deal.

GI sort of embraces its pioneer past, and real cowboys are seen throughout the city, mostly in the stores where they can buy goods they can’t get as cheaply in hamlets such as Loup City, Ord or Broken Bow (just northwest of GI along Hwy. 2 in Nebraska’s wonderful Sand Hills.  It’s a paradise for bikers and a shortcut to Sturgis).

The town formally celebrates its Western past at the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer.   It is situated along Hwy. 281 across from Ralph’s house.   The high point is a resident bison (buffalo to the rest of us) and old period buildings that look the pioneer part.  I walked from Ralph’s house across 281, hopped a short fence,

A dust bath isn't such a bad gig for a bison on a hot day in Nebraska. My presence was a non-event for the beast.

and in a few minutes was next to the bison empoundment.  The big guy (or girl, since I couldn’t know for sure because it never stood) was rolling in a dust hole to rid itself of annoying bugs.  He/she saw parasites as more of a threat than my nearby presence.

Grand Island has been a good enough spot for my brother.  It has fulfilled all his needs, and then some.  As for me, I’m not sure I could live there.  It’s a nice place to visit but if he wasn’t there and if mom wasn’t close by, then Hwy. 2 would be the best, and fastest, route through town to points West.

———————

August 22, 2011

Ellen/Reid: The paper said this morning that we have to keep an eye on a developing hurricane that could be headed this way toward the end of the week.  What that would mean here is plenty of rain and some gnarly winds, maybe.  They tend to publish the hurricane forecasts but in my time here there’s only been one that pushed its way this far into the Piedmont, and it dumped a lot of moisture on us for a couple of days.  It’ll be worse over by the coast; that we’re inland about three hours doesn’t hurt us too much.

Your mom said there’s an apparent buyer for the house on South Shore.  That’s been a while coming.  That was a good spot for you guys vis a vis that point in your lives.  Plenty of room, nice yard, good location.  I told her I miss poking around in the yard (there’s a difference between poking around in the yard and heavy duty yard work) and I suppose where I am now is a direct anti-yard reaction to maintaining that big spread.  What I liked most about it was the garden and the deck and I recall you (mostly you, Reid) grilling with buddies and just hanging out.  We all just kind of dissolved away from that place so its sale isn’t that wrenching.  But I do miss elements of it.

It looks as if we can unfortunately begin to see the final miles of the long downhill road for your grandmother.  When I got up Saturday morning there was a voicemail from your uncle that came in just after midnight local time.  I knew that could mean no good.  He and I talked a fair amount that morning and the consensus among the doctors is that the event is not imminent but that it isn’t that far off, either.  The predictions range from three to six months although there’s no certainty to any of that.  It’s the None of us can really know what’s going through her mind right now.  I wonder how she’s handling all of it or if she can piece together the events of the past three or four years.  Mom and dad only came down here once and that was enough to know to enjoy them while they are still here and have all or most of their abilities.  Your aunt and uncle have borne the lion’s share of the duties and for that I am grateful.  It would be great to be out there much more often, and right now I’m figuring out a way to visit Grand Island in the pretty near future.  The whole situation brings up a lot of emotions held over from last year with your grandfather.  It’s a mixture of sadness, and to some degree, hopefulness that she won’t suffer like he did.  I just wish we knew with any degree of certainty that she wasn’t in any major discomfort or mental anguish.  That’s all I want to be assured of.  It does make one fast forward to their own end-of-days and I need to get off the snide and get my legal stuff in order so you two don’t have to worry about that aspect of things when the inevitable time arrives.  I’m trying to stave off the early grieving process.  It’s hard for anyone to truly know how to react in these circumstances.  We’ll just have to do the best we can and remember her as she was, not as she is.  As news develops you will know pretty quickly.

My friend in Des Moines, Brian the Harley rider, and his girlfriend Nancy were injured on the way to Sturgis when their Ultra blew a tire at highway speeds on I-90 in South Dakota and flipped several times.  The highway patrol said their injuries weren’t life threatening but he doesn’t remember her and he’s still in the hospital.  She has some facial injuries.  Lucky they were wearing helmets.  In that respect they were fortunate because a lot of riders don’t make it through those crashes.  Many folks ditch their helmets once they get in South Dakota since it’s not a helmet state.  We wear ours all the time, even when we ride in South Carolina.  Felicia has taken a sudden aversion to riding on the Interstate although I think its way safer than the twisty two lane roads down here.  You can never say never, but I’ve always been a defensive sort for the most part.

Okay, over and out.  Talk to you soon, be good, work but have fun.  Reid, I will make T-Day plane plans this week.

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I’ve become a Charlottean…


Henry (hoping for scraps no doubt) in Ellen and Tim's new kitchen. If Ellen and Tim wanted to visit Charlotte, they could bring Henry and he could sit in my kitchen, too.

Time flies when you’re having fun, and the five years in North Carolina have been that and more.  If you’d asked me three or four years ago about my early impressions, the answer then may not have been as generous.

As I drove into a strange town that first night in August, 2006 it rained as hard as on a Hollywood back lot.  It was so humid the streets were steaming.  After schlepping a car full of belongings up two flights of stairs into corporate housing I tried in vain to find a grocery store.   To avoid becoming impossibly lost I purposefully didn’t stray too far away from my temporary home (there’s an odd configuration to the streets in Charlotte) and literally oriented myself by keeping the tall downtown buildings in my field of vision.

But the skies cleared, the street maps began to make sense, and the elusive grocery was located.  In time I’ve become a Charlottean (maybe not a full-fledged North Carolinian but there’s still time for that).  The names of local movers-and-shakers aren’t quite so foreign, I semi-abide NASCAR and if you asked for a good place to eat, I could rattle off a few spots based on cuisine, general location, and price range.   Not everything has gone smoothly.  I’m still dyslexic on Bermuda greens.

The kids have each made cameo appearances here twice, and by my math that averages out to one visit every 2.5 years.   It’s not overly disappointing in that, as they should, they’ve moved onward – Ellen now married to Tim up in the Twin Cities, and Reid, ensconced in the agency life in Chicago.  The welcome mat is always out for them, their guest rooms in order, and if they could move the average up to 1.5 years, then things down here would be complete.

————-

August 15, 2011

Ellen/Reid: Yesterday marked five years in Charlotte since I pulled into town in the over-loaded BMW on a rain-soaked Tuesday night and wondered, aloud probably, ‘what the hell am I doing here?’  As some might say, it feels like 20 years.  It really does.  It is mind boggling that so much time can literally fly by without an accounting or inkling of how it was spent or where it went.  It is just hard to believe.  On a scale of one to 10, with 10 being incredibly good, I’ll fudge and give it a 7.5.  On the whole it has been somewhere between very acceptable to very good.  That and a buck will get me a cup of coffee.  As the new guy here, I’ve gotten by okay.  If I can stick it out another week, I get some five year anniversary thingy.  Probably something best suited to holding down loose papers.  Still, the work is appreciated.

I put up a cheap hummingbird feeder the other day outside the kitchen window, and already the little fliers are buzzing to the sweet red liquid.  To watch them is a small diversion when I’m at the kitchen table.  They’re so small it’s hard to imagine where they nest.  The free meal would certainly beat milling around flowers for a sip of nectar.  Most of them would migrate to warmer climes once the flower season is over.  I like having birds around and this is the first attempt to attract hummingbirds.  It worked.  You should put one up at the Pagoda given how much time you spend up there.  You’d have hummingbirds in no time.

There is an outside chance the guys who traveled to Coeur d’ Alene, Idaho last September – Dave Hemminger, Dave Dahlquist and Bob Furstenau – might be coming down here this fall to play golf, drink wine, eat and swap stories.  It would be great to host them here.  We’d probably head over to Pinehurst for a day to play one or two of the better courses over that way.  We were slated to head up toward Annapolis, Maryland for golf and to roam around some swanky boat show but Dave D. had plans that nixed that.  To keep the new tradition alive, they may visit CLT instead.  Pinehurst is a shade over two hours away to the east and the golf is good.  You don’t do much else there but play golf, sit back and drink mint juleps and toddies like that.  The problem is once you’ve seen Coeur d’ Alene, how do you get them to want to go anyplace else?  I think Bob is prepping himself for retirement by riding his bike – BMW, that is – up through Nebraska and South Dakota and in/out of Sturgis before he then heads on into Wyoming and perhaps back down through Colorado in the very near future.  Sounds like a lot of fun to me.  It’s basically a big Western loop for him and his sidekicks.  It’s been a long while since my Heritage Softail made a similar trip of long miles.  Ray Sculfort rode his to Sturgis, again, last week.  I miss that.

Pretty soon should come the results of how my students graded me for the writing class.  I hope the results are relatively positive since I’d like to teach again.  It’s kind of fun.  I hope the next one is on newspaper writing even though most newspapers are pretty much DOA these days.  Why anyone would want to write for a newspaper for a living is a tough call.  It’s just a tough business these days for the ink-and-paper trade.  Reid, it’s all going the way of your digital world.

The siren call of work is calling me.  Sorry to have been out of touch this past weekend but cell service was spotting where I was so a call this next weekend will have to suffice.  Give Henry a pat on the head for me, Ellen, and Reid, attend a Cubbies game for your old man.

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The ‘blue funk’ period…


Tahitian Women on the Beach

Gauguin painted Tahitian Women on the Beach. Art historians will be kinder to his funks than they might be to mine.

Art historians are able to detect, name and analyze the stages or periods that famous artists travel through (or endure) on their life journey to find or perfect their style, i.e. Paul Gauguin’s period in Tahiti.  It is beyond reason and highly unlikely that anyone would ever follow me after my demise.  But if they did, that lone misguided soul would dub August, 2011 as my blue funk period.  Their short summation of my work would conclude “…his demise did not come soon enough.”

I am just down.  Maybe the crushing relentlessness of wave after unceasing wave of heat and humidity have exacted a mental toll.  It could be the sheer monotony of the same four walls, same paint schemes, same worn carpeting, same back yard vista, same day-in, day-out routine.  But the malaise is palpable and is as real as it can get.

Perhaps I’m not squeezing enough out of what is there or seizing what should be seized.  On the bright side maybe it is a momentary plateau that is a stair step to another plateau that is ever onward and upward.  It is not so much about absense of fun but of lack of purpose-driven satisfaction.  But there is respite in that to observe Ellen and Reid, neither of them appear to have, nor should they have, such doubts.  They blissfully move on with things at a very good clip.  Perhaps watching them progress and move on is purpose enough.  There is no moping in the letters and one can hope they don’t detect the notes as such.

———-

August 9, 2011

Ellen/Reid: Last night in my writing class last night I put my blog up on the screen as a way to tell my college students that they ought to blog for no other reason than to repetitively practice their writing or to put their oars in the creative waters.  We looked at a few of the most recent letters to you guys, and they razzed me about not mentioning the class to you two in the weekly notes.  To escape their further wrath, this mention will have to suffice.  They can’t attack me as much since last night was the final class.  On the whole they were pretty happy with it, and one of them even gave me a complimentary bag of Starbucks coffee as a parting gift.  My pledge to them is to meet once a month or so for the coming months to see how many of them will actually plow ahead to build their own freelance writing business.  Most will become hobbyist writers rather than full timers.  It was enjoyable for me to teach.  As you know, Ellen, to teach is to learn twice.  If I had to freelance all over again there might be a different way to skin the cat.  A life skill that could come in handy later, I guess.

Betsy had a nice article in the Sunday Observer about the 7’ chainsaw-carved wooden bear at her front door that she dresses up to fit the season or a holiday.

I’ve had Wyoming on the brain the last few days.  Can’t seem to let go of that trip and how much fun it was.  I suppose people will sooner-than-later tire of me rattling on about it but it was really the highpoint of my summer.  I just like the Western lifestyle and atmosphere and will have to retract my ‘I like to visit but wouldn’t want to live here’ statements in Jackson.  If there was a way to affordably do it, that would be marvelous but there are a lot of complicators that would keep it from becoming a reality: affordability, slow real estate movement in Charlotte, the job, a tanking stock market, etc.  But a guy can dream, can’t he?  In a dose of here-and-now reality, I had to submit a bill for food and rental car to the other adults on our journey.  No trip is final until the billing is complete.

I heard from Pat the other day for the first time in a long while.  He was in Atlanta with Mort to get set up for the PGA Championship this week.  I hope he sells a lot of art.  His stuff is still really good.  He’s stuck with it and that’s why Stonehouse is a success.  Time heals all wounds, and the scab has long since covered itself over.  I kind of wish I’d of trundled over there to see him and Mort to how the product is displayed.

Reid, let’s get cracking on the Thanksgiving trip up to St. Paul.  Look at your calendar and give me some firm dates about when you can leave.  I plan to buy our tickets real soon since the price is almost to $400 right now (perhaps less from Chicago).  Just let me know what works for you.  I’m getting excited about it.  Ellen, the odds that Felicia will join us are growing somewhat slimmer.  There is some pressure for her to stay closer to home, which for her is nearby Shelby, otherewise she’d jump at the chance to head north with us.  Shelby is just under an hour’s drive west of CLT.  That’s where her parents and her sister live.  Shelby is largely known for its Liver Mush Festival.  You can look it up.  Liver mush is some sort of ground meat concoction that seems to be roughly the equivalent of spam but is hugely popular in these parts.  You eat it with either mustard or grape jelly.  No kidding.  Andrew Zimmern featured the Shelby festival on his ‘Bizarre Foods’ show.

Well, enough waxing poetic for today.  Reid, let’s talk about T-Day, and Ellen, let’s talk about a tea pot to adorn the new kitchen.

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Making a mess of things…


Henry's messes are a little different. At least you can clean his up.

Life has a way of making a mess of things.  All sorts of self-created speed bumps get in the way or jangle the ride.  Distance and time do their best, too, to erode relationships and keep apart what had been close.

Perhaps that is what is behind my infernal preoccupation for letters to old cronies – not so much old in years – but folks I’ve known for a long while and have allowed the bridges between us to collapse.  That doesn’t sit right.  I don’t want to get much further down the growing-old pike without trying to rebuild or repair fences.  That’s become important to me.

But the list of friends worthy of bridge repair is incredibly and impossibly long: Pete, Pat, Mike, Pam, Diana, Jim, Mort, Steve, Glen, Ben, et al.  And on it goes.  The letters to Dave, Jane, Bob and now Ray, are just a start, and not even a good one at that.

I refuse to use the hipper online ways of doing such.  Those are too public, too cold, too lickety-split.  This blog is seemingly at odds with that statement but there is a marginal difference because this is intended for a wider – but still very small – group who want to keep up with what’s written to Ellen and Reid.  A week or so ago, Reid texted me to see if it was okay if some of the letters to him could be read at a literary conference in Chicago.  Sure, I said, ‘but they aren’t high art.’  No problem, he replied.  “It’s reality.”

My reality is that I want to re-touch lots of people who meant something to my life.  I’ll keep nickle-and-diming the long and growing list.

————–

August 2, 2011

Ray: The invitation for the October wedding I’ve been expecting has yet to show up in my mailbox.  Perhaps that is a signal that my courtesy visa to Iowa has expired, along with the rights and privileges therein.  I’ll keep wandering over to the mailbox in the hopes it arrives.  You’ll know as soon as I do.

Just got back from five days of backpacking in Wyoming with a group of 11 that I’d assembled, and the term ‘herding cats’ comes to mind.  We had a great time and comfortably overcame all of the group dynamics which no doubt you can identify and relate to.  Even Ellen and her hubby, Tim, came along for the walk which was a close to a pleasure cruise of backcountry hiking as you can get.  As you saw with Ellen back in our camping days in Minnesota, a premium was placed on clean sets of laundered clothes each day, and as the days wore on and she ran out of fresh stock, things approached near crisis proportions.  Really, she was a good egg about it and fit in quite nicely with the troops.  She’d never done anything like this before and she did a great job.  When we were squatting beside the camp fires, more than once I thought of the storytelling we used to do with the kids, augmented by the occasional spewing of flammable liquor into the fire for dramatic effect at the right time in the tale.  Those were the days.  Caught a fair amount of trout that ended up fire-roasted with lemon pepper, so that made the otherwise bland meals palatable.

We saw a fair number of bikers up in the hills, some headed toward Sturgis, others bent on avoiding it.  The assumption here is that you’ll have already come and gone by the time you read this.  I miss that trip even though 24-48 hours was plenty enough time for me around the Buffalo Chip and the campgrounds.  You can only see so many displays.  It was the going out that had most of the appeal.  Just don’t tell me you trailered your Road King.  They still make t-shirts that honor that mode of travel, sort of.  It’s been at least 10 years for me to make that visit.  My most recent Sturgis hat reads 2001.  My ’03 Heritage is still plugging along, although it’s been so damn hot here it has discouraged riding.  Hopefully I’ll be able to fire the mother up in the near future.  The riding is pretty good down this way if you like twisty back roads.

The only firm travel plans now on the drawing board is Thanksgiving up in St. Paul.  Ellen just rejuvenated her kitchen and that will be my debut trip to see it.  Reid is intent on making the trip, too, as will my girlfriend of about three years, Felicia.  She’s a North Carolinian to the core.  I’ve yet to acquire her twang, although I’m said to be working on it.  She likes to ride the bike and we’ve been all over creation down in these parts.

Well, I’d best get back to the job that pays most of the bills.  If the invitation comes through, I’ll make plans for an added day or so, probably toward the front portion of the trip.  I’m sure Curt can flash-freeze pheasants and toss them in a shipping box.  I’ll depend on your shooting to fill it.

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I want to be back in Wyoming…


The Wind Rivers. The Bridger Wilderness takes up a sizeable chunk of the Winds. For what my group of backpackers accomplished, there's no better spot in the Lower 48.

I want to be back in Wyoming

It is still a fairly pristine place, at least once you hit the back country.  Amazingly, the crowds stick to Jackson and Yellowstone and avoid stubbing their toes on the rougher trails of the Bridger.  The local downside is the smog – reported to be worst than L.A. in the colder months – that is confined to Pinedale and buts up against the western slope of the Wind Rivers.  Just west and southwest of town are many dozens, if not hundreds, of natural gas drilling rigs that emit gases as a byproduct of forcing trapped natural gas to the surface.  Pinedale itself is loaded with energy roughnecks; Felicia and I got into a hotel elevator with a couple of them on the Saturday night before we hit the trailhead.  Each was armed with a case of fortifying Budweiser.  They weren’t looking at me.  There’s no denying, for better or worse, they are the new breed of Western man.

Still, there is something about traipsing around in the wilderness.  The Bridger is just as I remember it after all the times there (which never get old); scenery that is beautiful and majestic beyond description and perhaps the best throughout the Rockies, rugged but not penal hiking, fishing that virtually assures a fresh catch for dinner, and enough wild animal lore to make your hair stand on end around the campfire.  My little band of hikers had grizzly-itis; that’s why we all ponied up $40 for canisters of bear spray that never remotely saw a chance for use.  We never saw signs of bears, nor heard the wolves that have gravitated into the lower end of the Wind Rivers, and didn’t spot any slow-footed moose which were my one prediction of wildlife we might catch unawares.

Yours truly on the trail. 60 lbs. felt like 70 lbs., then 80 lbs. by the time the trek was done.

There were a passel of photos taken but none by me.  I’ll work to engineer all of the artwork on a single site and when that happens, you’ll see why I gush so much about this place.

I claim to be a Wyoman, although technically speaking it might be a shirttail relationship.  My twin brother and I were conceived in Sundance (a much bypassed little hamlet up on I-90 that is largely a pit stop for cars headed west to Yellowstone or east to South Dakota and Minnesota) but the doctors in Deadwood, SD told our mother that the delivery would be difficult, and that what passed for a hospital wasn’t perhaps the best spot for such a situation.  ‘Why not head to Denver or Rapid City?’ was their counsel.  Instead, mom boarded the train across southern South Dakota and northern Nebraska enroute east to Omaha where her folks lived.  That’s were the delivery took place; days later we were back in Sundance.  Dad stayed put; he was the assistant editor of the Crook County News and Sundance Times.  Maybe the best job he ever had he always said; now Sundance is better known for the burnouts associated with the nearby Sturgis motorcycle (i.e. Harley) rally.  That, and Devil’s Tower is a couple of miles away to the northwest.  My birth certificate may say Nebraska but my heart says the Cowboy State.

I want to be back in Wyoming.  It won’t happen soon enough for me, but there’s always the week of July 22, 2012, if you catch my drift.

———–

August 2, 2011

Ellen/Reid: If gauging how tired one is by the amount of sleep they get after backpacking, than I am one tired old dog.  Have been sleeping like a proverbial rock.  I’m afraid my best days on the trail are way, way behind me.  It was amazing to watch the young guard steam ahead on the paths while I seemed to be dragging a plow.  My hips never hurt so much in my entire life.  My gait was tentative and labored.  Ellen, you did a great job considering this was your first time.  You carried a fair amount of weight but did yourself proud.  The Cleghorns really have to be feeling the pinch right about now.  They pushed on to Yellowstone and didn’t return to CLT until late Sunday night.  The girls are probably still in bed.  What a trip for them it was.  Reid, you’d of no doubt caught way more fish than your ham-handed dad.  I lost more fish through sheer folly, including one 12-14 incher, than were actually landed.  I love seeing the brookies and cutthroats come up to the fly.  Beautiful fish, and they are quite tasty, too.  It’s good that people got a chance to eat the fresh catch; brookies are the best tasting of the stream trout.  Ellen, it was simply amazing to watch Tim cast his line.  I’ve never seen such artistry and was unaware that my flyrod could be cast like that.  His called shot of the big fish behind a rock – that he caught in one fluttery attempt – makes me feel like a novice.  That boy can fish with the best of ‘em.

It’s sad to know that a trip so long in the planning is already over and done with.  I tried to soak in as much of the scenery and experience as much as I could but a lot of the views are just plain over my head, literally and figuratively.  It’s too much grandeur for this guy to absorb at one time.  The trip turned out far better than could have been anticipated.  The weather was sterling, the people got along pretty well, the food was okay, and the hiking was great.  They say that you have a tough time remembering pain, and already I’m noodling about a return trip next year.  Worth adopting would be Tom’s approach to going light.  He only carried about 20 lbs. vs. my 60 or so.  That makes a tremendous difference in fatigue and energy, all of which were in short supply for our over-laden group.  But next year, not sure of trekking in the same route but the Bridger is very hard to beat, except for the mosquitoes of course.  If we’d stayed up even a couple more days we surely would’ve lost someone to blood loss.  I’ve never seen, felt and swatted so many mosquitoes.  All day long, no less.  That owes to the amount of snow pack and runoff.  Reid, there were little pools everywhere that festered the winged mob.  It was curious to not see any bats flitting around to snatch them.  Perhaps they were already full of such bugs.  It would’ve killed Felicia to be up there because she has very adverse reactions to mosquito bites.  We would’ve had to carry her down on a litter.  As it was, she seemed to have a good time driving around the Tetons and Yellowstone. 

Reid, great photo of the McCartney concert at Wrigley.  You’ve sure made the rounds on the concert circuit up there.  Good for you.  You sounded great on the phone this past weekend.  Nice spring in your step.  Even your mother noticed.  On the other hand, you could be sweltering in Charlotte on what seems like a never-ending heat-a-thon of humidity and triple digit heat indexes.  I don’t care for it one bit.  How the locals ever come to accept it is beyond me.

Looks like it will be Minneapolis for T-Day.  Reid, I’ll pick up your ticket so let’s knock heads on that sooner rather than later.  I’ll plan to get up there on Wednesday.  Ellen, there is a chance that Felicia might join us, and in that case we’ll opt for a hotel close to you guys.  You’d have your hands more than full with three visiting adults on top of Tim, you and Mr. Henry.  Reid and I reserve the right to cook Thanksgiving dinner before we snooze on the chairs watching football.  Really excited to see the kitchen in all its glory.  That must be a huge relief to know that it’s all but finished.  That will really boost the value of your home.  Can’t wait to see it.  If either of you have no other Christmas plans, you’re welcome down South.  It’s been a while since you set foot in these parts.  But enough for today.  Love you both, and will see you soon enough.

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A spring in his step…


Given that Ellen and I were days away from our Wyoming trek, it made some sense to ditch her name from the letter last week and mail a solo-shot to her younger brother, Reid.

The kid has regained a spring in his step.  His voice is cheerier and he seems to be living life a little more.  A few local concerts in Chicago with a girlfriend in tow (that’s my theory and I’m sticking to it) might be the cure for many ills.

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July 21, 2011

Reid: It was great to get your shot of Wrigley Field the other night.  Keep sending me that sort of stuff.  It gives me a little insight into your world.  Too bad the Cubs keep getting rolled but that just means the curse of the Billy Goat lives on.  Nothing wrong with a couple of cold beers to wash down the Cubbies emptiness.

It may be inaccurate but it likely is a fair description that your stake in the ground keeps sinking a little lower into Chicago.  That really is one hell of a town.  Where else can you go to see Indiana Jones movies on a screen in the park or head over to the beach?  I need to get off my rear while it’s still summer to get up there.  I keep telling people that from all perceptions you’re doing just fine and getting along at work.  But that’s about as much as I know so any of the holes you can fill for me, please do.

Today we shove off for the Bridger.  The gear is packed and anything that’s missing we can acquire in Jackson.  People seem pretty pumped about it.  Felicia won’t be hiking as the wound on her leg keeps opening and her medical advice is to not worsen it by tromping around and possibly getting it infected.  She’ll traipse around Wyoming in the SUV once she drops us off at the New Fork Lakes trailhead.  You and I went in at that point in ’06.  The water looks very high in the streams you can see on the Pinedale web cam.  Hopefully the roiliness will have subsided some by the time we get there, otherwise we’ll have to fish in the lakes rather than the streams.  I worry a little bit about the ability of keeping water clean if there is too much mud floating around.  But we’ll see.  We can always melt snow since there’s a lot of it still around.  The snow pack is incredible.  The glaciers will like it, however.  I’ll be sure to send some pictures and such once we are back in civilization.

Tough days at work.  You’ve seen the bank financials and the pressure is daunting.  They’ve even had us working both days the last few weekends.  That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of people who are already stressed to the max.  At least we’re now casting the stones at Countrywide which is probably what we should’ve done some time ago.  But it is what it is.  Se la vie.

Your grandmother got a good health report yesterday.  We were on a conference call with her PT, social worker and other health folks.  They gave a quick rundown of her current state of affairs and it could be a lot worse.  She’s not making progress so much as she is holding her own.  That’s okay with your uncle and me.

Listen, I’ve gotta run because people are pinging me left and right.  We do need to make a line in the sand about when I will be up there.  Tell me what your own plans are and we’ll plan accordingly.  I wish you were going to the Bridger.  How can we forget the last time when we slept in the car under a bright moon that shone in our faces like a flashlight?

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