Friday, February 27, 2009

2-27-09

Ok, I gotta make this fast; the power is supposed to get turned off in about 10 minutes.

Another winter storm warning / heavy snowfall tonight and tomorrow am. (No, this is NOT normal!!! This winter's weather is berzerko!) More shoveling again tomorrow. Maybe I should start looking into relocating to...Arizona? No, it might snow there sometime. How about the Sahara? Yeah, now we're talkin'.

I got stuck a couple of times today trying to break open the trail, again, after the last snow and heavy winds. Lots of snow drifts. And now it's coming down hard, so tomorrow I'll do it all over again.

Better shut this down before the power goes....

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

2-25-09; Some things I've seen lately


A few days ago I drove my snow machine past a moose. Laying down in the deep snow (probably reworking the breakfast of willows it been munching on earlier) it appeared as a brown hump in the corner of my eye when I zipped by on the way home with a load of wood. Yet I recognized that particular color of brown, so I stopped the machine and walked back for a second look (it takes a while to stop a 500 lb. sled full of wood sliding over the snow at 30 mph).

The big, apparently pregnant cow laboriously struggled to her feet and began wading through the snow, heading for the cover of the nearby woods. The snow is so deep now that moose are often up to their bellies in it (and they do have rather long legs); making even a short walk a lot of work. She plowed along for about twenty feet, then looked back, grudgingly. I don't know if this second look was to make sure I was really there, warranting the effort to keep moving, or as if to say, "Come on, pal; your're killin' me here. Can't you see how deep this snow is?" Which ever the case, I left her alone and continued on my wood-hauling way.

This deep snow has caused me enough trouble (necessitating the use of cumbersome snow shoes, the snow machine frequently getting stuck, and shoveling, shoveling, shoveling) so I didn't want to add to hers. She already faces a daily struggle to survive. As I drove away I thought of warmer weather ahead, and possibly rain, which will eventually form a crust on the snow that will support the weight of wolves, but not that of moose, and I frowned to myself, shaking my head. Moose will experience a high mortality rate before this snow melts.

Another day...another load of wood. I drove to the woodyard, stopped the engine and got off. Quickly startled by a swooping shadow overhead, I looked up. A great gray owl, unknown to me, had been perched atop a dead spruce tree; the one I had just parked next to. He disapproved of my presence here and let me know by leaving. He (or she; I think the "she" maybe be the larger of the two) is North America's largest variety of owl; when one suddenly flies overhead, it can get your attention.

This was the second owl I've seen here in as many weeks. The wildfire three years ago appears to have helped the owls and the humans. We come to harvest the dead timber. They come for lunch. Not sure if the preferred menu items are voles (think large mice or lemmings) or rabbits (snowshoe hares). The first one I saw was a hawk owl and I don't know if they're big enough to tackle a rabbit. Come to think of it, I don't recall seeing many rabbit tracks, so it must be the voles they're dining on. Bon Apetit!

On my way to the dump I passed a house with two people working; a man and a woman. Neither lives there, but the woman (OK, try to follow this)...the woman is the mother of a young man who often stays there with a young woman, who rents the house.

I'd heard the story (stories circulate quickly in small communities) about the young man (which would be the woman's son, if you're able to keep up) getting drunk and "busting up the house". He apparently was unhappy with his sweetheart so he overturned the fridge, tore out the heater, etc. He reportedly even pistol-whipped a neighbor who came to the aid of the young woman. Now he should be facing a felony assault charge, among the other problems he has to deal with. This is where restraining orders come in handy, but that's a decision for the young woman.

My lap top just made a simulated thunder sound, which, in this case, means another winter storm warning. It also means more shoveling tomorrow. Things are not looking up for the poor moose, or for my back either.

And then today. Breaking trail across the river into beaver trapping country, I come across a fresh wolverine track. Wolverine's are pretty adept at dealing with heavy snowfall. Their feet make decent snowshoes and they are tireless travelors. Yet even a wolverine will jump on some one else's trail and enjoy a relatively free ride. The roaming bear-cat followed my trail for a few miles until we parted ways; me to the north and the wolverine to the south.

I was reminded of stories I'd heard of wolverines preying on caribou in similar deep snow conditions. The wolverines supposedly climb onto the caribou's back and go to work, gripping with their claws and tearing into the caribou with their legendary jaws. Initially I was skeptical of a 30 lb. predator bringing down an animal ten times its size, but no longer. The bear-cat can easily stay atop this snow; a caribou would flounder, so getting on the back of the animal would be a cinch. After watching the cow moose struggling the other day, I suspect a determined wolverine could even conquer a moose.

(the moose photo is from the internet; the one I saw was much farther down into the snow.)

Saturday, February 21, 2009

2-21-09; Passing out "awards"



The Troopers were here yesterday. One was the typical, run-of-the-mill law enforcement variety and one was the regional fish and wildlife enforcement officer; something of a game warden on steroids.

The latter was here to pass out citizenship awards; the other serving in the capacity of assistant/back-up/moral support/etc.

Among the categories recognized for special acheivement were:

-Hunting out of season; a couple of guys were getting firewood and found an unlucky moose who wandered into their woodyard about the same time they began to see the bottom of their freezers. The moose was quickly relocated to the nearly empty freezers, filling them up...until the Troopers, alerted by an anonymous tip, inspected the freezers, confiscated the moosemeat and issued the "awards". The freezers are empty again...for now, atleast.

-Failure to comply with regulations; a guy who shot a large bull last fall under a subsistence permit failed to follow the requirements (which included sawing the antlers in half and turning them in). The Troopers (following another tip, apparently) visited his house, admired the huge rack, then awarded him the appropriate certificate of recognition. He will probably be issued a special invitation to share his hunting story with the local magistrate as well.

_????; I'm not sure what the exact title of this award was. The Troopers took the time to hand deliver it to the recipient, but there may have been some confusion. The honored recipient seemed upset at having been selected for the award and wanted to decline (perhaps it was out of humility). The Troopers were insistent he accept the award, even promising him a free trip to Fairbanks, all expenses paid (well, maybe not ALL expenses, but they were going to be sure he got a free one-way trip). They were even offering him a shiny pair of bracelets as a special gift. In the end he accepted the award. I never did learn what he was being recognized for.

Local people have a real hard time with the whole award/recognition thing. They prefer to be left alone to carry out their lives in oscurity, avoiding the spotlight, but sometimes it's inevitable. Personally, I hate to see some of my friends get special recognition, but over-all, it's a good thing. Which brings me to the next post (which, I guess, actually, was the last post...)

(No, the Troopers did not come in the car, in case you were wondering)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Crime and Punishment; 2-18-09

More weather issues. Today we're under another winter storm warning. "Another" because we had one a couple days ago, and a day or two before that, and I can't remember before that. What I can remember is all the hours I've been spending on the end of my snow shovel. Bitter cold or heavy snowfall seems to fill nearly every day on the calendar this winter. Hmmm...is it just me or did we do this last year too?

Well, how about a change of pace? I've never attempted to read the book by that name (Crime and Punishment). I should, and likely will some day. I've read some other works by classic Russian authors; they seem a little cumbersome and plodding, but generally I've enjoyed the experience. "Anna Karenina" is a good one. The two key figures offer great life lessons, for those who have "an ear to hear" (or should I say "an eye to see/read?".)

Yesterday I noticed a headline about the ongoing drug wars in Mexico. A police officer was killed...along with ten of his family members. TEN!!! Imagine that for a moment. Who were the ten? I doubt they were all brothers. Wife, mother, children, in-laws; the carnage probably was made up of those, I assume. America's insatiable lust for drugs is murdering innocent people every day in Mexico and elsewhere...every day. The heroes in this war are often unnamed individuals who take their stand against crime and are murdered as a result; frequently with their families. And it's not looking to change any time soon. As long as Mexican men must choose between honest poverty or a wealthy life of crime there will be an abundance of criminals.

I grew up hearing the adage "Crime doesn't pay", but I'm not sure that holds true any more. Internet crime is rampant, seemingly with impunity. Identity theft appears about the same. It seems everywhere you look, crime is on the rise while the punishment is decreasing.

Another item I read was a California judge ordering the release of 50,000 prisoners; I suppose it was due to overcrowding in the jails, but what a way to deal with crime; open the doors and let them go. I have a sneaking suspicion Californians will reap a bitter harvest from these seeds they are sowing.

Yesterday I was sitting at my table drinking tea with an Alaska State Trooper. He was paying me a visit because I had reported an incident involving intoxication, a public disturbance, attempted theft and vandalism. He basically informed me that there was nothing to be done. The perpetrator had violated the conditions of his probation, but "...they're not going to take any action on that" (they being the state/DA's office/etc.). The attempted theft and vandalism weren't serious enough to take any action on either.

The Trooper was more frustrated than I was. He was here working on a number of cases involving minors consuming (alcohol), most of the cases will apparently go nowhere. A lot of his efforts end up getting dismissed by the judge or prosecuters. So basically, crime pays.

I had a youth tell me a few weeks ago that "everything [he's] ever been charged with was dropped" (and I can tell you he's been in trouble a lot). For him, crime pays. Same for the drug dealers here in our village. Same for the bootleggers who sell to minors. Same for the young man who stole the snow machine last weekend. Same for a lot of people.

It caused me to think about the difference between the rich drug lord in Mexico who can order the murder of a local cop and ten of his relatives, and the northern village resident who sells weed or alcohol to minors. Basically, there is no difference. Neither has concern for right and wrong. Neither cares about the welfare of others. Both do what they do for their own financial gain, to the detriment of others. And neither is concerned about their own soul, God, Heaven and Hell, or eternal matters.

God has instituted human government to maintain order and keep sinful human behaviors in check (well, at least I think that's the general idea). The relationship between crime and punishment is an essential part. It's my feeling that He gives us an earthly example to continually remind us of the eternal principle; we will all be held accountable for our actions. If we forget or ignore this principle, we do so at our peril. Sadly, when crime pays, it becomes much easier to forget or ignore that principle. But, regardless, the principle applies, and the result is the same.

video

p.s. Posting this video was tricky for a technical knuckle head like me. It obviously has a lot more to do with the first part of this post than the last.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

2-05-07;

The snow has returned. After a prolonged period of cold weather (which means weeks of thirty to forty below) the temps are rising, as is the overall outlook of most people here. Weeks of -30 or colder begin to weigh on you.

It's uncomfortable to be outdoors. It's hard to get things done, because everything takes a lot more work. Machines are harder to start, harder to keep running, they take longer to warm up and don't run as well. They break down more.

Other chores are harder to do. Hauling firewood becomes more necessary and at the same time, more difficult. Not only do you get a lot colder when you are driving the snow machine at thirty below, as compared to zero, but the chainsaw is harder to start and tends to ice up more. Same with the snow machine. Same with your fingers for that matter.

You need more wood but it gets harder to get; an arctic version of the "vicious circle".

So when the barometric pressure starts to drop, the clouds move in, the temps rise and the snow starts to fall, you feel like an old friend has returned after a long abscence. The sight of the drifting white flakes warm your heart like manna from heaven. Well...sort of; I don't want to get too carried away, but it's a welcome sight and I'm relieved to see it.

Now the down side. The change in the weather comes at a price; a "winter weather advisory" issued by the National Weather Service, which means we'll likely get 4-6 inches in the next 24 hours and wind chills can be minus forty five.

Oh well, you can't have everything. Today I'll try to get out for a load of wood and take care of some other past-due chores. Tomorrow I'll shovel "my old friend". And if the snow keeps up for a few days I'll probably start reminiscing about the good 'ol days when the weather was clear. That's why I usually tell people "zero is perfect" as far as winter weather is concerned.

(I just threw in the photo because I thought it was cool.)
(Actually, I didn't throw it in because it wouldn't cooperate.)