Tuesday, August 24, 2010


My mother's side of the family has traditionally held a family reunion on the Fourth of July every year.
I have always enjoyed getting together with the relatives I don't see the rest of the year and see what everyone has been doing. Not the same people show up every year, so there is always someone different to talk to.
It is always potluck, with everyone bringing something they make especially well or are proud of (not necessarily the same thing). It is pretty much a traditional Fourth of July.Except for the dynamite.
My Aunt and Uncle live on the South end of Vashon Island, where they have a sizeable chunk of property. It is a very rural setting. The land is mostly second growth timber and brush. At the time, because they were clearing land, they could buy dynamite (for agricultural purposes only) at the Co-op.
Anyone who has spent time on the business end of a muck stick and prybar trying to get a stubborn stump out of the ground can really appreciate the pristine beauty of a couple of well placed sticks of dynamite. Not to mention the fact that it is a heck of a lot of fun to make things go BOOM. Both the relatives on Vashon and my family in Idaho had obtained and used dynamite for a number of years.
For the family get-together, people would usually start arriving around noon, and start out with the veggies-and-dip, and chips and snacks. Around the same time the first fireworks would show up.
The policy towards fireworks has never been consistent in the State of Washington. Heck, it is not even consistent from block to block. It is literally possible to buy fireworks, walk a couple of blocks and be arrested for setting them off. It is not a policy designed to to build a great deal of respect for the law and its enforcement. To complicate matters, the Indian Reservations are only subject to Federal Law, so you can get a lot more of "The Good Stuff" from the Indians, including some stuff that is outside Federal guidelines.
Every year, McCord Air Force Base in Tacoma holds an Airshow to celebrate the Fourth. They generally flew North out of the base and turned around at the North end of Vashon. During the day we would see all kinds of Aircraft from fighters to cargo carriers, to bombers. We would hear them coming and rush outside to see if we could identify the type and model of the plane.
The fireworks would typically start with the younger kids lighting snakes and smoke bombs, then progress through lady fingers, regular firecrackers, bottle rockets and the usual small fireworks.
Since we had to take the last ferry back to the mainland at around 7:00 we never got into the more elaborate airborne displays. We spent the afternoon and early evening, when not occupied eating, inventing new and more elaborate ways of blowing things up.Firecrackers were placed under tin cans.Holes were punched in tin cans to pass the fuse through, and then the cans pushed down into mud or soft sand. The idea is to see how high in the air you can blow the can. My personal favorite was an Old El Paso chilies can inside a regular soup can partly filled with water. If you didn't get the fuse wet, it was good for at least a hundred feet of altitude.
I suppose that it was inevitable that we would someday come to the conclusion that since we had dynamite, and there were stumps to be blown, there was no reason we couldn't blow stumps an the Fourth of July.
We didn't do this every year, just when the urge was irresistible.One year after sending cans flying as high as possible, we started speculating how high in the air we could send something if dynamite provided the propulsive force and we could find something sturdy enough to not disintegrate.
First we took an old wellhead, dropped a lit stick of dynamite down it, followed by a section of madrona. It made a satisfactory BOOM, but the wood disappeared completely. We never saw it after it left the pipe.Next we saw a car wheel laying out by the barn. Perfect!We put the car wheel on a flat place over the top of a stick of dynamite, lit the fuse and got back.
Totally unsatisfactory. The wheel, spinning madly went about thirty feet in the air. Heck we could blow tin cans a lot higher than that. The problem seemed to be that the force of the explosion needed to be focused. Not an insurmountable problem. Having experienced the benefits of the fact that water is not compressible, we decided to dig a pit slightly larger than the wheel about a foot deep, fill it with water and try again. And since one stick of dynamite didn't provide enough propulsive force, three ought to do the job!
We finished digging our pit and filling it with water. Actually, but the time it soaked in, it was more like thin mud than water, but we were pretty sure it would do the job. We had waterproof fuse, so we didn't have to worry about the fuse going out. We set three sticks of dynamite equally spaced in the pit, and dropped in the wheel. We lit the fuse and got the heck out of there.
Just as we lit the fuse ad retreated, we heard a thumping noise on the horizon. It was a flight of six helicopters. Surely they wouldn't be coming anywhere near us! But they kept on a course that would bring them right overhead.
We looked at the wheel with the dynamite under it.
The fuse got shorter.
No one was willing to go near it to pull the fuse. A mistake would probably be fatal.
The helicopters came closer.
The fuse got shorterCloserShorter
We had succeeded in our plans, for the wheel flew a couple of hundred feet in the air.Right into the view of the helicopters. They must have seen it, because the formation split apart and headed away.
We figured we were in huge trouble.
The first thing we did was put the dynamite back in the powder shed.
Then we all went in and watched some sporting event on TV and prayed nothing came of it. Every time a car went by, we figured it was going to turn in the driveway, filled with guys in grey trenchcoats and black fedoras, but we never heard a thing.
I always wondered what the Flight Leader reported.
I don't think he would want to report that they were under attack by car wheels.
Maybe they never said a thing and that's why we never heard anything.
The only thing I know for sure is that the next time we went to the Co-op to buy dynamite, they wouldn't sell us any.

Monday, August 16, 2010

What a day

Today could have gone a lot of different ways.

I got up feeling OK. We decided to take the dogs and go on a road trip. his would be Monk's first road trip. Molly is a road vet.

This was the first road trip in the Westfalia, the first time we have had it on the road since I fixed the gas tank, the first road trip since putting in the new engine, so I approached it as a "Let's hit the road and see what happens."

When you leave the house and hit the road, there are ten things that can happen, and nine of them are bad. None of the bad things happened. Lots of good things happened.

We headed over Snoqualmi Pass to Eastern Washington, or as we put it here in Pugetopolis "Over on the Dry Side", and I decided I wanted to go over to Roslyn and then up thru Ronald and Salmon le Sac, and then up into the mountains.

I have a special place to me. Take the road from Salmon le Sac up into the mountains at a place called the Scatter Creek Campground there is a camp ground where the view is so heartbreakingly beautiful that you just don't want to leave.

One of the reasons this place is special to me is that for my fifteenth birthday I asked my family to drop me off at Scatter Creek and leave me for a week, along with my cousin Kelly. We had a blast, hiking and fishing and exploring. It is one of my fondest memories of growing up.

When you grow older you have a lot of times you want to return to some special moment or memory, and when you try, nothing is the same. The present cannot live up to the memories.

But some times, some rare once in a while, it is not just the same, it is better. Today, when we turned into the campground, it was pretty much empty. I pulled in in such a way that the view was obscured. Then I took Mrs A by the hand and said "turn around and look behind you" When she did I heard her catch her breath, because behind her was this incredible view that belongs on post cards and calendars. Not something you can just drive up and see. In the foreground is the river coming out of the lake. In the mid ground there are the winding paths of the lake, which are accented by all of the wild rice, which is this brilliant green. The far shore is a much darker green of pine trees, the purples and dark greys winding up to the blacks and brilliant blue of the sky. Not a cloud anywhere.

We stood in the stream, me in the front her behind, hugging me, the incredible view in front of us.

Some times you CAN go back and capture a magical moment. Sometimes it can be even better if you bring someone who can appreciate it as much as you can.

yeah, I'm still here

I have been a very bad blogger lately. Too much going on in the daily world.
We were supposed to go to Idaho for a family reunion of sorts, and didn't make it. When I filled up the Westfalia to to top for the first time the other day, it overflowed a pint or so of gas. It also smelled of gas whenever I went around a corner, so my first day of vacation was spent dropping, fixing and reinstalling the gas tank. There was a broken fitting going to the overflow tank. Reinstalling the tank I managed to pull a muscle in my back, so I missed the reunion. I won't drive when I'm taking muscle relaxers and pain killers.
So I am in day four of a five day vacation. The farthest I have made it is about four miles to the Movie theater to see "Salt". Pretty good flick. Non stop action with enough plot twists to keep you guessing.
I thing we are going to pile into the Westphalia and head for the mountains today. Just to get out of the house.
R and "i" are still with us and will be for a couple of months. She is undergoing court ordered drug treatment. Since she has treatment three days a week and attends NA twice, there is no way she can hold a job at the same time. The court ordered drug treatment is because she tested positive for Pot. The State has issued the proclamation that the police relegate marijuana offences to the least priority, but there are some judges that continue to pursue prosecution as a sort of personal campaign. Rose has cooperated, but as a result she pretty much has to stay with us while she is in treatment.
Mrs A does not well tolerate another woman in her house. It has led to several arguments between us. She treats Rose like a servant girl. Lots of do this and do that. Since she is living here rent free, I guess she has a right to expect some help around here Sometimes it's not what you say, but how you say it. I try to keep my nose out of it, but it is impossible for me to ignore completely.
My sister Suzie and her kids were in town. For the most part I was too busy to visit them very much. I managed to drop by and see them one afternoon after work, but that wasn't nearly enough. I would have liked to have them over for dinner on the weekend, but when you are working seven days a week, it is hard to work up enough energy to do much of anything.
Oh well.
TTFN as tigger would say.

Thursday, August 05, 2010

Glass Class

Here are some pictures of my first projects in my glass blowing class. I am pleased with them as first attempts.

The fluted bowl came out pretty much as I planned, except I wanted more red at the bottom. Doing a full red to orange to yellow color shift as you go upwards. I cut the globe too close to the bottom or something because very little of the red came through. I guess I should have gone for one more dip in the red. Oh well, pretty darn good for a first attempt.

Of course I had lots of help from the instructor.

The two paperweights were made using a "Blow and Suck" technique.

Hey you in the back of the room! I hear that snicker......cut that out right now!

You basically blow a small globe, and then suck in all the air, causing the globe to collapse, then cover it over with a layer of clear to create the globe.

The floppy bowl was a lot more technically complicated, but I had a lot of help from the instructor. There are only two people in the class, and the other on couldn't make it, so I had three hours of private instruction.
I'm not sure exactly what to expect. It was a lot hotter than I expected. The rule was more or less "First degree burns are expected. Second degree burns are bad, third degree to be avoided at all costs" I suppose over time you must develop thick skin or something. I had to back off several times when I thought I had too much heat, but I was fine this morning, although I noticed that all the small hairs on my hands are pretty much gone.
I'm not sure what to do next. Probably a vase and some votives.

Maybe a mug.