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 Valentines 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.

Atlas









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 em pathetic 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.





beach

Footprints in Time (2019)

As we wonder on the damp sand by the sea, our footprints leave a meandering trail behind us. The tide turns, and with a single wave, all evidence of our journey is washed away. The damp sand now is a blank canvas for future beachcombers. So many have wondered hither and thither, and so many will wander long after we're gone.

Few will have their footprints preserved for future civilizations to discover. Two million-year-old footprints in Olduvai Gorge are the first evidence of humans trekking the globe. These early humans were concerned with survival and cared not if their footprints survived time.

As humans evolved and migrated, the desire to memorialize our fleeting existence grew. Ancient graves, monuments, pictographs, and petroglyphs show that people sought to leave evidence they passed this way. With time, there were pyramids and statues, then paintings and palaces. Like the Mayans and the Egyptians before them, some built structures as testament they were here. Grand estates give a sense of immortality. Owners eventually come to realize they are but stewards of the land. Their glorious estates stand proud long after they've returned to dust. But how good do these relics memorialize one's existence? What do they tell of intellect, compassion, strength, or vision?

With the invention of written language by the ancient Greeks came the ability to capture the essence of mankind in a form that could seemingly survive time. Homer's stories of The Iliad and The Odyssey were written more than 800 years B.C. about events that occurred some 1250 years B.C. Since those first epic poems, countless stories, science, and history have been captured in literature as footprints in time. Those unwilling to scribe their thoughts to posterity find easier ways to be remembered. Graffiti on subway walls and boxcars suffice for some who seek literary immortality.

But are our monuments and memorials, literature and graffiti, any better evidence of our fleeting existence than those nameless footprints in Olduvai Gorge ?




Glenn, Bill, and Gerald
Glenn Gray, Bill, Gerald Ginn, Baja California, 1991

Wilder than Me (2019)

It was my intention to read you a yet unwritten story titled Wilder than Me, that shares many of my early life experiences with Gerald Ginn. I decided instead to just talk about some high points from this imaginary story. All my life I've been nicknamed "Wild Bill". In High School, the Navy, college, grad school, and at many jobs; friends independently gave me that nickname. So as a bit of an authority on "wildness", it's my conclusion that Gerald was Wilder than Me.

I met Gerald in 2nd grade in Temple City California. We lived in the same neighborhood, went to the same school, attended the same church, joined the same Scout troops, and had similar outlooks on life. Gerald was fun, smart, funny, and quite unconventional. Whenever Gerald or I got into trouble with authorities, we always were together, never alone. At times this became a problem and our parents discouraged us from hanging out together. Our friendship took us through the Scouts, selling newspapers at the horse race track, collecting snakes all through the southwest, to college, Vietnam, and so much more.

Gerald had an unusual sense of humor and, like Yogi Berra, had numerous memorable quotes. Some of Yogi's quotes might as well have been written by Gerald, notably:

  • "Always go to people's funerals, otherwise they won't come to yours".
  • And especially, "When you come to a fork in the road, take it".
With Gerald, there was no such thing as an "end of the road": there always was excitement and adventure to be found. Here are 3 'Geraldisms' I'd like to share with you. For decades, I've shared these with my family and friends, and are Gerald originals.
  • "I'd rather owe it to you than cheat you out of it".
  • "It'll feel better when it stops hurting".
  • "It's so nice out I think I'll leave it out all day".
Gerald and I played acoustic guitars together during and after high school. We enjoyed folk music which was popular in the '60's. There were many tunes we taught ourselves, but the ones that come to mind as favorites were A Soalin' and Puff the Majic Dragon, both by 'Peter, Paul, and Mary'; and Norwegian Wood, by 'The Beetles'. I considered playing these tunes here today in memory of Gerald, but came to my senses and decided against it (I never play in public). Yes, at this late time in my life, I continue to play the same tunes Gerald and I played together 5 decades ago. We often played these as a duet where he played the harmony and sang while I finger picked. I recall once Gerald was enthusiastically singing and his front denture inadvertently came out of his mouth and landed in the hole of his guitar. I still can see him with a large gap in his teeth, shaking his guitar upside down trying to get his denture out, all the time laughing at himself.

So many stories I could share:

  • Like when we ditched church and got arrested for causing mischief.
  • Or when we rode our bicycles several hours to the beach with a bottle of Calvert's rolled in the middle of a sleeping bag; and sleeping in yachts parked in used boat yards. I recall riding through Rose Hills past a 45mph speed limit sign and Gerald saying "we can ride faster now".
  • I recall numerous week-long snake-hunting expeditions in the desert; sneaking into motel swimming pools late at night with a bar of soap to bath.
  • Or buying beer underage with hand-crafted false IDs. Going to drive-in theaters with a trunk full of friends and beer.
  • Hiking up Fish Canyon and camping in Birdbrain Thompson's subsistence cabin.
  • Having the police come to my house after a station wagon of nuns reported that someone in my old Plymoth hung them a BA (I said it couldn't have been me since I was driving; it was Gerald).
  • Many stories about our periodic road trips to Ensenada and Tijuana with dune buggies.
  • I remember joining the Navy on a whim and going to Vietnam.
  • And finally, I recall an epic drive down Baja to Cabo.
That drive down Baja with Gerald and Glenn took a week and was full of fun and adventure. It was 1991 and this was my last adventure with Gerald. After sharing 25 years as friends, we'd come to a fork in the road: he went one direction and I went the other. At the urging of one of his friends, Gerald became a real estate salesman for Century21 and, after only a 3 years, became their number 3 salesman in California. He always had a silver tongue and could sell anything. I became a geologist and worked all over the world.

But in the end, Gerald was Wilder than Me.

The loss of friends and family becomes more frequent as the years pass.
The most recent was Gerald Ginn in January 2019: May he Rest in Peace.
Wilder than Me was read at Gerald's memorial April 13, 2019.
Some memories of Gerald can be found in chapters "
The Teens" & "Vietnam"





Passing Through Kansas (2019)

The West Pacific wasn't in his travel plans. Facts be known, he had no travel plans, or plans of any sort. Perhaps that's why his student deferment lapsed and was issued a 1A draft card. It was 1967 when he was conscripted to the US Navy on the USS Oriskany in the Gulf of Tonkin for two years of sea duty.

When finally there were only six months remaining in his hitch, he made his first "Short Timer's Chain". After 18 months of being crammed on an aircraft carrier floating near Vietnam, finally there was hope. No more bland food, endless long watch hours, retarded Chiefs, lack of privacy, and stupid white hats: freedom seemed achievably near.

A key chain has seven beads per inch. A tradition in the Navy is that a proper short timer's chain has one bead for each remaining day of active duty. So with 182 days remaining, his chain was some 4.3 feet long. Each day, as tradition dictates, he clipped one bead from the chain and threw it at someone he disliked. This was a morning ritual that continued each day until that final day when he gleefully strolled across the Quarter Deck and down the gangplank for the last time.

And during those final months he developed a "short timer's attitude". Some call this a "give-a-shit" attitude, but that seemed a bit crass for him. Navy routines started to seem less important now. The Petty Officer's harsh and crude words didn't seem to penetrate as they once did. The 'whites' weren't ironed as wrinkle-free, and the shoes didn't shine as before. The hair was longer and the shaves less frequent. His smile even changed and started looking like one you might see on a hippie walking the San Francisco sidewalks. Yes, his life seemed easier now and he came to be known as the Mellow Fellow as he skated through those last few months.

With his Honorable Discharge and college degree, he joined the ranks of working America. He worked diligently and moved up in his profession as the years sped by. Two, then three, then four weeks of annual vacation. A wife, and one, then two, now three children. Nicer cars, bigger houses, more travel; as he sped through life like a freight train passing through Kansas. But then came the gray hair, then thin hair, now bald. The kid's graduations, then weddings; grandchildren soon followed.

The days of gainful employment were coming to an end as the industry again struggled. It had struggled and survived several times in his earlier years; when only the older workforce was terminated. But this time it seemed he was one of those 'older' workers. His days were numbered and he knew it. With time, he slid into the short timer's attitude remembered from decades earlier with Uncle Sam. Evaluations became a joke. When asked, "Thinking of the course of your career, where would you like to see yourself in five years?" His trite answer was, "Hopefully above ground". Facial hair grew longer, more wash-and-wear shirts, and lots of long lunches.

Forced retirement came about the time Social Security and Medicare started. With time on his hands, politics took on greater importance. He tuned in the news regularly and read opinion articles, and never missed voting. As the years continued to pass, politics went through numerous good and bad cycles. It occurred to him the cyclicity would continue with or without him.

More and more time was spent with his grandchildren, home projects, and marijuana garden; politics became a distraction. The hair continued to grow and there were precious few ironed garments. It seemed it was time to make another short-timers chain, but he had no notion of the correct length.


Cassia, Bill, and Ila.


"... He sped through life like a freight train passing through Kansas."

This is an interesting metaphor. One perception is that of the engineer as the train speeds through the baron grasslands, roaring and vibrating. But the perception of a bystander as the train roars past is quite different. It's quiet and peaceful, then the enormous presence of the freight train speeding through, then quite again for a long time until another nameless train roars through.






Homeless in Whosville (2019)
Give them food, give them cloths;
     they can camp by the Creek.
Give them shelter, give them toilets,
     and they'll stay the whole week.

Whosville decided to give comfort and cheer;
     now they've decided to stay for a year.

They told all their friends and they told their mates.
     They told them, "Whosville's Opened Their Gates".
They came with their signs, they came with backpacks;
     and soon Whosville was charging more tax.

The rhetorical question as to what to do about the sudden influx of homeless. In Golden, they are primarily the "neuveau" homeless, which is a bit of a lifestyle as opposed to classical mental illness. At least that's how it seems to me.







Fat Rats in Whosville (2019)
Rats in the cellar, rats in the shack;
    Rats in the house: we're under attack.

We called Pied Piper, and we let out the cats.
    Then came the exterminator with fancy new traps.

It must be the chickens in the neighbor's new coop.
    The rats love their food    … and even their poop.

And when I'm finished writing this poem,
    I'll kill all the rats, or find a new home.

On our Neighborhood Website, there was a lot of discussion about rats in Arvada. Some felt their infestation of rats resulted from neighbors getting chickens. This was some minor heckling of the Rat Saga.







Rooster Roast (2019)

Cock-A-Doodle-Doodle-Dee,
    From our coop, it was time to Flee.
Cock-A-Doodle-Doodle-Doo,
    To the high country, these Roosters Flew.
Cock-A-Doodle-Doodle-Dulch,
    Now here we are at Crawford Gulch.

Cluckity-Cluckity-Cluckity-Cluck
    It seemed we'd found some better Luck.
But Cluckity-Cluckity-Cluckity-Clame,
    After us five farmers Came.
Cluckity-Cluckity-Cluckity-Clee,,
    We got along better with Coy-ot-e.

So Cock-A-Doodle-Doodle-Doo,
    Over the mountains, these Roosters Flew.

Again, the Neighborhood Website had a bunch of chatter about several roosters someone dumped at the Crawford Gulch Grange up Golden Gate Canyon. There was concern the wildlife would kill and eat these poor roosters. Little did I know, there's a "Save the Roosters" organization and they organized a rooster chase one Friday evening. I commented, "Roosters, really? In the end, won't they get getting eaten anyway?" No one liked my "roast" humor, so I wrote this poem.







Climate Changes (2019)

Guess how much sea level has risen in the last 20,000 years. This graph shows sea level (in meters), plotted against time (in thousands of years).

Nearly 400' rise in ~20,000 years. As an example of evidence, look at the Brazos Estuary in south Texas, now a flooded incised river channel. This rise occured before humans utilized fossil fuels.

Guess how many "global warming" events occurred during the Pennsylvanian Period (Pennsylvanian is the younger portion of the Carboniferous ("C" in the graph)). The duration of the Pennsylvanian was ~25 million years, and occurred ~300 million years ago.

Depending on cut-offs, there were 12 to 23 "hothouse" and "icehouse" events. As an example, look at the sedimentary cyclicity in the Honaker Trail Formation in Utah.

It seems climate changes: always has, always will. And with changing climate, sea-level changes. Sea-level changes also result from plate tectonics, mountain building, and basin subsidence. And rivers change their courses and sometimes flood. And earthquakes occur, moving huge crustal plates. Volcanoes erupt, sometimes emitting copious CO2 into the atmosphere. Sometimes meteors catastrophically crash into the Earth. This planet on which we dwell sometimes is a bumpy ride. Yet after a billion years, life on Earth continues to evolve and flurish: some photosynthesizing, some floating, some swimming, some burrowing, some flying, some walking on 6 legs, some on 4 legs, and rarely, some on 2.


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