The thoughts of a writer.

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Wile E. (Coyote)

Yesterday I saw a coyote while I was hiking in the Black Dog Preserve. It didn’t appear to have seen me as it trotted across the trail and into the woods. I know they are around, since I see their tracks. I almost never see them though.

I know coyotes are not well liked. They are smart and opportunistic. A cat or small dog would make a good meal for them. The fact is, they live almost everywhere in Minnesota; including the cities. Those few times that I have seen one, I consider myself fortunate.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005


While I enjoy my hikes in the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, I must admit that Summer is not my favorite time in the woods. A few days ago I was off-trail, trying to find my way from one trail to the other. Once committed, I kept going though I was sometimes in brush that was over my head. Wearing shorts because of the heat, I was stung so many times by stinging nettles that my legs were bleeding by the time I made it out. Of course, the flies found the blood irresistible.

Yesterday, I decided to take a 6 or 7 mile loop around Long Meadow Lake. I was hoping to make it around before the coming rain started. There is an undeveloped trail that usually affords some good wildlife encounters. Last time I had been on it I was “charged” by a baby woodchuck. Eventually on this trek, I can link up to the Bluff Trail which is usually an easier hike, though there is some elevation and yesterday, I found that the recent storms had left fallen trees on the trail.

When I started out, I was hiking along the river under the trees when I heard the unmistakable sound of a Bald Eagle. Then I heard two. They were close, and as I walked out of the trees I looked upwards and saw them circling me.

I have had these magnificent birds “swoop” me before when I happened to walk in the vicinity of a nest, but I knew where the nest was, and I was thinking that I was far enough away. The babies were long fledged by now too. Mother eagles can get rather aggressive when they have little ones. The two raptors circled me, rising slightly higher with each revolution.

Further along on my hike, I was deep in the brush, since the undeveloped trail can get pretty grown over. I heard the familiar crashing sound of deer running past. I did manage to see two of them. One stopped a safe distance from me, and watched me as I took its picture.

The wildflowers were prominent. There was Vervain, Black-Eyed Susans, Thistle, Prairie Clover, and Jewelweed. The butterflies noticed the flowers too, and they were all around. I had wild currants to snack on, and the wild grapes were growing, though not yet ripe.

After reaching the Bluff Trail, I worked my way back to my car. Before I ended this hike, I was treated to something really special. I heard a ruckus in the brush –just off the trail. When I looked in, I saw two mink; playing tug-o-war with a large Garter snake. They were so busy with their competition, that they didn’t pay much attention to me until I took their picture. Then they took off in opposite directions. I don’t know which one got the snake, or if it managed to escape.

It was the perfect ending to a great hike. It made me forget that there were a couple of dozen deerflies circling me at the time. As I walked back to my car the rain started. Sometimes things just work perfectly.

Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Tunnel Vision

I am often astounded at the narrow thinking of some people. I was reading the news story that said,

Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has mixed feelings about President George W. Bush's choice of John Roberts to replace her.
O'Connor said the federal appeals court judge is "first rate," but she's disappointed that the nominee isn't a woman.

Now if the idea is that hiring should be based on who is most qualified for the job, rather than what race or sex a person is, why would a female judge need to be replaced by another female; or why would a minority school superintendent need to be replaced by another minority? Isn’t this illegal and doesn’t it contradict fair hiring practices? Why is some discrimination okay while some is not? Why can’t we hire solely on qualifications? Why does society take a few steps forward, and then a few more backward again?

Until things are fair for everybody, it will never be fair.

Tuesday, July 19, 2005


While I was on my trip recently, I had the opportunity to visit the graves of Sacajawea and Chief Washakie in the Wind River Indian Reservation. The experience gained more significance after returning home. The Chief and I have a connection that I won't get into right now. I will only mention the feathers.

While I was doing my project work recently, I had a turkey feather at my desk where I worked. Since it had brought me much joy, I decided to return it to the wild when the projects (and my employment) ended. I hiked into the wildlife refuge where I volunteer and found a spot to set it, in the bark of a tree. On my way back out of the woods, I found a new feather in my path.

While visiting the graves in Wind River, I left a large goose feather at Sacajawea's grave and a fine turkey feather on Chief Washakie's grave. These were nice feathers, and though I have a good collection of them, they were so nice that I would like to keep them. I could think of no better thing, however, than to put them at the graves out there in Wyoming.

This past Sunday was the first day I had gone hiking in the wildlife refuge since returning from my trip. On my way back out of the woods, I noticed a pile of feathers in a small backwater pond. There were a total of seven, four wing (flight) feathers and three tail feathers. I fished them out, convinced that the Chief had given me seven feathers for my one.

The Medicine Wheel, shows that there are actually seven directions. There is East, West, North and South. There is also Up, Down and Center. On my trip I had gone in all of these directions as I crossed prairies, mountains and deserts.

Whether you believe in such things or not, I think my world is so much more enjoyable to live in when I don't discount the magic.

Feathers are very powerful and very beautiful. They are the thing that allows the birds to fly. I can also tell you from experience, that when an eagle flies over your head... and it is so close that you can hear the sound of the air rushing through its wings... it is a quiet sound that you will never forget.

Friday, July 15, 2005

Ten States

Ten States
July 15, 2005

I’ve returned from my road-trip. I’m happy to say that I was able to follow my planned route almost exactly, and I was able to see all of the things that I had wanted to see.

July 5, 2005 (Tuesday)
I departed at a leisurely 9:30AM. I drove to Brandon, South Dakota, where I got gas and a snack. I arrived in Murdo, SD a little after 4:00PM CDT. I ate at the Star Restaurant and then there was a rather wicked lightening storm late in the afternoon. I watched the movie “Troy” in my room at the Sioux Motel. Then I decided to go get a beer so I went to the Lost Souls Bar, where I met Lyn. After talking to him, we walked over to his brother Mike’s bar, The Rusty Spur; where we hung out with his other brother Jessie. The brothers built the bar themselves, and they did a nice job too. During our conversation, I found out that there were cougars in the area, as Jessie said they were after his horses.
457.5 miles

July 6, 2005 (Wednesday)
I left just after 8:00AM CDT and fueled up in Murdo. I headed for Rapid City, then to 16A to Mount Rushmore. I drove up a mountain on hairpin turns and through single-lane bridges until I reached an overlook that was almost even with Mt. Rushmore. The Presidents were just across from me on the next mountain. There was some snow up that high, so I got a break from the rather hot temperatures. I continued west on 16 through Custer State Park, where I saw deer and buffalo. I made it to New Castle, Wyoming, and got gas and a hamburger. Then I traveled more mountain roads and saw a Turkey Vulture, deer and Pronghorn Antelope. I stopped at the Town House Motel in Worland, WY. I ate at Subway and bought tomorrow’s breakfast and some beer at the IGA. It was 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
926 miles

July 7, 2005 (Thursday)
I woke early, and the TV informed me about the London transit bombings. I left at 6:30AM MDT and got gas. I stopped in Thermopolis, WY, to see the hot spring. I saw deer and Pronghorn Antelope. When I reached the Wind River Canyon (Wind River Indian Reservation), I was amazed at how beautiful this mountain pass was. The road went along the side of the mountain, and below me was the Wind River. I was in the Shoshone Nation. I continued to Lander, WY, and then headed north into Fort Washakie. I had directions from an e-mail inquiry, so I was able to navigate on the reservation to the grave sites of both (Louis & Clark’s guide) Sacagawea and the Shoshone Chief Washakie. I left a feather at each site and then headed back to Lander. I drove along the Flaming Gorge, and stopped at the visitor center. I got a room at the Days Inn in Vernal, Utah, and took a quick swim in the pool to combat the 100 degree (F) heat. I had dinner and settled in for the night.
1,301.7 miles

July 8, 2005 (Friday)
I was up very early, since I was used to the Central Time Zone. I waited for 6:30AM to have the complimentary Continental breakfast. I had called the Dinosaur National Monument and found out it opened at 8:00AM. It was close by, so I left at 7:20AM and arrived at 7:45AM. The shack where you have to pay was unoccupied, and the sign said to continue on. I found that nothing was open, but there was an “auto tour” sign up ahead. I paid my 50 cents for a map, and found that there was a desert hike called “The Sound of Silence Hiking Route.” It was about 3 ½ miles through the Utah desert. I had to do a little climbing, but the morning offered “cooler” temperatures than what would come later. The scenery was fantastic, and I saw Jack Rabbits and a couple of different kinds of lizards. The sage filled the air with fragrance, and I thoroughly enjoyed this hike. After I drove back to the Quarry, I took the shuttle to the exhibits and of course, I bought a T-shirt. I continued on my journey and saw lots of animals including an elk, deer, vultures and magpies. I got stuck in several construction zones, where I was forced to use my air conditioner. I got stuck in a big traffic jam in Glenwood Springs, Colorado and was lost for a short time. I finally found my way out to 82E. I needed to find somewhere to stay, and the guy at the place with the $150/night cabins told me that there was camping down Avalanche Road. Calling this a “road,” was giving it immense credit! My Grand Am did its best to act like a 4-wheel-drive truck as I drove the long road wondering where-the-hell the campground was? Finally, when the creek was running over the road, I decided that I was not going to drive my car across a creek and I turned around and headed out. My attempts to find an unoccupied/unreserved campsite on this Saturday afternoon were unsuccessful. Eventually, I made my way through the mountains to Paonia, CO, where I got gas and managed to find a room at the Redwood Arms Motel. The single restaurant nearby was only open for breakfast and lunch, so while I wasn’t actually camping, I did end up eating some of my “camping food.” My room was extremely nice, however.
1,580 miles

July 9, 2005 (Saturday)
I left at 7:00AM MDT. The mountain passes were very impressive and sometimes a little intimidating to drive through. One false move, and one could easily end up at the bottom of a ravine. I saw a very impressive buck in velvet. He was small in stature, but his antlers were very large. When I made my way to Durango, CO, I decided that I had better stop for beer. Most of these states had a rather meager selection of good beer –with the exception of Colorado where there was a seeming endless variety of good local beer! I made it to New Mexico, and stopped at the welcome center in Aztec to get directions to the Aztec National Monument. I walked around the Aztec Ruins (Anasazi “Pueblo Indians”) for awhile and toured the museum. I even watched the video, which I don’t normally have the patience for. After a couple of hours at the ruins, I bought another T-shirt and drove to Cuba, NM, where I got a room at the Del Prado Motel. I ate at the Del Prado (Mexican) Restaurant. I tried to find local beer in New Mexico, but I was unsuccessful. Just after dark, about 9:30PM I heard what sounded like gunshots. Minutes later, numerous emergency vehicles went past. After more “explosions,” I wondered if there might be fireworks, so I went outside to look. I saw a “crime command post” van go by, but there were no fireworks. Finally it stopped.
1,875.2 miles

July 10, 2005 (Sunday)
I got some much needed sleep, though some of the neighborhood cats woke me up once. I left at 7:30AM MDT. I drove through Albuquerque, NM. I stopped at the Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge. The visitor center was closed on Sunday, but I hiked around a bit anyway. I climbed up one of the bluffs, and walked through the desert. There were numerous hummingbirds at the feeders outside of the visitor center. I drove on, and made it to the White Sands National Monument by 2:00PM. I drove through the white desert and hiked the “Big Dune Trail.” It was incredibly hot in the afternoon. Even back in the town of Alamogordo, NM, it was 100 degrees (F). I got a room at the Satellite Motel. There was nowhere close by to eat, so I bought some microwaveable food and used the microwave in my motel room. This was appropriate, I thought, since I was so close to the Trinity Site, where the USA tested the first atomic bomb on July 16, 1945. The site is open to the public only two days per year, and since I wasn’t there on one of the days, I “nuked” my dinner instead. Later, one of the guys who was living at the motel, knocked on my door and tried to sell me a shirt for $15. I had just bought a new T-shirt at White Sands, so I wasn’t interested.
2215.6 miles

July 11, 2005 (Monday)
I left at 6:45MDT. I started my journey by going through a mountain pass heading east, with the morning sun in my eyes. It was a bit challenging at times. Then I drove to and through Roswell, NM. I stopped for gas a few times, because there was so much… nothing. I had once gotten down to a quarter of a tank of gas with no end to the desert road in sight. I was not going to do that again. There were lots of cacti along 82E in New Mexico. When I got to west Texas, it smelled like cow crap. There was a town called Bovina, with lots of cattle. (Can you buy one cattle???) There was a stockyard in Bovina, and boy did it stink! This is why I don’t name things, because I would have probably named it “Cow Crap,” Texas; and Bovina was obviously a better name. I made it into the Oklahoma panhandle, where I got a room at the Longhorn Motel in Boise City. I ate at a little sandwich/ice cream/gift shop. The beer selection was bad again.
2,673.9 miles

July 12, 2005 (Tuesday)
I needed sleep, and I didn’t get on the road until 8:45AM CDT. It took about 2 ½ hours to drive to Dodge City, Kansas. I stopped at the welcome center and got pointed in the right direction to go to Front Street and Boot Hill. I arrived at about 11:30AM, so I was able to see a gunfight reenactment at High Noon. Then I visited the Boot Hill Cemetery and went through the museum along Front Street. I had a Sarsaparilla and a Club Sandwich while I was there, and then I left at about 2:00PM. I got gas and found that the beer selection was still really poor. I drove straight through to Concordia, KS, where I got a room at the Economy Inn. I had to drive back to downtown to get food and gas, and I did find some Colorado beer in the (Kansas) liquor store. At dusk, I noticed fireflies in the field in back of the motel. I could also hear what sounded like a woodcock and a variety of insects singing. There is a lot of grassland in this part of the world. There are lots of things living in it. I saw some of it burning in the distance as I was driving today. There was also some spectacular cloud-to-ground lightening as I was driving through central Kansas. It seems there was a storm to the north and another to the south as I was driving east. Regarding all of this grassland… it got me thinking. There is a National Forest Service… is there also a National Grassland Service? If so, I have never heard of them. Perhaps the National Grasslands fall under the jurisdiction of the National Forest Service. Somehow this seems wrong to me…
3,056.2 miles

July 13, 2005 (Wednesday) -This was the day the space shuttle was supposed to go back into space but it didn’t.
I left at 8:30AM CDT. I stopped in Adair, Iowa and got gas. I had lunch at Mikey’s Berry Sweet. The food was good, cheap and fast. Though I like Mexican food, I don’t want to eat it everyday. The southwest was dominated by Mexican restaurants, and it was nice to have some “regular” food when I got to Iowa. I stopped at a rest stop near Dow, and then continued into Minnesota and made it back home by 5:30PM CDT.
3608.2 miles


Thursday, July 14, 2005

I'm baaack...

I just got back from my road-trip. Details forthcoming...

Saturday, July 02, 2005


I have this plan to take a road-trip. It occurred to me as I was working 50-hour weeks earlier this spring on a series of academic testing projects. I knew it would all be coming to a screeching halt and then I should travel. I'm planning to visit 10 states, in two weeks, and cover about 3,000 miles (4,900 km).

I was checking over my car. I remember when cars were so basic that even I could understand them. Now, when I look under the hood, it's like a spaceship or something! Still, it is mighty impressive. I like my 2004 Grand Am. It's almost like it's a driving machine that I can use to get from place to place! The inside is as if it was designed for human comfort! There are climate controls, musical options... and the trunk seems almost as if it was designed specifically to carry cargo!

I reckon I won't have time for my blog for awhile, but when I get back in a couple of weeks, I should have a story or two to tell!

Friday, July 01, 2005

My New Book

I think my next book will be called,

Greatness, and the Art of Being Great
By Kevin J. Curtis

Quote from the book...

"People often ask me about being great, and if they too can achieve greatness. Then I have to tell them, 'no, most people aren't great, and you're one of them.'"

That cracks me up...

Government Shut-Down

Differences of opinion can occur in any situation. We are taught as children to “give and take,” and negotiate our way to an agreement. If the children can’t do that, some “responsible” adult will try to mediate.

What happens if the “children” who are arguing are the adults? In the case of two countries, it could mean war. In the case of the Minnesota State Government, it appears to mean “partial government shut-down.” There are no “adults” available in the government to settle things.

Primitive people would have perhaps had a physical altercation, resulting in a leader who would ultimately take charge. In our “civilized” world, political leaders don’t soil their hands this way; they prefer to have others take those kinds of risks.

Is it easy to negotiate a budget? I’m guessing not. After all, how much can be “trimmed” before there is nothing left? Then of course there is the Republican agenda to keep the power and money in the hands of those who already have power and money. The Democrats are interested in promoting the interests of all the special interest groups who want the world to bend to their particular doctrine. Where does that leave middle-America?

Minnesotans elected Jesse Ventura for Governor in 1998, not because he was a politician, but because he was not. He was a way for Minnesotans to indicate that they were unhappy with politicians. Unfortunately, Jesse soon showed that he was more concerned with the media “picking on him.” This was probably due to the fact that he was continuously babbling about macho things like “hunting men,” or the Navy SEALs.

Now, with a pro-Bush Governor in Minnesota (Tim Pawlenty), we can only ride the wave that the entire country is riding. Perhaps we need someone like Jesse to pull the “foreign object” (i.e. brass knuckles) out of his tights, and take control.

So now, the “children” who are running the state government have spent the last six-months arguing, and the government will shut-down –except for “vital services.” Apparently one of these vital services includes continuing to pay the politicians who didn’t get the job done. Meanwhile, other government workers will need to use their vacation time if they want to get paid.