A Baffling Situation

You know what?

I don’t get it.

How can “Hillary was a crook!” be justification for President Trump’s behavior and words while in office?

Ok. Let me state that I didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton. I also didn’t vote for Donald Trump. Hillary is way too controversial and I wasn’t sure I could trust her with my country. And Trump? He’s so dirty and corrupt, whoring himself for a corporate dollar that if I think about him too long I feel like I need to take a shower.

I voted third party, because I believe firmly that I won’t put my name to something I don’t believe in. Including presidential candidates.

If Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders would have been the Democratic nominee, I would have happily voted for either.

But that never happened. Yet.

So. Back to my earlier state of bafflement. After listening (often to my dismay) to the Trumpettes for the last couple of years, I am beginning to see a pattern. I’m still dubious… can it really be this simple?

You see, I know several people who are die-hard Trumpettes. And nearly every time I hear more than “Hello” from any of them, they are ranting about how bad Hillary and “Hussein Obama” are.

But.

How can anyone compare actual behavior to something never actually happened? Sure, you may not like what Hillary and Obama did in the past. But that is in the past, which you can’t change. And you can try to predict how someone might act in a given situation, but the truth is that Hillary Clinton is not the president. She was never put in some of the situations that Trump has been in the last two years and we have no empirical evidence or proof of what Hillary did in these situations BECAUSE SHE HASN’T BEEN IN THEM. Therefore, she cannot be compared to the job Trump is doing. The comparison simply is a moot point.

But the comparison is a distraction from the truth. It is an excuse. They KNOW Trump is corrupt. They KNOW Trump lies. But, just like those who deny the human influences of climate change (which many are), the Trumpettes are not ready to admit they are ashamed of their voting behavior or their part in our present situation. There were other conservative and/or Republican candidates who were on the ballot earlier in the process. But people didn’t do their homework. They just voted for the squeakiest wheel.

And why can’t we hold Trump accountable against the golden rule, regardless of any prior politician or office holder? Why not hold him to some higher standard of behavior, say, like NOT lying about how forest fires behave? We have a century or more of empirical data on how forest fires behave – and what causes them – all over the western U.S. And yet, Trump consistently gets facts wrong.

It’s my theory that he doesn’t care about the truth. He’s out to make a dollar and he will say anything to get his little plebian army riled up. These are not people that will ever read a scientific article on forest fires to begin with, so why should Trump need to get his facts straight? None of his little plebes will ever fact check him.

Now that I think about it, do the plebes even care what he says? Do they really care about the example being set from the highest office in our country? They must not. This is why our allies around the world are red with embarrassment and are finding it easier to mock a once-great nation.

We can change this trend, but it will take a supreme amount of humility on the part of the Trumpettes.

Trump will make more money making people scared and mad than he ever will actually solving a problem. And they’ll be so content blaming Hillary Clinton for their lot in life that they won’t actually ever take responsibility for their vote or what is actually happening in the world, much less their lack knowledge that allowed them to be gullible enough to believe Trump in the first place.

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Doggie

Parks are like small cities, and just about any aspect of city life will happen in some form in a park.

Love? Have you seen the abundance of proposal pictures set amidst the backdrops of America’s most iconic landscapes? Eating, drinking, sleeping, should be obvious – for humans as well as wildlife. How about bathroom cleaning and garbage trucks collecting refuse? You *might* have to get to a visitor center early in the morning, but I can promise those happen things happen too.

So it doesn’t shock me that we have an abandoned dog roaming out site. Rangers find animals, especially dogs, many times a year in most parks. Abandoned pets in the National Parks are not a rare occurrence.

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Our present situation involves a female sheep dog. She doesn’t have a collar, but it is a female. She has figured out that a good place to spend the night is the patch of grass under the picnic table outside of our maintenance building. She is very skittish and generally doesn’t approach people. She runs away when we try to talk to her, but comes back after a while. Mostly, she stands at a distance of maybe 15-20 feet and barks a lot. She wags her tail readily, but will not approach. I think she is scared, as if she is used to a bit of abuse.

We have a couple of local sheep ranchers who have many such dogs. To them, these dogs are tools. They are left outdoors with the sheep (which is to be expected), but what I didn’t quite understand is that these dogs are NOT fed. The dogs learn to hunt smaller mammals like rabbits or squirrels for food if they are to survive. And if the female dogs get pregnant, or any dog gets too old or injured to keep up with the flock, the dog is simply abandoned wherever.

A tool that is no longer useful is thrown away.

Sounds just like any other aspect of our throw-away society.

Except is it?

The dog showed up on our property a couple of weeks ago. Some time after a certain rancher moved more than 600 head of sheep from BLM-managed grazing land, through the national monument (where I work), out to the county road for pick up and transport elsewhere. One of the days this flock movement occurred, I watched for a little bit. There were cowboys on horseback and four dogs running around.

So is our new friend one of that pack? Well, I didn’t get pictures that day. I called the ranchers on the sheep permit to see if they lost a dog. I called – and left voice mail messages – twice, in my professional capacity from my office. No one ever called me back.

Park staff – and a local hunter on his way to finding elk on BLM lands – snapped a few pictures and posted on the local town’s Facebook group. Our staff didn’t mention names in our postings, as we didn’t have 100% proof of where the dog came from. However, when the hunter made his post on Facebook, people responded to it saying that the dog belonged to the same rancher we suspected. Again, that particular family never responded to the Facebook posts either.

This time, people suggested the dog looked either like she was pregnant or had just whelped. We haven’t seen signs of any pups, but she makes a daily trek up the park road about 7:30 a.m. and is back in the maintenance yard by about Noon. Every day.

Some of my readers might wonder why we don’t call the local animal control or the county sheriff. The latter has said he can’t help, since the dog hasn’t harmed anyone, and we don’t have a local animal control. This is rural Wyoming. My NPS unit is small enough that we do not have a law enforcement ranger on staff (although Grand Teton said they’d send down and LE ranger if there was an actual incident where the dog became aggressive towards anyone), and the local BLM agent is too busy with hunting season. Tranquilization is a possibility, but one that we’d like to avoid is possible, since the dog isn’t aggressive.

One of our park staff thinks the dog was abandoned and the family won’t claim it because they don’t want the responsibility. He pointed out that when a sheep gets left behind and we call about it, the rancher never comes back. They just declare a loss and expect the BLM to compensate them. Whatever happens to the sheep or cows? We see them wandering for days or weeks. Either they die or some lucky person comes in the middle of the night for a free bit of livestock. (You can imagine how I feel about that program that offers payment for lack of responsibility.)

Anyway, so we have Doggie now taking up residence in our maintenance yard. No one will claim her. We have one man from town who has rescued other dogs in past situations that were similar. Problem is that Doggie is scared and won’t approach people. She just runs away. We are trying to train her that people can be nice – several of us have successfully left food on the ground that she eventually gobbles down.

Yesterday was my turn. I have never had a pet, and my current apartment lease does not allow pets, so she won’t be mine. However, my heart went out to her. She seems like she wants to talk to people and be around people, but she’s scared. Like really scared. I really do think she was treated badly at some point. So yesterday, after the morning snowstorm passed through, I drove out to the park and brought her some food. A container of leftover pizza crusts with cheese and a bag of Beggin’ Strips (which my parents’ dog LOVES). I figured yummy treats were going to be tasty and win me a few points with Doggie.

She was lying under the porch of park housing next door, but immediately got up and ran behind maintenance when I pulled my car in the driveway. I approached the maintenance yard through the open gate near the back so as not to unlock the front gate (since Saturday is outside of business hours). She ran to the back of the building, and then back out through the gate as I followed her route around maintenance. Eventually, I just held my ground and she circled back, standing at a distance of maybe 30 feet for a good five minutes. I tried talking to her the whole time.

I opened my container of pizza crusts and tossed one on the ground in between us. She didn’t move. After a while, I guess she learned I wasn’t going to hurt her. I was standing right next to the picnic table where she slept. I tossed a second piece of pizza crust on the ground. She still didn’t go after it. But when I got the third one close enough to her (she had walked a bit towards me), she sniffed it and ate it in one bite. I walked a few steps and picked up the crusts from the ground. I tossed one closer to her and she ate it. I did the same with a Beggin Strip. She really liked that treat. So I crumbled up a second strip and sprinkled the pieces on the ground in front of me. She sniffed around and got the bigger pieces. Then she ate another piece of crust. Finally, I left another Beggin Strip on the picnic bench next to me. She came up and snatched it, but moved back about 10 feet to eat it. Then she sniffed around in the grass until she found the last few crumbs from earlier.

She never came close enough that I could pet her. (She did take one milk bone from the rescue guy on Friday before running away from him too.) We don’t know if she’s sick – rabies is always a possibility out here – but she isn’t aggressive towards us. Quite the opposite. She has a tiny limp, but she obviously walks a lot, even around our property. I kind of wonder if the puppy situation is a possibility. Who knows?

I didn’t go out to work today, so I don’t know today’s action. I think one of my coworkers was going to try to give her a snack today. Tomorrow (Monday), the guy who rescues dogs is going to come back out and try to feed her again. We’re hoping that if she learns to trust us, we’ll eventually be able to get her to a vet to get checked out and adopted.

Writing Prompt: A Silly Thing You’d Like

The first thing that came to my mind is a brightly-patterned Hermes scarf. A real silk scarf with teals and black, like this.

An Hermes scarf is a fashion statement to many people around the world. But perhaps not the most silly of objects.

Soft? Yes – it is cashmere and silk after all. Bright? Yes. A statement? Do I need to answer that last one?

Today it is silly because, as I write this, I am cuddled in flannel sheets and a quilt made by my mom’s best friend. When I go to work tomorrow, in rural Wyoming, I will be wearing a uniform and look similar to all of my coworkers. (Some might argue here that a National Park Service uniform is a statement unto itself, but that is a topic for another day.) I will bring a lunch to work that is leftovers from yesterday’s dinner because where am I going to find take out around here? I will talk my coworkers through a plan to replace significantly outdated computers and software that might just be an IT security threat, even though Congress refuses to give us the resources we need to do the jobs they assign. I will do this last bit while still keeping in mind that the current administration hates public lands and wants to do away with us despite record numbers of visitors to NPS sites all over the country.

I walk a tightrope at work (we all do in the parks).

But, as I was telling my coworker Kim the other day, there is a little part of me that dreams about being a writer in New York City. I think that side of me has always been there, even if I have never been to New York, and I am considering trashing 90% of the 56,000 words I wrote towards my first novel earlier this year.

I think the Hermes scarf is a symbol…. A sort of milestone to be earned when I retire from one career and move on to the next. A little bit of luxury reminding me of what I have accomplished.

The Antiquities Act of 1906 (part 1): Why and What?

A friend recently posted a video of Glenn Beck reacting to Patagonia’s campaign against President Trump’s reduction of the Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments. The purpose of this series of blog posts is not to argue with Mr. Beck and his followers. Merely, I wish to present a few historical and contextual facts that Mr. Beck left out of his tirade. It would behoove all of us to do a bit more research before giving credence to his words; he is, after all, merely a member of the media, paid for his ability to create shock and outrage among conservatives. From what I can tell, he does this job very well. However, he leaves out information that does not support his arguments. I have to break up my thoughts into multiple blog posts, simply to help me keep my thoughts straight and simple(r).

Native American cultures have lost a lot. And because history textbooks were generally written by the “winners” of wars, campaigns, events, etc., some facts are actually not represented and have been lost to time. It is these facts and perspectives that will give us a more complete view of history. It is this ignored or lost information we must seek. Often times, the truth is somewhere between the two perspectives.

Please feel free to explore the links I have provided and please read the full texts of these historic documents.

What is a National Monument?

According to the Antiquities Act, “…historic landmarks, historic and prehistoric structures, and other objects of historic or scientific interest that are situated upon the lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States to be national monuments, and may reserve as a part thereof parcels of land, the limits of which in all cases shall be confined to the smallest area compatible with proper care and management of the objects to be protected.”

However, what this DOESN’T acknowledge is the tie Native American tribes have to the land itself. Far more than the “European” or “Near Eastern” cultures that arrived here within the last 300 years, at least from my perspective. “Objects to be protected” is misleading verbiage to me as the land itself is often the object which cultures want preserved.

But… Why?

Of note is the first part of the Antiquities Act (conveniently not mentioned in Mr. Beck’s video), which states, “…any person who shall appropriate, excavate, injure, or destroy any historic or prehistoric ruin or monument, or any object of antiquity, situated on lands owned or controlled by the Government of the United States, without the permission of the Secretary of the Department of the Government having jurisdiction over the lands on which said antiquities are situated, shall, upon conviction, be fined in a sum of not more than five hundred dollars or be imprisoned for a period of not more than ninety days, or shall suffer both fine and imprisonment, in the discretion of the court.”

From my reading, this actual first clause of the act really hits on why the act was proposed and eventually passed. I say ‘eventually’ because the origins of the Antiquities Act (as a piece of legislation) started almost 25 years earlier – well before Teddy Roosevelt was in the White House.

A combination of archeologists, scientists and concerned citizens, interested in studying and preserving historic sites and artifacts abroad started to turn to reports of pueblos and diminishing settlements and cultures in what would become the southwestern United States, specifically the states of Arizona and New Mexico. In 1882, Senator George Frisbie Hoar of Massachusetts, along with (what is now known as) the New England Historic Genealogical Society, presented to the U.S. Senate a document outlining why the nation should preserve and study sites and artifacts associated with Native Americans:

“…that these remaining are the remnants of very ancient races in North America whose origin and history lie yet unknown in their decayed and decaying antiquities; that many of their towns have been abandoned by the decay and extinction of their inhabitants; that many of their relics have already perished and so made the study of American ethnology vastly more difficult; that the question of the origin of those Pueblos and the age of their decayed cities, and the use of some of their buildings, now magnificent ruins, constitute one of the leading and most interesting problems of the antiquary and historian of the present age; that relic-hunters have carried away, and scattered wide through America and Europe the remains of these extinct towns, thus making their historic study still more difficult, and, in some particulars, nearly impossible; that these extinct towns, the only monuments or interpreters of these mysterious races, are now daily plundered and destroyed in a most vandal way…” (For the full text of this document visit the the NPS history of the Antiquities Act or, better yet, go through the archives of the New England History Genealogical Society.)

So where do we draw the line? The history of the United States, as it applies to events and actions upon this continent, is inextricably linked to the decimation of cultures other than those of European descent. I am not placing blame on past U.S. citizens, merely just pointing out that we, as a nation, have contributed to destroying the history of our continent often before we had a chance to learn from said history.

And who was it who said, “Those who don’t understand history are doomed to repeat it,”? (Actually, I believe that quote comes in many forms from many sources. )

Mr. Beck may not like how many acres have been set aside, but the legislation predates Roosevelt by several presidents. Congress just simply didn’t pass the legislation until more pots were hunted and structures were destroyed.

For further research, I recommend the following sites and organizations. From my reading, the National Park Service is actually the newest of these groups, and the collective histories of these groups are somewhat intertwined. Also do some reading on the explorations and studies of John Wesley Powell, Adolph Bandelier, and Lewis Henry Morgan, among many, many others.

  1. National Park Service Archeological Program: The Antiquities Act  https://www.nps.gov/history/archeology/pubs/lee/index.htm
  2. The New England Historic Genealogical Society  https://www.americanancestors.org/index.aspx
  3. The Archeological Institute of America https://www.archaeological.org/
  4. The American Anthropological Association http://www.americananthro.org/

 

Up Next: The First National Monument and The Great Multi-Use Debate

Mansplaining or Dental Work. Which is worse?

Ok, so I’m going to disappoint you because I really can’t tell you which of these horrid phenomena is worse.

Let me say up front that I generally try to work hard and pay my bills. I have some rather expensive dental work I keep putting off simply because I can’t afford it. I’m still paying off my dental work from November of 2015. I inherited my mother’s teeth and jaws. And they have really bad problems – and stiffness now. It’s odd. The joint pain is more like stiffness some days. Can you get arthritis in your jaws? Does it result from TMJ? (I have had osteoarthritis in both knees and both ankles since I was very young.)

Anyway, I am trying to find a way to consolidate my debt and move forward so I can (yippee!) get more dental work done.

Yesterday, I had to listen to a banker lecture me on how he was ‘on my side’. And he didn’t like my ideas. So I walked out of the bank I’ve used for more than 12 years with no satisfactory answers or timeframes.

Did he want my business? I’m rather doubtful. And I’m not sure I want to listen to the patronizing mansplaining any more.

The real kicker is my current credit score is 736. Which is, as I understand it, pretty decent.

I guess I’ll deal with the pain for a little while longer.

What’s Blooming This Weekend?

So here’s my species list for this past weekend in Rocky Mountain National Park:

  • Loco Weed
  • Golden Banner
  • Beardless Sidebells Penstemon
  • Clustered Penatemon
  • Marsh Marigold
  • (Narrowleaf) Red Paintbrush
  • Yellow Paintbrush
  • Elderberry
  • Gooseberry
  • Serviceberry
  • Wax Current (already setting fruit)
  • Blanketflower
  • Sulfurflower
  • Blue Iris
  • Shrubby Cinquefoil
  • Beauty Cinquefoil
  • American Bistort
  • Chickweed
  • Yellow Sweetclover
  • Wallflower
  • Calypso Orchid
  • Bedstraw
  • Strawberry
  • Short Style Onion
  • Shooting Star
  • Blue-eyed grass
  • Yellow Stonecrop
  • Bladderpod or Draba
  • Sheepsorrel
  • Richardson Geranium
  • Pink Geranium
  • Primrose
  • Parry’s Harrbell
  • Leafy Cinquefoil
  • Heartleaf Arnica
  • Raspberry
  • Chokecherry
  • Yarrow
  • Pearly Everlasting
  • Alpine Forget-me-not
  • Alpine Avens
  • Alpine Primrose
  • Alpine Phlox
  • Lanceleaf Chiming Bells
  • Moss Campion
  • Dwarf Clover
  • Fendler Meadowrue (male plant recorded)

There are a few others. I am confident I am forgetting a few.

Next week we should see the Alpine Sunflowers (Old Man of the Mountain) start to bloom. I saw lots of buds today!

A Wildflower Nerd’s Dream

Penstemon

Ok, so here is a dream project…. Republishing the taxonomic key to the flora of Rocky Mountain National Park.

Yes, I know how nerdy that sounds.

Don’t be a hater.

The late Betty Willard has become a hero to me. She knew, I mean she was an expert on, the flora of Rocky’s mountains and valleys. Her book, written with Linda and Richard Beidleman and published in 2000 (now out of print) by the Rocky Mountain Nature Association is, itself, an updated version of a much older taxonomic key, this time with several hundred photos and line drawings.

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Many of us know a birder…. That dedicated seeker with binoculars that travels hundreds of miles just to add another species to their life list. (Admittedly, I know several.) I will never admit to that level of craziness, but I certainly have a life list of North American wildflowers. 

And helping me build that list is Betty Willard. I wish I could have known her and picked her brain while on a few hikes. Even today, after all these years, I found a couple of plants that were difficult to ID, even using her key. Perhaps they aren’t native. At least one is a lily of some sort, I am pretty sure, and she includes dandelions in her key, which are not native, so I am curious about what I found.

What really makes me curious is the fact that I think I know the lily… from other parks, maybe, or similar species… but why would it not be included here? The closest species I could find in her key is one that apparently likes shade. My plant was smack in full sun in the middle of Moraine Park. It was hidden in the grass, so perhaps it had a bit of shade. But not really. Generally a fairly hot meadow, except early in the spring right after mud season (or during mud season) – which is what we are nearly ending right now. 

I know it sounds totally nerdy, but to find something that Betty Willard might not have included makes my flower-loving heart skip a beat. A few years ago, a fellow interpretive ranger at Rocky Mountain told me that she considered Willard’s work the best for the park in our field. 

Pun intended, sort if.

So it has become a bucket list item for me, ever since I was told that republishing Willard’s work was cost-prohibitive for the folks who proposed it during the park’s centennial in 2015.

I have, perhaps, 200 species photographed in the park. And the ecological and ethnobotanical ramifications of said species. But in this age of low attention spans, the “I want it now!!!” mentality, and “Why does that matter?” attitude, I can see how the project can easily be cost-prohibitive. 

And it breaks my heart, for the following reasons:

  1. Fewer people are getting to know these majestic mountains as I (and the Betty Willards of the world) know them,
  2. Fewer people are connecting to their parks as I have,
  3. And science – and attention to detail – are going by the proverbial wayside. 

So it will still be on my bucket list, to expose this amazing land to future generations through the plants that produce the very oxygen, water and soil we rely upon. And publish a taxonomic key while I am at it.

Screw the smart phones. Let’s go find a Pedicularis.

This is one happy nerd on a mission.