Sunday, November 27, 2016

Bye, now

When I was a boy, we were very active in our local church. Our family activity, and my presence in church was not necessarily a great indicator of my personal piety. Often it occurred during Sunday school class that we would be asked to quote, or at least identify our favorite scripture. Mine was invariable stated as john 11:35. All these years later, I can still quote it with confidence: "Jesus wept."

 At some point, the first inklings of maturity began to present themselves. Just prior to leaving on a full-time mission for my church, I decided to find out why it was that Jesus did weep. This takes place during the story of the Savior raising Lazarus from the dead. When Jesus arrived in Bethany to the place where Lazarus had lived, he was greeted by Martha, the sister of Lazarus. Martha told the Savior of her grief and her knowledge that if only Jesus had been there, He could have healed Lazarus and prevented his death. As The Lord comforted her, Martha sent for her sister Mary. When Mary arrived, she shared with The Lord the same feelings and thoughts as had Martha. They were joined by other of the Jews who likewise grieved and mourned over the loss of this most beloved man. Christ wept with and for the family and friends of Lazarus. He knew that he would soon raise Lazarus from the dead, yet he wept with them as he felt compassion for them and as He considered his love for Lazarus. Likewise , we weep today.

My heart is filled with love and compassion for the family of this man that I love. I weep with them because I love them and empathize with their broken hearts. Additionally, I weep for personal reasons. I will miss Dave and express my own loss thusly.

 I think I have known Dave smith for around 30 years. We began to become good friends maybe 15 years ago when I volunteered to got to scout camp with him. Over the years, I have spent a lot of time with Dave camping and hiking in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Arkansas. If you've ever spent a lot of time on the road with Dave, you find that you don't just sit there quietly. Dave likes to talk. About a variety of things, but mostly about trucks. And trucking. And trucking songs. I had no idea there was so much that I needed to know about how a guy strapped down his load, or which trucks were best for pulling which trailers and products. I didn't even know why towns forbade jake brakes until Dave told me. Truthfully, I didn't even know what a jake brake was until I sheepishly asked Dave.


Friday, January 14, 2011

Boy, I got vision, and the rest of the world wears bifocals - an unfinished thought

the older i get - and these days the rate of acceleration becomes alarming - the more i come to find truths that eluded me in my youth.

gadriel once told frodo that to be a ring bearer is to be alone. i have no rings to bear, yet i can see that to be in this world is to be alone.

i suppose it only natural for us to be occupied with self-interest. those who would give themselves to you will eventually look inward and realize that they no longer have the time or interest once professed. it is nearly invariable. though intentions may be true, the nature of man is one of narcissism.

in times of discouragement, i look to my books and movies. time worn characters who have remained favorites. they never change. their stories never alter, and their passions do not wane. when my world becomes solitary and fruitless, i turn to them and find a smile.

thank you writers for giving some cheer.

well - books, movies, and my dog.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

paddling down the home river

Friday, February 05, 2010

a broken heart and a contrite spirit

i am of the opinion that good things always happen to me. while mentally knocking on wood, i will tell you that "nothing bad ever happens to me" by oingo boingo has ever been a type of a theme song for me. clearly, things have disappointed me in the past (usually caused by my own efforts,) but i have rarely been so affected by an event as to cause true anguish. i am currently in a state of anguish.

i should also preface by sharing one of my favorite quotations. it comes from a journalist named jenkins lloyd jones, by way of gordon b. hinckley. it goes as follows:

"anyone who imagines that life is bliss will waste a whole lot of time running around shouting that he has been robbed.

the fact is that most putts don't drop...most beef is tough...most children grow up to be ordinary people...most successful marriages require a high degree of mutual toleration...most jobs are more often dull than otherwise.

life is like an old time rail journey-delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts; interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed.

the trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride."

i have a face full of cinders.

last sunday i was released from my calling in the bishopric. i knew that i had an appointment scheduled with the stake president, so i wasn't surprised when he did release me. on the other hand, i was overly disappointed when told the reason for the release.

earlier that same morning, bishop currit read me a letter detailing how ward boundaries in the stake were being realigned to more closely mirror school district attendance zones where possible. as soon as he read the word "school," i knew that my life was being upended.

this was surely the worst news i have received in a very long time. for over 30 years, my wife and i have been members of the san marcos ward. like all others who have ever been compelled to begin attending new congregations, we have very close friends that we can not imagine seeing on a less-than-once-a-week basis. as a whole, the masseys are very upset. in an effort to refrain from disparaging the ward we will soon attend, i will only say that over the years i have disagreed with a great many things that have emanated from the kyle ward.

when i got home, we decided to -over lunch- discuss the positives of this change. i'm sure we came up with a couple. i do know that each of us already know someone active in this ward. we will not being walking in cold. that is a good thing. i'm not sure what else qualifies as "good." i'm sure they will teach true doctrine, so that will be helpful. as long as no one wants to steal any of MY books, we should be fine.

the way i see it, every now and then we all have to take a beating.

must be my turn.

Friday, January 15, 2010

green, green...or abort, abort.

once again we have returned from big bend national park. i would not consider this place as an obsession; but, what began innocently enough 5 years ago has turned into an at-least-once-a-year necessity.

last december (while in the park) i started the planning for december 2009. i wanted to hike some little travelled trails and visit some areas of the western and southern park that i had never seen. once arriving home, i immediately downloaded topos and started memorizing google earth. this lasted for a full year.

finally on the 28th of december we arrived at panther junction. dad, j, bishop currit and i met neil- who had driven to big bend by himself. we again spent way too much time explaining and justifying our plans to a kid (disguised as a ranger) who seemed to have known a little less about this area of the park than we did. not impressive. why does this need to happen every single time? if i describe areas of the park to you with which you are not even familiar, this doesn't necessarily qualify me as an expert hiker; but , hows about you give me a little credit and benefit of the doubt. whatever. eventually he gave us some papers and we hit the road.

after dropping a car at the mule ears overlook, we finally get to the trail. the sun was getting low in the sky and we figured we had little over an hour to make some progress. my pack was HEAVY. water was going to be an unknown factor on this hike and i assume we all overloaded on the cautious side. i definitely overdid it.

we found a good place to set our camp for the night. beyond my objections, charlotte had made me bring a tent. i ended up carrying a 4 man tent that weighed way too much for a backpacking trip. don't tell her, but it came in pretty handy as all but nate ended up in the tent for the first night. around 11, a storm blew in from over the chisos and brought near-freezing rain with it. that little tent was strained to its limits as the wind blew it back and forth through the night. the rain never became too strong, but it was persistent. as with all old tents, touching the walls that were wet on the exterior broke the water resistance and allowed seeping. the wind blew the tent into us from every direction creating possibilities for maximum seep. just what i needed in 34 degree weather. we all got pretty wet.

by the time the sun came up we had decided that wet and cold and 22 miles of hiking did not make a wise triumvirate. the weather was meant to get a little colder over the next couple of days and the forecast called for the rain to continue throughout the rest of the day and into the night. we felt that the possibility of real danger was too actual and we hiked back out to find a different plan.

i was definitely disappointed but i knew it to be the right decision. the desert is not going anywhere. well, technically it is, but not fast enough to prevent me from returning to do what i had planned.

we ended up driving up to the basin for a good meal in the restaurant. we also planned on finding a dryer to improve the condition of some of our equipment that was wet. we had luck with the restaurant but not the dryer. the one dryer in the basin was being used, so we drove down to rio grande village with hopes of better luck. we found it.

we spent about an hour drying our things and eating ice cream bars before we decided we were ready to find some adventure. we headed out the river road west on our way to the mariscal mine. the road was a lot less rough than i had expected, having never been on it. it is always amazing to me how rugged the landscape of the bend can be and how remote and isolated one can feel when creeping across the wideness of the desert wasteland. i was intrigued to look across the desert into the little village of santa elena sparkling in the sunlight shining on mexico. out in the middle of absolutely nothing - what in the world do the people do there to survive? now that we are no longer legally allowed to cross back and forth over park boundaries, i wonder where their money is found.

after a very long desert drive, we could just make out the mine on a hillside in the distance. how out of place does it look? multi-storied and many-roomed, the mine erupts out of absolute emptiness to stand watch over nothing at all. we crawled over its remains and peered into the depths of its bowels wondering what life might have held for those living in the crumbled ruins surrounding the area. rough indeed. the views of elephant tusk and the southern quemada were delightful.

we slowly made our way back to the main road and found our way onto the old ore road and our night's destination of candellia. out in the middle of more, but different nothing, candellia made for a pretty good rest stop. i had given up on the tent and the sky looked clear enough, so we placed our bags out on a tarp on the ground. after watching the stars for a good long time, and just before falling asleep; i decided to place my large tarp nearby just in case a sprinkle of rain reappeared in the night. thank goodness. no sooner did i fall asleep than i was awakened by a too-familiar feeling of rain falling lightly on my face. i covered us pretty well, and woke numerous times in the night to reposition the plastic; but we still woke up very wet. i can only assume that the imperviousness of the plastic coupled with the great temperature disparity above and under the tarp caused condensation in the first degree. i wasn't pleased since we were wet again. oh well.

breakfast, tooth paste and a fresh coat of deo brought me around and we packed up on our way to ernst tinaja. again, a new site for me that i have coveted for some time. it did not disappoint. the geological formations are crazy and the canyon was fun to hike. i don't remember anyone mentioning pictographs in the area, so i'm not sure if what we found was legitimate or not; but, we had fun looking anyway. we hiked up a good ways past the tinaja itself and saw some seeping pour-offs that satisfied. what a beautiful place.

the hot springs was a great lunch spot. we laid out all of our wet gear on top of the car while we ate our lunch up at the ruins above the parking lot. this relaxing lunch followed a trip to the bath house itself. it was great to sit in the shade for a bit even though, due to our filth, we surely reminded one of fagan's light-handed pick-pockets. as always, the bath house was inviting at first but soon filled with too many people to allow me to remain. my whole purpose in visiting big bend is to avoid contact with other people, so how can i be expected to sit in hot water two feet from 20 others? instead, we followed the trail up to the langford's homestead. again, i had never been up there. the view was awesome as it overlooked the river from a bluff directly over the springs.

we made our way down the ross maxwell scenic drive headed to castolon. neil, j, and i walked into the store to gain directions to the cemetery somewhere behind the store. i had heard tale of it, so i knew it existed. i just wasn't sure exactly where to find the trail. our conversation went something like this:

me - "we are gonna hike out to the cemetery. does the trail begin behind the left or right side of the store?"

bureaucratic bullcrapper - "cemetery?!" with a look on his face as if i had asked him to identify db cooper.

me - "yeah. the one behind the store. i just don't remember where the trail begins and i thought you could help us save the time of looking for it."

bureaucratic liar - after a good long pause including scratching of beard "oh yeah, that cemetery. i went there once but i don't think there is a trail out to it. it's been a long time."

me - "ok. well we'll just go find it on our own. thanks anyway."

of course we found the trail on the left side of the barn and followed it a half mile or so through a wash and up onto a plain north of the store. i was surprised to count around 70 grave sites and alarmed to see how many of them were clearly built for children or adolescents. in its lonely and decrepit way, it became one of my favorite places in the park.

we arrived at the terlingua abajo campsites just a little before dusk. i raised my tent with the intent of allowing it to dry in the night. the sky was cloudless and i intended to spend my last night unencumbered by any view obstruction. again, a tarp on the ground would make a fine pallet and j and i arranged our bags and pillows. we all sat together and chatted while we cooked our dinner. some kind of tiny desert rat with a very long tail has gotten very used to human visitors and their propensity for dropping food scraps on the ground. he displayed very little fear as he ran in and out of our circle sniffing and searching. of course jackson was highly alarmed and more than worried about the mouse eating his face while we were sleeping. i used all my powers and all my skills to assure him that the mouse wanted food, not flesh.

i awoke a few times in the night because the moon was full and as bright as it could be. that night was the coldest night of the trip and we awoke to frost on our things. apparently there was more than enough humidity in the air to produce a lot of dew. again we were wet. i felt like a total greenhorn and repeatedly referred to myself as such.

jackson woke at 7 and told me he needed to poop. i told him i would get the trowel for him and dig him a hole and he let me know that he didn't like my idea. 'can't you just drive me to castolon and use the bathroom there?' rather than mess with a hassle in the freezing morning air, i secured dad's keys and we headed out for santa elena. i knew it to be closer than castolon and i knew that no one would be there. the drive was nice as the sun was rising and shining off the cliffs of the canyon wall.

we arrived at the bathroom and jackson took care of his business. in point of fact, these restrooms were extremely clean. we quickly made our way back to the turn off to old maverick road. it is not very far to this junction, so we were not driving long when we saw an animal crossing the road. it was a good bit off in the distance and in the shadows; because of its relatively small size, i quickly assumed it was a javelina. the problem was that it was a really big javelina. as i realized i was wrong in my deduction, the animal lifted his very long mountain lion tail off the ground and identified himself. surely he had heard us long before and now realized we were coming fast enough that he needed to reverse direction and retrace his path back across the road. we never were close enough to see him really well; and, as the sun was rising behind him, we really only got a silhouette. not much of a first mountain lion sighting, but technically it does count. bully for us.

arriving back at camp, we found it empty. i knew the rest of our party had crossed the creek to visit the ruins and cemetery of the former town of terlingua abajo. jackson and i followed their path and walked directly towards the glowing face of mesa de anguilla. the ruins of the old village are really cool to wander. little bits of civilization still remain. tin cans and implements are strewn about lying right next to bits of broken dishes. broken bottles catch the morning sun and point the way to fire rings and rock piles. some of the graves there are still maintained and decorated by some faithful descendant. it was my second time in the ruins and it did not fail to impress.

we had made plans to leave fairly early in the day in order to make it home before midnight. it was decided that a trip over the santa elena canyon trail would be a final parting shot that would leave a best lasting impression. following last year's major flooding, the trail to the canyon is very different. it is much more direct and easier access for many more people who may not have enjoyed scaling the mud wall on the previous route. we hiked to the point where the trail dead ends into a rock wall hundreds of feet tall and further passage becomes impossible. we were running late and quickly made our way back to the cars. a final glance back and a farewell were all that was left.

we drove out of the park on the slow, wash board path of the old maverick road. a 2 minute visit to luna's jacal ended all of our sight seeing for this trip and we slowly exited the park. i did notice that some of the ocotillo were still in bloom, and searched for red blooms the whole way to the park entrance. hearing of the ocotillo flower for many years, i had never seen them before.

though i enjoyed our adventure exceedingly, i still fell a lingering lack of satisfaction for having been unable to complete our planned hike. who knows what the near future holds? i hope to drag myself out there sometime this spring and dig that rascal up.

Friday, June 26, 2009

i'm young. i know how to have fun.

after several years of my disappointment, jackson finally decided he wanted to play baseball this year. i have never pressured him, but did ask each year if he wanted to join a league. this year, i didn't have to ask - he came to us. the differing factor this time was the fact that several of his friends play and he always wants to be with the boys.

after little consideration, we signed him up to play in manchaca. most all of his baseball-playing friends play in manchaca. there are a couple who play select baseball, but that isn't something that will be happening in our family.

jackson was required to try out. each boy got three pitches to swing at...jman fouled off two and missed one. he got his glove and went to short where he got three grounders hit to him - one straight on, one to the left and one to the right. he picked them all up and threw them to first. i think one throw was high. he finished his tryout by getting three fly balls hit to him as he waited in left field. i think he missed one of them. all in all i was super impressed with him and he did just as well as the
majority of the boys.

jackson got chosen by the yankees. he was very pleased that he got yankee gear to wear and that two of the boys on the team were already friends of his. i was pleased that his coaches turned out to be guys who were really good with the boys and pretty knowledgeable about the game. jackson had a great time.

unfortunately, the yanks rarely kept a good game going into the last inning. they were highly competitive but only strung together 4 wins. one of those resulted in the only loss for the team that won the league. their other two games with the top team ended in a tie and a loss in which we gave up 5 runs in the bottom of the last inning to lose by one. that was a disappointing way to finish the season.

jackson began the season as any first year player will do...right field and 8th in the batting order. as he collected hit after hit, he moved up to 3rd in the line-up. he remained there for the duration of the season. jackson finished the season with an on-base percentage just north of .750 . as he displayed a little bit of fielding prowess, he was moved to second base where he spent most of each game.

during the closing ceremonies for the league, two all-star teams were announced. being jackson's first year of play, any expectation for selection would have been pretty narcissistic. nevertheless, he began announcing to his family that he was sure to be selected. i tried to prepare him for the eventual disappointment. somehow he knew better than i. he was selected as a member of the second team.

as a family we discussed the time commitment required for him to play on this team. all told, it was a 6 day a week commitment for 5 weeks. it cost us another couple of hundred dollars and most of our time during the month of june.

it was great!

jackson's team ended up not being overwhelmingly talented. one problem was that almost all of the kids chosen for their pitching experience were unable to play. we had kids learning to pitch while on the mound during all-star tournament play. not a brilliant game plan. even though, the boys were in most of their games. more than once they were blown out of the park, but they were having so much fun together that they almost didn't seem to care.

more than anything else, j-man learned a whole lot about how the game is played. he learned what a baseball player looks and acts like. i don't think he had ever had a sunflower seed in his life prior to this, and now he is an absolute pro. he got lots of game experience and lots of time in practice learning drills and concepts that have helped him turn into a pretty good little player.

he did so well that over the fall he had a number of coaches calling to invite him to play in tournaments with teams they coach. again...awesome experience. he spent a good bit of the fall on the pitcher's mound learning a little bit of technique and a whole lot of application.

he's still not ready for full-time select baseball. he likes other sports too much (and is too good) to restrict his free time as much as would be required. flag football just finished and basketball is ready to begin. he loves cub scouts, too. one day we will likely make the jump, but we'll deal with that when we absolutely have to.

until then, i can't wait to see how coach david reacts when he sees how different jackson is from the kid that left his team in late may.

Monday, June 15, 2009

"the 'call 'o the wild' is in the blood of many of us and finds its safety valve in adventure"

"deep down inside me a tiny voice was calling. at first scarcely audible, it persisted until i could no longer ignore it. it was the voice of the wild places, and i knew that it was now part of me forever. inexplicably - amazingly - i knew i loved that hell. its fiendish grasp had captured me, and i wanted to see it again." percy harrison fawcett

i do not pretend that i have ever been in a wild place. to be sure, any place off the beaten path can be filled with danger if one is not prepared and careful; but, the true wild is nearly gone from this planet, and it is unlikely that i will experience it anytime soon. for the purposes of this writing, the wild refers to any wilderness that is unvisited by the unadventurous.

with this thinking in mind, i discovered the ozark highlands trail. some months ago, national geographic carried a photo essay about the OHT and i found it to be beautiful. that the ecological nature of the area is different from my usual haunts also intrigued me. plans for an adventure began forming.

our group ready, we left out for northwest arkansas on friday, may 22. an uneventful drive ended in an uneventful first night's camp. due to campground FUBAR, we were relegated to sleeping in a KOA. while i did sleep fine, i will also say "never again."

our morning came early as dad woke with the sunrise and insured that we do the same. the short drive to lake fort smith state park resulted in a view of a beautiful scene.

after registering at the trailhead, we were ready to begin the adventure and took the obligatory "clean and ready hikers" photo.
from left to right: me, neil, dad, dave , and keith.

our first day began with the usual optimism. i even pretended that the forecasted monsoon was apt to pass us by. that kind of thinking propelled us to take every precaution to keep our feet very dry when crossing water such as in frog bend bayou. those first few miles we passed several small streams in addition to numerous remnants of the previous land owners: chimneys with no homes to draw, spring wells that are no longer utilized and homesite clearings without the homes. it would have been quite a choice area to homestead back when. here's dad and his boys in front of a small stream falling into a pool.

several miles into the trail, a steady rain began to fall upon us. with the heavy canopy covering us, we hardly felt any of the drops getting through. that soon changed. we all attempted a couple of different poncho configurations before settling in on one that kept equipment reasonably dry while providing absolutely no protection for the hiker. one must prioritize. while a wet me would be inconvenient, a wet sleeping bag would be incomprehensible.

it interests me how even when hiking as a group, a backpacking party will stretch out over a significant length of trail. my experience is that this rarely happens in an off-trail hike, but almost always happens when a well defined trail exists. we all need to move along on our own terms. this hike was no exception. every couple of miles or so, the blazers would wait for the trailers and we would start the cycle once more.

it was under these circumstances that we regrouped in time to find our campground for the night. just on the west bank of hurricane creek, i spotted a sizable clearing that even featured a fire ring. of course it was a soaked fire ring and the water logged wood that i was able to gather was just too stubborn for me to make much of. a lot of work ended in a little flame and too much smoke. unsatisfied, we all set our sleeping arrangements and went about cooking our suppers. for me that was a tarp of painter's plastic thrown into an a-frame hanging on a cord strung between two trees, and some red beans and rice i decided try. even the tired, wet and cold-induced hunger i was experiencing couldn't make that garbage palatable. note to self for the next trip.

with chills permeating, i slouched into my bag and tried to warm up. i think i had created a water-proof set-up, but thankfully the respite from the rain lasted the whole night. i slept like a know the joke.

the morning brought back the feelings of excitement and hope. the rain had stopped and the oatmeal and cocoa renewed me. alas, as we were breaking camp the sprinkles began to fall...lightly, but there. we filtered water from hurricane creek and headed out.

whereas saturday's hike had us following the course of jack's creek for mile after mile, sunday found us following the path of a forest road for much of our 9 miles. it was strange to find my way through what appeared to be wilderness only to be occasionally be reminded of our close proximity to motorized recreation each time a truck or four-wheeler roared by.

as we climbed out of the river bottom, we were assaulted by mosquitoes. i have never been the target of so many at one time. i would guess that 100 mosquito bites is conservative enough of an estimate to induce a chuckle from my hiking band. when moving, the attack was manageable, but if one stopped to rest - look out - you are about to be let. tough decisions because we gained elevation for much of the day. we saw some beautiful scenery as we came out of the valleys and then fantastic views of those valleys as we approached the apex of our trail.

at one point, dad and i were sweeping the trail as we approached the top of richardson mountain. i spotted a small fawn by himself in the trees off to our right. as i pointed him out to dad, the fawn noticed us noticing him. he crouched down and lowered his head. he really became more difficult to see. when we didn't move, he laid down in the leaves and his markings became a perfect match for the forest floor. if i hadn't watched the whole episode, i am sure i wouldn't have seen him there. it was very cool. we left him to find his mom.

i always love the time when i have this epiphany of "what in the world am i doing?!" this time i was sitting in the rain with my brother. we were along the side of the trail having our lunch. i think i ate some nuts and cranberries and oranges. on every other day of the year, the possibility of me eating outside in the rain would have been close to zero. this day, it seemed perfectly reasonable and i was even encouraged by the decision i made that "at least it isn't raining too hard right now." charlotte would have loved to be there for that one. it would give her a great opening for her "what is wrong with you?" standard.

finally we approached white rock and with a final push in elevation gain, we arrived at the home of our shuttle driver. unceremoniously, she deposited us at dave's truck. we all changed into dry clothes and filled up at a waffle house. it was a great way to end a wet, but wonderful trip. i wonder if/when i will see some of the 160 or so miles remaining in the OHT.

this trip was different than many of my recent hikes. because of some schedule problems with end of school and all star baseball, j-man didn't come with me this time. it was a little easier not needing to guide him along the way, carry his equipment and assuage his fear. on the other hand, i have gotten very accustomed to talking with him along the trail, playing his word games and chatting with him in the tent at the end of the day. i missed him and hope things work out better for the next trip.