Saguaro National Park

January 5, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arizona 2016 

After enduring the Flamingo Motel, we tried to find Old Tucson, in the downtown area, with very little success. The only building we could identify as part of the historic district, El Presidio San Augustin del Tucson, was closed for renovations. Apparently “Old Tucson” is a movie set/theme park somewhere outside of town. We left Tucson, unimpressed with the place, and headed east to Saguaro National Park. Read more

Biosphere2 and Sabino Canyon

January 4, 2017 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Arizona 2016 

I’m not going to use this forum to give a minute-by-minute travelogue of our trip to Arizona. The idea is to share some of the photos (such as they are) and a few notes.

After picking up the car on Saturday we drove toward Tucson and stayed in a place called Catalina, on the Oracle Highway, north of Tucson. The next morning we visited Biosphere 2, a research facility run by the University of Arizona. Read more


December 4, 2013 by · 2 Comments
Filed under: Miscellaneous 


So, I put on a new shirt and nice kicks and we go to the park. It’s a sunny fall day. I’m feeling good. I wish I could walk ’cause it would be a great day to strut my stuff. A photographer shows up and starts taking pictures. Mom and Dad stand me up by this big tree. I smile for her. I know I look good.

 “Hey lady, make some extra copies. The chicks will love this.”

One hand. It’s macho and sensitive at the same time.

Oh, oh. Shouldn’t have done that. Can’t control my legs.

Oh, poop. Hey, stop laughing and help.

Cut! Cut! Get that camera out of my face, lady. This is bad for my look. 

Bagging the remains

February 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Miscellaneous 

I walk in my neighbourhood. It’s a pleasant and healthy pastime except for the stress caused by irresponsible dog-owners. They go to the trouble of bagging their pooch’s poop but throw the plastic-entombed crap alongside the trails. Why? Why not just leave it? At least it would decompose. So this bad verse is for you, bad dog-walkers.


The day you hear the final bell,

I pray you won’t wake up in hell,

As a yappy Pekinese,

plagued by starving fleas,

A pink bow adorning your crest,

and wearing a very prissy vest.

But with legs and pillows to hump,

you’re not unhappy with the dump.

Until one day on a grass strip you crap,

unleashed and free in a devilish trap.

Between a freeway and a forest where prowl,

red-eyed coyotes. Stomachs a-growl.

Later, when Satan bags your undead remains,

knotted in white plastic with crimson stains,

Pray he doesn’t toss it in a tree,

where you’ll dangle for eternity.


With apologies to law-abiding dog owners and real poets.



January 17, 2013 by · Leave a Comment
Filed under: Miscellaneous 

In the fading light of a Friday evening in mid-April, I completed a final recon from the safety of the sundeck and surveyed the territory behind my humble castle. It was a mess. The backyard was hospitable only to moss, weeds, slugs, and flying things (everything else got muddy feet). Trees around the perimeter blocked sunlight so that, except for a few hardy clumps, the lawn was dead. The fence resembled a drunk’s attempt to walk a straight line and rainwater, with nowhere to drain, turns the exposed topsoil into a boot-sucking slop until the August dry-spell. Then it becomes a surface resembling a dried lakebed in Utah. It was time to launch an aggressive assault in an effort to reclaim my land. It might take all summer but failure was not an option.

On Saturday morning I entered the conflict zone with my weapon of choice – an electric chainsaw picked off a bonspiel prize table more than ten years ago. The campaign would begin with an evergreen dug in against the back fence. More of an overgrown shrub really, an ugly conifer of indeterminate lineage, it resembled a wilted bouquet. The wrist-sized branches sprouted fifteen feet out of the thick base and sagged limply over both sides of the fence. I stared down my adversary for a minute and then, my chainsaw buzzing like a jar full of wasps, I slashed through the nearest limb. It felt so satisfying.

Phase One was over before the tree knew what hit it. The branches succumbed with little resistance, leaving a naked four-foot stump. I dismembered the casualties and filled the box of my pick-up. Later I celebrated the initial victory with a tankard of ale and a nap.

The next day, flushed by success on Day One and, assuming a quick end to the operation, I began Phase Two -THE STUMP MUST GO. I added a shovel and an axe to my arsenal, with the chainsaw in reserve. The strategy was to dig around the stump cutting off it’s base of support until it surrendered but, as any weekend warrior will tell you, nothing goes as planned.

A thick network of roots prevented the shovel from penetrating more than a few inches so I swung the axe into the tangle for a few minutes until the handle snapped. I swore under my breath and retreated to the local Home Depot for a new weapon, choosing a 2.2-pound beauty with sturdy hickory handle. I returned to the fray and attacked a thick root with my new purchase. Three solid blows later the haft came away from the head, which remained stuck in the target. I returned to the store and, assuming that it was just a faulty piece of equipment, exchanged it for the same model. This one survived five or six mighty whacks before the handle broke. Angrily, I threw it into the mud and used a few favourite expletives.

Discouraged I made a third trip into town and picked out a hefty 3.5-pounder with an unbreakable handle.

By the time I returned to the trench, it was late afternoon so I called off the attack for the day and slogged back to the manor for refreshment and sustenance. I sought solace from the lady of the house but was rebuffed for the final time that day.

Heavy rains kept me off the battlefield until the following Saturday. Rejuvenated but anticipating a day of close-quarters struggle, I added a hand trowel, a hatchet, and a mattock/pickaxe to my weaponry. As foreseen, progress was slow and tedious but the trench around the base slowly grew in depth and breadth. Kneeling on the mud rim I chopped and dug up roots of various sizes but the stump showed no signs of weakening. It remained solid and stoic. Late in the afternoon, in an effort to test it’s resolve, I chained a hand-winch to the base of the birch tree across the yard, hooked the cable around my adversary, and tightened the line until it sang under the tension.

It refused to concede anything, even with the encouragement of an eight-pound sledge.

I called off the struggle for the night with a kernel of doubt growing in my mind. Maybe, despite my tools, hard work, and superior intelligence, I couldn’t do this on my own. Maybe reinforcements and heavier equipment were necessary. I sought comfort and sympathy in two tankards of ale and the house madam, but only the beer cared.

Part Two

On Sunday morning, aching and weary, I donned my filthy, sweat-stained togs and faced the stump.

“It’s do or die day, you worthless pile of cellulose,” I snarled with unconvincing bravado, “and I’m not the one going down.”

It declined to respond to the taunt, apparently confident that the fence’s rearguard protection meant that I’d never sever the backside roots. I couldn’t swing the axe in the tight space. It was even too tight for the chainsaw. I exposed two solid roots with the hand-trowel but they angled acutely into the earth. How was I going to cut them?

I felt victory within my grasp. I couldn’t give in now. I walked away and pondered my predicament. For a moment I pined for the good old days when dynamite was the fun and effective method of removing a stump. What I needed was a saw that operated in close confines. What else did I have? And then it hit me. What a dolt. Of course, the big reciprocating saw, armed with a Bushwacker blade, tucked away in the shed. Why hadn’t I thought of it earlier?

I plugged it into the extension cord. Confidence and adrenaline surged through me. I tightened the winch-cable and revved up the saw. It sliced through the first root like a butter knife through a good steak but the stump conceded nothing. Not a fraction of an inch. I could only see one more anchoring root so I laid into it with the saw screaming at maximum. It passed through easily and…. the stump moved with a satisfying crack as it’s final anchor failed. Elated, I rushed to the winch and my foe slid out of the trench with every crank of the handle until it flopped lifelessly in the mud.

It doesn’t look so tough now, I thought in my moment of triumph.

Later in my quarters, I rewarded myself with a pint of the house’s finest ale and bragged to the madam of the house but she appeared unimpressed by the achievement, “What about the fence and the grass? What’s taking so long?”

I left, shortly thereafter, and joined some fellows at the local pub. Still feeling good, I told them of my four-day battle with a stump. One of the men asked why I hadn’t just rented a stump chopper.

“It probably would have chewed that thing down to the ground in less than 20 minutes,” he smirked.

Curse you, curse you Don, for trampling my last shred of self-satisfaction.





The tool I should have used.



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