Monday, June 28, 2010

Today's Adventurous Jeep Road

We're not going to be in Breckenridge long this trip, so I wanted to get out and enjoy the mountains this afternoon. We headed up over Boreas Pass, a nice gravel road that we've travelled many times before. We turned off to look at the Selkirk National Forest Campground near the south fork of the Tarryall River. We retraced our steps and found another road to the Tarryall River and decided to see if it lead over the mountains back to the Breckenridge side. The road started pretty much like most jeep roads, calm at first, then getting rockier where you had to be careful where you put your wheels so you don't bottom out. We were doing good . . . until . . . we came to a place where you went up before you went down and you couldn't see what you were doing. Then we weren't moving . . . stuck!

The front wheel had rolled over a steep hole, the center was bottomed, and the passenger rear tire had no traction and just spun.

Our jeep has a winch, but the Trailblazer doesn't. We were wishing for the winch!

We tried rocking it back and forth and while we got a little movement, the hole in front was too large to roll the tire back up.

Henry jacked the car up and put rocks and fallen wood to improve traction - no go.

We had started such that with no problems we should have gotten back to the main road on the other side before dark, but it was late enough in the afternoon/evening that I was concerned that the other travelers might have already gone home. It was obviously a well travelled road - lots of tire tracks. I knew the worse case scenario was that we would spend the night in the car on the mountain. We had water, sweaters and jackets, and a car for shelter. But I hadn't brought snacks. We would be hungry, but we'd be OK.

We thought about trying to hike back to the campground, but that was quite a ways back.

But I couldn't help hoping and praying that some one would pass by, someone with the right equipment or experience to get us unstuck. I could hear planes overhead. Henry thought he saw mountain goats on the nearby peak. And then I heard it, the sound of engines - not a plane in the air, engines on the ground moving our direction. YES! It was two young men on motorcycles. The working solution - they got on the back bumper and jumped up and down - forcing the back tires into contact with the ground. Sigh . . . we were unstuck, but the very next area had another tricky spot - one very easy to get stuck again. Carefully avoiding the tree on the right and the stump on the left and the bigger hole farther to the left, we made it through the muddy water crossing. The next stretch was a very steep uphill - 4 wheel low in low gear, the Trailblazer had no problems with that part.

Once again we were doing good. But then there was this snow drift. We'd crossed several that had appropriate tracks through them going fairly fast so we wouldn't get stuck. But this snow drift blocked the road with only space for motorcycles to follow the road. There was an alternative route through the trees, but it was narrow - with a big stump in the wrong place. In our first attempt we hit the tree on the right. We backed up and Henry tried to put some wood around the stump so we make it over. No . . . stuck again.

We had cell signal here and I got hold of Debra so that someone would know where we were and if we didn't get back in a reasonable length of time, someone could send the calvary to us.

We knew the motorcyclists were coming down behind us, so the contact with Debra was just for good measure. We waited. More wood around the stump and once again two young men on the back bumper rocking the car. Yes . . . past that part. But we had at least one more obstacle to get through - a bog where we could possibly get stuck once more. Our faithful motorcyclists stayed with us. By this point I would hardly call this path a road - dodging big rocks and deep ruts we bounced along. We sailed right through the blog and the next muddy stretch.

The motorcyclists assured us that we could make the rest. It turns out one of the used to work for River Mountain Lodge and lives next to the Resort Quest manager that used to be in charge at River Mountain. I told them that they were guardian angels for us this evening. They told us that they just couldn't leave until they knew we had gotten past the places where we could get stuck.

When we finally got to the gravel road at the Blue River area, I started texting Debra so she'd know we were back in civilization. As I texted her, she called me . . . the Melton telepathy at work. In short order we were back on a paved road and back at the condo!

Now - I'm unlikely to ever take that particular route unless I have the jeep with better ground clearance and winch, or 4 wheelers that are light enough to push out of trouble, etc. But I am so grateful that God always provides for us when we get ourselves stuck somewhere. We've never yet been stuck out in the middle of nowhere having to spend the night in the car unprepared. But next jeep road trip - I'm packing more water and snacks . . . just in case there is a first time to be stuck overnight.

By the way, while we were eating our dinner back at the condo, the front desk called. Andrew, the Resort Quest director, had called them to make sure we had made it home ok. Even far from home, God places us in good hands with caring people.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

A Survivor's Tale

I met Julie Zickefoose several years back at the Festival of the Cranes at the Bosque del Apache in New Mexico. She and her husband were tour leaders. She is an expert birder, an incredibly talented artist as well as a talented musician. I've followed her blog ever since.

She has run a series of posts that I want to pass along to my readers. There is a tale here that needs to be read in order to be fully appreciated.

The first post: Meet Debbie Kaspari introduces us to another interesting and talented artist.

Julie had been in Oklahoma as the keynote speaker at the the Lesser Prairie Chicken Festival in Woodward, Oklahoma. While in Oklahoma she visited the Alabaster Caverns, the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge. and her friends, travel writer/photographer, TIm Ryan and artist Debby Kasapari.

Julie's next post, An Oklahoma Eden shows an incredibly beautiful paradise that Debbie and her husband Mike had created. Certainly an inspiration for what beautiful natural spaces we can create in our home environments.

I grew up in the Texas Panhandle. In my household, the spring and early summer thunderstorms meant my grandfather came and picked up my mother and I so that if a tornado came our way, we would have access to the storm cellar in his backyard. I have vivid memories of near black menacing skies and a couple of times when we took shelter in that underground concrete shelter. I remember listening to the radio the night the big tornado hit Lubbock and the stories of the people who died when the tornado hit the lake houses near Clarendon. The sister of a friend of mine lost her leg that night. I'm really not afraid of too many things, but I have to say that the thing here on earth that I'm most afraid of is tornadoes.

Julie's next two posts tell the story of the May 10th tornado and how it impacted the lives of her friends. And I think they are worth sharing:

The May 10 Tornado

Aftermath of a Tornado

There are many worthwhile causes to donate money, but I wanted to add one more to your list. The Kaspari family will be struggling for awhile to get their life put back together. Apparently if you live in town, there are services to help you haul off the broken lumber from a flattened home and dead broken tree trunks. If you live in the country, you are on your own. There has been a fund set up to help this family. You can donate via Paypal or you can send a check:

Deborah Kaspari
Dept. of Zoology
University of Oklahoma
730 Van Vleet Oval
Room 314
Norman, OK 73019

Reading this story makes me ponder anew whether we should eventually add a Safe Room or an underground shelter of some sort. Fortunately, we live in Central Texas where tornadoes are infrequent. Because we do occasionally have tornadoes (Jarrell Texas is not that far from us), the idea does appeal to me to have a "safe" place to hide from these destructive storms. Some day . . .

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Butterfly's Demise

As I sit on my porch this year, we've had more butterflies than I remember from other years. Because we live in the country, we don't do a complete mow until the widlflowers have seeded out. So I've been enjoying watching the butterflies flit from flower to flower. One morning, I saw a butterfly near the horsemint bloom. One minute it was fluttering gracefully along. The next minute the wing beats were struggling and the butterfly was dangling upside down. I knew instantly what had happened, the butterfly had been attacked by a spider. The butterfly hadn't got stuck in a web, rather the spider had somehow bitten the butterfly as it was near the bloom. With my binoculars, I could see the small spider on the butterfly's body. The butterfly went limp and swayed in the breeze held by one strand of the spider's silky web thread. On one level, I should have gone and gotten my camera with a macro lens. It was certainly high drama. I'm pretty sure the butterfly was doomed from the first moment I saw its distress.Once the spider's venom paralyzed it, I'm pretty sure it couldn't have recovered. I don't think I could have changed the outcome even if I had tried to intervene. On one level, I'm ok with the spider getting its needed nourishment. It was amazing how that small spider could conquer the much larger butterfly. The spider was hiding inside the bloom of the horsemint, waiting patiently for its opportunity. How amazing is God's creation.

But another part of me grieved a little, because like most of us, I value butterflies more than I value spiders. I did some web searching and found one article about spiders that said that while spiders are beneficial to humans because they eat insects, that people generally find them unsavory because they tend to lurk in dark places, they often have a grotesque appearance, and their toxicity has been exaggerated. Spiders are also prey for other animals - some wasps paralyze spiders and lay their eggs on the paralyzed body for their young's first nourishment.

I want to value and appreciate all of God's creation. But I have to confess that various critters that invade my indoor space do not always survive to tell about it. When practical, yes, I relocate. But things like mice, wasps on the exterior of the house, little moths invading the interior, scorpions crawling on the floor don't always survive their encounter with me. But it is truly amazing to me the variety of animal species, all with a different purpose and a different diet. Some things I appreciate more in their native environments, but I wonder if there aren't wider applications to this story of the spider and the butterfly even if nothing more than to appreciate something for what it is - even when our first reaction is negative.

One of the things that went through my mind was from the story of Jonah. When Jonah was upset because God was not going to destroy Nineveh because the people had repented. God sent a vine that grew and brought joy to Jonah when he was discouraged. A worm came and chewed the vine and it withered and died. Both the vine and the worm were part of God's creation - fulfilling their intended purpose.

Father, help me to see the world through your eyes. Help me to value all parts of your creation - from the smallest microbes to the largest creatures of the sea - from the beautiful butterflies and birds to the spiders, vultures and hyenas. Help me also to value the people in your world. Some people are like the spider - hard to like or love. Father, help me to look for the good in the people around me and to value them as you do.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Moment in Time

This is not one of my "usual" posts. But a newspaper article today brought back memories of an event long ago.

Crime and Punishment after 32 Years

Back in 1978, I was working the night shift, the graveyard shift, for the Department of Human Resources in South Austin. There is one night I remember vividly - at my "lunch" break, I needed to go out to my van to get the meal I had forgotten to bring in with me. The night watchman told me that he needed to escort me to my van because there was an active manhunt going on - a police officer had been shot nearby. When I saw the headline in today's Austin Statesman, I had a sinking feeling that it was going to be about Ralph Ablanedo's killer. I didn't have to read the article to remember the name Ablanedo - it is etched in my memory. It was a brutal, senseless murder and the next morning, David Powell was found hiding in a tree on the school grounds too close to where I worked. None of us at work felt very secure that evening, knowing that this extensive manhunt was going on around us.

1978 is truly a long time ago. The wheels of justice seem to have rolled very slowly to come to a conclusion on this case. Turns out Powell is only a year older than I. It is too easy for me to look back and think, "I was working, productive, sober, and responsible 32 years ago." But, today I'm older, slower, wiser - maybe. Am I a better person now than 32 years ago? Hard for me to know or judge. After so many years of incarceration, David Powell is certainly not the same person he was the night of the murder. I find it sad for many reasons that this case has continued on. Delayed closure for the Ablanedo family . . . prolonged uncertainty for David Powell and his family (and yes, I feel more grief for his family's ordeal of uncertainty and grief than his waiting time in prison.)

I remember another Texas death penalty case several years ago - a woman was executed who had turned her life around in prison. But once again, in youthful folly she was involved in a brutal murder. That story was also hard to follow . . . justice vs mercy for a life that had changed.

In some ways, life today still has moments where brutal murders, random, senseless death still occur. Sometimes it seems like there are more brutal crimes committed in these present years. Far too many young people are making poor choices during their teenage years when perhaps they are too young to fully understand all the ramifications of their actions.

The article in the Stateman is long by newspaper standards. Most people won't read all of it. It manages to cover most of the issues about the death penalty - determent, justice, is the person likely to commit another such crime, closure for the victim's family, etc.

I haven't chosen to listen to the video that goes with the article - an interview with David Powell. And I don't profess to have wisdom as to whether life in prison is a better alternative to the death penalty for this case specifically or for all cases. Too many issues . . . too many points of view . . . with reasonable arguments on both sides.

But I was too close to the action the night that Ralph Ablanedo died. I read the newspaper articles then that detailed how he was shot. While all policemen are not perfect, I want to live in a world where policemen are respected. They should not have to wonder each time they go out on patrol whether they will come home to their loved ones - and especially they shouldn't die making a routine traffic stop.

I also believe that there are consequences - both good and bad for what we do in life. We make choices either consciously or unconsciously every day. Sometimes our choices are good - benefiting ourselves and our families. Sometimes they are destructive - hurting ourselves and others. While I hate to see someone who may have turned their life around punished for something they did long in the past, there is a sense of justice needed here - we need to be accountable for what we do and for what we've done - both good and bad. We also need to get the word out to our young people that the choices they make when they are young can resonate through the rest of their lives.

There seems to be at least one more avenue of appeal for David Powell, I find myself not caring what the final outcome is - God is truly the final judge for David Powell. But this story needs an ending. I just hope that the final ending brings peace and closure for the Ablanedo family and that God gives David Powell's family and loved ones healing and acceptance for whatever the final decision brings.

This is such a lose-lose scenario. Sigh . . .