Thursday, October 15, 2020
Tuesday, October 6, 2020
So, we took off from Oklahoma, cruised down Route 66 into Edmund, swung through OKC and then headed west on I-40. We avoided pitfalls like stopping in Clinton, Oklahoma to visit the hometown of Toby Keith, my favorite C&W singer just as we had earlier avoided Checotah, the home of Carrie Underwood, because "She ain't in Checotah no more." We sang Toby Keith's lyrics as we drove past
I ain't as good as I once was,
I got a few years on me now,
But there was a time,
Back in my prime,
When I could really lay it down,
If you need some love tonight,
Then I might have just enough,
I ain't as good once was,
But I'm as good once, as I ever was.
Which is so true, I'm 54 and on the downhill side of fifty....life is short....
we then drove past the Punjabi truck stop in Sayre, avoiding RV damage and crazy Indian food, zipped past the leaning water tower in Britten Texas, avoiding road construction in Amarillo and camped in Tucumcari New Mexico
But it is a beautiful place, and a park organized in 1906. It is well worth the $25.00 entrance fee. It is a barren place and there are COVID paranoid people. Many from California drove with masks on in their cars, which as a doctor, I am at lengths to think of what they are protecting themselves from. You are more likely to get Coccidiomycosis from mold spores in the air on this desert than COVID on a sunny hot day, but whatever, if it makes them happy....it is the AC buildings that I hate to even go in, masked, PPE'd or whatever. At least most everyone masked there....
So, we're still healthy and hanging in there....many here in New River have stories for the year, and COVID fatigue is high here....maybe denial, and maybe they have figured out a protective activity, too. It is not like they are being careful. Maybe it is the sun exposure? I may be putting on my MD hat and looking at the numbers....maybe worth a scientific study. I'm not sure anyone wants to know....I know six such communities, and no cases.....makes me wonder.
So we'll get out and start hiking, I have Gamble's quail on my roof and a female Anna's hummer at my feeder as I write this, what could be better?
I got to go try to get a rock out of a wheel on my car
stay safe, get out in the sun, another Toby Keith song surmises the ranch where we now are, maybe do karaoke with word changes this weekend? we've parked next to that too
Chain smokers and boozers.
An' we got yuppies, we got bikers,
An' we got , thirsty hitchhikers.
And the girls next door dress up like movie stars.
Mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, I love this bar.
We got cowboys, we got truckers,
Broken hearted fools and suckers.
An' we got hustlers, we got fighters,
Early birds and all nighters.
And the veterans talk about their battle scars:
Mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, I love this bar.....(Ranch)
It's my kind of place.
Just walk in through the front door,
Puts a big smile on my face.
It ain't too far, come as you are.
Mm, mm, mm, mm, mm, I love this bar (Ranch).
Sunday, September 27, 2020
My Grandmother went to Oklahoma most every summer as a young woman to visit her kinfolk, an aunt and her cousins. She told stories for decades about the Dust Bowl, rattlesnakes, the red clay, and well, some oddities and quirks about the local laws.
We have taken off with Big Bird our RV and are back to our lives on the road. I've been busily writing two books over the summer and now they are in proof stage so we winterized our lives and headed south to find warmth. After a scheduled repair in Lincoln, two nights in Kansas south of Topeka, we made it to our annual spot off of Route 66 between Tulsa and Oklahoma City.
For nearly a decade now, we've been making an annual trek into the Sooner state, not to see relatives, as sadly, these cousins had children, and they had children and all were eventually lost to us northern folk. We come down now for the warmth of late September. The butterflies are out. It is fun seeing some remaining scissortail flycatchers and we like to hike in the oaks. I own some property around Gypsy in Creek County and west of Stroud in western Lincoln Counties and I like to see what is going on.
Craig v. Deebo? Well, since statehood, Oklahoma had a rather interesting drinking age (except during prohibition), men had to be 21 years old to buy 3.2% beer while women could buy it at age 18. It was not illegal for 19 year olds of either sex to drink it, however, just buy it. It became quite common for young men to have your 18 year old girlfriend or a sister go and buy your beer. My grandmother even told me about this law. I'm not sure if she did it for her cousins or her brother. It was the only state to have gender different drinking ages.
The law was challenged by a Oklahoma State Univ student and a drive through convenience store in Stillwater called the Honk and Holler, as you drove in the front door and honked and then hollered what you wanted. Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote an amicus brief on it and was actually questioned about this case during open arguments about a second case which she was actually representing later the same day before the high court. She was trying to say even though women were the beneficiaries, they were being discriminated against just by having a separate law just for them. The High Court threw out the old law. So, from 1976 until 1983, 18 year olds of both sexes could drink. It was a racy and rowdy time in Oklahoma, as oil boomed. The drinking age was 18, the strip clubs could be all-nude during this period, and well, cash flowed. When 1983 came about, the drinking age went up to 21, oil prices collapsed, and dancers were covered up. Oklahoma became the buckle of the Bible Belt again. You still couldn't get a tattoo in the state nor own more than two cats in Bartlesville.
Well, despite COVID, I enjoyed Octoberfest down here yesterday, drinking strong beer and I didn't see any one under 21 drinking. We ate our brats outside. Masks are plus and minus here. At a grocery store today they were strongly encouraged. about 2/3 had them on. A woman without a mask swiped her discount card so we could get the specials at the store. We went to see Spiro Mounds near the Arkansas border. Everyone had one there.
We saw some butterflies, emperors were all over, and some birds but nothing was photographable.
It is easy to see how the Okies had to pull up stakes as the Dust Bowl came. Trying to till this sandy soil looks tough in a good year and even now, much of the state looks like Depew and Gypsy.
It is hard to even see where all the old fields were, like this 1940 picture from my grandmother, where undoubtedly oaks have now grown up.
We had a front come through today and it will cool off 20 degrees and but I think 75 is in the offering for Tuesday and we have four more nights here.
The Packers even won so everything is Okay in OK...
Saturday, August 1, 2020
Saturday, July 11, 2020
EXCERPT from: GRANTSBURG: THE GOLDEN YEARS
to be published,
AFTER LOOKING AT two people who overcame personal health issues to
succeed in life. We now turn to
something totally different. We go from
the serious to the sublime. We now turn
to Arthur Birnstengel.
Author Olaf Danielson of this missive once mentioned
the name Birnstengel to his Grandmother Lucille and the response was an eye
roll, a simple utterance, “Birnstengel,” followed by a long sigh. Yes, that about sums it up but not in the judgmental
sense of a grandmother who thinks she has seen a thing or two, but why did this
lonely man living in the Barrens of Anderson Township become somewhat of a
It all started in July
1945. Arthur Birnstengel, then a 44 year
old farmer on 610 acres, living down near County Highway O sent a letter to Grantsburg’s
congressman, Alvin O’Konski. There is
another name from the past in which I also remember my Grandmother
Lucille having a reply to. In this case
it was more of head shake and a smirk and Grandmother was a rather conservative republican.
Alvin O’Konski had represented Grantsburg for 30 years from 1943 until
1972 in Wisconsin’s 10th Congressional district at the time even
though he had just moved to Mercer, and seemed to live in Kewaunee. One would think that a Congressman who
represented an area for 30 years would be known for something, but
Representative O’Konski was something else. It is hard to think he was known for anything except a quote:
most lawmakers "are bought, sold, signed, sealed, and delivered."
Besides being known as a
pro-Polish and staunch anti-communist member of the House of Representatives,
it isn’t very clear what O’Konski accomplished in Washington. He could have been even more anti-communist
than McCarthy and he tried to replace Joe McCarthy in the Senate when McCarthy died,
but he lost. He was known for bluster
and saying things that were so preposterous that even if he was caught in
saying something like he had visited the Soviet Union, when he hadn’t, he say
things like he had gone under a group passport and left no record, when nothing
like that even existed. The district had
been redistricted out of existence in 1972 and he lost to Rep. David Obey in a
wild and crazy campaign.20-4
Congressman Alvin O’Konski at his
desk, possibly even responding to Birnstengel’s letter
Courtesy Library of Congress
Birnstengel’s letter, which became infamous, has been
lost to history but by per reports was short and sweet and asked the
congressman to please get him another wife.
O’Konski responded that he was short on wives but was long on advice and
told the farmer, “make sure she is honest.”20-6 For reason’s unknown, O’Konski passed the
letter along to Washington newspapers in a press release dated July 21, 1945,
and, despite a war going on, they printed it. Shortly afterwards, even though O’Konski
didn’t release his name, Birnstengel came forward.20-5 From the Beatrice Daily Sun, Beatrice, NE July 21, 1945
Many newspapers also contacted the farmer and he began
to place ads. Birnstengel began with some stipulations:20-6
Be between 30 and 42 years of age
Not weigh more than 195 pounds
Be between 5’ and 5’8”
Be truthful (O’Konski said so)
Not smoke or drink
Not be a gold-digger
Have a sense of humor
able to take good care of Arne, his six year old son
willing to help milk 14 cows
Letters poured into his mailbox outside of Grantsburg
from all corners of the America and even some from France and Canada and at
times even overwhelming his mailbox.
Newspapers called and interviewed him.
Famous Time/Life Photographer Wallace Kirkland made the trek out to
rural Wisconsin in the winter of 1946 and published a photo essay of
Birnstengel on March 25, 1946 that was seen around the world.20-1 Even more letters poured in. The world
seemingly could not get enough of the lonely farmer from Grantsburg.
Arthur Birnstengel had been divorced twice. He reported both women had bailed on living
in Anderson Township due to the loneliness of living miles from the next house,
and he had gotten divorced. Arthur was
left in the care of his son, Arne, after his mother left. He had a son, lived
in isolation, one needed to work hard to exist on the farm, but on a good note,
Birnstengel reported to the world that he had no bad habits.20-1
Arthur Birnstengel Wallace Kirkland, Unpublished B&W Google March 25, 1946
A woman applying for this position was not going into
the lap of luxury. The Birnstengel farm
located in the sand barrens near Highway O didn’t have power and the only water
was a hand pump at the kitchen sink. Birnstengel
has some interesting quotes back in Life Magazine. “If my wife wants electricity, she is going
to have to work for it first.”20-1
A Springfield, IL widow who was 37 wrote: “I don’t want no blue ribbons, but my friends
all say I’m a good cook.”20-6
Toledo, Ohio woman wrote: “I like cows
and children. But if you have any
pictures of your former wives around, destroy them. I don’t like the idea of old faces around.” The farmer thought she was too jealous and
turned her down.20-6
An 18-year-old woman
from Texas wrote: “Oh, yes Arthur! But I
need to run away to get married, so please send money.”20-6 Mr. Birnstengel had decided he wasn’t sending
any train tickets either just in case the woman was trying to take advantage of
him as they could be cashed in.20-1 Some women seeing his picture
gave him things to do like loosing weight and furnish a financial statement.20-6
With all the responses, he was elated but shortly
overwhelmed. With the response, he took stock in himself, realizing that after
the war a man shortage had made him a much more important item than he thought Early on, he even hired a private investigator
to look at some likely prospects but in one case his man found out that what
the woman had written him was a lie, so she got crossed off.20-6
Optimistic, he reported he’d have a prospect selected
within a year, but apparently, it appears all the choices made him hyper
critical,20-1 much like going to restaurant with too many
choices. He made notes on the letters. One in which the woman sent him a risqué picture,
he wrote “ankles too thin.”20-1
He also stated that he had tried to send an ad to the local newspaper in
Grantsburg, but they had rejected it.20-2
The letters kept coming in via waves and in most the
farmer found a flaw. It almost seemed to
many of the interviewers that he didn’t need a wife anymore. He had thousands of letters to keep him
company. Wallace Kirkland stated, the correspondents
may have defeated their own purpose.” He
also surmised that all the man-hunger, unrest, and lonesomeness of American
women was startling.20-1 In fact, in looking back at it, it is still
startling, and depressing. What is even more depressing is that the farmer
could not ever choose anyone.
Every once in while, Birnstengel’s seemingly never-ending
quest would resurface in a newspaper or two and then the story would go away. He
appeared in the Lubbock, Tx newspaper in
October 22, 1960.20-7 By 1960, the 58-year old at the time reported
he had received letter from 8500 women seeking his potential companionship and
was still getting three or four a week over the summer. He related at the time that he had replied to
over a thousand but usually the correspondence ended after the third or fourth
letter if it even got that far. He had
changed some of his requirements by then, but he was still picky, or so it
seemed. He had not found the correct woman as of that time, but …he was still looking.20-7
In all, the seemingly human-interest story appeared
in hundreds and hundreds of newspapers, possibly even them all from 1945-to at
least 1961. After while the plight of
one man’s eternal quest for something gets too depressing. It appears the stories are meant to be comical,
but they aren’t. Besides magazines, the Stars
and Stripes, we remember him appearing on a television show in the Seventies
but we could not track down the date.
Birnstengel Farm Wallace Kirkland, Unpublished B&W Google March 25, 1946
is rather curious that America became so enthralled in the plight of a single
farmer living on the edge. Historically, advertisements for wives and marrying
people one had only met through the mail was quite common, especially out on
the frontier. Letters were the only means of courtship between potential mates
separated by thousands of miles. According to one bride, the Pony Express
"took about four weeks to go from east to west," and letters
"often came in bundles." Language was a means of persuasion.
Illiterate men could dictate their letters to typists who, for a fee, would
doctor their sentiments on Remington Standards. Dishonesty was a risk. Men and
women could easily misrepresent their physical attributes, their station, or
finances. A homesteader who sent his betrothed a train ticket might find that
she had turned it in for cash. A 1911 Wahpeton Times article tells of
a New York girl for whom, upon arrival in Buford, North Dakota, "the spell
was immediately broken" when she saw the face of her intended.20-3
railroad also played an important role in the western diaspora of single women.
In 1882 businessman Fred Harvey sought young rural women "of good
character, attractive and intelligent" as waitresses in whistle stop cafés
along the AT&SF rail line. Harvey required that they remain single for a year,
live in chaperoned dormitories, and entertain callers in "courting
parlors." By the turn of the century, he had married off nearly 5,000 so-called
Apparently by 1946, thoughts had changed.
Over the years many authors have included Mr.
Birnstengel in larger issues like the forever quest or the psychological issues
and how it could relate to Freud and Kierkegaard.20-2 Many have surmised as to what really were his
true motives and also about his indecision.
Why did he never try to marry any?
Arthur Birnstengel died single
on January 31, 1986 in Boyceville, WI where Arnie had moved to and is buried at
the cemetery at the Evangelical Free Church in Trade River. His grave does not say husband and as far as
can be told, he never found Mrs. Right.
Possibly if you are single, you could leave a letter at the tomb, but we
can’t be certain that he’ll see it. When
we were there, there wasn’t any, but remember, you can’t have mail delivered to
a grave, it
has to be a personal visit.
Photo property of the authors
to be published,
AFTER LOOKING AT two people who overcame personal health issues to succeed in life. We now turn to something totally different. We go from the serious to the sublime. We now turn to Arthur Birnstengel.
20-1 “farmer wants a wife.” Wallace Kirkland. Life Magazine, March 25, 1946. Vol. 20 No. 12 Pg 141-144.
20-2 The Ego Is Always at the Wheel: Bagatelles Delmore Schwartz and Robert Phillips, New Directions, New York. Apr 17, 1987
20-4 . David Obey
Saturday, June 20, 2020
So we went to Madison WI to celebrate our twins Allwin and Tyko's 25th birthday, and after arriving back at 11 PM I slept for 4 hours and headed out on a nutsy Cannonball style bird chase with fellow crazy-man, Don Harrington, the man with the biggest tripod in all of birding and headed south towards Arizona in search of unicorns and hopefully not COVID.
We had thought about flying, but a good portion of flights to Phoenix get cancelled and by the time one fools around, you'd be halfway there, even if the posted $415 round trip price looked okay. Portal Arizona is not that close to Phoenix either, and are airplanes really safe?
We targeted our victim, the elusive Crescent chested warbler, but then as the weekend came around a great bird, an eared quetzal was found in the same mountain range, my favorite sky island the Chiricahuas, it was gone, and then refound, So we headed south with the quetzal being our primary target, leaving home at 4 AM Monday, and in Clear Lake, SD, I hooked up with Don Harrington. We headed southwest like madmen.
We blew down Nebraska, Kansas, supplied up at Garden City, Kansas
We momentarily slowed for a photo at Guymon, Oklahoma as we cut the panhandle, cutting two counties in the Okie state, we learned Guymon has got games and it also has "stream power" even if the casino was closed and the city doesn't have a river,
We sped past Goodwell, Oklahoma, the home of one of my favorite named schools, Oklahoma Panhandle State University, the Alabama in Men's Rodeo, but shockingly the school only has a 23% graduation rate, and this is as low as it gets. University of Oklahoma, a notorious party and football school graduates 65%, so is it being out in the middle of nowhere. Western International University in Phoenix has a scary bad graduation rate of 2.4% but is a rather suspicious looking online school. A raft of community colleges have between 2.5 and 10 percent, but the worst looking 4 year schools in America are Southern University of New Orleans (a historical black college and Texas College of Tyler, both around 12%. Why Southern is so abysmal when Grambling also in Louisiana and a historical black college has a 65% rate is unknown, and Texas College....a "private" historically black college loses half of its freshman class in a year. Lowest Freshman retention rate in the country. There is an essay here about this problem but this is for another person. What is that Private tuition fees getting you? Oklahoma Panhandle may be suspect academically, but you can bring your horse to school AND you are greeted by a gun-toting cowboy on the front gate.
Now I had a lucky break, as after Albuquerque, I couldn't sleep in the car, so I tried using my phone as a hotspot to check on intel for the quetzal. It was not seen, then a birder I know found it somewhat miraculously, 10 miles away on the other side of the range, in the Pinery Canyon, no doubt he had found it so I demurred...should I go there? The computer struggled for bandwidth, as to why in America we want 5G and we can't even get 3G on a major interstate is beyond me. Then I saw one post before my power died, quetzal seen back in Cave Creek area near dark, really? the bird is flying that much? Wow. It sounded like they had put the bird to bed so since an easier place to go we continued on as scheduled.
As I crept into the Cave Creek area we noticed all the National Forest Campgrounds were closed, I'd heard the bit on no bathrooms but didn't check on the ones at trailheads I've seen before as they were out of our way. We turned up the road where the quetzal was last seen, patrolled the road in the dark, deciding that the campground was too tight to arrive in the night so I found a wide place and we parked the Jeep.
It took 30 minutes for the birds to wake up and then I swore I heard a quetzal, and a robin, I listened closely as anticipation stirred me, and even Don came too, then as the sky lightened up, I could see a guy parked near the entrance of the campground in a old black pickup stir, using my bins I could see he was readying a tripod. We started to get organized too. I needed boots and a sweat shirt the only warm items I brought with.
Don was taking forever getting his tripod, camera, etc organized and so I wandered down to the campground and soon learned a concerted coordinated effort was being hatched to check on the roost tree when it was possible to see the birds, Don was still not ready so....I followed and then there it was....my first eared quetzal, it was too dark to photo the bird, I had to tell Don and then....it flew twenty yards and behold the bird landed in the tree next to our Jeep and as Don would later say, "the birds come to me." It had and so, leaning against a fortuitously parked Jeep we watched the unicorn ghost bird of the the Southwest for 30 minutes snapping pictures.
I got some really great shots despite the early morning light
It was a nice bird, people were coming and well, there was another good bird to find, the crescent chested warbler. We'd both seen a berylline hummingbird before so that didn't interest us, so off we went to climb up and over Onion Saddle and make our way to the Turkey Creek area on the other side, some 35 miles away.
As it looked we missed the warbler by a few minutes, the warblers had mixed into a feeding flock, and were all over the valley and despite being at the stakeout the rest of the day and seeing a good portion of the flock, we never saw the crescent chested warbler, but we saw some olive warblers and Grace's and red-faced warblers are not commonly seen birds by me so it was fun.
|Northern pygmy owl my first ever photo of this bird, it had just taken a junco|
first I had a little problem with the tent
and then a little problem with the lifer beer
The next morning I woke up refreshed, made cowboy coffee and then realized I had a French press with and then, it was off to the birding stakeout
This was when Don had a toilet paper moment, proving YES, YOU CAN HAVE TOO MUCH TOILET PAPER WITH...as he decided that as we were walking up the trail, maybe he should bring some with...just in case. being prepared can be a good thing, but alas, not this time.... So off he went to the car, I walked around the corner another thirty feet and then to my left, there was a warbler in a bush. I looked at it thinking it was a Grace's and then.....no wing bars, and it stopped and looked at me, S$%%t!!!
Crescent chested warbler..........."Don!" I yelled.
then remembering my camera, I tried to get it into the view finder but I was not set for the light so I adjusted that and then could not find it in the view finder as it flit. "DON!" I yelled again, then three more times before, unable to get it photographed, i got blurry leaves, it flew off, just as Don skipped around the corner all TPed up. I just looked at him
"So you thought you needed toilet paper....." I said and then told him what had happened.
So we worked the area and about 20 minutes later a couple came through and as they were leaving a red-faced warbler and another bird came into a oak above us, I looked at the one in the leaves and then....there it was again, I yelled for the couple and they ca,me back, but it flew out the back end...no one else saw it, Don just saw yellow in leaves and of course he had a good supply of toilet paper in his pocket that he never used. I never got a photo but I got a bird, and sometimes that is all you get
I did get some butterfly photos
We bugged out at noon...I had lifers 804 and 805, a double, and that was a good thing, and seeing a pygmy owl is a good thing as I've seen more other species of pygmy owls than the most common one, the northern. ..needing to drive hard, we took the Fort Bowie shortcut, saving us an hour, and were surprised that this road wasn't that bad. Here was where Leroy wanted to go look for relatives because he thought that there was a good water here, meant that there was beach front property in Arizona, I had to rescue him...again....that dang penguin
We made camp at Jemez Falls Campground in the Santa Fe National Forest, it had just opened and was quite cautious about no water, no fires, no touching, and the campground host had some serious issues with signs, hazard tape, and closed roads. This was better than the Jemez Pueblo below which is where I got my last speeding ticket in 2016, which was closed, all the roads were blocked by earthworks and concrete barriers and signs told us to keep out! It was like a dystopian scene.
our goal.....daybreak black swifts, but alas, up at 5 am and on stakeout at 0530, in shorts no jacket in Crocs in 40 degree morning left us dipping of swifts.
|Don on stakeout before frostbite set in|
We waited too long to find them and then headed off to home
it was 1100 mile day, and despite having to show IDs in Los Alamos, and run the COVID gauntlet at rest areas and McDonald's for coffee we got through New Mexico, it shouldn't take a mile of hazard tape to go to the bathroom
but it was a long and fast trip a 10 day trip, we did in 4, and that quetzal disappeared two days after we saw it so, good thing I hustled down there
Birding in COVID days?
Brave brave thing.
most of the birders had masks on even on the trails, I learned it is hard to push it up hill with a mask on....in a Dollar Store, seems like a good idea, out on the trail.....I don't know.....closed bathroom across the state? Well you got to go somewhere, and a bathroom is a better place than behind a tree...I think some people aren't thinking........I think being outside is always good, closing all the restaurants, well, one can make food on the road, and by the looks of it, people are desperate to get outside and do something.....it beats an apartment building
stay safe wherever you are....
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