ON THE ROAD

From: Meridian, ID:

Where was I? It seems that blogging in the summertime becomes more sporadic, even, than it has become during the rest of the year.

Since last I posted, our grandson, Evan, has come to Idaho and stayed with Janet and me for a week. (Actually, it was only six days if one doesn’t count travel days, but I do hate to be picky.) Since the plan from the beginning was for us to hand deliver him, we two discussed keeping him for an additional two weeks – or perhaps two years – but his parents have grown accustomed to having him around and we didn’t want to start a family feud. Ergo, we are now in California and Evan’s parents have signed for the package we delivered.

If there were but one thing in my life I could change…a do-over, so to speak, it would be to make life decisions that would have our “golden years” taking place near to our sons and their families. But then, it wasn’t only my decisions that we’re paying for with the current separation situation…the boys made career decisions, too. So here we are. In Idaho, that is, while two of our grandchildren live in southwest Washington state and two live in Southern California. It is, in fact, a case of “chickens coming home to roost,” as I made the same sort of career decisions when our boys were young. We did live close to my parents for a few years (before moving away again), but after our first son was born in Michigan we never again lived close to Janet’s parents. Now – too late – I know that it is unnatural to be a long distance Grandpa or Grandma. Worse yet, despite having finally learned that lesson, we know that if we pull up stakes to move closer to one, the same move takes us farther from the other. The only answer is to have both our sons quit working and move lock, stock, and families to southern Idaho, eh?

We didn’t do much “entertaining” Evan while he was with us. Mostly, we just “hung out” together at home. For example, we learned the he and we all enjoy watching Jeopardy on television, and it was fun watching it together. We already knew, of course, that Evan is a terrifically smart lad, but we honestly weren’t aware he was that smart. He knows a lot of American and World history and geography (like us), but being a young man he also knows a lot of modern technology and entertainment facts, where Jan and I are being left behind in those realms further and further all the time. The boy will become a teenager this October, and we have been encouraging him to try the process of becoming a contestant for next year’s teen tournament. I’m sure all grandparents will say the same thing about their own grandchildren (even though most of them are but “average,” at best) but, seriously, Evan is truly a smart lad! I’m not saying that just because I’m related to him.

(President and Junior President of the Idaho Whistlepig Relocation Team.)

(President and Junior President of the Idaho Whistlepig Relocation Team.)

One activity Evan and I did get to do together was some target shooting. I took him our to whistlepig country, which, alas, is now devoid of the pesky rodents, to do some target shooting. He took to it like the proverbial duck to water. Using my .22 WMR and my .17 HMR, he easily hit the targets we set up at 35, 50, and 90 yards. And after seeing him shred target after target in our back yard – with my pellet rifle, not the aforementioned weapons – I naturally had to take him to Sportsmans Warehouse to pick out his own pellet rifle, along with an air rifle target/backstop. We don’t have a large back yard, but there was room to get a 33-foot distance between target and shooting bench, and that’s the distance the target manufacturer recommended. He never missed the paper…not even with his first attempt. And after becoming more familiar with shooting, he was nearly always “in the black.” In years to come, I’m hoping he will have the opportunity to visit us during whistlepig “season.” As it is, since I am the self-appointed President of the Idaho Whistlepig Relocation Team, I’ve waived the rule about having actually shot one, and granted him membership in the organization. In fact, I appointed him the Junior President of the team. He has the ball cap to prove it. I suppose I’ll have to get some membership tee shirts, as well.

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We also took Evan to the Boise Zoo. It is certainly a far cry from the famous ones, like the one in San Diego, but it is a pleasant place to visit. It’s nicely laid out, and even more nicely maintained. I think the animals that find themselves living out their lives there could easily have had much, much worse fates. Oh, sure…they don’t have much freedom of movement, but then again, they never have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, and they never have to worry about becoming the next meal for their neighbors.

(A Black-Tailed Prairie Dog, one of 5 primary species.)

(A Black-Tailed Prairie Dog, one of 5 primary species.)

After being introduced to whistlepig plinking (ground squirrels, as you probably know by now) this past spring, I’ve been doing some research about prairie dogs…thinking that next year I might make a trip out to one of the Great Plains states in search of them. And while we were at the Boise Zoo, I discovered that one of the exhibits there was a black-tailed prairie dog community. (A smallish community, to be sure, consisting of perhaps a dozen or so animals. I didn’t actually see that many. I couldn’t imagine more than that living in the space available, but I could easily be wrong about that.) I’ve been to a few zoos in my time, but this was the first time I’ve ever seen a prairie dog exhibit. I’m sure you know, of course, that these creatures have no kinship at all with canines (except for being mammals)…they are rodents. And larger than most of the common ones. Like our own Idaho ground squirrels, they are considered a pest by all but the most ardent animal rights activists. They got their name – from Lewis and Clark, possibly – for the warning “bark” they make when and individual spots danger approaching the community.

I don’t believe they are a “protected species” in any state. And why would they be? They virtually destroy pastureland, are harmful to agriculture, and the fleas they host can pass along a number of nasty diseases. Just like whistlepigs. The only purpose they serve really well is as targets. (My opinion.)

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(The Owens Valley in California.)

(The Owens Valley in California.)

Janet and I have driven essentially the same route back and forth to southern California for 18 years, now. Much of it is through desert landscape country…mile after mile of sagebrush and cheat grass. There is a beauty to the desert, especially when combined with the craggy, tree-less mountains that are virtually always in sight, but to be completely honest, that beauty begins to pall a bit after 50 trips through the same scenery. That’s not the case, though, with the section of U.S. Highway 395 from Carson City, Nevada down to, say, Bishop, California. We do complain, occasionally about the road when winter rages, but given the fact it reaches an elevation of over 8,100 feet at one point, it is rather a modern miracle anyone can drive it at all when the snow flies. The constant freezing/thawing/freezing/thawing cycle of the seasons is very hard on the road, itself (in addition to making the annual business of snow removal a necessity), making it a wonder that it remains passable as much as it does. And the scenery is absolutely breathtaking. Mile after mile – and every trip we make – we find ourselves catching our breath at the vistas presented for our viewing pleasure. Going southward, the view of the Mono Lake basin, comes up just after that 8,100 foot elevation I spoke of, and it is a sight that can make your eyes hurt it is so big and beautiful. And the view of the Owens Valley just after leaving the forests surrounding Mammoth Ski Area and the little town of Tom’s Place is only slightly less magical. South of Bishop, the road travels the length of Owens Valley, with the Sierra Nevadas to the west and the Inyo Mountains to the east. The valley opens up to the Antelope Valley in the vicinity of Red Rock State Park, and at that point, Jan and I know that we are only about an hour to our destination in Palmdale. At this time of year, the AV can be ungodly hot…hot enough to give us a heartfelt appreciation for whoever invented air conditioning in automobiles, I’ll tell you!

But it’s worth toughing out the heat (whenever we have to leave the comfortable interior of our vehicle) to see our son and his family. Being natives (sort of), they have learned that complaining about the temperature does no good at all, and we try our best to follow their example. Besides, we “natives” of southern Idaho are not altogether unfamiliar with summertime heat at our own home.

I hope this Johnny-come-lately posting finds you all in good spirits and health.

Bye for now,

Bud

2 Responses

  1. Steve McKenney says:

    while I was walking yesterday it cam to me out of the blue – I am missing Bud Blather! Caught up now – keep blathering my friend!

    • Bud Larson says:

      Hi Steve, We’ve been following you guys’ news on Facebook. I hope you’re going to like Louisiana. I was stationed there in the early sixties, and aside from the heat/humidity, poisonous snakes, and industrial strength mosquitoes, I thought it was a nice place…for one tour. But I know you make every place you live a fun place. Good to hear from you! Ol’ Bud

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