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Location: DownByTheRiver, Central Iowa, United States

Husband of the world's most wonderful wife, father of the world's four most brilliant children, grandfather to the world's eight most beautiful granddaughters and two handsomest grandsons

Monday, June 11, 2012

Rosie The Riveter Crosses Over

Last night, out on the West Coast, we lost one more Rosie The Riveter.  My beloved Aunt Marjorie, my Father's sister fought her last battle.  Age and cancer won at last.  A farmer's daughter from Iowa, she went west and built bombers in California during WWII.  When I was a tiny boy she and my uncle and my cousin VJ farmed close to us.  One of my earliest memories was at the age of four sitting down to eat at the table in her farmhouse and she set a plate and reserved a chair for my imaginary friend.

As C.S. Lewis said, "they don't make tough old Aunties like they used to."  She was the best.  I'll miss her deeply and grieve quietly.

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Keeping A Coonhound In Stitches

Since the last time the River Rat Ranger was regularly blogging, his beloved dog, Bay Toe Ven has gone on to his Final Reward... what some would call The Land Of Slow Rabbits.  Regardless, he lived to be 17 and died in my arms.  Mrs. RRR and I spent the weekend grieving, then began looking for a new dog.  We fell in love with a 6 year old Walker Treeing Coonhound who had been rescued by the Humane Society.  She looks like a giant beagle crossed with a bloodhound.

Walkers were started by a man from Virginia named John Walker.  He crossed a hunting dog stolen from a hillbilly with one of George Washington's purebred English Foxhounds.  Ellie Mae has many advantages and disadvantages, the largest of both being she's a coonhound.  That means she lives to hunt and ONLY to hunt.  Turn your back for a moment and she slips her collar and is gone, at least overnight.  It happened last Saturday afternoon.  I'd had a wonderful morning fishing with youngest daughter's oldest two girls and her husband, my son-in-law.  I was sitting at the picnic table on the deck of the cabin cleaning fishing rods and putting on new line and was supposed to be watching Ellie Mae.  My attention wandered... so did she.

Mrs. RRR and I drove around calling her but she was gone.  Saturday night we put her bed out on the deck hoping to find her asleep in the morning.  What we found was a blood soaked dog bed and a trail of blood across the deck to the corner of the house.  There Ellie May lay in distress.  She had a huge wound right behind her left front leg.  It was the size and shape of the top of a steel fence post.  There was also a barbed wire tear on the right hind leg.  The chest wound was ugly.  She must have impaled herself and it looked like the post had slid up along her rib cage for several inches.  We only briefly considered taking her to a vet.  I grew up on a farm where we raised chickens, hogs, and cattle as well as the occasional goose and turkey.  Calling the vet was always the last option, not the first.

So we assembled the gear: a needle and thread, hydrogen peroxide, rubbing alcohol and lots of paper towels.  Mrs. RRR put on leather gloves and wrapped her arms and legs around the poor dog and hugged her while I washed out the wound with a lot of peroxide.  It took at least a cup before the wound drained back clean.  Then I began to try to sew it shut.  Things didn't go well.  I will never again use a sewing needle if at all possible, but you use what you have available in a crisis.  It was too hard to push through the skin so I went to get a needle nosed pliers from my gunsmithing tools and found a hemostat I'd forgotten I'd purchased to disassemble guns.  We soaked it in alcohol and things went much better.  I would caution readers not to attempt to sew a continuous stitch but rather to tie and cut each separatly.  The last few stitches went much quicker as the skills from the past resurfaced and I had better equipment. 

Then I drove into town to the Farm and Home store and bought a bottle of injectable tetracycline.  Of course it said "For Swine and Cattle" but the dosage was weight based.  It looked like 3 CC would be about right.  Except that the store did not have any syringes.  I went next door to a grocery store with a pharmacy and asked to buy a 3 CC syringe.  When I explained what I needed it for, they gave me an out of date human one free.  I expected more battle from Ellie Mae.. but she'd had enough and lay perfectily still as I gave her a shot inside her thigh and sprayed the wounds with Equine Scarlet Oil.  Forget the picture of the horse on the can... Scarlet Oil or Red Oil is the old standby disinfectent for all wounded animals. 

Ellie Mae was very sore and slow moving Sunday night and Monday morning, but actually wagged her tail a little and wanted to take a walk by Monday evening.  Tuesday morning we took a 1 1/2 mile walk and today a 2 mile.  Success!

Monday, May 28, 2012

He's Almost Back

Yes, friends, it's the end of May, Memorial Day and to all who have been thanking me for my service,... You're welcome.  And thank YOU for the tax dollars that made it possible and continue to do so.  The River Rat Ranger has just returned from his spectacular 2012 annual river trip.  The photos are currently being developed at Sprawl Mart, I kept a fairly good journal and I hope I am telling the truth to say that I'll give a few really good blogs.  To those many who helped me on this trip and showed interest... thank you.  Ike and Tina were correct in their song, Proud Mary... "people on a river are happy to give".

Friday, October 28, 2011

He Returns... Yeah... Again

The years flip by like fanning cards in a worn deck. I haven't blogged since June of 09... and the things that have happened since then... two more granddaughters born... a new President... and of course the continuing issues with my health. Two more river trips. The one in 2010 with my friend Trinity turned out to be a disaster. It rained and rained and rained. The Skunk River went out of its banks. After a couple days we gave up. I tried going by myself to camp alone by Lake Rathbun and promplty broke a molar on a peice of homemade jerky. End of trip.

This year was different. I went down the Iowa River. Mrs. RRR dropped me off by Eldora and I floated down to the Big Water... The Mighty Mississip. Camped on islands and sandbars and generally had a great time. The State Tournament came and went... took two firsts and a third.

I continue preaching a couple times a month. We're going through the book of Daniel right now.

Social Networks have almost killed blogging, it seems. For me it was when my job firewalled blogspot. But today is special. A crew is putting a new roof on the cabin and I'm sitting by the fire glad it's them shivering up on the roof and not me.


Wednesday, June 17, 2009

The River Rat Ranger Floats On

Where is he?, both my fans have asked. I have returned from the 2009 float trip and this time will write about it. My neglect has been partly due to a chemical experiment. For about the last year I've allowed myself to come under the infuence of anti-depressent medication. I smile a lot, stared into space a lot and accomplished even less than usual. By this spring I had had enough. These feelings are MINE darn it, and I'm going to feel them regardless of VA promises of a disability and the chance to babble happily time to time. So I weaned myself off them.

Then I attended a men's spiritual retreat in northern Minnesota based on the philosophy of John Eldridge's book, Wild At Heart.

Then, totally off the meds, I slapped Shermona, my 12' jon boat into the Wapsipinican River and spent the next weeks floating downstream. I'll write about soon and you shall hear more.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Bad Times, Good Times

The River Rat Ranger has not blogged in over a year. Many issues, not the least being my health have interfered, but sometimes you just have to rise above it.

Sunday was the annual shooting competition of the state reserve law officer association. I was scheduled to work the weekend and tried desperately to find someone to cover. It seemed it was all going to fall into place, then the person I was counting on had a terrible family tragedy. Thus I had to go compete after being awake at work all night. Mrs. RRR brought in my guns and gear and met me in the parking lot at 0730. We grabbed a snack and a thermos of coffee at Quick Trip and were off to the range at the Fort. I switched from a hospital logo t-shirt to a sheriff's office one and was ready to go.

30+ of the 700 reserve officers in the state dared to show up for the state tournament. The competition is always stiff. Some of the very best shots in the state participate. My chronic heel pain interfered, as did my fatigue... but I muddled through.

When the smoke cleared.... it was... Revolver, Marksmanship division 1st place... The RRR. Auto Pistol, Sharpshooter division 1st place... The RRR.

Life is good.

I went home and slept like the dead till 2130 (9:30 pm to non-rangers) and back to work.

Monday, July 02, 2007

The Termination Of The Suction Pipe Follies

The RRR tells the sad story of the end of the Suction Pipe story. Eventually, the parts arrived, my leg healed and I installed the part and the new hydraulic filter and fluid. I started the tractor, the transmission worked fine. But before I could start driving I noticed hydraulic fluid leaking from the filter. I shut down and pulled the filter I'd just installed. My filter wrench had torn a hole in it. The new brand name filter was a fraction of the thickness of the old one. I drove the eight miles to town and bought another filter of a different brand and a new filter wrench guaranteed not to cut the metal. Back at home I carefully installed the new filter, tightened all the nuts on the suction pipe and started the Cub Cadet again. No leaks. I began cutting grass. It worked better than it ever had. But then a vibration started.

At first I thought a blade was bent on the mower. I stopped twice and checked the blades. They were OK. I continued to cut. The vibration became more severe. So I decided I would stop at the end of that turn around the yard when I got close to the shop. Suddenly the vibration because explosive. The tractor shuddered to a stop. Oil ran out of every opening in the side. Pieces stuck out of places they weren't supposed to. The transmission was, as we used to say in the '60's... lunched. It was all over. The one hundred plus dollars... the time... gone and wasted except for being one more installment of tuition in The School Of Hard Knocks.

I went back to the shop to begin the resurrection of my old Sprawl Mart lawn tractor. The case looked hopeless. Mrs. RRR and I consulted. It seemed the best idea was to get Bubba, the 1987 Dodge pickup running so we could go buy another garden tractor and bring it home. Bubba needed the fuel tank removed and the intake tube unplugged. I spent the next several hours siphoning the old gas out and began trying to remove the fuel tank straps. One bolt out of four came out. The other three would obviously need to be cut. Then replaced.

As a lay under Bubba contemplating the Meaning Of Life And Other Things... usually the thoughts that occur to me at such a time... I noticed what looked like a hole in the frame of the truck by the fuel tank. I poked it with my finger. My finger went THROUGH the frame. I punched it. My fist went through the frame. Bubba was a total loss, maybe with a salvageable motor and transmission, but nothing else. I decided there was much more to the Meaning Of Life And Other Things than I had ever imagined.

The next day I began the Final Resurrection of the old Murray lawn tractor. It runs now, not well, and parts are in the mail to overhaul the carburetor.

I mowed the yard close to the cabin with the push mower and wherever possible with my antique H Farmall. And now I look out the window at the yard that already needs mowed again and one more time ask myself do I REALLY understand The Meaning Of Life And Other Things.

Wild Communion

The RRR continues his journal of the River Trip with perhaps the most difficult day to write about. It does not come easy for me to describe spiritual experiences. It produces a feeling of being caught in public without one's clothes on or that it might be taken as braggadocio. I will attempt to describe things accurately and let the chips fall where they may.

In her book, Wild Communion, Ruth Baetz gives the following two quotes in the introduction:
“Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature's peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves.”... John Muir.

“'El-Shaddai!” the patriarch cried in anguish... 'In the town will we know you as we have known you in the desert?'
'Inside the walls it will not be easy for me to speak with you,' the deity answered, 'but I shall be there.'”
The Source... Michner.

I was on a Quest, not just a journey and I did not expect what the day would bring. It was Thursday, May 24th. I had slept to the rumbling voice of the drift dam and the muttering gossip of the river. The little oasis where my tent stood came alive with bird music at 0540. I once more wriggled out of the Wenzel and faced ominous, dark clouds. As I made my morning hot and cold drinks I noticed the Russian army pants were developing new tears. I got out the sewing kit and stitched them up for the last time.

That a storm was coming was obvious from the sky, the feel of the air, the odd gusting of the wind, and the cries of the birds swooping low to the water. Today it did not stir up the dread and panic it had before. See what Muir says above about their energy entering you. In the prelude to the storm, the gnats and mosquitoes seemed to frenzy into desperate feeding. The bug eating birds by the river joined the frenzy uttering those odd... “a storm is coming! Hurry! Hurry!” cries as they wheeled and snatched insects about the boat. With my bush hat gone I was wearing the head net closer to my face and it disturbed my vision more. The distant rumbling of the thunder moved inexorably closer. Now separate flashes of light from the lightening became visible. I began the count. Flash of light, “one, one thousand; two, one thousand; three, one thousand.” Then the crash of thunder. Sound moves about 1000' per second, approximately the speed of a .45 caliber bullet. Six, one thousand means the lightening was a mile away. It got that close, then closer. I slipped on my rain overalls and tugged them down over my rubber boots, noting that I'd developed a blister on the right great toe the day before portaging. I pulled my Swiss Army poncho on and snapped it up and pulled the hood over my head as lightening illuminated the day from perhaps a 1000 feet away and the thunder's crash had a physical presence.

The rain enveloped me in a roar. I sat in Shermona like a monk meditating in his cell, my legs crossed, the oars suspended over the water. The hood of the poncho and the head net tunneled my vision and shrunk it somehow. The river around me was churned to mist as the rain drops seemed to bounce and explode. The air and river seemed to merge into a new substance, not liquid, not atmosphere. The day had turned greenish with the light sometimes described before tornadoes. The birds were gone. The insects were gone. It was the river, the rain, and I... and we merged. Peace flowed into me and over me. Oneness was achieved. This is where the Quest becomes the Quester. Unconsciously, my breathing slowed... in through nose, out through mouth as a woman does preparing to give birth. The peace and energy of the storm became mine... no... Ours. I thanked God and tears ran down my cheeks, joining the moisture of the rain. The whole journey, all its preparation and trouble were worth that moment. But the moment stretched on and the Peace of Greenness stayed with me. I had the feeling I would never be the same.

The wind stayed brisk and when the river turned into it, the boat stood still or was even pushed backward, but today there was no fatigue. I rowed into it, sometimes singing army marching songs to the beat of the oars... “You had a good home and you LEFT... you're Right! Sound off, One Two.. Sound off, Three, Four... Bring it on down, One Two Three Four... One Two!” And... “Ain't no use is goin' home, Jody's got your gal and gone... Ain't no use in going back, Jody got your Cadillac... One Two Three Four...” etc. It was a happy madness. A flurry of rowing shouting into the wind and then rounding a bend to float downstream pushed by that same wind and immediately into a deep meditative peace. I talked to God as though he were right there beside me in the boat... and of course he was.

Toward evening, as though it were Planned, I went under a bridge and on the left was a boat ramp. I let Shermona turn sideways and with a quick flurry of rowing scraped her up onto the ramp just as a truck pulling a boat trailer arrived. They got entertained by watching me quickly unload all my gear, then flip the boat over beside the ramp. We talked fishing a little, then they were off upstream whilst I picked out a camping spot and began organizing for the night. The rain had stopped of course and the sky was brighter, though still overcast. The spell of the day's Experience still clung to me and I often felt I was moving in slow motion.

I had a sudden urge to fish. The people I meet along the river seem almost hurt or suspicious if I do not and rather than have my promise to the fisherman be a lie, I dug out my tub of Catfish Charlie's diddy pole and trotline bait and cut a short limb from a mulberry tree. I used bright pink mason's cord for line and put on a big treble hook buried in a gob of bait and jammed the pole into the bank. As I was scrambling back up to my campsite, an old pickup pulled up and the bearded man behind the wheel sat looking at me, as though trying to make up his mind about something. At last he made his decision and got out and walked over. His name was Hank and he is a genuine river rat. He and his brothers choose to live close to the Skunk and drive 100 miles each way to work rather than live in town. He knew every bend in the river, every fishing hole and snag. He sympathized with my dilemma of the snag dam the day before. He told me there had once been a railroad crossing there years before. The snag dam had started with drift trees getting caught up in the old bridge pilings. Different methods have been tried over the decades to clear it, but none successful.

Generously, he offered me the names of his brothers and the places they were camping downstream so I could visit as I went by or get help. This to a stranger. But perhaps there are no true strangers among river rats. I did not tell him the experience of the Oneness. It was still too fresh and too private. I am not sure I should be sharing it now. Darkness fell. And with it the clouds of gnats and hordes of mosquitoes were magically gone. I seemed in slow motion and puttered about getting ready for bed. And then things seemed to be going terribly wrong. Usually I have brought my body under submission by the the fifth day of a river trip and don't need to be constantly getting up to drain my bladder. But not this night. I hadn't been in the tent 20 minutes and the “urge” was upon me. I had unscrewed the lens of my mini Mag Lite to use like a candle. I couldn't find the lens, scrambled out in my skivvies to relieve myself and got chilled. Once back in the tent I couldn't find the lens which has to be screwed in to shut off the light. Now I was shivering, yet sweaty from the humidity in the nylon tent. Eventually I took the new LED bulb from the light to shut it off.

I became more chilled. And being more chilled had to go to the bathroom again. I was feeling desperate and had an odd detachment as though I was watching all this from a distance. Once back in the tent I pulled on pants and tee shirt and my canvas shirt and still I shivered but was so exhausted I fell asleep anyway, but awakened soon again needing to leave the tent and this time with a strong feeling of dread. I became faint outside and stumbled against a tree and panted. The stars which had come out as the sky cleared seemed to be receding and then coming closer. I got back into bed, this time putting on socks first and a stocking cap. Then covering my blanket bag up with the poncho. At last I was warm and could concentrate on what was happening in my body. And what was happening was not good. I was in atrial fibrillation. My heart beat was about 140 and highly irregular. I was miles from any medical help, though I did have a cell phone. My medication was out under the boat in the Possibles Bucket. But like a warm blanket, the awareness of the day's spiritual experience floated over me.

I deliberately relaxed my body and put myself back into the green rainy peaceful world. I felt the tension flow out of me... my heartbeat slowed... became regular.. and I drifted into sleep. It has never, never happened to me before. A miracle had occurred. I slept like a baby the rest of the night.