Saturday, July 26, 2008

Inflatable Serenity

I've been out to Sulphur Creek to kayak a few times this summer, though probably not as often as I should, and as I set out across the water this morning I was thinking maybe it's time to sell the Dragonfly and put the money away for a solid-hull kayak sometime in the future, after I move. Because I'm sure there'll be water nearby. That's a priority for me, and it seems that every place has some sort of recreation-friendly body of water nearby; even Ogallala has their fake lake. And I was thinking that even though the Dragonfly is much easier to store and transport than a full-sized solid kayak, it can be a pain to set up and tear down on days when I'm pressed for time.

But after a few minutes on the water, I started to think that really, the Dragonfly has been a wonderful thing. It veers ever so slightly to each side as I paddle, but I've learned to offset that by taking short, shallow strokes instead of lingering long in the water. Better cardio workout anyway, and still plenty of resistance to make that thing book. It's very plush, being basically a balloon and all, sort of like paddling a recliner around, or that inflatable clear plastic couch Larry kept in her dorm room in Pomona. Set up actually only takes about five minutes, getting it situated and inflating it with the hardy little foot pump, strapping the paddle on and the seat in, tossing my phone, camera, and keys in the silver dry bag. And it looks awesome, aggressive and sporty with the red, yellow, and black color scheme and the handles and zippers on mesh pouches and the compass (which doesn't work all that well). Kids waiting on the dock for Daddy to launch the speedboat watch me blow it up and drop it in the water while his truck flounders on the ramp, and they tug on Mom's sleeve, "Look, isn't that so cool?"

I'm not quite ready to see it go. It's become an old friend, sharing fine mornings like today's with me, been reliable and sturdy. It was already 80 degrees by the time I got in the water at 10:09, but as the paddle see-saws from one side to the other, rolling against the smooth, hard spots in the crooks of my thumbs where so many blisters have bloomed and peeled, the water runs from each blade down the shaft and sprinkles my legs, shoulders, and face with cool droplets.

The reservoir smells like algae and cows and the evergreen breath of the Uintas to the south, and even when the water is choppy I feel safe in the Dragonfly; it's much harder to capsize than a regular kayak because it sits lower in the water and has all that air on the sides to keep it upright, like the inner tubes we used to float in on Bear Lake. Readying it for storage after use is the hardest part because it has to be completely dry before you fold it into its handy bag (which also holds the folding seat, the large foot pump, the paddle, my life vest, two beach towels, and a bottle of Gatorade), and there are a lot of nooks and crannies for water to hide in. Plus it has an inner inflatable structure and an outer shell, so you have to take it apart and wipe everything down, then leave it in the sun so the fabric top of the shell can dry, then reassemble and fold tightly to fit it in the bag.

But still, it fits in Puck's hatch like it was made to go there, and it tucks in behind my rowing machine in the living room when not in use or transport, and that's sure something to recommend a personal watercraft. Plus, I can check it as baggage if I ever fly to Venice; you can't rent a kayak in Venice. Try it. And I do still hope someday to kayak along the coast of Croatia (around Dubrovnik, say) or from Piran to Trieste on Slovenia's little slice of the Adriatic. We still have family in Ċ kofja Loka.

But mostly I just want more of days like today: peaceful, easy times on familiar waters just a few minutes away, good exercise and fresh air in a bright red package. So the Dragonfly stays, and floats on.

Cleaning Out the Blog Pics Folder

Archie Niel Park, Kemmerer, Wyoming.

619 Topaz, only when I lived there it was green, not blue.

The elusive B.C. beats the heat.

My bedspread was hanging off the end of the bed one morning and as I walked by I accidentally toed a place that was particularly solid and said "meow?" and there was B.C., being cute and fuzzy in the Battenburg and matelasse.

I got away from posting artsy photos of myself a long time ago, but M took this in the Pontiac on the way to Thermopolis, and I look particularly eastern European and fierce, and I'm not a brunette anymore, so this is sort of a memorial to my dark hair period.

New wind farm on the Bigelow Bench.

This and the next were taken near Granite Hot Springs (south of Jackson Hole) July 2007.

Snow machining last winter.

Rainbow in the desert.

Fall Creek, near Fort William

This is from fall 2006, willows in the Wyoming Range.

This is Brent. And me, too, come to think of it.

Friday, July 18, 2008


So my day of reckoning for backing the dump truck into the bucket truck finally arrived (I got out of it twice but swapped today for yesterday so I could go Cruise shopping in Utah with Morgan and Mom) and I spent 4.5 hours in a room full of teenagers who landed in Defensive Driving by way of speeding tickets, reckless driving citations, and two hit-and-run incidents (and both of those were kids from Bridger Valley, go figure). A few of them were there because they had gotten tickets for driving with only a learner's permit, which their parents apparently fully endorsed, and I gotta say, people, I don't want your psycho kids on the road in your dilapidated Ford F-150s and classic Jaguars when I'm out there driving.

The lieutenant who conducted our class mumbles on just like Ben Stein in the Clear Eyes commercials and presented the usual gory cautionary tales (which are many and effective, if you ask me, all that blood and regret) in an abbreviated way because we were boring, possibly the most boring group he'd ever had, he decided. I wanted to remind him that the last time I took his class, he had a head cold and could barely complete a sentence, which he actually wasn't having much luck with today, either, and at one point he spelled "officer etiquette" like this: "officer edicate." Even Microsoft's lousy spell checker knows that's bogus. But it was a good attempt for a Friday.

The class was mercifully brief but made me realize what an inattentive (and lucky) driver I've become, although since Puck arrived I'm a lot more careful because a) he's new and b) even though I feel perfectly safe in Puck, I don't feel quite as indestructible as I was in Monte or the Cadillac, which both have a lot more steel than Puck. But Puck has a series of explosive bubbles tucked away inside his plastic armor at strategic points and a unified frame that'll get the job done in a collision. The lieutenant explained today that they've done away with the term "accident," since with a vehicle there is no such thing. A cause can always be pinpointed, be it a road condition or driver error.

Anyway, thirteen teenagers and I left that room sadder but wiser drivers, and hopefully I will never see any of them again. You know how I feel about teenagers.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I often covet or crave things I have no mortal use for, but it's been a while since I had a pair of cowboy boots (my gray Justin ropers went to the Salvation Army over ten years ago, and everything since has been steel-toed work boots), and it seems like they've sure changed since I last went shopping. I would live in any of these (although I prefer a roach killer toe, and the first pair are way too blunt), but the last pair especially cause me to pine. I can't justify them at $1,850, but you must admit those are hot.

Blackjack Boots- Star Inlay

J.B. Hill- The Lady (kangaroo and crocodile)

Liberty Boots- Andrea Cross

Monday, July 14, 2008


I learn by osmosis. Or maybe it's not that effortless; maybe I just like to learn, so it feels that way. I know Dad occasionally got frustrated because I couldn't remember the difference between my thermostat and my alternator. (I know the difference now.) Because sometimes he assumed his daughters were born knowing what he knew or remembered everything they saw him do and heard him say. He tried to be patient.

On really slow days when it's just me and Jeff at the plant, I learn things. How to draw up plans and build a set of stairs for a new deck. How to bevel the sides of a slab of oak for a home office counter top. How to smoke rock chucks in their dens. How to sharpen curved knives. How to raise pigs. Every weekend there's a new project to plan out, something Jeff's doing on the property up in Riverton or remodeling in his home or for one of his two twenty-something sons, who both have wives and homes of their own now.

But I'm also learning something I never expected to learn, and that is the anatomy (and nature, and care and feeding) of the horse. Specifically the feet, composed of bones with sinister Medieval names: the coffin bone, the cannon bone. The short pastern and the long pastern and the minuscule sesamoid bone. For some reason I have imagined early, superstitious scientists and determined scholars, Aristotle, and later Da Vinci, crowded around a horse carcass, sketching and cataloging the structure of a horse's foot and leg, the skin peeled away to reveal the tendons and muscles and nerves bare above the hoof. And, of course, there are the bones.

Jeff is a farrier, a trade which hasn't changed much since the industrial revolution or before. I remember being utterly fascinated when he opened the shell of his old white truck once and I caught a glimpse of all his tools, the strange, knobby hammers, buckets of shiny arched shoes, boxes of nails, a rather compact anvil, tubes and tins of evil-smelling greases and ointments, the thick leather apron to protect his thighs and knees from slipping blades and the blows of sharp hooves.

Jeff's son Brian's horse has been boarding with Jeff for two weeks while he tries to figure out why it's gone lame. He leads the horse into the irrigation ditch and lets him stand there, where the cool water soothes the pain in his feet, while he exercises the fine limbs, taps the hooves. He thinks he knows what the problem is, would prefer not to have to diagnose it. The final, central bone in a horse's foot, the navicular bone (or distal sesamoid), a small oblong behind the coffin bone to which the nerves and tendons and muscles stretching down from the knee are connected, can become diseased and degenerate to the point where the horse becomes disabled. This is unfortunately common but also commonly misdiagnosed. He'll take the horse to the vet for X-rays. If it turns out to be a problem with the navicular bone, Jeff can have his younger son, Jared, weld spars to attach to regular steel horse shoes to better brace the center of the hoof. This is only a temporary solution. The horse, a pretty bay, is only 11.

I don't need to know all the things I know about diseases and deformities of horses' feet (and I can list several from memory). But I can't help learning them. Jeff likes to discuss things like this with me, projects and problems; he solves problems by thinking out loud. And as he talks, his knowledge seeps in. I can't stop it. I wouldn't want to.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Some Like it Hot

After the smoke from the 4th of July cleared, I did the math and discovered that over the weekend, Puck consistently got 32 miles to the gallon out of that $40 tank I got Thursday afternoon before going to Salt Lake City to pick Brent up at the airport. An effortless 32 mpg. On seriously vicious dirt roads and highways and freeways and up and down the mountains. With the air conditioner going full blast all the time, packing four people half the time, and their shoes, groceries and beer. We went 360 miles and still had just under a quarter of a 13-gallon tank left. All I can figure is that either the break-in period is finally over and he's hit his stride, conditions just happened to be right, or maybe Puck also loves summer. Go figure. Arizona, here we come.

I have a mad girl crush on Anne Hathaway, and not just because I think she bears more than a passing resemblance to my lovely cousin, our other, littler A. (I am not just Marvelous A, see. I am also, historically, Little A.) Get Smart was dorky and fun (mmmmm, The Rock), and she looked fantastic through the whole thing. I've loved her since Ella Enchanted, though, so this came as no surprise. And I love that after her breakup with Raffaello Follieri, she looks like a million bucks and behaves with dignity, unlike another blubbering starlet I would like to drop kick, one who is apparently now dating John Mayer, who looks unclean.

I'm obsessed with hickory smoked Gouda and green seedless grapes.

I don't understand why the fire chief mows his lawn in all his glorious County regalia. I walked by his house on the way to meet M and Bear the other evening and watched him pushing the mower with his bulky radio flopping on his hip and other clunky official items dangling off his belt. His light blue uniform shirt was plastered to his back and it had to be hot in those navy slacks and black boots. And he was not on his way to work, either. He could have taken a moment to run in and change. But it occurs to me that I've never seen him in anything but that uniform, which makes me suspect that it's painted on. I also watched him seal his driveway in it once.

It's my Friday.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Fun on a Stick

Fort William, the marvelous place my grandparents built.

The Wind River Mountains from 9,100 feet.

So cute your teeth hurt. (And the plaid sorts make yet another appearance. I suppose this makes them a summer staple.)

"Hey, kid, how about some meat?" Saturday dinner at the Pitchfork Fondue.

The recently refurbished Mormon Tabernacle in Temple Square, Salt Lake City, Utah.


I came home for lunch just now and found a red paper tag on the handle of the Cadillac, which is, yes, still sitting in the driveway. I'll get to it this month, I swear. I looked at the tags on the plate as I walked up to make sure, thinking, the registration doesn't expire until the end of this month. What the heck? I picked up the tag and read:

"Hello! Our representative called today to inform you that your water service will be discontinued if you don't make arrangements to take care of your delinquent bill." My hand was streaking towards my cell phone to call and shriek at Kathy even before I noticed someone had handwritten "Turn over" at the bottom.

On the back, I read, "Just kidding. Gordon & Bruce."

Man it sucks when the entire water department knows where you live.

Now I have to think of something to do to them.

I know where they live too.