Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Chapter 13: Chopping Wood

 


The Old Man was standing feet apart, low facing a block with a short log top side up sitting at it's center.  He had his arms raised high over his head holding a two headed axe.  He suddenly dropped his arms sending the axe head down straight through the log splitting it perfectly in two.  He grabbed another, positioned the log and repeated.  His technique was the same every time he chopped a log.  Hands high, back straight, standing feet apart low.  As he dropped the axe he would raise up slightly with his legs then down again just before chopping.  Perfect.

The Dad saw The Boy watching The Old Man and called him over to another pile of logs.  He made The Boy stand feet wide apart, legs bent low, back straight and handed him a heavy wooden axe handle with no axe head.  The Dad positioned The Boy's arms and hands high over his head with the handle held high and said, "Hold this high just like this, watch The Old Man, but don't move until I come back."  Then he walked away with The Boy standing low holding a headless axe handle over his head high, not moving.

The Old Man continued chopping wood, and The Boy did not move.  His legs began burning.  His arms were asleep.  His feet tingled, but he did not move.  The Old Man kept chopping.  After a forever time The Dad returned and removed the handle from The Boys hands and helped him lower his arms.  The Boy winced in pain.  The Dad grabbed him by the shoulders and lifted him up on his feet, then caught him to keep The Boy from falling.  He sat on a log with The Dad sitting next to him.  "What was that?" The Boy asked.

"It's called Riding the Horse." The Dad replied, "Tomorrow we practice again."

In the Morning The Dad led The Boy to the pile of logs again and had The Boy touch his toes for another forever time, then had him stand again feet apart low with his back straight.  This morning he handed him an axe handle with a heavy two headed axe head attached.  He raised his arms high and placed the axe in his arms high over his head and said, "Don't move until I come back." And he walked away.

The Boy stood in this position with the axe high over head for another forever time.  This time however he didn't suffer from as much pain as the day before, and his legs did not go to sleep.  He just stood, hurting all over instead.  The Dad returned and lowered his arms, stood him back up and said, "Later we chop wood."  Then handed him a bologna sandwich from The Grandma's kitchen.  It was tasty, then he washed it down with some water.

After The Boy had eaten some lunch and regained his limbs The Old Man, and The Dad took him to the wood pile.  The wood pile was endless.  It seemed to stretch out forever into a cavern of splinters and knots.  The Boy can't remember how long this pile had been sitting here, only that it was part of the landscape.  The Old Man said something to The Dad and The Dad spoke to The Boy, "I will explain, but you watch The Old Man and remember what you see, savvy?"  The Boy nodded his affirmative. 

As He watched The Old Man stand with his feet apart and raise an axe high over head, The Dad said, "This position is called Riding The Horse."  

The Old Man then dropped his axe straight down chopping a small log perfectly in center, cutting it in two. "This is called, Chopping Wood." Said The Dad, "It is what the whole exercise is named after."

Then The Dad said, "Notice how when The Old Man begins his drop, the lower body and legs raise as the arms and upper body drop. This is the crest of a surfers wave ready to smash upon the rocks below." The Old Man chopped again, perfect. Two pieces.  

"Are you ready for a demonstration Son?" Said The Dad.  From out of the ether The Old Man produced a Katana, a Japanese sword, and tossed it to The Dad, who in one stroke unsheathed the sword raised it high and brought it down onto a log.  This all happened in one smooth stroke.  The log was now in two perfect pieces and the sword was back in it's scabbard.  The Boy didn't even notice when or how that happened.  "This is the reason we chop wood," said The Dad.  The Old Man was clapping and laughing.

The Dad handed the axe to The Boy and said, "Chop wood."  then walked away.  The Old Man winked at The Boy and followed the Dad.  The Boy began chopping.

Peace and Balance,

John

 


Tuesday, September 19, 2023

Chapter 12: Race Horses And Throwing Knives

 


The Mom was standing in the center of the stable holding a long tether with a Therabred Appaloosa cross attached to the other end.  His name was Chief the son of Khalif, who was sire to many great race horses including Secretariat the triple crown winner of 1980.  The first triple crown winner of more than 29 years.  The Mom was quietly clicking and taping Chief on the rump with a long leather lead.  

Standing in the North corner of the stable was The Old Man, who was smiling and nodding his approval. The Old Man had taught The Mom everything she knew about training horses.  His philosophy was to treat the animal with respect and you will gain respect in return.   The Mom was known across the country for her horse training skills.   These are Horse People.

The Old Man and The Dad were seen in the late evening by The Boy standing in the middle of an open field.  The Dad would smile and raise an arm, run across the field and strike at The Old Man, Who would magically disappear from in front of The Dad and reappear behind him in an instant.  There would be a flurry of movement from his feet to his hands and The Dad would be airborne to land again on his feet laughing and adjusting his glasses.  The Old Man would in turn do the attacking and The Dad rolled under The Old Man's feet taking him off the ground.  The Old Man would sit roll and rise on his feet laughing.  This exchange played out back and forth, back and forth until the Sun dipped low on the horizon.  

The next morning The Boy was greeted by The Dad at the foot of the back door stairs to the Bel Aire.  He had a Kabar Marine knife in his hand that looked newly sharpened and polished.  He walked The Boy to an area on the side of The Old Man's garage.  Leaning against the garage the long way at ground level was an old telephone pole.  It was 40 feet long and looked hard as nails.  

The Dad looked at The Boy with fire in his eyes.  The Dad's eyes were a bright blue with flames flying from their orbs.  He said, "Notice the condition of this knife.  It is clean, new looking, and very sharp.  After you are done today it will look in the same condition it is in now, Do what I do and don't stop until you can do it Consistently, Savy? Keep your eyes on me."

He flipped the knife once in the air catching it by the back of the blade, twisting his wrist over knife up, he pointed at the pole on the ground and let loose a throw that flipped once in the air and stuck perfectly at a perpendicular angle to the pole.  He pointed at the knife, looked at The Boy, and walked away.

The Boy tried pulling the knife out of the telephone pole.  It did not come out easily, as the matter of fact it was stuck up to the hilt and took some rather intense pulling, cursing, and grunting that finally freed the knife.  It was still clean, how'd that happen? 

He tried flipping the knife.  That didn't land exactly the way he thought it would.  He finely caught it in his palm correctly and twisted blade up and let it loose.  It didn't flip.  It flew straight and hard hitting the pole dead center on the butt of the handle, with a loud clang and metal ping.  He was beginning to get frustrated.  He kept throwing, and throwing, and throwing.  Finely he tossed a toss that stuck, and fell out.  "It stuck." he thought.  Now there was hope.

The secret was all in the way he flipped and twisted the blade to get it to do one flip in the air before sticking.  He began sticking his blade a majority of the time now so he took a break to clean the knife.  Oh boy, it needed cleaning and straightening.  It seems that other than a proper flip and twist it needed the right trajectory to keep from being bent to hell.  It took some oil, a plyers, hammer, and a soft cloth to get it just right.  Then he went back to throwing.  

The Boy started this practice early in the morning, the sun was now threatening to go down and he was still feeling unsure about his throw.  He began pacing back and forth in front of the Telephone pole when a hand grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him around on his heals.  He was face to face with The Dad who handed him the knife and said, "Throw."

The Boy was petrified.  He looked at The Dad, and saw standing in the Northern Corner of the yard, The Old Man who was smiling.  The Boy stepped 25 paces away from the pole turned and flipped the knife once.  It landed in the palm of his hand.  He twisted his wrist over once and let loose.  The knife flipped once perfectly and sunk up to the hilt in the pole with a loud Thunk.  The Dad walked over and dislodged the knife from the pole, looked it over hard, smiled at The Boy and said, "You Pass."  The Old Man laughed.  He had learned The Dad's throwing technique.  

Peace and Balance,

John


Monday, September 18, 2023

Chapter 11: Saint Helens, Curiosity, And A VW Bug.



 The 1960's model Chrysler 318 V8 was one of the most reliable horse power to torque engines put out in that era.  It was a classic that sat mounted in Mopar cars of that generation for a good decade.  The Plymouth Fury Sport coup, the Fury III sedan, (adopted for Highway Patrols all over the country), and the 2 door Fury coup convertible were all capable of waging war on any drag strip or hidden road for a majority of that decade.  Pink slips fell to the ravages of the Fury. It was Glorious.

The Plymouth Fury sedan was one of many vehicles The Boy would piece together with the assistance of The Old Man.  It was capable of driving the driver and passengers back solidly in the seats due to the force of gravity suddenly exerted upon them.  0 to 60 in less than 6 seconds is very respectable for any car of that generation.  The Old Man was proud of that car and the Boy, beamed.  

In 1980 the ground around Mount Saint Helens in Washington State began rumbling.  The mountain was going through stages of swelling an contracting.  Unfortunately the seismic scientists of the USGS, the United States Geological Service, didn't detect the exact power building, nor the time it was to explode.  For this reason a team of scientists lost their lives  and the warnings to evacuate came late to the surrounding communities and folks living in the vicinity.  Some did leave, but a few refused and paid the ultimate price.  

On May 18th, 1980 at 8:32 AM Mount Saint Helens exploded in a violent eruption that sent ash and fire 80,000 feet into the atmosphere, and from there it spread KCL, Calcium Chloride or Potash to virtually every continent in the Northern Hemisphere.  The two years following The Old Man's piece of heaven had it's best growing seasons ever.  The clover grew thick, the sweet grass was high, and the corn plentiful.  It was a profitable couple of years.  

Less than a week after the mountain exploded The Boy decided to drive the Plymouth Fury to Washington State to check out the state of the Cascades, the mountain range St. Helens was part of.  He was curious and wanted to see what was left.  He packed a cooler, made the appropriate calls, he was on leave from the Air Force, put some clothes in a duffle bag, filled the car up with gas, and headed out down Highway 2 West.  His trip had begun.  

The Old Man tried to warn him about driving at this time, but The Boy's curiosity was strong and driven.  He drove past Chester, then Shelby,  Cut Bank, and Browning, then finely into West Glacier.  The Mountains had arrived.  The drive from Columbia falls to Kalispell is basically fairly even as they are at the tops of the ridges, then up again until the drive reaches Libby.  The Libby Loggers are a historical rival of the Havre Blue Ponies.  The two football teams would go to war in ritual combat at about the same time every year.  It is as regular as the harvest and celebrated much the same way, ritualistically.   Havre always one the game.  After all it was a AA school and Libby wasn't.  

When The Boy reached the Idaho border he noticed the car running slightly sluggish so he pulled over and took the air cleaner out of it's compartment atop the engine. Probably not a good idea.  He was now at the top of the Continental Divide and would be driving down hill for the remainder of this leg of the journey.  He pulled over at a Idaho state rest stop to stretch his legs and get some coffee.  He found a nice little restaurant at the pull over and decided to get a burger, fries, and coffee.  He got talked into a sundae surprise by the waitress.  It was large, tasty, and probably not real good for him, but that was ok.  He left a nice tip and continued his trip. 

The drive across Idaho isn't a long drive. The top of the state is only 50 miles, however when The Boy reached that spot he looked down the long drop of a highway.  At this point the decline of the highway is so steep that every few hundred feet there are panic ramps for those weak at heart, and trucks who's breaks decide to crap out.  This was a hair raising trip.  On this steep piece of road there where actually other drivers passing him at better than 70 MPH.  He was not comfortable.  The car was acting up and his nerves were sitting at the bottom of an ice cream cup.

He was finely at Bonner's Ferry and could see the mountains in the distance.  There was something wrong, but he couldn't quite put a finger on it.  He kept driving.  The car was sounding rough and spitting every now and then.  It was not happy.  He Turned North on 117 and drove for about an hour and a half.  There was a roped off parking area.  He pulled in and parked shutting his car off.  The Boy  got out of the Plymouth and looked into the horizon where a mountain should be.  Saint Helens, or the top of, Saint Helens was gone.  It was about half it's usual height.  He could not believe his eyes. 

The Boy cried at the sight of the mountain.  His heart was heavy.  He had walked some of this paths in the past and felt close to the mountains.  This was an unbelievable sight.  These mountains will never be the same again.

Then The Boy got back into his car and tried starting it up.  Nothing.  He tried again.  Only a whir and an electrical noise.  He opened the hood and took off the air cleaner lid.  The engine was no longer pretty, it was covered in pot ash and the top looked like dried cement.  A man in a tow truck stopped and talked to The Boy, then looked at the car, "This is not good." he said.

After explaining to The Boy that pot ash is not good for engines at all, that it looked like the motor had seized, and probably had seen it's last hurrah, he offered The Boy a trade.  A 1965 VW bug for the Plymouth. Papers for papers.  The Boy agreed and they loaded his stuff into the VW, and said, "Thanks mister."  Full of gas, full of the sight of no mountain, and full of wonder, The Boy started his drive home.  

That little Bug turned out to be one of the best cars The Boy had ever owned and the Old Man, well he just laughed.

Peace and Balance,

John 


Saturday, September 16, 2023

Chapter 10: Remembering The Past, The Boy And A Rainbow Car


 Before the boy's sister was toddling, before she was a person, the boy himself was a toddling child getting into all sorts of mischief and mayhem.  The boy was a wanderer, he was the type of child that did not know that sitting still was a thing.  He could be found in any location attached to the property or even an adjacent strip of land or dwelling that he could manage to meander into.  An occurrence that was often the dilemma of the Mother.  The many letters that follow a child's name today as a manner of diagnosing the reasons for the meandering and not acknowledging the sitting still part of life had not been invented yet, the boy was a seeker, a finder of things unknown to human eyes.

There was a stream on the back side of the property that spilled into a small lake.  The lake had trees and grew around a small beach of white sand that the family would enjoy swimming from and have an occasional picnic.  The property was an oasis in the middle of the northern expanse of the Great American Desert.  For miles around the land was brown and dry in the summer, and cold and frozen in the winter. but on the property hay grew green, the trees reached for the sky, and wildlife would commune and flourish.  It was a small piece of heaven that The Old Man and Grandma had been working for generations with Mom and Dad and the boy helping as family should. 

The boy was wandering.  No one was sure this time how long he had been gone.  It could be the manner of minutes or hours.  He was supposed to be napping.  Apparently the boy had ditched a diaper, grabbed his favorite blanket and crawled prowled out the back door of Winston, this was before the Bel Aire had been added to the front.  

A massive search was begun.  Grandma was looking, Mother was panicking, Dad was walking toward the back side of the property, and The Old Man was chuckling and grooming his roan.  A reddish brown mare that loved the attention.  After he finished giving the horse the attention she thrived The Old Man put his brushes and comb away then walked towards the back of the main barn.  It was getting dark.  

In the barn The Old Man could hear some shuffling and giggling coming from up above the floor.  He flicked the light switch and the barn opened up to him.  The stalls in front where all empty, the horses were out in the field running.  The back of the barn was dark with saddles and tac lining rows of hooks and hangers.  Then he heard a giggle and looked up.  The boy was standing high over head looking down at The Old Man, arms stretched out.  The Old Man chuckled and stepped towards the opening under the second floor of the barn. He smiled up and the boy who then jumped and fell into The Old Man's arms.   A game they had played before.  The boy was not afraid, he was happy. 

The Old Man carried the boy back to Winston and waited for the rest of the search party.  He redressed the boy and gave him some warm cereal.  The boy smiled and drooled as he ate his snack.  The world was good.  The rest of the family was not as happy at the boy which was a source of amusement for The Old Man.  He knew, the boy was just like him.

As the summer progressed the boy would occasionally wander and bring back treasures from his walks.  Colored rocks, funny shaped sticks, and a puppy.  The Mother was unsure, the Dad was ok, Grandma had a questioning look, and The Old Man picked up the puppy, "Where's your mother little fella?"  The puppy was a runt wolf pup.  

Dad left to go search and came back a short time latter.  "The mother is dead," he said.  "Looks like she's been shot."  Wolves are usually not appreciated by the neighbors.  Fortunately the closest neighbor is miles away.  Grandma took the puppy and began cleaning it up.  He turned out to be a loyal pet. 

It was the beginning of August now and the boy was was again wandering.  He managed to walk to the back of the main stall area of the horse barns.  The lights in the stalls were off, but the boy could see.  He could see a rainbow.  It was coming down from the sky in the middle of the field.  The lights covered every thing he could see.  The rainbow was soft and warm, the boy was happy.  After awhile he could hear some music and voices.  Someone was talking to him, they were asking him his name and where he came from.  Things that people would ask a lost child.  One of the voices, a lady with a soft sing song voice, picked the boy up and carried him into a large car.  Inside the car the rainbow was all around and the music could be heard everywhere.  The boy smiled up at the lady, who looked like sparkling lights.  He could hear the motor running, a high whine.  He could feel himself moving in the car.  There was another voice, his was lower, but soft.  The music kept playing and the car stopped.  

The lady carried the boy out of the car and put him down on some soft grass.  The boy knew where he was.  The voice said, "Wait here, they'll be here to take you home soon."  She brushed his hair out of his face and disappeared.  The boy saw the car back away then fly straight up into a cloud followed by the rainbow.  He was alone on a small hill in the grass.  

The boy didn't know how long he was there, he didn't know about time yet, but he heard his Mother's voice, then Dad's, and Grandma's, finely The Old Man, he was laughing.  They found him on the hill and took him back to the house on the rise in front of a lake.  This was not the same lake on the property it was a lake 250 miles away next to the house of Dad's cousin in Billings Heights.  No one knows how the boy got there, but the boy was happy.

Peace and Balance,

John

 

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Chapter 9: Can Am Drilling And The Missouri Breaks



 Montana in the winter can be very cold.  The plains are flat and the winds blow.  A normal wind in winter across the northern plains can exceed 30 MPH.  When it's 60 below 0 degrees Fahrenheit and the wind is blowing at 30 MPH the feel like temperature is in the Oh My God degrees and a person can freeze to death in the manner of moments. 

While the Boy was still in High School he landed a job working for an oil and gas chemical supply company as a delivery truck driver.  The company's name was Can Am Drilling Supply and was owned by the father of a friend of the Boy.  He was paid an hourly wage plus 10 cents a mile, including overtime. Over a period of time the Boy became hard as a rock and could pick up 2 hundred pound bags of cement at a time.  A feat that did not go unnoticed by the Football Coach. The Boy was the team's varsity center, his primary job was to protect the quarterback.  A job he was very good at.

The Boy was the only high school student that carried an on call beeper around with him 24/7.  If the beeper went off he followed the instructions that came through from the company dispatcher.  Not often, but once in awhile he would be called out of school to drive a delivery to either an oil rig or gas well being drilled at any location throughout the state of Montana.  Montana is a big place, he drove a bunch of miles. 

The Boy was responsible for loading his own delivery truck, a 2 ton flatbed truck that had a raised bed and a dual shift gearing system.  That is a shift stick that has a knob on it that shifts back and forth from high and low through 12 gears.  The truck was a Chevy that was considered a 2 ton, but was regularly loaded with about 18,000 pounds  of cement, barite, poly S, calcium carbonate, and other chemicals and mud that are necessary for the proper operation in the drilling process for oil and gas.   

The Boy could hire any temporary employee he deemed necessary to help him deliver and unload the truck when they arrived at the rig.  He usually hired the same friend.  They could unload a truck in short order.  The Boy also had an expense account.  He could purchase food and drinks while on the job.  All he needed to do was keep all receipts which he would give to the Owners wife, who was also the HR person and book keeper.  The money would be included in his next paycheck.  It was a good system.  He would also purchase 12 packs of soda and other beverages to bribe the crew and hands on the rig to help in unloading the truck.  If they assisted he would give them the drinks.  

He was a good driver, and felt confident that he could drive anything on wheels.  A family trait.  The Old Man had taught him how to drive his Peterbilt a few years before and the Chevy delivery truck drove and felt very much like the Old Man's semi.    

Texas Oil was one of the biggest oil drilling companies in The United States and a had foot hold in Montana.  

The Football season was over, and the Wrestling season was in full swing.  The Boy was going to practices everyday after school then he would report to work.  He would clean the warehouse, put stock in order, and make deliveries when necessary, this was  full time job his last year in school.  

Right after lunch on a winter's day the beeper went off while the Boy was in English class.  The instructions said to deliver an order to the one place that the Boy feared, especially in the dead of winter, the Missouri Breaks.  The Breaks are an area in Montana that surrounds the Missouri river in North central Montana.  It comprises about 375,000 square acers of public land that is some of the most remote and dismal land in the country.  That was were he was driving.  It was sunny outside, and 35 below zero at a quarter after 12 PM.  He tried hiring his usual helper, but his friend said, "No!"  

The Boy reported to the warehouse and loaded up his truck.  It was really cold, really cold, but the truck had a good heater.  He drove to the company gas pump and filled up both tanks of the tuck.  The truck would hold about 200 gallons of fuel in two tanks that could be switched back and forth from with a valve switch under the driver seat of the truck.  He grabbed a burger and fries for dinner with a coke, and bought a 12 pack of bubbly beverage for the rig crew, then headed south through the Bear Paws to the Breaks.  So far so good.

The Boy was pretty good at tracking his locations with a map and compass.  He knew about where the rig was supposed to be operating.  He had it marked on his map.  At about 4 in the afternoon he arrived at where the rig was supposed to be located.  Nothing was found.  He got on the radio and called up the rig.  The Tool Pusher, the boss on site, answered and gave him the correct coordinates.  The Boy found the rig, right over the horizon.  He wasn't to far away. 

The Boy backed his truck into a make shift loading doc and crawled out of the cab to find some help to unload.  There was no one on site except the Tool Pusher.  He actually helped the Boy unload.  It took a few hours.  They were alone and he had more on the truck than usual.  When done, the Boy said  his goodbyes and headed down the road.  He didn't bother checking the outside temperature, his first mistake. 

The sun had gone down, and the temp was in the extreme cold area.  It was 60 below and the wind was kicking up.  The heater in the truck was working, sort of.  It was getting cold.  About 35 minutes into the drive back the truck began sputtering.  The Boy reached under the drivers seat and switched tanks, his second mistake.

The engine sputtered and stopped dead.  The Boy tried switching tanks again, nothing.  The only sound was the rrr of the starter trying to start the truck, nothing.  After awhile the Boy gave up on the truck and made the decision to walk back to the rig.  He got on the radio, no answer.  He radioed his intention to walk back to who ever was listening, and started to walk.  He did not have on the appropriate shoes, and his jacket was not quite right.  The walk became a struggle.  He was walking to live, that was his focus. He could not feel his feet anymore, and all he could hear was a very high pitch whistle in his ears.  There was a glow just over the horizon, and the rig came into view.  He kept walking.  

Just as he was about to step across the out fence of the rig, a white pickup appeared and the door flew open.  It was the Tool Pusher.  That is the last the Boy could remember.  The Boy woke once in a cot on the rig is a warm room.  The Tool Pusher was talking to another rig hand who was nodding his head and saying yes sir.  The Boy went back to sleep.  He woke again in the back seat of the cab of a dually then went back to sleep.  

The Boy woke again in a bed at the Northern Montana Hospital in Havre.  He had all of his toes and fingers, and his noes was still in tacked. The Tool Pusher had saved his life.  His boss walked in the door and told him, "The fuel lines of your truck were frozen solid. The tank switch had broken off and was not working.  You are a lucky SOB."  Can Am Drilling paid for all hospital bills, and gave the Boy a pretty good overtime check.  The Boy decided this was not the best place to work...  That is another story.

Peace and Balance,

John 

Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Chapter 8: Crime And Punishment.

 


The Boy and his Friend had thought their indiscretion would go unanswered.  They were each na├»ve possessing young minds that believed that youth and nerve made them the image of invincibility and immune to the ravages of reality.  In short terms, stupid.

School started and the days progressed fairly normally as the calendar pushed forward through the daily edifices of education.  Autumn had come and the foliage was changing.  October was progressing as Halloween threatened to excite the imaginations of all believers ready to celebrate the candy gods.  After school on a Friday the Boy's friend was scheduled to work a shift in a local garage pumping gas, checking oil, and adding air to tires.  At $4.50 an hour he was happy enough.  The Boy filled his tank and began the ride home.  The bike was humming right along like a champ. 

The trip home was about 12 miles and took about 15 minutes.  When the Boy turned down the dirt road to the property he noticed what seemed to be a couple squad cars parked in the drive way.  When he drove closer he noticed one was a Hill County Sherriff department, the other Montana Highway Patrol.  2 officers talking to the Old Man, and Dad in the front yard of the Bel Aire, no one looked pleased to see him.  

The Boy parked his Sportster and walked up to the conversation.  The deputy asked him his name, he answered.  The Highway Patrol said, "Nice Bike. Yours?"  His inner voice was telling him something was amiss. 

Dad pushed his glasses down his nose and had that glare in his eyes that he gets when it's about to hit the fan.  The Old Man just looked at him and stretched out his left hand.  The Boy threw his keys which were snatched from the air with the speed of a pit viper.  This was bad.  

As The Boy, The Old Man, Dad, and the 2 Officers were all having a rather intense conversation a black Chevy pickup pulled into the drive way.  The door swung open and out stepped a large man dressed in jeans, boots, and an old dusty denim shirt, the Honorable Judge Vasicka.  He was not smiling when he approached.  He and the officers talked alone for what seemed like a very long time.  The Old Man and Dad said nothing.  His Honor walked to Dad, and The Old Man and they had an equally long conversation.  Then was heard him say, "We have an agreement then?"  Dad and The Old Man nodded.

The Very Honorable Judge Vasicka then focused his attention on the Boy, "Young man, it seems these two Officers are convinced that you rode your motorcycle through the reverent halls of academia. You rode the halls of the high school?"  The Boy had to fess up and tell the truth.  The Judge continued, "Since no harm was done, other than the damage to the floors of the school this shall be your punishment.  You will turn the motorcycle over to these two officers, who will place it in auction and use the proceeds to fund the repairs to the school and the rest will be donated to Rocky Boy.  The rest of the punishment I leave up to these fine gentlemen."  He pointed to Dad and The Old Man. The Old Man threw the keys to the Judge, and the Officers ramped the bike into the bed of the pickup. 

That was the strangest court proceedings to date in Hill County.  The Honorable Judge Vasicka and Dad both shared a similar tattoo. Dad's on his left forearm and the judges on his right shoulder.  It was the flaming winged skull of the Montana chapter of the Hells Angels.  He a judge and Dad a high school teacher. 

The next morning The Old Man met the Boy at the foot of the Bel Aire stairs carrying a large greasy pump greaser and said, "Come With Me." 

He walked to the garage and opened the side door.  They both stepped in.  The Peterbilt tractor was in the garage.  "You will clean every inch of this truck, then you will find every grease fitting and grease each bearing and joint in the rig without making the need to clean it again.  You will do this in the order prescribed until you can accomplish this task as I have described, understand?"  The Old Man was deadly serious, and when either he or Dad got that serious it was wise to listen and follow direction. 

It took the Boy 5 times and 2 days to accomplish the impossible.  The Old Man made inspection while carrying a cup of coffee and smiled at the Boy without speaking.  When he left the garage he was laughing an evil laugh.

The next morning Dad met the Boy at the stairs of Winston carrying a spade shovel.  Dad didn't speak. He just walked to the pump house next to the trailer.  Between the trailer and the pump house was a roped off area that marked a path from the trailer to the pump house.  He handed the Boy the shovel, "You will dig a ditch from the trailer to the pump house 2 feet wide and 6 feet deep for a new water line."  The Boy began digging.  

It took him the entire day to dig the ditch.  When he was done Dad came to inspect, "Not right.  Fill it in. Tomorrow you will dig again."  He handed the Boy the shovel and walked away.  The Boy filled in the ditch. 

The next morning Dad met the Boy at the foot of the stairs again with the shovel.  This time he just pointed at the spot and walked away.  The Boy began digging.  After what seemed like forever Grandma showed up with a lunch in a bag.  An old bologna sandwich and a canteen of warm water.  Even she, who always stands by the Boy, was a tool of Punishment.

After he dug the ditch, Dad appeared to inspect, "This is not right, fill it in and dig it up in the morning."  Then he walked away.  Dinner was waiting for the Boy.  On the table was an old Bologna sandwich and a canteen of water.  

The next morning Dad was not at the foot of the stairs.  The shovel was standing straight up where the ditch was to be dug.  The Boy began digging.  Again at the end of the day he was done.  This day there was no lunch, there was no inspection, only the ditch.  The Boy went to bed and found a note, "Take a shower."  

In the morning he woke to the smell of ham and eggs.  There was a big breakfast complete with coffee and juice.  Dad and The Old Man were waiting at the foot of the stairs.  "We will never speak of this again. Savy?"  

"Yes." said the Boy, "I'm sorry."

Dad held his hand out and Boy gave him his drivers license.  

Peace and Balance,

John




Monday, September 11, 2023

Chapter 7: The Sportster.



The Old Man was into motorcycles.  In the garage was stored frames for different years and styles.  There were parts for Harley Davidsons, Indians, Hondas, Kawasaki's, and Suzuki Motorcycles scattered around the walls and hanging from different locations on the rafters.  He had boxes and bins where the motors, transmissions, forks, brakes, fenders, lights, mirrors, and seats were kept all organized by catalogue number and date.  All the tools he needed to put any one of these works of art together were also in their proper place ready for use.  This was no ordinary garage, it was also the place The Old Man did all repairs that kept his Peterbilt semi tractor in good shape.  It was a large and wonderous space of mechanical beauty.

The Old Man's garage was located at the front of the property next to Winston and the Bel Aire, the trailers that the family lived in.  His truck was parked in front most of the time while he was inside either working on parts of the truck or working on a motorcycle mechanical marvel.  

The Old Man caught the Boy in his garage looking over frames of different bikes.  He walked in, smiled at the Boy and threw him an open ended wrench and pointed to a frame that the Boy was standing next to.  "What do you think of that one?" He asked.

The Boy blinked and replied, "Sportster?"  

"Of Sorts." The Old Man said. 

Then he started handing the Boy parts.  He gave him bolts, nuts, handle bars, seat frame, and wheel assemblies, "That'll get you started."  

The Boy worked for the entire summer, when he wasn't working on the ranch, building, rebuilding, polishing and fine tuning a piece of mechanical wonder of his very own.  Under the guidance of the Old Man, the Boy began growing into a man of mental means.  He was learning to focus his energies into a creative project that he could begin to see come to fruition.  The Old Man was teaching him how to create, how to think. 

By the end of the summer the Boy and The Old Man together had managed to rebuild a 1955 Harley KHRM Sportster.  The engine, chrome parts, exhaust, and fenders where all painted a nice flat black.  The gas tank an ivory white with a gold Harley Davidson etched down the center.  That bike was a wonder of a motor cycle art.  A veritable sculpture in motion.  It was fabulous.  

The Old Man and the Boy celebrated their hard work and went for a ride together.  The Old Man drove an Indian Chief of the same year and the Boy drove the Harley.  The Boy thought he was dreaming when The Old Man threw him a key and said, "This belongs to you." and pointed to the bike they had built.  He was in heaven. 

Together they road west on highway 2 toward Shelby.  They rode there and back stopping at the Bar S restaurant for lunch.  The Bar S is a small place in the middle of, Nowhere.  Good food, good people, and they don't mind bikers. 

On the drive back the Old Man kicked his Indian in the butt and disappeared over the horizon.  The Boy just laughed and followed.   They arrived home just before dusk.  Parked the bikes and sat on Winston's porch to watch the Sun set. 

School starts in a week, and the Boy had an almost evil idea.  He rode the Harley to town picking up a friend on the way.  The two arrived at the High School back entrance and sat for a time to make sure no one followed.  The Boy jumped off the bike and produced a key from his pocket and unlocked the back door.  There were no cars in the lots front or back.  His friend held the door open as the Boy, this icon of human nature drove his Harley through the school halls making the loop from the door past the main office and back to the door again and out.  The two locked the door behind them and drove off into the sunset laughing like it was the funniest thing that had ever happened.  They had gotten away with the ultimate incursion, or so they thought.

Peace and Balance,

John

Sunday, September 10, 2023

Chapter 6: Snake Hunter



The Old Man had a special gun that he used to hunt rattle snakes with.  He made it from an old single shot 12 gauge shot gun that he sawed the butt off of and carved a curved hand grip from. Then he sawed the barrel off, down to about 10 or 12 inches.  He filed the end of the barrel to round the edges off, and attached the handle with wood screws and glue.  After everything dried he put it all together and sanded it all round and varnished and finished the wood.  It was really pretty.  Then he soaked the barrel in bluing for a good 72 hours.  After polishing the pieces he put the gun together.  You can legitimately say the Old Man had a hand cannon.  A very effective snake killing machine. 

Montana has a fairly large rattle snake population.  It's legal to hunt rattlers year round.  The thing about hunting rattlers, they tend not to get intimidated by anything, and have some pretty serious attitude.  

Montana has an indigenous Prairie Rattler population.  They are in the Pit Viper family being related to Cobras and Asps from Egypt.  Prairie Rattlers, like their cousins the Cobra live in cavernous holes and pits underground.  They also share a mark that creates a divot between their eyes and nostrils that makes them look mean as hell.  

These were the main prey of the Old Man and his Snake Killer.  That was the chosen name of his home made hand cannon, "Snake Killer."  

Hunting Prairie Rattlers is a fairly dangerous affair and training a snake hunter is just as dangerous.  Early on a Saturday morning the Old Man wakes the Young Man early and tells him, "You and I are going on an adventure."   On the way out the door Grandma put a beaded necklace around the Young Man's neck.  It was red and blue with a coiled snake in it's center and seven directions pointed out from it's middle.  Grandma said it was a snake charm to protect the Young Man from being bitten. 

The Old Man and the Young Man walked to a high nole on the back side of the property.  The top of the nole was a sand hill that the Old Man said was a snake den. They each had on a pair of high leather boots, chaps, gloves, and a full length leather jacket with long sleeves.  This was the armor of the snake hunter.  

To get to the top of the nole the two had to cross a stream.  The Young Man crossed first with the Old Man behind him.  When he got to the other side of the steam he started taking his first step up to get to the top.  As he was taking that step the Young Man suddenly found himself dangling 3 feet in the air staring down at a coiled up snake ready to strike and rattling up a loud buzz that he seemed to miss.  The Old Man had the Young Man by the collar of the jacket, holding him up with his left arm.  The Young Man heard what sounded like hell being unleashed as the hand cannon, "Snake Killer" was fired once.  The head of the snake disappeared and the rattling stopped.  The Old Man just said softly, "Why don't you let me lead."  Then he put the Young Man down, and stepped around beside him to the front.  The hunt had begun.

Peace and Balance,

John

Saturday, September 9, 2023

Chapter 5: A Short Ride, Fishing, And Blue People



 The family lived in a couple single wide trailers that stood about 15 feet apart at the front of the property.  One was a fancy model, a Bel Aire that had a lowered floor and raised roof over the living room area.  And a trailer that the Old Man called Winston.  It was never revealed why, Winston, but the name stuck.  

The Old Man, and Grandma lived in Winston, while Mom, Dad, the boy and toddling girl lived in the Bel Aire.  It was a good arraignment.  The boy was free to wander from trailer to trailer at will. Occasionally with the toddling one in tow, more times not.  Grandma always had goodies at the ready just in case raiding parties of wayward teens showed up at the door.  The boy and his friends were in constant battle with factions of invisible 7th, 8th, and 9th cavalries.  The boy always used the Old Man's US Cavalry tach as proof of victory of many battles.  The raiding parties always succeeded in counting many coup on the invisible horde.  The end of the battle always signaled snack time.  Grandma was always ready. 

Parked next to the garage was the Old Man's truck.  A Peterbilt tractor that was fully loaded with climate control and a sleeper in the back of the cab.  During the summer the boy would either sleep out in the open under the stars or in the Old Man's sleeper if he wasn't out on the road.  During his driving career the Old Man had contracts with two companies, United Van Lines, and Mayflower.  The Old Man owned his truck, but would change the paint depending on which company was hiring his business.  Mom was seen once repainting the lines on the doors of the truck from green/blue and gold to orange.  She just said, "the Old Man switched companies." Again. 

Because he actually owned his truck he was considered Independent,  always a source of chuckling from Grandma, and the Old Man.  It seems the only truly independent man died a couple thousand years ago and every one since has been reliant.  The joke was over the boy's head. Independent trucking is an illusion.

In the morning early, the Old Man woke the boy and said he was going on a run and the boy needed to get out of the sleeper.  Grabbing his blanket and pillow the boy headed to the bench seat in front of Winston to lay back down.  The sun wasn't even thinking about coming back up yet.  Sometimes the Old Man had a strange sense of humor.  On his way out of the truck The Old Man told the boy to take care of his sister, and watch the clouds at night if  he  decided to sleep out. The skies are unpredictable. Then he got in his truck, fired her up, and drove off taking a right at the end of the driveway and headed down the dirt road to the highway.  He had a trailer to pick up and deliver somewhere in Wyoming.  He would be gone about a week.  The boy waved and went back to sleep.  The bench was pretty comfortable.  It had a quilted mattress that was just long enough for him to stretch out.  Later in the morning as the sun decided to make an appearance the boy was awoke by the smell of breakfast as Grandma was holding a plate under his nose saying softly, "Get up and eat.  Then go feed the horses and milk Bessy."  Every milk cow Grandma owned was named Bessy.  This was actually Bessy number 4, and she wasn't as young as she looked. 

After doing the chores, and finding out that the toddling one was with Mom for the day, The boy packed a bag, grabbed a sleeping bag, saddled Pacos, his horse, and trotted out to the back forty.  The back forty acres of the property had running through the middle of it a nice bubbling stream, to big to be a brook, and a set of large White Birch trees that offered shade.  To one of the trees was set a hook that made a convenient place to hang a fishing rod.  A box at the foot of the tree with a supply of crawlers was kept to bait the hook.  From the back of the saddle the boy unwrapped a mesh net and hung a hammock between the two large trees.  He stocked a campfire, grabbed the rod, baited the hook, cast the line out into the stream.  Setting the pole between a few rocks the boy jumped into his hammock and stared up at the sky listening to the water, birds, and breeze, then slept.  Zen in action.

A little bell woke the boy up.  He looked over at his pole and noticed it was bending at the pull of the water.  The bell tied to the top of the pole was ringing, a sign that he had caught a fish.  He jumped down and checked his line, yes indeed there was a fish on the other end.  He waged a short battle and reeled in what appeared to be a nice rainbow trout.  The boy was pleased with his catch.  He looked up checking on Pacos and said to the horse, "Look, I caught one."  Pacos just snorted and put his head back down in the short grass and nibbled.  The boy got the impression that the horse didn't care one way or the other.  Horses just aren't into fish.  

The boy cleaned the fish and liberated a cast iron skillet he found tied to the back of the other tree.  Throwing a couple more sticks onto the fire he found a small bottle of olive oil in his pack and poured a small amount in the skillet and put it on the coals.  Letting the pan get hot he put the boned and cleaned fish in the pan and started frying dinner.  After eating the fish he noticed the sun was sitting low on the horizon.  Pacos was drinking from the stream.  It was time for bed. He jumped into the hammock and watched the darkness come.  The stars were bright, the breeze was light he was tired.  

The boy felt someone tapping on his shoulder.  He was dreaming and told the toddler to go back to bed.  Again there was a tapping on his shoulder, this time followed by a light tug on his big toe.  The boy finely began waking up and looked in the direction of the campfire.  The fire was out, but he could see the red glow of the embers.  In the glow he saw a shadow.  He couldn't quite figure the shadow out it didn't make sense he had come here alone.  The shadow looked like a small person somewhere between the toddling girls size and his own.  That would be about 5 feet tall.  This was all happening in his head as his conscious mind finely kicked in.  Then he heard it.  

There was a soft voice just over his right shoulder.  He looked in the direction of the voice and saw a soft blue glow.  Standing in the glow was a short girl.  She was wearing a blue jump suit and had what looked like light blue skin.  Her hair was a dark and he noticed she had very large dark eyes.  She looked like she might be about his age.  Then he heard the voice again, this time in his head, "Hello." 

The boy was confused and tried to get out of the hammock.  He landed with a thud.  "Ooof." Followed by an, "Are you ok?" in his head again.  

He stood up and said, "I'm ok."  Then he saw the other one.  A boy a little taller than the girl petting Pacos' mane and rubbing his shoulder.  The horse nuzzled the boy and blew out.  He only does that when he's happy.  

"Holly shit! What the Hell is going on!"  The boy began to panic.  

Then he heard the voice in his head again, "It's ok.  No one's is going to hurt you.  We're friends."  Then the soft blue light became comfortably warm, and the boy was calm.  Pacos trotted away.

He heard another voice, "My name is Marcus, her's is Leta."  

The boy thought his name, but before he could answer he heard, "Pleased to meet you. We can hear your thoughts. We have something to show you."

The soft blue light became brighter, and brighter.  Then on the horizon he saw a disc coming toward him getting larger and larger the closer is came.  Before he could react straight over his head was a huge circular object glowing blue and making unusual music that sounded very much like something the Mammas and the Pappas would play, or even the Association.  The boy had a complete feeling of joy come over him in a rush.

He woke up riding Pacos on his way back to the horse barn.  He looked around him and everything was with him, and even looked like he hadn't even used it.  He arrived and unloaded the horse, brushed him down, fed him some oats, hay, and gave him a bucket of water and left him in the coral with the gate to his stall open so he could wander in and out as usual.  The boy was still feeling very happy, but didn't know why.  

When he returned to Winston he found the Old Man waiting for him.  How long had he been fishing?  The Old Man smiled then winked at him and asked, "How was the trip?"  

Peace and Balance,

John



  



Wednesday, September 6, 2023

Chapter 4: Wahkpa Chu'gn

 


The old man appeared at the foot of the boys bed just before sunrise on June 21st. 1964, kicked it once, twice and said, "Get out of bed and follow me, I've got something to show you."

The boy rolled out of bed and landed on his face with a jolt.  That woke him up.  Throwing on a pair of jeans, an old Green Bay T-shirt, and the inherited pair of shit kickers he had received from his uncle the week before,  he met the old man by the pickup, a red old Dodge that the old man had put together using parts found at an old junk yard.  He said the truck had character and was happy.  The boy thought, "Oh, it's got character all right."

A cup of coffee was thrust into his hands along with a thermos, cooler, and a half dozen doughnuts made by his grandmother.  Then the old man thrust the saw'd off into his hands just in case they ran into rattlers. 

After loading up the truck and wolfing down a couple doughnuts, and chugging some luke warm coffee; the boy and the old man were tearing down the dusty road toward  town.  Highway 2 has the reputation of being the worst piece of highway in the entire United States.  It did not disappoint.  

The boy asked the old man where they were going.  The old man looked at him with a twinkle in his eye and an evilish grin on his face just as they were rounding a corner heading up to the Holiday Village Shopping Center way to fast for the corner, "Wahkpa Chu'gn" was all he said.

"The Jump? You want to show me the Jump?"  At the end of that question the old red truck was airborne and sideways.  He could hear the old man laughing his ass off, "What a ride!"

  The boy found himself kneeling just below a short bluff next to a large sage brush plant.  He could smell the sage in the dry air, "What the hell is going on?" he was thinking.  Then he heard the roar.  The ground was shaking like an earthquake was tearing through the plains.  He could hear the grunts and screams of large beasts just beyond his sight.  Something ran past him that was grunting at every foot fall.  The boy managed to glance over the edge of the bluff.  That's when he saw them.  The plain was black with running Buffalo.  There was so many of them that he could not see the grass, or the ground, only the brown and black backs of the herd running in panic away from something.  Non of them seemed to see him.  They were all in panic mode. 

Then the boy heard a new sound.  The barking and howling of what sounded like a combination of dogs and wolves.  He looked over the bluff again and saw behind the Buffalo a pack of a dozen or so dogs that resembled wolves.  They were baying after the Buffalo, nipping at their heals pushing them forward.  Occasionally a big Bull would turn and challenge the pack.  A few of the dogs were killed, but the Buffalo would give up and run with the herd.  The boy looked up to the top of the hill and saw a sight he didn't believe he was seeing.  A huge white Buffalo Bull was standing on the hilltop just watching what was happening below him.  The world began to spin. 

He heard high on the wind a loud "Whoop", then a "Hoka Hey!"   This time he choked back his fear and stood up behind the short bluff he'd been using as a hiding spot and saw several painted warriors dressed in all manner of regalia.  This didn't look like the costumes he'd seen at the powwow, or Hill County Fair, but the skins of warriors and hunters.  Effective clothing made for a purpose.  And the paint was not the paint that was made by fingers scratching across the face, but they looked like someone had taken the time to etch artwork on each face and body of these hunters.  Another thing he noticed, these guys were big.  They would make a pretty good football team and none was on horseback.  As a matter of fact, there were no horses to be seen at all.  The dogs and the men were all running side by side either bare footed, or low cut moccasins.  The warriors were keeping up with the dogs, how can this be?

As the boy was thinking over what he was witnessing he heard a familiar voice and an arm shot out and thrust into his a polished atlatl, the ancient spear throwing weapon of his tribe.  He had learned how to toss an atlatl in Boy Scouts when he was 12.  The voice said, "Run!"  And he did.

As he ran he could see what was transpiring up on the bluff.  Hidden in some high sage were a set of waiting warriors and a few dogs.  As the Buffalo approached the top of the rise the waiting hunters jumped out and started making a terrible noise, a wonderful terrible noise that turned the lead Tatanka into the tip of the rise.  The boy kept running and caught up with the tribe just in time to see the massive wave of Buffalo all follow their leader off the edge of a massive jump.  When there was enough the rest of the herd was turned down the hill and let to run free.  The same arm pushed out and handed the boy a large bolt.  He loaded it into his atlatl and threw a mighty toss just as he slipped to fall from the top of the jump.

The boy woke at the bottom of the Jump, Wahkpa Chu'gn, the Assiniboine word for the Milk River, and the common name for the Buffalo Jump on Route 2 West, Havre Montana.  The old man was sitting near the red truck and handed the boy an old atlatl, "This was your great great grandfathers. Are you ready to go home?"  

Peace and Balance,

John

Tuesday, September 5, 2023

Chapter 3: Hay Fields, Thunderstorms, and a Cuban Cigar

 


The boy was tall for his age.  Having spent most of his life short, there was a passing summer that added tremendous height and weight to the boys frame.  At the end of that summer he looked more like a young man that a boy.  No longer the 145 pound high school freshman, but rather the lean 200 pound high school junior, who was now shaving twice a week. 

The summer started out like any other with the last day of school and screaming teens fleeing from closing classes.  The boy and his friend piled into the old pickup that was serving as a daily ride.  It was red, rusted, and slightly bent, but ran pretty good and got them from here to there reliably.  The two teens were next door neighbors, or as next door as you can get in rural Montana.  That is within a few miles of each other.  Their parents properties abutted each other on western and eastern fences adjoined with a crossing gate at the middle which was left open most of the time.

The two teens' families worked the hay fields together.  Which meant that the two boys would be working the hay together as it was their jobs to bring in the summer cuts of feed hay for the horses, and cows in the county.  

The day would start after the animals were fed.  Breakfast would be waiting.  The boy was going through a growth thing and eating like a Shetland pony, ponies have good appetites'.    At one point during the summer a good breakfast would consist of a dozen scrambled eggs, toast, bacon, and all the milk and juice he could stuff into his face.  The old saying goes, "Feed em, and they grow."  boy was he growing.

The old man would pay the two ten cents a bale to cut, dry, bale, and stack the hay.  During the summer if the weather cooperated the fields could produce 3 cuttings of hay each.  At a thousand bales a day the two could earn any where from 300 to 600 dollars in a summer.  Doesn't sound like much today, but back then that was a gold mine.  Lotsa work, lotsa food, not so much contact with others of the human race, just the two, and men are grown from boys.  

Part of every summer on the plains has to do with some pretty substantial thunder storms.  In the Northern Plains of Montana a good thunderstorm can grow large and angry.  A great green eye can be seen and the roar of a thousand trains can be heard high on the howl of the wind.  Lightning will crack and flash it's whip across all in it's path.  Fire will start, hail will fall, and tornados will threaten to erase the landscape at every turn.  

The storm could be seen for miles before it finely arrived at the field.  First the wind started blowing.  Not hard, but not soft either.  There was a threat in it's breath.  Then the rain began to fall, and the wind began driving hard across the alfalfa.  The first crack of lightening blinded the two boys and froze them into position.  Then another crack and an almost instant BANG.  Ozone could be smelled in the air.  The two made the decision to try to get to the nearest barn as fast as they could run.  The boy in his Converse, and his friend in Keds, both flying across the field.  All time was building in this present.  Everything that was and is, or will be is right now.  Then a White Hot flash, and the boy was lifted off the ground.  He rose 8 or 10 feet in the air and was thrown a half a football field east.  His friend ran to him and found him conscious, but confused.  The boy was totally dry, steam was rising from his body, his hair was standing on end, and his Converse sneakers had been burned off his feet.  He could not talk straight, his talk sounded like a record being played backwards.  Everything went black and the boy woke up on the old man's couch looking up at he and his friend, "What happened?"  

The story was told him and all that could be mustered was, "Holy Shit."   The old man laughed, and his friend just stared at him like he was some sort of avenging frigging angel. 

The end of the summer came and the county fair had arrived.  The old man prepared a steer, a sheep, and a horse for the fair.  They were all trailered into the fairgrounds.  The old man did this every year as a way to sell some of the livestock, and advertise the Ranch.  This was a good year.  

The two young men hadn't seen hide nor hair of any other's from school or town all summer long.  Neither of them even thought about it one way or the other.  The fair was just a convenient way to spend some of the summer money.   Fairs are always good for food.

Being mischievous as he was, the old man took the young men to the hammer and bell.  His friend tried to ring the bell with a solid strike, but could not quite get the striker all the way up the board.  He got to the He Man stage and won a stuffed bear, which he promptly gave to the nearest girl he could find.  He was gone for the rest of the fair. 

The old man spoke to the Carney for a bit and it looked like they were making some sort of wager.  The young man was handed the hammer and the Carney pointed at the hammer pad and said, "Have a go at it youngster."  

The young man hit hard and the ringer went half way up the board.  There were some chuckles, and giggling coming from the crowd.  The old man spoke again to the Carney, "Double or nothing."  They looked in agreement.  

The hammer was again handed to the young man.  He smiled internally and looked up at the old man, who smiled back and him and winked.  The young man raised the hammer high, then brought it down so hard that the head of the hammer was smashed on impact.  The striker slid so fast up the board that it hit the bell ringing it loudly and knocking it off the top of the board.  The old man smiled at the young man and put his hand out to the Carney.  

The Carney handed the young man a great big Cubano' cigar and handed the old man an envelope full of cash.  The bet was won.  The old man knows things before they happen.  He told everyone present that the young man was the cousin of the boy from Billings.

This story lasted strongly until the truth was revealed when the young man reported for Football practice later the next week.  Summer was over.

Peace and Balance,

John






Monday, September 4, 2023

Chapter 2: Fresno, Rattlesnakes, and Northern Pike.

 


Fresno lake is a man made reservoir about 14 miles north and west of Havre Montana.  It is the main water supply for Hill County, a county in the Northern Badlands about a third the size of the entire state of New Hampshire.  Things get bigger the further west you travel. 

The old man had a 1968 Chevy Impala SS convertible complete with a hemi fuel injected 4 barrel carb that sat on top of a formula 409 engine.  It was a pretty car that had balls.  The old man would chuckle at the Montana Highway patrol.  

In early summer the old man took his children, a preteen boy and a toddling girl fishing along a beach front at the foot of a bluff three quarters around Fresno Lake.  This was a pre-chosen fishing hole that only he and the boy knew about. It was their secret.   

Two coolers where taken on the trip.  One filled with bait, ice, and drinks, the other packs of hot dogs, buns, the proper condiments, and snacks for the toddling girl.  She didn't mind what she ate so much as it tasted good.  There was a traveling hibachi in the trunk sitting next to the most important items, the fishing poles and tackle boxes.  

The rangy crew piled out of the car and the boy could hear the old man grumbling something under his breath.  He glanced up at the old man who looked down at him with eyes that know.  There seemed to be an exchange of an idea being passed between the two.  The boy started smiling and the old man began laughing a big belly laugh, and they both opened the food cooler at the same time.  The boy grabbed a package of hot dogs, handed them to the old man and said, "Yes!"  

The Old Man, the Boy, and the Toddling Girl all began throwing whole hot dogs and parts of hot dogs out into the waters of the lake, the toddler had one in each hand and one being chewed.  It must be time for lunch.  The girl walked back to the cooler and let out a blood curdling scream. She was back pedaling as fast as her little legs could move.  The old man moved like lightening and was at the cooler before the boy could react.  This is when above the screaming could be heard the rattling.  Found under the cooler was a large and startled Diamond Back Rattlesnake.  It must have crawled under the cooler when no one was watching to keep cool.  The old man checked the girl over, she was fine then produced a hand gun magically from some hidden area of his jacket and shot the snake dead.  The girl was holding her ears and the boy stood, mouth gapping open, with the look of astonishment on his face.  

The old man skinned and cleaned the snake and broke out the hibachi.  Snake was now on the menu as it seems the hot dogs became fish food.  It was time to eat.  The toddler was happy and eating cut carrots, cookies, and the remaining cold dogs.  The old man and the boy munched on snake and looked at each other for a brief moment, "Chicken" was the comment the old man came up with followed by a giggling from the boy.  The girl just smiled and stared at the two.  After all she was only 2 years old, and would eventually grow to question the sanity of both.

Time to fish.  The wager was on.  The winner pays for dinner.  The old man was always the winner of such bets, and the boy was just learning the secrets of landing a big one.  Casting as far as he could the boy heard that satisfying clunk of the reel locking in place.   The old man's cast was twice and far, but the boy ignored his taunts and just smiled and began slowly reeling in the line.  The line came in, nothing.  The toddler walked up to the boy and handed him a spoon lure, "Grampa said you wanted this." 

The old man had already landed 2 fish, a sun fish, and a Northern Pike about 7 inches long.  Northern's look like a cross between a dinosaur and a barracuda, all bones and teeth, don't get your fingers stuck in the mouth. 

The sun started laying low on the horizon and it was time to crack open the bait.  In the drink cooler were a few Pepsi's and a container of nightcrawlers and another of little fishes.  A mix of the two was in order.  The girl grabbed a Pepsi and handed it to the boy to open with a toothy smile that showed one missing in the lower middle.  

The boy baited the hook with the old man watching, and again they cast their lines out as far as they could, and began reeling slowly into shore.  Almost instantly they both had a hit and began battling the unseen foe on the end of the line.  The old man reeled fast, then waked back further on shore and drug the fish inland.  The boy followed suit, they both had a pretty big Northern attached to the opposite end. Again and again they pulled in the lines.  Each time a fish was caught.  Then it was time to stop fishing and clean the catch.

The old man took a flat board out of the trunk of the car and began showing the boy how to clean a Northern Pike.  First to make a cut from the bottom to just below the gills to clean out the intestines and and stomach.  There was a hesitation, disbelief, and the boy showed the old man his fish.  The old man showed the boy his fish.  In the stomachs of each of their fish was found whole and parts of whole hot dogs.  It looked like the pike had just inhaled the dogs without chewing.  There they were in front of the two fisherman,  "Incredible"   

"Chicken" was all the Old Man would say as they packed up to go home with the boy and the toddling girl laughing.  He was paying for dinner. 

Peace and Balance,

John






Sunday, September 3, 2023

Chapter 1: Vision Quest

 


There's a path that runs both ways up and down the Bald Mountain in the middle of the Bear Paws of Northern Montana that has been the walk of many young men seeking wisdom, experience, and an escape from what waits them on and off the reservation.  Great care should be taken when walking this path during the early autumn as those that you meet along the path may be friend, foe, or predator.  After all in these hills man is sometimes considered a snack.  

This trail also doubles as a small access road used by Forest Service jeeps to gain admittance to a fire tower on an adjacent peak.  At the point where the road forks right the path turns quickly into a game trail.  About 500 feet up from the turn a small brown bear sow stood up in the middle of the path.  Frozen in place was a plan, not a real good one, but a plan.  

She placed her nose right in the middle of the forehead of the walker, stood there for what seemed like an eternity and snorted out loud blowing snot all over the head and face of the frozen one.  Just a moment more then she stood up straight and took a step, then two back.  She was tall with a white patch under her belly with soft tan brown fur.  She bent back down to all fours and made a quiet howl. At that point two small cubs scampered down a couple nearby trees to meet her on the trail.  She spun around and headed into the trees with the cubs following behind.  She grunted twice and was gone in an instant.  No site was seen of her after.

The trail continued up for another 4 or 5 thousand feet.  Baldy is between 6 and 7 thousand feet high, the highest peak around for more than 300 miles.  On top was a fire pit stoked and waiting for the walker.  This was going to be home for the next 4 days.  The fire was produced using the usual newspaper and pocket lighter.  Dry wood is always a good thing.

Around the fire pit was a large ring of rocks.  Each stone meticulously picked from a stream and placed in position by one who knows many moons before.  This quest was important, possibly the most important in the life of this wanderer.  The sun went below the horizon.

 The second day came and memories began painting fields of color in the minds eye of the seeker.  Paranoia snuck into the mind, but remembering what the old man said, "Do Not go outside the circle." kept the wanderer from wandering.  The sweat of fear came after the paranoia left.  Black images of death flooded the mind. The sun went again below the horizon.

The third day awoke with a pain in the pit of a lonely stomach and a small stone was place under the tongue.  Thirst and hunger were constant companions for the rest of this journey.  This day was hot.  Hot and dizzy, voices in the distance could be heard saying words not understandable.  Tired, and the sun began bouncing below and above, and finely below the horizon. 

During the night just outside the fire a small sow brown bear stood up and looked at the seeker across the ring of rocks.  She had a white patch just under her belly.  She was sniffing the air then dropped to all fours and crossed the circle and walked directly up to the seeker and put her nose on his forehead and snorted out loudly.  Snot ran down his face as two small cubs rolled into the ring laughing at the two.  They wrestled for a bit and ran up a nearby tree.  The sow bear stood back up and looked down on the seeker, raised a great paw and struck him once across the neck and head.  

The sun rose high on the 4th day and the old man was standing just inside the ring of rocks with a canteen, sandwich, and a couple horses to go down with.  He seemed amused.  The seeker had a powerful dream...

Peace and Balance,

John

Saturday, September 2, 2023

Introduction: Now And Zen The Story.

 


Let me tell you a story.  A story of wonder and fantasy, one where reality gives way and lets those things happen that are impossible and improbable, but exist non the less.  I will weave this tale in a shroud of fiction intermingled with fact.  It will be up to you the reader to determine which is which.  What is the truth verses the story.  Then you will have the tools to find your own story.

I will beg your forgiveness in advance if I write any words or ideas that push upon your belief structures or poke at your sensibilities making you feel uncomfortable or possibly mad as hell.  For this I apologize, sort of.  You might just be suffering from the twinges of truth tickling your inerts, deal with it.

I will use this blog to introduce this story.  Each day or so, I will write another short chapter or section  and let you judge; but be prepared, for as the saying goes, "beyond this door lies madness, and once that door is opened there is no going back."  This is the wonder of the journey.  Hang on and enjoy...

There is an old Chinese Curse that says, "May you live in interesting times." 

Peace and Balance,

John

  

Friday, September 1, 2023

I See It Too.

 


When you look into the sky and see something with your own eyes that doesn't make sense, when your mind can't make heads nor tails of what your eyes are seeing, then what you're seeing is unidentified, and flying, an Unidentified Flying Object.  

You can see these things with your eyes, but you still try to deny what you see.  You're not willing to accept what your own eyes are telling you.  You deny the existence of something that you can actually see.  This causes a disconnect and separates your mind and your body.  You become confused and border the realms of insanity.

There's a split, you see a thing, but refuse to accept that it is real.  Any good analyst would take that apart and charge you an ungodly amount of money to tell you that you're denying your own reality. Thus is the plight of the seer of things that the majority tells you doesn't exist.  Acceptance in these things is a big step in healing your understanding.  Let go, and believe...

So, when you look up into the sky and see those things that make you weep with wonder, accept them and welcome, you've just joined a larger universe.

Peace and Balance,

John


Wednesday, August 30, 2023

What Was That Again?



 One extra cheese, the other sausage, peperoni, and mushrooms topped off with a large order of jalapeno poppers with a ranch dip.  This is what we had for dinner tonight.  Mine was the mixed bag of shrooms and meat.  A very good conglomerate of gooey goodness.  I ate the whole pie in one sitting and was satisfied.  All is good in the world.

The thing about ordering pizza and poppers is that it's relatively important to have a handle on the language used to order with.  This is how I ordered the meal, "One small Xcheese pizza, and a sausage, pepprino with shroomushes, small with a large popper." 

The other end of the line became strangely quite and I had that strange uncomfortable feeling that you get when you know something isn't quite right, but can't figure out what the heck is going on.  This usually happens just before there is a large calamity with your frontal lobes.  It was the laughter on the other end of the line that snapped me back into this reality.  And he repeated back to me, "You mean a small extra cheese, a small sausage, pepperoni, and mushroom pizza with a large poppers, right?"

That's when I realized what I had ordered in the first place, "Oh shit." was all I could say.

Then the voice on the other end of the phone said in a female tone, "That'll be about 25 minutes."  

I said, "Ok, Thanks." Then realized he must have handed the phone to the young lady standing next to him so he could go away and laugh at me in respectful peace.  I understand.  

It's going to take me a few days to get my brain back in straight.  After all it's that time of year and the halls of academia are filling again.

Peace and Balance,

John

Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Back In The Game.



 We are back to school.  Time to wrap our heads around the game and get ready to serve the kids.  I do have concerns about the connectivity of the internet.  I spent a goodly portion of the day trying to connect to some of the trainings we are supposed to do with no success, so tomorrow I try again.  

I have a new job this year.  I've been working in our school system long enough now that things have become cyclical.  I am back in the same kind of position that I started with.  22 years ago I was hired to follow a young fellow that needed lots of help in many areas in a specialized program.  Today I found out that I will be doing a very similar job in a similar program.  I find that very interesting.  Maybe the universe is trying to tell me I need to learn something new about what I do.  Could be...

So, tomorrow I will try to reconnect to the internet with the Google devise, and possibly meet my new student.  Everything is new this year, fascinating.  The Zen monk in me is quietly smiling.  When I started working at this game I was much younger than I am now, this old dog is waiting to learn new tricks...

School Time!

Peace and Balance,

John  

Monday, August 28, 2023

The Flash, And The Return Of Michael Keaton's Bat.



 This is my Warning about my pending almost verbal badness.  I will be implying, almost, some off color language that I don't normally use when writing.  I will however try, minorly, to cover up my words with maybe well placed visual swearing deterrents to keep the eyes and souls of you the reader free from my verbal disgust, Thank you, or not...

The other night my wife and I watched the newish movie, "The Flash."  It's a 2023 DC  rendition that actually has some super hero teeth.  I enjoyed it... 

 However during the progression of the movie the protagonist, Flash,  did some time travel thing and the writers of the film managed to give me a major mind F...ing*, see there's some of that off almost language.  

It seems that Barry Allen's, the Flash, best friend and mentor is non other than the Bat Man.  The movie starts with Ben Affleck as the Bat, who actually warns Barry about not doing the time travel thing. The Dumb Sh...t...  Flash ignored the warnings of course.  

I was surprised when Barry and Barry walked into Wayne Manor and found an old, long haired curmudgeon waiting to kick the snots out of them.  He of course couldn't catch the two, but they couldn't actually fight back against the superior badass batness.  

Then the unveiling happened and underneath the curmudgeons locks was non other than Michael Keaton, my favorite Bat Man.  Dang man.  We even see the version of the Bat of Adam West.  Ok like I said a mind F....ing.  More foul language there, sorry.  

The film actually went through some of the Super Dudes.  And believe it or not, Nicholas Cage shows up as one of the Supermen, come on when did that happen?  

The theory is that Barry Allen, the Flash, in doing his going back in time thing, then forward in time thing, then back and forth, has done some irreparable damage to the spaghetti bowl of time.  Seems it's affected my own understanding of the DC universe.  More research is required I think.  

That's as much about the new, "Flash" movie I'm going to share, but will say, it's a Damn good Movie, watch it and enjoy. Possibly you to will have your mind F...k'd... 

Peace and Balance,

John 


Saturday, August 26, 2023

Sweet Child O' Mine Bluegrass Cover | Thunder and Rain


Guns and Roses has finely reached the immortal musician stage.  Forever remembered in many genres.

Peace and Balance,
John

Friday, August 25, 2023

The Donald, Yevgney, Georgia, and Truth, Justice, And The American Way.

 


Donald Trump surrendered himself to a Fulton County Jail in Georgia and charged with the RICO act, Racketeering, Influencing the work of Election Workers, Fraud, and the Misappropriation of election funds.  Each is a Felony and carries several additional felony charges with it.  

Shortly after hearing the charges against him he was finger printed, booked, formally arrested, and a mug shot was taken.  Not less than two hours after the mug shot was taken the Donald himself posts it on the internet.  Who in their right mind does that?  Oh yeah, it is he I'm speaking of.  He who thinks he can get away with anything.  He posted bail, 200,000 dollars worth then climbed back on a plane and left Georgia.

Any other person, any one of we regular folk would not be able to post such a bail for crimes that up till now have been used to charge primarily organized crime leaders and mob bosses.  Where does Donald J. Trump fit into that ilk?  Is it possible that an Oligarch influenced by the Russian political machine actually managed to gain a political foot hold in our country?  

If this is true and Donald J., is a  puppet of Vladimir Putin then his longevity could be in question as it seems any oligarch that defies the Kremlin is short lived.  The most recent victim could be the head of the military arm Wagner, Yevgney Prigozhin and his plane went down in a fiery ball just north of Moscow two evenings ago.  Not that I compare the Donald with Yevgney, however they both have some commonality.  Both are not wound to tight, and have a lack of respect for other human beings.  

It is this author's hope that Georgia's court system may be the ember needed wield that great sword and Justice will have it's way...

Peace and Balance,

John