D. Stray Essays


This chapter is a parking place for some random rhymes and essays written over the years. They're presented in the chronological order they were written with minimal explanation. As you'll see, some poems were inspired by Robert Service's fantastic poem, The Cremation of Sam McGee, which my father had me memorized as a child.






Ode to his Valentine (1989)
He was flying high in the Texas sky
    sipping a glass of wine,
When it occurred to him he'd be home by ten
    and hadn't bought a valentine.

There wasn't much time so he started a rhyme
    to give to his lover at home.
But the words came slow and he didn't know
    if he'd ever finish the poem.

When he changed planes in Dallas, he'd made little progress
    so he toured the airport shops.
He considered buying panties or sexy nighties
    but decided she'd look better in socks.

This poem was written while flying home to Vancouver Washington from a business trip to Houston Texas on Valentine’s Day night. It was given to my wife Bernadine that night along with a pair of socks with little airplanes embroidered on them which I purchased in the Dallas airport in route.





A Passing Thought (1990)

The vastness of the Universe humbles my curious mind. Imagine a solar system somewhere in the shadows of the Universe that includes a bright blue planet covered with oceans of water. Unlike the barren inner planets scorched by heat from the Sun, or the bitter cold outer planets where seas of liquid nitrogen break on icy shorelines, the blue planet boasts a balmy climate. It is modest in size: large enough to induce sufficient gravitational force to develop an atmosphere, yet not so large gravity has crushing strength. The atmosphere is rich in nitrogen, carbon dioxide, and oxygen, and protects the blue planet from the relentless bombardment of meteors that riddle other planets. Poisonous ammonia and methane gases common to many planets are nearly absent. A magnetic field and a cocoon of ozone protect this goldilocks planet from cosmic radiation, and a large moon stabilizes its spin.

Given enough time, I suppose such a planet could spontaneously form simple organic compounds from atmospheric fluids. In billions of years, it's conceivable some compounds in this 'organic soup' could become complex enough to grow and diversify. It's difficult to imagine these compounds becoming so complex they develop into discrete creatures that move, eat, and reproduce. With a billion more years of evolution, try to envision intelligent creatures roaming the exploiting the blue planet.

As I sit here in the Columbia River Gorge listening to Mozart from my car stereo, I am mystified by my own existence. I try to visualize the enormous force of the Missoula Flood the raged through the Gorge 10,000 years ago to carve this spectacular canyon. Geologists argue that Missoula Lake formed behind a glacial dam during the waning years of the Ice Age. As the continental glaciers melted, the lake became immense and its waters rose so high the ice dam 'floated' and ruptured. Floodwaters rushed westward, devastating much of Idaho and eastern Washington before funneling through and carving the Columbia River Gorge. The theories are logical, yet inconceivable.

And on this winter day, relentless winds howl through the Gorge as gnarled fir trees desperately cling to the basalt cliffs. Magnificent waterfalls cascade from hanging valleys to the floor of the recently incised Gorge. I have admired the specter and pondered its origin, but ask now what difference it makes. This canyon in all its glory is but a passing blemish in the infinite history of the Earth and Universe. Why I am here to witness the marvel baffles me. But witness I do, awe stricken.




Round and Round (1990)

How many times has this planet spun about its axis since assuming its orbit five billion years ago? Day then night then day again, round and round. Geophysicists argue the angular velocity of the Earth is decreasing with time due to the frictional resistance from ocean and Earth tides. Evidence exists from the fossil record that there were 400 days per year 300 million years ago. I suppose it would not be difficult to calculate when there will be only 200 days per year, or when (like its moon) the Earth stops spinning completely.

In my reality, there are 365 days per year and this day is passing into night. Flying west in a jet plane at 500 miles per hour, the sunset lingers for an hour. The Sun sets over the Wasatch Mountains, then the Great Salt Lake, and now over southern Idaho. The clouds form countless patterns of symmetry and sometimes are indistinguishable from the snow-covered mountains below them.

Now is a time to be introspective. What have I accomplished these past few days? Am I happier or more peaceful? What contributions have I made to society and science? Am I any closer to solving the riddle of life? Time slips past exponentially. The plane will land and the Sun will rise and the seasons will pass. The old will die and babies will grow. In the frenzy of a day's work, my mind is occupied with the gibberish of civilization. But as the Sun sets, I reflect on how much this day resembles so many before it.

This day has slipped into night and darkness now envelopes the Earth. Distant stars twinkle events that occurred millions of years before curious Earthlings gazed at them in astonishment. Clever astronomers study these timeless spots of light, searching for clues of their own existence. Huge reflecting telescopes on remote mountain peaks probe deep into the Universe. Mighty arrays of dish antennas listen to electromagnetic waves from distant galaxies, hoping a meaningful clue might be mixed in with the noise. Soon the Hubble orbiting telescope will peer an order of magnitude deeper into the Universe in search of its limits, if they exist. Generation after generation, scholars explore the unknown realms of mind and matter in search of the Rosetta Stone of existence.





Cycletherapy (1990)

Wind in my hair and whistling spokes are the only sound in the serene mountain air. I feel as free as a bird and young as a child as I race my bike up the twisting canyon road. At first, my mind is burdened by the unpleasant thoughts I strive to leave behind. But as I race up the steep mountain road, I become intoxicated by exhaustion and free of burdensome thoughts. Pedaling through the 'narrows' and up the 'wall', I check my time and compared it to the last 100 times I rode up Golden Gate Canyon. A head wind is hindering my time today. Rather than concern myself with my sluggish ascent, I look forward to the tail wind on a thrilling descent.

“I really had a raw deal at work yesterday.” Is that me thinking? How did such an offensive thought slip past my defenses? Only one thing to do: shift to my 18-tooth, climb out of the saddle, and sprint to exhaustion. Ah, yes, that feels better. Obviously I'm not riding hard enough or I wouldn't have to go through this thought-purging exercise.

The wind stops blowing and I sip some water. The first summit still is three miles ahead, so I pick up my pace in attempt to trim time lost to the head wind below. My heart is pounding and I'm panting in rhythm to my pedals. The smell and color of the pines subconsciously mesmerize me.

“I believe I see another rider up ahead; I need to catch him.” Why is that I'm never satisfied simply racing against myself? I've always been competitive at everything, and cycling is no exception. So I dig deeper for the reserve of stamina I keep tucked away for such occasions. The sun is high and my body perspires profusely to cool itself. My sunglasses begin to fog, so I take them off and pedal harder. I'm slowly catching the rider, but apparently he noticed my pursuit and picked up his pace.

Guy Summit is near and it doesn't appear I can catch the rider before cresting the hill. No matter, my time looks good considering the head wind down the canyon. “Is the rider Mark? Yes, I believe it is; no wonder I couldn't catch him”. I've ridden countless miles with Mark through every canyon along the Front Range. He's a fine rider and will not be overtaken without a fight. But a three-mile descent lies just ahead and I can usually beat him downhill.

Cresting the hill, I tuck into a ball and shift to my 12-tooth. High-speed descents on winding mountain roads are pure euphoria. I'm 16-years old now and the world is my toy. I'm Superman and Einstein and my bike is greased lightning. “Problems” are a foreign concept. Lean to the left, then right, then left again: 40-miles per hour, now 47. A tight turn ahead with gravel … damn. I'm on him now and he knows it.

All my life I've been nicknamed “Wild Bill”. I suppose my nerve and temperament make a unique combination that set me apart from your garden-variety citizen. Mark knows I have more guts than him on fast descents, and I've closed the gap between us. I pull into his draft and greet him, at 50-miles per hour. Launched by his draft, I pass him and he immediately pulls into my draft. It doesn't get much better than this.

“There's a car ahead, let's chase it down”, Mark says. Taking turns breaking wind and drafting, we're in wild pursuit. Rather than the two individuals we were a few minutes earlier, now we're a polished team with a common goal. Unfortunately, the hill ends before we catch the car, but we enjoyed the chase.

We downshift, stretch our bodies, and prepare for the four-mile climb up the next summit. I comment about the delightful weather and invigorating ride. Then Mark says, “There must be bikes in heaven.” to which I respond, “Bikes are heaven.”





Ode to the Reeds (1998)
Way up there in the mountain air
    was perched the home of the Reeds.
The location was steep and cut by a creek
    with little flatland indeed.

When the sun went down, they'd all lounge around
    and gaze at the distant lights.
Immersed in the Jacuzzi with their Mom from St. Louie,
    they loved those warm summer nights.

His name was Jim Reed and he danced like a steed
    his parties they say were fantastic.
As he waltzed from the house with a cigar in his mouth,
    his movements seemed a bit spastic.

Jim's wife's name was Holly and I'll tell you by golly
    she was brave to dance with that man.
He'd spin her around 'till she'd fall to the ground
    and she'd land right on her can.

This was written for Jim and Holly Reed who were known for throwing colorful parties at their house on the mountainside overlooking Golden Colorado.





Ode to a Roughneck (2001)
It was half past four when he slammed the door
    and climbed in his pickup truck.
He forgot to shave and hadn't bathed
    but really didn't give a fuck.

His cloths were soiled and smeared with oil:
    nothing that could be worn to town.
His hands were strong with two fingers gone;
    the others were calloused and brown.

It was bitter cold when he backed out to the road
    and drove east to the station.
He filled up at the pump, then went in for a dump
    and to buy some eggs and bacon.

On the road out of Aztec, he stopped off at FracTech
    then headed east to Gobernador.
He slowed down for Smokey then lit a cheap stogie
    that'd never seen a humidor.

There are more versus to this, but they've gone missing. They were written while driving from Farmington, New Mexico, east to wells in the San Juan Basin during a two-month period. I was doing a series of production tests on gas wells while working for Burlington Resources and was taken aback by the hard, unkempt workers that drive the remote oil field roads so early in the morning. Hopefully I'll find the missing verses someday.





King of the Orinoco (2007)
Se llama Senor Roberto
    he's the King of the Orinoco.
He was our honcho at Conoco
    and drilled muchos pozos.
He was buen geologo
    and discovered mucho petroleo.
But little did he know
    no quieren no mas gringos.
Since el es Norteamericano
    it's time for him to go.
Chavez prefers Venezolanos
    'cause they cost him less dinero.
Well he may be a gringo bimbo
    but we hate to see him go.
So from all of us Venezolanos
    you'll always be our amigo.
And even if you're in Colorado,
    you're still King of the Orinoco.
I wrote this in Venezuela for Bob Kopper when Petrozuata was nationalized in 2007. It's a song to be played to a Reggaeton tune with a driving Latin beat.





Adieu Denver (2009)
Adieu Denver, it's hard to go
    Purple peaks are capped with snow
The smell of Spring is in the air
    Lovely girls everywhere
Only wish I were there.

Adieu Houston (2010)
Adieu Houston, it's time to go
    Crowded roads from Katy to Conroe
The smell of cars is in the air
    Urban sprawl everywhere
Only glad I'm not there.

Adieu LinnCo (2016)
Adieu LinnCo, it's time to go
    The price of oil's dropped too low
Rigs are stacked everywhere
    Another slump we must bear
Heaven knows we've had our share.

  

Bob Kopper and I worked for ConocoPhillips in Venezuela together until June 2007, when we were forced to leave the country due to Nationalization. Both of us were reluctantly transferred to Midland Texas. Then in October 2008, we both were happily transferred to Denver, only to have the office close in May 2009 when we were sadly transferred to Houston. Little did I know Bob was going to retire from ConocoPhillips and move to Golden Colorado the same day as me, March 14, 2010. I went to work for Linn Energy and spent most of my time in Golden, and Bob went to work for EOG in Denver. Bob, Bruce Wiley, and I have fond memories of “Texas in the rear view mirror”.

Then after nearly 7 years with Linn Energy (aka LinnCo), I was layed off in October 2016 during yet another downturn in oil and gas prices.





Death Valley Ode (2012)
There's a place out west called the Valley of Death
    where the Earth is scorched by the Sun.
The dry winds blow and the tumbleweeds roll
    from morning ‘till the hot day's done.

In remote arroyos are herds of burros
    who've descended from settler's times.
While spry coyote chase hare in the high country
    as they scurry amongst juniper and pines.

‘Tis here Mother Earth has lifted her skirt
    and exposed her ageless beauty.
Her structures are bold with magnificent folds
    yet her skin is delicate as a lily.

She's very old but adorned with gold
    and talc and salt and borax.
Her wrinkles are deep with countless creeks
    weaving alluvial aprons down from her thorax.

There isn't a breath in this Valley of Death
    yet it's peaceful and gives my soul pause.
It's hard to describe the feelings inside
    since they change like the desert's mirage.

This was written during and after a four-day jeep trip in Death Valley with my brother Tim and his friends Jerry, Billy, Joey, and Shawn, in March 2012. We camped in remote canyons and enjoyed each other’s companionship.





The Plight of Fred & Nadine (2012)
There once was a duck named Fred
    who liked to eat old bread.
He'd waddle around all over the ground
    and might eat an insect instead.

Fred's friend's name was Nadine
    she preferred eating sardine.
From morning 'till night and even in flight
    she'd dream of this tasty cuisine.

Each day these ducks would roam
    many miles away from home.
Finding food to eat was an endless feat
    so their stomachs often would groan.

This was written for my granddaughters Tava and Ila on the way to feed the ducks at Prospect Park.





Terry (2013)
There once was a fellow named Terry
    who decided one day to marry.
He was tall and fit with lots of grit
    but with Nia he'd sing like a canary.

Then one day they flew
    Over the mountains blue.
The family went west and we wish them our best
    In everything they decide to pursue.

This variation of Fred was written for Terry Coleman's ‘congratulation card’ just before he got married to Nia. Terry was my geotech at Linn Energy in Houston, but he was then transferred to Brea California.





I'm a Gnu (2014)
I'm a Gnu
   from U-bun-tu.
Why is it we roam
   so far from home?
I haven't a clue.

I'm a Gnu
   I don't know about you.
You walk like an ape,
   while pictures you take,
of all that we do.

I'm a Gnee
   I fly with the geese.
Unlike Gnu
   who travel in groups,
I like to be free.

This take-off of the silly poem “I'm a Gnu” and was composed by Bill Connelly and Donald Harvey with the help of Bernadine Connelly and Pip Harvey during our two-week safari in the Massai Mara and Serengeti of Kenya and Tanzania August 2014. A Gnu is the German word for Wildebeest.





He's the Boss (2017)
They call him Atlas Cardoso,
    he's a fearless wrecking ball.
He's still young and having fun
    but soon he'll be growing tall;
       ... Growing tall.

His Daddy's an oilfield fracker;
    his Momma's fit from doing cross.
He's just two but in a few
    we'll all call him the Boss;
       ... He's the Boss.

This was written for my grandson Atlas on his second birthday (born 9/15/2015).
It's written to the tune of Baby Driver by Simon and Garfunkel.









Death of a Father (2015)

So many experiences in life: Excitement, adventure, happiness, sorrow, anger, knowledge, athletics, love, children, and so much more. It seemed this journey would continue indefinitely. I was deeply saddened when my mother passed in 2001. I was very close to my Mom, and was empathetic of the turbulence in her life after her divorce with Pop. As the elder son, many of the responsibilities of the now-absent father fell on my shoulders and I tried to support Mom and my five brothers and sister.

Proud isn't an adequate word to describe my feelings toward my Pop. He was very active in Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts and took us camping frequently. He bought boats and on weekends took us water skiing, fishing, and shark hunting in the Catalina Channel. 'Never a dull moment. He challenged us intellectually in ways we didn't recognize we were being challenged.

But when I was 17-years old, he left us, never to return. To this day, I've not reconciled his decision to abandon the family. We were torn and confused. Mom was devastated and turned to alcohol and drugs to ease her sadness. He left and never turned back. We didn't hear from him for years. The family rightfully turned on him and bashed him at every opportunity. I couldn't forget my countless good memories of Pop and continually found myself defending his worthiness.

Mom conceived one last child from Pop during the waning days before their final separation. Timothy Richard was born February 4th, 1964, and Pop was nowhere to be found. I took Mom to the hospital and waited in the lobby with other expecting fathers when Tim was born. I changed his diapers, read to him, played with him, taught him to ride a bike, and all of the other cherished experiences between a father and son. I couldn't understand how Pop could be gone during these exciting times.

Time passed and I went in the Navy, then college, then graduate school, then Denver with an oil company. The family stumbled along without a father or eldest son to guide them. These were extremely difficult years for all of them, and I regret I couldn't be more help. I sent money frequently. The scars from those years remain painfully evident in my siblings. Some resentment to Pop's abandonment of the family was passed on to me.

As I aged, my warmth toward Pop diminished. I began to see him not as a brilliant father and mentor, but as a narcissistic man off on his own journey. Only now can I admit this. I so admired his intellect and sense of humor, and I vividly remember my childhood adventures. It created a deep conflict in me I still haven't resolved. I never shared my pent-up anger with Pop, and related with him as though nothing adverse ever happened.

As the years ticked by, Pop continued marching through life like a Duracell bunny. He was active in so many things and helped so many people. I couldn't ever understand how he could be more concerned with his new friends than his own offspring. He always was the 'life of the party' with his tales of the world and science. He laughed and joked and people everywhere were drawn to him. He was blessed with good health and continued to travel the world and engage in endless entrepreneurial businesses. At 85, he hiked with me into a steep canyon in Zion Park and did great. At 89, he still was driving his Audi sports car like Parnelli Jones. It seemed this bunny would never slow, and I'm proud of his good memory and health.

Then came the dreaded phone call. Pop is no longer with us. I find myself a bit angry he didn't seek medical help for his ailing stomach. It wasn't a condition that should have killed him. He was good for another 10 years or more. But he was bull-headed and decided to tough it out and not trouble others with this sick stomach. It killed him. Even after vomiting blood on the carpet, he called a rug cleaning service to come to the house to clean the mess. They called back the next day and I took the call: 'Pop has passed, but please come clean the rug'.

This is where the 'out of body' experience begins. It's long been know I was to be executor of Pop's estate and I jumped into this roll with both feet. Sorting out his debts and cars and rentals and such; meeting with attorneys, pastors, bankers, realtors; cremation, the Will, INTEC, an obituary, and so much more. The demands were so great I never got my balance, and was slow to digest what just happened. Now as the dust settles, I'm saddened and torn. Pop died April 12th and it's now May 14th. A couple nights ago, I dreamed about my father for the first time ever. It was a pleasant dream that took place during my high school years before the demise of the family. I now have Pop's iPhone and computer and receive his mail, and I'm seeing life through his eyes. I look at his picture on his license, passport, and Facebook and feel a profound absence. It's the first time I've been forced to consider my own mortality.





1925 - 2015 | Obituary

ROBERT CONNELLY December 18, 1925 to April 12, 2015.

Robert Frederick "Bob" Connelly was a unique man, the sort of person one seldom meets and never forgets. He began his life in Los Angeles, born to Frank and Helene (nee Hopkins) Connelly in 1925. He passed away in his home 89 years later, in Henderson, due to natural causes. He is survived by his wife, Pat Graeff; and his daughter and sons, Starr, Robert, William, Duane, Neil and Tim. Bob thought of himself as a patriarch, father, grandfather, great-grandfather, chemist, Christian, Freemason, and certified master gardener. Bob began his work life as a young boy, delivering newspapers in west Los Angeles. From then until the day he died, he relished a life of working and learning. As a young man, he served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II. At the age of 18, he married Beverly Ann Butte and they had two boys, Bobby and Billy, before being honorably discharged from the military. After the war, Bob attended Caltech, where he earned a BS in chemistry. Even with the distractions of a growing family, he maintained grades near the top of his class. He worked for Shell, then Emery Industries as a lubrication engineer. During these years, Bob's family grew with the arrivals of Starr, Duane, Neil and Tim. After leaving Emery, Bob was an entrepreneur with many endeavors, which ultimately took him to Japan, where he lived from 1971 to 2000. After leaving Japan, he lived in Tustin, Calif., then Henderson. He was married six times and cherished the memories of all his wives. Bob was blessed with keen intellect, fantastic memory, ambition and an unending sense of humor. If he were here today, I'm certain he could tell you about the weather on my third trip to Tokyo in 1991. He had many favorite quotes, and here are two of them, "Measure thrice, cut once," and "When you come to a fork in the road, take it." He was active in many organizations including the church, Masons, master gardeners, Shriners, ICANN, American Chamber of Commerce of Japan and Caltech Alumni. The Robert F. Connelly funeral is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday, April 18, at Christ Episcopalian Church, 2000 S. Maryland Parkway, Las Vegas, NV. The Scottish Rite will participate in the funeral.





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