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Member since: 2001
Number of posts: 22,454

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"Bye Bye Birdie"

It was so sad leaving my bird friends at Lemmon Rock today. Dave the Rave, Birdie Boy, the Hawks (flight of four, always tight). The hummingbirds buzzed me as I loaded my truck .. of course they did, with the bright yellow waterproof bags I was lashing to my roof rack with survival orange ratchet straps. The Yellow-eyed juncos pranced around, and a couple of blue streaks marked the flight paths of two Steller's jays. And the ubiquitous LGBs! Always there! The ornithological "cast of thousands." I thank Edward Abbey for the term and concept: LGBs .. little gray birds.

Earl and Pearl Squirrel stopped by before I left. And the camera-shy Abert's squirrel (are you a squirrel or a rabbit?, I want to ask), made a fleeting appearance.

Gotta talk about the ants, too. They marched around. But they have been so very well behaved this year! Kudos. They got the cup or so of raw sugar I had left over. On-the-rocks, as it were. Bet the ants are raising hell tonight!

Lots of Homo sapiens. Trails were crawling with them today, as I loaded my truck. They were very friendly and VERY talkative. But I restrained from feeding them.

There was a great couple from Summerhaven (neighbors). A retired US Army general of the infantry, with his wife .. he looked every bit the part - central casting's perfect general officer. Should have put him on those ants. TEN-HUT!

The Repo-Man hiked in to get my Honda ATV. Actually, it was our USFS Patrol-552. He bumped the ATV up to the observatory, where he will pick it up on a trailer tomorrow.

The fire lookout is empty and spotless. Fridge defrosted, and the door propped open to dry out. Sink polished. Bounced a quarter off the bedspread. Floor? Well, it is irredeemable.But it did get a good sweeping and damp mopping.

I stopped at the Palisades Ranger Station and loaded my mountain bicycle. Got it in the covered back of my truck. Not easy, but done and secure.

Then drifted down from 72*F to 102*F. Joy. Sidled over to the Homeboy Sweets (as I call it) at St. Phillips Plaza, on the banks of the lovely Rillito River (in which, I have never seen water flowing .. but it smells of urine .. probably the homeless camps .. and I'd camp down in there if I were homeless in Tucson .. but be careful .. it rages in the flash floods of the monsoon proper .. which has not come yet .. but probably will this week .. and rattlers .. and Gila Monsters ..and, of course, Jesus Saves .. etc, etc).

Just remember: "Bees come down" (Larry Shue, "The Foreigner").

Tucson, AZ
July 24, 2016

Forget the RNC and enjoy a photo from DemoTex's Arizona fire lookout.

Shot late today with my new Sony 7A-RII with a Canon 24-70 IS L 2.8 lens and Metabones adaptor. Shot wide, and cropped in. Catch the sprite bolt to the right of the cloud base. I am so happy with this mirrorless camera!

Lemmon Rock Fire Lookout
Wilderness of Rocks
Santa Catalina Mountains, AZ

A Hell-of-a-Place: Tap-A-Keg bar in NYC

A Hell-of-a-KKK-Place: Republican National Convention 2016

Earth, Wind, and Fire (and Smoke, Lots of Smoke)

Smoke from the "Brown Fire" (started in Brown Bear Canyon of the Baboquivary Mountains, 45 miles southwest of Tucson) obscures Baboquivary Peak and spreads over the United States Observatory at Kitt Peak at sunset on Saturday (6/18).

"Ring of Fire - 1": The Brown Fire at 1 AM, Sunday, June 19, 2016.

"Ring of Fire - 2": The Brown Fire at 1 AM, Sunday, June 19, 2016. Spot fires can be seen on the northeast aspect of Baboquivary Peak (to the right of the larger "ring of fire"). Fire size at this time was about 4000 acres.

The 99% waxing gibbous moon sets in heavy drift smoke at about 4:45 AM, Sunday, June 19, 2016.

Sunrise with thick, layered, drift smoke from fires to the northeast (probably the Cedar Fire near Show Low, Arizona, and fires in New Mexico). The San Pedro River Valley is holding the smoke like a bathtub holds water (lower right).

A strong northeast wind (25-35+ knots) prevailed most of the night and into mid-morning. This pushed smoke from the Brown Fire (63 miles southwest of me) into Mexico. But it gave us a rude surprise at about 5:30 AM today (Sunday).

Shortly after sunrise, drift smoke started spilling over the Santa Catalina mountain ridges, from the San Pedro Valley, and flowed down the drainages into Tucson. There was widespread public concern, and our fire dispatch center got a number of phone calls.

The hottest day of the year, so far, started quite cool in the high winds at 9000 feet elevation. I grabbed a cuppa, and sat down to rest (I had been shooting off & on since 12:45 AM!). This was about 5:50 AM. Within minutes the lookout phone rang (I really knew it was coming), and I was asked to saddle up the USFS ATV-Quad and do a recon of the north and eastern aspects of the Santa Catalina Mountains, just to rule out any smoke source locally.

Note: At 5 PM Sunday (6/19/2016), the Brown Fire in the Baboquivary Mountains is sized at 8100 acres, and the temperature in Tucson is 113*F. It is a pleasant 82*F here at the fire lookout at 9000 feet.

"Sunken Cathedral"

Poinsett Bridge (built 1820)
Greenville County, SC

The Emmy landed at Lemmon Rock fire lookout today - incredible!

A happy day (after two very sad days) at the fire lookout today. This might just be the first time in history an Emmy statue has been photographed at a fire lookout, and standing on an Osborne Fire-Finder. I share this 2015 Emmy with the Arizona Public Media staffers who worked on the Lemmon Rock Lookout PBS documentary in 2014. Thanks to all of them for making this project a winner.

The AZPM producer actually hiked this in to the lookout this morning for this photo op (the Emmy resides at AZPM on the U of AZ campus). We did an NPR interview while he was there. I'm getting good at these!

Special thanks, also, to WCQS - Western North Carolina Public Radio in Asheville - for the use of their ISDN studio to finish the voice-over for this documentary.

Some recent photos from my current fire lookout .. enjoy!

Full moon night at Lemmon Rock (moon through the trees to the left of the lookout)

Moonrise in heavy drift smoke

Standing dead at dawn, with drift smoke and hawk

Moonrise over Lemmon Rock

On the Rock (I actually LIVE here!)

My Breakfast with the Champ: Muhammad Ali

It must have been December 7, 1970, because that was when Muhammad Ali fought Oscar “Ringo” Bonavena, at New York City’s Madison Square Garden. I was flying missions in Cambodia that day. The frag area was northwest of Pleiku, over the Ho Chi Minh Trail. We had departed Cam Ranh Bay at 04:45 to be over the target area at 05:55 (the mission was called “The Triple Nickle”). We arrived at the TACAN initial point, the 306 degree radial for 55 nm off TACAN Channel 53 (Pleiku), on time. We were working electronic counter-warfare targets in Cambodia, near the infamous TBA (Tri Border Area), where Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia meet.

With a 12 hour time difference, I would assume that Ali and Bonavena were putting on their war faces for the night fight at the Garden as we lifted off from Cam Ranh Bay before dawn. It is also probably safe to assume that both boxers were a little nervous going into their big fight. I know that my crew and I were nervous as hell going into the fight over the Ho Chi Minh Trail.

Per our frag order, we came off the target in time to touch down at Pleiku at 10:00 am. The plan was to park in a protective revetment, re-fuel, and stay with the aircraft (which was loaded with top secret crypto gear) until our next mission into Cambodia started four hours later.

We taxied in, and were directed to a steel revetment at the base of the control tower. A tug waited for us, and positioned us in the revetment after the engines were shut down. As the engine noises ceased, I started to hear strange sounds coming from the control tower. Doing my post-flight walk-around inspection of the airplane, I realized the loud sound coming from the tower was a radio broadcast of a prize fight. AFVN Radio (Armed Forces Vietnam Radio, later of “Good Morning, Vietnam!” fame) was airing the Ali-Bonavena fight (and I still don’t know if it was live, or with a slight time delay).

We spread poncho liners out under and on the wings, broke out the box lunches and sodas, and had a tarmac picnic while listening to a fight half way around the world. If that sounds strange – and it was – stranger things were just a few fight rounds away. Ali had boasted that Bonavena was “Mine in Nine,” but I seem to recall that the fight went to 15 rounds (Ali won with a TKO). But another knockout was in our cards, in round five (IIRC), and we would not hear the end of the fight in Madison Square Garden.

The Pleiku Air Base control tower was built on pilings, and about 50 feet tall. With its catwalk around the tower cab, it looked like a classic US Forest Service L-4 fire lookout tower. There were four PA loudspeakers, one on each corner of the control tower. From these speakers the fight in NYC blared, at about 90+ decibels. Of interest too: the perimeter wire was not far at all from the control tower, and the perimeter guard towers were only manned at night.

Now, the Viet Cong (VC), about whom Ali famously said, “I ain't got no quarrel with them Vietcong,” generally worked nights, and – perhaps – slept during the day. I guess after five rounds of this strange 90+ dB noise coming from the AF control tower, several VC just had enough. They emerged from their spider holes just beyond the perimeter, and opened fire on the control tower with B-40 rockets.

I was on my poncho liner catching some rays when the first little finned rocket whooshed overhead and struck the tower. Followed quickly by at least a half dozen more. All scored direct hits. Left jabs. Shrapnel and glass rained down on us and on the aircraft. The tower staff evacuated down the steps (miraculously, no injuries to anyone). The tower was heavily damaged, and the prize fight was over, for us. One PA loudspeaker was smoking, and all four were silent.

Naturally, we went into defensive positions around our aircraft. But it was over before it even got started good. The VC disappeared, and US Army helicopter gunships and arty pulverized the already barren stretch just beyond the wire.

Almost three decades later, I had a chance to tell Muhammad Ali this story. It was over breakfast at the Ambassador West Hotel in downtown Chicago. It was in my airline pilot days, and our crew had a long layover in Chicago. One of the flight attendants was Ali’s niece (her mother was Ali’s sister). I had flown with Ali’s niece numerous times (we were both DCA based), and I had told her the story about the VC stopping the fight at Pleiku. She loved the story, and thought her uncle would really get a kick out of it.

So Muhammad Ali and his sister came to the hotel lobby in the morning, a couple of hours before our limo departure time for O’Hare Airport. I went down for breakfast, and was asked to join the three of them (I was in my airline uniform). Ali was soft spoken and engaging. We chatted a while, and when he got me really comfortable, I told him my VC story (I think his niece had told him about the story, and I think he was eager to hear it from me).

Well, he loved the story and he coaxed additional details from me. He made it fun to tell the story, and we both relished its absurdities. I ended by saying, ”Champ, you said ‘I ain’t got no quarrel with no Vietcong,’ but I think on that big fight night in New York City, the VC in Pleiku had a quarrel with you. The VC scored a knockout in round five.”

Wilderness of Rocks
June 4, 2016

Looking for the Florida DUer who helped Faulkner build his sailboat, the Ringdove.

IIRC, said DUer was a professor at a college in the Florida Panhandle. He posted me this about 10 years ago on DU:

"In the Summer of 1956, while I was a student at Ole Miss, my brother and I had the pleasure of working with Mr. Faulkner on the restoration of his sail boat, "The Ringdove". The project lasted about two summer months. We did the work in the yard of "Rowan Oak".

He was a soft spoken, courteous gentleman. During the many hours of work with him, I don't recall any conversation about literature or art. For the most part, we discussed the boat project. I do remember that on one occasion, my brother and I, who were jazz musicians, were discussing the fact that we had to run by our homes and "pick up our axes for a gig we were playing that night". He was curious to know what the terms "axe" and "gig" meant. We explained that "axe" meant musical instrument and that a "gig" was a dance or party job for which we provided the music. He immediately related the tie in between "gig" and the French dance form "Gigue". Subsequently, he remained interested in every jazz slang word that we used.

When the boat was ready, we towed it to Sardis Reservoir for the first test run. His daughter Jill, her husband Paul, Mr. Faulkner, my brother and I piled into Paul's jeep for the slow tow job to the lake. As we were launching the boat near the mouth of the Tobi Tubby Creek, we met an old black man. As Mr. Faulkner was conversing with him, I heard the old man ask Faulkner, "Ain't you the one that wrote the book"? Personally, I've often wondered how he knew that bit of information.

Shortly after that summer, Mr. Faulkner began spending time in Virginia. We rarely saw him in Oxford. However, I do recall the last time I saw him. He was entering Grundy's Cafe and saw me across the street. He stopped and sort of shouted across the street, "How is your brother"?"

Like to talk more about this!


BTW: DU people are the most interesting people in the world. Period. Can't make this shit up.

Faulkner's Barn at Rowan Oak

Photo links (click and be happy)


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