There is a story that goes with the photo of these two yearling Alaskan Brown Bear cubs, and to mean anything at all, it requires being told completely and in sufficient detail, which can be a bit long for Facebook posts, but I think it’s worth telling and reading.

It happened on a day In July, 2012, when Cindy and I were in Alaska on a day trip to the Silver Salmon Creek resort at Lake Clark National Park, to photograph Alaskan Brown Bears.  They are a grizzly gear, although somewhat different in color and about 30% larger than the Rocky Mountain grizzlies.  And boy, did we come to the right place to meet a few.  We flew down from Anchorage that morning on a bush plane, which landed on a narrow beach.  Looking out the window on letdown, it was almost like a feedlot scene in Nebraska, only with bears instead of cows.  The wide mud flats in this area, caused by the monstrous tides, leave a huge area for the bears to dig for clams.  And the great part is that they are so interested in clamming they have no interest in the humans following them around and making photographs.  Provided, of course that you use a modicum of good sense and don’t get so close as to interfere with the clamming.  In which case, you’ll fly home in a horizontal, as opposed to vertical, position.

Also, it’s a good idea, in fact absolutely necessary, to be in the company of an experienced guide familiar with the local bear population and their behaviors.  Our guide was a neat young guy by the name of Scott, who along with his wife, Sage, spent the summers at Silver Salmon Creek, where he’d been visiting since he was a teenager.  The rest of the year, they were both teachers in Seattle.

At a certain point in our wandering around on the mud flats, Scott got a call on his hand-held radio and then turned to us and said, “Let’s go back over towards the lodge.  There’s a yearling cub high up in a pine tree over there, who climbed the tree when a male bear tried to catch and kill her yesterday evening.  [Yep.  Sorry Disney fans, but they actually do that].  Apparently, her sister is on her way to get her down and join up with her.”

Sure enough, after we had walked maybe fifty yards and could clearly see the bear in the tree, the sister broke out of the forest, obviously headed for the treed bear.  She blanched and stopped when she saw us, and Scott, in a calming voice, said, “It’s okay.  You’re fine.  Just come on.”

Amazingly, she did, and by that point the treed sister was scrambling down from her lofty perch.  When she reached the ground, the two touched noses and gamboled a bit, and then were off, not to hunt clams, but to graze on the ample sedge grass that grows on shore there.  It was obvious that the sister who gathered up her treed sibling was larger and most likely the leader of the pack of two.  Scott said that the two yearlings, whose mother had in the spring turned them out on their own, would den up together in the fall and then then in the spring, split up and raise cubs of their own.

But on that day, that was all in future for them, and for the time being, the two would be practically inseparable.  As we watched them graze on the sedge grass, Scott said, “I don’t think the smaller one would make it without her sister.”

As we watched them there that day, I knew I had witnessed something I almost certainly would never see again, and once again, I was struck by how much alike all the world’s creatures are.  Including the humans.



It’s About Fathers and Sons (and) Daughters

This past Sunday evening on the MLB channel was really special.  It began with a one-hour program, “Field of Dreams 25 Years Later,” followed by the movie itself. The 25 years later program was a fascinating one-hour conversation with Kevin Costner, who said that actors mostly show feelings they are not really experiencing, and if they’re good at it, they’re successful in their craft.  But sometimes they show their true personal emotions, and that was the case for him in the scene where he asks his father if he wanted to, “Have some catch?”

That scene always breaks me up.  As a kid, I spent countless hours playing catch with my Dad in our front yard of the little house I grew up in on south 35th street.  He was never too busy or too uninterested not to accept an invitation to toss a baseball back and forth.  Cordova, the little town he grew up in, like all of them in that era, had a town team, and he was a pitcher.  He enjoyed telling stories on his screwups, but I suspect he was pretty good at it, and he maintained an interest in the game for the balance of his life.  On Sunday afternoons, he enjoyed lying down on the bed, turning on the game on the radio, and then falling sound asleep.  Asleep though he was, if you stepped into the room and turned the radio off, he was instantly awake asking, “Who turned off the game?”

And when we wanted some baseball besides that which could be played in our front yard, we’d head out to Sherman Field, along with the father and son from across the street, and take in a Lincoln Athletics game from the first base bleachers.  That would have been in the Western League, where Lincoln was a Philadelphia franchise.

With that history and my boundless love for my father, I’m never able to get through Field of Dreams dry-eyed, and this showing was even more special in that my feelings also got away with me when James Earl Jones (a decided non-athlete himself) gave his speech about how baseball has always been there – this nation can defy its principles like wiping text off a blackboard, and baseball always helps to bring us together and lead us back to them.  It seemed to kind of fit what we are going through right now.

I was lying in bed at the end of that evening, and I thought about the father and son thing.  I have just one child, my wonderful daughter, Kristi, the horsewoman and school teacher, keeping it western down there in Gainesville, Florida, and I can truthfully say that I’ve never wished to have had more children, including a son.  I regret never owning my own airplane a heck of lot more than I’ve ever even considered not having a son.

And that led me to muse that, actually, baseball has been a frequent ingredient in the relationship that I’ve loved with Kris all these years.  Kris spent part of her growing up living in Alma, Nebraska, and whatever radio station she favored there carried the Kansas City Royals games, and Kris listened to all of them and became a loyal follower of the Royals.  One summer, we took an excursion to Kansas City, and she knew the lineup from memory, but I bought her a program anyway.  It was a great trip.

When she was acting and going to school in Colorado Springs, a spring or summer visit out there would frequently include the two of us heading over to the east side of town to take in the Springs’ triple A “Skysox,” a Denver franchise that played their ball in the highest elevation professional baseball stadium in the U.S.  Speaking of Denver, Kris, her then-fiancé, Leo, and I attended the third game the Colorado Rockies ever played, which took place in Mile High Stadium.  Leo was and is a baseball guy, and like my Dad, always seems to know what the season average is for players on any nearby teams.  Once the Rockies got settled in at Coors Field, I had a ticket connection, and we made any number of visits there to what is one of the truly great ball factories.

When the kids moved to Florida and settled in the Daytona area, we would try each summer to take in a Daytona Cubs (now Tortugas) game at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, where he played his minor league ball.  This is baseball right out of Bull Durham, and we love it.  And it goes without saying that we’ve been to a game at Haymarket Park, to see the Saltdogs do their stuff in one of the finest minor league parks in the country.

Each year, Kris and I exchange greetings on Opening Day.  I still recall that in one of these exchanges, Kris announced that, “The boys of summer are back.”  Something about that line grabbed me and still does today.

Over the past few years, every once in a while, the Booth’s – now including granddaughter Delaney - and the Jensen’s have rendezvoused for a long weekend in one of the country’s more fabled cities, and those trips, which were made even more memorable when Cindy joined the group, inevitably have involved taking in a major league ball game.  Accordingly, we’ve seen the Yankees in their last summer in the original house that Ruth built, watched the Yankees take on the Red Sox at Fenway, and of course watched the Cubs stumble their way through a contst the last summer before the Ricketts family bought the franchise and significantly lifted the club’s game.  A city that’s been on our list for some time is San Francisco, though when it comes that particular trip will probably lack a ball game since they are no longer played at Candlestick.  Like all baseball folks, the Jensen’s and the Booth’s are traditionalists.

Though Kris and I have probably not ever played catch more than two or three times, falling asleep that evening I realized that The Field of Dreams may be about fathers and sons, but just as fittingly can be about fathers and daughters, and how “the game” can be a factor binding and bringing an additional dimension to their relationship.

Sometimes I think about how empty my life would be if Kris had not come along and joined the dance, and on this particular occasion, I also thought about just how much baseball has been a shared interest and passion over the years, enhancing the tie between us.

“I see great things in baseball.  It is our game – the American game.  It will repair our losses and be a blessing to us.”

Walt Whitman (you can look it up).


The 2020 Election is Over


The 2020 Election is Over


One of the reasons I’m an official registered nonpartisan, along with some 90,000 other Nebraskans, is that it leaves me quite free to criticize either of the state’s two major parties.  From that perspective I have a couple of observations about the just completed Presidential contest.

My first observation is that President-elect Biden is probably better served by having the repubs hold onto the Senate, which gives him a buffer against the more “out-there” elements of his own party.  Biden and McConnell are old friends, having served and worked together over the period of their joint Senate tenure to fashion reasonable, middle-of-the-road solutions to any number of knotty issues.

In this regard, Biden should consider telling the far-left element in his party – which came damned close to costing him the election – to put a sock in it.  And to the status of the vote counting, does anyone really think the dems could organize a nationwide deep and secret conspiracy to steal the election?  C’mon folks, they’re Democrats.

That said, may I say also that there seems to be among the public a stunning lack of knowledge about recounts and the role of the courts, if any.  This afternoon, I heard on the radio a lady in Tennessee say that she wants to wait until the recount is completed and see what the Supreme Court will say.  Please note: THE SUPREME COURT – SUPREME THOUGH THEY MAY BE – DOES NOT COUNT VOTES NOR RULE PER SE ON THE OUTCOME OF ELECTIONS.  That is a function reserved to the states under the Constitution.  The Supreme Court did get involved in the 2000 election to the extent that they ordered the recount in Florida to end so the state would meet a Constitutional deadline by which the states are required to complete the counting.  It just happened that George Bush was ahead at that point, and that the election was set to go whatever way Florida would wind up going.  Bingo – Bush was President-elect, but note the Court did not choose the winner.  They don’t do that.

What happened in 2000 won’t happen in 2020 because A) Biden will in the end have some 306 electoral votes; B) No state, by themselves, will have sufficient electoral votes that, were they swung the other way, would make Trump the winner – that would require three or four states; C) That would be an undertaking of a size, scope, and cost so as to be virtually impossible.  Nebraska has an automatic recount statute.  Election results that are sufficiently close automatically toll a recount.  In states where recounts are requested – and likely there will be at least two states where the vote will be close enough that it begs to be recounted – the entity doing the requesting is required to pay the state’s cost in conducting the recount, as well as the cost of the lawyers they will want to be observing it.

A word about lawyering.  Attorneys who specialize in the field of election recounts are extremely specialized, extremely competent, and extremely expensive.  There are probably hundreds if not thousands of attorneys who would jump at the chance to participate – for free - as counsel in the recount of a Presidential election, but they’re not the ones you want representing you if you were the party seeking said recount.  And the sad fact is that the GOP and the Trump campaign are pretty much out of money, which is going to be a problem for them. 

I have two rules of politics: It is always changing; it never stays the same, and; Anything can happen.  With that caveat, the 2020 Presidential election is over.


The Story of Spot and Skimp

The Story of Spot and Skimp

Hi.  My name is “Spot” – short for “Spotted Back.”  I’m a squirrel (the one looking in the window) and I mostly live in a large backyard of a house in South Lincoln.  There are a lot of trees in the yard of the house, so it’s very popular with squirrels.  It’s not unusual to see four or five of us foraging for food dropped from the bird feeders and chasing each other around the yard.

My name comes from a spot on my back, light blond and about the diameter of a cigarette filter.  Because it’s on m back and I’m a squirrel, I’ve never seen it and don’t know or remember how it got there.  I do know that it makes me easy to recognize by other squirrels and also Peanut Man, the man who lives in the house with his wife who also lives there.  He’s a nice guy, and I’ve heard the woman call him “Ron” so that must be his real name, but to a couple of us squirrels, it will always be Peanut Man.  That’s because he likes giving un-salted peanuts to us squirrels if we come up close to him when he’s sitting out on the patio.  He almost always seems to have a supply of them handy to share with us, and especially with me and another squirrel who lives in the same back yard.

That other squirrel’s name is “Skimp” which is short for “Skimpy Tail.”  I don’t know why, but his tail is only about 2/3 as long as the rest of ours, with not that much hair – at least for a squirrel – growing on it.  I don’t know what happened to Skimp to damage his tail in that way, but I know he pays a price for it.  He seems to be the favorite of the other squirrels, with their long, luxurious tails, to chase out of the yard.  Fortunately for Skimp, he’s a good climber and I’ve never seen hem even come close to getting caught.

What’s really neat is that over the past few weeks, Ron has expanded his squirrel feeding program to giving Skimp and me a peanut if we come to the patio door of the house and look in the window.  When we do that, if he is in the den on the other side of the door, and sees us, he’ll usually open the door and drop a peanut on the concrete if we’ll come up real close and look at it held in his hand.  He doesn’t make us take it from his hand, though I know I would if I needed to in order to score a peanut, and I’m pretty sure Skimp would to.

And the other squirrels?  The guys without a spot on their back or a short-changed tail?  They’ll come up on the patio sometimes, just to see if a peanut may have been left there, but get this: they run like crazy when the Peanut Man opens the door.  I know he’d give them a peanut too, if they didn’t run off, but they’re so cool – in their minds – that they run away from instead.

That’s pretty ironic because Skimp and I really do rank at the bottom of the squirrel social register, flawed as we are.  It’s almost like Ron watches out for us just because we’re kind of squirrel outriders and not really accepted by the group.  Underdogs, if you want to put it that way, and I have to wonder if Ron in his life has ever been or felt like an underdog himself.

Whatever, I just hope he keeps the peanuts coming. Spotted BackThe Story of Spot and SkimpSpotted Back Skimpy TailThe Story of Spot and SkimpSkimpy Tail

Even Mayday Ain't What It Used to Be

When you get to be my age, it's not hard to imagine that simply everything was better back in the day, but having said that, it sure seems Mayday ain't what it used to be.

When I was a student at Sheridan School - before the Cold War got fully to the duck and cover phase - Sheridan had a Maypole and each May 1st, we'd "dance" around it. Assuming of course that it wasn't raining heavily that day. But the McCarthy era, together with the prominence of May 1st in communist doctrine, eventually pretty much took care of that. Don't know what ultimately became of the pole.

The other important first of May used to come at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, when the track annually opened for practice on that day, leading to a somewhat casual contest among the teams to put the first car on the track that year. Most of the competing cars were constructed in Southern California in that era and came to the Speedway on open trailers and only about half completed, leaving the teams to devote the balance of the month looking for the speed necessary to make the field and be competitive. In those years, the motors got the lion's share of attention, the suspension of each of the cars being pretty primitive and pretty much identical. Today, the month-long warmup to the race itself is history, and the teams put in most of their labor on fine tuning the chassis setup along with tire inflation, the engines actually being leased from firms that build them, with the teams actually forbidden to do anything much beyond changing spark plugs.

So, we won't this year be having a maypole for grade schoolers to dance around, and the town of Indianapolis won't be taken over for a month by a group of grown-up hotrodders from the west coast, renting quarters in private homes and working daily to squeeze out another mile per hour or two.

Too bad in a way.


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