Dozing polar bear, Indianapolis Zoo

Monday, April 28, 2008

Sancho Video -- Updated Again

Animal Planet has put a brief clip from Raising Sancho on its website called "Fishing Lessons."

I hope a full DVD is coming.

Update: Some of you have noted that you can't view the clip. Try this: when you click on the link, look to the right for the categories. Check for "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" and then click "view galleries." From there you should be able to select the clip.

Another update: Reader and Sancho fan TP from the United Kingdom sends this site along. Lots of stills from Raising Sancho.

Though Carolina mentioned that the show was aired in Central and South America recently, I did not get as many visitors from that airing as I did from the European and U.S. showings. This does not surprise me. I received very few visitors from the Asian showings as well (with the exception of visitor chittraporn from Thailand). It must be a language issue. Later on, when I have more time, I'm going to search the Spanish and Portuguese Googles and see if anyone is writing on Sancho in those languages. Also, if any of you find anything, please let me know.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Strange bedfellows

Love it.

Sometimes I forget I live in Northern Idaho

This afternoon:

Doorbell rings. I answer. There's a woman with a three-ring binder standing there.

Woman: I'm not selling anything -- I live in the neighborhood and I just wanted to encourage you to vote in the primary on May 22.

Me with a quizzical look: But...Idaho held a caucus in February.

Woman, with even more quizzical look for just a second: Oh yeah. But that was the Democrats.

Me, finally understanding: Yep. I'm a Democrat.

Woman, looking as if she's just discovered a new and interesting species of insect: Ohhhh, okay.

Me: Probably the only one in the neighborhood, eh?

Woman: No, there's one other guy. He lives over there. [Points behind her.]


Sunday, April 20, 2008

Sunday morning

Though right now the sky is blue, sunny and cheery, and my grass green, the weatherheads insist there will be six inches of snow on the ground by midnight, thereby placing me in the unusual position of looking forward to Indianapolis for its superior weather. This winter has been wearying in its relentlessness. Fortunately, everyone's talking about how unusual it is.

The problem I've been thinking on for about a week:

I want a goat. Thing is, right now we don't have a proper place for one, and even when we get one, we go back and forth between here and Montana too much. Sure, I could pack it up in the truck like the dogs, but we already have three of those and so I don't think there would be room for a goat as well. This has led me to wonder whether anyone in either area would be interested in sharing custody of a goat. Eventually I may have to put this to the craigslist readership.

I just realized this will all come as a big surprise to Mr. T should he read this in China.

But it probably shouldn't.

It's time for us to move from this vinyl village anyway. This morning I let the dogs out and returned to find them huddled near the back fence, scarfing something down. Turns out my neighbor discarded his (mostly eaten) roasted chicken carcass over my fence. Thanks, asshole. I'll send my dogs over to your driveway when they get diarrhea.

I clearly don't belong in a civilized neighborhood.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Half a world apart

Though I know from our many years of marriage that he would prefer to spend next week pulling trout out of the Kootenai River, Mr. T has elected to make his sixteenth voyage to China tomorrow. His record at Old Company was five trips in one year (four of those trips occurred in four months). Fortunately, this will probably be his only trip this year now that he is at New Company, which still manufactures most of its products here. But he does have to make this one trip.

The Kid is at an age where he has affixed himself firmly to his dad, and resents any attempt at separation. This has gotten so bad recently that, when Mr. T leaves to go to work, The Kid has been known to fling himself onto the carpet, weeping. The Kid is the clownfish to Mr. T's anemone.

It's a unmistakable sign of the pettiness of my character that I am mildly pleased at this turn of the tables. When The Kid was a wee pup and reacted to my departures in the same way, Mr. T didn't really get how badly it sucked. Now he does. But this does present a problem for tomorrow's international trip, and as is customary, it's my job to deal with the fallout. So I've booked The Kid's favorite babysitter for Sunday and Monday, and then on Tuesday I am going to spend four hours on a plane so I can deposit The Kid with my mother, sit on the couch and press a cold cloth to my forehead. When I recover, I will execute my always carefully planned tour of favorite restaurants, accompanied by various home friends. The various members of my family will, each in their turn, annoy the living shit out of me. That is the routine. That is how it goes. It has been and ever will be thus.

My babysitter has agreed to superintend my ill-behaved herd of canines during my absence, which probably means she won't be speaking to me when I get back. The good news is that my mother actually got high-speed internet since my trip there in December. Which means that I might even blog.

For his part, Mr. T won't be too lonely. He and friend/commenter Tony, who has taken over Mr. T's former job, will find themselves in the same obscure south China city, in the same hotel, along with our Chinese friends O and P. It's almost enough to make me wish I could be there with them.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

You know what's neat?

What's neat is when you go out to lunch and put your 115-year old dog into your bedroom with bowls of food and water so the youngsters can't get in there and steal her vittles, and then you come back and open the door and step into the room and, too late, realize that said 115-year old dog has taken a dump in front of the closed door and you have tracked it all over the room and smeared it on the underside of the door.

That's what's neat.

She may look like a sweet old lady in a laundry basket,
but this rabble-rousing menace will defile the bedroom carpet without a second thought.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

That's not good

That seems to be the universal response when I tell people about this:

Fortunately, we have a fenced yard. So the biggest problem with this is that when I ask the The Kid to let the dogs out, he now replies that he is busy, and I should tell Thomas to do it.

And yes, yes that is dog snot on my door. We have that in abundance.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Homestead

About a mile south of the house are the remains of an old homestead built more than a hundred years ago. Dr. G and the Professor, with help from their dogs, horses and kids, have worn a serviceable trail out to the homestead over the twenty years they've been here. Even with their kids grown and gone, the G's and their dogs still make regular trips to the homestead. Their Newfoundland has treed more than one bear on that trail.

Mr. T and I have hiked out there several times as well. This weekend was balmy and sunny, and in accordance with the arrival of spring, we set out for the homestead with boots instead of snowshoes. We even put a dog pack on Alaska, to introduce her to the accessories required for her new life as a trail dog. The weather was glorious and warm, and The Kid abandoned his shirt after about twenty minutes.

Almost nothing of the original homestead remains except some grizzled old apple trees that still dutifully bear fruit every year. The trunks of these trees have been scored every which way by bear claws, but still they stand. At first I wondered whether the trees were contemporaneous with the homestead, because this would have made them quite old indeed. But then I read that apple trees can live to quite advanced ages.

The homestead is situated near the rear edge of a natural meadow ringed with aspens, larches and other evergreens, and with a clear view of the Cabinet Mountain range. The property was acquired by a lumber company long ago, and the surrounding area was logged two years ago. The lumber operation left piles and piles of discarded tree trunks, and the logging trucks carved deep tracks that still linger in the grasses. But the homestead is still and silent again, except for the twittering of the birds.

The meadow must have looked different in the heyday of the homestead -- the trees were no doubt older and taller, for one thing -- but the fundamentals are probably the same. Elk bed down here now, and the bears, of course, have broadcast their presence on the trees. Coyotes, driven off an adjoining mountain by a newly established wolf pack, traipse back and forth across the meadow and the trail, discarding bones and other pieces-parts along the path.

Looking out at the mountain range, I had a sense of what a felicitous place this would have been to locate a home in the late nineteenth century. Game would have been abundant. The home site was two miles away from the brand new railroad and the town growing up around it. The seasonal stream at the edge of the meadow offered water, and the river in the valley would have been thick with trout and, during part of the year, chinook salmon. Huckleberries grew on the mountain. And then there were the apple trees. The winters would have been harsh, and along with the abundant game would be grizzly bears and mountain lions. But if they could deal with the cold and the predators, this was as good a spot as any to make a go of it.

I wonder what happened to the people who lived here, and their house.

A day may come, very soon, when another home -- and another, and another -- is built in this idyllic meadow. The whispers in town are that the logging done on the surrounding forest was a "real estate cut." Plans have apparently been drawn for big houses on large lots. I worry, as always, about the animals, but particularly the bears. They need the space. The Professor and Dr. G have 130 acres that surround our paltry six, and they care about the wildlife -- The Professor thinned some forest last year but made sure to leave enough thick passages for the bears. But further fragmentation of habitat can only drive them further into the Cabinet Mountains Wilderness, away from people. Always away. And then my own habitat becomes more sterile as the chances of seeing bears on the road I now share with them diminish ever further.

The dire real estate market has likely given the wildlife of the homestead a reprieve. This town has never really bustled, even during the most prosperous of times. As The Professor says, the best thing about this town is that it has so little to offer. And with the amount of housing stock languishing on the market, it seems unlikely that anyone would invest in this little corner of the world. But time and "progress" march inexorably on.

And I worry about the bears.

Saturday, April 12, 2008


My newest fixation is sitting around with my camera trained on a dog, waiting for it to yawn.

I know.

But it's fun.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008


I'm feeling all stressed and busy, which customarily makes me retreat, turtle-like, into my shell. This isn't great for the blog, as you've probably noticed. So here's a rerun of pre-Sancho post involving one of my favorite places, and one of my favorite birds. It was originally posted in January, 2007. I'm dreaming of the Everglades now as I look out on a landscape that winter stubbornly refuses to release from its clutches.

Here 'tis:

Spindly yet striking, the anhinga is perhaps my favorite bird. Lesser souls may find the anhinga to be an ugly, awkward and vulgar creature, but these people have no taste and should not be listened to. No doubt these are the same folks who endowed the anhinga with its other, less glamorous names: Snakebird, or alternatively, Water Turkey.

How anyone can spend any time watching an anhinga live its life and not become an admirer is beyond me.

An anhinga has initiative. These enterprising birds dive right into the water to chase down their supper. Unlike the buoyant duck, the feathers of an anhinga are not coated with oils, so they can quickly get waterlogged. This allows them to swim for quite some time in search of fish.

And what a spectacle that is. Sometimes you can follow the progress of the submerged anhinga just by watching the water that's stirred up by fish trying to get away from it. Once they've emerged from the water, they have to spread out their wings to dry. While they're airing their feathers, they chatter noisily among themselves.

Recently, I was lucky enough to watch one of these characters catch and consume a meal. Between myself and spouse, we captured video and still images of the event. Here's the video. Forgive the running commentary from the four-year old, and the clicks of my shutter in the background.

I watched this same bird for another hour afterward. She'd spear a catfish (an exotic species in the Fakahatchee Strand), and she'd beat it against a branch for several minutes. Apparently, she has to make sure it's really, really dead before she swallows it, lest it thrash around and cut up her throat with its spines. I got no footage of this process; unfortunately, the above video took the last of my video camera's battery.

But the next day in Everglades National Park, I had the good fortune to run across a nest of anhinga chicks, and I'd had the foresight to charge my battery. Here's a (too) short clip of the two-day old chicks. I didn't want to spend too much time around the nest.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Support for the animal superiority crowd

From my favorite [not-really a] misanthrope, Tony, a funny.

And then from Mike, a stark contrast to the former.

We're headed back to Portland this weekend to see friends and investigate renting out the House That Will Not Sell. Internet will be scarce.

I know I owe several of you e-mails. I apologize for the deafening silence -- things have been a wee bit crazed around here, mostly thanks to animals, children and the persistent expectations of my colleagues that I actually perform legal work. I would infinitely prefer to be communicating with you all, but alas, one must eat.

See you next week.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Double Take

How often do you get to read a bit like this in the news:

After a lengthy fight in the Capitol and with residents on the coast, a public-private partnership to remake state-owned Jekyll Island has backed away from plans to place hotels and condos on a massive parking lot that for decades has given Georgia vacationers access to a popular beach.

Instead, the acreage will be changed to include a park and an environmental conservation center, the latter originally planned for elsewhere on the island. The condos and hotels will be relocated.

That last paragraph is the one that really makes my head spin.

Via this Kos diarist, whose work on this issue I began following recently.

Update: Here is the link to her primary blog.