Sunday, November 8, 2009

Chaco Canyon

Oct. 3, 2009
For many years, one of my favortie places has been Chaco Canyon. I've taken most of my children there for one-on-0ne adventures, and I was pleased when my good friend, Keith wanted to stop by there as we were driving home from Albuquerque.
One thing new: Apparently a smallish herd of elk wandered into the canyon a few years ago and have never left.
We camped in the Park Svc. campground and when I had trouble sleeping, I listened to elk bugling in the remote parts of the canyon. I asked several people if they'd heard them and they hadn't. Sound sleepers, I guess, but in all fairness the elk were a long way away and I wouldn't have heard them over the sounds of daytime.

We were at a ruin at the bottom of the canyon and this photo includes a stairway (partially circled) cut by the Anasazis to make it easier to reach the top of the surrounding cliff. There are quite a few of these stairways scattered around the canyon and they are part of the Anasazi road system radiating out from Chaco to their communities as far away as Mesa Verde. One of the Anasazi mysteries is why they built graded roads 15-20' wide when they had no vehicles, no beasts of burden, and only primitive tools. It is amazing to contemplate how much labor they spent building these roads, buildings, and stairs, with only stone tools. Why did they do it?

Pueblo Bonito is the impressive ruin in almost all photos of Chaco Canyon. One of the treats of a tour of Pueblo Bonita is that you can go deep into the ruin and enter this room that is completely intact. You can see how the Anasazi built the multi-story buildings - Rock walls with embedded logs to support the floor of the room above.
The Anasazi carried these logs by hand more than 60 miles from where they were felled!

We decided to take the 6.3 mile hike to Jackson Stairs, the only official trail at Chaco I've never hiked before.

To get to the top of the canyon rim, a path leads up a steep slope over fallen rocks and scree, then into a cleft in the rock. In this photo, I am about half way through the cleft, as we exchanged photos ops.

I stayed put while Keith passed me and here he is, just emerged into the sunlight near the top. The rock to the right has separated from the cliff. The debris at the bottom of the cleft is slowly forcing it away from the cliff and may someday push it right on over.

Here is Keith coming up the final stretch to the top of the mesa. I passed him to take this photo and he is only a few feet beyond where he was in the previous photo. The inside of the cleft in the rock is so deep it's almost dark. The nicest thing is it's very cool - a pleasant relief after a hot, sweaty hike in the sun.

I've been intrigued by this spot for many years. It was not mentioned in any Park Service pamphlets, signs, etc. until just recently. It now has a sign, "pecked basins". There are two basins here and there are more scattered around the canyon in random, remote locations - all on canyon rims. Nobody knows why. The one in the foreground is about 5" deep (the photo can trick your eyes into thinking it is sticking up, but it is a basin) and 14-15" in diameter. It was difficult to get both basins in one photograph without some aid, so I set my water bottle in the far one to make it stand out better.

Jackson Stairway

Keith is sitting at the top of this stairway. It is interesting in that there are hand holes at each side of each step. It is a mystery why the Anasazi made their stairways so wide. Some are 8 feet wide, these are about 3-4. The bottom of the stair was on rock that has since sloughed off, so now it kind of disappears, re-appears, and then is gone for the bottom 20'.

This is the view from the side. You can just see the steps extending down from the rock. Keith is standing on the rim a little farther along.

I sat on the rock at the top of the stairs and pointed the camera straight down, past my foot. As you can see, this is no house staircase - it is STEEP!

As you hike along the mesa, there is a layer in the stone where it looks like re-bar is weathering out of concrete. It turns out that they are the remains of where ancient shrimp tunneled in the mud of an ancient sea bed. The tunnels filled with minerals and it all hardened as you see here next to Keith's hand. The red pebbles are pieces of the tubes. Most of the tubes are about 1/2" in diameter. These are a little larger, and in one place we found one that was about 18" in diameter, but I don't think that one was a shrimp.

We had to go through this narrow chute when going from one mesa level to a lower one . Keith is struggling to get his boot past the other - you know, like, taking a step. I had a difficult time, too, but Keith's feet are several sizes larger than mine and he really had a tough time getting through it. It didn't help that we'd been hiking for a while and we were both getting kind of beat by then.

View from the top looking down at one of the ruins. The round things are Kivas and they originally had log and earth roofs. Current pueblos have a kiva for each clan, and they use them for religious, social, ceremonial, and other things. I think they are just cozy places to gather, kind of like foyers in LDS churches.

A native of Chaco Canyon.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A handsome devil

Something Angela said while I was there last week made me think I should post this old flyer from my college days. My second year at BYU, my roommate at Helamon Halls was a photographer, named Roddie Willis. He had a part-time gig with the "program bureau" which did publicity for campus events other than classes. One morning he asked me to get dressed in my Cougar Band blazer and turtle-neck so he could photograph me. We went down to the old Smith Fieldhouse, which was all set up for the weekly devotional, with the fancy podium with the seal of BYU on it standing on a dais in the center of the basketball court. I was kind of nervous about it, because I didn't think I belonged up there, but I stood there for about 20 minutes while Roddie took photographs from all angles. This is the photo he chose for the flyer. I had no idea what he needed the photograph for, but next thing I knew my pretty face was posted all over campus. I would have gone, just to see what it was all about, but I didn't have $15 to spare. That was a lot of money in those days, when I spent my summers working for $1.25 per hour.

BTW, this was the year before I met Liz.

Great Grandparents are great

A few years ago I was contacted by a lady named Ann Carrington in Kentucky. She was interested in Sparks genealogy and had a photo. She knew the people in it, but not which was which. I immediately recognized that the man on the right had to be an Ashurst. We now have them all ID'ed.
From left to right, they are:

Julia Sparks, who died in 1938, which dates this photo.
Edward Bailey Sparks, Great Grandma's brother.

Joseph William Ashurst, Great Grandpa.
Alice Cochrane Sparks Ashurst, Great Grandma.

When I told him I was bringing the photo above, Dad dug up photos of his grandparents. He didn't recognize his Grandpa in the photo because he said his Grandpa always wore a beard when he remembers him, but he had a photo of him at a young age.

This is the only photo Dad could find of his grandfather.
It's a little difficult to see this young man in the photo above, but the shape of his face is the same.

This is his grandmother, as he remembered her. And is there any doubt that is her standing next to her husband? No! It is very clear.

It's kind of fun to find out things about your distant ancestors. It's like finding old friends.
It seems that the Sparks family left Kentucky right after the Civil War, including Alice and her new husband, and they all settled in Brown County, Texas. The Sparks parents returned to Kentucky after a short time, but Grt-Grandpa and his family stayed, working closely with Grt-Grandma's brother, at least for a while.

Friday, September 11, 2009

I have a new truck

I've been using my Jeep Liberty CRD for my handyman business for the last year. I love the Jeep, but it stinks for a handyman business because you have to have ALL the tools you might need for any job with because you don't know what people think a handyman does, and have to be ready for anything. And I hate that a used paint brush tumbled out of a can and landed paint-side down on the back seat a while back, turning my good seats a shade of primer red.

So I decided to get a pickup. As I researched prices I noticed a "utility bed" pickup and decided it is for me. They come in various sizes, but most are on the big pickups. They have steel boxes on the sides and a smaller bed . Many have ladder racks, generators, etc. permanently mounted. I researched them a lot and got pre-approved for an auto loan of up to $16k to get a used one. I found that the ones I like are available for around $12k from truck dealers. But then I noticed one that said the truck had been a government truck so it was well maintained. No comment on the well-maintained thing, but it suddenly struck me, "Where do they get a government truck?" Then it hit me, they get them from government auctions, and anybody can bid in those auctions, unlike the dealer-controlled used car auctions where they only let dealers in.

The fed. gov. auctions their cars off in live auctions and there is one scheduled in Dallas next week. Sadly, there aren't any utility bed trucks in that auction. Joe learned what I was doing and he sent me links to some other auctions, including one where they do internet auctions of city and utility company surplus items. That's where I noticed a util. bed truck being sold by the city of Allen, which is just down the road from us. I got myself signed up for the auction and bid on a 2001 F-250 truck and I won the auction! I got this beauty for $5605.00 :

My plan is to spend a couple hundred to install cruise control, a couple hundred to re-upholster the front seat, and $3-400 to paint the back, which is older than the rest of the truck. I may also have to do some repairs, but I won't know about that until next week some time. After all that, I'll get it titled, licensed, and taxed, and have a nice truck for thousands less than I'd have paid for it retail.

On the plus side, those safety light bars are of no use to me, so I'll sell them to offset some of my expense.

This auction thing is fun! It makes me want to get another one and make some money.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Ruth's graduation from A&M 08/ 12-14 /2009

Standing on the school seal

The Convocation. Each college has a flag. While waiting for the program to start we spent time discussing - no, guessing which college goes with which flag.

The graduate association's truck makes a patriotic backdrop. There was a line of grad's waiting to pose here.

Mom and Dad get to share in the glory.

Ruth struggles to open her graduation gift from her mother.

She finally gets it open. Liz made the blanket from squares of A&M logo material and A&M color, interspersed with denim.

Our honor graduate, diploma in hand, in front of some of the flags of the countries whose citizens were graduating that day.

We had some difficulty taking the photo because this very large family kept encroaching. And we were there first!

Ruth with her proud parents. Notice the A&M tie.

The diploma! Years of work, sweat, frustration, and ultimately the reward.

Ruth at the portal. The ceremony was grand, but it started at an ordinary, austere place.

Liz has an intimate chat with Pres. GHW Bush

Ruth ponders the words of former U.N. Ambassador, Pres. GHW Bush from the U.N. Assembly Hall.

Ruth, Scott, and I having dinner in Madisonville.
Liz was there too, but she was behind the camera.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

The Benac Reunion - Part 2

At the National Harbor:

The natural result of letting kids dip their toes in a fountain while the adults rest for a moment.

Bill and Chris enjoy it from a shady spot.

The tour of the Capital included the statue of Brigham Young.

The tour guide (left) asked Levi if he knew who B. Y. was, and was surprised when he shot back, "Sure, he was my Uncle."

The kids imitate flames.

The Capital Rotunda - looking up

An evening meal on the lawn of the Capital building.
The truck was there to deliver instruments for THE Navy Band, which gave an after-dinner concert just for us.

Mary and Ruth waiting for The Navy Band to strike up.


Richard at the Sachs Covered Bridge built in 1862.
We found this bridge entirely by chance, but it was a hoot.

Both armies crossed this bridge during the Battle at Gettysburg in 1863.

Sterling, Levi, Mark, and Logan at the earthworks where the 20th Maine defended Little Roundtop during the Battle of Gettysburg.

Roscoe at the "Devil's Den", Gettysburg

Union forces were on top of these rocks.
Confederate forces attacked through even rougher ground towards these rocks and eventually took them.
Both sides lost a lot of men.

The Wheatfield is behind Roscoe.
Little Roundtop is on the skyline to the right.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Benac reunion - part 1

Liz, Roscoe, Joshua, and Earl at the Smithsonian "Castle".

Roscoe and Grandpa enjoyed some serious science time in the Smithsonian.
We purused the bone collection,
deep sea life,
and gems.

Haley and Naomi in their new dresses.
What a couple of dolls!

Haley and Naomi in their new dresses. Doing ballet.

Lunch in Aunt Nancy's garage dining facility.

Lunch in Aunt Nancy's central dining facility.

Lunch in Aunt Nancy's actual dining facility.

Sue and Nancy take a moment for a glamor pose

The Talent Show

Naomi dances to Ruth's opera singing

Enjoying the talent show

Earl, Liz, Bill, and Barbara took a Segway tour of DC

The Washington Monument behind Earl on a Segway.

I always think of the Wash. Mon. from this very spot - I don't know why.

Liz riding a segway on the street behind the White House.

Barbara and liz approaching the Newseum.

Waiting for the elevator inside the Washington Monument.

Some pretty girls inside the Washington Monument

Mark Qshurst-McGee demonstrates how to pack children between museums.
Roscoe and Angela are unfazed.