Walking it off

Solvitur ambulando.

It is solved by walking.

Walking into the woods near the Piedra River in the San Juan Mountains of southwestern Colorado

Longtime readers of this blog know that my online and trail presence have declined since the glory days of a decade ago, when I was out hiking almost every weekend, posting photos from my outings. My pace slackened once the novel trails within easy driving range were exhausted. In recent years I have only gone on a true day hike once every couple of months, and now the coronavirus pandemic has temporarily extinguished my hobby.

Year Hiking Days Mileage Blog Posts
2009 25 151 79
2010 47 301 86
2011 50 326 90
2012 44 266 85
2013 30 111 58
2014 29 89 60
2015 28 78 36
2016 14 42 29
2017 11 25 29
2018 5 15 15
2019 7 18 12
2020 through August 1 3 3
My day hikes and accompanying blog posts peaked almost a decade ago

I’ve loved day hikes since childhood, when my parents introduced me to the trails at Roaring River State Park in southwestern Missouri. Walking is good for both mind and body, helping me get away from work to enjoy and admire the natural world…and to often indulge in audio. Some of my clearest walking memories are imbued with sound.

I was listening to Ken Follett’s The Pillars of the Earth on my first hike on the San Bois Mountains trail at Oklahoma’s Robbers Cave State Park in 2010.

Mmmbop was playing on my first iPod as I skipped along in short sleeves up and down a snow-covered trail at Mt. Rainier in June 2005.

As a critical technology/communications/health protocols cog in the great learning machine that is our school district, I have heavily circumscribed my life for the past six months. It has been a grind with long hours of carting around and preparing thousands of devices, virtual meetings, no spring break nor summer vacation, almost no out-of-town travel, and only one in-restaurant meal, the last being a risk Wendy and I were only willing to take on our wedding anniversary.

At home I have escaped into 18 books, about three per month, both in text and audio form. YouTube is a steady distraction. I still enjoy workday morning aerobics using videotapes I recorded over a quarter-century ago. Wendy laughed when I mentioned how I had inadvertently watched a Hot Pockets commercial from 1993 countless times yet never had one. So she bought me some to satisfy decades of rather mild curiosity.

Wendy has buoyed my spirits countless times, but the most sustaining thing for me amidst the pandemic, with its accompanying cacophony of racial strife and poisonous politics, has been a feature of the city which helped me embrace moving to Bartlesville back in 1989 and has long been part of why I have stayed: the Pathfinder Parkway. For my stress, solvitur ambulando.

The Pathfinder Parkway

Here is an album of shots from three early morning walks this summer along parts of that marvelous trail system and connected attractions:

Album of Pathfinder Parkway shots during the COVID-19 summer of 2020

And what was I listening to along those beautiful walks? Great history books by Sarah Vowell, particularly Lafeyette in the Somewhat United States, Unfamiliar Fishes, and The Wordy Shipmates. Ronan Farrow’s Catch and Kill. And the silly The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown, whose Robert Langdon must be a relative of Frank & Joe Hardy.

The city will have an election on August 25 for another round of bond projects and a sales tax extension. It’s not a tax increase, just renewing funding that has made Bartlesville a great place to live. Wendy and I already sent in our absentee ballots long ago. Among many other projects, the bond election will fund improvements to the ring road at Johnstone Park, while the sales tax will fund maintenance and repair of the Pathfinder Parkway. I urge everyone to VOTE YES for Building a Better Bartlesville.

And if you are stressed…walk it off. Solvitur ambulando.


Posted in pandemic, photos | 1 Comment

Can we be hopeful in the wake of the storm?

May 3, 2020

“I must confess that I found myself almost hopeless in the wake of the storm.”

So wrote Dr. J.C. Taylor, the health officer of Rogers County, Oklahoma, of his feelings after the 1918 flu pandemic. What lessons can we learn from that H1N1 viral outbreak, which was commonly called the “Spanish Flu”?

Few elders have useful memories dating back over 100 years, but written history has helped prompt a more vigorous and coordinated response to the 2020 pandemic. The so-called “Spanish Flu” of 1918 got its name from when it spread from France, where news of it was suppressed by wartime censorship, into neutral Spain. The press coverage in Spain helped spread word of its devastating impact. No one is sure where that particular strain of the H1N1 influenza virus originated, with hypotheses including Haskell County, Kansas and a hospital camp in France.

But the importance of social distancing and closures was made perfectly clear in comparisons of how a parade in Philadelphia helped overwhelm its health care system to how closures in St. Louis “flattened the curve” and helped suppress its death rate to a fraction of that observed in the City of Brotherly Love.


Those examples and a far better understanding of viral transmission have led to a massive response over a century later, which has, as of early May 2020, avoided overwhelming Oklahoma’s hospitals.

Due in part to outbreaks in multiple local nursing homes, I am unlucky enough to live in the zip code with the highest rate of infections in the state as of May 3, 2020.




As of this writing, Bartlesville has a reported infection rate of 224/36,423, which is over six times higher than Tulsa’s (405/400,669) or Oklahoma City’s (627/649,021), and our death rate is 11 and 13 times higher, respectively.


So, as closures ease after this first wave, I wondered how both Oklahoma in general and Bartlesville in particular fared in the 1918 pandemic. I used a variety of internet sources, but the most comprehensive was in print: the Spring 2001 edition of The Chronicles of Oklahoma with an article by Dr. Nigel Anthony Sellars: Almost Hopeless in the Wake of the Storm: The 1918 Spanish Flu Epidemic in Oklahoma. I have included highlights from it below, but you must order your own print copy to see his complete overview.

Dr. Sellars documented how 7,350 Oklahomans died of the influenza and related secondary infections in the second and third waves of the epidemic between October 1, 1918 and April 1, 1919. Health officials were overwhelmed by the second wave, and few back in 1918 suspected that the culprit was a virus. Many incorrectly blamed Pfeiffer’s bacillus, a bacterium.


Emergency hospital at Camp Funston, Kansas in 1918

The first reported human case was in early March 1918 at Camp Funston near Fort Riley, Kansas. The first wave of outbreaks was carried to Europe, where the virus spread in the trenches of World War I. Thankfully, it retreated in the summer.

But it mutated in Europe into a more deadly form, leading to a devastating second wave in the fall, which peaked in October. Entire units fighting in Europe were disabled in the late summer, and returning naval and merchant vessels brought the mutated influenza back to America.


Typhoid inoculation lineup at Camp Doniphan, Oklahoma, circa 1917-1918

Camp Doniphan near Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma had only 8 deaths from flu among 25,000 men in the winter and spring of 1918. But as Dr. Sellars noted, “…from September to December, with just 3,964 troops, the camp suffered 2,856 flu cases, eighty-three flu deaths, and eight pneumonia deaths.” The Spanish Flu attacked adults in their twenties and thirties rather than children or the elderly, with those between twenty and forty accounting for half of the epidemic’s deaths.

Article-1-Sept-27-pg2Prevention strategies were haphazard. Articles recommended that folks quit smoking, drinking, and overeating. They were told to steer clear of people who sneezed or coughed, to avoid using public drinking cups, and to gargle with various concoctions.

The deadly second wave in Oklahoma

In October, the flu exploded in Oklahoma City (OKC), with the first reported case on September 28. By October 1 there were 1,000 cases, and that would double within two days.  Much of the nursing staff at St. Anthony Hospital fell ill. Dr. Sellars notes, “The flu practically collapsed all city and commercial operations, a pattern duplicated in nearly every state town.”

okc editorial

Daily Oklahoman editorial on October 4, 1918

Dr. LeRoy Long, the dean of the University of Oklahoma’s Medical School, recommended correctly that people avoid crowds to check the disease’s spread. At first, OKC failed to organize a coordinated response. The Daily Oklahoman newspaper editorialized that the city should close all schools, churches, theaters, and other public spaces. But the county physician considered those actions premature, with many city doctors believing the crisis would pass after the weekend. A lack of new cases for two days provided false hope, followed by fourteen deaths over the next three days. That finally prompted the City Commission to issue a sweeping closure order on October 9. By October 12, 70 citizens had died from the flu, including attorney Norman R. Haskell, the son of Oklahoma’s first governor. Hospitals were overcrowded, and pneumonia spread.

Tulsa was more organized, with its leaders meeting on October 2 on a response plan and working with the Red Cross to open an emergency hospital at “The Ark”, a former women’s detention clinic to combat venereal disease. It was fumigated for 18 hours, and trustees from the county jail carried out old beds (which were burned), whitewashed the walls, and installed new cots. But while the virus did not discriminate, Tulsa did, with racially segregated wards at The Ark. The Tulsa Race Massacre would occur less than three years later.

Its efforts did not prevent Tulsa from being overcome with 3,000 cases by October 5. The Tulsa Red Cross ordered its members to make 5,000 gauze masks, obtain clothes and bedding for victims, and drive nurses to see patients. Local school children and the Red Cross folded newspapers to make sputum cups to collect and dispose of nasal and oral discharges. Nurses went out into Tulsa schools to give nasal douches, a questionable preventative.

Tulsa finally shut down all schools, churches, and public meetings on October 8. Later soda fountains, cold drink bars, bowling alleys, and pool halls were also closed. The mayor ordered morticians to provide their ambulances to the city and notified car dealerships, taxi companies, and private citizens that their vehicles should be made available to transport nurses free of charge. Restaurants were closed between midnight and 5 a.m. for nightly fumigations.

On October 10 the state health commissioner prohibited all public gatherings of more than twelve people, including funerals, and forbade even small prayer meetings at churches. Police in Tulsa and OKC jailed persons found spitting or coughing without a handkerchief. In Oilton, after a local Baptist minister prayed over one young prostitute whose fever then broke, the local prostitutes turned their brothel into a treatment center and worked as nursing volunteers.

footballBy October 11, every member of the Stroud High School football team was “ill in bed with Spanish influenza” and the school’s game with Drumright was canceled. OU’s game against Phillips University in Enid was called off due to both schools being in quarantine, and the OU-Texas game was postponed. 

Formaldehyde became the disinfectant of choice, with Tulsa city workers flushing the streets twice daily with water before sprinkling the chemical. It was used to fumigate hotel rooms, victim’s homes, and even local libraries in both major cities. Oklahoma County officials used so much of it on the jail floors that newly released inmates reeked of it as they walked the city streets.


Clean-up campaigns and fumigation did not prevent the state from reaching over 70,000 reported cases by October 21. Tulsa added 400 cases in one day. Muskogee had 14 deaths in a single day and converted schools into hospitals. Obituaries filled the front pages of local rural newspapers.

Dr. Sellars noted, “The worst struck was Bartlesville, where the flu wreaked havoc, especially among smelter workers. The city had suffered fifty-six deaths by October 22, which gave it the second highest ratio of flu deaths to population in the nation, trailing only Philadelphia. Federal officials sent a doctor and two nurses to aid city officials. The city set up an emergency hospital at the local Elks Lodge, but as the number of victims grew, officials had to create a second one at the city’s First Baptist Church.” Late in the epidemic, Bartlesville closed all stores, except drugstores, at 5 p.m. each day.

bartlesville flu

Medical and prevention measures

Doctors and nurses were in short supply statewide since about 1/3 of the doctors had joined the military alongside about 1/2 of the nurses. What doctors and nurses there were relied on aspirin to treat fever and reduce pain and epinephrine to battle pneumonia victims’ congestion. There were experiments with cinnamon in milk, quinine, and intravenous delivery of digitalis.

General prevention recommendations included avoiding crowds, getting plenty of sleep and fresh air, and washing hands with antiseptic soap. Some advised gargling with chlorinated soda or a mixture of sodium bicarbonate and boric acid.

The public was urged to wear six-by-four-inch gauze surgical masks, but only Muskogee and Clinton mandated their widespread use. Those without surgical masks could use an 18-by-18-inch piece of gauze folded diagonally three times or a cotton handkerchief worn like a bandit’s bandana. But gauze was scarce, so health officials recommended changing masks every two hours and boiling contaminated masks for 30 minutes before reuse.

gauze mask

Red Cross nurse with gauze mask from October 1918

A doctor at the Mayo Clinic claimed bacteria caused the flu and promoted a serum for it, but some Oklahoma doctors correctly believed that was incorrect and that any existing vaccines lacked value. Labs in both Tulsa and OKC produced the useless serum in bulk and thousands received injections, including public officials. Sellars recounts, “Oklahoma City mayor Ed Overholser had himself inoculated with an earlier ‘vaccine’ on October 7. He came down with the flu the same day, eventually growing so ill he resigned his office under doctor’s orders.”


Patent medicines were ineffective treatments, while pharamacists could prescribe whiskey as a “remedy” during Prohibition

The public turned to dubious over-the-counter patent medicines such as Dr. Kilmer’s Swamp Root, Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets, and Eatonic. Vicks VapoRub did relieve congestion, and customers cleaned out the drugstores of it, with the manufacturer placing ads in major newspapers promising to supply more.


Folk remedies were utilized, with one farmer attributing his own resistance to “quinine and lots of coffee” while whiskey was the most popular remedy, which was issued by pharmacists for medical purposes under Oklahoma’s prohibition laws.

Tulsa had a burial casket shortage by October 15, with the county making them for sale at seven dollars each. Gravediggers were in short supply, with Bartlesville asking for volunteers but eventually pressing county jail inmates into service.

Another echo of our current times was documented by Dr. Sellars. “But as the epidemic wore on, many Oklahomans started to chafe under the local and statewide restrictions. Although the bans initially helped create a sense of community action and solidarity, they soon became an inconvenience to some groups, especially merchants who feared the bans posed a threat to business and who claimed the state order was an improper intrusion on local authority.”

The state health commissioner, himself ill at the time, finally suspended the quarantine on November 9. For the first time in almost a month, schools, churches, theaters, and other public places opened. By then the disease had killed over 5,000 Oklahomans.

The third wave

Rumors of an armistice in the world war and then the actual end of the war on November 11 led to crowded city streets in both major cities, despite a cold drizzle, with many people drunk.


Armistice Day Parade in Lawton in November 1918

The epidemic returned by November 25 with outbreaks in Tulsa, Oklahoma City, Drumright, Sapulpa, Bristow, Chickasha, and many rural communities.

That wave was slightly less virulent than the October outbreak but lasted into late spring. By December 15 there were 10,245 cases in 45 counties, but that dropped the following week to 4,640 cases in 38 counties. Some doctors yielded to local pressure and suppressed information to avoid affecting Christmas business. Tulsa police arrested several doctors who failed to report cases for up to two weeks.

In the later wave, some cities abandoned public closures as ineffective. Tulsa relied on home quarantines. Lawton tried closing schools again, but children congregated on city streets and the city instead relied on limiting attendance at public places, restaurants, hotel lobbies, pool halls, cigar stores, and soda fountains. OKC required all public places to have at least 200 cubic feet of air space per person, so movie houses left every second or third row vacant.

But some members of the public and local businesses often disregarded or opposed preventative measures in the third wave. OKC restaurants resisted orders to boil dishes. People were reported to have openly sneezed in others’ faces, and streetcar riders frequently ignored a regulation that every third window be open for ventilation.


The flu eventually burned out in the cities but lingered in rural areas. Once again the front pages of small town newspapers carried almost nothing but obituaries. The flu finally ended in the late spring, with smaller outbreaks in the fall and winter for three more years.

In late January 1919, the state health department figures showed 125,000 to 150,000 flu cases with at least 7,500 deaths. The actual toll was higher due to under-reporting, particularly in African-American and rural communities. Native Americans suffered the most, with 861 deaths out of 15,227 cases, for a death rate of 5.7%, which was twice the national average. 1918 was the first year Tulsa ever had more deaths than births.

The effects were long-lasting, but thankfully so was charity. In February 1919, a destitute 35-year-old father arrived in Enid with two boys, 8 and 6, and a 4-year-old girl, all thinly clad and barefoot. Their mother had died from the flu and the father had lost his job while battling the sickness. He traveled by train from Oklahoma City to Enid, looking for work. En route, passengers collected $15 for the family while local residents purchased clothes for the children and helped get the man a job.

Dr. Taylor of Rogers County, who had weathered the storm, continued to advocate reasonable measures in the fall of 1919. He suggested avoiding contact with those who were sick, not sharing eating or drinking utensils, and washing “the hands and face several times a day.” He also shared, “plenty of soap and water and fresh air are the best means of prevention.”


Dr. Richard Shope was instrumental in identifying influenza as being caused by viruses

Health departments were eventually beefed up even as public attention to pandemics waned. Research continued, with American virologist Richard Shope noting in 1928 that a swine flu virus resembled the Spanish flu. Shope’s techniques led to the first human flu virus being isolated by British scientists in the early 1930s, finally ending the misconception that influenza was caused by bacteria.




1945 flu vaccine

The first effective flu vaccine did not come for another decade, in 1943. But the constant mutations of the virus means influenza vaccines must be reformulated annually and thus influenza, unlike smallpox and polio, has not been effectively wiped out. In recent years, misinformation has led many to refuse vaccinations, leading to unnecessary outbreaks of measles in 2019.


The current pandemic promises to linger through the summer of 2021 as we hopefully await an effective vaccine that might help us eventually achieve herd immunity. But even that is being quite optimistic, given that we’ve never had an effective vaccine widely deployed in less than five years.


So we must continue to wear masks and practice social distancing for the foreseeable future, with public gatherings carrying significant health risks. If the easing of restrictions across the nation in May 2020 leads to an unacceptable rise in infections and death rates, we can expect fresh closures that attempt to avoid overwhelming hospitals in second and later waves of infection.

So far we have handled the 2020 pandemic far better than our predecessors handled the one of 1918. For us to remain hopeful in the wake of this first wave, we must continue to heed the lessons of history and apply scientific advancements to weather this latest storm.

Posted in books, history, pandemic, random | 2 Comments

Loaves and Fishes

In travels over the years with my father, on my own, and now with Wendy, I have repeatedly encountered remnants of the Fred Harvey company. It was a chain of restaurants, hotels, and other hospitality businesses alongside the Santa Fe railroad in the western U.S., renowned for the quality of its food and service and for how its Harvey Girls helped to “civilize the American Southwest.”

There are still traces of Fred Harvey at Union Station in Kansas City, and one can still stay at a handful of former Fred Harvey hotels: La Fonda at Santa Fe, New Mexico, La Posada at Winslow, Arizona, and El Tovar and Bright Angel at the Grand Canyon.

I’ve been reading a splendid history of Fred Harvey and his namesake company: Appetite for America by Stephen Fried. A story from late in the company’s history, amidst the Great Depression, sticks out which I want to share with you. By then, the actual Fred Harvey had been dead for decades, but the company remained in the family, who just called it “Fred Harvey” and company policy was to speak as if Fred were still around, running the place:

As the Depression deepened, the Harvey Houses took on a new role in economically ravaged America — they became known as the softest touches in the West, the places where impoverished locals and drifters went in search of a free meal. It was company policy never to let anyone who couldn’t afford to pay leave hungry. Many begged for food at the back door and were pleasantly surprised to get sandwiches, fruit, bread, and coffee. Others came in through the front door.

Bob O’Sullivan, who later became a well-known travel writer, never forgot the hot, dusty fall afternoon in Albuquerque when he was a second grader and his family had to rely on the kindness of strangers in Harvey Girl uniforms. His mother was driving him and his eleven-year-old sister — with all of their belonging stacked high against the backseat windows — to California, where they hoped to meet their father and make a new start. The O’Sullivans had arrived in Albuquerque expecting that $25 — several weeks’ pay — had been wired to them at the Railway Express office. But when his mother walked out of the office in tears, Bob knew the money hadn’t arrived. As she pulled on her driving gloves, the children asked if they could still get something to eat.

She hesitated.

“Of course we can,” she said finally. “We have to, don’t we?”

The lunchroom at the Alvarado

She drove along the railroad tracks to the Alvarado and led her children into the dining room. There were few customers there, but lots of delicious aromas, and every surface was gleaming.

When a smiling Harvey Girl approached them, her puffed sleeves and starched apron rustling, Bob’s mother pulled her aside and whispered something. The waitress walked into the kitchen and returned with a man wearing a suit, to whom his mother also whispered. Then they were led to a table, where Mrs. O’Sullivan began to order sandwiches for the kids and just a cup of coffee for herself — until the man in the suit interrupted her.

“Why don’t you let me order for you?” he said, and proceeded to tell the Harvey Girl to bring hot soup, then the beef stew, mashed potatoes, bread and butter, and coffee for the lady. He asked the children if they wanted milk or hot chocolate.

“Yes, sir,” they both said.

Milk and hot chocolate for the children,” he continued, “and some of the cobbler all around. Does that sound all right?”

“Will that be all?” the waitress asked.

“Oh,” the man said, “and these people are the guests of Mr. Fred Harvey.”

Bob saw his mother mouth the words “Thank you.”

The taste of that stew would stay with him his entire life. As would the memory of what happened when they finished eating. His mother pushed what few coins she had left toward the waitress, who pushed them back with a smile.

Oh, no, ma’am. You’re Mr. Harvey’s guests,” she said, placing two bags in front of them. “And the manager said I was to wrap up what you didn’t eat, so you could take it along.”

But we cleaned out plates,” young Bob blurted out. His sister sighed and looked at him as if he were the dumbest person in the world. Then the Harvey Girl startled giggling, followed by his mother and then the kids.

In the car, Mrs. O’Sullivan opened the bags, and found them filled with more food than they had eaten for dinner.

What’s in them? Bob asked.

Loaves and fishes,” she replied, shaking her head in amazement. “Loaves and fishes.”

When he shared this story in 1989 in a column in the Los Angeles Times, Bob O’Sullivan added:

That evening, [my mother] swapped some of our personal possessions for a tank of gas and a room in an auto court. There was no money at Railway Express the next morning, either, but for some reason things didn’t seem so bleak or so frantic.

As we were passing the Harvey House on the way out of town, my mother pulled to the side of the road for a moment. “Some day,” she said, “when you two grow up I want you to go to a Harvey House and order the most expensive thing on the menu and then I want you to leave a big tip.”

Fred Harvey

In spite of the fact that Fred Harvey’s long gone now and the last Harvey girl is probably married and celebrating her grandchildren or great-grandchildren…I think I’ll check and see if there are any still around.

And if I find one, I’ll stop in, order from the top of the menu and maybe finish with a little cobbler and a cup of coffee. Then I’ll lift my cup: “Here’s to you, Mr. Harvey.”


Posted in books | 3 Comments

Crystal Bridges, Beavers Bend, and a Rainbow

Fall 2019 | Photo Album

Autumn 2019 ends next week, prompting this overview of our trips of the season: a visit to Crystal Bridges over Fall Break, a stay at a cabin in Broken Bow over Thanksgiving, and a quick dash to Fayetteville in early December.

Crystals at Crystal Bridges

During the Fall Break in October, Wendy and I returned to Crystal Bridges Museum in Bentonville, Arkansas. The attraction was a Crystals in Art: Ancient to Today exhibit. Regular readers will know that when we are out on the trails, I’m always climbing to vistas while Wendy has her eyes on the trail to spot crystalline rocks.

The interesting thing about ancient crystal art is its timeless appearance. Unless pieces are mounted in metal with a patina or suffer chips and other damage, the layperson can’t distinguish something manufactured by a Roman artist over a millennium or two ago from something crafted recently. None of the ancient artifacts made much of an impression on me. Some of the modern items, however, more than made up for it.

In 2004 former NASA aerospace engineer Frederick Eversley casted Blue Para, a polyester parabolic lens. I used to teach physics students how spherical lenses and mirrors can focus incoming light towards an area but suffer from smearing through aberration, while parabolic optics can focus light to a pinpoint. As displayed, one could see chromatic aberration around the edges of the light cone striking the stand.

Blue Para

Blue Para

Chromalith II

Chromalith II

In 2019 Alexis Arnold created Untitled (Chromalith II) out of epoxy resin and dichroic film, although the exhibition wall plate misspelled it as dichoric. The thin films create reflections off their front and back surfaces, with wave interference separating white light into interesting colors. That made her piece more interactive, with shifting interference patterns depending on the angle of view, and a stark contrast between the reflections one sees off the piece itself versus the reflection off the stand of the light making it through the layers of film.

Alexis found some boxes of discarded books in her neighborhood and was inspired to turn them into beautifully odd crystal sculptures by treating them with borax. It was fitting that the exhibit featured field guides to rocks and minerals that she has transformed.

Crystalized Field Guides

Rock & Minerals Field Guides

In 2018, Gisela Colon blow-molded acrylic into Morph (Iridescent Platinum) which also changes its appearance depending on one’s viewpoint.

Crystal Football

Crystal football

The exhibit included several works by Daniel Arsham which both Wendy and I found particularly intriguing. He says he creates “fictional archaeology” in his works which draw from pop culture, architecture, and geological forms.

Arsham created familiar sports objects out of blue calcite crystal and hydrostone. There was a column of crystalline blue footballs, with your eye caught both by the familiar exterior texture and the unexpected crystalline structure beneath.

His Blue Calcite Boxing Set was fascinating in how the fabric trunks were rendered in hard crystals, complete with pleated waistband. His deliberately damaged castings seem to me like a blend of the ruins of Pompeii with petrified wood. His choice of monochrome is evidently influenced by his color blindness. I’d love to see more of his work.

Portal Icosahedrons

Portal Icosahedrons

The highlight of the show for me was the Portal Icosahedrons by Anthony James. He created the 20-faced and 30-edged polyhedrons out of steel and glass with LED lights, lining them with half-silvered mirrors. Their scale and being able to view them from all angles was stunning, going beyond a similar two-dimensional work at the Nelson Atkins Museum in Kansas City or similar but small pieces we would see a couple of months later at Art Ventures NWA in Fayetteville.

I’m glad there was a smaller polyhedron alongside the massive one, since that allowed me to peer down from the top while also peering easily into panes to partake of complex reflections from varying angles.

Wendy particularly liked Miya Ando’s Tides, a 2011 assembly of aluminum plates which had been anodized by submerging them in an electrochemical bath and plating them with sapphire crystals, then washing them and mixing in colors, finally placing the plates in a tub of boiling liquid to encase the crystals and dye in the aluminum. The assembly invites you to align yourself, pause, and contemplate. They remind me of a calm ocean at different times of day and night.


Anodized aluminum Tides

Your Luna Nebula by Ólafur Elíasson has partially-silvered crystal spheres which provide an inverted reflection of yourself upon close inspection, but resolve into what might be droplets of water or a starry nebula with distance. I had fun capturing another patron taking a shot of that work with her phone from a vantage point behind another crystal artwork.


Her Luna Nebula

It was a beautiful autumn day outside, and we strolled the grounds. We walked over to the Bachman-Wilson house by Frank Lloyd Wright, but hadn’t purchased tickets for a tour. Knowing Wendy is less interested in Wright houses than I am, I opted to save that for a future visit.

Bachman-Wilson House

Bachman-Wilson House

Little Hikes and Walks

After Fall Break, Wendy and I took advantage of the fall weather to take a couple of short weekend hikes on the Cabin Loop at Osage Hills and the north end of Table Mound at Elk City Reservoir. Another weekend found me trekking around the Lake Loop at Osage Hills. I also enjoyed weekend walks on the Pathfinder Parkway, including a photogenic walk at the Paul Hefty Bird Sanctuary.

Friends of the Parks provides this context:

The Robinwood Park Bird Sanctuary was originated by Paul Hefty in 1977, with approval from the City. From 5 acres of the existing Robinwood Park, Paul transformed forest land into a bird paradise by planting many appropriate food bearing bushes and trees, including deciduous holly, special flowering crabs and berry bushes, plus hickorys, pecans, oaks and walnuts. Over the years he incorporated many types of protective brush for the birds. A wide variety of birds reside here both winter and summer. Paul died in 2008.

Paul Hefty Bird Sanctuary

Paul Hefty Bird Sanctuary

Beavers Bend

Hochatown Cabin

Our cabin at Hochatown

Over Thanksgiving, I rented a cabin at Hochatown in far southeastern Oklahoma. I’d hiked the David Boren Trail at Broken Bow a decade earlier on a hot September day. Thanksgiving would be much colder, but I figured I might lure Wendy out for a hike to a vista I dimly recalled over Mountain Fork River.

Back porch

Our cabin’s comfortable back porch

Our cabin was quite new, having only hosted a few previous visitors. Its best features for us included a gas-fired fireplace and grill on a big back porch, a spacious his-and-hers bathroom combination with tub and shower, and modern stove and oven. The cabin was roomy and airy, but we wished that it had more floor or table lamps and dimmable lights, and the bed wasn’t the most comfortable for sleeping.

After a rainy and overcast five hours of travel south to our cabin, the next day was partly cloudy. We enjoyed a tasty lunch at Steven’s Gap Restaurant, but Wendy had come down with a bad cold, so I limited our outing to the shortest loop to the vista, with us hiking a total of one mile from the Dogwood Campground up to the overlook and back down. I’d researched the route and knew to travel clockwise so we could make our way up the hill via switchbacks and then return down a long steeper descent.

Panorama above Mountain Fork

Panorama above Mountain Fork

It was late for autumn leaves, and the weather pattern this year muted the colors, but the panorama was there as remembered, along with a view down the river.

Thanksgiving Day was overcast with rain, but we had gone shopping in Broken Bow after our hike the previous day. So we enjoyed a hot breakfast with biscuits, bacon, and eggs. I was able to grill us steaks on the back porch, and Wendy prepared baked potatoes in the oven for our main holiday meal.

The next day we indulged in some more pie from Steven’s Gap Restaurant before making our way home. I made a quick dash to visit my folks for a belated Thanksgiving meal in Oklahoma City, with Wendy staying home to be certain her cold wasn’t shared with others. I made sure to bring back to Wendy a salmon patty so that she could participate in our family’s odd Thanksgiving tradition that evolved from my mother’s dislike for turkey and my love of salmon patties!

A Rainbow in Fayetteville

Randy Rainbow Live

Randy Rainbow live in Fayetteville

In early December we made a dash over to Fayetteville, Arkansas to see Randy Rainbow’s live show. He is a YouTube star who does funny musical parodies targeting a particular pompous politician. The show was fun and brought some much-needed humor to this season of impeachment hearings and poisonous politics.


Instagram of my purchases, complete with mistitled print

Before returning to Bartlesville, we stopped in at Art Ventures NWA to see a series of galleries filled with a diverse body of artworks for sale. None of the artists were at work during our visit, but we enjoyed the wide variety of work. I became a snapshot on their Instagram account when I purchased a card by Carol Hart and a print of The Kind Mowers by Eloa Jane.

Eloa had moved to America and been struck by the amount of junk mail filling her mailbox. She decided to use its varied textures, patterns, text, and colors as a means of self expression, rolling pages of magazines, phonebooks, and other items individually into small tubes. Then hundreds or sometimes thousands of the paper tubes are assembled to create decorative vases, sculptures and wall art.

The Kind Mowers

The Kind Mowers

So we’ve had a good autumn. Now, with the air turning nippy, we plan to venture to Santa Fe, New Mexico over Winter Break. Wendy loves the town and its food, and neither of us has ever been there other than in summer. We’ll be bundling up to prepare for some very cold nights on the high desert or, to be more precise, on what the Köppen Climate Classification System designates as a “semi-arid steppe with cold winters” — brrrrr!

Fall 2019 Photo Album

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Western Loop, Days 11-12: Kansas Folk Art

Trip Dates: June 16-18, 2019 | Photo Album

Our return home would be through Kansas. Four years earlier, we had enjoyed seeing Monument Rocks, chalk formations in the middle of nowhere (aka west central Kansas) before driving south and east to return via Dodge City and Wichita. This time we would visit some oddball attractions a few miles off I-70: the Fick Fossil Museum in Oakley and some fun and bizarre folk art venues in Lucas.

One day was just a haul east and south from Denver, CO to Colby, KS. We returned to Oscar’s Bar and Grille for lunch in Limon, surrounded by portraits of movie stars from yesteryear. The kitsch was a welcome relief for me from the monotonous flat landscape of eastern Colorado and Kansas. But Wendy loves the lack of stimulation when traveling through the great plains. She was inspired by our sojourn to paint her own reminder of the landscape.

Wendy’s Kansas landscape

We spent the night at a Sleep Inn in Colby, rising the next morning to drive a few miles to Oakley.

Buffalo Bill outside Oakley, KS

Oakley has erected an outsized statue of Buffalo Bill shooting a buffalo to commemorate the following:

In 1868 William F. Cody, “Buffalo Bill”, made his living as a contract buffalo hunter feeding the crews laying track across Kansas for the Kansas Pacific Railroad.  At the same time William Comstock, who was also sometimes called “Buffalo Bill” hunted buffalo to provide meat to feed the soldiers at Fort Wallace.  To determine who would be the real “Buffalo Bill” a wager was made and a contest was staged west of Oakley in Logan County, Kansas.  The contest was to see which hunter could harvest the most buffalo in one day.  William F. Cody won the contest 69 to 46.  By the turn of the 20th Century, with his Wild West Show, “Buffalo Bill” Cody had become one of the most recognized and famous persons in the entire world.  Cody helped shape the world’s image of the American West.

A monument to slaughter…I suppose you can derive your own meanings from it.

Fick Fossil Folk Art

But we weren’t interested in Buffalo Bill; we were there to see fossil folk art at the Fick Fossil Museum at the town’s library. It had been on our radar since our visit to Monument Rocks, having noted that the museum had fossils from that area.

Back in 1964, Vi Fick looked down at the ground on her ranch near Monument Rocks and noticed 72 shark teeth, deposited millions of years earlier in what was an inland seaway in the Cretaceous period. She and her husband, Earnest, borrowed a beginner’s fossil book from their nephew, and thus began a quest. Vi and Earnest collected 11,000 fossilized sharks’ teeth on their land, along with many vertebrae, fish jaws, shells, and crinoids.

Eagle formed of shark teeth

I’ll admit I am even less interested in shark teeth than in Buffalo Bill. It is what Vi did with the teeth and other fossils that lured us to Oakley. She started combining them with melted wax, papier-mâché, oil paint, and glue to create bizarre folk art. She made eagles, American flags, the Presidential Seal, the State Seal of Kansas, and more. One of the museum curators once commented, “They didn’t have cable back then.” Ha! How delightful that this quirky art was preserved for us to enjoy.

The docent during our visit was a Mennonite lady who pointed out that the museum had a number of beautiful minerals, a sod house, a fire truck, and some large fossils. And yes, their 15-foot Xiphactinus audax is the world’s oldest known mosasaur fossil.

Xiphactinus audax

But as I gazed at the beautiful minerals in their display cases or pondered a turtle skull, my eyes inevitably wandered to linger on paintings of trees where tiny shells formed autumn leaves and to contemplate eagles adorned with feathers of shark dentin.

The Garden of Eden in Lucas, Kansas

Our next stop a few hours deeper into central Kansas proved even more entertaining. We diverted from I-70 north on highway 232 past Wilson Lake to Lucas, a town of less than 400 which happens to be home of S.P. Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden.

Sam Dinsmoor was a Civil War veteran who went on to teach school for five years in Illinois. I can only imagine what his teaching was like given his eccentric creations later in life. He married Frances Barlow Journey, a widow of considerable means, and took up farming, moving to Kansas in 1888. In 1905 he retired and moved into Lucas, buying a quarter block. He constructed a log home, but his logs were made of postrock limestone he had quarried nearby in long narrow lengths up to twenty feet long. The stone was then laid up with dovetailed corners in the manner of a log cabin.

Dinsmoor’s Stone Log Cabin

Once he completed his “cabin home“, Sam set about, at age 66, creating intertwining concrete sculptures. He erected scaffolding and worked alone, save for an assistant who mixed cement. Over a couple of decades, supported in part by a clerical error that resulted in him receiving an extra monthly government pension check, he covered steel reinforcements with chicken wire and 113 tons of cement to form over 150 statues supported by 29 cement trees, standing up to 40 feet high.

Dinsmoor’s Garden of Eden

On the west side Dinsmoor depicted his personal understanding of the Bible. I purchased a copy of the small guide book Dinsmoor published entitled Pictorial History of the Cabin Home in Garden of Eden. It is a hoot. Of his Garden of Eden sign over the grape arbor, he wrote, “I could hear so many, as they go by, sing out, ‘What is this?’ so I put this thing up. Now they can read it, stop or go on, just as they please.” I labeled a photo with some of his explanations about Adam & Eve, the angel of the tree of life and all-seeing eye, Cain & Abel, slain Abel, and fleeing Cain.

Garden of Eden explained by its builder

The north side of the property tells the story of modern civilization, featuring his hatred of trusts and their chartered rights. I enjoyed his sequential tableau of a girl after a soldier, who is after an Indian, who is after a dog, which is after a fox after a bird after a worm eating a leaf. Dinsmoor said, “This shows how one animal is after another down to the leaf.”

North side of Dinsmoor’s creation

I fashioned a photo identifying his north side sculptures and their intended meanings from his guidebook, and we got close-ups of a trust monster, how Liberty and the ballot could destroy the trusts, and how labor is crucified by grafters led by lawyers, doctors, preachers, and bankers, who “eat cake by the sweat of the other fellow’s face. The Lawyer interprets the law. The Doctor has his knife and saw ready to carve up the bones. The Preacher is saying to this poor fellow crucified, ‘Never mind your suffering here, secure home in heaven for A-l-l E-t-e-r-n-i-t-y and you’ll be all right.’ This is the stuff he is giving Labor for his cake. He knows nothing about Eternity and that he does know if he knows anything. What fools we be to sweat to give the other fellow cake. The Banker has the money, takes the interest and breaks up more people than any other class.”

Crucified labor

In the spring of 1917 the first Mrs. Dinsmoor died. Left alone while immersed in the construction of the Garden, Dinsmoor hired a young Czechoslovakian woman named Emilie Brozek as a housekeeper. When Emilie was twenty years old she married the 81-year-old Dinsmoor, and the marriage produced two children. In his guidebook, he proudly included a photo of their daughter, Emily Jane, who grew up to become a music teacher and passed in 2013, with a portion of her ashes now inside the Dinsmoor Family Mausoleum at the Garden of Eden.

Sam was interred in that large stone log cabin mausoleum in a coffin with a plate glass lid. His will directed that none but his widow, descendants, and their husbands and wives should go in to see him for less than $1.00. He promised everyone that came in to see him that if he saw them drop a dollar in the hand of the “flunky” (who oversaw the mausoleum), he would give them a smile. It looked more like a grimace to me on his decayed corpse. Before his death, he posed inside and outside his coffin in a double-exposed photograph he sold on postcards.

Dinsmoor Mausoleum

According to Jo Farb Hernández, after Sam died in 1932, Emilie allowed tours of the house and grounds until 1941, when she moved out of state to seek employment. The property was eventually sold for back taxes, and the house was subdivided into apartments. For many years the site remained unkempt and vines covered the sculptures. In 1967, the owners of a Lucas hardware company, Wayne and Louella Naegle, and a local banker, Rex Dewey, purchased the Garden of Eden and restored it. The Naegles later purchased Dewey’s share; through their efforts the site was listed in 1977 on the National Register of Historic Places. In 1989, the Naegles sold the Garden of Eden to a small group of preservationists devoted to the site. In 2012, the Kohler Foundation sponsored an extensive preservation of the Garden of Eden.

The experience of touring the house, walking about the yard, and glimpsing Sam Dinsmoor’s corpse in his coffin was suitably weird. I was thinking we would head on to our hotel in Salina when Wendy spotted a sign about an art center in the tiny downtown a few blocks west. Boy howdy, we had no idea what was still to come.

Grassroots Art Center

The Grassroots Art Center​ “curates permanent and temporary exhibits of art work from over 22 self-taught, outsider, visionary yard environments from across the Midwest. Usually these artists are over 65 years of age when they begin to create and continue for 15-25 years until they die. They use all types of recycled materials such as metal, cardboard, aluminum pull tabs, wood, computer motherboards, electrical wire, and even chewing gum.”

Pull-tab art by Herman Divers

We came in the middle of a tour and were welcome. Favorites of mine included the pull-tab art of Herman Divers of Topeka, who constructed his models in the evenings after his day job. He’d work on his pull-tabs each evening until one broke to tell him it was time to quit for the day. He first made a bedspread and then a full-size automobile in his living room (with removable wheels to take it outside). A complete suit of clothing followed and a motorcycle constructed of 179,200 pull-tabs.

When pull-tabs became obsolete, Herman turned to covering objects with buttons and creating sculptural models of copper scrap and wire. We also saw many carvings of Kansas limestone by Inez Marshall, who was an auto mechanic, truck driver, and traveling evangelist. She carved in stone for five decades. There was also a fun game by John Woods where you touched a contact pen to nails beside various items to light up visual puns.

Post rock art

Outside they exhibit some steampunk pieces along with various limestone carvings and architectural forms from 1870-1920 carved from post rock limestone. One of my Kansas cousins crafted from the same material the “Meador stones” planted near the front doors of Meador Manor in Bartlesville as well as my parents’ home in Oklahoma City. This summer Wendy tackled the peeling paint on our stone, grinding away the old paint and renewing it.

The post rock stone at Meador Manor

Florence Deeble Rock Garden and House

Our delightful tour guide, who worked for the postal service to make ends meet, walked us over to Florence Deeble’s house. Florence grew up watching S.P. Dinsmoor constructing his Garden of Eden. In 1935, the schoolteacher began using postcards and drawings to help her craft miniature scenes of places she had visited or read about.  She created stone-inlaid bridges, columns, towers, altars, and cactus plants, using rocks brought back from her travels and her memories and imagination to craft her impressions of Utah’s Capitol Reef National Park and Lucas Lake, the view from her cabin at Estes Park, Colorado plus a Kansas Mount Rushmore, and more. She also crafted somewhat bizarre tributes to local historical figures. Florence labored on her garden for almost 50 years until she passed at age 99 in 1999.

Florence Deeble’s recreation of the view from her cabin in Estes Park

Mri-Pilar’s Garden of Isis

The front yard featured artistic conglomerations, and inlays adorned the porch. But when our guide led us inside the house, we were taken aback. Since 2002, artist Mri-Pilar has sheathed the walls and ceilings with silver insulation and covered the walls in bizarre and hilarious collages which often use doll parts. It looked like Barbie had mated with aliens. The living room featured a mannequin dominatrix and/or goddess who had enchained various Marvel character dolls on the floor. It is quite a knockout.


Wendy and I were entranced, slowly pacing along in wonderment at the hilarious and disturbing creations. She enjoyed seeing circuit boards, something she is quite familiar with from Chromebook repairs, repurposed into folk art. The bathtub and sink were filled with dolls. We loved it! What a wonderful find in an unexpected location.

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Dazed, we were led to nearby home where a skeletal figure was sitting on the porch and a window on the side of the house afforded a glimpse of other artistic creations. But the resident kitty bounded up to the window glass to look back at us peering in, favoring us with his attention. The reflection in my shot looks like a double exposure which will help us recall our friendly guide and the wonderful grassroots art of Lucas, Kansas.

Diving into art in Lucas, KS

It was late, but when we made our way back to the museum, the docent insisted on showing us some pieces we had missed when we arrived mid-tour even though it was past closing time. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves and will be back someday so we can hopefully take in the World’s Largest Collection of the World’s Smallest Versions of the World’s Largest Things and other attractions. In keeping with the artwork around a telephone pole in front of the Grassroots Art Center, Lucas really made a splash!

That stop was the perfect ending to our adventure, showing how the monotonous prairie landscape can be enlivened with quirky folk art. We spent the night in Salina and then drove home to Bartlesville, all the richer because we veered off the interstate to actually see something.

Photo Gallery

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