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A hundred and a half. . . .


September 2, 2021

Feeling the sting of not writing in more than a week.  I wondered what would happen.  Not much.  Frightening?

Olivia just came in;  She finished her fourth day of school at 3 pm, and is eating snacks to get ready for an hour 45 minutes of swimming at the Y.  A high school kid’s athletic schedule.  Billings Senior High School has no swimming pool.

(Reminds me of a dilemma I had in 1969 in Marine basic:  Each of us recruits was issued a “cover block,” consisting of a 24” by 6” piece of 1/8” plastic with a screw and wing nut to fasten it into a hat-size cylinder.  This device came flat, so we had to bend it into shape to hold our hats so we could brush on much starch.  A starched cover looked much sharper than the flaccid cotton we started with.

My cover block had a screw without threads.  No.  The wing nut had no interior threads, but the screw was fine.  No matter how I tried I couldn’t block my cover to starch it.  I needed a replacement wing nut-screw assembly.

That evening I walked to the hut where our instructors had their office.

I reported correctly to my senior drill instructor in his office.  “Sir the private requests permission to speak, sir!

“Go ahead.”

“Sir the private’s wing nut ain’t got no threads, sir.”

I’ll leave it to the reader’s imagination for what happened next.  I mean, I knew it would provoke derision from the instructors.  I wasn’t worried, and I can honestly say it wasn’t terribly painful, but I got no satisfaction, hardware product-wise.  

In the end, I think I rigged up a clothes pin to starch my cover.)

Those are not my fondest memories.

Yesterday:  I heard back from someone in my distant past:  Gerry Berry, retired person living in Florida.

In 1971 Penny and I had Todd, newborn, and we lived in military housing, some old strip houses across Red Hill Road from MCAS(H) Santa Ana, California, 92710.

Our modes of transportation were a baby buggy and a bicycle.  I’m sure many can identify with that.  We lived in the orange orchards surrounding Santa Ana in Orange County.  I worked part time cleaning a Xerox facility.  It was the Regional office.  One of the things I liked best was cleaning the offices of the various vice presidents on up to the president of the Region himself.  Here’s what I noticed:  The pipe tobacco was Balkan Sobranie in the president’s office.  No.  It was Black Malorie.  I remember Peter Koch telling me back in 1969 about Black Malorie.  Finest tobacco anywhere, he said.  It was not attainable.

Black Malorie was the tobacco in the office of the president.  Balkan Sobranie was in the vice’s.

Amenities tended upward in the chain of command.  President had his own shower and dressing room.  Vice president had a large waiting room, but none of the other stuff.

As we worked down the hallway from the apex, a curious phenomenon:  Number of staples in the rug increased exponentially. We picked them out with needle-nose pliers.

In those days (1970s) computer work meant cutting 80-col key cards.  For some reason staples held the cards together, sometimes.

I tried to find work in Anchorage, Alaska, back in 1969.  Most of the secretarial-clerical (stuff I hoped I could find a job doing) work had to do with those keypunch cards.  In fact the word “keypunch” seemed to be everywhere.  Typing would have been a good enough skill to do “keypunch.”

Man of la Mancha

Not me: Sr. Don Quixote de la Mancha.

August 16, 2021

On this day in 1988 Lame Deer had a snowy blanket of ashes from forest fires.  I crawled out of my sleeping bag in a government three bedroom house, vacant, my home for the week until the government provided me with other living quarters.

That night the streetlight on the cul-de-sac illuminated the ash fall that I walked through the next morning to work at the Lame Deer IHS Clinic pharmacy.  I would be the second of two pharmacists on duty at the Northern Cheyenne Indian Reservation.  This was a new position; all the pharmacist action used to be performed by one pharmacist.  Turns out they had hired additional doctors so they needed additional nurses and another pharmacist.  Me.  

I was apprehensive.  Fires burned out of control in the nearby wooded areas around the edge of town.  Two locals were on death row at Deer Lodge for killing a caucasian man.  I saw a pile of four dead horses yesterday morning near the Little Bighorn Battlefield while I drove to work.  Old cars rusted on the lawns of houses along the highway between Busby and Lame Deer. All my fears were gone in 24 hours.


We’re having Bob and his family over shortly.  Gotta go.

I’m back.  Things are humming here in Billings.  We have a lot of union people, social democrats, moderate republicans, moderate democrats.  I get an inkling when I speak with Bob.

I think fishing will be restricted the remainder of the Summer because high temperatures stress some of the fish, especially the various species of trout.  This is a river-by-river deal.  I think I’d google Montana Department of Fish Wildlife and Parks for current information regarding a river of importance to you.

We are hoping for cooler weather this Wednesday.

Did I mention I am reading Don Quixote?  I’m about a third through it, getting more and more involved in one of the ancillary tales that reside in the book.  Amazing work is this book.  What is he saying?  To whom is the humor directed?  

Published in 1604, in Spanish.  Translated numerous times into a modern American vernacular by many, and by someone named “Grossman.”  I don’t own the Grossman translation, but I’ll get it pretty soon via the internet.

Parts are funny enough to make me laugh out loud.  It should be read and enjoyed by most everyone, especially if high school age or older.

Long beard’s diary

Geeky haircut.

August 10, 2021

Today was odd.  I had some kind of military dream that I was enduring basic training in the Marines again.  It was “ho hum” the second time. Just couldn’t get shook by the crazy drill instructors.

I’m going to write for thirty minutes.  Believe me when I tell you!  I’ll never tell you no lie.  No, no no.

That was Samuel Clemens’ declaration at the beginning of Huckleberry Finn.  I would hold with his disclaimer.  Mostly.

I cannot afford to be sanguine.  Much injustice prevails, albeit temporarily.  Necessarily temporarily, in my opinion.  I believe that ultimately justice, truth, and reality are so powerful and indestructible that they will prevail.  They are everywhere and lies and deceptions are only momentary.  Friendship mind is the law of the land!

How can this be so? 

I stumbled out of our bedroom to greet P. and Taylyn, our 10-year-old friend.  P. was planning to visit her sister Dolly this morning, then to lead us in a walk around Lake Elmo, in the Billings Heights.

(I check my blood pressure.  123/71.)

Don Quixote, translated by Ormsby, sits at my right elbow.  Two copies of the book, actually, because I ordered a second copy when the first one was disintegrating in my hands.  Next, I need the newest, the Grossman, translation.  A kind of ultimate, I believe.

August 11, 2021

Went to a list of places:  NOVA to work on the main stage; Rocket Burrito to return a growler that once held cream soda; B&B Tire to purchase four new ones for our car;  Sportsclips where the marvelous Mai wasn’t there, so I got a geeky haircut.  The library to return a book.  P. got her eyes examined for cataract surgery; Taco Bell to feed our inner selves.

I am a geek.

Nearing Cloud Peak

He took the Hymer 45 miles down ti Buffalo, Wyoming.

August 7, 2021

Last night for the first time in months P. and I and Gunther had the whole house to ourselves.  The rest of the time we’ve had our children and our grandchildren vacationing with us.  And us with them, when we went camping.  And for us, camping usually means going in our Hymer RV.  It’s really just a repurposed Dodge Promaster van and we can eat, sleep, shower, bicker, and play Scrabble right in our car. It’s about ideal for P. and me.

We bought the Hymer a couple years ago in Alaska. Now we’ve put on 30K miles between Minnesota, California, and Montana.  So far, we’ve replaced the coach batteries, front tires, and radiator, but otherwise the driving has been relatively trouble free.

Tuesday Todd and his family and P. and I set out from Billings to climb Cloud Peak in the Big Horns of Wyoming. 

P. and I were the support crew.  We headed south on the west side of the Big Horns.

About 8 pm we stopped at a bar in Ten Sleep to eat supper.  Todd shared his rocky mountain oysters, breaded and deep fat fried.  Some smooth eating. The bar was packed, but the patio was nearly empty. We resumed driving into the evening, headed up the pass.

On to a road that took off from Highway 16.

I followed Todd on a nasty Forest Service washboard road that chattered everything and caused our new radiator hose to fail. Well, it hadn’t been installed correctly and would have failed anyhow.

You can’t drive without coolant in the engine, so we didn’t. We figured things would work out if we chilled out that night. We had no cell service. We were on what seemed like a deserted road.

P. and I slept in the Hymer on the place on the road where the engine coolant puddled. Todd and his family camped at the East Ten Sleep Lake campgorund, only about 150 yards from our disabled vehicle.

Next day a Forest Service man named Jeff radioed to have our Hymer transported to Buffalo, WY for repair.  (Turns out a hose had been improperly installed last month and it jiggled loose on the washboard road. ) 

Todd and his family headed toward Cloud Peak Wednesday while we worked on restoring the Hymer to health. After the mechanic had reattached the hose, we spent the night at Circle Park campground.

P. and I and Gunther goofed off Wednesday, hiking to Willow Lake and back. 

Thursday we walked up the trail to Cloud Peak, as we expected Todd and his group back.  We spoke with other hikers, asking those returning if they saw a family of four: Todd, Susanna, Cyrus, Roland?  None of them had, and we admonished hikers heading out to tell a family of four that we would be waiting for them. They made the connection. However, I didn’t know the hikers would refer to us as being “an elderly couple.”

Our message was transposed and garbled by the time the four arrived back at the parking lot.  [Joyous reunion.]

Thursday, we moved the camp from East Ten Sleep Lake to another campground:  Circle Park. 

First we six went in to Buffalo to eat at a great Mexican restaurant.  Then Sus bought two bottles of merlot at Crazy Woman Liquor.  Then back at the camp we sat around and talked while Todd took a shower in the Hymer.

Yesterday we hiked up a limestone canyon a little more than a mile, to admire the amazing natural sculptures.  We ate at the same restaurant, a little place close to the Buffalo exit from the interstate highway.

Encounter with an octopus

He crawled away.

July 31, 2021

Do you know about octopuses? 

We went with my nephew Chris Angel on his boat at Ketchikan, Alaska, to haul up some shrimp pots he placed on the bottom of the bay a couple days previously.  Most of them had lots of shrimp, in addition to some star fish, hermit crabs, and in one case, an octopus.

We had eaten shrimp a couple days earlier.  You twist off all but the tail, then you boil them. Finally, you pull and peel off the chitinous exoskeleton to get the yummy meat within.  All of this is a crude way to get the goody; consider the octopus we pulled up that had gotten into one of the traps. 

No live shrimp with the octopus, but some perfect cellophane-looking exoskeletons.  The octopus did an amazing job of cleaning the meat out of the shrimp.

This octopus was holding onto a rather large (maybe a foot diameter) starfish.  We managed to get him and his starfish out of the shrimp pot and into the bottom of the boat before one of us picked him up (perhaps 10-20 lbs, probably three feet from one tentacle tip to another.  I touched him and his skin was soft.  We put him overboard and, although I didn’t see it, he squirted ink as he jetted away.

I learned that octopuses live relatively short lives, usually just a couple years, especially the males who die soon after impregnating the females, who also die soon after giving birth to the youngsters.

Octopuses are reputed to be damned intelligent. Learning a maze, using tools, that sort of thing.

Vignette of USMC life in 1970

This was 1971. I was still a private in the USMC. The puppy is Ning, a wonderful one.

July 6, 2021

Swept the garage, vacuumed the basement, rearranged my grandson’s video game apparatus so I might walk through the big room.  Oh yes.  Gunther’s sleeping on the couch.  Can’t tell if he’s bored or tired.  Or both.  It’s over 90 degrees today, again.  Good idea to hunker down and wait for cooler air to slide down from the Beartooth Mountains.

There’s that word “vacuum.”  I know of only two double u words:  equus and vacuum.  Must be more than that.  How does one pronounce vacuum?  vac- you’- um?  Or as my mother used to say, vac’-yoom.  

Never mind.  Working on banjo playing.  I can play “Worried Man Blues,” after a fashion, but “Cripple Creek” is coming painfully slowly.  I’m sure it sounds that way, too.  I practice most days, but for short periods.  Once or twice a day.  Nothing is really pushing me, but I want to learn to play with the three finger style.  I’ve tried claw hammer, but can’t get any traction.

When I sat down to write I think I had an idea, but I’ve forgotten.  I think it had to do with my Marine Corps experience in mid-1970.

I joined November 23, 1969.  That was Penny’s birthday, a sad occasion, because I said “goodbye forever.”  I was off to Vietnam, of course.  Everyone knew that’s what happened if you joined the Marines in those days.  Didn’t they?  I had my faith.  I had been reading a bunch of Eastern religion stuff:  Taoism, Hinduism, Buddhism.  All of them extolled mortifying the flesh and entering reality.  The Vietnam war was my reality, naive as I was about the particulars.  I knew I was a hippie, but I also knew I couldn’t stick my head in the sand or be a coward.  Real hippies were brave and true.  Or so I thought.  I was also under the influence.  Of Don Quixote.

I’m re-reading Don Quixote as I write.  In 1969 I read the Putnam translation, but now I’m reading the Ormsby translation.  Mr. Ormsby used Putnam in his scholarly re-writing in English.  Nonetheless, it was written by Miguel De Cervantes Saavedra.

Under the influence of Sr. Cervantes Saavedra, even joining the Marine Corps during Vietnam makes perfect sense.

I had friends shout at me!  

Whereas people on the street had enjoined me to “get a haircut!” My hip friends urged me to become a “happy hippie.”  Life has its serious aspects.  I knew I had to face front.  I had to face the reality that seemed most real to me.

One monday morning I strode into the Marine Corps recruiter’s office on West Broadway in Missoula.  “I want to join the Marines,” I mumbled.

A gunnery sergeant looked up from his desk with mild interest.  “What are you running from?”


“Ever been arrested?”

“Drunk and disorderly,” I replied (omitting the part about indecent exposure). (I pissed on the window of Skeet’s Cafe after a racist cook threw me out because I threw a rag at him.)

“Come back tomorrow,” said the sergeant.

The gunny was smiles and welcomed me when I returned.  He had me take a test and answer a bunch of questions.  What I remember about the test:

  • I had to identify parts of a car motor, including ignition coil.  Since I didn’t know the parts of a motor then, I don’t know if I got that one right.
  • there were lots of other questions.  I’m pretty good at taking tests, so I believe I answered most of them correctly.
  • I had to answer if I’d been a member of a list of organizations, none of which I’d ever heard of before.  I think the gist was “young communist league,” and “communist party of America.”  I’m making these up, but that’s the impression I got.  I wasn’t able to say I was a member of any of them.
  • I had to list all of my addresses.  I didn’t know it at the time, but it was the basis of my gaining a Secret security clearance through some outfit called ENT NAC.  I listed all my addresses.  I was too naive to know if any of them were incriminating.  Anyway, my address tended to change every week in those days.  Depended upon the whim and generosity of friends like Bill Reynolds and Peter Koch and my brother Tom.

My Marine Corps experience was particularly foul.  I disliked the drill instructor because he was a sadistic pig.  I did enjoy the company of the other recruits, however, at least most of them.

Later, I was bullied by a little shit when we got to infantry training.  Turns out ignoring him didn’t work.  I learned to confront bullies until I was bullied by my commanding officer in training group at Millington Tennessee.

I punched out the commanding officer, went to jail for five months, and was subsequently forgiven by the upper echelons of the Navy Board of Military Appeals.

The cosmos, the stars were beginning to line up again after I was transferred to a helicopter squadron on a small base near Los Angeles. This was MCAS(H) Santa Ana, CA 92709.

At last.

Here’s my story:  I was starting my second year as a private E-1, having never gotten promoted because of my altercation with the Marine major.  Just because you get forgiven for punching one of them doesn’t mean you’ll get a promotion any time soon.

In Southern California, I lived in a big concrete barracks with the rest of squadron HMM 161.  Many of the members of my squadron had recently returned from Vietnam, from Bien Hua.  One of these saw a fellow named Sergeant Sergeant.

The guy with this unfortunate name was officious, punctual, neat, and personable.  

Nobody could stand him.

“He’s a real dipshit,” explained my friend, Sergeant Bobby Haines.

He was on duty at the barracks the day one of my fellow squadron members, a kind of sleazy guy named Jerry, offered me some marijuana. 

I eagerly accepted his offer.  Because I was paying a forfeiture of pay for my previous crimes I couldn’t afford the $0.25/pack of store bought smokes, so I rolled my own with Prince Albert and Top papers.  I mixed some pot in with the tobacco for a mellow smoke and a welcome high.

After I lit up and took a couple of hits off my cigarette, into my cubicle marched Sergeant Sergeant!

“Private STRUCKMAN!” he yelled.  “Report to the quarter deck!”  His desk was at one end of the squad bay and was technically known as the “quarter deck.”

I figured I’d be busted and kicked out of the Marines. This would have been a disaster because I was negotiating with Penny to get married the following year.

Nothing to lose, I hollered at him, “Sergeant Asshole!  You are one dumb motherfucker!!  I’m smoking a tobacco cigarette, SEE STUPID?  (I held up the can of Prince Albert.)  It’s nothing but PA!  IN A CAN, STUPID!

Poor Sergeant Sergeant got apologetic, mumbled something, and slouched away.

In retrospect, I think he was glad not to bust me, a guy who’d been busted already for punching a major. Whatever the reason, I was glad to escape prosecution!

I, of course, took the evidence to the toilet and flushed it!   

Moral of the story:  tobacco will not mask the smell of weed.

Sixth Grade Chemistry Nerd

Sixth Grade Nerd. I had big lips that I sucked in

June 30, 2021

Five weeks since my TURP.  That, if you’ll remember, was the medical procedure in which my prostate gland was resected (reamed out) with a surgical instrument.  A trusted urologist did this work.

Put less delicately, a doctor inserted a kind of knife through my penis down into the area of my “man gland.”  Using multiple cuts, he cut out my urethra and prostate until there wasn’t much left but a husk.  I like to think of it as removing the guacamole from an avocado.  At least I was asleep and don’t remember a thing.  Lucky for me.  

I still like guacamole, incidentally.

I haven’t peed red blood for at least a week!   And at least now my pee doesn’t look bloody.  Importantly, I don’t have to take medicine to help me urinate.  That was the trouble that led up to the need for a TURP in the first place.

Oh, the tamsulosin worked quite well, but I couldn’t tolerate the side effect of low blood pressure upon standing.  Some times I had to lie flat on the floor.  My internist told me it was not safe to have a blood pressure that low.  

I am grateful to my urologist who did the TURP because I think he was expert and thorough.  And careful.  I’ll admit I keep a diaper at the ready if I should become incontinent of urine—and I have peed my pajamas a time or two, but I think that might have been a result waiting until I was desperate to go.

Thanks for reading thus far.  Now my reminiscence.

As a 12-year-old in Missoula, I was naughty.  I stole or begged important chemical reagents and apparatus from the university laboratories that I needed.  

I did draw a line.  I didn’t steal and beg from people, but from institutions.  One of my fellow grade school students stole from people and I despised that.  Also, he ate the proceeds of his thievery and got quite fat.  I eschewed such crime.

In 1961, I lived at home with my brother, sister, and mother.  We all had our own rooms, but I preferred to play in the basement.

Most important was my basement chemistry laboratory, where I performed the experiments I read about in my sister’s high school chemistry textbook, Matter and Energy.  

My basement laboratory was scant.  Lots of concrete and dirt and cobwebs.

Trouble was, I could get the necessities for my experiments only at Christmas and my at birthday, in March.  Those were the two times I could cajole my mother into purchasing materials (poisonous chemicals, flasks, beakers, test-tubes, ring stand, burners, glass tubing) by mail from the Chemcraft company in Hagerstown, Maryland.  

Other times I was not above stealing chemicals or items of apparatus from the University of Montana science buildings.

I worked alone, although I shared the results of my experiments with my fellow sixth-graders.  

A lazy and a lousy student, I expected my baffling knowledge of chemistry to carry me through.  

It did.  My entire life it did.  I still try to baffle.  Ask my grandchildren.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.  In the beginning I wanted to impress my fellow sixth graders and my teacher, Mrs. Jay.

Example:  I wanted to make a working volcano.  

This would be an 18-inch square plywood board with plaster-of-paris replica of a mountain with a hollowed out top for a chemical reaction that would look much like an eruption.  My aim was to make such a replica and show it to my fellow sixth graders at school, and perhaps at the annual science fair.  I doubt if I made the plaster volcano.  I think I borrowed it from another student who had the means to create such a majestic object.

All the while I made such wonders for the amazement and edification of my fellow students, the few denigrated me for not knowing the times tables or being able to perform long division.  

Damn!  I still have trouble with those.  I didn’t learn my 6’s and 7’s until I was in the Marines.

Familiar with the old baking soda and vinegar combination to produce a fizzy eruption, I wanted something that had a bit more pizzazz.  Looking through a variety of books (at the university library) I found the recipe:  Sodium bichromate, I believed, could be touched off with a match to produce a spew of ashes and a hot flame.  Trouble is, I didn’t find out until nearly fifty years later my plan had two major problems:

1.  Not sodium, but ammonium dichromate is flammable as described in the books.  

A chemistry professor gave me a large brown bottle of the inert powdered sodium bichromate (after assuring me that dichromate and bichromate are equivalent chemical expressions).  At home I tried in vain to light the sodium bichromate.  I even returned to the chemistry professor and expressed my disappointment, but he didn’t know enough about the bichromate to enlighten me.  What I did end up doing was to mix the bichromate with water and a bunch of other inorganic chemicals in water and attempt to boil them to distill out the water.  

Only this maneuver didn’t work.  When I heated a flask with the chemicals, the mush jumped out of the container and went “splook” out the distillation apparatus.  I discovered the best way to clean up the tube was using a sprig of lilac sprout to rub the interior.  I did this in the backyard before I broke my foot.

2.  Bichromates cause cancer.  I think there was a movie about a young lady lawyer who sued a company that polluted with hexavalent chromates.  They have a property of linking when exposed to ultraviolet light, so they can be used in organic colloids as photosensitive emulsions.  However that’s going to be the topic of another post.  Bichromate must be handled carefully.

Turns out ammonium bichromate burns brightly and emits a nice green ashy substance, suitable for a volcano model.  In fact, I have some of that in my basement as I write.  I’ll be happy to demonstrate, should you ask.

Well, that’s one example of my chemical inquiries.  

Mostly I wanted to explore the university buildings, especially the laboratories.  Almost every building had a chemical laboratory or at least a darkroom:  journalism, liberal arts, theater, botany, geology, main hall.  All of them.

  Also, I wanted to use their bathrooms because I had difficulty pooping at home.  Because my poops were too large and hard to go down the toilet, I faced the trouble with plumbing that I couldn’t cope with at home.  I took to using our garage lilac hedge, where I could drop big ones without a bad consequence.  If I wanted to poop in a toilet, the university offered thousands of opportunities and I didn’t need to worry about flushing.  Thus, I could explore for chemistry laboratories and take care of my physical needs after school each day.  

Happy exploring!!

The university labs were most interesting.  Grade school in Missoula let out about four o’clock each day.  Mother didn’t need me around until about six or six-thirty, so I could bicycle over to the university —seven blocks away—after school.

I had a routine:  

  • check the doors of the chem-pharm building.  Usually, I’d go in and explore.  But If they were locked, 
  • I’d try the journalism building.  The darkrooms were great.  Also the printing professionals were friendly.  However, If locked, 
  • I’d try the geology building.  If no-go, 
  • I’d hit main hall.  It had a darkroom and a fossilized mastodon tusk.
  • Then the law building.  Had a library with a glass floor.
  • Then the library.  All kinds of chemistry books.  But, if they were closed, then the 
  • university theater building with amazing laboratories and passages.  
  • Then the liberal arts building, with fantastic elevators.
  • then the various men’s dormitories.  Finally, 
  • the women’s center and the 
  • math-physics building.  

Because all of the doors were always locked, supposedly, I wouldn’t be able to enter any of them, supposedly.

Only I would and did.  Because of the thousands of students and faculty, someone would inevitably leave a door ajar and I’d be inside the building in the space of a few seconds.  I’d just abandon my bicycle somewhere nearby.

A word about my bicycle.  My mom painted it red and white.  At some point I broke off one of the pedals, so I pushed down the remaining pedal with my right foot, then allowed the pedal to coast around so I could pedal it again. Stroke (pause) stroke (pause).  Like that.

In that way I’d explore all of the buildings, ride the elevators, get stuck between floors and panic.  Scream!  At the end of the day people at the university were generally pretty nice to me.  Also, my father was a faculty member until he died of cancer (hmmm bichromate???).  Sometimes students and faculty gave me laboratory glassware to take home to my lab.

One evening I was in a lab in the geology building and I decided I needed some concentrated sulfuric acid.  In those days there was a bottle with the embossed label, “Conc H2SO4” on it.  I didn’t want the whole bottle, just a small amount, so I found a small bottle of litmus paper, I emptied the paper onto a counter, then poured some of the concentrated acid into the bottle.  I didn’t have a cork, so I used a wad of paper towel.  Put the bottle into my pocket.  Rode my one-pedal bike home.

At home I went to the basement, my left thigh was itching.  Also my pants (white) had burn holes from the acid.  The paper towel looked like tar, where it touched the acid.  Ruined my pants, didn’t do a thing for my experiments.

I told the above story to Ted Wood at Todd’s house a couple days ago.  First time.

That’s my writing for today.  Peace Out!

Nerstrand, Minnesota, at Bonde Farm

Kathleen Elizabeth Angel and her small piggy friend.

June 18, 2021

Those of us who aspire to be writers—who doesn’t? —should try writing for five minutes.  By the clock.  I can write that long while letting my mind drift.  So much good has happened in the past several days.  My nieceling, Kathleen Elizabeth Angel, went to Nerstrand, Minnesota, to the old Bonde farm where my grandfather Carl Bonde was born. Kate went by herself, of her own volition.  I am confident, she was greeted with open arms and extravagant hospitality.  Then she posed with a piglet for the fine photograph above.

Ugly truth:  the Bonde farm, with its 150 year-old stone house, is a factory pig farm.  I am not a vegetarian.  However, I respect those who are because I know it comes from venerable, deep beliefs.  It is also likely to be a pain in the ass.  I just finished reading, well, almost finished reading a folk novel by Wu Ch’eng-En, translated by Arthur Waley:  Monkey, a folk novel.  Expanded my brain and gave me a degree of enlightened thinking.

Some of the enlightened thoughts:  many times the shabbiest looking people are truly cosmic rock stars.  In other words, gods-come-to earth-types.  Other times the ogres of our world are the good guys.  Can’t always tell by looking, can we?

I saw a guy at the hardware store packing a pistol, sporting a shirt with a confederate flag. Tough looking! I’m thinking, huh! Maybe he’s one of the ogres. Hard to make that stretch. I think he’s misinformed and gullible.

I’m still trying to reconcile these thoughts with my experience with some of the old codgers I was friends with in my hippie days.  

Drive to Willow Creek to visit Pat Zuelke


Jeff and Phyllis Dorrington

June 9, 2021

What I learned recently.

Monday morning P. and I delivered about a dozen “meals on wheels” as part of that program here in Billings.  I always get a kick out of old guys who accept the meal with a thanks with their dog accepting a Milkbone(R) with —not much—appreciation.  In the case Monday, “Peanut” held the treat in his mouth loosely, not snapping it greedily as Gunther is wont to do.

After the deliveries we stopped back at the house to eat ramen noodles with chicken.  

We loaded the Hymer van with clothes, dog, food, personal effects.  Drove to Bozeman via Clyde Park and Willsall.  In the Bridger Mountains we stopped at Battle Ridge trailhead to walk around and let Gunther pee and poop.  He did both.  Well, he peed.  He must have pooped surreptitiously.  Birds were active.  P. thought she saw a mountain bluebird sitting atop a dead tree way up there.

Great diversity of woodland plants at Battle Ridge: lupines, other familiars whose names I can’t remember, but probably a half-dozen species of plant.  Wild strawberries’ flowers.  Certainly some elderberries, probably not any huckleberries.  Sometimes it’s hard to be sure about those until the berries pop out.  I wasn’t convinced.

Soon we traveled to Bozeman, then Three Forks, then Willow Creek to visit Pat Zuelke, retired school teacher of the same town. Pat bought and renovated a small house. It was one of those houses with gas heat in the front room, a kitchen behind, a bedroom off to the side and a bathroom. A back door.

We walked into her back door to find — a smorgasbord of delightful viands and beverages.  

And people!  The in-laws Jeff and Phyllis Dorrington were there.  Also, friend Louisa.  Rounding out the group was Pat’s niece Shannon and her two children Bo-bo and Lucy and Pat’s child, Liberty, and her daughter Amani. 

I’m still peeing blood, so I excused myself to use the bathroom.  Then I found a skewer and used it to eat pieces of ham and cheese while catching up with Jeff.  Jeff, like I am, retired as a federal pharmacist.  I tried to get him interested in my recent surgery on my prostate gland, but no dice.  Instead, we talked about cars: he bought a Tesla, P. and I bought the Hymer.

He and I both have distressing dreams about pharmacy:  He can’t remember the combination to the safe (neither can I).  We can’t seem to fill the prescriptions either fast or at all.  That’s what pharmacists care about.  We really want to fill prescriptions.

At some point I crawled into the Hymer and fell asleep.  Yes, the guests had gone home, yes we sat around talking until a late hour.

Next morning we coffeed and oatmilled.  I had gotten some painful slivers from Pat’s porch, so I sanded and varnished with many coats the offending area.  Then I did a variety of small jobs.  Organized paint.  Arranged tools.  Leaned pieces of sheetrock against a wall.  Folded a tarp.  And another tarp.  Like that.  Small jobs.

At last Liberty showed up with a room carpet.  I mean a carpet, complete with border and pattern, somewhat smaller than the room it was to go into.  She and Pat unrolled it and and a pad beneath.  Then Lib trimmed the pad with a pair of scissors.  Nor did she get a blister, apparently.

Louisa and her husband Thomas invited everyone to their house in Bozeman for a feast.  This was a caesar salad, expertly prepared steak, artistically concocted cocktails, oyster mushrooms.  Louisa was born and raised in Paraguay.  Thomas from New York state (The Hamptons).  They have two children Lana, and Shane, both bright and interesting.  They created the desserts, creme brûlée’s.

I tried some humor, some stories.  When Louisa said her sign was Scorpio, I replied, “hmm. I’m a feces.”  This got a startled response from Shane, certainly not the warm, appreciative laughter I hoped for.  

I tried telling my story from NOVA about my exploits as an adolescent explorer of University of Montana buildings in which I became trapped in a laboratory.  This went over well until I expanded upon my troubled past as a bed-wetter.

“My mother hated that I could wet my bed by standing in the doorway of my bedroom and urinating on my bed,” I explained.  This got another hostile reaction.  I was trying to explain that NOVA catered to the kind of troubled youths of which I was one.  I think I got mixed success.

After supper P. and I drove back through Bozeman, took Rouse Street to the highway past Bridger Bowl, then back to Battle Ridge.  We cruised the campground and found a likely site.  Got backed into it.  Then, lo!  A dome tent was back in the distance.  Worse luck!  Occupied!  We drove back to the highway and back to the trailhead parking lot where we boondocked.  Things were good until a rude, cowardly one-eyed pickup came into the area, spun several brodies spraying some gravel into our rig.  I threatened to give them a good talking-to, but didn’t fulfill my threat.

Things were quiet the remainder of the night and we drove to Billings, arriving at 11:30 a.m.  Took the interstate after we returned via the Shields River.

Why I quit hunting. . . .

Mule deer doe.


Today is my grandson George Roberts’ birthday.  I was with his mother at the hospital when they delivered him by C-section years ago.  I think it was 12 years ago, but I’m not sure.

I’ve been reading the folk novel, Monkey, by Wu Ch’eng-en, translated by Arthur Waley a bit before 1943.  One of the characters returns a fish to a stream, good fortune. 

Made me reminisce about my own history hunting and fishing.  Hunting, specifically, for mule deer bucks.

Do you remember the story about how I used to play with my grandpa’s hunting rifle?  He had a 30-30 Winchester carbine.  My cousins and I used to take apart the bullets and light the gunpowder.  Anyway, my brother sold the carbine to finance his high school graduation tour de United States.

I told that to my kids, and Robert had always wanted to replace the rifle.  He won one in a lottery and, well, . . .

My son Robert gave me a rifle a few years back, a 44-magnum carbine.  A lever-action cowboy rifle.  I’ve not owned any firearms since high school, but I was trained as a marksman in the Marine Corps, where I served from 1969-1976.

During those years of military service I qualified annually as a shooter of the M-14 and M-16 rifles.  I think both of these firearms are obsolete now, but I learned how to hit a 24-inch target at 500 meters with iron sights.

We called them iron sights, as different from telescopic.

Toward the end of my marine experience I got quite good at shooting.  I learned to shoot with a rear peep sight and a front sight blade.  In fact, I didn’t know how to use a scope. I have lots of good memories. A guy with a cigarette behind his ear announcing that he would now smoke a tobacco cigarette.

The carbine my son gave me had a kind of sight with which I was unfamiliar.  It had a rear sight notch and front sight ball.  I didn’t think I could hit anything with such a strange arrangement, so I purchased an adjustable rear peep sight online.  I attempted to find a gunsmith to install it, but ended drilling and tapping a screw hole myself in the barrel.  I did a pretty bad job of it.

Now I had a rifle with a sight I could use.  I didn’t really adjust the sight, except crudely, in the garage.  Then I got a box of 44 magnum bullets.  Then I got a hunting license and I was ready to sight in.

Only I didn’t.  Before I had a chance to practice sighting in with the Rossi (maker of the carbine), Robert invited me to hunt with him out west of Columbus, Montana.  I had bought a bag to carry the Rossi and a few bullets.  I wore snow boots and a parka.

We struggled up a long, long hill through snow up to our knees.  Bob thought he saw a small herd of elk about a thousand yards up the hill, so our plan was to go up the right flank and get them when we reached their level. He had tags for a mule deer buck and an elk buck.

Wet with sweat, boots full of snow, this was real struggling.

Bob went on ahead, so I found a rocky outcrop and sat down to rest.  “CRACK!” came from Robert’s direction.

Bob didn’t see any elk, but he did find a small herd of deer.  He brought down a buck.  He and I struggled across the ravine downhill and up until we reached his quarry.  I watched as Bob blessed the animal with a prayer, then gutted it.  A young buck.  I dragged it for him. It was too large to carry on my shoulders.

We started back down the ridge where the buck had been shot.  There was a fence line.  A couple hundred yards downhill we spotted some deer back across on the side of the ridge we’d just clambered up:  A buck with a few does.  I looked at them through binoculars.  They seemed nervous, walking into and out of some brush.  The sun was setting and it got darker and darker.  I knew if I was going to get a buck I’d need to act soon.

I unzipped my bag, removed the carbine, pointed it across the ravine, chambered a round, flipped up the rear sight.  

If you haven’t shot with iron sights, you might not know that the correct way is to locate your prey downrange, then you focus your eye on the tip of the front sight.  The rear aperture is close to your eye and you make a sight picture:  Front sight is centered in the aperture.  You place the front sight at six o’clock on the target, which is necessarily out-of-focus.  I had always been told not to focus my eye on the target.  That’s what the drill instructor called “chasing the bull.”

I waited until the deer walked out from behind the brush, then I aimed.  I made the sight picture, squeeeeezed the trigger, and “BLAM!”  The distant deer dropped after perhaps a half-second.

Long story short:  The deer was a doe, not the buck I had permission to hunt.  Bob said my shot was at least 600 meters.  He slogged across the ravine, gutted the doe and dragged it down the ravine.

Meanwhile, I dragged Bob’s buck down a long ridge to the road, to the car.  It was dark and snowing and I was soaking.

Bob got my deer stuck in a creek at the bottom of the ravine.  We returned next day and he couldn’t get it out of the creek because it was wedged into rocks and limbs.

I have not hunted since, and I don’t plan to go again; I don’t like venison, never did.  I’m sorry I made an illegal kill.  I don’t even like shooting that much, although I confess I’m pretty good at it.