ROCK ART RANCH

Rock Art Ranch 2-17-14

 

We take the Winslow exit and drive south on highway 87 & 99. We head east on Territorial Road. If you have an aversion to dirt and dusty roads, stop and turn around right here!

 

Our destination is a place called Rock Art Ranch. Earlier in the day I picked up the phone and asked if we could come and visit. The ranch is far off the road, so a personal invite is almost required by the owner Brantly Baird. Mention is made that if it is raining, turn around because the roads are impassable for most tourist vehicles. We travel in a very small R.V. & pull a ten foot trailer. We consider ourselves somewhat nimble in the R.V. World. We have crossed little streams and driven up steep roadways at 10,000 +ft. and we have a small turning radius and can make u-turns in any intersection. This happens OFTEN when we are exploring.

 

My wife and I are avid hikers/walkers/explorers. When we are on the road we have a penchant to seek out natural hot springs and native petroglyphs. France might have the Musee d’Orsay and the Louvre but Arizona has a best kept secret…an outdoor art exhibit called Rock Art Ranch.

 

We travel 12 miles on gravel, then another 2 miles on dirt, then another 3 miles down dusty roads to our destination. We are met by Brantly and his son, they have unsuccessfully been trying to round up buffalo during the afternoon. The ranch is large enough that they never found them. They assured me that they are out there somewhere ….and then lamented, if they actually ran off, it would be a blessing. Brantly squints at me and says “our nearest neighbor is 17 miles away….and sometimes thats to close”

 

The dust settles and we peruse the ranch and the rather rocky landscape. At his homestead there are dozens of gigantic old tree trunks collected from close proximity to the nearby Petrified National Forest. As we break the ice I extend my hand and I comment that “it looks like you’ve had a problem growing trees around here?” He has a warm smile and says “they died about 80 million years ago and I haven’t been able to grow much since.”, “We’ve got a live tree over by the barn that is ten feet tall” Brantly says with dry wit.

 

Brantly hands us a key and tells us we can head back down some dusty roads that trail off in the distance. The key opens a locked gate & entrance to the canyon and the walls that are the palette of ancient rock art. We are advised to lock all gates and since there are not amenities like electricity,running water and cell phone coverage……you are on your own. Brantlys son knows we have spend the past 4 weeks amongst thousands of tourists at various art festivals. He smiles and says “it might be a bit quieter than you’re used to” , another understatement.

 

It is mid to late afternoon and we take off quickly as not to miss the long shadows of the afternoon and evening. We arrive in a whirl of dust and drive into the corral, we shut all the gates around us. This allows us protection from the buffalo or the cattle that might want to eat the windshield wipers off of our vehicle during the time we spent at this remote location.

No time is spent preparing our site. We quickly hike down to explore the canyon and to find the artwork. With each downward step into the canyon we descend into what seems like another biome. The upper desert plains are swept by the Sonoran winds that stir the exposed sandstone into the air. The canyon offers relief from wind, intense sunlight, intense cold and has a life giving stream that flows off the very, very distance mountain toward Flagstaff.

Over the eon’s the light sandstone walls have developed a black patina that is a perfect chalkboard. For thousands of years native and not so native people have been using art and images to define their territory. Today our society uses spray paint on railroad cars. The Anasazi did not have the luxury of spray paint and had to resort to pecking the surface of the canyon with a sharp rock.

As we travel to various petroglyph sights throughout the South West, we remain curious and open to what they might signify and what they might be trying to relay to the viewer.

Rock Art Ranch is known for having exceptional Pre-Columbian petroglyphs including one called the “birthing mother” It is a rare petrographic depiction of the birthing event.

 

With each trip to various petroglyph sites we evaluate what we have seen and try to ascertain their meanings and relationships to the surroundings. Enclosed find a photograph that depicts what seems to be a complete family unite.

A family unit living in harmony, the larger persons are shown holding hands. There is much to ponder in the larger picture. Just two feet in the distance is another adult like figure. He is followed by a succession of dots. Dot, dot, dot, dot, He is either leading the way and taking the entire family unit to someplace else, or perhaps he has wandered from the family, and they acknowledge his absence by this image. It seems hard to determine. He has left an effect on his family unit and they pay homage to his distance by this portrayal.

The Anasazi surroundings are as hospitable as any place you might find in the south west. They have been provided with a tolerable climate, suitable water supply in an arid desert. Wildlife abounds throughout the canyon lands and the surrounding desert and provides a plentiful food source. The beaver trim the red willow along the stream, dam building and providing for the fish, turtles and frogs. In the quiet of late afternoon and early morning it provided us with an insight into their near perfect neighborhood.

For many years the Anasazi were thought to be a near perfect society, living in harmony with their surroundings as seen in this beautiful canyon. Recently, scientific research has shown that their society met with an untimely end. Their Anasazi-Chaco Canyon relatives were victims of anthropophagy, was it outsiders? Insiders or lack or resource, it is hard to know. Anthropophagy is commonly known as cannibalism.

 

This place was a valued and treasured resource thousands of years ago. It remains the same today.

 

Bill Keitel

Road Notes/UnVarnished Essays February 2014

Paul Gruchow-Diary of a young madman.

RoadNotes Feb. 22 2014

While traveling southwesterly a friend of mine sought me out and handed me a book to read. The book quite unexpectedly unleashed a wave of emotion. I had not realized that Paul’s memoirs had been published 14 months earlier. Much to his credit Louis Martinelli has recognized the importance of this work. He has worked tirelessly to see it to fruition.

If you have grown up in Minnesota or even the Midwest you probably have been given the opportunity to appreciate Paul Gruchow. Paul had won the Minnesota Book & Lifetime Achievement Awards in the 1980′s. He also edited the Worthington Daily Globe an award winning newpaper. As I remember Paul was invited to give the keynote address for the 75th anniversary of the Foshay Tower.

Paul was a dear friend to many Worthington residents, myself included. When the oak leaves were the size of squirrels ears, we would canoe the Rock River. We found it to have more wildlife per square mile than the Boundary Waters Canoe Area. We identified confusing spring warblers, Redstarts and Blue Grosbeaks that flitted in the tops of old cottonwood trees. One minute our canoe would speed down the rapids and next it would bottom out on a gravel bar. It was the gravel bar where the rare and elusive Topeka Shiner found its northern most home.

The memoirs are a lucid glimpse into the darkness of mental illness. Paul was a professionally trained observer. His incredible writing skills captured his journey into this curious, yet sad episode of his life. He was bedeviled in that he could not appreciate his own talent.

In the ensuing years I suspect psychologists and psychiatrists could use this book in futher understanding the daunting challenges of mental illness by the insight he offers.

My final conversation with Paul was prompted because I had just become aware that he was suffering. Our conversation was forced and uncomfortable. A good friend had grown distant……he was to busy writing his last book. Paul Gruchow died Feb. 22 2004

Diary of a young madman- A Memoir – by Paul Gruchow
foreward by Louis Martinelli

 

Tree Houses 2013

TREEHOUSE

By a stroke of luck I have had the good fortune to live in the same home for 29 years. This time frame has allowed me to plant an acorn and watch it grow into a magnificent Bur Oak tree. During this time I have nurtured it, pruned it, and watered it. I have been greatly rewarded in many ways.

Other recent rewards in my life have been grand fatherhood. This new position offers rewarding activities as well, activities that might not be as easily available to all citizens.

For instance I can (at long last) go out and buy a butterfly net, with the premise that it is for my grandchildren without any regard to what other people think. I can also build a tree house in the cherished Bur Oak Tree without to much concern about gossip. The treehouse is for the “Grand Children” and the fact that I dote over the every aspect and enjoy sitting in it, is of great satisfaction and reward.

 

You can ponder many things in an Oak tree. I am starting to realize that you can observe the changing of the seasons in an Oak tree. Right above my head I listen to the Cicada’s as they whirl their winged communications across time and space. They are communicating in a language that I do not understand. It is September and recently the leaves have changed on this tree. The leaves were once green and soft and the acorns were in full fruition. Tonight as the sun is setting the leaves are starting to lose their suppleness and moisture. Nearly all the acorns have been harvested by the local squirrels and the tree has a distinctly different feel. The squirrel is currently sitting directly above me and dropping acorn hulls on my computer.

 

As I sit in this lofty perch I realize that this tree it is living, and it has its own lifecycle. The days are shortening and it is preparing to endure the autumn and winter months. I suspect its roots are redirecting moisture preparing to retreat from the outermost reaches of its limbs. As I gaze about I see lichen growing on the bark on the northerly side of the tree. The lichen is green and brown and I need to consult an expert on this life form before I expound.

 

When the wind picks up, the treehouse has movement. The movement is ever so slight but it reacts to the forces in a gentle and subtle way. A robin lands two feet from me, he must disassociate me with a human because I am ten feet off the ground. He cocks his head at me…..shows no fear, a Cedar Waxwing alights four feet above me with no concern, Oh! And there is a chipping Sparrow. It is the beginning of fall migration and I suspect that if I had camouflage clothing they would land on my shoulders.

 

Grandparenthood has allowed me to purchase the material for this treehouse with grand delight. I entered the lumberyard and ordered clear cedar and on my receipt it even totals the weight of my purchase. My tree house weighs precisely 114 pounds excluding the screws and cables to suspend it from the tree. All due respect is given this tree and no nails or bolts will penetrate the bark or trunk. I also purchase cables to suspend it from sturdy branches that are about four inches in diameter. Each of the four cables can hold up to 850 pounds. The branch is shielded from the cable with industrial hose material to prevent any damage to the tree. It is a rather small platform of four by six feet. This is just enough room for two or three people to sit comfortably. The height of the platform is proximately ten feet off the ground and it is neatly tucked into the lower canopy of leaves and branches.

 

As aforementioned this tree house was built for our grandchildren and as they live in far off St. Paul we find ourselves using it more than these youngsters. It was built in the spring when the leaves were the size of squirrels ears. It stood out from afar but now that the leaves are at their maximum coverage it almost disappears in the foliage.

 

A mid summer picnic acclimated friends and neighbors to the treehouse and many wanted their pictures taken in the miniature arboreal abode. The upper branches can hold an additional four or five people. Bur Oak trees are accommodating and people friendly.

 

With these notions and observations I start to ponder a past civilization that revered trees so much that they worshipped them. The Druids in Europe recognized the importance of trees and the integral part that trees played in their lives. Consider every aspect of their lives being touched by wood. Boats, benches, houses, barns, tool handles, lance and arrows, all made only of wood. Much of this wood was not only harvested but it was also “cultivated”. Many trees were coppiced to produce a particular type of wooden branch or sprout. Coppicing, most often involves cutting a perfectly good oak tree about 10 to 15 feet off the ground. The suckers that sprout from the trunk are a valuable source of straight roof rafters for your stone age hut. The sprouts were often 3 to 4 inches in diameter and would run a perfectly good “10 feet long”. They could be harvested for many years to come. We won’t be doing that with our treehouse tree!

Winter will reveal the stark reality of the upper midwest. As the tree goes dormant, so will the tree house. Stay tuned for the second story.

 

Alaska & The Columbian Exchange (part 3)

After an hour of flight time we found ourselves in the taiga/tundra and we were in an area that looked and felt like the Florida Everglades rather than Alaska. There are water and riverine type confluences in all directions, for miles and miles. The hum of the engine kept us focused on our goal St. Mary’s on the Yukon.

Soon we are following a large river and through my headset I am told that it is the Yukon. We follow it for another twenty minutes at one hundred seventy miles per hour, as I stare blankly at the auto pilot. Soon the village of St. Mary’s appears below on the banks of this great river. Houses appear all neatly oriented along the river and the boats are all helter skelter on the shoreline. There is a road….or maybe just an ATV pathway from the landing strip, in the upcoming distance a small gravel runway. We bank to the right, set down and come to a halt within two hundred yards. We then taxi onto a bituminous tarmac that denotes the main terminal.

The plane comes to a halt and we were met by a native that seemed to have anticipated our arrival. He brought us fresh smoked salmon. A startlingly realization takes place when I come to understand that we aren’t on a tourist trip. People have come to off load our plane so we can quickly return to Anchorage. I sat a bit beleaguered realizing that after a two hour flight, deep into the Alaskan bush. This was as close as I was going to get to this village and the Yupik inhabitants. It is time to return to Anchorage.

ALASKA & THE COLUMBIAN EXCHANGE (3 of 3 parts)

I’ve recently finished a book called “1493 – Uncovering the New World Columbus Created” by Charles C. Mann. This book describes the events of commerce that started to take place the moment Columbus landed in the northern hemisphere. This event started the exchange of knowledge and commerce that continues to this day.

 

The book allows me to understand my time and place in the Yupik village of St. Mary’s Alaska. I realize that a “Columbian Exchange” has just taken place. We are still trading with the “natives” and participating in the “Columbian Exchange” that began 500 years ago.

 

I then realize that I have the insight to understand what the Yupik nation might want from a society outside their domain. I can analyze their cargo! Anthropology #101 ! The Yupik people and their culture have historically existed on salmon and moose. I start viewing my photos to see what we have brought them. What does this culture want from the outside world?

On the tarmac sat the three pallets of neatly shrink wrapped cargo. Wrapped to keep it from sliding around in the plane. I was able to study the photographs and quiz the pilot to get an understanding of the exchange and the cargo that we brought them.

 

Forty six of Alaska’s 250 villages still do not have piped water or sewer but this curious exchange allows them the following; Approximately 20 to 25 % of the cargo weight was beef. Another heavy portion was soda pop. Other packages contained Wheat Thins and something called Pilot Bread. I believe this is a hard tack biscuit that goes good with fish. Ketchup, flour, sugar & pizza hot pockets were amongst the remaining cargo.

Our exchange is complete so we take our backpacks and gear to the plane we are to return to Anchorage.  We taxi down the runway, liftoff and with our backs to the sun and lift off.   We are   one ton lighter and our airplane is seems much more nimble.  On our return flight we pass over a gold mining camp and we skirt around a raging forest fire that can be seen miles in the distance.

As we fly home we snack on their smoked salmon and I ponder and suspect that they are enjoying our beef.   The Columbian Exchange 2013   bkeitel

 

 

 

 

 

 

COMMERCE IN THE YUKON

COMMERCE IN THE YUKON   (part 2)

My community has a little over 50 miles of paved roads. Consider that there are only one hundred times that amount of paved roadways in all of Alaska. Looking at a map of Alaska, you will understand that there are only so many places that you can drive. You can drive to Seward. You can drive to Homer. You can drive to Fairbanks. You can drive to Prudhoe Bay. These paved roads are equivalent to less than one complete road along a small portion of the coastline of Alaska. This also explains why at least one in seventy two people have airplanes. Some people have more than one. The number of pilots is closely the same, it is about five times the national average.

Alaska has expanse; approximately the same square miles as Minnesota,Wisconsin,Iowa, North and South Dakota, Wyoming and Montana combined. Alaska encompasses

663,000 square miles. The population in Alaska is about 730,000 (109,500) of whom are native peoples. This leaves the newest immigrant population of Alaskans at 620,000 or about four times the size of Sioux Falls, South Dakota. That works out to one person per square mile; the average throughout the U.S. Is 87 people per square mile.

Alaska is a curious place and the people are as genuine as any place I’ve traveled. You’ve heard all the descriptions: rugged individualists, woodsman extraordinaire, do-it -yourselfers. My experience drifted off in a slightly different direction when my niece’s husband asked if I would like to fly with him on a “mail run” to a remote Yupik village on the Yukon River. Willie Coon is a veteran bush pilot having flown to most every Inuit village in Alaska. His plane is a ten-passenger Grand Caravan, a work horse in the industry. A similar plane needs an annual mechanical check up and it resides in the small village of St. Mary’s on the Yukon. We intend to fly there and switch planes, then bring it back for servicing. Willies company decides to have him pick up mail and cargo to be delivered to St. Mary’s to defray the fuel expense of a four or five hour flight. Willie has cut his teeth in aviation with honors. His career has been spent in the wilds of this great state, meeting people and going places others just dream about. William Coon got his pilots license about the same time he received his drivers license. There is little room for travel romance in the work-a-day-world of a bush pilot.

 

We take off from Wasilla and fly to Anchorage International Airport to pick up our cargo that is to be transported to St. Mary’s. With a few sharp turns and quick descent that is dictated by flight control we alight next to a 747 Cathay International air freight liner. We are diminished by its size.

 

The loading crew immediately approaches with fork lifts and two pallets of mail and cargo. Our passenger seats have all been folded back and are ready to accept the cargo. It is time to take or cargo to the little village of four hundred Yupiks on the inner reaches of the Yukon. It is another day of work for the pilot and it is an adventure of uncommon merit for me!

 

We left Anchorage International headed westerly with sunlight bright in our faces. Within ten minutes there was not a roadway in sight. All signs of civilization had vanished, stark foreboding mountains lay ahead. We wend our way through rocky peaks, not a blade of grass, lichen or moss seems to be found on the mountains below us. Not a goat, not a marmot, not any sort of animal could survive this mountainous terrain. We were in the “outback”, pure Alaska. I held my breath as we went headlong into sunrise or sunset? This was Alaskan summer and nobody seems to have a handle on the time sequence. The sun never sets so many people just continued to stay awake and do things. It is my fervent hope that they all exercised caution and good judgement.

 

After an hour of flight time we found ourselves in the taiga/tundra and we were in an area that looked and felt like the Florida Everglades. There are water and riverine type confluences in all directions, for miles and miles. The hum of the engine kept us focused on our goal St. Mary’s on the Yukon.

 

Soon we are following a large river and through my headset I am told that it is the Yukon. We follow it for another twenty minutes at one hundred seventy miles per hour, as I stare blankly at the auto pilot. Soon the village of St. Mary’s appears below on the banks of this great river. Houses appear all neatly oriented along the river and the boats are all helter skelter on the shoreline. There is a road….or maybe just an ATV pathway from the landing strip, in the upcoming distance a small gravel runway. We bank to the right, set down and come to a halt within two hundred yards. We then taxi onto a bituminous tarmac that denotes the main terminal.

The plane comes to a halt and we were met by a native that seemed to have anticipated our arrival. He brought us fresh smoked salmon. A startlingly realization takes place when I come to understand that we aren’t on a tourist trip. People have come to off load the plane so we can quickly return to Anchorage. I sat a bit beleaguered realizing that this was as close as I was going to get to this village and the inhabitants. It is time to return to Anchorage.

 

 

TUTUS IN TALKEETNA (three parts travel in Alaska) RoadNotes

 

Tonight I find myself in Talkeetna, Alaska, a town of wood framed houses. The mountaineers who climb Denali use this village as their last outpost before heading to base camp on the tallest mountain in North America. Hype is a daily commodity, Denali looms large and tall, there is no need for bluster in Talkeetna. The mountain is so remote that tourists only get a view of it from miles in the distance. At arms length it stands only one inch off the horizon.

It is late, I look out the window of the Wildflower Bed and Breakfast perched above the main street and I observe a bit of raucous behavior. A couple of young women prance and cantor along the main street of Talkeetna. This theatric spectacle is usually reserved for the shadowy darkness of midnight. But this evening is the summer solstice in Alaska and the sun never sets; there is no such thing as darkness.

The two pretty young ladies match step and prance down the street. They are in cowgirl boots and matching pink and yellow tutus. They are headed for the local roadhouse down at the end of the block, bedecked in sequins and all things frilly. It is late and I am tired so I can’t motivate myself to photograph them, but if you go to Talkeetna you should seek them out. They manifest the “devil may care attitude that comes with living in these parts. I hear the historic music of Robert and Tommy Johnson emanating from the roadhouse.

The gals continue to saunter and prance down the street at 11:15 p.m. not a hit of darkness overcomes them. They have endured months of darkness. The daylight doesn’t stifle their parade, they have limited inhibitions. They gallop & saunter on, the night is as young as they are. There is no such thing as “sunset” this time of year.

I have had the fortune to struggle with language barriers and cultural barriers but the solar barrier is unending this time of year. Earlier, I had placed a call to the bed and breakfast to let them know that I would be arriving late. When I mentioned “We’ll be there by dark”….she replied, “You mean October?”   Alaska is many things to many people.  The solar phenomena sheds an ever present light on everything Alaskan.

 

My town is different than your town – Accommodating Spirit

My town is different than your town. You might go many places and travel far and wide. I have an interesting community that allows me to enjoy the far flung reaches of the world…..right in my own back yard.

Recently the news is all about “immigration” and our national concerns for security. I find “security” in my own back yard and in my community. Before you respond to the hype and fear about immigration (legal or undocumented) let me tell you about my community.

I am a small business man that has modestly prospered in this curious setting. I have come to embrace the fine people that are immigrating to my community. They have become the life blood that has allowed our community to continue to prosper….in a time when the demographics are completely against us.

Our community is located just south of the mythical “Lake Wobegone”and we typify those demographic characteristics.

Our accommodation of the newest immigrants started about 25 years ago with the Vietnamese and Laotian peoples. It has continued throughout the decades and has been of great benefit to this community, a community that would have demographically drifted off the charts…because of an aging population.
Many of my Lao and Vietnamese friends are here…because they stood up for “American Ideals” and risked both their lives and the lives of their families, much to their credit. In quiet moments, I have heard their stories….it has brought tears to my eyes….. I have a profound respect for them. American Idealism?…I have not sacrificed, like they have sacrificed. If they would tell you their stories….you would have a new found respect for the immigrant experience. Immigration doesn’t happen because “things are dandy!” Immigration happens because people are at the limits of their own (moral) tolerance.

Today , I can take my 3 block walk to work and say “hello” in numerous & different languages. Sai Bai Dee (Lao), Buenos Dias (Mexico, Guatemalan,El Salvador ), De Tu Jot (Sudanese) Djow Go (Vietnamese), Ka May La ha (Eithiopean) mengalaba (Karen) its is perhaps a crude rendition of their languages….but it allows me a comfort zone with my new neighbors. I have them sign an atlas in my store….it allows me the ability to understand where they have come from and often times it allows me to understand some of their travails. They all enjoy and appreciate my attempt to speak in their native tongue(they laugh at me) , as they continue to become assimilated into our community. We are a small community and we strive to make sure that know one is anonymous.

Assimilate…..they have! I am convinced that these new found immigrants have saved my community. They have purchased homes, they have purchased cars, they have kept our grocery stores busy. They have created their own grocery stores. Many have started their own businesses, some try and some fail….for that I think more of them, not less. They are the new graduates at the local community college. They have become the New Worthington. There might be a few people that consider this immigration a threat…..those folks are prone to fear and loss of their standing within their perceived place within our community. The good news is that the majority of folks around these parts recognize that this “immigration thing” is of great value to our community!

If you are looking for the latest trendy shopping mall or strip mall (filled with brand named stores) this might not be the place for you. We do have many standardized big box stores, however if you are looking for a real “WORLD MARKET” experience, I encourage you to come and visit Worthington.

It won’t be completely “standardized” with all the generic brand name stores….but if you have a truly adventuresome spirit…..you can enjoy a “real” World Market experience. Ma and Pa stores are sprouting up as we speak…..and they are the new entrepreneurial spirit of Worthington.

Immigration has never been “clean and tidy”, it has a “learning curve”. My community, Worthington has stepped up to the plate and embraced that spirit of accommodation. We learn from our friends, we learn from our new found immigrants, we learn from being able to say….”I don’t understand you, explain to me… again” that is what it means to be accommodating….We aren’t afraid to understand our new neighbors. We recognize that “They” are our new beginnings. We have been re-invented and though we do make mistakes….we recover and strive to learn from them.   We have every reason to stand tall and be proud.

Worthington has benefited from its new found immigrants and I suspect….history will eventually write a new chapter about this community and its “Accommodating Spirit.”

Bill Keitel
Worthington MN.

(reprint Eventos Magazine-Minnesota )

FLIGHTY TIMES-BIRDS NOTES 2013

This year the delayed spring has had unintended consequences. The confusing spring warbler migration is being appreciated by an inordinate amount of folks because the leaves are not hiding their northerly progression.

 

South Western Minnesota has been witness to the House Finch influx over the past decade. Many people confuse this bird with the Purple Finch. The House Finch is an aggressive early nester and has pushed the English sparrow out of its dominate role in the south of Minnesota. It lays its eggs a week or so earlier than the English Sparrow, hence it gets the best nesting sights.

 

Once found only in the South & South West U.S. the House Finches territory has expanded to the North East U.S. and have quite rapidly spread westward. Appropriately a decade ago we witnessed this bird in Western Wisc. and with a year it was at bird feeders in SouthWestern Minnesota. This birds expanding range went from both coasts of the U.S. and it has now met in the middle of America. Speculation is that bird feeding has allowed this bird to expand its territory.

 

The Harris’s Sparrow is the largest sparrow (7 to 7.5 inches) and has been seen recently in backyards in South Western Minnesota. It is readily identifiable by its black cap, face and throat. It migrates precisely through the Missouri River Basin on its way northward to the western regions of the Hudson’s Bay where it nests. Its nesting grounds are so remote that it was not know where they nested until the early 1900′s.

 

Recently I was traveling with some artist friends in South West Arizona just a few miles from the Mexican border. Our birding instincts were refueled when we sighted a Vermillion Flycatcher. (the bird pictured) The following day in Arizona I heard the call of a dove that I recognized as a new visitor to my community in South West Minnesota. The sound that I heard was that of a Eurasian Collar Dove, it arrived in my community a few years ago. The bird looks so much like a mourning dove that most people do not readily see the difference. With close observation this bird is 20 % larger and has a slightly different flight pattern. It has a distinctive call that is quite comical and melodious. I decide to tell my artist friends about this bird, because I am certain we can find it and identify it for them. It is a “pole sitter” and often times can be seen sitting on light posts and other singular poles. I travel with these friends far and wide. My artist friends are from Bulgaria and have taken up residence in New Mexico because some of the best artistic lithographers live in this region.

 

 

As I listen to this bird I realize that it has European origins. When I tell them to listen to the bird sounds that we hear, they look at me puzzled and say “that is a goo gootka!”. Goo Gootka is an onomatopoetic sound, the name phonetically imitates the sound that the bird makes! We search in vain to try and find the origin of the sound and eventually find the bird sitting on a light pole. Indeed, it is a “Goo Gootka” the Eurasian Collared Dove that we have come to enjoy. The bird is an international emissary of good will and friendship. Other birds that have an onomatopoetic names? consider Chickadee (chick a dee dee dee) Bobolink, Bobolink, spink spank spink and the Yellow Billed Cuckoo, cuckoo, cuckoo.

Tonight we walk to a bicycle bridge that spans Whiskey Brook. Along the way a dark shadow of a falcon appears along the shoreline. It can easily be identified by its “elbow silhouette” in the wing. The bird flies with great deliberation, there are very few glides in its flight. It is a top order predator in the bird world and starlings and pigeons should take heed. It does not have a large enough wing span to be a Peregrine Falcon. This observation leaves only one choice a Merlin, the second smallest bird in the falcon family.

 

We have a population of falcons in my state. The American Kestrel is the smallest and most common of falcons. Many people refer to it as a Sparrow Hawk, in other areas of the United States the diversity of names is plentiful….Kitty Hawk, Grasshopper Hawk, Rusty Capped Falcon, Mouse Hawk, Short Winged Hawk and my favorite “WindHover”. Killy killy killy is the sound it makes as you see it hovering next to the highway. (Birds of America-Louis Agassi Fuertes-1936)

 

When your daily routine gets boring…..cast your eyes to the sky and see whats about!

 

Tribute to Bob Brozman-World Music Guitarist of the Year

A TRIBUTE TO BOB BROZMAN – WORLD MUSIC – GUITARIST OF THE YEAR

Many of us spent a week or two at Columbia Univ. at International guitar seminars. Bob Brozman and Woody Mann were the co-founders of this prestigious seminar that started off the millennium. The students that attended were promised they would be able to add additional skills to their musical toolbox. With all the new found poly-rhythms….Bob said he wanted us to “walk with a funkier groove”. Students learned more in one week than the they had in the past decade. As a musician and instructor Bob was a musical and sensory overload. The seminars lasted a few years and Bob and Woody taught perhaps 500 students both in the U.S and abroad. Many of these students have gone on to play professionally and semi professionally. We were sent out from the Jefferson Hall of Journalism after our last concert with an understanding. “Hold fast to the spirit of youth, and let the years do what they may!” Bob left us an appreciation for risk and courage, he exhorted to his students, “stand tall and be proud!”
Mr. Brozman went out of his way to play a small music festival in my community. The following week he was playing the Lincoln Center. He had little regard and even contempt for pop stardom. It was a much larger world out there..and musically he wanted to comprehend as much as he could. He had strongly held politcal opinions and since he had earned his “junior philosophers badge” when he turned 50. He made an incredibly intelligent emissary for the U.S. In his travels that often lasted 6 or 7 months abroad each year.

While staying at my house he perused my library and read one of my books…. in an afternoon. This book had taken me a week or two to read. We discussed it in detail and I realized he had fully grasped the entirety of this book. He acknowledged that he seemed to have the capacity to learn and speed read with rather great proficiency.
Bob also left major record labels behind. He once mentioned that selling a million CD’s on a major label is the equivalent to selling 10,000 CD’s on his private label. We were discussing entrepreneurship and he then stated that he has between 20 and 30 CD’s and none of them have sold less than that 10,000 mark. That equates to 20 or 30 gold records, much to his credit.
I was playing music in a small cafe, in a small town, in a remote region of Italy. It was a CD release party and I was the opening act. The main musician came up to me afterwards and said “you sound a bit like Bob Brozman”. Unbeknownst to me, Bob had been there the week before.
Bob spread his music far and wide, he had little regard to the U.S. Market. I phoned Bob when I got home and told him of my musical coincidence in far off Italy. I told him that when I arrived in this community they were “walking with a funkier groove”.

Bob Brozman – Born: March 8, 1954, New York City Died: April 24, 2013,

Bill Keitel
billkeitel@areavoices.com

A REVERENCE FOR TREES

 

Grandfather Mac was in the wholesale lumber business, he traveled the midwest selling lumber to lumberyards. He spent his life, earning his living, by the board foot. In his mid life they lived in a small mansion that they could not afford. My grandmother confided in me one day and told me that Grampa bought the grandiose home, not specifically for the architecture but because of the beautiful trees that that were on the grounds and in the yard, she was completely serious. Grama was also a bit annoyed when she told me this, because they had to rent out the carriage house to a group of nursing students to help make the house payments. She had wished she had taken a door knob as a souvenir from the home when they left it, the knobs were purportedly sterling silver. I only knew my grandparents living in very humble means.

In my grand fathers later years he came to ponder and realize how much timber he had marketed over his lifetime. He knew his life was coming to an end and he asked that people not buy flowers for his funeral. He spent his life on the prairie and was keenly aware of benefits of having a landscape with trees.

Instead of flowers he asked that if people wanted to make a gesture to his time spent on this earth, to plant a tree. He acknowledged that it was a simple gesture but it would be of benefit to others in years to come.

Over the years I have taken his request to heart and have purposefully involved myself with planting trees, growing trees,appreciating trees and understanding their many benefits. I was influenced by an author and illustrator Eric Sloane called A Reverence for Wood. The book is about colonial times and their uses of wood for tools and building materials. Each species of tree was found to have very specific purposes. Today we know that hickory makes fine hammer handles. It handles the percussive shock of impacts better than many other types of wood. We know that willow is easily bent, Basswood is clean and clear, Oak is strong and is the framework of humanity, Spruce and maple are good for musical instruments, White pine, Spruce, Cedar, Tulip Poplar, mahogany and black walnut all conjure images for their specific uses.

Green Ash-Arborvitae-Balsam Fir

Today, all the talk is of the recent ice storm. Nature has pruned trees in our community. Perhaps 90 % of all the trees have sustained some damage. The hardest hit species seems to be the Hackberry trees, because of their susceptibility to crotch rot and the soft maple trees fail when burdened with any weight. The Arborvitae have been similarly hit hard because of their propensity to hold the weight of the ice load, as flexible as they are, many have significant damage. The Paper Birch trees in town are decorative. They branch off the trunk at 20 to 25 degree angles which is a very poor angle for strength. They have suffered mightily. The ash is perhaps the most popular tree in Wgtn. (not to be confused with Poplar!) It too has taken a heavy toll. The Ash trees in Wgtn. were in the midst of budding out and that may well have caused them to also hold more ice and hence…more weight load. Ash trees seldom bend, they are less flexible and though they have considerable strength, when that limit is exceeded, they also crack and fail.

Bur Oak- Quercus Macrocarpa @ 28 years

I’ve taken a cursory survey of our yard and some additional land that we own. I’ve found that we have 62 trees and 54 assorted shrubs. My mature deciduous trees all have serious damage from broken limbs. Recently pruned fruit trees show no damage, the confers have minor damage in which they will easily recover. The shrubs should also bear the abuse.

Twenty nine years ago I planted an acorn. This acorn came from a burr oak tree. We have had the good fortune to watch it grow into a beautiful tree that is a focal point in our backyard. It is approx. 20 inches in diameter and is about 30 ft tall and with an umbrella that is perhaps 26 to 30 feet in diameter.

 

The shade that it provides in the summer time is invaluable. Oak trees have branches and leaves that provide a diffuse shade, not dense shade. They tend to branch out at stronger angles (55 to 90 degrees). In the dead heat of the summer the shade of an oak tree is inviting. Temperatures underneath it always seems tolerable. There is never an unpleasant time to be had under an oak tree.

The bur oak tree is native to the prairie. The oak tree is not messy, lets dispel that notion. As long as you have a robust squirrel population we have found that we have never had to pick up an acorn. The acorn is a food source and the shells are completely chewed up. The base of our oak tree is as clean as any other place in our yard, do not confuse acorns with walnuts.

Today there is not a tree left undamaged in our yard….excepting the burr oak tree. It is very heavy laden with a layer of ice and snow. The snow beneath it is perfectly void of any branches or twigs, every square meter throughout the city is littered with twigs and branches. Not below the mighty oaks.

We have planted oak trees at other properties and have found that in all instances that there was little to no damage on these trees. The oak tree is also slow to bud out and this is an advantage when winter storms decide to reappear.

Oak trees create high quality shade which in return may well enhance real estate values

Oak trees create valuable wood, even as a non commercially grown tree.

I suggest that Oak trees do grow at a relatively fast pace contrary to commonly held beliefs. This notion gets distorted because people confuse “old trees” with “slow growing”. Oak trees are “long lived” trees and people equate living long…with slow growing. Our oak tree of 28 years from an acorn is quite acceptable, it has been casting functional shade for the past 15 years.

Our community will spend weeks if not months cleaning and trimming our existing trees. When this task is complete we will surely consider a replanting program. We have arrived at a time that is almost unprecedented and we have an opportunity. Will we plant the trees that are quick, cheap and fast growing? Or we should consider creating a legacy. Perhaps we should consider intentionally planting something that is bigger than ourselves, planting something that we can share with our grand children and ensuing generations.

Oak trees are more expensive for the city to plant. In a time of fiscal constraints, it seems dubious to ask the city to bear the expense of people thinking about a future generation and their quality of life.

Perhaps we could involve the local citizenry and encourage people to plant an oak tree as a memorial for a friend, child or a grandparent?

If there were spots within our city parks and walk ways that could use a new tree, would you consider a memorial for your friend or loved one? What if there were locations in our town that would benefit from a stately oak tree?

Who planted these trees and why were they planted? Your grandchildren might ask this question.

Do we have the capacity to see beyond our own immediate needs and could we put together a program of planting higher quality trees?

Could we recognize that this might be a time for us as a community to consider creating an arboreal legacy?

European Oak-Cheltham-Cotwolds-Great Britain

Oak trees might initially be a bit more expensive but the pay off is generational.

Bill Keitel