Grant deadlines have kept E busy ’til now, and lucky for us, the weather up North has been cold and the spring has been slow. We saddled up the truck and jumped out of town in a hurry, as soon as E could break away. After a cool and blustery drive up, I unloaded the truck in a twilight rain squall.
The morning’s high grass needed to dry out from last evening’s rain before mowing, so I set about fixing the water heater, frizted during last fall’s hunting party, replacing both elements and the bottom thermostat. The elements were really stuck in there, and took some ranch-ineering to create smooth enough application of leverage to break loose without breaking. Got it all figured with a thick old bent nail and a section of pipe.
-from E’s letter home: Last fall, Dan had put down a used rubber pond liner to deter weeds there at the edge of the iris bed where the foot bridge ends over to the corral gate. He pulled back the liner and discovered where all the garter snakes were living and a larger snake that looked like a rattle snake without a rattle. Eghads what a greenhorn mistake! Nine or ten garter snakes (each 24 inches in length) slithered away, but the other snake stood its ground. We had both been walking all over the rubber surface and stepping on the snakes, so that added to the weirdness of the discovery. Dan was pretty freaked out and decided to off the larger snake to be on the safe side. Internet searches when we got home confirmed that we killed a bull snake. They are difficult to distinguish from rattle snakes and flatten their heads to resemble rattle snakes when threatened, which is just what the snake did. So, we feel pretty bad ….. but with treatment cost of rattle snake bites coming in at $100,000 – $120,000, we thought better safe than sorry.
Just after dark a funky short semi truck drove past, and a bit later E saw bright lights up the coulee. It was our bee keeper, dropping off hives while the bees are all home for the night. He headed down and placed hives at the neighbor’s as well.
Mount Arikaree and Arikaree Glacier are the subject of this painting. I’ve summited this 13 thousand foot peak more than 20 times. After the last ice age 10,000 years ago, the glacier retreated into its cirque. Glacial meltwater passes through the talus field to emerge on the low shoulder of the mountain with only 1 part per billion of sediment- some of the cleanest water imaginable. Colorado State University’s Alpine Research Center is based in this glacial watershed, and last year they predicted Arikaree Glacier would be gone by 2025, with the sister valley’s Arapaho Glacier meeting its end soon after. I was the protector of these glaciers and their watersheds from my 18th birthday though to my 30th; I kept individuals from leaving physical footprints and infecting the watershed with giardia, but all the billions of humanity’s footprints are stomping it into oblivion now. While painting I’m streaming interviews with arctic / antarctic scientists, biologists documenting the 6th Mass Extinction, investigative climate journalists, climate activists such as Extinction Rebellion, Dark Mountain poets and authors; keeping my head in the game of reality while memorializing the heart of the mountain, already so much smaller, and ever smaller, and gone. Climate Collapse is finally obvious in everyone’s back yard, and if your back yard is alpine wilderness, it is already over. There is a white-hot place in my mind now that wasn’t there in my patrol days, a spot the glaciers kept cool, and now with them dying- it is a strange inescapable light, an ultraviolet long wavelength, a wave form of oblivion.
The busy intersection the fish reside at has a street fully closed for construction, and so the turn lane adjacent to the sculpture is blocked off. E and I headed up to have a look, parking in the closed turn lane. One of two poles held the group of fish, the other having sheared at the weld line, and of the missing pair one pole still held a battered/torn hoop. Two cuts and it could all be gone. E worked her way along the City phone tree ’til we connected with the new director of the city’s arts council. She told me the accident happened Monday-ish, the missing fish were recovered by a witness to the accident. She has been waiting to call me, as there are many plates in the air on how to handle this one. I was concerned it would be easy pickings for metal thieves, and she gave me the green light to remove it. My pal Jed said he would help, as did my neighbor- who also offered up his work van, as it has a much lower gate than the truck and those fish are heavy. E watched his two kids and brought Nora over to his house (our week of storms was beginning and Nora has her issues with weather).
We parked the big van in the closed turn lane as Jed arrived. The group of three fish was my primary concern, and one pole needed to be cut away. I’d put a battery on the charger as soon as E & I had returned from our recon mission, by the time I had permission and a crew together it had charged and I snapped it onto the sawzall while popping on a used blade and bringing my spare (also used) and my second battery. And the most important tool that I can’t ever stress enough: Cestus Vibrex gloves (if it weren’t for them I wouldn’t be able to type this). The first blade made it about half way before glowing red as its teeth smoothed off. The second blade nearly made it through before the battery was spent (a new blade would have taken off both posts on the one battery in half the time…). Not enough blade or battery to take off the remaining hoop, but it isn’t much of a temptation to thieves, and I’ll recover it soon enough.
It’s always surprising how heavy big heavy things are. We muscled the group of three fish and hoops into the back of the van, drove the few blocks home, and unloaded it into the shop. The guys went home and I called the arts director to let her know how we had faired. Just then there was knock at the door, and it was my neighbor and his young daughter with two police officers. The police had been flooded with calls from people waiting at the light as we pulled the piece, and a citizen had subtly followed us back home and given the police all the deets. This really cheered me up. I’ve had my work trashed 4 times now including my best and favorite work, Orpheus and Eurydice, stolen by metal thieves and shredded for scrap. This is the only time a sculpture has been damaged by accident. I handed the phone over to an officer and he spoke with the director briefly, and everything checked out.
I’ll recover the remaining hoop on my own today, and hold them all for the City while the process of how to proceed shakes itself out. (I used a new-to-me type of sawzall blade, $10 for a single blade; it took about 10 seconds to light-saber through the 2 inch stainless steel sch40 pole. Faster than a cutoff wheel.)
As a kid I would visit my dad on his dry acreage in Shepherd outside of Billings, Montana. The most regular summer chore was setting the siphon tubes from the county irrigation ditch into the crop furrows. This involved dunking short bended tubes into the ditch, and getting the gravity-fed siphon to pull water from the ditch into the furrow: my dad referred to it in many iterations of “irritating”.
Here in Xeriscape Utah, everything in the garden must be “irritated” or turn to powder under the high altitude desert sun. A friendly timer-robot with four valves attaches at each of three spigots on the house. Two of the robots run to the old buried sprinkler system- one in front and one in back, and another in the back is set with 1/2 inch black tubing delivering water to all corners of the back 40. This spring’s irritation project was to finish out my xeriscape water plan and to bolster our new trees and garden spaces.
10 years ago, when we bought the house, the prior home owner had set all the sprinkler systems for the lawn and hedge, and had run a line to water the parking strip and never brought it under the sidewalk. He showed me the line’s start set with the other underground lines at the driveway spigot in the back yard, and gestured vaguely at the front of the house saying the other end was out in the hedge by the sidewalk. Years back I pulled the lawn from the area he gestured toward, and set in Xeriscape and replaced the sprinkler heads with multi-head ports delivering water to each plant in the landscaping: I never came across his gestural tubing. So I dug around for it. First out by the hedge, along his other buried water lines (nothing); then at the start of all the lines into the side yard (found it); then where all the lines (but that one) lined up before going under the driveway; then I dug along the line through the side yard and it bent out toward the driveway hedge- I poked around in there for a bit and found it! I had bought a gizmo to water-bore under the sidewalk last summer (I’ve been not getting around to this for awhile now) when the city put in a new sapling on our parking strip- instead I hand watered it all summer. A bit of swearing and banging around and making a mud pit, and draining the mud pit, and banging around in my spare parts bin and soon enough there was a water line out to the parking strip. The next bit took the longest, so I’ll make it the shortest: pull all rocks by section; lay in new ground-cover cloth; lay in new waterline and set water to each plant; replace rocks.
The three Miss Kim lilacs we put in a few weeks back spoke with the rose bushes, and they all decided it was time to pull the 6 pop-up sprinkler heads and replace them with multi-head ports for 1/4 inch water line, moved back 2 feet from the driveway toward the fence. So I hopped to it. The underground PVC water line at the last pop-up head had a cracked T-connection, and the interwebs showed me that there is a part just for that particular fix. I went and got it in the wrong size, and went and got it in the right size, and put it in place. Then ran 1/4″ line to every plant, each with its own watering solution. The next bit was the longest, so I’ll keep it short: then I did that last bit for all the new plantings, split plantings, and replaced and repaired many of the old irritations as well: 200-ish? I don’t want to know. It may have wrapped up today.