Saturday, February 19, 2011

Story 3: Author Gary Richardson, A Geriatric Moose Hunt

This is the third in a series of three stories from the Tucson Desert Trails Writers Club.  It is provided to give you an idea of the writing capabilities from our writers club and hopefully inspire you to begin writing.  We retirees have many talents that we now have the time to explore and nurture.

Note:  the story is the property of the author, no other use is permitted without the authors specific approval.


For a number of years recently, the State of New Hampshire has held a moose hunt. The reasons offered by the state included one that said automobile accidents involving moose were on the rise and another stated
that the moose population was reaching a level that required a culling of the herd. In truth, it was probably due to some sharp witted bureaucrat seeing a ~moosehunt as a means of generating more income for the state's coffers.

Regardless of the motive, a lottery was established whereby would-be hunters could remit ten dollars and get their names entered into a pot from which a given number of names would be drawn depending on the number of moose permit's the Fish and Game Department decided to release. Of course, the number of permits to be issued would be based on scientific data gleaned throughout the year by biologists. If selected, a hunter then must fork over some more money for a special moose permit.

In 2009 a former Fish and Game biologist named Carl had his name drawn for that year's hunt. He was 81 years old and affiicted with back and knee problems. When the season opened, Carl was hospitalized and thus unable to participate in the hunt so Fish and Game extended his permit to the 2010 season. Now 82, Carl is using two canes in order to get around but not to worry. New Hampshire requires permitees to hunt with a partner so Carl called his 80 year-old friend Waldo to accompany him on the hunt. Waldo, who happens to be in pretty good physical shape, readily agreed. Prior to the season, which takes place in October, Carl and Waldo spent many hours scouting the area in which they were assigned to hunt. In spite of his physical short-comings, Carl knows just what he is doing in the woods and what to look for when scouting a hunting area.

Finally opening day arrived and rising at around 4:30 am the hunters to.ok off in Carl's Suburu station wagon. At some point while riding slowly along an old logging road Carl stopped the car. "Waldo," he asked, "what's that black thing over there to our left?" Waldo's reply, "looks like a stump to me." Carl," Waldo, get out and load the rifle, and put the scope on it.

When it moves, shoot it."

Waldo got out and did as he was told. And it did move and he did shoot it and the moose went down in a heap. Now what? Carl got out of the car, picked up his 2 canes and the two of them hobbled over to the spot where the moose, a young bull was laying. "Now, Waldo, watch his eyes and if they blink shoot him again" Carl warned. They blinked and Waldo shot and the moose was ready to be field dressed. Waldo,s first shot was a gut shot that failed to kill the moose instantly but the second shot did him in.

'Carl deftly field dressed the animal with some help from Waldo and then the problem of how these two old men were going to get that 425 pound moose to the car arose. As luck would have it, they had met a truck on their way to where the moose had been shot and those hunters must have heard Waldo's shots so they came back up the road to the car. They had an atv in their truck which they quickly unloaded and used it to effortlessly drag the moose to the road. Talk about good fortune. Somehow, they got word to Waldo's son, Bob, who eventually showed up with Waldo's truck and a snowmobile trailer. With the moose loaded they then went to a checking station where it was weighed and inspected by biologists.

Following the check-in they went to Carl's home-in  Colebrook and proceeded to butcher the carcass and take care of the meat. This is no easy process for two 80 year-oIds but Carl is an expert. The hide was removed and then the meat was cut into steaks, chops, roasts and whatever. Waldo later told me how amazed he had been at Carl's ability. He was even going to grind some for sausage. It was past midnight before Waldo saw his bed that night.

Upon hearing of their success, I called Waldo to congratulate him. He gave me a play-by-play account of their day which I have tried to portray as accurately as my memory will allow. To say that he was excited would be a -severe understatement. The only downside to the whole experience was, in his words, "Honeybunch wasn't there to enjoy the moment". Honeybunch was his wife, Esther, who had passed away just a few weeks earlier.


Story 2: Author Mary Scholz, Nine Eleven, The Yukon Story

This is the second in a series of three stories from the Tucson Desert Trails Writers Club.  It is provided to give you an idea of the writing capabilities from our writers club and hopefully inspire you to begin writing.  We retirees have many talents that we now have the time to explore and nurture.

Note:  the following story is the property of the author, no other use is permitted without the authors specific approval.

The Yukon Story

On the morning of September 11, 2001, like the rest of you, I was
mesmerized by the scenes shown vividly on my Television. I could hardly
move as one terrible image after another played out before my eyes but I
had to drag myself away and drive to work in downtown Whitehorse. I was
barely there an hour when the building manager strode along the hallway to
my office to tell me and everyone else to go home. Not only was the building
being evacuated – so was the whole city core!

A mere glance out of the window showed me this must be true as an unusual
stream of traffic was heading away from downtown.

Whitehorse is a small city with a population of about 24,000 people and
a very small downtown core. The Yukon River curls around 2 sides of the
8 block wide flat that reaches back to a 100ft high escarpment. I joined
the stream of traffic while letting the car radio fill me in. A Jumbo Jet was
heading our way issuing a hijacked signal. All schools were evacuated and
children bussed to their emergency evacuation site under the Emergency
Measures Act. The second headline of the day was “Panicked Parents”, where
is my child?

As I turned off the highway and down my street I stopped in the middle of
the road. There was a Korean Jumbo Jet flying right over my house! I could
see and hear the fighter planes escorting it. My stomach did a flip and I felt
anxiety rising in my chest.

I was home! But was I safe? The sound of fighter aircraft circling in the sky
was eerie. Something I could only relate to war movies.

Once more I sat in front of the television and let my mind become trapped in
the unfolding events 3500 miles away.

An hour later I was startled by the phone ringing. It was the Royal Canadian
Mounted Police. They were calling in all their Victim Services Volunteers to
assemble at the airport. About a dozen of us were available and needed
something to do. Not only that, we needed to know what was happening.

We were there in minutes and gathered around our assigned officer. He
informed us that the United States had closed off its airspace. All the planes
that had been heading for the lower 48 were either able to turn around and
go back or land in the lower half of Canada. But a few planes heading for
Alaska had already passed their point of no return. With so little fuel their
landing options had been reduced to one place, Whitehorse.

One plane, a Korean Jumbo Jet on route to New York via Anchorage carrying
about 300 people was emitting an emergency signal that could mean it had
been hijacked. It had to land soon and we had the only runway long enough
within its fuel range.

Even though it was being escorted by military planes they would not be able
to change the Jumbo’s direction if it decided to veer a few degrees off course
and, if it had indeed been hijacked and New York was any example of an
outcome, missing our airport on top of the escarpment by a few degrees
would have the plane crashing into and destroying half of our downtown
core. No wonder we had been evacuated.

So what was our job? Every person on the plane was a suspect until they
were cleared. The 300 or so passengers were being evacuated 20 at a time.
They could bring nothing but themselves from the plane. No purses or
baggage. No diapers or formula. No toys or activities. No personal care items
or medications.

Whitehorse is not a well stocked airport. Its one restaurant was forced to
close and there were no stores in the immediate area. But the passengers
needed help. Little groups of passengers started entering the terminal and
we had to improvise. Some volunteers went home and made sandwiches.
Some drove to local stores for crackers, juice and cookies while others
returned with paper, crayons and toys, all things they desperately needed.
Babies needed changing and feeding. Children needed distractions. People
were hungry and thirsty. But most of all they were scared and confused.
There was no media outlet for them to see or hear what was happening so
they had to take our word for the events of the day. What shock! One person
with a family member working in one of the towers was immediately taken to
the airport manager’s office to make a call. Thankfully all was well at home.

The day dragged on. Small groups of people were cleared to enter the
terminal until the room was quite full. Our volunteers moved from person
to person, family to family offering what word of comfort and answers to
questions that we could while distributing the acquired meager rations and
helping out with tired and bored children.

Eventually busses arrived to take everyone to a nearby visitor centre where
food arrived and the Red Cross could register people in need of medication
and other necessities. A few televisions had been set up so that passengers
could see what we had tried to explain to them. On viewing these images for
the first time, to say they were shocked would be an understatement.

We moved to the auditorium where travelers, Emergency Measures
personnel, translators of about 8 languages and everyone else involved found
seats and a synopsis of the events was given.

I spoke briefly to the Captain and congratulating him on his crew. They had
all shown such decorum and patience through their 12 hour ordeal. I did not
learn until later just how brave the flight crew had been.

We learned that the pilot had sent a text message to his airline and included
the letters HJK, the code for Hijacked. Worried that the pilot was sending
a coded message the airline contacted NORAD which promptly scrambled
2 F-15s from Alaska. Passenger plane pilots are trained in specific codes
and when asked coded questions by air traffic control the pilot appeared to
confirm a hijacking by changing his transponder.

The F-15s from Elmendorf AFB ordered the Korean flight crew to divert to
Whitehorse. Unknown to us the Whitehorse airport did not show up on the
Korean plane’s data. As far as the crew was concerned, Whitehorse Airport
just did not exist. This captain and crew were being forced to take their plane
with low fuel and over 300 passengers off course and into the mountains
to an unknown destination, information on which did not show on their
computers. That must have been a frightening journey for them.

The incident set into action a series of events of which few have heard. In
Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens ordered government buildings and large hotels in
Anchorage to be evacuated. In Valdez the US Coast Guards ordered all fuel
tankers to leave the port and head out to sea. Lt. Gen. Norton Schwartz was
prepared to shoot the plane down if it did not follow directions and before it
could attack Alaska. On the instructions of NORAD, Korean Flight 85 was told
to land in Whitehorse. NORAD also sought and received authorization from
Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien to shoot the plane down in Canadian
airspace if necessary. Between the transponder change and the safe landing
in Whitehorse barely 90 minutes had passed.

By 9:30 PM on September 11th passengers were able to leave the auditorium
with as much information as could be provided and were bussed to local
hotels, but nothing we could provide would take away the trauma of that
day. To the best of our ability we ensured that everyone, no matter their
language, understood what had happened and that, until the airspace was
reopened, they were guests of the city and its people.

When journalist interviewed us some weeks later they remarked that several
passengers had commented that they were hugged by police officers.
Naturally none of the men fessed up to hugging but we expected that.
The dark navy jackets worn by our volunteers stated in large gold
letters, “POLICE” and underneath in much smaller letters, ‘Victim Services’.
It was the volunteers doing the hugging. We hugged anyone who looked like
they needed a hug.

But yes, many people were indeed hugged by police officers that day too
but not until their longest shift finally ended and they could, unlike many
colleagues in New York, return home to hug their families.

Story 1: Author Bill McFeeter, The Devil is in the Details

This is one of of three stories I am reprinting here with the authors permission.  The author is a member of our Writers Club here at Desert Trails Rv park in Tucson Az.  Hopefully they will give you an idea of the the type of wonderful writing produced in our small writers club.

Note:  the story is the property of the author, no other use is permitted without the authors specific approval.

“The Devil is in the Details”

4 December, 1966. My first wedding anniversary. Young wife 18,000 miles away. I was only 21. Love hurts! Time: 2:19am. Place: Barracks at Tan Son Nhut AB, Saigon, Vietnam……
Port Drive Photos 5399
Hdqts. 600th Photo Squadron, Activity Level: prone position, blowing zzzzzzzzz’s. Dreaming of ice cold beer and a rare steak, when I am rudely awakened and brought back to humid reality by screams Major Howard Landau.
No, we were not under mortar attack but had you been there - you would have thought so. The Major had an annoying flair for the dramatic and was able, because of his rank to hide out from the war. Not all Majors did. He was the type that would make up lies when he got back stateside; nothing more than an counterfeit combat photographer wannabe if there ever was one.  I did not like him but had to tolerate him, so I did. As he always did, he was barking authoritative military orders at me and woke up half of the other guys trying to sleep.  He told me to report to the photo equipment locker at once, if not sooner, and secure the longest 35mm telephoto lens I could find, B&W film, two motorized Nikons and a 250 exposure back and meet an Air America (CIA) C-47 with certain tail markings on the flight-line in 20 minutes. I asked him I asked where I was going and he said: Can’t tell ya!” I asked what was to be photographed and all he said was “can’t tell ya”. I would be briefed en route and would return that night. How bad could this be?

Larry Burrows, a prominent Life Magazine Vietnam photographer once told me in our favorite bar in downtown Saigon that if you are getting lousy photos you are not close enough. Clearly, in combat, a long telephoto lens put me a lot father away from the bad guys than a wide-angle lens. Sweet! Normally my uniform of the day was Tiger Camo. Fatigues, as I am wearing tonight, with no military designation, so I could operate freely without being hassled by those of higher rank. All too loudly, the Major told me to wear regular green jungle fatigues, matching green baseball cap and absolutely no weapons were allowed. Hmmmmmmm…… a very strange request indeed. Sure wished Maj. Landau came complete with a mute button but no such luck. I was tempted to tear his vocal cords out, super glue his lips but passed because Leavenworth Prison was just a long plane ride away.
Rummaging through the photo equipment trailer,
Port Drive Photos 12822
I found exactly what I needed, a 600mm Nova flex Follow-Focus Lens, (auto-focus had not been invented yet) two Nikons and what appeared to be a wooden gunstock mount which I would use instead of a tripod. Looking back, the camera and lens mounted on the gunstock; looked like an exotic Star War’s weapon (cool) and was exactly what I needed to photograph what I didn’t know I was supposed to photograph. The lens had a spring loaded pistol grip that you squeezed to focus. The gunstock also had a pistol grip built-in, along with a cable release that you depressed to fire the camera and 250 exposures motorized…essentially, a machine gun loaded with film. Not lethal at all and a great tool for capturing as well as preserving history. Most excellent!

Aboard the CIA Air America C-47, loaded with “Civilian Suits” (very rare in Vietnam), heading east we climbed out of the clouds at about 3,000 feet, banked hard right, hugged the eastern coastline of South Vietnam and headed North.
Port Drive Photos 5412
After six months in-country and approximately 50 or so combat missions; I was familiar enough with the terrain from altitude to know we were headed for Cam Rahn Bay, a large but relatively quiet and reasonably safe AF Base along the coast.
I asked the Suit sitting next to me where we were going. He said “can’t tell ya” just as the Major had said. I asked him what he / they wanted photographs of. He responded … “Can’t tell ya”.
Grrrrr….I had had enough of this and said “I know exactly where we are going, Mr. Empty Suit” He looked at me with an expression of pure distain and disbelief and called my bluff. I wasn’t bluffing. “So, smart-ass, where are we headed?” he asked.  I said, “Cam Rahn Bay!”  All the blood drained from his face in a mille-second and he asked “How do you know that?” I said, “Can’t tell ya!!!!” (Touché! You have just been had by none other than “Mac the Marauder”) I was slapping my knee and LOL! He was not amused. Most excellent! Had he checked me out before this mission he would have learned that two months before I had spent two weeks in Singapore working with some of his “associates” or in this case, other CIA operatives. I am not particularly the CIA. One of the “Suits” confirmed Cam Rahn Bay was our final destination as he continued to brief me on our mission. None other than President Lyndon Banes BBQ Johnson was en route on Air Force One and would be landing soon.
His objective: boost morale, a great photo-op for LBJ, show support for the troops, and, along with General Westmoreland, award medals to those who deserved them. No big deal. My mind began to wander slightly and I smiled. Who would ever name their daughter “Ladybird”? Did she have a brother named – Man-bird? Was there a nephew named “Flip the bird”….but I digress.
Others photographers would be on the flight-line photographing various medal ceremonies, dignitary hand shakes and back-slappers. I was to climb to the top of an adjacent aircraft hanger and photograph the President from a high vantage point as he exited Air Force One. (With no likelihood of someone shooting at me this should have been a piece of cake, right? Well, not exactly!) Landing 30 minutes before Air force One, I was herded into a small hut where I was issued my press credentials. I was told emphatically to “wear the press pass conspicuously on the back of my baseball cap”. 
Following all the annoying bureaucratic red tape to the letter, including a slightly too friendly body pat down for weapons, I left the briefing to climb up the long, tall ladder to the top of the hanger and select the best vantage point available. I had already attached the press pass, as ordered, to the back of my cap.  On top of the hanger, I set up as close as I could to the edge, tested my camera and waited. The view was spectacular as the sun was now up and glistening on the South China Sea. It was peaceful and reminded me of home, Lake Champlain and Vermont.
On top of the hanger, the sun began to heat the metal roof and black gooey roofing cement began to bubble. I felt like the steak I had earlier dreamed about….cooked well done instead of rare…laying on top of the hanger was very hot!!!!! A cold snap would have made me a permanent part of that roof. Smoke from the tires in the distance and Air Force 1 touched down. Mentally I gave the pilot a C- for the landing and I forget how hot it was.
After all, the President was on board and I was just slightly intimidated that little ole me would be photographing him. Air Force 1 taxied to a predetermined spot below me.

I mounted the camera up to my right eye. Damn, the bill on my cap obstructed my view through the cameras viewfinder so I reversed it as many kid’s now wear them all the time.
(Little did I know I was setting a fashion trend and that my cap would never quite fit the same way ever again.)
The door to Air Force One opens and there’s the President of the United States. I start to shoot. He takes three steps down the stairs and waves. The Follow-Focus lens works beautifully. The motorized Nikon camera hums.…… and then …total darkness…someone had turned the lights out. Then “blinded by the light” ….someone had turned them back on. I am on my back instead of on my stomach; and I did not know how I got there. The barrel of a handgun was pressed to my forehead and a knee was on my chest making it difficult to breathe.
What is going on? My head really, hurt. The sun blinded me but I could make out a gun held by a somewhat apologetic Secret Service Agent.  He said he was sorry for pistol whipping me but saw from the rear what appeared to be a sniper weapon.
He had never seen a Nikon set up like a gun and soooo he took no chances. He explained he really thought I was going to blow up AF 1 and assassinate the President! He could not see my press pass from the rear because I had turned my cap around. Stupid me! My fault….he was just doing his job. Had he not finally seen the press pass when he turned me over the outcome could have been much worse than just a cut, concussion and a bad head ache.
The pictures I took before he turned my lights out, all seven were… uninspiring.
Port Drive Photos 12861

Today I prefer to wear a “Boonie-Hat” that is round and has no front or back. I will always have painful memories of my brief encounter with LBJ for many reasons but this one rises to the top.  A word to the wise: Pay attention to the details. They can keep you alive, and if you don’t, get you killed or, at the very least, give you a very bad headache. Where the hell is my Tylenol? Until next time….Mac the Marauder is over and out! Thank you!

Friday, February 18, 2011

2011-03 February Ramblings

February Ramblings.
Photo club, close up shots

 In the last report I told about some of the activities that a Snowbird (Rv winter campers) do during the winter months.  One of those activities is that many of us catch up on our Doctors appointments.  I remember when I was younger I’d see a doctor maybe once a year.  Now I have a dermatologist, eye specialist and general practitioner.  With all of those appointments finally over with, I’m ready to get back on the road.  Which won’t be for another month, but it’s nice to get some of the “maintenance” things out of the way.

I’ve taken over the Photography Club here at Desert Trails and we’ve had a couple really nice sessions on close up photography as well as composition.  It’s been a real joy sharing tips and exchanging ideas with other photographers.  Along those lines, I’ve finally gotten up the gumption to have a one man photography show early next month.  I’ve framed and matted about 35 pictures and I think some are quite stunning.  Hopefully the show will be well received.
Photo club practicing composition shots

We had sad news the other day, as the owner of the park, Pericles Wyatt’s wife, Kyoko passed away after an extended illness.  The entire park is in mourning  over the loss.  Our hearts go out to the Wyatt family.

The huge gem show ended last weekend here in Tucson.  Where sellers and buyers of all types of rocks and gems are sold to folks from all over the world.  Everything from fossilized stones, crystals and even displays of the largest gold nuggets in the world can be seen.  Prices are ridiculously low on much of the jewelry.  PS, I kept my wallet in my pocket thank you very much.  We heard of one guy from Florida who has fossilized stone that he cuts in big slabs and brings here each year.  This year he sold out within 3 days.  Perhaps the world economy is making a change for the better.
photo club composition shot

One of our Rv neighbors who hale from Alaska were kicked out of the park.  Now that doesn’t happen very often, but when they continued to let their two well behaved dogs run around without a leash, it was too much and they were asked to leave.  Word was they’d drop their dogs off at the dog run, a fenced in area for the dogs to play together, and then would just leave them there for a while.  Not cleaning up any messes the dogs made afterwards.

I participated in a yard sale and sold a ton of stuff that no longer is needed or wouldn’t fit in the new camper.  I even had a gallon jug, minus the wine that came in it, that I sold for $1.  It was sort of a joke to see if I could sell it, and being a good salesman, I sold it for $1.  All my friends and neighbors were amazed that I sold it.  The rest of the stuff unsold was brought to the local Good Will store to help them in their cause of doing good in the community.

And this past week our Writers Club performed in front of a very appreciative audience in the rec-hall.  I read one of my Roving Reports from the Keys.  There were some really good stories and hopefully I’ll get permission to reproduce a couple of them here so you can ready them.  (to be posted in separate Blog reports)
Photo Club practicing "composition"
Note:  I'm also on Facebook often post notes between Blog reports there.