Saturday, September 22, 2007


I’ve always been a tenderfoot, always; wish I wasn’t but I am and that’s that. Growing up in rural Massachusetts, there were plenty of barefoot moments – Fishing or canoeing, running in the backyard grass – There, I could get away with bare feet, but when push came to shove on the hot cement of a downtown sidewalk, the burning sand at Truro beach, or the rough gravel back by the railroad tracks, others could hoof it, but I had to resort to flip flops at least, if not shoes.
Oh, don’t get me wrong, I can tough it out with the proper amendments. Seven years of wildfire fighting was no problem, but then I had White’s, very good boots custom made in Spokane. Last time I picked them up after their first complete resole, (They’ve been through 5 partials and are now 29 years old and going strong), and the guy behind the counter, looking at me funny, asked, “What do you do with these boots?” We talked about who made them, (This was in Bellingham, Washington 20 years after they were made), he knew who Whites was and of the legendary “Old leather” that they used to use that can’t be had any more… Eventually I mentioned they’d been through all those wildfire fighting seasons and he stopped looking suspicious and smiled; “That’s what it was – The entire mid sole was burned and we wondered what the heck you’d been doing with them!”
And now I live in Texas, and there are even fewer places I can hack the barefoot walk. Grass is tougher and meaner down here, and we replaced our backyard with lovely river rock, but I have the hardest time walking on it barefoot. Even if I’m only making the short trip from patio to veggie garden for some peppers or a little Basil, I stumble and curse as my tender feet suffer the indignities of the unpredictable surface…
I sat out back on a chair dug sturdily into that river rock, thinking of this early this morning, under our lovely Maple tree, surrounded by happy plants artfully arranged and tended by Monica, a Nicolas Freeling book across my knees and a hot cup of good coffee in hand…
I watched my eldest cat saunter into the back yard, wherein she spied me comfortably seated; meowing a greeting, she made her way over in a leisurely fashion, no doubt looking for a skritch and perhaps to flop down in the shade. It was with some satisfaction that I watched her cross onto the rock, whereupon she displayed all the grace of a drunk reeling across a midnight alley, or a fighter describing a last pirouette, having taken a final uppercut to the chin.
“Been walking long?” I chuckled, scratching her behind the ears.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Nothin' But Nets

This ain't drivel, it's serious business, so please take a sec and read on, OK?

I'm participating in Nothing But Nets, a campaign to help prevent malaria across Africa.

Millions of people die each year from malaria, predominantly in Africa, even though the disease has been controlled in much of Asia and Europe… More than 200,000 Chadians and other refugees have been displaced as a result of the spreading crisis in Darfur. As the rainy season continues, those living in temporary camps, (The majority of whom are women and children), are gravely threatened by malaria; an estimated 25 percent of children under five in these camps will die of malaria if they don't receive nets.

There is, however, a simple solution: All it takes is $10 to buy a bed net, distribute it to a family, and explain its use. And every contribution to this emergency appeal will be matched dollar for dollar, net for net, by Humanity United.

You can help support the NBN Campaign by making a secure online donation:

Click on this link to contribute:

BTW - 100% of all donations will go to providing nets for children in Africa, no portion of your donation will be diverted for administrative costs. Nothing But Nets, a program of the United Nations Foundation is a registered public charity under section 501(c)3 of the U.S. Internal Revenue Code.

We work with work with the Measles Initiative, (One of the most successful vaccination efforts ever undertaken), to purchase bed nets and distribute them in countries and communities in greatest need. Using its proven distribution system, (Which in just five years has vaccinated nearly a quarter billion children, )the Measles Initiative will distribute bed nets along with measles vaccinations and other medicines to at-risk countries. It’s an effective and cost-efficient way to get the nets to the people who need them.

For more information on the campaign, please visit

It’s the best $10 you’ll ever spend!


Saturday, June 02, 2007


Our last living Gramma, Palma Hoover, passed away peacefully in her sleep on Wednesday, May 30th. She was 97 years old. Palma did a lion's share of raising Monica when she was a little girl in Washington State.

She was born Palma Solvang in Norway, on the family farm, one of 11 children and the last born in Norway before the family emigrated to the US; she was still very young when they came over. She was the last surviving member of her Norse family. Her father moved the family to a 480 acre homestead he had proved in the Tolt river valley, near what is now the town of Carnation, (Palma's dad and his brothers had gone to Alaska during the gold rush and did quite well: Working in those conditions was not such a long stretch for farm boys from northern Norway...) She remembered with great clarity walking miles to the eastern shore of lake Washington, where they would catch a ferry, and then on the far side, a trolley to the city of Seattle.

She was educated through the Washington State schools system and received her teaching credentials in 1930. Shortly thereafter, she married Joe Hoover of Centralia Washington. They moved around the state for a few years, and Palma taught in one-room school houses. In 1933, they moved to Centralia, where Joe joined the Police force and Palma resumed teaching. Joe passed away in 1992 having spent several decades on the P.D.

Palma lived in the same house until she went into hospice care a few weeks ago. She always had an amazing garden, full of vegetables and flowers. Her large yard is planted with apples, plums, and grapes that she and Joe made wine from. She could tell you where each tree came from and when it was planted; some of the apples had been transplanted from the family's homestead and were still thriving.

I loved talking with Palma whenever we got together. While her hearing deteriorated, her mind certainly did not. She remembered pretty much everything from her life vividly and was happy to discuss them with someone who was genuinely interested. There is much more I wish I could have asked her.

Palma was tough, loving, smart, and just a wonderful woman. We will miss her greatly. We're glad she went peacefully after a long, full life. May she live now in that land of peace where this no pain and only joy.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Horror and Context

I really don't know what to say that hasn't been said about this week at Virginia Tech. Anger, dismay, hopelessness, fear, anguish, all those things come and go. I've prayed and will continue to pray for the folks who were impacted, and I'll continue to ponder what could possibly poison a human to the extent that they'd do such a thing.

I'm aghast that none of the events in this young man's life leading to this tragedy clued in the powers that be, but then again, as an ex-cop, I'm not surprised. I'm blown away that a 'right to privacy' dictates that warnings can't be effectively heeded, and yet again, I'm not surprised.

had they kicked Cho Seung-Hui out of Virginia Tech, would it have stopped what happened? I'm afraid not: He'd have done it at a community college, or a business, or a library, or a McDonalds. His fate was set, and short of locking such a person away in solitary, we're not likely to come upon something that's going to derail this kind of thing. It is a sad, but probably true statement that this kind of savagery, this kind of anger and violence is all too often at the core of human hearts, and when it can do so, it will come forth.

It is also not lost upon me that, a couple of days after Cho's bad craziness, a truck full of explosives in a Baghdad market kills 128 people and wounds over 300 more. The primary difference, of course, is that over there, this sort of thing happens almost every day: In fact, almost every day, a massacre of the magnitude of Virginia Tech is happening in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sudan, Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Rwanda, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia and too many more to name now.

In Africa alone, it's estimated that something like 9.5 million people have died violently, as a direct result of conflict and war. points out that, were this to be occurring in Europe, "then people would be calling it World War III with the entire world rushing to report, provide aid, mediate and otherwise try to diffuse the situation," and they're absolutely right. Why that is the case, and why things aren't being done is a subject for another time.

Here and now, I'm writing all this because these are the thoughts and considerations running through my head. What happened at Virgina Tech is a horror, plain and simple, and I have no doubt that things will be done, steps will be taken, laws will be made or changed, to try and stop such things from ever happening here again.

And yet, I gotta say: The heart of darkness is spread all over this world, so what about everywhere else? Cops have a saying about burglary: If a bad guy really wants to get into your house, he's gonna find a way. In other words, locking the door ain't gonna cut it.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

He is risen, Alleluiah!

"We are witnesses to all that he did both in Judea and in Jerusalem. They put him to death by hanging him on a tree; but God raised him on the third day and allowed him to appear, not to all the people but to us who were chosen by God as witnesses, and who ate and drank with him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that he is the one ordained by God as judge of the living and the dead. All the prophets testify about him that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name."

Acts 10, 39 - 43

To all, a Happy and joyous Easter - Pray for peace in our world, in our time.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Molly T Ivins 1944 - 2007

She was born Mary Tyler Ivins on August 30th, 1944, in Monterey, California. She grew up in Houston. She earned a Degree in Journalism at Smith College, in my home Commonwealth of Massachusetts. After that, in the mid ‘60’s, she wandered to Minnesota and got her first reporting job, as a police reporter for the Minneapolis Tribune. How many great journalists started in the police beat, anyway?

She tired of real winters, (As did Monica and I), pining for the warmth and by spice of Texas food and politics. She moved to Austin and became the Co-Editor of the Texas Observer, a paper famous as the “Liberal conscience” of Texas. According to her long time friend, Nadine Eckhardt, she soon became a regular in the Austin political and party scene. "That's where she became the Molly Ivins as we've come to know her," said Eckhardt, “Molly was always right in the middle of everything."

She most certainly had a way with words, and regardless of one’s political bent, nobody could or would deny that fact. Next came a stint with The New York Times, where she even penned the obituary for Elvis in ’77. She later admitted that the toney Times wasn’t her cup of tea: New York sensibilities simply don’t mix well with Texas common sense, Ivins style…

So in ’82, she returned to Austin and started writing for the Dallas Times-Herald. She hooked up with her buddy Ann Richards, who would later become Governor, and Bob Bullock, the hard-drinking state Comptroller who would eventually become the Lieutenant Governor.

Her column gave her wide freedom to speak as she saw fit, and that she did. I’m proud of what are referred to as ‘Ebenisms’, but I don’t hold a candle to her in that regard. To call her language colorful would be putting things mildly: She referred to Ross Perot, as a "runt with an attitude." And perhaps most famously, she dubbed Gubernatorial candidate George W. Bush, the "Shrub," and never grew tired of calling him that. "Whomper-jawed," meant surprised, and getting P.O.’d was "throwin’ a walleyed fit."

She never married, and never had kids. She got breast cancer in ‘99, and let everybody know it in her inimitable style: "I have contracted an outstanding case of breast cancer, from which I fully intend to recover," she wrote, "I don't need get-well cards, but I would like the beloved women readers to do something for me: Go. Get. The. Damn. Mammogram. Done."

She wrote three books and co-authored a fourth. She was a three-time finalist for a Pulitzer Prize and served on Amnesty International's Journalism Network. Given all that, she said more than once that her greatest honors were being banned from the campus of, (The quite conservative), Texas A&M University, and having been named the Mascot Pig of the Minneapolis P.D..

She’s survived by a sister, a brother, two nephews and two nieces.

Here’s a smattering of Mollyisms for the uninitiated:

"I believe politics is the finest form of entertainment in the state of Texas: better than the zoo, better than the circus, rougher than football, and even more aesthetically satisfying than baseball."

"Yes, I've called myself a little-'d' democrat. I am a populist, maybe even a left-wing Libertarian. It used to be if you didn't have a hyphen in your definition, you clearly had not thought about it."

"He (Democrat Jim Mattox) was a wonderfully good attorney general. And somewhere underneath all that ruthless-pol, no-holds-barred fighter stuff there lurks a decent human being."

If you’ve never read any of her stuff, go find it, get a bottle of bourbon, pour one, crack the book, and dig in. She’d like that.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

This I Believe

Is a radio series that began in 1951 under the auspices of Edwin R. Murrow, and recently revitalized by NPR. Since they were inviting entries, I thought I might as well throw one in. The theme is familiar to anyone reading this blog; here it is:

“I have fought the long defeat and brought other people on to fight the long defeat, and I'm not going to stop because we keep losing.” So says Doctor Paul Farmer, a wonderful human profiled in Tracy Kidder’s book, Mountains Beyond Mountains.

While Doctor Farmer’s statement might be considered radical, or even inflammatory, to me it was an awaking of hope and a call to action. His words reflect a straightforward acceptance of purpose and conviction in the face of overwhelming resistance that I find deeply moving. In a world where it is all too easy to find signs of decay and despair, Farmer’s statement is a clarion call to salvation. Because of his example, I believe humankind will survive.

The hard truth is that the world is a mess. In such circumstances, it is easy to speak of hopelessness. I have questioned myself, my faith, and human nature in search of the cause, the root of what makes us drive ourselves to the brink of destruction. Finding no answers, I was in dire need of hope, and in response, God moved in mysterious ways and lead me to Kidder’s book.

It is truly hard to find hope and sustain it in this world: Doctor Paul taught me that the fight is fought no matter what, that we never quit, even if we’re loosing. To not fight is to give in, and giving in is unacceptable. After reading Mountains Beyond Mountains, I heard of Bill Gates and Warren Buffett contributing much of their wealth to causes such as Dr. Farmer’s Partners in Health. I learned of U2 lead singer Bono’s One Campaign, and the U.N.’s Millennium Development Goals. From these wellsprings came fresh energy, focus, and hope.

And finally, the lessons sunk in and ushered me to action. What can an itinerant writer and guitar maker from Fort Worth do to contribute to the cause? He can make guitars and donate them to people who have none, or sell them and donate the funds to charity. He can organize an U2charist service at his church, raising funds for Episcopalians for Global Reconciliation. He can help facilitate a benefit concert for a church and a community in Mississippi wiped out by Hurricane Katrina.

And he can have hope, and sustain hope, and believe that we all can make a difference. Just as Partners in Health ministers to the poorest of the poor, and not to governments or agencies, so we all can hope and help and believe, one by one; and in so doing, we can change the world. This I believe, that as Doctor Farmer noted to friends in Haiti, the invitations for what to do are there for the taking, if we, “Listen to the messages from angels.”

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Serious Deja Vu

I used to fight wildfire, way back when, in my adrenaline junky days… Looking back, it’s amazing how blessed I was with cool things to do for work in really beautiful places. I would start my year in Grand Canyon, first at the south rim, and then usually we’d wander over to the north rim to do stuff over there. From there, we’d head north to Yellowstone in the late summer, for Montana’s fire season. When that was done, it was off to Santa Monica for the California fall fire season. Yeah, Santa Monica, as in Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area: We lived at a former Nike missile site converted to barracks for us and a training facility for L.A. County Fire. The Santa Monica pier was right down at the bottom of our road. Debby Reynolds’s house was at the top. Chris Christopherson ran with us a couple of times. Weird, huh?

And it was there that I experienced one of the weirdest incidents of déjà vu I’ve ever had.

There was actually a fire, you see, in the Santa Monica Mountains in ‘82, and we were sent to work it. We were digging line through the Manzanita and whatnot, working up and across a little hill through what was pretty much uninterrupted brush with some little paths than here and there. We took a brief break to assess where we needed line to go, so the Crew Boss and I walked to the top of the little hill to see where we were headed. Down below us was an area on the right which had been partially burned over, with unburned brush to the left. We looked at the site and got the ‘I’ve Definitely Been Here Before’ feeling. We were kinda staring at things, trying to figure it out, when one of the sawyers came up and said, ‘Holy shit, it’s MASH!”

And indeed it was. We were working on the Malibu Creek State Park, which was also known as the Paramount Ranch – Yeah, that Paramount Ranch, which had been donated to the state some time previously. In front of us was the familiar rock circle where the flagpole stood, the outlines of the tents. the whole shebang…

We had been here before, many times in fact. The fire was actually incorporated into the final episode, since, to use the familiar outdoor sets, they didn’t have a bunch of choice, did they?

Wednesday, January 10, 2007


How much do you know about Somalia? As we say here in Texas - I’ll tell you whut: If y’all ain’t aware of their history, listen up…

Oddly enough, Somalia has been occupied predominantly by Somalis for the last 2500 years or so. Islam became prominent long ago there, and Mogadishu was founded around 900 as a result thereof. Then, in the 1500s, a long-term war broke out between Somali and Ethiopians and things really started to unravel. The Somalis won, initially, but that prompted the Portuguese to come help, and the once strong central Somali state crumbled. The land wasn’t colonized with any vigor, however, until the late 1800s.

Then came the Brits, the French and the Italians in the late 1800s. In keeping with the colonial spirit, all three took a chunk of the poor country and stamped their brand on the locals, none of which went over very well. National hero Mohammed Abdulah Hassan rose to prominence during the long war for colonial independence, which lasted over 20 years. Unfortunately, superior military technology won out and the British kept their fiefdom until World War II, when Mussolini’s Fascists took over briefly. In a sick twist of fate, the fledgling U.N. assigned Somalia to Italy as a protectorate, where it remained until it declared independence in 1960, (Sort of; the Brits and French kept their little chunks out of spite, malice, or pride, depending on who you ask, and didn’t give ‘em all up until 1977)

The period following 1960 can be called, unfortunately, the age of coups. As is all too common in many small, poor countries, military takeovers began, culminating in the rise to power of Mohamed Siad Barre, who declared himself leader kin ’69 and stayed there until ’99. Though he was brutal and ruthless to opponents, he did some good works, building a national infrastructure and raising literacy rates. In the late 70’s, Somalia fought a war against neighboring Ethiopia, ostensibly to regain lands lost during the colonial period, but probably realistically started due to age old animosities. Originally backed by the USSR, the Somalis did quite well, maybe too well, because in mid stream, the Soviets changed sides and the Somalis suffered greatly as a result. As the Soviet block fell, the Somali government became more and more dictatorial, and that, as it often did, lead to a very active resistance movement.

In the early 90’s, the country began to split up as factions declared independence, and the U.N. stepped back in trying to help – Those efforts failed miserably, and the whole scenario has spiraled into horrific internecine fighting that continues to this day. On top of the manmade problems, Somalia suffered from the great Tsunami of 2005, and has experienced debilitating floods since then.

Hence, the bottom line is that this place is a complete mess, and the ones who have suffered, as usual, are the people, who have little or nothing to do with wars and politics, and who’s interests are focused on surviving; where do they find food, water, shelter, and medicine, in a place where even the U.N has given up?

Well, all is not lost – There are NGO’s, (Non Governmental Organizations), who, thank God, fill in to the best of their ability when everything else fails. The Somali Support Secretariat is a collection of agencies trying to do what no one else will do.

And we can support the outfits and people who sacrifice much to do this work, and we can pray for the people of Somalia – Both are really good ideas.