Moose Magic


I attended a park picnic last Saturday evening where I met a Field Biologist who was studying moose populations in Montana as directed by the state. According to data, there has been a very mysterious crash in the female population of moose the last few years and he and a partner were investigating as to why.

Imagine my surprise to come across this young female (pictured) feeding near a small pond the very next day! We pulled over to watch as she scoured the vegetation beneath the water surface very industriously; raising her head every so often, a river pouring off her snout, to check on us. It was one of those magic moments only nature can provide. I can’t imagine losing this majestic species. What a thrill.


Memory Pull


It had been over a year since we’d visited the Alameda Hot Springs Retreat in Montana, but that didn’t stop our dog Barley from digging in like a tractor and pulling me to the room we stayed in previously right after I hooked him up to the leash. I continue to respect our animals abilities for memory and emotion as I move forward in this life and spend more time with them.

A Different Light 2


One of the things that makes early morning walks so enjoyable is the soft light that changes the ordinary familiar scene into something new. This got me thinking about how the scene I shot (above) is actually four scenes if you consider the seasons, and many more if you apply other influences. There is the geography of a specific place, the time of day, the mood of the observer, your cultural view, and other factors that may combine into a million possible perspectives.


Songs of Spring


If you love nature and have a wetland or preserve within driving distance of your home, here’s a great activity for you and the entire family. Call your local Audubon society and see if they sell a CD with short recordings of song birds in your area. Mine cost me about $10 and featured most of the water and song birds migrating through my state in Spring and Fall. I merely had to listen to the CD a couple of times focusing on difficult birds to see such as the Grasshopper Sparrow (pictured) and then set off to see what I could hear. It’s a very tricky way to identify birds, but presents a great challenge to the ear and first time birder. I highly recommend it as it will give you an entirely different hiking experience.

Isolated Beauty

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I decided to get up before dawn yesterday and head up to hike in Glacier National Park as things have started to cool down in the high mountains this early September. I decided upon the Highline Trail near the main visitor center off Going-to-the-Sun-Road for two reasons: one, I had never hiked the east end of the trail, and two, there were some impressive high cliffs you pass along that are not like any other hike in the park. This trail eventually reached Haystack Mountain where a pass would take hikers to the isolated Granite Chalet. Having climbed over mountains and shale outcrops camping as a kid I felt pretty confident in my footing so I advanced down the trail at a pretty good clip dancing my way around people from all over the world as I made my way past them. By-the-way, Aussies always the friendliest while Italians won’t give you the time of day. Anyway, I eventually came upon a gentleman sitting on a large rock block with his mouth open scanning the valley below. He said, “Wow, we’ve got nothing even close to this in New York.” I responded, “Yeah, well just wait until you try to order a latte.” We both laughed and I moved on. About a mile and a half in on what would be roughly a six mile hike for the day I saw a particularly nice view and stopped to take a photo. As I adjusted the camera settings, my legs got a little wobbly and almost passed out. I forgot I was at high elevation and just about went ass over tea kettle off the high cliff. The drop from the two foot wide trail was about 1,000 feet. I would have seriously splatted and been bear food with no prospect of being heard from again. I think maybe getting in shape is going to be a priority this Fall.

Montana Bankers Really into Dead Stuff


            I was walking my dog after dark the other night before I noticed lights illuminating the entire interior of a nearby bank hours after closing. Unusual shapes in the window attracted my attention, so I changed direction to fulfill my curiosity. A cleaning woman making her rounds explained the lights as she emptied trash cans and dusted shelves. Moonlit snow piles lined the parking lot and it was possible to see every corner of the interior offices. Something soon became evident: the higher your rank in the banking system, the more dead stuff you were allowed to collect. There were caribou, mountain lion pelts, Rocky Mountain Goats and God knows what else wallpapering the side paneling of their offices. I thought Montana banks must hand out skulls and pelts rather than gold watches to celebrate each ascending level of rank. Montana was my adopted home of six years, and I still didn’t really have an edit mechanism for elk legs sticking up from a truck bed parked at Lowe’s, or deer parts strewn around a trash can when they wouldn’t fit in with the overflowing bags. Once, I even saw a fresh deer head with a headband strapped to the rear window of a truck.

Clearly, I’m not in Oregon anymore, but this still doesn’t explain why every bank I’ve spent time in here has created a killing museum celebrating exterminated wildlife. I grew up in a hunting community myself, but that hunting was normally reserved for poorer families looking to supplement their diet with a cheap source of protein. A victory lap for animal domination is foreign to me. Treating nature as an inexhaustible, objectified resource for the pleasure of man is frankly, immature and stupid. I hear apologists refer to a “hunting tradition” as an important aspect of our culture, but I think that is just another NRA advertising ploy to keep guns in the hands of kids. Parading dead stuff seems so 19th century when I live within 10 miles of wild grizzly and wolf, 25 miles from Rocky Mountain Goats and Big Horn Sheep, and 35 miles from the boundary of Glacier National Park. Having lived in Detroit, Phoenix, and Portland, I know that having such a range of wonderful wildlife is both a pleasure and a privilege. Trophy hunting seems to take that privilege for granted, and I hope that we as a culture can begin to address these attitudes so as to preserve the pleasure of wildlife for our grandkids.

It’s just a dog penis; seriously


For whatever reason, I grew up with only female dogs. I think the theory as expressed by mom was that female dogs were more easy-going and less apt to bolt for an open door for a night out on the town. They were steadier, more predictable, and less likely to tear up the couch due to sexual frustration. My family had quite a diversity of dogs, and worked through a standard poodle, a Doberman, and an Irish Setter without a penis in the lot. So when my wife told me she was interested in a dog a few months after moving into our first home, I was surprised she wanted a male. She surveyed ads in the paper for weeks and finally found a suitable hypo-allergenic breed to assuage persistent allergies. The pups were a litter of Soft-Coated Wheaten Terriers located only twenty miles from us. I consented to a Friday trip and then googled the breed for a little background. 

Barley was the last in a litter of seven pups, and we just fell in love with him right from the start. He seemed unsure of the motives of the two strangers smiling at him; I lifted him into the car and he pasted himself against the floor in the back seat. We got him home, helped him explore the yard, then settled him into “his” spot inside the house.

An interesting thing happened a short while later. I was asleep in bed with Barley positioned between myself and my wife. I reached out to pat his head; Like all dogs, he appreciated the gesture and rolled over on his back with the hope of getting a belly rub. I reached out to pull the back of my hand along the side of his belly when I accidentally touched his penis. “Um…, excuse me,” I said, seriously feeling I had violated some human-dog compact. I withdrew my hand and leaned up a little to look at Barley, who was still happily on his back without a care in the world. It really struck me that while I wasn’t going to intentionally touch his penis, it is so ingrained in our penis-obsessed culture to pretend it doesn’t exist on half the mammals on earth, that I actually apologized to a dog. How is it we can glorify the human body as art in Greek statues, but are scandalized by wardrobe malfunctions. We even neuter cartoon animals. Think about it. Did you ever see a penis on Scooby Doo? Snoopy? Our culture denies even the most basic anatomy while exploiting sexuality in magazines and commercials. We are such an odd collection of contradictions.       

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