Thursday, November 26, 2020

for us, not that hard to resist large family gatherings. on my side, they are in kansas, oregon, pittsburgh, england, and albuquerque anyway; on my wife's side, illinois and california mostly. for us the big deal was getting my phone working so i could call people. my sister called in on facebook video.

the countryside is beautiful, with reddish hues on everything, cold and fresh air, wary wildlife everywhere. i say "wary" because it's hunting season and they know it, but for us, all the food came from walmart, and we're nervous about the supply chain, yes, but so far everything is holding up pretty well. we're low on half-and-half and that's a kind of emergency. but we had a "cadillac" turkey - sixteen pounds, organic, free-range, etc., and it was pretty good eating.

a friend of mine says "i'm into the giving thanks but not so much of the pilgrim story." i myself have been riveted to those pilgrim stories, because there are more than usual, it being the 400-year-anniversary of the mayflower, but also because i'm writing a book on the issue. the book is mostly about ancestors who occupied massachusetts in the 17th and 18th century, but i'm just laying the groundwork, noth having done the research yet, and i have been enlightened considerably by articles about the original wampanoag. i have a lot of nerve, actually, as a white guy talking about the wampanoag, but they played a big role in how things played out and i want to document that story.

but an unfortunate result of all this publicity as thanksgiving has come and gone is burn-out. in other words, there is only so much a person can take of studying the ancient pilgrim/puritan world and i've about reached my limit. the good news is that i can deal with that - i can turn away from it a while, do other things, refresh. i've also stalled out on the prairie book, and i could conceivably work on any of about fifteen unfinished products. but this one i'll have to list as less than half done - i really barely got started.

i'm thinking of making print versions of some of these projects, just so i'll always have something with me that i can proofread and work on. one of my issues is that there is a logjam at the proofreading stage, and i'm not always up to or able to do the necessary proofreading. it's another case where i have to roll with the punches so to speak and just work 'til i have a system that works.

and i'm mulling over doing biographies, most notably frank. frank would be my great grandfather's cousin, so cousin three times removed. frank was a geologist who walked from ames to madison, allegedly, and who two glaciers are named after. he's a character; not sure i have enough to fill a whole book, without becoming a geologist. but one thing he did, in the course of walking - he grew up in denmark, iowa by the way - is he charted the changes in the mississippi over time. this i think would be interesting by itself. and he was a prolific writer of geology things - not to mention family letters, which i have, but have a hard time reading.

now, the turkey has had its way, and i've become tired. i can't figure out what my new phone is doing, so i might as well give up. more later!

Wednesday, November 25, 2020


got a new pair of shoes, so i set out walking to the back canyons again, and as i walked i became determined to make it to that place i wrote about earlier, the line between the apache reservation and the national forest. i had heard there was a fence back there, but i wasn't sure, and the other day i made it almost there before i turned around, not quite sure if crossing a canyon wash was what i was supposed to be doing.

i've been collecting old deer and elk skulls and bones while i'm out there, in a georgia o'keefe kind of way, noticing that they are symbolic of new mexico's dry, sunny, spacious lands, and they are just sitting around, asking for the taking. other animals picked them over long ago, but now they look a little spooky, and my idea is to line up barbie dolls with them and pose group shots that way, but more about that later.

i stick on the main paths back on the canyon because i'm well aware that i'm sixty-six and capable of falling and needing someone to come after me. it's not so much that the main paths are easier to find - with an electonic device i would probably be easy to find anyway - but i figure if someone has to haul me out of there, having a road transversable by four-wheeler would be easier than making them carry me. but i've been taking it slow - building up my ankles, trying out my new shoes, only going a couple miles a day.

and this place where the reservation and forest come together is not that far away. it is marked by fence, and it's the forest that has put the signs on the fence. the fence is in reasonably good shape, at least there at the path. one thing i liked was that it was a pleasant little valley right there, with rock-filled canyon washes on two sides, so kind of isolated and secure at the same time. mountains rise from most angles. i could not see clearly on the reservation side, whether there was a path, or anything; it looked much like the forest side. all was quiet except for the tinnitus in my ears.

in fact, it was a beautiful, clear, sunny, fresh-air, blue-sky kind of day, stunningly gorgeous, and as far as i could tell i was the only person in the entire canyon, again. what happens is that lots of these rock-filled canyon washes come down and join each other about a half mile behind our house, and there is a stock tank back there, and a number of jeep trails, and one road in particular that goes back toward civilization to the west, along the base of the mountain, to where people actually have access to the place. the canyon (board tree canyon) is used by hunters and by this one rancher who i believe fills the stock tank. the other day i believe it was him, or his people, who had come back to get his cows, who were back by the stock tank chomping away on the lush grasses back there. and in fact, i found lots of grass that had been chomped pretty low.

i also found a very clear horse trail, thin but well worn, that ran more or less parallel to the east-west road (as it was curving ovv to the north, to the reservation), and this horse trail crossed the road very distinctly not far from that stock tank. what was striking about the horse trail was that it was very well worn. the road itself, not so much, as if i were one of the few that used it. but the horse trail, it looked like it got wear regularly.

i didn't see another animal, human, deer or elk, on the whole journey, which couldn't have been more than a couple miles. there was, however, a deer skeleton, up there by the fence, and it was sitting there by itself, so i grabbed it and brought it home. i think after a while you probably get used to them, and you put them on your doors and such, and next thing you know i'll be skinning them and eating them, and knowing how to leave them out so they get picked over by the birds. they're just animals, and a few of them lose out every year, to hunters, or to whatever, and their bones aren't going to walk out of those lands on their own volition. as one who was becoming more familiar with the place, i felt like that was one way i could relate to it. back home, through our broken fence and a little path down through our land, i brought the skeleton and placed it with the others. i'll take the barbies out there as soon as i get the chance.

Monday, November 23, 2020

lately i've taken to walking out the back side of our land into the national forest, and going out there to where people tear around in four-wheelers and go hunting. there is an elk skeleton out there, near a place where four or five creek beds come together, and it's a kind of magical spot, this creek junction, because i know that long ago it was where the creeks came together that things happened. i'm not sure if they had water back then - we sure don't, now - but the shape of the land tells me that, even in dry times, you might want to be where creeks come together just because that's where you'd come looking if you were out there looking.

so out there where these creeks come together, you can cross the big creek and be at the base of a mountain that divides our valley from the apache reservation to the north. a road snakes around that mountain and goes up north to the reservation; i followed it, walking, today for only a couple of miles before i got nervous and turned around. i didn't want to go on the reservationw without permission, and i'd come to an unfamiliar place, a place where the footpath goes down and crosses the rocky creekbed before going back up on the other side.

when i got home i looked at google earth and noticed that i was still maybe a quarter mile from the reservation, so i still don't know what's there - is there a fence, and a sign that asks you to stay off? or is it simply unmarked, as it often is, in many places, and you have to just know where you are and when you should just turn around?

i did hear shots in the distance, probably my neighbors practicing hunting or actually hunting. it is the season, and hunters are out there, and i think i need to wear bright enough clothes that i'm clearly a walker not a deer.

i did also see a roundup - about a dozen cows, coming from back in the hinterlands, being led on a rope, or being pulled by a fourwheeler, with a couple of horsemen nearby making sure they didn't bolt off the path. i do believe mr. walker, the rancher, is rounding them up to take them down to tularosa for the winter. i do believe they will be happier down there, where it's 5000 feet lower and it just doens't get as cold as it gets here. those cows have been back in the forest pooping, and eating the grasses, and that's all well and good since they look healthy and they didn't really mind being led around on a rope, it was the most attention they'd got all summer.

our dogs, of course, don't like them at all. i let them come in, and i use their poop actively to make better soil, but i have a hard time with the dogs barking because i'm losing my hearing and i just don't need that kind of loud high-pitched stuff. but you can't tell a dog not to bark. it's programmed right into them.

well anyway to make a long story short i'm spending some time out back, out in the national forest, noticing things i hadn't seen, namely roads and paths that go places. there are holding tanks that have water, and the animals use them, and presumably the people do to - they maintain them, or they make sure the animals don't die and fall into them. i'm not sure how the system works - i know i'm not the only one out there, but i also know that once hunting season dies down, and the cows are down in tulie, there will be very little reason for anyone out there at all. which means that if i'm going to break my ankle or anything, i'd better have my communications systems in order, or be able to yell real loud. so far i haven't gone too far out of human hearing range, but i'm getting curious, and one thing that will mean is that i might put into practice my plan to walk overland to cloudcroft, about seventeen miles west. it's really not that far, and it's high mountain paths all the way. or at least i think there are paths. there's a good chance there will be nothing.

Saturday, November 21, 2020

one of the stories that sticks with me in my research is the story of john wompus, a wampanoag who grew up in the 1600's. his parents had converted to christianity and brought him to a "praying town" - a place where native people were expected to give up their wandering ways, and adapt more christian ways of living like living in a house and staying in one place.

there were about 16 praying towns throughout massachusetts, but they all had that in common: their people had come from the native settlements and were genuinely trying to learn colonial ways, with as much regular christian preaching as they could tolerate. john grew up in the town of nonantum, on the north bank of the charles as it swings around to head east toward boston, in what is today newton. he spent part of his childhood living with a family in roxbury because his parents died before they were able to finish raising him.

the leaders of the praying towns, most notably john eliot, were puritan ministers who had their eye on native kids for talent. they wanted to educate them and make them preachers, because, fluent in the local language, which in this case was wampanoag, they could then convert the native population. john wompus was sent to harvard with the intention to make him a preacher and get god's word out to his countrymen.

somewhere along the line he caught the eye of anne prask and they married. anne prask had been orphaned by the pequot war, a nasty war down in connecticut that wiped out the pequot tribe, and she was brought up to roxbury as a girl to live in a puritan family as a servant. the wampanoags and pequots were traditional enemies; the wampanoag had even helped the colonists against the pequot. but both john wompus and anne prask had been stripped of their cultures, and both had been living amongst colonists as long as they could remember.

the preacher business did not attract john wompus much, so he got on a sailing boat and went to england. i am not sure if this was before he was married or after, but he was attracted by the rough and vulgar sailor's life as a contrast to the preacher's life, and he found himself in london, not once but several times. lots of drinking was being done on these boats. they would stop in the bahamas and pick up sugar or rum, or just pick up the rum, and drink half of it before they even got back to boston. in the cities big money was being made trading on the alcohol. but people were falling victim to it also.

anne inherited some land down in connecticut. the colonists were all into who was rightful owner and had to admit that she, as living daughter of its original owner, would be that person. john and anne went to connecticut where he was able to get a large price for the land, and then he got addicted to selling land, much as you might become addicted to alcohol. some of his fellow wampanoag trusted him to get a good price since he knew the colonists' culture, and he sold a lot of their land. but alas, sometimes he sold it twice. some people got mad at him in the process.

they took the money from the connecticut house and bought a house in downtown boston, where today the st. paul cathedral episcopal church stands, on tremont street across from the common. they were living the dream, or at least the dream of the colonial high-society puritans they'd grown up with. they were perhaps the only native people to own land in the city of boston, but it was prominent land, right downtown where everyone could see them. unfortunately their daughter died young, as was common in those days, and i'm not sure what happened - maybe john set sail for london again. the next thing we know, anne has died back in boston, and john is in london again.

he faced discrimination and racism wherever he went. he was almost thrown in jail in connecticut, and several other times, mostly because that's how they dealt with loud native people in colonial massachusetts. in london he was thrown into debtor's prison. he tried to sell some land back home, claiming he was a sachem, and they wouldn't let him. he appealed to the king, who actually wrote a letter on his behalf - please take john wompus, my subject, and do justice for him, as he is a person just as the colonists are. unfortunately, the king's wishes were not being taken as god's word, by that time. it was the wrong time to have the king on your side.

worst of all was the discrimination he faced from his own people. everyone knew that he had married a pequot. though they were both culturally colonial, english, it was an interracial marriage and, to the wampanoag, he had married out. he kept some friends among the wampanoag, though, especially back where he had extended family, in a place called hassanamissit, out by what is today worcester. in the end they were upset that he had sold so much of their land, in some cases twice, but he didn't forget them.

he died in debtor's prison, in london, but before he died he left a very clear will, and gave some land to his uncles, that today is the only land that has never passed from native control to english control, and is now the nipmuc headquarters.

he's a somewhat obscure character in history, compared to squanto, massasoit, or some of his fellow wampanoags. in boston he lived next door to my alleged ancestor, hudson leverett, who i've spent considerable time tracking down and trying to get to the bottom of what really happened. hudson, it is suspected, also had a drinking problem. but such things are lost to history, and all one can do is imagine what kind of drinking and carousing took place, right there on the grounds of what would become st. paul's cathedral, episcopal church.

Friday, November 20, 2020

the sun is going down on a friday afternoon out in the dry mountains of southeastern new mexico, and i'm proud that the only place i went today, i went on foot. i headed out to the back of our four-and-a-half acres, into the national forest, which is dry and scrubby but goes back maybe a couple of miles to the apache reservation. there's a dry creekbed, mostly rocks, that comes down from various hills in the area and washes out more or less in our back yard; because several canyons come down and join here, i know that this was a lively place back a thousand years ago or so. even today it is full of elk poop, deer poop, and even cow poop as i know all the animals are back there eating whatever they can find that's green. today, though, i didn't see any. they are wary of people these days, as it's hunting season.

i did find a road, a pretty good road, that circles around at the base of this mountain, a mountain that is pretty high and that i take to be the boundary of forest and apache reservation. i hiked up that mountain about halfway. as you went up, you could see that it kept getting higher but you couldn't see the top. it was dry, with lots of rocks and the christmas tree kind of pine that has needles. deer and elk poop everywhere. looking back into our own valley, i could see the hills that i live among, and more mountains in the distance.

from this little canyon, it gets very dry and empty to the east, but there are still plenty of hunters. to the north, you go but a mile or two to the reservation; i still haven't been there, as far as i know. but to the west, if i follow that road along the bottom of the mountain, i could conceivably stay in forest land, all along the border of the reservation, and walk more or less to cloudcroft, about sixteen miles. that is my goal.

an overland hike would probably take a couple of days, because i'd have to go there, and then come back, or at least arrange a ride. going west it gets wetter, lusher, and shadier, but the mountains get higher too. about six miles this side of cloudcroft is the heart of the mountains, where it's very green, and a little rainier than here, and definitely higher. we are at about 73; cloudcroft is at 87. a ridge between here and there is also 87, but i wouldn't necessarily have to climb it, because i could circle around behind, stay in the forest, and only go up to 87 when i got to town.

there are bears and cats in the mountains, and also coyotes. the coyotes are a threat to the house pets, if they get loose, but i'm not sure if they would be a threat to me, out there camping on my own in some remote part of the forest. i actually don't know what i'd find.

we are trying in most ways to have what we need to not go anywhere. the kids have sports practice, but they've been canceled. they have school, but it's being canceled too. they are around. they are not into the area or walking around, like i am. but the state is on lockdown, and we need ways to survive a few weeks.

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Thursday, November 12, 2020

it's gotten cold, but it's my favorite time of year - burnt orange colors, clear fresh air, a little wind and hint of change. even some snow every once in a while.

looks like things will shut down good and hard for the holidays. classes will send kids home, schools will go all online until the end of december. and it's just as well, as things are getting much worse, not better. hospitals are full. people are panicking. we are hoping the next ones are not us. my son is afraid to go to school.

a quilt is almost done, and then will get sent, in a box probably, to illinois. it will be the first of three "illini shalom" quilts. all will have shalom in them or on them, all will be illinois colors (defined loosely). in the pandemic one might not be able to find a true dark illini blue, or gold, one does what one can.

i hit a deer the other day. three small deer darted out from a ditch - two in front which i saw, but the one who went right in front of the car, i hit her, and she tumbled and flipped, but landed on her feet and ran away. i saw a single deer in the same place, the following day, so i apologized, but i don't think it was her. she's part of a family that i see all the time, the three together. how they got her to jump right in front of that car, i don't know. i hope she's ok. the car is not.

but i wasn't going all that fast - that's one thing you learn around here. you take your time if you can, it's much safer. you can't really control the way they dart out in front of you from the ditch or from a cliff or something. but you can give yourself more time to stop, and make it not so far to get to a dead stop.

it was depressing, but overall, i was lucky - we both lived. she too will tell the tale.

Friday, November 06, 2020


Thursday, October 29, 2020

the afternoon passes slowly as i didn't have to do the driving and won't until tonight. our place is isolated with lots of fresh air and the sun passing into the west, melting lots of the snow and giving everything a nice gentle soak and a good smell.

i have about fifteen projects on the table as usual but am taking a little break from all of them as my son is visiting and working out his future. i try to keep the marketing up but even that is hard. sometimes i just pick up the quilt now and work on that as working with my hands is one of the more relaxing things i can do. the bog is good too; i play with my son and sometimes my brother way over in pittsburgh joins on our team. this and working and walking on the land are my main joys.

the driving is steady and constant as we take kids to school, pick them up, let them hang around town, whatever. they are not completely safe, we're pretty sure. there are seven cases in the village or the area at least, and i'm convinced it's only a matter of time before it hits home. i'm hoping people they know get it before they do, but i'm not sure we'll be so lucky. then on my part i constantly try to minimize risk, making as few trips as possible as a general strategy. it's a general plan to stay alive until i can finish at least a few of the projects on the list.

four of them are family genealogy related though i have to finish the big civil-war era one first. i could move right up past the 1920 pandemic with my dad's side of the family, and do the people in council bluffs to continue my overview right up to my dad and his dad and grandfather. i could do my mom's side; they were the wallaces, and came from scotland to settle in western pennsylvania. i also have one about dedham massachusetts, upstream from boston, and another about patience - daughter of william brewster, separatist leader of the pilgrims, and grandmother great to maybe the thirteenth power. and there are possibly more in there as well; after all, i haven't even begun to look into an entire half of the tree.

one thing about non-fiction is that you have to do considerable research before you write, and you have to hold on to some of the knowledge in hopes that you won't bend it around or misrepresent it when the time comes to put it on paper. i am always questioning the degree that i project things, and put what i want to be true as opposed to what i know to be true.

and finally, got some old postcards from the nineties up. that's because my son helped me with the scanner, and i am now able to scan onto the computer some things that i've always wanted online. these were not so much masterpieces of graphic design - in fact the good scanner i got from my dad makes them show the tape, which irritates me - but they were fun to make and represent a time in my life that i have to gently relive, since it had its ups and downs. but let's get on with the reliving. i'm going through a shed full of scannable items.

and meanwhile, the sun sets gently, the moisture soaking into ground that was so, so dry.

Friday, October 16, 2020