Friday, July 27, 2012


Last week, driving home, I almost got into an accident. The late afternoon sun was so blindingly bright I had to squint to see. Ahead of me, the freeway looked like it had split in two and a giant fissure lay in my path. I swerved out of the way, but when I looked down, it was only a small crack in the road. The oblique angle of the sun made that depression look momentous, but really, it was a small nothing. But a small nothing, in this light, is something you suddenly see.


Bear Tracks

Buried Dog Nose

  The State of Oklahoma?


Totem Pole


A friend from my Art Center class brought me this last night. I looked at it and wasn't quite sure what it was. But it fit the description: something small, otherwise over-looked, found in the bright sunlight:

A Rat!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Attack Came Unexpectedly

(Found this brochure on the floor of Tom's car, who'd visited the Washita Battlefield on his way back from OK. Seemed relevant in light of events. Change the scenery, the time, but the unexpecting victims of violence remain the same. As Bill Moyers reminds us (and least we forget), violence and the "reliance on arms" was the way our country began. It's all here in this surprise attack that took place in 1868— the guns, the violence, the innocent fleeing...a crazy man leading the way.)


The attack came unexpectedly at morning's first light when the village was most vulnerable. It began with a rifle shot, a bugle sounding "Charge!" and a band playing the opening strains of "Garry Owen." In a moment all was tumult as the charging troopers of Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's 7th U.S. Cavalry came splashing across the frigid Washita River into the sleeping Cheyenne camp of Chief Black Kettle. They came in four battalions. Custer led the largest straight into the village... 

The soldiers drove the Cheyenne from their lodges barefoot and half-clothed and pursued them in all directions. Some of the warriors fought and died in the village; others took up positions behind trees and in ravines and returned fire; many of them escaped. The village's leader, Black Kettle, and his wife, Medicine Woman Later, were killed by soldiers while trying to cross the Washita River. When the firing ceased two hours later, approx 30 to 60 Cheyenne lay dead in the snow and mud.

—National Park Service brochure for Washita Battlefield, Cheyenne, OK

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Bad Behavior!

(If you are in the least bit squeamish about rats, please do not read further!)

I'm the grown up here, so get a grip! It's not entirely my fault that my pet rats, Blu and Lily, spent the night in the defunct oven again! They crawled into the cabinet when I wasn't looking; crashed through the airduct, nearly scared me to death. I thought it was a raccoon from the roof who'd found it's way in. I'd accidentally left the cage door open and... oh, never mind...

I have no control over these rats, they won't stay put. (Was i this lenient with my kids? I don't think so. Absolutely not!) If they hadn't come out of the oven this morning I'd have to call Patrick the Plumber. Ah, but they did. I threw them back in their cage where they weren't happy, and they made sure I knew it— sticking their noses out to get my attention, climbing up and down, not settling. At least with a baby you can drive it around in the car until it passes out, or put a little whiskey on its bottle. But rats? Man, there's absolutely nothing you can do to make them behave!

(News flash: I just read where landmine sniffing rats in South America have been trained to respond to commands such as, "stop," "let's go," and even training their babies. Perhaps not all is lost...?)


I'm psyched about my class at Art Center. I did my first comic ever! (excuse the bad copies, but my scanner is also defunct).

 "Cleaning out the cabinets..."

"Everything I looked at was out of date—
by at least 5 yrs."

 (Use by 2000, 2001, 2005, etc.)
"But some things never grow old...."
(use by 2050)

And I have a new look for the main character of my rat story....


Now I just have to finish it...

Monday, July 9, 2012

Picher, Oklahoma

 Picher, OK
home of the Gorillas since 1918

I've heard of them, but I've never seen a ghost truck before, that is, until last week in Picher, OK. We were cruising down the main road, past abandoned buildings, when out of nowhere a large diesel truck came careening towards us, kicking up dust. The cab was high off the ground, the windows tinted; even so, we could see that no one was behind the wheel. On the side of the road, chat piles spread out for miles, and in the distance, a ghost fire was burning.

(photo credit:

Ghosts aren't unusual for this area. Once, close to here, Mary saw a man with a green face walking by the side of the road. Spook lights (mysterious floating orbs) haunt the woods. But the condemned town of Picher is particularly scary; not for its ghosts, but for what happens when industry destroys the environment with mining, in this case, lead. The town which lies between Miama (pronounced My-a-muh), OK and Baxter Springs, KS, is virtually deserted. On Quapaw Tribal land, the town became the center of lead-zinc mining in the early 1900s. In 1981, the EPA declared Picher a Superfund site, the most toxic in the US.

Main Street

Good citizen Gary Linderman was the only pharmacist in town. When the government offered to buy everyone out in 2006, Linderman refused. Who else would help the 40 or so remaining residents when they got sick, he asked, so he stayed on. The Ole' Miners Pharmacy is a neat little shop, with shelves full of prescriptions and some old timey benches for sitting. People come from miles away, picking up scripts, wanting to talk. No one mentions the empty streets outside, the collapsed buildings, the dust in the air.

Gary Linderman

It's eerie walking here, like on a deserted beach, but you're in a land-locked state, so maybe a better analogy would be the moon, you're walking on the moon.

I didn't want to come here with the kids and all that dust kicking around, but Tom wanted to see it. Tom's mom's family grew up next to chat piles outside their home in Miama, and the siblings who didn't die of other causes, breathed in the dust and got cancer; some have died, some still standing.  He didn't say so outright, but I figured, as part of family history, Tom wanted to show the kids this ruin of hell.

The EPA wanted the town cleared because of the network of underground mines threatening collapse, but the real tragedy here is lead, how it seeped into the water, into the ground, into people's blood and tissues. A third of the children had elevated levels of lead, and that was enough for most people to get out of dodge. The Quapaw tribe hopes to reclaim this land as wetlands after the last person standing gives up the ghost... or moves on.

(The Creek Runs Red, an Independent Lens documentary, tells a more complete story of the tragedy of Picher.)