Tag Archives: Nebraska

Looking to blow this town…

Weather dominated our family news in the past week most of it not very good. The better news in terms of warmth and south Florida fun will have to wait for next week.


Feb. 10, 2014

Ellen/Reid: Well, I guess the town can really get jazzed up about the weather this week; the forecast is for several inches of city-paralyzing, general panic-inducing snow. At the least we’ll look and feel like St. Paul and Chicago for a few days. Hopefully, this won’t delay things into Ft. Lauderdale. It is supposed to be in the lower 40s on Thursday so my assumption is things will be on time. I’m really looking to blow this town for a few days with Emma. Reid, I wish you could go but understand your approach with jetting you and Liz away by your lonesomes. That’s cool.

This was early in last weeks' storm. Hardly a concern by Midwest standards, but enough for a Charlotte Observer headline to declare the city was shut down.

This was early in last weeks’ storm. Hardly a concern by Midwest standards, but enough for a Charlotte Observer headline to declare the city was shut down.

Played golf twice this weekend. One day not so good, the second day good (78). My friend Ted and I got punked in a free-beer-to-the-winner grudge match on Saturday between us and two renegades named Ray and Dave in our group. It was great fun. We constantly jabbed each other verbally the entire 18 holes, and that’s half the fun. Of course, Ray insisted on the most expensive brew, which was his divine right. If I win the next time, I’ll return the favor. My golf pals had a little soiree for me Saturday after the round and we split the b-day cake Betsy and Bob gave me at Saturday breakfast at a place called Eddie’s. It was a great way to kick off the day.

The seasons must be changing here. I slid out the door about 6:20 Saturday morning on my trash walk and almost from the get-go, the birds – cardinals mainly – had a different lilt to their chirps. Something is up, and they know it. The canopy of trees was a live with the cheerful squawking. I like to hear that in the mornings. The walk wasn’t so cheery as it was clogged with litter. But that’s another story altogether.

Every so often I see something that makes me shake my head – and I’m not talking North Carolina politics – and wonder what the hell is up with some people. I was out for my 2.5 mile evening stroll when here comes a guy running, and as he loped along he was literally dragging a puppy on a short leash behind him. There was no way the poor dog could possibly keep up with the idiot. I turned around after they went by in time to see the puppy fall on its side and the dolt just kept on going.

On the flip side, I encountered a small herd, 7 or so, of deer standing about 15 ft. from me as I walked past a clump of trees and into a clearing. I stopped dead in my tracks and both sides just stood there in some sort of suburban standoff. They went about their business of browsing amid the Bermuda grass. This went on for about 30 seconds before I assured them in low tones that I meant no harm and I moseyed along. I like to see them out and about.

Saw the film Nebraska the other night. It’s a black and white beauty about a father/son relationship. What was bizarre was that I’ve been to the fictitious town featured in the film (its real name is Plainview) several times. It’s not all that far from your uncle’s place in Grand Island. What really struck me in the film is the complete and utter absence of any sense of style or decor in those small towns out there. But it was a good film worth seeing. Once is enough for me.

My favorite English Premier League football club, Liverpool, is coming to Charlotte later this summer for a match against another EPL squad. I am going. One of my golf buddies, a British expat named Jane, and her son are going to school me in the EPL fine points (chants, etc.). I’m not a Brit, but it won’t hurt me to be a hooligan for a day or so.

Love, dad


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All the News That’s Fit to Print…and it’s too bad most of it is bad

All the News That’s Fit to Print” reads the front page of the New York Times. The same goes with the letters, I suppose. I’m sorry that so much bad news has to be shoehorned into a single page.


November 18, 2013

Ellen/Reid: Last week was just one hell of a bad week. When it rained, it poured – by the bucketful.  Reminded me of 2010 all over again, a year I didn’t ever want to repeat. Overwhelming feelings of loss, first for aunt Mary, then your uncle’s law partner.

As soon as cousin Tom called with the news, I booked a flight to Portland. It really was important that your uncle and I be there to represent us. Mary was the last tie to an older generation of Andersens and Bradleys, and now there’s just the children left. Then I came down with this damned cold which floored me from Wednesday onward, and I’m still feeling lousy this morning. My intent was to make the go/no go decision about 3:30 Saturday morning, but as soon as I got out of bed, I knew instantly that there was just going to be no way. The cost of the ticket was really of no consequence. Tim took my call about me backing out of the trip, and I knew he was disappointed but I just felt so lousy. I liked Mary so much and it was so disheartening to miss the chance to tell your cousins the same thing in person. I hope we get to see them again under different circumstances vs. the somber events that have brought us together the last few times.

Then came the news about the killing of your uncle’s law partner, Todd Elsbernd. He was such a good guy and had been with Ralph for about 20 years. I don’t know all the details but it appears it was a targeted slaying. Todd had stepped out of his office for the day when some guy shot him in the back from a nearby parking lot. It turned out to be some disgruntled former client still upset about a divorce case from several years ago. The shooter also apparently murdered his ex-wife that same day. Ralph’s taking it quite hard. I’ve only talked with him briefly but you can tell from his voice that the shooting has had a significant impact on him. It’s hard to even imagine something so horrific happening to anyone at any of the place’s where we work, let alone in Grand Island, Nebraska. I don’t know. It just seems that are so many crazy people out there with guns. That could be because there are just too many guns out there, period. One of the first things that came to mind right after the killing was “Is Ralph being targeted, too?” I tried to call him several times but he was already working with authorities to piece together what happened and why. He said it was the first time in his years of legal work that he feared for his safety.

In a way, all of this will put Thanksgiving into that much more perspective.

Even the pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving came out bad. I'll be back in the kitchen later today to try, try again. Usually I eat my mistakes but I don't know about this brace of so-so results. There's not enough whipped cream to turn these two into something edible.

Even the pumpkin pies for Thanksgiving came out bad. I’ll be back in the kitchen later today to try, try again. Usually I eat my mistakes but I don’t know about this brace of so-so results. There’s not enough whipped cream to turn these two into something edible.

We will have much to be thankful for. The new jobs for you both plus Tim’s new situation at 3M. And little miss Emma, to be sure. Alley and Joe and Andy and Steph are both set to be parents again. So there is plenty of good news for us to celebrate.

My final blog class is this week. There’s a sense of relief about it. I’m just not sure I’m a good blog person. So much of it is sizzle and technology, both of which have sort of passed me by. The content creation is one thing, it’s the other stuff that could be buffed up a fair amount. I’ll have to cross that bridge on it soon enough but it’s probably best for me, and the students, if I stick a little closer to wordsmithing and writing. Reid, you know all of this like the back of your hand.

The city is abuzz about the big game tonight between the previously hapless Panthers vs. the tough Patriots. I’d like to watch the entire game from the comfort of my couch but they don’t kick off until after 8:30 p.m. which means no matter how bad I want to see the ending I’ll be out like a lamp long before the end of the game comes around. I’ll just have to check my ESPN app as soon as I wake up. I’m okay with that. With this cold, I’d rather get my sleep.

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‘WTF?’ is up with stupid people…

October 22, 2012

Ellen/Reid: Got back to basics, at least a little bit on homeowning side of things, this weekend; i.e. procuring another tank of propane for the grill, planting some purple-white-yellow cold-hardy pansies in the front window boxes to add a little color in the winter (makes me feel like I’m still gardening), and tidying up some paperwork although there is much, much more to go in order to make my office habitable.  More time spent at home means less time spent on the golf course and given the putrid state of my game, that’s not altogether a bad thing.

The best part of the weekend is Saturday morning.  While Felicia sleeps in, I rise-and-shine and brew up a fresh pot of French roast coffee and hit the streets about 6:45 with my go-cup.  It’s mostly the lovely sound of quiet except for the chippering song birds and a few joggers and other walkers.  Also with me is a plastic grocery store bag.  This is where I need to come clean with you guys because there must be something about old age where we develop habits that perhaps others don’t want us to develop and you two might think your old man is just a plain nut.  No one would blame you.

This goes back quite a while.  My daily walk is around the block, about two and a half miles.  For a long time I just got increasingly fed up with all the trash and junk that slobs had discarded along the route.  I wanted my walk to be cleaner, not necessarily pristine, but at least presentable.  One day I saw a can or a bottle or some other refuse and just stooped over to pick it up.

Bottom line, I just got tired of walking by other people’s trash. It’s something I could do something about.

I went another 20 yards and picked up something else.  By the end of that walk, my hands were full of litter.  It’s been that way ever since (I don’t take a bag when Felicia and I walk since I’d probably be a total embarrassment to her).  So now, I combine my solo jaunts with bagging up what total Neanderthals  toss out their car windows.  The real enemy is plastic.  Everything – paper, plastic, cans, etc. – all goes into the recycle bin.

But here’s what is really morbid.  Some days I spread my haul out on the back driveway, photograph it and take an inventory of what I scooped up; how much plastic, how much paper, how much ‘other’ and the approximate weight (right now what has been picked up and removed from the environmental chain is probably pushing 1,800 lbs. of stuff).  My hoped-for aim is a blog that would encourage people and kids to take up arms (and hands and bags) against this slobbery.  I just can’t stand the thought of all this trash being washed down into storm drains where the next stop is a river or lake somewhere, and the ocean beyond where plastic bottles and Styrofoam raft up into huge masses of gunk.

People driving down the street look at me like I am just some crazy homeless guy, but there are a few folks who repeatedly see me and thank me for doing the neighborhood a kindness.  It keeps the paths cleaner and makes me feel like I’m contributing toward some good.  But it has developed into its own sort of mania.  In part I wonder what it is we are leaving the Emma’s of the world (and that applies to your kids, too, Reid, when they come to pass).  The sum total is that my paltry effort to keep one route clean is loosely related to the much, much larger concerns of climate change, etc.  What’s truly nuts is there is always trash to be picked up.  Day-after-day.  I always come home with a full bag.  There’s never a day off.  It makes me think ‘WTF?’ is up with stupid people.

The other lunacy this weekend was switching channels when it looked like Nebraska was going to get rolled by Northwestern.  They came back, of course, and now I wear my weak-kneed Cornhusker shame much more than ever happens as I tote around my plastic bags.


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Postscript: Sept. 30…

The visitation was a wonderful thing. Full of stories and laughter, nice chats with my mother's friends and our assembled family.

A couple of posts ago I whined about kicking 2011 in the butt at the stroke of midnight on Dec. 31, but am now backing away from such stupidity.

In hindsight, what has occured is a good thing.  For mom, it is release from her condition and, for believers, a reunion with her husband.  For those of us left behind, there is relief, too; for Ralph and Gayle it ends a terribly long spell spent with mom in varied nursing homes and care facilities.  For me, it ends prolonged guilt that the two of them and mom were way out there in central Nebraska with me all the way East.  A number of folks mentioned that very thing; her suffering is at a merciful end, and ours, too.

In an odd way, mourning is tougher for friends than it might be for us.  I think people struggle (I have) in their well-meaning to find the right words or the correct way to phrase their condolences.  It is just an awkard time.  Still, all of what people did say is very much appreciated.  

Much of the time that might be set aside for pure brief is waylayed by the practical matters at hand, i.e. coordinating airport pickups for Ellen and Tim, Reid, and my uncle Henry and aunt Mary and their escort, my cousin Barb from Texas.  There were meetings with a lawyer (attorneys have a strong grip on the post-death process) and financial folks who tended to our parent’s estate, to say nothing of pouring over pictures and family items so Ralph and Gayle could reclaim a sizeable portion of their basement. 

But there were a few moments when grief properly showed itself.  As is the way of visitations, my brother and I got to the funeral home two hours early to make sure preparations were in order.  Once we agreed that mom looked was we hoped she would (she did), and that there were no typos in the annoucement brochure, I found myself in an empty pew in the parlor.  That’s when events crowded in on me.  The other was during a walk in the rural country just west of Grand Island.  The third was on the second leg of the flight home.  For some reason the idea of traveling still further away from mom and dad swept over me.  I’ll have to go back once mom’s marker is in place so I can say hello to them together.


September 26, 2011

Ellen/Reid: The phone was with me all weekend in the event the call would come about your grandmother.  Usually the phone is set to vibrate or silent, but this time the volume was turned up.  I find myself with this increasing sense that combines doom, inevitability and sadness.  Not a very good combination of three things.  I worry about your grandmother and what is going through her mind during these days.  What is she thinking (if she can think)?  What bothers me the most is that she is alone.  Your uncle is there often enough, but she’s still alone.  That is the big thing; she is there and I am here, leaving her to fend for herself, no one there to give her comfort as often as she needs it or could certainly use it.  It doesn’t give a very good feeling as a son to not be there with his mom.  For all these past weeks I’ve thought I would be pretty stoic about things but last night it just began to hit me that her end will come and I won’t be there to at least hold her hand.

That must be the guilt part of it seeping through.  I’m not sure what she would vocalize about it.  She’s had a rough last few years and now I second guess myself about not getting out there more often, especially over the summer once I knew her condition was slipping very rapidly.  It just makes me feel pretty shitty about things.  Now, there’s no going back and trying to make amends all over again.  There is no time.  Instead I’m down here playing golf and lolling around when I could be up there to help her out in her final moments.  It just makes me angry to think about my negligence.  The final good byes from a few weeks ago just aren’t enough.  I’m just not handling it was well as could be done.  I told John about my misgivings and doubts, and he assured me there was no right or wrong way to handle such situations, especially if the person (your grandmother) has a diminished capacity to recognize us or anyone else.  That was comforting to some degree.

The obituary is my responsibility and there’s been almost no progress on it.  In fact it hasn’t even been started.  There’s been not a lot of thinking put toward it.  It most certainly won’t be as long as your grandfather’s but when the time comes I’ll put my full creative juices into it.  Usually there’s no problem in at least mentally piecing together items like this but now there’s a big case of writer’s block.  I don’t know how to start it out and what the middle and ending parts will be.  What do you say about your mother that you haven’t already thought about on your own?  We’re about to find out.  Ralph and Gayle will most certainly edit it so I have to take that into account.  Obituaries aren’t for the family but for the circle of friends.  I’ve been looking at some in the paper here in Charlotte but there’s just no feel for how it should come together. 

Someone mentioned a few days ago that when his mother passed away, he told his sister that now the two of them, both in their 60s, were orphans.  That was an interesting way to look at things even at their age.  There’s some truth to it.  Not that it applies to either of you because you’ve been on your own for quite a while and have made you own ways, admirably so, but when your grandmother passes there won’t be a final lifeline for advice and counsel any more.  That will all be gone, just as it does for every generation.  Not to be morbid about it, but these are just the things you think about, it seems to me, when the torch is passed.  The flame doesn’t go out but it’s instead just handed off to whomever comes next. 

The phone will remain on high volume for however much time it takes for this unhappy predicament to pass.  You might stay on alert for at least a text message that a call is about to come your way.  The rest of the planning is already underway, but the call will be your sign that the plan is being put to use.

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Very far very fast…

Mom has lost her mobility and eyesight, but she has her moments of lucidness. This is a tough image for me to see, but our choice is to remember her as she was, not as she is.

For the second time in the space of 15 months, my brother and I are  renewing acquaintance with hospice.  Our mother went under hospice care late last week in a small facility in Wood River.  I can’t imagine mom ever envisioned that things would come to this in a declining small town of 1,204 hidden away in central Nebraska.

The question we ask ourselves is ‘when?’ but there is no certain answer.  I don’t want there to be.  All we know for sure is that she has slipped very far very fast.

If the situation is looked at only from quality of life standpoint then what will eventually happen will be merciful.  Mom is thankfully in no real pain, there is no known disease present beyond the numerous small strokes that have accumulated to bring her to this sorry stage of life.  She has simply no more gas in her tank.  Even so, I told Ellen and Reid on the phone and by letter that we don’t know what she is thinking but we know that she is thinking.  Her facial expressions – a nice smile or a knowing roll of her eyes – is evidence enough that she still processes a sizable portion of what she hears. My time with her last weekend was devoted to stroking her hair, talking to her about the old times when we were growing up as kids, and watching her green eyes.  There’s still some life there.  It’s just that we don’t know how much.

My brother and I have had pretty much the same muted reaction to the long goodbye.  It is some mixture of stoicism and relief (for her).  If mom has taught us yet another lesson, it is to get the most out of what we have left, too, but that when our own end stage of life arrives, neither of us wants anything dragged out.  If there is a plug to be pulled, the kids can kiss me on the forehead then yank the cord.


August 30, 2011

Ellen/Reid: It was a pretty melancholy trip to Nebraska these last four days.  As you can imagine, it’s tough to watch your grandmother deteriorate over such a short span of time.  Everyone, and I got caught up in it too, tries the guessing game of how much longer she will be among us, but it’s not up to anyone beyond the higher source who will make that determination in due time.

Mom in late April of this year. I wasn't prepared for how quickly her condition had changed. This is the image I will keep.

I really wasn’t prepared for the difference between last spring and now.  She has just gone downhill so rapidly.  She’s not ambulatory in any way.  There is no more walking let alone sitting up without significant assistance.  But you know, she can look up at you with those green eyes and you can tell that she is absorbing information to the degree that she can.  I spent a lot of timing just looking into her eyes, stroking her hair, and watching for her reactions.  If you say something funny she’ll roll her eyes and maybe nod her head approvingly.  Sentences or a short string of words are tough to come by for her and at most she can get out a couple of labored ideas but you have to be listening attentively.  What warmed my heart was she distinctly asked “how are the little ones”, and when I gave her the updates about you two knuckleheads she would roll her eyes approvingly or smile.  That was incredible.  If I hear no other words from her, at least I have her final ones: “I love you” (along with “Drive safely”).  She can also give you a little kiss on the cheek, and before I left her room I made sure to get a couple of those.

She spends almost all her time by herself.  When the staff puts her in her wheelchair, they roll her out into the common room where the TV is attuned to whatever it is the staff wants to watch.  She can’t see far enough, let alone hear the TV, to make much of a difference.  But at least she’s out among ‘em and whatever that is worth is okay.  None of us really knows what is going through her mind, and perhaps she’s taking more away from “As The World Turns” or whatever soap or news program they have on, than we know.  I hope she is.

Your uncle and I have decided that when the time comes, hospice will come to her instead of her to it.  That’s how we did it with your grandfather last summer and that worked out just fine (given the circumstances).  She’s not in any particular pain or discomfort, other than the same prone position in bed or sitting in her wheelchair, so there’s not much necessary in terms of pain meds or anything of that order.  In some very major ways, that’s a blessing.  She does wince a bit when she wants to roll over or move, but that’s to be expected.  You’d do the same if you were in the same position 24/7.  Our layman’s view is that we seem to think she’s just running out of gas, pure and simple.  Like your grandfather, her appetite is mostly gone and they keep her going with a few sips of protein drink since she cannot feed herself or really chew solid food.  But she still has those green eyes and you can see something going on behind them.  She’s trying to hold her own and keep on keeping on as best she can.

When I left her Sunday afternoon, I wondered if this was the final goodbye.  I’m relatively at peace with things; her husband is gone, she’s incapacitated and she’s largely in no pain, she knows her kin have largely done okay and that her job as a parent is fulfilled in a good way.  I suppose what we should do is remember her as she was, not as she is.  There is no other way to approach it.  Life has taken its turn with her.  She’s had a good one and now is the time for it to end.  It was great that you both had a chance to say something in her ear on the phone.  She would respond and smile as you both took turns.   That’s when I knew I could leave her on good terms for the both of us.


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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 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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