Monday, November 26, 2012

Looking Back, Flying Forward

We have just returned from the annual North American Falconers Association (NAFA) Meet, held this year in Kearney, NE.  This is where a bunch of falconers get together, fly their hawks, visit, eat, buy/sell stuff, and so on.  It's fun and I've been to about a dozen meets over the years, although we had a gap in attendance between 2000 and 2010.  David was born in 2001, Derek in 2003 and we were just too busy raising kids to do much falconry.  In fact, although I had a few birds during this time, I'd pretty well dropped out of falconry and was probably going to quit altogether.  In 2010, though, I took Derek to the meet in Dodge City KS (just 4 h down the road) and he got really interested.  That's when I decided to try for a wild peregrine falcon, rebuild my hawk house, and all the stuff you can read about earlier in this blog.  

Falcons in the weathering area
A red-naped shaheen

Derek loved this little merlin
Dead 'possum.  Derek had never seen one.
All above photos by Derek

I missed 2011 (more on that below), but we made plans early to attend this year’s meet in Kearney NE.  The last time the meet was there, I lived in Boise ID and drove solo in an old beat-up blue Toyota 4WD pickup that burned a quart of oil every tank of gas.  On the trip home, I was approaching Casper WY when I realized I was the only person on the completely frozen-over Interstate.  A gust of wind suddenly spun the truck around and and I did 2 complete 360’s before coming to rest backward in the median.  After putting the truck in 4WD, I made it to Casper where I planned to spend the night, which just happened to be Thanksgiving Day.  I hadn’t eaten since breakfast and driving past a 7-11, I figured I’d check in to the Super 8 and then come back and get a burrito or something.  When I came back, though, the 7-11 was closed!  Back in the room, I pooled all my change and came up with just enough $$$ to get a “Grandma’s”  cookie and a Coke for supper.

The next morning, the wind was blowing so hard that the flags were like painted boards stuck to the flagpoles.  I got some real food and headed home, taking the scenic route across Wyoming to Jackson Hole and then into Idaho.  It was so cold in the old truck that I drove wearing a full-length winter coat I’d bought at Cabela’s for Georgia, a hat, gloves, and my winter boots.  I’d stop to take a nap and wake up freezing an hour later.  I finally made it back about 4 am.  When I woke up around 9-10, I noticed a big indoor car sale advertisement.  Long story, short, I ended up trading off The Blue Peril for a much newer and nicer Isuzu Trooper II.  I later had some driving adventures in that rig, too, but we’ll save the telling of such for another time.

Going to this year's NAFA (falconry) meet reminded me of last year's meet.  The plan was for Georgia, Derek, and Brianna to go down south to Pinon NM, and me and David to go north to Vernal UT for what would've been his first falconry meet.  Unfortunately, he wasn't responding well to transfusions and the last place I needed to be was 600 mi from home, so I cancelled and he and I stayed home.  We went to town on a Wed to get his blood checked.  It turned out to be one of the lowest results we'd gotten to date.  With the Thanksgiving holiday looming, and a weekend after that, both of which would've required an ER visit rather than his normal doctors, we all made the decision to push for ABQ on Monday.  Georgia arrived home on Sunday, took one look at David, and immediately re-packed and took off for ABQ.  I didn't see them again for 10 days and when they returned, David was on the steroids that gave him an unexpected and unexplained boost.  He didn't get another transfusion until the week before he died in May. 

The period between early December, when they returned from this long hospital stay, and his death in May was the only really hopeful period we ever had.  David responded to the steroids with never-before-seen energy, strong appetite, and good mood.  His blood levels stayed up for several weeks before slowly dropping and we were all hopeful that this course would buy us some time to find a definitive diagnosis and a cure.  In spite of the steroid’s boost- and we could see him getting puffed up and bloated, not a healthy look at all- I still had a strong sense that his time was going to be short and I tried hard to make the most of it.  I wish my feeling would have been wrong, but it wasn't.   I remember telling Georgia sometime in April that, whatever happened, I was just thankful that we'd gotten to see David strong and happy.

This time, last year: David with his new Ruger .22 and 1st prairie dog

This time, last year: At Ronald McDonald House during The Long Stay
It's a hard thing to say, but David's death freed us to do all the things we suppressed when he was with us.  Since his passing, we've gone to Bandelier Nat'l Monument where we climbed the tall ladders, gone elk hunting in the mountains, gone to the falconry meet where we beat the bush for hours, gone swimming in the hotel pool, and so forth... all things I couldn't or wouldn't do with David.  He would've tried and he would've given it all he had, but these things would have exhausted him or exposed him to too many germs and, for his sake, I would not have suggested them.  So, I dunno… doing these things is a mixed blessing.  We’re glad to be doing them again, but the reason we are is because David’s no longer with us and doing them reminds us of that fact. 

In retrospect, this time a year ago, we started moving down “the final stretch” of David’s life and I’m sure I will be thinking about this over the next several months.  David passed many milestones in these few short months- participating in 4H, shooting his first rocket, learning to shoot his Ruger .22, shooting his bow in competition, reading and writing extremely well, and so on.   As we pass those milestones a year later, I’m sure they will bring back those memories.  I also feel that when we reach the 1 year anniversary of his passing, that it will bring closure of a new kind.  From that day onward, we will be moving forward in a time in which 365 days previously David wasn’t with us.   Until then, every annual event we do reminds us of what we were doing last year, with him.  So it was with this year’s NAFA meet.

For now, though, we are, once again,  "waiting on winter."

Psalms 30:5 NKJV  …. Weeping may endure for a night, But joy comes in the morning.

Dad and Derek discuss birds at Bosque del Apache

Derek exploring at Bandelier Nat'l Monument

Looking down the ladder at Bandelier

Shades of Jacob's ladder

Monday, October 29, 2012

I Bow Down

There's something I haven't talked about much on my blog here and that's my archery habit.  I've been shooting bows since I was 13 or so and here at 50 am still shooting.  There were a few years in Idaho where I didn't shoot much, but I still had my bow.   In spite of all this time, I'm not that good of a shot.  I'm a pretty good finger-shooter, but about 6 years ago I switched to a release.  I shoot better with a release, but I'm not good enough to win my class in competition (which, okay, is the toughest class aside from the Pro class).  This year, I decided to work a little harder on my archery and consequently, I've been playing with different bows, different arrows, different rests, different releases, learning how to tune my bows and so forth.  I've learned a lot and I think my shooting has improved.

Hoyt Vectrix, Hoyt Maxxis 35, Bowtech Allegiance

Let's talk about my bows.  For the past 4 years, I've been shooting a Hoyt Vectrix.  I actually have 2 of these, both from 2007.  One is a 50-60 lb and the other is a 60-70 lb.  I set the first one up for target and 3D shooting and the other for hunting with broadheads.  They are 33" axle-to-axle.  I like the Vectrix a lot and shoot pretty well with them.  I originally started with a 26" draw but after posting some pictures on the ArcheryTalk forum, it was decided that I was shooting with too short of a draw.  So, I hunted down some cams, installed them, and went up to a 27" draw.  That did indeed make a big difference in my shooting as I was able to hold much steadier on target.

First, here I am with the 26" draw:

And now, with a 27" draw:

2007 Hoyt Vectrix

You can see that my bow hand is much straighter in the bottom photo. 

I've shot Hoyt since about 1989 and mid-summer I decided to play around with a different  brand.  I investigated and decided to try a Martin.  A new Onza III Pro came up on Ebay and I won it for a great price.  Unfortunately, Martin's specs are incorrect and what was advertised as a 26"-31" adjustable draw was actually 27.5"-31".  I tried, but it was just too long.  However, this showed me that a longer axle-to-axle (ATA) bow might be steadier.

When I switched to a release in '06, one of the first bows I tried was a '05 Bowtech Allegiance.  That was my first foray into a modern bow and I was amazed at it.  I stuck with Hoyt, though, and ended up getting a used '03 Ultratec  that I shot for a year before  picking up a used '05 Vtec to go along with it and use for hunting.  Here's a picture of me and David shooting back then:

Shooting in '06- Hoyt Vtec

After I re-sold the inaccurately labeled Martin, I was surfing around when I ran across an '07 Bowtech Allegiance at less money that I'd just re-sold the Martin for.  I was curious to see if my earlier impressions were correct and so I bought it.  Setup was a snap and,  unlike the Martin, I was able to easily set it to my 27" draw length.

2007 Bowtech Allegiance

It's also fun to compare the 2007 Bowtech to the 2007 Hoyt Vectrix.  The Bowtech is considerably lighter, simpler, has a more solid "back wall", and draws easier.  At 60 lbs, the Vectrix is a pretty stiff pull while the Allegiance is a much easier pull.  And yet I have to use a stiffer arrow on the Allegiance because of its more aggressive cams.  The Allegiance has much more hand shock and jump while the Vectrix is very smooth and dead-in-the-hand.

So, after shooting the longer ATA Allegiance for a few months, I decided to see what a longer ATA Hoyt would be like, sort of trying to combine the best features of the Allegiance (longer ATA) and the Vectrix (smooth).  More reading and research and before long a 2010 Hoyt Maxxis 35 showed up at my door.  This is 4 generations down the line from the Vectrix and has a 35" ATA.  It didn't take long to get it setup and shooting pretty well, although I think I have a little more tuning to do with it to bring out its maximum potential.  But, my experiment was good and I got the steady hold of the Allegiance coupled with the smooth Hoyt feel.  As you can see from the below picture, the limbs on the Maxxis go "beyond parallel" which means that the energy upon release goes up and out, rather than forward.  The bow is absolutely dead-in-the-hand, even more so than the Vectrix.  It's a lighter bow than the Vectrix, too.

2010 Hoyt Maxxis 35

So, how do they shoot?   Today it was nice and calm, so I got all 3 bows out and shot 1 bunch of arrows at 55 yards.  I used the same release, even though I normally use a different release for the Allegiance (as part of the reason I keep it- I use it to experiment with stuff).  Here's what my groups looked like:

Hoyt Vectrix group @ 55 yds

Bowtech Allegiance group @ 55 yds

Hoyt Maxxis 35 group @ 55 yds

I think it's pretty clear that the Maxxis is shooting well for me.   The Allegiance is probably the worst of the bunch for me, but I haven't really played with the tuning much yet.  I'll likely do that soon, moving the current rest a little and then trying an entirely different style to see what happens.  I have shot better with the Vectrix but I've been shooting the Maxxis for 2 weeks and have gotten used to it.  As for the Maxxis, there's really only 1 flyer in that group and that's otherwise a pretty good group for 55 yards.  A tiny bit more tuning and I think I can bring that group into the bulls eye.

Those are my bows.  Derek has a bow, too, but he hasn't really gotten into shooting it much yet.  Archery takes a lot of focus and practice and he's not quite there.  David was just starting to really get into it and the week David died- the same day we got to see Natalie MacMaster, actually- David shot his first real 3D shoot with me.  He won a set of headphones at the shoot and he was so excited about that.  Later that week, we set up our targets down on the creek and did some practicing since David was now "experienced" at 3D and wanted to tell Derek how to do it.  At one point, he beat us all, and I took the moment to whip my phone out and take these photos.  These were taken 4 days before David died and you can bet that I'm glad I took the minute to take them:

Little 3D shooters

David had the high score!

After David's death, Derek and I talked about it and we decided to sell both bows (Derek having outgrown his!) and get a new Diamond Atomic.  I had seen the Atomic at the Santa Fe shoot but didn't think David was strong enough to pull it (cams being harder to pull than wheels) and thus hesitated getting one since I didn't want him to get frustrated.  Derek was ready for it, though, so we did as planned and sold both bows (to, appropriately enough, a 4H club- I think David would have approved).  I will get some pictures of Derek's bow up next time but he did shoot a 3D shoot with me a few weeks ago and did okay.  Again, I don't think he's quite ready for the mental discipline that it requires and I don't want to push him and discourage him, so we'll just go at his pace.

That's my archery habit!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Another Year Bites the Dust

Last time we talked, I was complaining about things breaking. They continued to break; I fixed the Kawasaki generator, it ran for awhile, then it broke again. Finally, I broke down, drove to town, and bought a 2nd generator like my reliable (so far) Honda-engined “Master” brand. That was a good move and I made it thru the summer with 2 working generators, happily pumping water. A few other things broke along the way, but in the end, we got our cattle shipped and ended the summer.

Cattle-wise, it wasn't that bad. The cattle gained good weight and my numbers came out almost dead-on, meaning that I didn't have any unaccounted missing cattle. That's rare and great. I took a little video of the shipping process:

We also used a helicopter again, to gather the north side of the ranch. Here's some footage from 2006, to illustrate what it's like using a 'copter to gather cattle:

Ranch-wise, we shipped a little early because the grass is pretty much gone. This is the worst drought period since the 1930's and we're fighting hard to maintain as much cover and stability as possible. It is DRY out there. Last year, I was flying my falcons on ducks, this year there are no ponds.

Financially, it's been a tough year. For a single reason that I still can't talk about, we're spending a lot of money. As a result, the ranch couldn't pay my salary for 3 months. I was too busy with the ranch to get much guitar work done and a job opened up in the local school district, so Georgia went to work. This lead to me taking full-time care of our youngest son. It's hard to work on guitars when you're cooking, young son sitting, and home-schooling but with cattle finally gone, we're getting into the swing of it and with cattle gone, we got our final payments, which allowed the ranch to start paying my salary again, albeit at a lower rate. We're pulling thru but it's been a little shaky. On the upside, Derek and I are spending a lot more time together and I think he's matured a lot in the past few months. He always looked up to David and now he has to be his own man.

Otherwise, things are okay. I'd be lying if I said that David's death hasn't affected us. When we're busy, we don't think about it but it's the quiet times in the evening and morning that are the worst. “Ambushes” occur in conversations, things that spark memories, and so forth. This is common and it happens to everyone. The things that help me the most are to go back and re-read the things I wrote immediately after David's passing. That makes me re-focus on the amazing things that happened before/after his death and gives me assurance. I've also been doing a lot of reading about life after death, both from a Christian and non-Christian perspective. The Bible is the authority- sola Scriptura- but even though “Scripture Alone” is sufficient, it is not a “Scripture that is alone”; there are confirmations out there. So, when I read from scientists that life after death is a recognized phenomenon but they just can't explain certain parts of it, it's just fuel for the fire. Applying Scripture, I think I can explain the parts they don't want to touch, but, in any case, reading philosophy and scientists on the topic has gone a long ways in giving me comfort. Among the books I'm reading are:

As well as this article:

What's striking about the last article is this paragraph:

Very early one morning four years ago, I awoke with an extremely intense headache. Within hours, my entire cortex—the part of the brain that controls thought and emotion and that in essence makes us human—had shut down. Doctors at Lynchburg General Hospital in Virginia, a hospital where I myself worked as a neurosurgeon, determined that I had somehow contracted a very rare bacterial meningitis that mostly attacks newborns. E. coli bacteria had penetrated my cerebrospinal fluid and were eating my brain.

This is very much like David's death and “meningitis” was an early diagnosis, changed to “a bacteria”, and finally to “I've never seen anything like this”. A friend sent me the above link and it not only struck me in its parallel to David's death, but it came at just the right time. Anyway... I've been doing a lot of reading and thinking.

As winter moves toward us once again, I'm getting back into the swing of working on guitars, reading, training my prairie falcon, and moving on into my typical winter stuff. I haven't' hardly touched a guitar since David's death. Instead, I've been playing mandolin and I've been playing Celtic stuff where improvisation is not encouraged. On guitar, I'm all about variations and improvisations, but my creative juices are at a low (witness my lack of writing here....) and playing Celtic stuff on mandolin is kind of therapeutic. 

I guess that's it for now.  Next time, I'll tell you about our new Subaru, trout fishing, and- hopefully- have another successful elk hunt to recount.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

If it ain't broke.... it soon will be!

Hello, and welcome to Broke-Down Mountain Ranch.   I'd like to document some of the many broken things here.  It seems like my days are filled with fixing broken things.  I fix 1 thing and 3 others break.  It's probably not that bad, but it seems like it.  Here's what I dealt with today, just today!

First up is my finger.  It's not broken, but it's badly bent (and cut, too).  See, there's this broken door (note to self: another broken thing... need picture) in the barn that can only be opened by pushing the latch in from the side of the metal frame.  Normally, I get a hammer and punch and hit it, but this day I tried just pushing it.  With my finger.  It opened and since the wind was blowing, it opened hard, catching the tip of my finger between the door and frame and neatly slicing the tip of my finger off.  This is gonna cut down on my guitar playing for a few days, at least.

This is a 25' tape measure.  It quit retracting and after WD-40 didn't work, I took it apart and found a, yup, broken spring inside.  Into the trash with it.  I already have a new 30' Stanley with metal housing in the shop. Maybe it'll be my buddy for a few weeks.

 Oh, cool- this is a two-fer, maybe even a three or four-fer!  On the trailer is a Kawasaki generator.  I'm using it to run the formerly broken, now fixed (I hope!) well.  This has never been a particularly reliable generator and we've long since replaced/supplemented it with a much simpler and, so far, more reliable Honda.  But, since it's just sitting and since we paid good money for it, I wanted to put it back to work.  It ran once.  Then I brought it home and filled it with gas and took it back to the well.  It refused to run.  Gas was pouring out of the carb and that could mean only 1 thing.  I took the carb apart and after careful searching found the broken float bowl that was not doing its job, which is quite simple, really:  Shut off the fuel, and "don't let it leave the carb!"  (Monty Python fans will recognize the allusion).  New float bowls are $25 plus shipping and JB Weld is impervious to gas, so I restored to globs of the latter.  After determining that the float pins is uni-directional and must be installed "just-so" or it'll bind the float, I (hopefully) fixed the carb and float and returned the generator to work.  I'd still better order a new float.

In the background is the Yellow Peril, otherwise known as a John Deere backhoe.  This thing...well, where to start?  First of all, it doesn't!  That's right- it doesn't start.  I don't really know why.  I do know that several years ago, I took it to a neighbor's to dig a new septic line for him.  Loading this thing is a really scary deal and after I did a wheelie trying to get it loaded, I decided to just drive it home.  About 1/2 way, it seized and quit running.  I'd hit the starter and get nothing.  I left it there and went home for my skid steer, with the intention of using it to lift all the arms and buckets up and chain them in place so that I could maybe tow the Yellow Peril home.  After getting the skid steer on-site, chaining everything, and etc, I thought I'd try the starter.  It started!!!!  So, I drove it home.  A few weeks later, I needed to dig on my own septic system.  After starting the tool via a complex system of cables and extra batteries, I went to work.  All was well for awhile and I was nearly finished with the job.  I went into the house to get something and I returned to find smoke pouring from the engine.  I took a quick look and determined that the fan belt was off.  The last thing I wanted was a humongous piece of dead yellow metal on an open sewage hole, so I quickly moved the backhoe off the hole and drove it to near the barn.  It needs a new fan belt but to get that on, I have to remove the hydraulic pump.  I've never done this and it sounds messy and oily and I have procrastinated for nearly 2 years.  So, the Yellow Peril sits.  Oh, yeah, did I mention that it also doesn't have any brakes?

My skid steer does 10x the job of moving dirt that this backhoe does but, alas- take a wild guess!!!!-  the skid steer is broken!!!  It has a weird oil leak that I haven't been able to diagnose yet and can't afford to have a pro diagnose.  Thus, the skid steer also sits.  In between them, visible to the right of the child's play set (which, coincidentally, has a broken slide) is a Ford 8N tractor that- imagine!!!- is broken!!!  It has a rusted-out exhaust pipe that'll need replacement. 

I don't think the lights work on the trailer holding the generator but I'm scared to check.

Here we have a new driveshaft carrier bearing on my 1980 Toyota.  Now this one I'll cut some slack as the original bearing lasted for 32 years and 170,000 miles.  It was a fairly easy replacement and (hopefully) I installed it correctly.  We'll see.  If you see something wrong in this picture, PLEASE let me know!

This broken item is a Makita battery.  It just quit working.  All was fine until I put it on the charger one day.  I got the flashing/alternating green/red lights which indicate a failed battery.  No hope here.

My go-to-mailbox bike (an old Gary Fisher Supercaliber) has a flat-tire.  I can probably fix this and it'll probably just go flat again.

And finally, for now, my boots.  These are Wolverine work boots that I made the mistake of going rappelling in one day this spring.   My ascending rope cut the soft soles of these boots a-part.  I filled 'em up with Gorilla Glue and I'm getting a little more use out of them, but they are not far from the trash heap.

I think that sums up the broken stuff I had to deal with just on this one day.  Next time, I'll chronicle the stuff that works.  That will be easy as it will be a much shorter blog.

Until then, keep on the sunnyside.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Well, well, well

YES!!!!!!!! Do you know what this means?!!!?!!!??
The renegade pipe

This is the pipe that was lost in the well. After 2+ hours of fishing, aided by my home-made camera rig, we snagged the pipe. It was extremely tough pulling so we sent the camera down again and saw that our fishing spear had gone past the head- we figured we'd snagged the outside of a joint past the bad part. In other words, the fishing spear never went down the pipe but snagged the _outside_ of the pipe. Amazingly, we were able to pull the entire pipe up w/out losing that grip. It was tense at first because the pipe refused to budge and I was afraid we'd break the lifting cable and lose the whole thing, but we got it moving (it was probably snagged on a joint gap- watch the video and you can see them).  We ended up pulling 6 20' joints of pipe to clean the hole. I am SO relieved to have gotten this pipe.

Next step was to re-pipe the hole with PVC and put a solar-capable pump down. This cost about $5000 and I'll have to run it with a generator until we can afford to put the solar panels in, but at least we're spending $$$ toward solar. Otherwise, I'd have to sink at least that, probably more, in repairing the windmill and pipe.After pulling the pipe and installing an electric well, we dismantled the old windmill head.  It has some issues that made it next to useless and the best solution was to just get it down.  This, obviously, is MUCH easier when the right equipment is at hand.
Windmills are HEAVY

Dismantling the mill

 Here's my next Well Challenge. The "East Slater" mill sits in a "hole" about 3/4 mi from the Bent Pipe Well. It's a rough road down into the hole and the road washes out every time we get a big rain. The mill head developed some problems- worn bearings, worn holes, etc, and it sits on an old bolt-together tower. About 6 years ago, it stopped pumping and since the road was washed out, I just shut it off. With the other well in danger of being lost, I decided to try to revive the East Slater well.
After dismantling the mill head, we discovered that the well was "sanded-in". We barely recovered the pipe and then the sand collapsed and plugged the well hole. My mission- should I choose to accept it, and I probably will since I have nothing to lose and a well to gain- is to unplug the plug. I have a water trailer, a generator, and a portable air compressor, so I'm going to try flooding the hole with water and then using a homemade PVC tool to blow air thru that tool, creating suction and lifting the sandy water (watery sand?) to the surface.

If I can get the plug opened, we can re-line the casing with PVC to hold the sand at bay and and install a solar pump. I don't think the the sand goes down very far and I highly suspect it came in thru the top during a heavy flooding rain (like one that washed the water tub into my neighbor's pasture).

We are still awaiting some sort of word on what caused his seizure.  An autopsy had to be done and they discovered that all  his organs were grossly swollen and that his brain was nearly jelly.  The pathologist said he'd never seen anything like it and all of his tests came up negative.  So, tissues samples have been shipped to the CDC for analysis.  We heard from David's doctor and he said he was having a hard time dealing with the fact that David is suddenly gone.  This is the doctor who said he'd wake up at 3 in the morning, thinking about David and how to heal him.  On the last visit, he and David spent 10-15 minutes talking about rockets as the doctor was a big fan of them.  So, this week, I picked out a picture of David with one of his rockets, printed and framed it, and we sent that to the doctor with a little note.  We may never find out definitely what the issue was and I guess it doesn't matter, unless it helps someone else avoid the same thing.
David and rocket
The dynamics of the family have certainly changed a lot, esp with Brianna getting ready to leave for college in a month.  We're going very quickly from 3 kids at home to 1.   It's quieter, cleaner, and there is less fussing going on. I guess this is what The Next Stage of Life is going to be like.  For me, the worst times are the quiet times when I'm in my shop.  That's when the busyness gets shut out, I have time to think, and I miss David the most then.  When that happens, I go back and re-read my own blog, remind myself of the things I wrote then, and look thru the pictures of him when he was declining.  I feel better then and I look forward to the hope of reuniting with a healthy, vibrant David. The other thing that made me feel better was when we stopped by the cemetery to visit  his grave for the first time.  This is a cemetery about the size of a postage stamp, serving a community currently pop 22, and I was absolutely floored at the number of children's graves there.  I think that 1/3 of them are children under 10.  Oddly, it made me feel better to know that we're certainly not the only ones to lose a child.
Georgia and Derek at the grave
We're going to get a headstone for the grave after I've put some thought into what it should say.  I kind of like the verse we used at the memorial service:
Zechariah 8:5 NKJV  The streets of the city Shall be full of boys and girls Playing in its streets.'
Well (ha!), that's it for now.  Over and out, from the High Plains.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Thorns and Thistles

Genesis 3:17-19 NKJV  Then to Adam He said, "Because you have heeded the voice of your wife, and have eaten from the tree of which I commanded you, saying, 'You shall not eat of it': "Cursed is the ground for your sake; In toil you shall eat of it All the days of your life.  (18)  Both thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you, And you shall eat the herb of the field.  (19)  In the sweat of your face you shall eat bread Till you return to the ground, For out of it you were taken; For dust you are, And to dust you shall return."

Ain’t that the truth.  I don’t know how many of my blog readers have worked the land, but it’s a hard task.  Around here lately, it seems that everything is broken.   I don’t remember exactly when but a few days before David died, I was working on a windmill and the standing pipe fell.  A well consists of a hole in the ground.  Inside this hole in the ground is a “casing” pipe; this is what keeps the hole from constantly caving in.  Inside this pipe is the “standing” pipe; it’s fastened at the top with a thick metal plate and is basically free-hanging from this plate inside the casing.  Inside the standing pipe, is the actual pump, whether electric or windmill.   So, when the standing pipe fell, it dropped inside the casing for an unknown distance, but at least 15-20’.  This effectively kills the well unless it can be retrieved.

To retrieve the standing pipe, a variety of “fishing” tools are used.  These basically either fit inside the pipe or over the pipe.  The problems are that the pipe is usually leaning against the casing at an angle- it’s rarely a straight shot into or onto the pipe.  Another problem is simply the depth of the well and the fact that you have to work blind.  And finally- because the pipe has fallen and because it’s been down there for 100 years and the joints are rusty- it’s common for the pipe to break.

So, our well man came out and fished and sure ‘nuff, the pipe was broken and sure ‘nuff, he can’t get all the pieces out.  I’ve called in help and different opinions and have spent hours and hours and days fishing for this lost pipe.  Of course, we were still working blind and had no idea what we were actually fishing FOR.

A sad (and expensive) sight

Capped off to keep stuff from falling down

We stuffed a pipe with wax to get an impression

First thing we did was stuff a pipe full of canning wax and send it down to get an impression of whatever was down there.  That worked pretty good, but took some time.

Finally, I got the bright idea of sending a helmet camera into the hole.  You’ve seen the footage from these by skiers, dirt bikers, etc.  Well, they make waterproof models, too.  So I bought a POV model for $100, a waterproof flashlight for $50, and 400’ of ¼ 100 lb test cord for $40 and strapped all this into a PVC tube and sent ‘er down the hole.  Here’s some of the footage:

Downloading video


The Video Capsule

This has been very useful.  Even though we still haven’t caught the pipe, at least we know that a) the end’s not crushed in, b) it’s at an angle, c) there’s not a sucker rod sticking out the middle of it, d) etc.  However, unless we get that pipe out, this whole episode is big FAIL and we’ll have to drill a new well, to the tune of around $30,000-40,000 (and hey, what’s $10k here or there!?).

"Life"- picture by David Kimsey
Adding to my problems, my Case 90XT skid steer is leaking oil by the buckets.  I’ve had this thing worked on twice already, for $1200 and $350 each time and it’ll be fine for about 5-10 hours and then it’s Leak City again.  Well, it’s leaking again and I need it working right now.  With the crippled windmill and some other draining expenses, I just don't want to spend the money to get the skid steer fixed.  I guess it'll just have to sit there.

Happier Days

Moving Dirt- picture by David

So, we’ve got broken well, broken skid steers…. What else is broken?  I don’t want to know.  I know that I’m looking forward very much to this:

Revelation 22:1-3 NKJV  And he showed me a pure river of water of life, clear as crystal, proceeding from the throne of God and of the Lamb.  (2)  In the middle of its street, and on either side of the river, was the tree of life, which bore twelve fruits, each tree yielding its fruit every month. The leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.  (3)  And there shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him.

It’s been a month since David’s death and we are, for the most part, coping okay.  The week of the funeral was busy and then the following week was my daughter’s graduation party and that kept us busy.  Week 3 is when it started to sink in and there were some rough moments there, but I just went back and re-read the things I wrote and refreshed my memory on how sick David was and his superior status now and felt better.  I have pictures of David on my desk and I can look at them.  Video is a little harder, esp video where he talks- I can only handle small bites of video before I have to turn it off.   

As part of the local Ministerial Alliance, I was on the radio station last week, for the week, and the topic I chose to speak on was “Dealing With Death”.   If you care to read my messages, you can find them here:

Bottom line is that we all have to deal with death.  So, I guess we’re dealing with it.  In addition to the lifting of the curse, I’m looking forward to this:

Revelation 21:4 NKJV  And God will wipe away every tear from their eyes; there shall be no more death, nor sorrow, nor crying. There shall be no more pain, for the former things have passed away."

Until then, though, we have to wrestle our living from the thorns and thistles, by the sweat of our brow. We have death, sorrow, pain, and crying.  We can roll over and give up, or we can press onward and fight. 

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Blessed be the name of the Lord

Job 1:20-21 NKJV  Then Job arose, tore his robe, and shaved his head; and he fell to the ground and worshiped.  (21)  And he said: "Naked I came from my mother's womb, And naked shall I return there. The LORD gave, and the LORD has taken away; Blessed be the name of the LORD."
We buried my son and friend, David, yesterday. It was a beautiful service with songs by our sister in Christ and great friend, Andrea Callis, preaching by my fellow pastor and great friend, Eric Armstrong, and attendance by many, many, many of David's and our friends. I showed a slide show at the end and talked about a few of my personal struggles with David's life and death. I'd like to present those here, both for a record and in the hopes that it might help others. I'll link to the slideshow below.

As you watch the slides, note David's clothes, face, and smiles. When he's wearing coveralls, that's because his spleen was so enlarged that pants were uncomfortable for him. A couple of years ago, I was thinking about him and wondering what I could to make his life easier and “coveralls” came to mind. After all, old men wear them because they're comfortable, right? So, I got on ebay and rustled up a few pair for David and also for his brother Derek so that D2 wouldn't feel left out. The boys liked them a lot and they really were nice for David. But that's why he's wearing them in the pictures- they're not a fashion statement. When you see David with a hoodie, that's not a fashion statement either- he's cold. I could be in a T-shirt and David would be cold because his anemic blood didn't keep him warm enough. Watch David's face carefully; it's always lean and drawn, but you'll see a point at which he really starts looking thin. That's the point at which we decided we had to get aggressive with his treatment. And lest we forget- that was just last year. Watch his smile. He smiles pretty well until maybe 2 years ago, and then he rarely smiled; well, not until he had someone to visit with and then he was all smiles. You'll see all of these things change very dramatically as the slides progress.  I don't want you to feel sorry for David; to the contrary, I want you to see the struggles he faced and the attitude he had while facing them.  I want you to realize his situation here on earth, so that you can better appreciate his position now.

The first struggle I had was with David's salvation. He never “confessed Christ” , nor was he baptized, nor could he really confess his status as a sinner. I've read and studied childhood salvation and I came long ago to the conclusion that God saves children in Jesus, but to study it and to come face to face with it are two very different things. This really bothered me and Wed morning at 3 am, I was out in my shop when it just hit me and I started crying and just begging God, the creator of the heavens and the earth and all that are in them, to please, please, let me know where David was. Now, the Bible talks quite a bit about “crying out to God”, but I assure you that there's not like a little button you can flip to enter “Crying Out to God” mode. You can't say, “Oh, I'm going to go cry out to God now...” I can't, anyway. Crying out to God is something visceral and I'm pretty sure that this was the first time I've ever really done it. After I got settled down, I went back in the house, sat down at my computer and found this e-mail from Mario Proulx, a dear friend of David's.

Bryan, I'm not good with words, especially in times like this, but rest assured that when I flipped my hand upward last night to high-five David one last time, I did indeed feel something slap me back. Maybe it was a nerve twitch from the goofy angle of my wrist at that moment, but I don't believe it was; that would be too much of a "coincidence".

That made me feel better, but I still wanted to think. So, I went over the couch and sat down. As I sat there in the moonlight, my eyes fell on David's little electronic drum set, which he'd only had for a week. He had an excellent sense of time, though, and we played several times. On Sunday evening, Georgia and David started playing- her on bass and him on drums. I came in from chores, got my Telecaster, and joined them. We played several songs and then were sitting there when I started playing a certain song. We played that one for awhile and then G got up to leave. I said “Wait, let's try this one before you leave”, and we played another song for a bit. Georgia left and it was just David and me. David said “Let's play that one again. I want to make sure I have it.” So, I obliged. Afterward, I told him “You know, I've never played those songs with anyone before. I've only practiced them.” Sitting there on the couch, wondering about where David's spirit was, staring at his drum set, I suddenly recalled the last 2 songs we'd played. The next-to-last one was “Knockin' on Heaven's Door”. And the last one- the one he wanted to play again, to make sure he had it right-  was a Brad Paisley instrumental called “Departure”.

Out of all the songs I know, why those two titles in that order, at that time? This is beyond coincidence and I can only attribute it, along with Mario's e-mail, as an answer to my cries from God. Later that day, I was reading a tract and hit this verse:

1 Corinthians 1:18 NKJV  For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

I have preached on this verse numerous times, but I guess I just needed a reminder.  David may not have been able to verbalize his sins, but the message of the cross was NOT foolishness to him. He never joked about God or Jesus, would frequently draw pictures of crosses and churches, and liked going to church. I never saw the slightest bit of foolishness in his attitude toward the cross. After all of these assurances, I felt good about David's status in Heaven and I had peace about it.

The other struggle I had was with the way I felt like a yo-yo. I would pray and pray and pray for David, and sometimes things would get better. When they did, then I'd hope and hope and hope but things would inevitably get worse. Why would God give me this hope and encouragement only to yank the rug out from under me? I really struggled with this. I mean, I trust God and know that He's sovereign and that “all things work together for good for those who love God”, but I just didn't understand it the yo-yo thing.  Every time I prayed for a word from God about David's healing, I was drawn to the Job verse above. 

 As part of the funeral service, I wanted to make a slide show. I really enjoy seeing slide shows at others funerals as they usually show me some of that person's life of which I wasn't aware. So, I spent most of Weds collecting photos and putting them into a slide show. David had a special affinity for Natalie MacMaster's music. We went to see Natalie when David was 2-3 days away from being born. I didn't think much of it except that Natalie was great. Years later, when David was about 4-5, I was reviewing CD's for BG Now. Understand that I had a stack of CD's to listen to and that this was an ongoing thing. In other words, lots of music in the house. I put the Natalie CD “Yours Truly” in the player and in very short order, David was at my side saying “Hey, can I have that CD?” He popped it out and disappeared to his room with it. Every night for the next 6-8 months, I'd hear Natalie MacMaster wafting from David's room at bedtime. I wondered why he had such an attraction to her music and then I remembered the pre-birth concert. Maybe?

David didn't actually see Natalie play until a few weeks ago. A notice popped up on Facebook that Natalie was playing in Albuquerque. I checked the calendar and, hey, we were going to be in ABQ that Friday for a check-up and possible blood transfusion (his first since December). So, I got tickets front and center and we went. After the concert- which David absolutely loved- we hung around and Natalie came out to sign (she's 5 months pregnant, too!) David got his CD signed, and well.... I think these pictures speak for themselves:

On the way home, David was just overjoyed. He listened to Natalie's new CD “Cape Breton Girl” all the way home.   We saw Natalie on Saturday night, May 19th.  David died 8 days later.

It was obvious, then, that I'd use Natalie's music as background for David's slide show. But, which song? I got “Yours Truly” out and there, in the list of songs, was “David's Jig”. Done deal. But I needed another one 'cause I had a lot of pictures, so I choose the first one “Volcanic Jig” which would've been the song playing when David confiscated the CD from me. I put the slide show together, selected the music, set the show to run “Length of Music” and created it.

While watching the video for the first time, something struck me. “Volcanic Jig” plays for David's early life. There's a short break, then “David's Jig” starts. It's pretty dynamic. The slides are showing David's life at what I consider his decline. He's getting older, his body is making more demands, his blood's not keeping up. The music breaks rhythm and at this point, the slides are showing him during the transfusion period. This was a transitional period in his life, as well as in the music. After this, the music kicks back in, but with more intensity, with an urgency. This corresponds to the pictures during his steroid use. There's another break in rhythm, shorter this time, and this is the time at which David was really kicking in- check out his smile in the photos. The music goes for a short intense period, and this is the time during which I really got to enjoy him- we shot 3D archery shoots, he jumped, ran, smiled, wrestled, and ate. He also swelled up from the steroids and had some aches and pains. Finally, the music slams to a stop. It doesn't fade or slow down. It slams to a stop.

While watching this, I realized something. God didn't yank me up and down like a yo-yo. Instead, he took me to the peaks and showed me the far green country ahead. In His grace and mercy and lovingkindness, He said “this is what David can be like”. Instead of letting David slowly run down, he let me live life with David to the full, to the very last night, when we played music together. David's connection with Natalie MacMaster is spooky. As I watched the video with the underlying music, I thought “It's almost like she wrote the soundtrack for this!” I'd never even really listened to “David's Jig” and I sure didn't set the pictures to the music. It was only when watching it myself that it all came together. It's also spooky that Natalie effectively opened and closed David's life. After all this, I felt great peace about David's life and his death.
Now the question I had was- “What could be the purpose of David's life?” I mean, it's great that we got to do all these things together, but what was the eternal value of David's life? What is anyone's purpose? The Bible tells us that our purpose is to glorify God. Did David accomplish that? Did I help David accomplish that? Well, David taught me meekness and self-control. He was a fragile little boy and I had to discipline him with a gentle hand. I had to rely on my faith during his struggles. Medical science did what it could do, but remained stymied by his symptoms. I'm convinced that it's a miracle David lasted 11 years; there were many times when we thought "this is it", and it wasn't. Raising David demanded goodness and kindness; you could not be mean to him. And let's face it, his time with us was stressful. My life revolved around what David needed, David's medical expenses, David's transportation, David, David, David. I worried about David, prayed for David, checked up on David. He was on my mind all the time. I think I'd consider this “long-suffering”. I have already mentioned “peace” and in struggling with David's life and death, I found peace. In observing David and being the objection of his affection, I experienced “joy”. And finally, what I learned from David was “love”. It's often hard to separate “love” from “lust”, or we often love those who do nice things for us. But neither of these applied to David. We loved him because he needed love and because he gave great love back. So, as brother Eric pointed out, one of David's roles on this earth was that of “teacher”. He taught me. David taught us all.

Galatians 5:22-23 NKJV  But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,  (23)  gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

David brought out the fruit of the Spirit in me and in everyone he met. He was not here to be taught; he was here to teach. I think that was one of his purposes and he accomplished it well.

I'd already decided long ago that David's funeral would be closed casket. I didn't want to remember him in such a thing and because he died of a medical emergency, an autopsy was done, too. On Thursday morning, I woke up at 3 am again and went to the couch. I thought about watching a video of us on our trip to Washington DC. I thought about how frail and fragile David was on that trip. I carried him many times so he wouldn't get run over by human traffic. He wouldn't eat anything and, well... you can scroll back in this blog and find what I wrote while we where there. Then it occurred to me (it seems that one can have many profound thoughts at 3 am!) that I didn't want to remember David as either in the casket OR as he was in life. The way I need to think of David is as he is NOW. He's in Heaven. He's perfectly cured. I need to think of that faraway green and beautiful land that God allowed me to glimpse while on the upswing with David. That's how I need to think of David. After all, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. David's favorite part of all our vacations were the air/space things. Well, he's with the Creator of air and space now! I think there will be lots for him to see and do. This is how I need to think of  him.

All of these things came together before the funeral and I was able to speak about most of them and try to communicate the same hope and, yes, joy, that I now had over David's life and death. However, while writing this blog, I confess that I was feeling a little bit “down”. Let's face it, 11 years of worry, stress, and striving are over. I am so incredibly tired. Plus, I miss my little buddy, my shadow, my friend. We have company today and I wanted peace and quiet so I moved to my shop to type this. I'm sitting at a white table typing on an old laptop with a flaky trackpad. My optical mouse wasn't working well on the white table (optical mice need some visual texture to work). I need something with visual texture. Over on my normal bench is a piece of wood, but it's too thick and will raise my hand up awkwardly. Tucked between two drawers, though, is a slimmer piece of wood that will work perfectly. I pull it out and this is what I find:

Optical mouse doesn't work on white surface
Note thin board between cabinets
David's handwriting

I love you, too, David. And thanks!!! When I get there, let's play “Heaven Opened the Door” and “Arrival”, okay? You may have to help me out a bit as I'm sure you've been practicing and have it right.  But, hey, we'll have all eternity.

A year and half after writing this blog post, I wrote this one- "Departure".