Tuesday, October 30, 2007

The Emperial Presidency Is A Bummer

The President is First Among Equals: Bullshit!

One of my in laws is a fire captain in California, and works for the State Forestry Department. He and his crew have been fighting fire 24 hours on 24 hours off for over a week.
This is an recent update from his wife where she mentions the recent Presidential visit.

"XXXXX and his crews were fighting fire side by side with a XXXXX City FD crew. Imagine how different this experience was for them! XXXXX did not see the President and Governor when they visited on Thursday. However, it was the fire camp/incident command center for XXXXX's fire that the politicos visited. What did that mean to the crews? It meant that their strike team leader was NOT allowed into the fire camp to get supplies* for his crews while the president was visiting!"

*Supplies: air, water, food, first aid materials, replacement tools, etc.

I was living in Washington D.C. during the Johnson administration. I saw Lyndon a half dozen times (once he was with the Shaw of Iran) and he was never accompanied by draconian security measures. In fact one lunch hour My friends and I spent a half hour or so asking questions of VP Humphrey on the steps of a Student Center he was visiting. Mind you we were just walking by and stopped and got into the conversation.

This of course was just a year or two after the assassination of Kennedy.
I even saw Nixon when he visited in Arlington Cemetery in about 1969, to place a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. He arrived in a two car "convoy".

My best guess is that all this changed about the time after the Regan shooting.

Soon there afterward the President became an untouchable ghostly public presence and a pain the ass to the general public.

I tried to see President Regan when he came to Oklahoma City once. At that time I worked in the State Capitol building. I was not allowed to go to work while he was in the building. He came in a motorcade, in cars with mirrored windows which you could not see through, and drove into the Capitol building underground where he could not be seen. All the roads and streets to and from the airport were closed down along his route for the duration of his stay.
It was then I began to suspect that Regan was either dead or using a stand-in or double.

The next time I ran into the imperial tendencies, was in a hotel next to the Boston airport. The VP, Al Gore apparently had landed at the airport and was unloading at the south end close by the hotel. His route into town went right in front of my window. So of course I opened my curtains and got my camera. No, No, NO! With a few minutes a knock on my door brought some kind of rent-a-cop security person accompanied by a suit. Close your curtains and stand away from that side of the hotel. Actually he had passed by several minutes before but nobody knew that.

Then the one that really pissed me off was when the Union Pacific Railroad was closing down their Tennessee Pass route across the Rockies and were going to run one their steam locomotives and a special train over the route. I called for tickets 5 minutes after midnight the day they were supposed to be on sale. Sold Out! What, they were all pre-sold all 800 of them. The White House had bought them all to give the finance ministers from around the world a ride on the train while they were in Denver for a meeting.

Then they added injury to insult. Several weeks later were driving West along I-70 going to the foothills of Denver to visit some of my in laws. All of a sudden all traffic was diverted off of I-70 without warning to a South bound road which was already clogged with cars. As we turned South we could see a multi-car convoy of black SVUs turning onto the empty lanes of I-70 from the Denver airport. It was President Clinton going to that same damn finance summit.

It took us 3 and 1/2 hours of bumper to bumper unfriendly traffic with the ssun shinning into our face to drive completely around Denver to get to a destination that should have taken 15 minutes. My bladder is not rated for more that 2 and 1/2 hours at a time.

The Presidential tendency to be a pain in the ass to the general publics' comings and goings has escalated potentially just in my adult lifetime. What's next?

Friday, October 26, 2007

The Last Gift: The Moose

As we passed through the East Gate of Yellowstone National Park we had not seen the wolves or moose asked for of Grandfather. I chided my son about the power of his totem. Only a 60% delivery, said I. Not so, the kid said, the coyote after all is a prairie wolf . OK, I said, I'll give you 10% on the Coyote, but not the whole 20%.

As we drove down the pass away from the Park, the valley opened up and the Shoshone River began to grow in size to the south of the road. Then, at the edge of the river was this black shadow.

It was a moose. The light was almost all gone and he was moving pretty fast along the shore. I handed my grown kid the camera, rolled down the window, and stopped the car. See if you can get some pictures, I said. Out of about a dozen tries, two came out pretty good. Dang, if Grandfather didn't deliver a 90% success said I. The bear, the elk, the bison, half the wolf, and now the moose, pretty good medicine after all.

The old fires left a bunch of the scenery looking like this.

In a way the Yellowstone fires opened up the landscape and made it easier to see the animals.

We didn't spend much time with the geomorphology of the Park, but we did stop and take pictures of scenes like this.

Also this view of Lake Yellowstone was a breath taker.

Thanks to Grandfather Raven, it was a very good day.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Tatanka, Bison, Buffalo of Yellowstone

Actually my primary reason for wanting to go through Yellowstone National Park was to see the Bison herds. They have several herds there with numerous animals. We came in to the Park from the West Gate and initially saw few bison. So when my son encountered his totem Grandfather Raven he asked him to show us some, and so Raven did.

At first we encountered the solitaire old bulls that stay alone far from the herds and the young males.

Soon we found small groups of mature but younger bulls. August and September are the rutting months for bison, we were there at the end of this season and most of the ole boys were just kind of laying around. They looked kinda spent you might say.

As you go into the Park you receive a yellow sheet that basically says Bison may look slow and cumbersome, don't believe it. They can kill you. In fact they are six times more likely to hurt you than a bear will. They kill and hurt more people in Yellowstone than any other animal other than man himself.

Bulls like these can turn on a dime. Yes, literally on a dime.
Unlike other animals they pivot on their front legs when they turn. They do a 180 degree turn in less than one second. They can weigh up to 2,500 lbs, and run at 30mph. They can attain that 30mph with four jumps. They can clear a normal barbwire fence with a flat footed single jump, but most times they just go through it, not over it. At 2,500 lbs x 30 mph, well you figure the mass and impact. Even a full growed Grizzly won't take on an adult bull. It is just not a profitable activity.

"Most attacks by bison occur in Yellowstone National Park, the home of the largest herd of free ranging animals. An average of three attacks occur annually. Four fatalities have resulted from these attacks since 1975 (excluding car wrecks).
Most bison attacks are considered provoked, often by tourists who approach the animals too closely for photographs. However, totally unprovoked attacks also occur. Bison can weigh as much as 2,000 pounds (900 kg) and can run as fast as 35 mph (57 kph). Their potential for injury must be respected.
Injuries from bison attacks include gorings and blunt trauma. The bison's horns may appear inconspicuous but can produce deeply penetrating injuries. Gorings typically involve the buttocks, posterior thighs, and back because the individual is usually running away from the bison. Stomping, butting, and tossing by the bison produce blunt injuries that include fractures and other injuries associated with a fall."
And still we saw person after person get out of their cars and walk up within 25 feet of these brutes(that's about four seconds from death). Killed by a buffalo is not a headline you often see from Yellowstone but it happens every year.

My son was a little concerned when they would pass within a foot or two of his car window. Many car doors leave Yellowstone with scars or holes in them provided by Bison horns.

Bison do well in snow. They walk into the wind and bulldoze through the drifts as though they aren't there.

Near Lake Yellowstone we found several herds of cows and calves with yearlings.

We left the Bison and went on towards Cody Wyoming.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The Prairie Wolf : She Who Watches

So the elks were watching a prairie wolf a.k.a. a coyote in my neck of the woods. At first we thought (hoped would be more accurate) it might be a wolf but then we realized it was alone and was on a well beaten game trail around the edge of the river. Both of those things said coyote more than they said Wolf. After we got a good look at it, it was affirmed that she was a well fed, probably female, coyote in her winter coat.

Remember that if you click on these pictures they will enlarge to full size pictures that you can see more clearly. The coyote is in the middle of the picture almost blending in to the background.

She is following her game trail that she may have followed every day for years. Elk are not of interst to her unless they have been killed by some other agent. Carrion is fair game to all yellowstone preditors. Nope, she is hunting smaller game.

We drove on up the road by the river and stopped several times to get in front of her as she hunted. She was hunting the smaller critters, moles, mice, voles and such. In the time we watched her it looked liked she killed and ate a half dozen or so of these animals.

Ever wonder where a good pointer gets the instinct to do what they do?

After a bit she finaly worked her way down to the area where our car was parked and decide to forgo hunting and walked briskly past us.
Once she got to the otherside of the pavement she magically vanished into the landscape. We knew she was still there watching us because the nearby elk kept their gaze glue to the spot where she should have been. One of the Indian names for the coyote is "She Who Watches". *

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Yellowstone Elk

Grandfather delivered on the elk as well as the bear. It was the first two weeks in October so the elk bulls were still in rut. So we heard many bugle calls of the bulls.

It is not so much like a bugle as sort of a " ah ah ah eeh eeh eeh oo oo oo wha"

There were lots of cows and yearlings in small herds in the valleys.

So after wandering the countryside looking for elk we encountered this fellow when we stopped for lunch at Mammoth Springs.

So what are these elk watching. We will find out next posting.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Grandfather's Gifts: The Bear

My Son and I were returning from a work trip to Oregon and decided to go through Yellowstone National Park on our way home. It is October and the passes around the park are just about to close. A few days before you would have needed snow tires and chains to negotiate the roads in the park. But they were cleared and melted by the time we arrived.

Soon inside the park we were visited by a Raven. My son's totem is the Raven so he talked with Grandfather and feed him some bread and beef jerky. Then he asked Grandfather for gifts. He asked to see Elk, Bison, Moose, Wolves, and Bear today as we explored Yellowstone. Grandfather Raven was generous and granted almost all of his request.

Here is the meeting with the Bear. The Grizzly Bear.

It was late in the day. The light was failing. We were almost out of the park at the East gate. Then we saw two cars stopped by the side of the road ahead. I looked through the trees and saw the bear.

It was a grizzly. About 150 yards towards the south of the road.

It was far enough away to make us feel safe, but close enough that I might get pictures. We stopped.

Out of the car with a good 8 mb camera and telephoto lens I began to take pictures. The bear was digging up tubers and eating them at a prodigious rate. Fortunately his route of travel was parallel to the road we were on so that he stayed a constant distance away.

We stayed with him for 20 minutes. It was getting overcast and the light was going. We left him reluctantly and went on our way.
Thank you Grandfather for the gift.

More about the other animals in future post.