What Geese Can Teach Us

WHAT GEESE CAN TEACH US

The goose family just came to visit at my Storrie Lake camp in New Mexico. The youngsters are getting color and markings. They’re almost ready to go out on their own now. Several families have united, allowing the goslings to swim together without adult presence. The adults watch from the shore. They are good parents.
When I feed scraps of bread to the family the gander stands guard, not eating. The rest eat their fill while he keeps watch. Finally, when all are sated he eats from what is left while the female watches. Then he leads them into the lake, having done his job as patriarch, the proud father leading his family home. Watching them elicits a sort of comfort in nature; that the simplest forms of life will continue to survive in the simplest ways.
Henri David Thoreau wrote this advice which should inspire people to think, especially those who call themselves ‘green,’ “Simplify, simplify, simplify.” Consider it. Our complicated lives can be our own stumbling blocks. How is your life made better by complicating it?
Recently Dr. Oz has been advocating the ‘Paleo Diet.’ Is it complicated? No. It is a concept of returning to what nature provided so humans could evolve, growing stronger, healthier and smarter.
Medical doctors and scientists know that nature is our mother because we are part of her. We are all natural beings. We are made of Earth materials, risen from the dirt as it were. Do you really understand that? Do you really know who and what we are?
No matter what form of life you encounter it is in some way related to you. By now most everyone has heard the phrase “carbon based life form.” That simply means that all life on planet Earth is composed of carbon chain molecules. All life. That means spiders, squirrels, ants, chiggers, slugs, mosquitoes, polar bears and humans. We are all related to one extent or another. That encompasses all the faunal components, but what about the flora?
Trees, bushes, weeds and even lichens are composed of carbon molecules, too. They are of nature and have evolved (naturally changing to better suit their environment) just as every form of life has.
Many years ago it occurred to me that Buddhists have a pretty cool thing going by respecting all life and not limiting that reverence to humans alone. They have a sense of being part of nature that seems to escape many modern peoples. Being ‘one with nature’ is a serious spiritual journey for them. The Navajo (Dine`) share many of their beliefs and adulations for nature, which is one reason I so admire both cultures.
There is a common anecdote about a Buddhist who walked up to a hot dog vender and said, “Make me one with everything.” A Buddhist friend told me that and I find it cleverly amusing.
The point is that we need to live ‘with’ nature rather than ‘against’ nature as has been the case for centuries. Think about it like this; would you purposely flood, burn or otherwise destroy the house in which you live? Would you poison your pets, fresh water source or children? Would you pump sewage into your backyard and throw trash out of the windows? If you answered ‘yes’ to any of these questions, please do us all a favor and leave the planet.
This planet is our home. The intimate little neighborhoods we live in used to be our entire world. Times have changed and so has the size of our world influence. What we do in our daily lives now has global impact. What we do in nature seals our fate. The world of the future does not have to be a land of stark devastation, starvation and violence as depicted in grim futuristic movies. The really sad, and scary, thing is that it can be. But the choice is not ours alone; Mother Nature will decide, as always, if we are worthy of survival. It might be advisable to stay on her good side.
And what is it we can learn from geese? For one thing, that a simple life full of love is a good life. John Lennon sang, “All we need is love,” but maybe a little swimming and flying with nature would make it even better. And second, we need to care about and take care of each other. Lending a hand to make someone else’s life easier, whether it be a parent, spouse, child, friend or perhaps someone you do not even know is about the best way possible to lift your own spirits make you feel truly alive. If skin color, age, gender or religion matters when someone needs you, trust me, you are the one who is really in need of help.

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Tales of Old

OLD WIVES TALES AS TOLD BY OLD MEN

A Little Nutty and Funny, But True

 

Over the years I have collected stories, anecdotes and various bits of ‘knowledge’ passed on by elders who apparently thought I was stupid enough to believe their pickle barrel nonsense. Now it is my pleasure to pass a few of these pearls of wisdom on to you. If you find yourself willing to believe any of this please put $1 hundred in an envelope, send it to me and I will bestow upon you the blessing of the Great Googa Mooga.

In the desert southwest the most venomous reptile is the Mojave rattler. It’s unique venom is a deadly combination of hemotoxin and neurotoxin. The most interesting advice for one bitten by this snake came from a leathery old man dressed like a cowboy, missing a few front teeth and having only one good eye. He said, “If ya git yerself bit by one o’ them varmints, sit down on a big rock, crack a cold beer and drink it. By the time you’re done drinkin’ that beer, you’ll be dead.”

Another old desert rat (a common moniker out here) offered this advice to women who are afraid of bats getting in their hair. “When bats fly around you,” he said, “cover your head with your shirt and hum a tune as loud as you can until the bats leave.” First off, a bat cannot hear you hum and secondly, I suspect that the real attraction here is getting the woman to take off her shirt. It is actually quite surprising how many old time remedies involve a woman removing an article of clothing.

In the case of a Horny toad (actually a Horned lizard) crossing your path, you will have a day of bad luck for every horn on it’s back unless you kiss the first person (hopefully of the opposite sex) you see. So who is the real Horny toad here?

To catch a Jackrabbit, rub sage all over your body so the rabbit can neither see nor smell you. Then sit by the rabbit hole until he comes out and grab him by the ears. Meanwhile, inside the rabbit hole the father rabbit is saying, “There’s some big doofass who smells like sage sitting by the door. Junior, go see what he wants, will you?”

It seems that the cure for the common cold, which has eluded doctors for decades, is simply a matter of mixing the proper ingredients in a large tin coffee cup. They are: 4 juniper berries, a healthy sprinkle of dried jalapeño pepper, a crushed clove of fresh garlic and one ounce of lime juice vigorously mixed and then covered with enough sippin’ whiskey to fill the cup. Two points; no one will catch the cold from you because they will not be able to get close enough and after drinking this concoction you will hardly care whether you have a cold or not.

To cure a hangover, probably from drinking the cold cure concoction, lie on your back with 3 large round stones taken from a dry wash resting on your forehead. If you lie there long enough your hangover will be old news, probably by the time someone cures cancer.

In Ireland it is said that a leprechaun has a pot of gold at the end of a rainbow. Not to be outdone, desert folks say a magic burro will lead you to a rich gold vein if you kiss it on the nose and whisper in its ear “Magic burro, brave and bold, lead me to your vein of gold.” If it kicks and/or bites you, you probably have the wrong burro, and there is a good chance it is pissed-off.

There are six species of Cholla cacti. One is the Teddy Bear Cholla, named for its soft, furry covering of spines and shape that is similar to a teddy bear (with much imagination). It is also called the Jumping cactus because some believe that if you get too close it will jump and stick it’s barbed spines in you, leaving them to be extracted. Note the word ‘barbed.’ It may not actually jump, but close encounters of the spine kind are a prickly pain to remove.

I saved the best for last because this one just might be true. In the distant past a vulture-like bird of incredible size has been reported in southwest Arizona. It is supposed to be large enough to carry off dogs and small children. Claims have been made, but no proof has come to light. It should first be mentioned that a true vulture would not attack live animals. On the other hand, Native Americans and several others have reported seeing the bird and witnessing it’s attack on living creatures. I never gave much credence to the stories until I actually saw what may have been that very species of ‘mythical’ bird. Lacking a camera on that day I have no proof either, but what I saw was an amazingly large black and gray bird resembling a cross between a Condor and a Vulture. It soared low overhead casting a shadow so large that at first I thought it might be a sail plane. Upon looking up I saw the largest bird I have ever seen, clearly three to four times the size of a large Turkey vulture. Not many things stun me in the wild. That bird left me standing wide-eyed, slack-jawed and shivering with excitement.

If you have ever asked yourself in wonder if creatures like Sasquatch, Big Bay Tie or even dragons could actually exist, remember that the great cities of Troy and Jericho were considered mythical until uncovered by archaeologists. The Coy-wolf of New England was only recently discovered and studied living in city neighborhoods, unobserved by most residents. A few unusual creatures, biologic anomalies as it were, could easily hide close enough to almost anyone’s house to watch them every day, without ever being noticed. Maybe the family dog is not always barking at ‘nothing,’ and just maybe that shadow you thought you saw in the bushes was not your imagination.

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A World Without Vultures

A WORLD WITHOUT VULTURES

(A sudden, not too pretty, glance within ourselves)

Most people look at the Turkey vulture as a disgusting, rotten flesh eating, ugly scavenger. They only eat from dead carcasses and I doubt you will ever see one in a bikini gracing the “Sports Illustrated: Swimsuit Edition.” For one thing, they weigh too much. But there is a beauty to them that few see, and have you ever thought about the positive effects they have on our lives?

Vultures consume a large amount of rotting flesh that would otherwise be lying around just waiting to decompose. As that animal, let us say a road-killed skunk decomposes, its festering, decaying, putrefied flesh attracts insects and parasites. Bottle flies are among the first to inhabit, feed and lay eggs in the decaying mess, and don’t we love them? Larva appears in short order right along with stench and disease carrying microbes.

An even more immediate concern comes much closer to home. It is the effect they may have on children. What if, while running and playing an innocent game of Tag little ‘Mary’ falls into a nice gooey opossum carcass? The darling child certainly cannot be allowed back into the house without a proper hosing-down.

Returning to the dead skunk scenario; have you ever gotten a big wet kiss from the family dog and wondered what in the world could make his breath so nauseating? It just could be that he found the dead skunk before the road kill removal guy. And that guy, the one you forbid your daughter to date, does not seem like such a loser now, does he?

You see, in one way or another almost everything has an effect on one, or perhaps a dozen other things. It might not be immediately visible or comprehensible, but one dead skunk can mess up your whole day in any manner of ways.

A lot of people are equally as important doing jobs some consider undesirable.  Maybe they are not too pretty, and maybe their menial jobs are looked down upon, but without them we might be up to our stylish Gap jean covered knees in opossum goo.

In a fast food restaurant I recently watched a young woman cleaning tables and food trays that had been left in a mess by patrons. Her hair was disheveled, she wore no make-up, her left arm and hand suffered from partial paralysis and she walked with an uneasy gait. She went about her work humming softly to herself and when I caught her eye she smiled graciously.

How many people do we encounter every day that are responsible for keeping us out of the opossum goo? Some collect garbage, others clean public restrooms, many take care of the scenic parks we relax in and even more maintain our water treatment plants and sewer systems. These are not lesser people, they are essential people. We should look at them with one thought, gratitude and understand that a world without them would be a smelly, gooey place.

For minimum wage the young woman in the restaurant was happily cleaning up the refuse of hundreds of people every day, many of whom would flippantly dismiss her as being of lesser social value, and yet I believe she was the most beautiful person I saw all day.

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Hello Friends

HELLO FRIENDS

 

There are times when a new blog post will not come up for a week or two and then several will come up together. I will explain. Unlike many bloggers who are a stationary fixture in their social environment I am constantly on the road. Some of those roads are not close enough to civilization to get Wifi. These days most people have a hard time understanding how anyone could be more than a mile from a shopping mall, major metropolis or Starbucks. Let me assure you, America still has a lot of wide open spaces and on some of it the buffalo still roam, and so do I. I enjoy Starbucks as much as the next guy; I just like strong, cowboy coffee over an open fire better.

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            After spending most of my life with a camera in my hand (teaching & shooting) it seemed a cruel trick when digital cameras came on the market. There was no film to develop and no more lab work, which was very disheartening. It seemed that everything was headed toward ‘point-n-shoot.’ Oh, but everything got so much better, and a lot of the creative techniques used with film cameras easily translated into digital. So, let me explain five simple tricks that you will enjoy.

1)     When shooting with film one of our key watchwords was ‘saturation.’ It applied to color as well as black & white. It means deepening the colors and tones for a rich, vibrant effect. With film it was done by changing the film speed or shooting over or under the meter reading by a certain percentage, which was a little different for each film, but not now. All we have to do now to increase color saturation for those deep reds and vibrant blues is adjust the exposure compensation. It may be different from one camera to another, but the process is the same. It might be in ‘menu’ or on a multi-function button on the camera body marked with a plus and minus sign. Push the button. A vertical scale will appear on the screen. Using the function button (round, moves in all four directions with ‘ok’ in the center if it’s a Nikon) you can move the center line on the scale up or down. For more color saturation move it down one click. Find a colorful scene and try the shot. Now try the same shot after moving the line down two clicks. This technique will work differently depending upon the make of the camera and the type of scene. I could explain the variations in light metering and types of scenes and how to deal with them if I really wanted to bore you stiff. Just experiment. You get instant results with zero film cost.

2)     Showing motion in a photo makes it jump right out, or ‘pop’ as we would say. The motion of a stream is a very popular scene because of its fantasy-like beauty. It may appear cottony or soft and wispy. The way to do it is simple. You have to slow down the camera’s shutter speed by fooling it, since it is automatic. Put the camera in a shooting mode that allows ISO (film sensitivity) to be adjusted and put set it on the lowest number. On mine that is 80 ISO. This works best early or late when shadows are deep and light has faded. Use a tripod. The camera will automatically slow the exposure (shutter speed) down. Look at the exposure reading. If it is 1/15 sec or less you will see wonderful results. Try not to fall in the river, but if you do, and can tap the shutter button just as you go in you will have one for the Christmas cards.

3)     This one I encountered yesterday when a guy was trying to photograph his girlfriend against a gorgeous red streaked sunset. He complained that when she was in focus and looked good the background was washed out and when the background looked good she was way too dark. There is a simple solution. Flip up the flash, set it on ‘manual’ and back away from the subject about ten feet. This is called ‘fill flash.’Use the zoom to frame the shot. Point the camera at the background and lock that meter setting. This is usually done by depressing the shutter release button about half-way or until you feel resistance. Holding the button to maintain the exposure for the background, frame the shot properly and take the picture. If the subject is too bright, take another step back. If the subject is too dark, take a step forward. Reshoot until you get it right, and that’s an order.

4)     Close-up (macro) shots of flowers are always a favorite. Unfortunately, Mother Nature can blow your aster off just as you are trying to shoot it. Even a slight movement will ruin the shot. Go back to #3 and flip up that flash. A typical flash fires at 1/50,000th second. It will stop the motion. Use a low ISO setting and a tripod.

5)     Photographing anything high up in the air is tricky, but once more I have the right trick, and once again the automatic camera has to be fooled. Simply lock the exposure (as in #3) on a close object of about the same reflectance and in the same light intensity as the subject. Here is an example. The subject is an airplane. Use a car close to you with light colored paint sitting in full sun like the plane. Lock the meter setting on the car hood. Do not worry about focus. Set the camera on ‘landscape’ or ‘scenic’ mode and the focus will be automatically set to ∞ (infinity). That is as far as you can see and then some.

Now go take some really good pictures.

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Eating Healthy and Smart

Tips from Fellow Travelers

 

Don Knotts once said, “I like good food.” A more profound or obvious statement could not be made. We all do, but sometimes, especially as we age and spread more than just butter, we should consider the health factor.

I met a man who claimed he was doing just that now that his 5’7” frame was supporting 315 pounds of whatever it was that he was full of.

He very emphatically stated, “You have to cut down on fat. That’s the most important thing.” I, of course, asked how he was doing that. He replied that he absolutely loved bacon but had discovered it contained a lot of fat. Do tell. To eliminate the fat, but not the flavor of his beloved pork butt slabs, he had switched to turkey bacon. I have never tasted turkey and have little faith in its ability to mimic the genuine article, so I asked if it tastes anything like real bacon. He hesitated and answered, “Not at first, but I found a trick.” I was all ears. “What you have to do,” he continued, “is fry it in bacon grease.”

First off, let me state that anything, including a cow flop, would taste good fried in bacon grease. This is why “and Smart” is part of the title.

Recently I started eating Mediterranean cuisine as a healthy choice. Dr. Oz encouraged this and I trust his advice a little more than any self-professed diet guru. Mediterranean dishes are delicious, but as with any dietary change one has to allow the taste buds and brain to catch up. Also, new types of cooking might require a little time to get the hang of. If you try something new for the sake of your health it is worth giving it time to find the true flavors and enjoyment you are hoping for. Then too, if the new menu includes cow flop, just fry it in bacon grease.

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Precautions About Going Up

Once Upon a Time at 10,000 Feet

 

 

Have you ever been high? I have. I love high mountains. A backpacking buddy and I were once at 14,400 feet. If you are a backpacker you know exactly what peak that is, Mt. Whitney, the highest point in the lower United States. Climbing high mountains is an obsession with some of us. Others say we are not right in the head and on some occasions that could be true.

Funny things happen when you get high. Just ask your cousin who lives in his parent’s basement and always smells like patchouli oil. Oddly enough these two kinds of high have a lot in common by restricting oxygen to the brain. On a huge granite stone formation like the Sierra Nevada it is called mountain sickness. In your parent’s basement when you are 25 years old it is just called stoned.

Take a trip back to your college chemistry days and try to remember ‘gas laws; no, not the football jock with the gassy sense of humor. As you ascend in elevation atmosphere gets thinner. Basically, molecules are farther apart because the barometric pressure is reduced. How about this; with lower pressure molecules float better, and so do you. With less oxygen reaching your brain you get a little goofy, cannot reason normally and lose your appetite. A special note for teenage girls: this is not a good weight loss plan. Actually, it can be deadly. As mountain sickness progresses, a debilitating headache, like the worst hangover (being partially caused by oxygen deprivation to the brain) ever, can cripple you mentally as well as physically. Then a particularly nasty thing develops called pulmonary edema. Your lungs fill with water and you drown high on a mountain hundreds of miles from the closest backyard pool. This is not a pretty picture.

So, how high do you have to be to get mountain sickness? How can it be avoided? What other things might it affect?

Most mountaineers start considering this a possible problem over 8,000 feet. Of course that depends on the elevation one lives at or is accustomed to. West ‘BG’ Virginians think Spruce Knob at 4,863 feet, is a high mountain. In the Appalachians it is, but in the west a lot of people live higher than that. The late, great John Denver, who penned the most beautiful and inspiring song about West Virginia, is a good example. He spent much of his life much higher. “Rocky Mountain High” as a matter of fact.

The FAA (Federal Aeronautics Administration) set a rule that small aircraft flying at over 10,000 feet must have an oxygen tank for the pilot because the cabins are not pressurized. Passengers are not mentioned.

How does one avoid being effected by elevation?

1)     Acclimate by spending a few days at a higher elevation than you are accustomed to.

2)     Hydrate (drink a liter of water) just before the ascent.

3)     Take a salt tablet or ingest (fancy word for eat) a salty food.

4)     Ingest (there’s that fancy word again) carbohydrate rich foods.

5)     Start slow, it is not a race. Unless it is a race.

An increase in elevation will effect more than your brain. If you are going to a higher elevation for recreation other than climbing and/or backpacking this should be considered. For instance, anything that is inflated will gain internal pressure as external pressure decreases. That includes tires (vehicle and bicycle), inflatable boats or water toys and inflatable mattresses. If such items are inflated at a low elevation and taken to a much higher one, the item could actually explode or pop a seam. On a rather delicate note, I once heard about a woman’s breast implants reacting to the pressure differential in a most unattractive way, though I suspect it was just an urban legend.

Finally, I would feel remiss in not mentioning, even though I think most of my readers are of above average intelligence, that the effects of smoking and alcohol increase as elevation does. Basically, when you are higher it is easier to get higher, and more quickly. Use caution.

Now I am sincerely hoping I have inspired you to go out and get high. On a mountain. Elevation wise. Ah-h, just go have fun.

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Do You Fit a Profile?

(A common sense, politically incorrect explanation)

 

            Each one of us has the ability to profile or be profiled. Do you believe that statement? If so, you are among those who believe that behavioral studies are valid and important, or you are a ‘psychic.’ If not, perhaps you have been convinced by those opposed to the study, or like many people you simply do not understand how it works, or you have lived in a cave all your life and have never developed or experienced cognition.

            Cognition is term used by psychologists to describe our subconscious ability to profile, in a very general sense. We usually call it a ‘gut feeling.’ And although I used the cave analogy in jest, one would have to have lived in a cave to never have had a gut feeling about something. This is because every day we live our brain is compiling data – like a computer but without cute little paper clip – that is analyzed and stored for many reasons, one of them being cognition. Everything we see, hear, smell and feel is recorded for later use. Cognition could be thought of as one of our primitive defense mechanisms.

            So how does it work? The simple answer is like a picture puzzle. Your brain assembles all the pieces so fast that you get a full picture, that gut feeling, before you even realize you are thinking about it. The brain uses all the data collected over your lifetime to do this.

            If you walk into an office, a public restroom, a boardroom or a tavern and suddenly experience a sense of dread, which is attributed to the gut, but it is your brain telling you that an overwhelming number of factors in that space have been experienced or determined to be dangerous. When police teach self-defense classes for women they advise them that if their gut tells them something to listen because it is almost always right. But really, it is your brain. Your gut tells if you want the super grande nachos, and when it does it is okay to say ‘no’ and have a low-cal salad.

            So, cognition is a subconscious mechanism for rapidly analyzing a situation or person. Ah, but when we move it into the realm of conscious thought it is called ‘profiling.’ Many of you are almost convinced that profiling is racial. I say ‘almost’ because if your mind was closed you would not be reading this article. See that; conscious profiling. You have just been profiled by one criterion, that you do not have a closed mind. And if you did before you started reading the door just opened a bit.

            The term ‘racial profiling’ is really a misnomer. It limits profiling to a single principle, race, which does not tell the profiler any more about their subject than this writer knows about you as being a person who thinks. Racial profiling is just a fancy way of saying bigotry or racism. Real profiling is no more related to that than a duck is to a moose.

            Is race ever a consideration in genuine profiling? Of course it is, just like every other factor. A profiler will assess whether or not race has any meaning to the case in question, as he/she does with every other factor. A good example is one I believe most people are familiar with. It is a statistical fact that most serial killers in the U.S. are white males between the ages of twenty-five and thirty-five. That is no one’s opinion. It is simply a matter of single function math, counting. So, if a homicide detective is looking for a serial killer, this statistic can be very relative. There is an old adage, “If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it’s probably a duck.” Ducks and people rarely walk and talk like something they are not, unless a person, rarely a duck, is trying to fool everyone. Even during hunting season a duck will not show up on the lake in a Groucho disguise. Ask an old person. They can explain it.

            This takes us to the original question, “Do you fit a profile?”  Using the SWAG method (scientific wild ass guess) I will go out on a limb and say all of us do to some extent. I know I do because there is a certain sociological group I wish to fit into and thus, as I put it, ‘wear the uniform.’

            As humans we are social critters. Once we decide ‘who’ we want to be we set forth our very own dog-and-pony show to fit in with and be accepted by those already accepted as part of that group. The United States has more sub-cultures than an Oliver Stone thriller has plot twists. Even people who think of themselves as non-conformists make themselves easy to identify to other non-conformists by dressing, coiffing and accessorizing for the part. They are conforming to being non-conformist.

            Whatever social group we belong to has a set of standards for appearance and behavior. If that is not appetizing to you do what a television journalist did as an experiment. Put on a fat suit and some frumpy togs, walk into a nice vegan restaurant sit down and order some fried chicken. Trust me, you will not fit in. My forte` is as an outdoor writer/photographer. Although a Brooks Bros. suit with a snappy tie and classic full Windsor knot is a good look, I would appear the perfect buffoon showing up to the campfire in such a getup, especially with a beer in one hand and a guitar in the other. These examples are extreme. In real life people may have to wear two or three uniforms. Perhaps one for work, another for home life and yet another for our secret Walter Mitty-esque existence like the Harley biker I met who ties his hair back and covers his tattoos with a fine suit to go to work at a New York ad agency.

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A New Plan

A NEW MISSION STATEMENT

 

A simple way to state the new plan is: For entertainment of all sorts.

In the past all of the articles and photos here have been linked to one subject, the outdoors. It is time to expand. My interests are much wider and yours probably are, too. There will still be a lot of outdoor/camping material, but other subjects will be visited. Each new article will be titled/headed in such a way as to let the reader know where it is going to allow him/her to decide if it is of interest to them. I sincerely hope you will enjoy a little diversity and continue to be entertained.

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I Have Returned

I have been away for some time. It was unavoidable, but now I am back to make this blog better by expanding the subject matter. Be patient and you will see what I mean.   DESERT DAVE

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