Friday, October 27, 2017

No Pulitzer Prize for me!

What do you do when you are surrounded by asses?  Do you just watch them?  Do you quickly leave, or do just sit there politely?

What about when the biggest ass looks at you?  Does it make you wonder if you are assuming to in when you assume something, "U are making an ass out of me"?

Maybe this donkey has a deeper understanding of who is where in this world...he is looking dismissively at me....what do asses call US?

In thinking of these higher meanings of prairie life I was thinking....

2016 was a "Big" year for me for many reasons.  One obvious activity was birding and another was that I was keeping up a newspaper column in the Watertown Public Opinion.  As with anything, if I had realized the readership I had generated for that or even with this blog, I may (may is the correct word) attempted to do better.  write more, and reflect a little better my perspectives...IDK.  I surprisingly got nominated for an award last spring.

Well the votes are in:

My resume can now state:

2016 South Dakota Newspaper Association Awards, Best Featured Series, second place

That means no Pulitzer for me, now, I can't advance, oh well, but heck...I won something.

I'm currently working on a bit of a memoir book, "The Year Without Pike" which may include some of my birding year, but has caused me to look deep in the Olaf archives.
I can rank this up there with catching and releasing the 105th largest pike ever in Manitoba (which I did in 2001), I won the 1984 "Largest Hog Sucker Award" at the Falun Sucker club World sucker fishing contest that spring in Falun Wisconsin.  The coveted "Best Orator" award at Ripon College in 1988 went to me and I see, now 29 years later, I never cashed the $25 check, that I won.  Somehow, my National Forensics League  Championship Humerus Oration on "Organic Gardening" deserves to BE forgotten.

Probably my adventures in 2016 also deserve to be forgotten.

It is kind of funny winning a writing award.  Although, I am exceedingly proud of my new Guide to St Martin birds, and it is up on Amazon now, with inventory actually going to be carried by Amazon within days...

I get the booby prize...(bad pun) for timing.  The book was in press when Irma hit the island
and I doubt I'll see enough royalties to cover any modest advances such a project generated.  That $25 dollar Oratory prize might look good compared to this book.

Yesterday, my former business partner, Troy Kastrup honored me by saying "Thanks for allowing me the opportunity to exceed my potential."  At first I thought he was kidding and then I realized he wasn't.  This a day after I found my old medical school application.  Reading my essay, I'm certain that if I was on a selection committee, I wouldn't have let that student in with that essay.  The score system is different then than with my son Tyko's test, so its hard to compare.  Tyko is interviewing at the South Dakota Medical school in a week and I wish him well.  His scores make me look like an idiot.

I took the test a year early and I never studied, I'm not sure my Physics and Chemistry mastery would be able to pull up the rest of my efforts.  Maybe majoring in Ecology for my second major wasn't the best way to achieve a good score on the MCAT?  I don't remember Ornithology helping me much either.  In 2017, I doubt my research internship on leaf-cutting ants and leaf-lining behavior of buteo hawks would give me a leg up either,   Maybe a leg up an then an out of the medical school campus.  A mostly untamed hick from the sticks growing up on the family sawmill I don't think helped my cause, either.  I just think 1987 must have been a nadir of applicants.

So Troy,  we have both exceeded our potentials, way exceeded our potentials

I was at the SD Ornithology Union Meeting last week, not to speak, they are too scientific for the likes of me, but to listen and hang a little.  I had to go to Colorado Springs to a meeting and Spearfish was on the way home.

The research projects seemed soft to me.  Much like my "leaf-lining behavior of Buteo hawks" but mine was just an undergraduate deal, and my Isolation and Identification of terpenoids found in native Central American plants avoided by leaf-cutting ants showing possibly fungicidal activity" was a bigger deal and more relevant.   But maybe I'm biased.  I did learn that the number one predator of sage grouse nests are badgers (damn badgers) and the state population of grouse is stable at near 200.  there are 32 pairs of American Dippers in South Dakota in two creeks.

I also learned that black-backed woodpeckers are increasing in the state, and were not listed as threatened as the dipper is.  we also learned that Russian olives and cottonwoods take over stream banks, and...some birds like them (orchard orioles) and some...don't.  I also learned that prairie grouse (chickens and sharptails) nest where there are few trees.

There were a few other talks but to be honest, i was checking rare bird reports to see if the yellow-breasted bunting was hanging in Labrador was hanging so I could bug out, it wasn't so I stayed.

I did add 7, state lifer birds!

276  Black billed magpie
277 Gray jay
278 Sandhill crane
279 Pacific loon
280 surf scoter
281 long-tailed duck
282 Clark's grebe

My SD  year total is now 257 and that gives me a not so big year but I'm well on my way to my goal of 300.

Some of the bird views.....

Maybe I should research leaf-lining behavior of Ferruginous hawks?

I can work on my PhD.  Without any field work on this species, I can tell you they don't do it in South Dakota much but do elsewhere.  Do you know why?  There is a lack of suitable trees and cottonwoods don't have insecticidal properties.  Maybe comparing nestling success of prairie nesting versus forest nesting Ferrugies would be a study, a study that i'm not sure really is needed, though.  I'll just stick with finding them as they are handsome birds.  some answers are better off remaining unanswered

Down the highway, I was out taking a picture of this sign, that appeared to announce 1804 resumes 34 miles ahead....was there this much unemployment around?

Maybe I need to make it 1805 resumes with mine?  Have they really counted them that exactly?  My career as a writer with my award on it, maybe I need to look for work and now some newspaper may want an award winning journalist?

Minutes after this I was stopped by the fish and game department, all lights and sirens.  I had swerved for a pheasant when he flashed the lights.  "Is it illegal in Potter county to swerve for introduced birds, officer?"  I asked calmly.  He admitted he had ran my plate thinking I was registered in North Dakota.  It came back as a black pickup not a red Volvo.  "The plate says South Dakota..." He apologized.  I guess he doesn't see many South Dakota plates there, it is pretty desolate.  I was outdoors without a hunting license, but he never asked anything else.  He gave us a tip on a trio of whooping cranes which we couldn't find.  Maybe he misled us on purpose?

I was also stopped this morning, for something.  Two more passes by the police, number 70, I'm now six tickets for 70....I may be a champion in that.

I guess it is good to be good at something.

...but second place is good and a real honor considering, i'm not a newspaper man!!  It may be my highest writing honor ever.....

I have exceeded MY potential...yet again


Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Last Chance ..out on the range

"Home home on the range...where the deer and the antelope play...."
I have a business meeting in Colorado Springs before I head up to Spearfish, South Dakota for the fall SD OU meeting tomorrow, cause like Colorado Springs is on the way to the Black Hills...

I cruised my way west

Ogallala, NE
I stopped in Ogallala Nebraska to get a car charger and to photograph the UFO of those "must sees"

The alien is looking at me.....

You can't make some of this stuff up.

I like a morning drive in the Sandhills of Nebraska.  44 greater prairie chickens....but my camera discharged so I got no pictures until the Walmart in Ogallala helped me out.

Last Chance, Colorado
I decided to check up on my property out in Northeastern Colorado and see what, if anything is going on.  My lease expires this year and I have to find a new person to make a deal.  There never seems to be anything going on in Washington County and nothing ever goes on in Last Chance, well since Hee Haw saluted the town in 1974...and the fire of 2012 that burnt much of the ghost town, but unfortunately not all of it.

The Dairy King and the motel have been dead since the Reagan administration and The Texas to Montana trail... well that is a story in itself.

In one of the most suspicious deals in the history of insider deals, Charles and John Farwell, Chicago mercantile owners received a little over 3,000,000 acres comprised in the XIT Ranch in 1879 in exchange for building the Texas State Capitol in Austin.  It was the largest fenced ranch ever in the world.

Lets do the math:
in 1885, the cost of the Austin Capitol construction was 3.7 million.  In today's dollars that would be 91 million dollars.  A fair chunk of change.

What about the XIT Ranch?

Land:  Using the prices for Lamb County, Texas for the entire ranch (understand this ranch was 10 counties in size), $1200/ acre would be 3.6 billion dollars

Oil:  an 2014-15, the Ranch would have earned 20 million dollars each year from just the production in Oldham County.  This is slightly more than all of the oil ever produced in Parker County which it would have had.  The ranches lands in Hockley County produced about half of the 1.8 Billion barrels of oil produced in the 100,000 acre Slaughter Field.  Despite declining production this would have yielded $200,000,000 in 2015 alone and in high priced oil years in the last decade would have exceeded half a billion a year in royalties.

Add in cotton production, wind rights, water rights, coal, gravel,  etc

so this might be worth 10-20 billion dollars.  So 90 million OR 20 billion?  I think Texas made a mistake here, a big mistake.

The Farwells and their XIT Ranch, though proved that even with a gift horse, one could get fleas or in this case....  Texas Tick fever.  The plan was simple, at first just drive them to Kansas, but then that avenue closed.  It still seemed easy raise 100,000 head of cattle in Texas, then drive them to lands that the Farwell's owned in Montana to fatten them up and then ship them by train to Chicago, return and do it again  They had to by-pass Kansas because of fear of the tick born disease kept all cattle out of that state once the disease appeared a decade earlier.  It was such a great deal that the boys from Chicago went to England and borrowed all of the money to build the capitol on a 20 year bond.  The ranch never cash flowed, not even a little.  Maybe because the Farwells got distracted.  Charles became a senator and served in Congress in the late 80s, and John was busy building up a department store...1901 came and they owed 3.7 million dollars plus 20 years of interest.  They had nothing to support this.  The land went for sale and the Farwells died....being remembered as philanthropists, although raping and pillaging the range, spreading disease, would be better memories, and well..that is always forgotten about.  

Here is a marker on the trail in Last Chance, Colorado...the cattle came through here

So how did I get to own something out here?

It was at a bank trustee auction in Michigan and the last item up for bid was some property in Colorado, it wasn't why I was there.  Most everyone had left and this property had some title issues that were evident to me and I was I bid a token amount.  The auctioneer looked at me and said sold in like two seconds, I felt like an idiot, had I even bought anything?   Luckily, after I studied it, some of it had a good title, I chased down a decade of back rent, but I spent a couple bucks in legal fees to get another 80 acres cleared up.  The rest of it ...I now just get a tax bill for, which I ignore, as I can never own it, it is all tied up in a life estate for a woman without family in a nursing home somewhere in New Mexico...the county will get it eventually, probably soon....  A lawyer in 1979 made a mistake, it would be malpractice except the lawyer died in 1981, and then a person added something illegally to a trust in 1985 and he died and well...the trustee kept paying the taxes on something they didn't own....I probably should have left after the painting I was eyeing sold, but well...I was curious.  It was also a project piece, damaged in Superstorm Sandy and it was needing total restoration but the bidders went nuts on it and I never got my hand raised fast enough.  But my "last chance" was me.  The painting went for more money, shockingly, and it wasn't that high a priced painting.  A good used pickup costs more.  So what does this little piece of "heaven" look like?

It looks dry.  WORDS like flat, barren, ans desolate come to mind.....generally it is devoid of life..

Well, there were a few birds out there, I found 2 different Great horned owls

One on the power-line was very gray.  This is like my third lifer power-line bird for the trip.  A greater prairie chicken and an American pipit were my others.

Mountain bluebirds are always pleasant finds

I even have a local herd of antelope which came in across the road.  The bull is pretty nice but I spooked the harem so they went away from me and the road and watched me from a safe distance.

They are drilling an oil well nearby, so that is good, I guess.

They've moved off the massive drilling rig, and here they are swabbing to complete the well.  That is all I could glean from the road.  Going on to a well site without permission, especially here in the secretive edges of the Niobrara shale on the eastern Denver basin.  Trespassing would get me yelled at to beaten up.  It is said, Colorado holds up to a Trillion barrels of oil but as the geologists say, commercial production is speculative at best.  I think the owls and antelope have a better chance for commercial success than the oil for me.

I hope this isn't my last chance.......

My children will realize that some day, this piece of heaven will be all theirs.....maybe I'll wrap it up and put it under the tree?

the gift that keeps on giving...

Well, tomorrow, a meeting about what is the matter with Kansas, or something like that and then up to the Black Hills and the South Dakota Ornith. Union fall meeting tomorrow.

Colorado Springs is on my way to Spearfish...correct?   Maybe I should have brought a map!!


Golden dreams and memories

  Today brings me to the north suburbs of Chicago.  Although not for a bird even though a lifer bird had been flying tantalizingly close to ...