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

Tuesday, December 31, 2019

Monday, December 30, 2019

Round Up: Africa

The weather has been nasty so I've been engaged in the long, long process of trying to organize a couple hundred thousand photos.   Or more.

It is not a task I'm good at and right now, it's in its very beginning.

But, I have come across a number of photos that I like and thought I'd post them here.  Year end.   What better time?

Today's photo were taken in Africa.

So, let's head out in the pre-dawn to see what we can find.

Four of us were in a hide in South Africa where we waited for the wild beasts of the African savannah to show up.    Other than some magnificent Cape buffalo that arrived in a small her early in the evening, this mouse was the only other nocturnal visitor.  

The Cape buffalo.    Pretty astonishing to be 15 feet away from these beasts and they didn't know we were across the pond from them.

The lions of Africa welcome you.

This is typical of the safari vehicles used in Africa, although many have three rows of seats for the tourists.   You are relatively safe from aggressive animals as long as you mind your manners and don't call attention to yourself.

As a matter of fact, I have seen the predator cats use these vehicles for shade and for sneaking up on prey.

I got quite a kick out of this photo.

Ah, Africa.   I miss your birds and animals.  Africa is the only place I've returned to in all my travels, and I will soon make my fourth visit.  The magic hasn't worn off.

A once-in-a-lifetime visit to Giraffe Manor in Nairobi, Kenya.   Next door is a facility that is trying ti reestablish the Rothschild giraffes, which are endangered.   At certain times of the day, the giraffes walk over to the manor for little biscuits made especially for them.  

 This pride was resting in the shade when I caught this tender moment between the lion Karibu and his cub.

Once again, we were in a blind when I got this shot of a tawny eagle.

No hide for this one.   We were about thirty feet away.

 This female leopard walked right past us.

 If you can catch a cheetah with the setting sunlight in its eyes, they seem to glow.

 Vervets.   The comics of the savannah.

 Lion cubs.   If you find them in their first few months, they are the cutest animals around.

The following shots were taken from a hide at water level.

Pied kingfisher about to throw its catch in the air, catch it, and swallow.

Blue waxbill

Blue cheek starling

Redbill oxpeckers.  They live all their lives on the grazing beasts, cleaning them of parasites.

Some birds not photographed from a hide:

The incredibly beautiful lilac-breasted roller.

Southern yellow hornbill

And not from a hide:

Little bee-eater

Of all the colorful, striking birds of Africa, would it surprise you to know that this plain brown bird is my favorite?   It's called a hamerkop because when its head feathers are raised, the head resembles a hammer.

Next post, we'll go somewhere else in the world.   Don't be surprised if we return to Africa some day, though.

Sunday, December 22, 2019

Corvid Cousins Picnic

Well, the corvid cousins chose the shortest day of the year to have a picnic in my front deck.

I didn't want to interrupt, so I shot these photos through the window.   It didn't help that there were lots of reflections on the glass and that the light was lacking.

The front deck where all the bird feeders are had a new visitor yesterday.    A huge black raven was walking up and down the deck rail, checking out the menu, and scaring the little birds.

Three magpies didn't seem to mind, except that meant less food for them.  They did stay out of the raven's personal space, though.    Looking at that bill with its sharp point, I would too.   In fact, I took these photos through a window (with lots of reflections on it) so I wouldn't scare away this first-time visitor.

Then Attitude showed up for his morning peanuts--unsalted, in the shell.   This Steller's jay was not happy that his corvid cousin was ruining the picnic and probably stealing all the peanuts.

The little birds--the boreal and black-capped chickadees and the red-breasted nuthatches--are afraid of the corvids because corvids eat little birds.   They kept their distance but rushed in to grab a peanut from the green peanut dish attached to the spruce.

There's a black cap directly above the green dish.

At one point, I was able to get a shot of all three corvid species--the common raven, black-billed magpie, and the Steller's jay.    However, the jay was hiding behind a spruce branch and impossible to see.

Wednesday, December 4, 2019

Ed Estes and a Tip O' the Irish

Image result for Edward R EstesI had just finished making the gravy and pouring it into the gravy boat when my husband Ken and our friend Ed Estes came into the house for dinner.  

While they seated themselves, I set the gravy on the table beside a large serving platter on which rested a yummy-looking pot roast surrounded by potatoes, onions, and carrots.

This was one of my husband’s favorite dinners.   Tomorrow, I would make one of my favorites by chopping up all the leftovers, pouring the gravy over them, and putting the dish in the oven to heat.    Before it was done, I’d drop biscuit dough on top of the simmering gravy and anticipate the goodness to come.

Everyone served themselves and the conversation began.   Eventually, Ed began telling one of his delightful stories.   I noticed the guys reaching for seconds, and I might have seen thirds, but I was engrossed in the story.  

Not until Ed reached the denouement did I notice that the two of them had obliterated every scrap of that pot roast and most of the veggies.   It  weighed five pounds before cooking and though it lost some weight in the process, there was still an impressive amount of meat on the serving platter.

Today, forty-five years later, I don’t remember if dessert was served, but I do remember I had a fresh pot of coffee ready because Ed loved coffee (with four spoons of sugar and some milk in it). 

Ken asked me to make Irish coffee and convinced Ed to try one.  I got the fancy light blue Irish coffee mugs cups from the cupboard, put a spoon of sugar, a dollop of Irish whiskey, and coffee in each.   Then I topped them off with whipped cream and served them.

They soon asked for seconds and thirds.   Before long, I was making another pot of coffee.   Now, I don’t drink coffee and seldom drink alcoholic drinks, so this was all on the two of them.  I started to get concerned because I knew what was planned for after dinner.

Ed had left his large forklift at our place days before and he was here to drive it home, about six miles away. 

This was no little forklift like you seeing hauling goods around Costco.   This one was about the size of a small Caterpillar dozer, but with forks instead of a blade and huge tires instead of tracks.  It wasn’t, however, as large as a front-end loader that could switch from bucket to forks and back.

Ed and his forklift, but not from the day in question.  As you can see, Ed has modified the forklift by building a bucket for it.   Photo courtesy of Jeff Estes, from the family archives.

Ken tried to convince a very cheerful Ed to let him give him a lift home and deal with the forklift the next day.   Ed would have none of it, assured us he was fine, and headed for the forklift.

My husband was six feet tall and in very good physical condition.   Ed was also in good physical condition for a man in his sixties, but was inches shorter and whippet-thin.  I doubt there was an ounce of fat on him.  I was a pretty good judge of my husband’s state of sobriety, but not Ed’s.   And I was worried.

However, as bartender I had complete control of how much Bushmill’s whiskey went into each of their coffees and with each succeeding drink, I got stingier and stingier.   That, and Ed’s stomach was full of a fatty meal, which would helo keep the alcohol from reaching his bloodstream too quickly, I hoped.

Ken and I watched Ed drive up our driveway and pull out onto the highway.  We agreed it would be a good idea if he followed Ed home, just in case, and off Ken went in our car.  Remember now, this was Alaska and summertime, and light all night.

After a while, he returned.   He had a funny look on his face, and said, “You won’t believe what he did!”
After assuring me that Ed was safe at home, he said when Ed reached the top of Mile 34 hill, he put the forklift in neutral and let gravity take over.  

This is about where Ed put the forklift in neutral.   But this was today and not in the late 70s.

Now, here’s the thing about forklifts, at least the ones in those days.   Forklifts are squirrely.  Puttering around a concrete-floored warehouse or in a muddy industrial yard is one thing, but when roading them any distance on a highway, it is better to drive them backward!  The operator sits normally with the controls in front of him but drives by looking over his shoulder.   This was a narrow two-lane highway, not a super freeway.

In addition, not only was Ed free-wheeling down that hill backward with the steering tires behind him, but that forklift had about two inches of play  before the steering tires would respond.   Any twitch, any small mistake, any rough spot of asphalt and catastrophe would ensue.

Down the winding hill he went for more than a mile.  When he reached the flats, he parked, jumped off the machine, and ran back to Ken.

 “How fast was I going?   How fast was I going?”

“Ed, I was going 65 miles an hour trying to stay up with you!”

“I've wanted to do that for a long time!” shouted Ed.

A very happy Ed got back on his forklift and, with a tummy full of pot roast and Irish coffee and no doubt rejoicing in having set a land speed record for forklifts, sedately drove on home.

I have to wonder, though, if maybe that Bushmill's endowed Ed with some luck of the Irish that day. 

Ed and his forklift.   Courtesy of Jeff Estes and the family archives.


This is how Mile 34 hill looks today.   It did not look like this in the late 1970s!    It has been repaved, widened a bit and all the vegetation cut back since then.   Keep in mind that it's difficult to show steepness in photos when looking at the road straight on.

Right about here is when Ed would have put the forklift in neutral.

Around the first curve and heading for the second.

The third curve and heading for the bottom.

More than likely, he came to a stop close to where the semi is.

This is Ed's old forklift, which now lives in Seward.  For size, that front tire is about four feet high.