Thursday, July 31, 2008

Cousin Bill's "Weekly Ramblings"

Mount Sunflower
aka by its Indian name: Rewolfnus Tm
(Image from Wikipedia)

I'm the black sheep of my extensive family because I ended up doing what I do, which ain't much, but most of my relatives have been leading far more productive jobs and lives. For instance, I've recently heard from Cousin Bill, who had earlier reported on a 'rattleheadedcoppermoccasin' and is now reporting on his travels and travails in a couple of emails that he titles "Weekly Ramblings" (W. R.), the first of which promises an upcoming road trip:
I've had no long trips this past week to relate and bore anyone, and tomorrow head to NW Kansas to the metropolis of Hoxie (population 1200), delivering a new Tundra. It's a small town with little claim to fame except for one NFL player, one Miss Kansas, one U. S. Representative (Erastus J. Turner) and an associate Oregon Supreme court judge. This I learned just today with a quick visit to Wikipedia. Hopefully, I'll be able to stay awake to and from, as the scenery that way is about as interesting as my reflection while shaving.
Cousin Bill might possibly anger a few proud Kansans with these words, but since he's a handsome fellow, like all of his family (including his cousins), this is actually a high compliment despite the remark about hoping "to be able to stay awake," for he simply meant that he's sleepy early in the mornings when he shaves even though he has his fascinating reflection to keep him awake.

Cousin Bill goes on to praise the Kansas weather, which he compares to Arkansas's temperate climate as experienced on the front porch at the farm belonging to our Grandma Hodges back in our childhoods, and he follows this with elevated praise for the mountainous landscape of western Kansas:
This way we're hot, 72 early and one gnat's whisker away from 100 at the moment. Being outside is about as comfortable as was Grandma Nora's front porch in August.

We had two light rains this week, each helping the parched lawns and certainly helping the humidity level. Further forecast calls for more dry and hot, making all this way look and feel like bleached bison bones on Kansas' Mt. Sunflower (4039 feet asl). It's about 3 feet higher than the rest of Kansas.
Cousin Bill means that all of Kansas is mountainous, and he might be doing some climbing of Mt. Sunflower soon if his wife can just whip him into shape:
The bride decided she (we) needed exercise, so yesterday we looked, bought, loaded, hauled home and managed to assemble a "home gym". The assembly took a little over three hours and was completed with absolutely no left over parts. Note, this thing came in one 278 lb box and two 70 lb boxes, the former containing all framework, pulleys, cables, nuts & bolts, seat, backrest, and other sundry parts, the latter fourteen 10 lb weights. As neither Cheryl's Dad nor mine "raised any dummies", we did think to open the large box and haul this thing downstairs piece by piece. We felt we had two weeks worth of workout just getting it downstairs and assembled, So now, I see no reason for further exercise until maybe mid August. Bulging triceps can wait awhile. Hope this thing doesn't cause me to have a "high bulging forehead", That comment references a recent blog by Cousin Jeff'.
Yes, a "high bulging forehead" like mine is nothing to greatly desire, given the high overhead costs! Still, it does have its advantages. For instance, as readers will recall from my Ozark Photoblog, I look like one of those handsome aliens on Star Trek, possibly from the Xindi missions. Be that as it may -- and to bring this blog entry back down to earth -- let's return to Cousin Bill and join him in a second "Weekly Rambling" adventure on his promised trip to astounding Hoxie:
The trip to Hoxie (mentioned in last weeks W. R.) was uneventful. Coming into Hoxie, one crosses a bridge, signage affixed stating the "South Fork Solomon River". The "river" contained no water and likely never does except when a toad strangler rolls through. I noticed only tires, cans, barrels, plastic garbage bags and other debris littering the "river bed".
Cousin Bill means that the city's water supply also supplies the locals with their consumer needs. Need a tire? A can? A barrel? A plastic bag? Some other consumer item? Just visit the river bed. Yet, the city also has other places to shop till you drop:
Hoxie is best described as a dusty little dried up town with only the implement dealership, grocery store, school, post office, and gas station/convenience store (with unleaded fuel prices there posted at $4.11 (39 cents higher than stations along I 70, just 18 miles to the south). A large brown mutt (also dusty), with a somewhat stifled tail wag and one wary eye opened, greeted my arrival at the station. The dog was about twice as friendly as the grizzled counter lady who wanted to know my reason for a requested gas receipt. Three grizzled old men (probably each the grizzled lady's husband (or husband and two boyfriends), all drinking something from plastic cups, looked up and eyed me suspiciously as I explained the needed receipt was for reimbursement from the Toyota dealer. I think I heard one old man say "damn Japs". This place should carry the name Purgatory, rather than Hoxie.
Purgatory? Isn't that a mountain in Dante's Divine Comedy, which despite the name isn't very funny -- I didn't laugh even once. I assume that Cousin Bill's literary allusion was intended to convey the mountainous landscape that characterizes much of Kansas. The local hillbillies of Hoxie sound like some of the friendly folks who made moonshine on the land adjoining Grandma Nora's Ozark farm. Readers will recall that Grandpa Archie had a pleasant conversation with one of those moonshiners concerning the best place to keep one's knife.

Anyway, Cousin Bill hauled his load up the local mountain of Purgatory to meet his appointment with destiny:
I delivered the new Tundra to the Hoxie Implement Dealer, and commented on a tracked and articulated Case IH tractor (the largest I've seen) on hand. The dealer (co-owner with three sons) advised these monsters are capable of pulling 40 plus foot plows, or whatever else one might choose to tow through the flat or hilly fields of America. The dealer was a nice gentlemen and pointed out all features and capabilities of this vehicle. The interior featured A/C, TV, GPS (allowing for perfectly aligned rows whether running contour or straight rows), Computer, AM/FM/CD radio, and a seat that looked comfortable enough to use in someone's family room. I was told this rig can pull a 40 foot cultivator through 1 acre in about a minute. The price, a mere $325 K.
Well that is a low price, so I may think about purchasing one. I could use a tractor since I'm also trying to cultivate the rocky landscape of my career. Speaking of landscapes, Cousin Bill goes on to describe the scenery between mountainous Hoxie and the merely hilly but still lovely land of northeastern Iowa:
The following morning I headed to Dubuque, IA, a rather beautiful city located in N/E IA alongside the Mississippi River. That area (200 plus miles north and east of Des Moines) is all rolling hills and prime farm country. Crops there are about 80% corn, the balance soybeans, hay or other. It is well treed with clear rivers and creeks, all running almost bank full. The area is very similar to Wisconsin and Minnesota, with beautiful farm homes and outbuildings nestled amongst acres of crops. Iowa has its share of picturesque towns, some carrying names like Cascade, Monticello, Key West and Anamosa (these along a 60 mile stretch of Hwy 151). I did not see any tracked articulated tractors in use there, assume they were all inside numerous outbuildings (equipment that way is stored inside, unless it's in use). Farmers were doing a lot of crop spraying, and on several occasions I had to slow for and then pass John Deere 4730 Self-Propelled Sprayers. Those things are wide (there must be eight plus feet between the wheels/tires) and tall enough that a small car could certainly drive under and through, thus eliminating the need to slow and pass. And the folks at the dealership, station/convenience store were friendly. As was the restaurant and hotel staff a few miles down the road. I'd bet no one in Iowa has a grizzled relative in Hoxie, KS.
Cousin Bill draws a theological inference from his travels:
In a comparison of western Kansas and Iowa, I'd say God spent a little more design time in Iowa.
Actually, I think that I'd prefer the mountainous scenery of Kansas, but there's no disputing tastes . . . or did Cousin Bill mean that God was forced to spend more design time on Iowa's landscape because the land there was less intrinsically interesting than the high-alpine terrain of Kansas?

Perhaps Cousin Bill will explain in a comment...

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At 11:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My nephew (and your cousin) Bill is definitely a handsome, personable and articulate individual. I look forward to his 'weekly ramblings,' much more interesting than my 'weakly ramblings', and never a mis-spelled word!
He and I have had some good times, with the exception of the time he and I went to "Little Creek" near where my future wife Linda Gay lived, and where there was a swimming hole.
What he did not know was that I knew some others were planning to be there, including Linda Gay. Bill has never totally forgiven me for abandoning him and engaging in some touchy-feely, smacky-lips and hand-holding sessions with my then and now "main squeeze."
He reminds me occasionally, {which is pretty much every occasion he has}.
I have tried to express my regrets, but so far to no avail.
But I hold no ill feelings for this, even as none for my other nephew HJH, who will remain anonymous in this brief note.

At 11:27 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, is initializing me as "HJH" the same as letting me "remain anonymous"?

Anyway, thanks for the further biographical details. I'm gathering ammunition for future onslaughts.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 12:42 PM, Blogger Bill said...

I really didn't intend any "theological inference", although your words did set my mind wandering and wondering.
Can I change the wording to read "maybe God ran out of time in Kansas"?
Further, mention of "mountainous Kansas", prompted some Kansas/Iowa topography research at I managed to enlighten my tall unbulged forehead with the following: In addition to Mount Sunflower, Kansas has 165 other "peaks", amongst them one named "Mount Jesus", another "Temple Knob", whereas Iowa has but 47 "peaks", amongst them one named "Mount Moses" and another "Pulpit Rock".
So I've now attained a little more "knolege". As information, that spelling is courtesy of Thomas Jefferson.
Cuz Bill

At 1:12 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Uncle Cran:

Regrets? Are those regrets for abandoning me, OR for the touchy-feely, smacky-lips and hand-holding sessions with your then and now "main squeeze". You'd better hope Linda Gay doesn't read this.

Yeah, I remember Little Creek, and how favorite Uncle Cran suddenly got all goofy about a little gal and abandoned his nephew, leaving me without a hook, bait or directions to where the fishing hole was. I'm not sure if the rod/reel even had line or not.

Really, it did take me a few years to relate to how gals could suddenly be more interesting than a fish or anything else, but alas, I happened to get the same goofy way myself just a few years later.

And you were forgiven, long ago.

Uncle Cran, I want to thank you for a lot of good memories. I enjoyed the good times then and now.


At 1:36 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Bill, thanks for the lowdown on the 166 towering grassy knolls of Kansas.

You should resolve, as one of your life's aims, to climb all 166 of these.

That'd surely get you in the record books, for I'll bet that nobody else has done this.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:38 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I'm sure Uncle Cran will weigh in soon, but I just want to note that "good times then and now" is far better than "good times now and then," for which Uncle Cran can be thankful.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 1:50 PM, Blogger Bill said...

We've no genius here. Thanks to wife Cheryl, I am required to use Spell Check, or is that spel chek or .....

I rather like misspellings-it makes words more interesting.

The Lewis & Clark Journals are chock full of mispellings, especially those of Wm. Clark. He managed to spell the word Sioux twenty seven different ways in his writings. And wrote about swatting muskeetors and making deer jurky.

And now a correction for a miscount on my initial comment. Kansas has a total of only 165 peaks. I stated Mt Sunflower and 165 others.
Cuz Bill

At 2:16 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Bill, only 165! Well, that should be easy to remedy. Just step into your backyard, form a mound of earth, plant a flag in it, and give it a name.

Now that I think about it, Kansas really ought to build itself a mountain, and where better to start than Mount Sunflower? I'm sure that the cost of getting a peak some hundred or so feet higher would be more than made up by the millions of tourists clamoring to see and climb the highest point in Kansas.

And there could be skiing during the cold winter months.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 7:36 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I seem to recall Kansas counts those rotating beacons at the local airports as "peaks" so be careful when looking at official topo maps.

More interesting than fish?


At 9:16 PM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

JK, I suspect that there'll be another fishy story soon...

Jeffery Hodges

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At 10:12 PM, Blogger Bill said...

Jeff & JK:
Believe it or not, there's actually been skiers heading to the slightly higher Colorado mountains, who've ventured off I-70to try the slopes of Mt. Sunflower. It takes a hefty push to get the downhill momentum going, but once moving, guess one can ski without poles to far eastern Kansas, provided they don't collide with the foundations of those rotating beacons.

At 4:18 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

I wasn't aware of the skiers, Bill, but in my blog entry, I did link to a story of some mountain climbers from Colorado who traveled overland from their state across the Kansas border and actually climbed Mount Sunflower . . . with photos to prove it.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 5:53 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In reply to the suggestion, "You'd better not let Linda Gay read this:"
I just opened this blog a few minutes ago, and my main squeeze walked in and caught me! I had to show her what I had written.
After scolding me, she laughed, then corrected me. We actually were at another creek a few miles further south. Did I mention that sometimes my memory fails in minor details, but that is an 'innocent mistake,' and should no count against my true, honest, and faithful recounting of past events. I tell them as I now remember, sometimes adding a few "stretchers, as Mark Twain would say, merely for emphasis, not actually lies. So let there be no more suggestions of falsity in future blogs.
I did make a suggestion to Jeffery that mine and my other favorite nephew Bill's blogs seem to create a large amount of comments.
He can continue his Miltonic reflections, drinking smoke articles, etc....but some folks are more into the daily events of our lifetimes.
Perhaps others, such as my dear friend JK, would care to make suggestions for our favorite blogger, as to what they would like to read.
I'm sure this will get a rise from "HJH," my anonymous other favorite nephew.

At 6:17 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Uncle Cran, I shed your insults like a duck sheds water, and then on ducky wings rise to higher things. Hmmm . . . I ought to write a poem.

Jeffery Hodges

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At 8:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have responded to this in the "bear story" blog, and thus refrain from replying here.

At 8:24 AM, Blogger Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Your refrain is beginning to sound like a refrain.

Jeffery Hodges

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