Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Family Reunion

For Memorial Day weekend, my extended family met in Wisconsin for a family reunion. My mother has eight siblings giving me 30+ cousins. Many of them have their own children now so all in all there were a lot of relatives there. My sister and her husband hosted the gathering at the Mount Tabor Center that they run. It is a retreat center for Catholic groups. We ate, slept and socialized there as well as spending time at my sister's house 3 miles away.

There were a million things going on over the weekend including volleyball, swimming, fishing, golfing, a water balloon fight, a slip-n-slide, a piniata, a zipline, a bounce house, a campfire with S'mores, movies, poker, a fort made of cushions and furniture and fireworks.

I have pictures of all of these but there are too many to post here so I'll pick some of my favorites.

Here is my cousin Laura's son Benjamin on the zipline. It was probably about 40 yrds long. In the background you can see the bounce house we rented and behind that is my sister's house.

My cousin Julie's son Jesse on the double slip-n-slide. Here he's in the flying squirrel position my brother taught him.

Cousin Tori whacking the pinata. My mom and nieces made the pinata themselves.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

By Request, I Give You Jim

I don't know the full story of Jim, but I'll tell you what I know and my fellow bowman can add comments. Jim parked his magic truck next to our group's camp area. We shared a firepit with him. The funny thing was that he seemed to have everything you could imagine in his truck. It was funny because someone would say, "I wish I had some sausage" and he would say, "I got some sausage in my truck." He came by himself and yet he had like 30 paper bowls and a box of plastic forks. We could rely on him for anything.

We invited him to shoot with us Saturday. He turned out to be a ringer. Sunday morning he bought himself a Robin Hood hat perhaps encouraged by our awe of his shooting skills. The Robin Hood hat didn't seem to help him when we shot Sunday. He wasn't as good with it on.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Baltimore Bowman Traditional Classic

Left to Right (Me, Bill, Andrew, Matt, Matt, Mike)

I left Friday morning around 8:30am. Tuesday they told me they reserved me an economy car, but of course when I got there they didn't have it. The dude tried to offer me a free upgrade to a truck which I imagine is the opposite of an economy car. I settled for a Chevy HHR which is the equivalent of a PT Cruiser. The cool thing was that it was brand new. It had 5 miles on it. The gas mileage was sufficient.

9 1/2 hours later I was in Baltimore. The timing was nice because I got there not long after my brother. The event was the 2006 Baltimore Bowman Traditional Classic. It was basically a gathering of people interested in bowmaking, bowhunting and archery. There were lots of vendors selling things. There were archery ranges all over the place. They had a few different shooting events.

Bill had a tent representing his organization Ancestral Knowledge. We spent a good portion of our time in the tent practicing skills. In the picture below you can see me working on a bow and Matt and Andrew in the background flintknapping. Of the hundreds of people there we were pretty much the only guys who made our own natural bows so lots of people stopped by to see our work.

One of the cooler things during the weekend was a horseback archery demo put on by a couple of guys. They demonstrated how they did drive-bys in the olden days. One of the coolest skills was shooting a moving target. They galloped by a guy who rolled a target about the size of a large pizza. I have a hard enough time hitting a stationary target, but these guys were moving and the targets were moving. In the picture below, the archer shot the target once before he passed and then again after.

The most fun during the weekend was shooting the 3d courses. Each one was a trail through the woods. Along the trail there were different 3d foam targets of all kinds of different animals. It was always interesting because each shot was unique. Different distance, animal, angle, stance, etc. To make it competitive we had teams and kept score. The diversity of animals was pretty amazing. All the standards were there like deer, bears, turkeys but there were also exotics like a mountain lion, panther and even a lion.

I wish I could say I hit either of these targets, but I didn't. They were a little out of my range.

Here is my brother Andrew sighting in on a deer.

I left Sunday around 12:30pm and made it back late. It ended up being worth the drive. This morning I was happy to give the rental car back with about 1250 miles on it. Maybe they'll reconsider their unlimited miles weekend special.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Views From My Sit Area

This morning I was at my sit area again. It was a pretty calm morning. I was happy to see that the water level had risen after all the rain we had over the weekend. As usual my duck friends came by. This time I got some pictures of them. The three pictures below will give you an idea of the view from my sit area. You can see that I'm on the bend of this little stream. If you look closely you can see the ducks swimming in each picture.

Looking Left

Looking Straight

Looking Right

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Derby Weekend - Part 1

Last weekend was the 132nd running of the Kentucky Derby. It is the fifth one in a row I've been to. As the weekend wrapped up, Brad, Tim and I realized that we'd all be writing basically the same thing on our blogs since we spent the whole weekend together. Thus an idea was born to share the story telling. What follows is three parts of the weekend, told from three view points, on three different blogs.

Tim and Brad are both from New Albany, Indiana which is right across the border from Louisville. It's great because it gives me a free place to stay for the derby and for gambling at Caesar's casino. Friday night we all went to the bar down the road called SportsTime. We drank some beer and spent some time handicapping the races.

Here I'm tallying up all the losing bets I'm going to make the next day. Brad shows his serious side.

Tim and his lovely wife Melissa.

We didn't stay out too late because we had to get up early so our plan for getting into the derby would work. In the past, Brad worked on the backside of the track at the only restaurant. He still knew all the people there so he was able to get our names put on a list. He also was able to have some cases of beer taken in the night before so we wouldn't have to pay exorbitant event prices. On our way to the gate we talked about what we were going to say to the security people. I was thinking we were going to act like we were working at the restaurant, but then what if they asked me questions about it. I was a little worried.

We first tried to enter gate 5, but security told us it was for cars only. We went on to gate 6. It was wide open. There were two guys in camo off to the side having a conversation. All four of us just walked in like we were headed somewhere important. They apparently don't go on duty at gate 6 until 11am. Thank you Department of Homeland Security.

Our first priority was to find the best place to sit for the races. For starters we staked out a nice place on the bleachers. But right up on the track was a box seating area. Tim ventured down and staked his claim. He found some folding chairs in the box. They were a little beat up. There was dirt on the seats and the bottoms were ripped out, yet Tim bragged that they were an amazing find at the derby. He claimed that later in the day he'd be laughing at us because he'd have a seat and we'd be standing. Tim convinced me to carry one of the chairs around even after his leaked yellow water on him that Brad called "horse piss" (we were walking by the stables at the time).

Eventually we made our way to the patio outside the restaurant. It was a good thing we carried those folding chairs because there was only a restaurant full of nice padded ones. :)

Matt, Brad, Tim and Me on the patio.

The patio ended up being a pretty nice place to hang out...

For the rest of this sentence and part 2 of "Derby Weekend" click on the link.

Friday, May 05, 2006

More Goings On At My Sit Area

I went to the park again this morning. I was shocked to see that the water level had lowered by 5 or more inches. This is just in a 24 hour period or less. There were three catfish that were trapped in the stream in front of my sit spot. They were all less than a pound in size. Maybe 6-7 inches long. They kept swimming into shallow areas flopping around trying to find a way back to the river.

About a half an hour in the family of ducks made their way in from the river. For some reason the father has been missing since shortly after the mysterious bird of prey sighting yesterday. I was curious to see what would happen as the ducks entered the water where the fish were freaking out. Unfortunately the mother led the little ducklings around the stream at that point. They did enter back in directly in front of me. Now that the stream had lowered, they had to get closer to me to be in the water. I wish I had my camera to take some pictures. I'll probably bring it next time. It was interesting watching the ducks. The fish made a pretty loud splashing sound and all 7 ducks froze in place for a second to figure out what was going on. They then went back to feeding. It was cool to watch the ducklings walk through the leaf debris and see them almost disappear as their dappled brown color blended in so well.

As I considered the fish, I wondered just how bad off they had it. I walked toward the river. It was easy to follow the dried up river beds because they were smooth and there was dried up green algae marking the path. It became clear that these fish were basically stranded 30 yards from the river. There was hardly any water between them and the river and nothing deep enough for them to live in. I wondered if I should try to move them, but I didn't get the feeling that I should. Maybe it will rain in time for them to escape. If not, I know there is a raccoon that walks by there frequently that will take care of them.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

A Beautiful Way To Start My Day

As often as I can manage, I've been trying to spend about an hour at the park before I go to work. It is a great way to start my day. I don't immediately have to jump right into stressful or boring work. I think that if I start my day with work, it puts my mind in that mode all day. If I instead start my day in a peaceful manner by tuning all my senses into nature, I feel more aware all day long and I'm happier at work.

I usually get to the park just before 7am and stay until about 7:50am. This is a pretty good time to be there because there is at most one or two people there when I arrive. It is also one of the most active times of the 24 hour cycle. 5am is generally the peak time for animal activity. I have a spot in the woods next to a bend in the stream. I sit there quietly and listen and look in 360 degrees.

Lately I've been coming up with excuses not to go...Too cold, went to sleep too late, too rainy, too much on my mind to focus. Today, I thought I would have too much on my mind, but it wasn't so. The time flew by and my mind was occupied with the goings on in the area, not on other things.

When I entered the woods to get to my spot I pissed off a squirrel in a tree about 10 ft from my sit spot. He yelled at me for a good minute as I settled in. I didn't understand why he was so pissed until later. Deeper into the stream was a family of ducks. They weren't spooked by me. They are regular visitors. I was surrounded by all kinds of bird calls and songs.

There were squirrels playing in the trees above me and I learned to track there movements by the sounds of the dew splattering as they jumped from branch to branch. At one point they gave me a nice little shower from above. 30 minutes went by and I noticed drops of dew landing in the stream. I finally realized that the pissed of squirrel was still in the tree. As I examined the tree I figured out that it was hanging out over the stream and there were no trees close enough to it for him to get away. He was stuck unless he came down to the ground.

It was about this time that he started his little trust exercise with me. He cautiously moved down the tree pausing after each hop to stare at me and flutter his tail around. At some point he would then bolt back up the tree. Meanwhile the family of ducks slowly made there way past the stream in front of me. I think the squirrel saw this and then decided that maybe he could trust me.

He proceeded to hop down the tree and then bolt back up each time getting a little closer to the ground. 4 feet, 3 feet, 2 feet, 1 foot. He finally stepped onto the ground. He was actually on the ground a few inches from the tree and then he ran back up! One final time he came down and made it to the ground. I figured this time he would haul ass away on the ground, but he calmly hopped away like the whole thing was a joke.

Because I was so enthralled with this, I didn't perceive the sounds and silences that warned of a coming bird of prey. As I turned to look back at the ducks, I saw a large bird in a tree. Then I heard the chatter and alarm of lots of birds. I could only see the bottom half of the bird and saw that it had a long tail. I grabbed my binoculars and tried to locate it unsuccessfully. When I put them down the bird was gone. I thought it might have snatched a duckling, but I counted and all six of my little buddies were still there.

Time flew by. So much happened in one hour this morning.