Anastasia Beaverhausen

Dogs are not allowed indoors at an elite pheasant and deer hunting ranch called Muy Grande Resort that we stayed at with friends in northern Michigan, near Hillman.  Since I knew the temps were going down to 31 degrees and my child my German Shorthaired Pointer wasn’t about to be kenneled on a straw bed outside, I brought Remi’s trailer so she could be comfortable and warm at night with Mommy.    Her master slept on silk sheets in this 40,000 square foot ridiculous log complex that came with a 24 hour chef and all the high end liquor you could pour.  We rubbed elbows with guests from around the country who had sharpened their storytelling and colorful yarns so well that these sportsmen could make a fisherman blush.  (The light on my bullshit detector was glowing red by the end of the night.)

The Man Cave lockers were filled with double barreled shotguns.  Yellow, green and red shotgun shells were lined up in a roll call above, in the cubbies.  Leather couches were arranged so that the men could engage in bold faced  lies as they guzzled booze–and still not miss a massive buck passing by.  Oil cloth Filson jackets and buffalo checked Stormy Kromers hung from pegs.  The whole place stunk like an Old Spice commercial.  After a few martinis, we were ready to pick from the spa menu and, as Kings of the World,  order up Sean Connery rub downs and mani/pedi combos.

Fall colors were peaking and we saw many deer  in this high fence operation scoring in the 200 range.  Every man walked around trying to hide his big boner.  This was easier for some men than others,  just ask Anastasia Beaverhausen, whose husband, she claimed, after her third Appletini, was hung like a horse.  Oh, we were bad.  We laughed and lost ourselves in luxury until…

my Airstream’s thermostat quit.  31 degrees, remember?  It was a three dog night and I had one dog.  The extra blankets I carry on board were deployed and we toughed it out.  I could see my breath.   I spent the better part of the next day trying not to bash the thermostat with a hammer as its digital E7 error code popped up with every button combination I tried.  In desperation,  I googled an online site called JustAnswers.com.  It cost me $32 in tech support.

The first thing the tech texted me was, “Do you have the Dometic CC2 model?”  I went over and looked. I am not stupid.   I texted him back, “There is no writing on it.  I’m a girl.  It is a rectangle and it is white.”  So, knowing it was a lost cause, he texted me back,   “Just unplug it, wait five minutes, and plug it back in.”  Best $32 I ever spent.

Let a Sleeping Dog Lie

Now when you are a dog, going to the Indiana Dunes means running wild on the endless beach and digging up fish bones until the cows come home.  You get to wade up to your pink belly in Lake Michigan, biting at the white caps and rollers.   It also means getting to run free on the wooded trails–trails that are full of poison ivy and adventure.   It’s all good when you are just a dog.

 

 Remi and I loved our time at the sand dunes. 

We visited a buffalo farm and dined on a gourmet dinner of tenderloin and buttered morels, expertly prepared!  My mom and I jumped in a sand hole because it was there and we could.  We were part of a small Airstream rally that weekend as we slurped up ice cream cones and buffalo stew.  We fed the mosquitoes at night and our campfire stories were interrupted by a ring-tailed intruder who scampered up a tree.  We stayed long enough to see a blaze orange sun-ball set against the downtown Chicago skyline.

The trip home was uneventful, which is the best kind of trip home when you are flying solo pulling a trailer.   We parked in the driveway and headed straight to bed.  Reunited, Remi snuggled up against daddy all night and he liked it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The next morning, John woke up itching and erupting with poison ivy sores.  Did I mention that he is violently allergic to poison ivy?   HE naturally attributed the outbreak to his working on deer blinds and food plots the day before on Holly Road–where he is building a deer preserve.   That sounded good to me so I went with it. 

The lines of red scabby skin and puss sores cover his forearms and face.  He keeps wondering why it keeps coming out more and more.  I keep letting him wonder.

Could it be right where a little doggie, who missed her daddy, was curled up after a romp in the vine covered Indiana woods?  “Ruttt-Ro!”  At this point, I’m thinking it is best to let a sleeping dog LIE.

 

Momma’s Having a Hot Flash

Wine ordering websites need to come with an R rated warning.  S e r i o u s l y

After 10 minutes on wine.com, I need a room and a vibrator to go with my cigarette.  Who writes this stuff?

“Effusively juicy, rich and concentrated, showing plenty of snap to the crisp and well-spiced flavors of wild berry, dark currant and plum tart. Orange-infused chocolate notes linger on the exotic, mocha-filled finish.  There is real mineralite within this bouquet that, returning after 30 minutes, offers alluring ocean spray scents rolling in off the ocean.  It clams up a little towards the finish, shuts the lid tight and consequently there is the sensation of less persistency here compared to the Taylor’s or Smiths. But the Big Johnson has a knack of filling out with bottle age and becomes both gentle and generous with the passing years.

Somebody pry my fingers off that Johnson and bring me a towel and a cold compress.

 

Saguaro Sentinels

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At sundown, they stand in silhouette

Silent in the fading orange light, ultimate icons of the great West

How many parched cowboys, with sweat stained bandanas drooped about their necks, have lead weary, spavined horses through the Sonoran Desert, weaving under and around the massive arms and prickly spines of the Saguaro cactus; all three with their own story of survival?

–No one can look at a Saguaro cactus for the first time and look away.

Saguaros are viewed as much more than a plant.  People see in them what they want to see.  Some loan these desert giants giant John Wayne personalities and loads of Wile E. Coyote animation!  We put Santa outfits on them at Christmas time.  Other seasons find them standing guard in subdivisions, sporting clown-sized sunglasses with a ten gallon hat and a shiny gold star pinned to their chest.  Woodpeckers peck bullet holes in them.  They accept these insults with a wink.  Saguaros steal our hearts because we feel empathy for them, stoic in their thirst against a blinding blue sky.

Saguaro Cactus are part legend, part song, and can be found everywhere–not just growing in portions of southern and central Arizona and northwestern Mexico!   A forth grade classroom in Wisconsin in February has Saguaros pictured and plastered across a cork board in the hall.  These sentinels stand in our living rooms while we watch Clint Eastwood “Hang ‘Em High” all over again.  Saguaros live in everyone who has experienced them (and they are an experience!)  Their arms hold our awe.

I am a changed person after having seen, felt and “knowing” them for the first time at age 54.  They are patient.  They are still.  They are funny. They are real.  They are strange.  They are heroes of the southwest.  They are inspiring and beautiful.  They are survivors.  They are miracles.   They stole my heart.

Facts About Saguaro (pronounced “suh-wha-ro”)

  • Bigger ones are 25-35 feet tall, some reaching 50′
  • The average Saguaro is 125 to 175 years old
  • They don’t grow “arms” until they are at least 50 years old
  • A mature 35′ cactus can weight 7.5 tons or 14,000 lbs.
  • They are 95 percent water
  • Of all U.S. states, only Arizona and California (with only 100 of them) have Saguaros
  • They started to grow in Arizona only 10,000 years ago
  • They produce 40 million seeds in a lifetime and only one seed might survive
  • In full sun, a Saguaro seed will die so they find “nurses”…thriving only under rocks or plants to hide under for protection
  • Cactus spines are finally tough enough at 12″ tall to deter predators such as birds and caterpillars
  • Average annual growth is 8″ to 9″ because they are busy growing a massive root system
  • A mature Saguaro can drink one ton of water after a heavy rain
  • It breathes at night, when air is coolest
  • The spines or spikes can provide as much as 70% shade for the plant
  • Reproduction starts at about 50-60 years of age
  • Their flowers blossom at midnight and die by next day’s noon sun
  • Once pollinated, the flowers become fruit and a source of nutrition for desert animals and insects such as bats, birds, bees, desert tortoises, javelinas, rabbits, squirrels, wood rats coyotes, and foxes.
  • Winged white doves eat the fruit and the seeds are pooped out and spread this way
  • They are reluctant bird houses for gilded flickers and Gila woodpeckers as these long beaked birds dig out cavities to raise their young
  • Saguaros, enjoying celebrity status, bring in the most scientific research dollars to the desert habitat

 A Western Legend about the Saguaro (a tall tale) that is worthy!

Joe Mulhatton was a man living on Arizona’s frontier.  He wears a big hat, boots that go jingle-jangle, and a fringed jacket that’s too clean and well-kept to be anything but decoration.  He is sitting behind a glass of really horrible whiskey in a shack-like saloon telling a story that shouldn’t, by any reasonable standard, attract a single believer.

He lived in Florence, southeast of Phoenix, an area where saguaros grow as thick as the tales, and in 1899 (true story) he told the following tale that was picked up and printed by several newspapers around the Territory.

Joe claimed that giant saguaros around Florence exerted an extraordinary magnetic force, probably , he theorized, from vast beds of copper running beneath the earth.  Because of this great power, each plant could attract or repel any object that drew close.  In his story, Mulhatton told of two unsuspecting tramps who took refuge underneath some of these monsters and of the grisly disaster that ensued.  He swore:

“One of the men was at once drawn up to and impaled on the sharp blades of the cactus, while the octopus-like arms folded around him crushing him through and into the cactus, where his blood, flesh and bones turned into a pulp very much like ordinary mucilage, which trickled out slowly from the aperture made by the passing in of the man’s body.

He went on to tell how the cactus loses its magnetic power while it is digesting its victim.  “So we were enabled to look at this wonderful yet gruesome sight and report about these particulars.”  A negative cactus repelled the second tramp and heaved his body about 100 feet against a positive one, whereupon he met the same fate.

Mulhatton’s story originally ran in the Florence Tribune, and it so impressed the editors of the Tombstone Epitaph that they printed a subsequent version with added details. 

It seems Mulhatton himself approached to within 100 feet of one of the man-eating cacti, but it was “all he could do to resist its influence to draw him in.”  He then returned to the town to fetch a rope, planning to tie it around his waist while four of his friends wrapped their arms around him and held on.  Mulhatton wanted to “approach near enough to minutely examine the wonder without danger.”

A traveling salesman in his work life, brave Joe, we can assume, was accustomed to approaching thorny customers.  In telling his story, however, there is something more going on than a prankster creating nonsense for kerosene-lamp entertainment. At the bottom of the Tribune version, Mulhatton concluded:  “There is very little travel through this wild section of Arizona, or this species of cactus would have been written about sooner.”  (Note the implicit danger in that statement, the romance and the mystery.  What’s out there?   Will I survive it?  Am I tough enough?)

Everyone who ever braved the Western frontier has asked those questions.  The man-eating cactus was less a story than an invitation–a dare to test ourselves against “wild Arizona,” using the saguaro as the lure.  Joe Mulhatton was an early practitioner of the art of promotion, a pioneer in more ways than one, and his legend lives on.

 

Harmony

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Bright blue, blinding cotton-candy skies shifted above me, demanding sunglasses.  A light, cooling breeze drifted across my forehead as I navigated a Kevlar clad canoe around the rocky outcrops and pebble beaches of the Michigamme Reservoir on an eighty degree June day. 

 

 

 

 

It was a day when the sun’s rays beat the waves into submission and they penetrated my bare shoulders until my skin emitted a summer, smoky smell.

 

 

Way up in a solar glare, birds with wing spans of four feet soared this way and that on the breeze; hang-gliders!  Deer, driven out of their grassy beds by mosquitoes, stood in the open, at the water’s edge, quenching parched throats with long, protracted sucks as though through straws.  Bees buzzed in the wildflowers and jumping frogs escaped from shore.

Harmony.  The swift, silent canoe blended into nature’s scene and through its silent glide, it afforded me the opportunity to observe nature undisturbed.

It lifted my soul as we (my faithful dog, Remi, and I) paddled from island to island one glorious afternoon last year.

 We began the trip together in the canoe.  

She sitting forward and not a jiggle.  I paddled.  On this day, though, it occurred to me to experiment with the dog by pulling up to a beach, off loading her, and then resuming my paddling to see what her reaction would be.

Harmony.  As I maintained a distance of about ten feet from the shoreline, she continued to run along with me, happy as a clam. 

 

We were both confident in this new endeavor and the resulting partnership was fun. She proved herself a true athlete, climbing cliffs and swimming in bigger water, next to the canoe, when we had to get to another island.  I marveled at her busy feet, stroking to an internal count, underwater. Her gait was steady, confident, and strong.

We traveled in silence, each under our own power.  We were a team.  We were on an adventure.  We learned to trust.

Harmony.  A very special day for both Remi and me.

 

Riding the Rails

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I discovered the joy of riding the rails last summer in Alaska, truly the last frontier.  The last train I had ridden on was a commuter in Chicago that hustled me from preppy Elmhurst to the skyline of the Magnificent Mile, reuniting me with my steno pad as I spent another work day, single in the city, transcribing shorthand as an executive legal secretary–only a buzz away by Intercom–in my heels and fitted skirt.

 

In Alaska, instead of clothes flapping on lines strung across every back porch from here to there and seeing blurred humanity whizzing by at 50 mph, I saw purple mountain’s majesty and crystal pure ponds with a hues that stole my heart, one click-clack at a time.

 

The Alaskan Railroad passes through the wilderness, where all roads end and moose begin.  Whistle stops happen:   homesteaders stand at any point along the track and flag the train to a halt.  These pioneers clutch babies and bundles as they hop a ride to town for supplies.  Sometimes they have to strike a camp along the rail, waiting for the next train.  It could be days.

 

My favorite part of the trip was discovering the “in between.”

To get from one train car to another, you exit the first on a bridged walkway,  over the massive linking sections, to the next.   It is a pause from here to there on the way from “saw that” to “what’s next.”   There are half walls to keep rubbernecks from spilling out.  There is no glass or wind protection above these walls, so sticking one’s head out is mandatory (if you are me!)

 

Some destinations on our trip required a five hour train ride.  My mom and I enjoyed the perks of white glove dining in the dining car, the splendor in the glass dome observation car, and we sank, with smiles, in the reclining seats in the passenger cars.  Among the creature comforts were big tables for snacks or card games and little bistros where a mug of hot chocolate went a long way.

Me?  I spent the whole time, hogging up my spot on the open rail, in the “in between.”

 

 

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