"I'm going to speak my mind because I have nothing to lose."--S.I. Hayakawa

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Hello, Sunshine!

The sun is back in the valley!    Time to rejoice.

We lose the sun completely in mid-November when the sun can't rise above the south mountain, and don't see it again until mid-February.   Then, it's only minutes a day, building until summer when it shines in my north windows in the morning, all day long, and in the north windows again before it slips behind a mountain ridge just before midnight.

I had become pretty glum about photography during these shady sunless days.   Then, Friday, the day was clear and there was sun on the front deck where all the bird feeders are.


Common redpoll with sunflower seed

Boreal chickadee with sunflower seed

 Before the sun came back, though, I shot these photos of common redpolls.

And these photos of a red-breasted nuthatch eating peanut butter.

Boreal chickadee eating the peanut butter I slather on the spruce boughs.

The birds absolutely love peanut butter on the spruce boughs.

Not sure what the spruce tree thinks about having its branches slathered with peanut butter, though.

Hallelujah, the sun is back.

Friday, February 23, 2018

The Kenya Journals, Ch. 34: Homeward Bound

Chapter 34:
Homeward Bound

The sun is setting in Kenya, and it’s time for me and my new friends to begin our long journeys homeward.   Four of us, anyway.  Marg and Barbara are off on another safari In Kenya.

Jimmy, Greg’s friend and expediter who has helped make this safari run well, escorts us to a restaurant and joins us.    It’s not yet six o’clock, which means the dinner menu isn’t available.   That’s fine with us and we opt for a light meal off the hors d’oeuvres menu.

Greg reaches across the table and takes my point and shoot camera.   He captures a photo of me that perfectly evokes everything I’m feeling—happy, relaxed, and content.   It’s been a great trip.   

I've changed out of the light blue sun shirt that a mischievous little elephant had splashed with the muddy red water at the ellie orphanage, and donned a green one.

The abundance of animals and birds, the opportunities to observe animal behavior, perfect weather, good companions?   What more could anyone ask?

I felt like this little lion cub, watching the wonders of the world.

Jimmy makes sure we get to the airport and then we are on our own.   There’s a little concern that the airline might weigh carry-on baggage, and Greg starts stuffing various heavy lenses and camera gear in his vest pockets.

I’m fine.   My carry-on is well within weight allowances, as is my small suitcase.

I love traveling light.

We board the plane for Frankfurt.   I sit back and daydream about all the things I’ve seen and done.

A new one for me.   This fellow is using his phone to place his order at McDonalds.

Traveling with photographers—the kind who take their craft seriously—has been an educational experience.   The photographers I’ve been around are always willing to answer questions and give advice.   It’s helped me immensely.   I have a lot of wrinkles to iron out, but with day after day of constant shooting, the mysteries of ISO, aperture, and shutter speed are revealing their symbiotic nature.

 Add to that the ability to instantly see the results of my settings via digital photography, rather than wait a couple weeks after I’m home and had film photos developed, I can make corrections in the field and get the shots.

In Frankfurt, I board Iceland Air, bound for Reykjavik, over Greenland, to Seattle, where I overnight.   This practice of mine allows not only a break from the long hours in steerage, but means I can arrange to arrive in Anchorage during daylight hours.

When I board the Alaska Airlines jet the next day, I feel like I’m home already.  Just a little more than three hours and I land in Anchorage.   Less than two hours later, I’m home.

In Anchorage.

Now to download these memory cards, plus one more to make it an even twenty.

This has been one of the more rewarding trips I’ve made, and when Marg mentions going back in 2018, I’m in.   We plan on three different camps in South Africa, and then back to the northern part of the Masai Mara in Kenya.

I have my new memory cards all ready.

I miss my bed in my tent at Governor's Camp.   At home, I have to make my own tea--and get out of bed to do it.  No cookies, either.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

A Squirrel of Many Talents

Squirrel showed up yesterday.   I hadn't seen him for about a month and was concerned that he's become owl bait.

He was just as sassy as ever.

He found the peanut butter I'd spread on the spruce boughs for the little birds.   He's licking it off his paws in this photo.

He wondered if it was okay and I told him he was welcome.

And the next time it snows, I'm hiring Squirrel.

Monday, February 12, 2018

The Wyoming Journals, Ch. 14: A Tale of Two Prisons

Chapter Three

Death Row

We leave the tiered cell block buildings of the Wyoming State Penitentiary in Rawlins and walk into the afternoon Wyoming sunshine.   Its warmth is appreciated after the chill of the cellblocks.

Before us is “the yard.”  This is where prisoners were allowed to enjoy the outdoors for a brief time.



This is also where the prison once fielded a first rate baseball team, one that competed against the teams of the surrounding area of Rawlins.  Especially talented was the catcher, a man known as Seng.   The team had everything they needed to perform as a baseball team, including all the equipment and good uniforms.

From:  https://www.wyohistory.org/sites/default/files/images/stateprisonbaseballteam.img_assist_custom-360x269.jpg

The team was started by prisoner George Henry Sabin, who, along with several others, were convicted of murder when they, on behalf of cattle ranchers, ambushed the camp of sheepherders and killed three men.

That first rate baseball team came to an end when Seng came to the end of his time and was hanged for his crime.

Visible in the yard is the foundation of where a broom factory once existed, until prisoners burned it down during a 1917 riot in which the convicts protested deteriorating conditions in the penitentiary.

Thereafter, shirt manufacturing became the prison industry, which enabled one prisoner to escape by hiding in a crate of shirts.  During World War II, the prison had a woolen mill and made blankets of such fine quality that it received a contract from the Navy for blankets for the duration of the war.

Our guide leads us to a door that looks like a shed door, and opens it.   Before us is a Rube Goldberg contraption with ropes and buckets and 2x4s that look like they’re meant to collapse in odd directions.

Pretty sure this is a reconstruction, and not the original

On a November morning in 1903, in Cheyenne, Wyoming, desperado Tom Horn stood on a small trapdoor above this contraption called the “Julian Gallows.”  It was invented by James Julian to provide a “more humane” method of carrying out executions, one in which no person was required to trip the trap door.   Horn was the first to try out the gallows.

One hundred and thirteen years later, New York Daily News reporter David Krajicek described what happened next:

Horn’s weight on the trap door pushed down on a support post that depressed a spring which in turn opened a water valve. Flowing water gradually filled a can balanced on a support beam. Once full, the can toppled from the beam, which then knocked aside the support post, opening the trap and dropping the prisoner into eternity.

Denver journalist John Charles Thompson, who had a seat at the gallows, wrote that “the sinister sound of running water” persisted for 31 seconds before Horn fell.

“To the straining ears of the listeners,” Thompson wrote, “that little sound had the magnitude of that of a rushing torrent.”

Julian’s rig was supposed to offer a quick snap of the neck, the benchmark of a humane hanging. It didn't work. Horn dangled for 17 minutes before his pulse ceased.

We go upstairs to the room itself, passing by the death row cells with a warning from the guide not to walk in front of the cells.   

The trap door has been sealed shut.   When a condemned man stood on it with a noose around his neck, he could catch his last glimpse of the world outside this prison through a small window.

The trap door, now sealed.

In the next room is the gas chamber.   Its door swings open and we are invited in.   It’s quite small, with just enough room to walk around the chair in the center.  

As we turn around to leave, the guide explains why we are not allowed to walk in front of the death row cells.   Some years ago, a prisoner was able to escape his cell at night and let others loose.   They began working on an escape tunnel.

When the escape plans were discovered, prison authorities could never find out what the men did with the dirt from their tunnel.

Not until a section of the ceiling caved in, that it.   And once you know the story, you can see how the ceiling sections are bowed with the weight of dirt still up there, the bygone hopes of freedom of incarcerated men likely buried in it.

The  prison graveyard.   From Wyoming Historical site: 
Two hundred fifty people died here. Fourteen men were executed. The first two were hanged on the traveling Julien [sic] gallows. Seven others were also were hanged, and five were executed in the gas chamber, which was added to the prison in 1936.  Hill explains others died of natural causes, committed suicide or were victims of inmate violence.