Wednesday, November 9, 2016

THE DONALD: The Rise of NASCAR America

 
The Donald: The Rise of NASCAR America

Well everyone, it’s official; Donald Trump has won the position of 45th President of these United States.  Wow… who saw that one coming?  Bet you wouldn’t imagine me saying so when I say; I did.  

If any of you actually had a face to face conversation with me about this recent election you’d know one thing that maybe you couldn’t tell from my Facebook posts… I predicted Donald Trump winning.  Why?  It has everything to do with his energy, the zeal, the donald.  

And, if you’re just reading this and don’t really know me that well I think it’s safe to say I am not a ready and willing supporter of the donald but I do have to appreciate the awe, splendor, candor, audacity and the certain level of genius he brought to the table.  Much the same kind of respect that goes to people like Mussolini, Hitler and the like, an acknowledgement that despite the horrendous nature of their handywork… it is impressive nonetheless.  Did I just try and make an actual comparison, albeit unfair, of the donald to some of modern history’s worst?  Sort of, well, yes I did but it was actually meant as a compliment.  Let me explain.

The Trump campaign, in my honest opinion, was a stroke of genius.  No, I’m not referring to his very blatant and public racism, sexism and the fomenting of distrust toward our fellow Americans.  I’m referring to the fact that the donald is filling a niche that would have been filled regardless of who was in it, and it likely would look very similar.  He as an opportunistic narcissist has the ability to spot things like that niche, he knows where he can be effective.  How do you fight a hard-left, socialist liberal like Bernie Sanders, or an entrenched part of the establishment that is… admittedly… part of the problem like Hillary Clinton?  You get someone like Trump to fire up America’s most powerful and most disenfranchised electorate.  I call them NASCAR America.  
First, let me just say that I can appreciate a NASCAR race, the thrill of the sport and the ability of the crews, teams and drivers aren’t what I’m talking about here.  I call this group NASCAR America because of one generally unknown fact; NASCAR is the biggest spectator sport in the United States.  Yep, Google it, it’s for real.  More than the NFL, NBA, MLB… it is THE largest sport, THE most popular sport in this country, and I’m curious how many of you know that?  

Now, why do I bring up NASCAR and how do I correlate it to Trump’s win last night?  Simple disenfranchisement, or at least convincing your base of disenfranchisement.  When they say ‘they’re taking our jobs’ he said ‘I hear you.’  When they say ‘taxed enough already’ he said ‘I know.’  Sure, the statistical liberal in me wants to counter each and every one of those statements with facts… but there my friends inlies the problem.  It doesn’t matter if you can downright prove that immigrants aren’t taking your jobs, it doesn’t matter if you can argue that everyone’s taxes are at historic lows… and have been since Nixon, it doesn’t matter if you point out that no one in fact has come to your door demanding your guns.  It doesn’t matter because it’s been repeated so many times it’s become the internal narrative.
If you convince that large of a power base that they are disenfranchised and that you can fix it, they likely are going to listen to you.  This illustrates the genius of the Trump campaign.  Against all odds the man rose to the top position on this Planet Earth… as scary as that is to me, I have to appreciate the concept… as it is absolutely historic.  Political Science classes will be taught on the Trump campaign and rightfully so.  

I digress.

A while back I made a few comments on Facebook about how dissatisfied I was during the Primary it looked like with the help of Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the befuddling of some Superdelegates the Primary was proverbially taken from Bernie Sanders.  Remember people… modern political parties are like clubs, they get to make their own rules and aren’t really subject to laws like many think they are… if they want a person that didn’t get the popular vote, well, they can ultimately put whoever they want up there.  That’s what happened with Clinton in a nutshell during the Primary.  The DNC decided they wanted Hillary instead of Bernie.  That I think was the biggest nail in the coffin for her… at least for me it was.  That was the moment I realized the modern DNC was no better and would resort to the same shady tactics that the Bush Jr. era GOP utilized in 2000.  

Of course then people will tell me; ‘well Brian, haven’t you heard what Trump’s saying?  You cannot vote for anyone but Hillary, it’s too dangerous to let him have that kind of power.’  

That may be true and honestly I tend to agree, if Trump did actually build a wall (there already is one by the way, which I found quite interesting in regards to the campaign narrative) it would put economic pressure on one of our largest trading partners in North America.  Or if he did enact a ban on Muslim immigrants what that would do for US Civil Rights… or what would it look like if he used executive power to go after Black Lives Matter and how would that be any different than Bill Clinton authorizing military force against the Branch Davidians?  Maybe that’s not a fair comparison but I hope you catch my drift.

So… now we have the donald as our top executive.  The man who publicly mocked a disabled reporter, whose answer to immigration is to put a bandaid on a bleeding wound, and encouraged his campaign supporters to bullishly mock anyone else, say nothing of bragging about tax evasion.  This is the man our country has determined can have the ability to wipe out every human on the face of the Earth, he’s now got the nuclear launch authority.  Interesting.  

One thing I can say in regards to his win and I think people need to understand the full meaning here in what I’m trying to convey.

Democracy is alive and well in America. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

TILLAMOOK: 2116


Let me impose something upon you.

What will Tillamook look like in 2116?  A hundred years used to sound like a forever chunk of time to me, what separated the modern world from the old, but as I grow older every day I realize now that a century is but a small component in the great human experience.  

In 2116 much of the usable pasture land will have been long reclaimed by a rising and everly acidic sea.  Salt marsh and estuary will take the place of field and pasture flooding centuries of local livelihood.  What industry still remains is but a shadow of itself but a hundred years prior.  Tillamook’s namesake, its precious dairy industry consolidated.  Market and societal forces push the need for dairy products from a federally subsidized necessity to cut-rate industry; only the wealthy survive.  Over time the smaller farms were bought out, crowded and pushed into oblivion.  The only survivors were the automators, the ones who held back those market forces by augmenting labor practices to robotic automation.  After the initial impression of robotic dairy practices wore off in the early 2000’s we locals realized something real quick, low wage jobs in this blue collar community were being drowned out.  The only people who work dairies anymore are robotics systems engineers and skilled repair technicians, drone consulting companies.  The cows are nothing but a medium for the industry, going along chewing their cuds and the only care they have is unloading the weight off their hind ends. For them not much has changed, all but pasture time is strictly monitored by drone fences that may shock them if they go too far.  Taking the job of field hands and corralling dogs they sit stationary over the precious green pasture with a watchful Infrared sensor that can detect cows, birds, rodents, cats.  These drones are the Farm Operator’s eyes and ears.  Like the useful tractors of old, after the great drone boom it became less and less common to see wheeled craft on agricultural operations, it was calculated as usable land that was otherwise being driven on.  In 2116 land is everything.

Global sea level rise throughout the last hundred years saw some of the most raw and brutal sides of humanity flare.  Mass human migration from places like the South Pacific islands, Indonesia and Southeast Asia, the Caribbean and all low lying places like Florida, Louisiana, Holland, the Yucatan peninsula are but a few that were drastically affected.  People slaughtered by the millions with Malaria, Dengue and other tropical diseases.  Religious conflict flared like never before as millions of Indonesian Muslims flooded into Hindu and Buddhist mainland Asia.  As places like New York, Miami, New Orleans, Corpus Christi began to crumble off the map it started to become apparent that the standard models of world governments were beginning to fail.  Every community forced to fend for itself as socialized assistance, disaster relief and even the world militaries began to feel the economic burden of societal collapse.

Tillamook was not spared this collapse, every industry affected.  Logging was primarily used for specialized products as board-grade timber gave way to much more economically and ecologically sustainable crops like hemp, with it’s ability to be used for almost anything from fibrous materials, hempcrete, clothing it was eventually seen as a better market alternative to wood fiber.  Logging took a big hit and in communities like Tillamook it nearly all but died.  What tree-fellers still existed relegated their times to on-site robotic drone systems engineering, saw maintenance.  All trees that were still cut were done pertaining to economically sustainable business practices.  What used to be called “slash” was now considered a treasured energy source for the power-burners. Nothing was wasted in the natural resources industry any longer.  The great marketable forces of the Tillamook State Forest gave way to state and national parks and recreational aspects as the need for wood practically dropped to zero.  
The 3D structure-printing is a big time industry in 2116, using a hemp fiber medium and layer-printing everything from houses to barns to skyscrapers and space colonies.

In the late 2000’s the Pacific Ocean, along with all the others hit a critical PH tipping point.  Global shellfish began to die at a dramatic rate, which not only affected the seafood industry, but the entire food chain.  Removing marine mollusks and crustaceans from the ecosystem was felt worldwide.  Places like Japan and much of Asia that relies on heavy sustenance from the sea were hit the hardest.  Tillamook County was not spared by this either.
Netarts and Tillamook Bay oysters and clams died within two years of the critical oceanic acidity levels rising.  They were already stressed and those familiar with the problem watched it happen in slow form.  Year after year the shells of oysters and clams began to show severe signs of physical weakening and after a certain point the microscopic larvae couldn’t draw enough calcium carbonate from the water to create new shells and entire populations began to die.  Barnacles, Goosenecks, Mussels, and myriad other shellfish die along the coastline.  Fisheries and otherwise fertile crabbing areas offshore began to show up empty.  Salmon runs all but cease save except for the hardy individuals which leads to a complete closure of the commercial fishing off of the Oregon coast.  It was already all but dead when toxic levels of mercury were showing up more and more in fishermen's nets.

Our county economy was hit the hardest.  With the diminishing of the dairy industry and all but cessation of the logging and fishing industries Tillamook began to shrink in population.  Over the years the community had not focused on anything but the working industries that served them throughout the past, we were not ready for such an unstable future.  Our younger generations leaving and never coming back, off to greener pastures.  We realized all too late that we had a retention problem and before we knew it the population went from a stable ten thousand to just under nine hundred fifty.  With the automation of all the industry it was feasibly impossible for anyone to consider staying.  Thank the drones, the automatons.

It’s not all bad though, our community persists and familiar names are still here, just not as many as there used to be.  


Saturday, August 2, 2014

I'm not dead, I'm just holding a baby or two!

I'm not dead, I'm just holding a baby or two!

This is not even a full day's worth.
Indeed.
If anyone ever diminishes the notion of a SAHD (that's Stay At Home Dad, ftw), or a SAHM (figure it out) in my presence I'll be quick to shoot them down and cover them with a few day's worth of diapers, wipes, genie liners packed to the brim, empty formula containers, used bottle liners, dirty onesies, dirty twosies, soiled blankets, hair-covered floor binkies... and so on and so forth.  
And that's just a day or two's worth.

I'm not joking.  These twins are eating, peeing, pooping, puking machines.  Is that a fresh shirt?  Hmm, not anymore.  Oh you feel wet, sorry 'bout that.  No, that's not curry on your lap, that would be plain ridiculous.  Yep, its pretty much like that.

We've now switched to more bottles and better formula.
I've tried to keep track of everything they take in and out but its a lot and it can be hard to stay with it at times.  Usually in the mornings I'll make enough bottles to make the accumulative total of 32oz's, and usually we have to make a few more by the end of the night.  We go through about 12-15 diapers a day, depending on their demeanor.  And at least 4 onesies or outfits that invariably get soiled in some fashion or another.


I aint lying though, its work indeed, but a labor of love.


Why we fight.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Fire Behavior: The Spring Creek Incident

Fire Behavior: The Spring Creek Incident
Objects in the mirror are closer then they appear.

It was getting on four in the afternoon and almost time to think about our return trip back to the compound after a day of forest patrol and campfire enforcement.  Doug had taken his time to instruct me in the proper usage of our belt weather kit, a relic from days without batteries but a reliable device. Doug was from another generation of fire hounds, he’d started his government career enlisted on a PT boat out of Laos and Vietnam and had “given them hell,” or so he recanted to me time and time again. Doug, a repetitive gnome from times past, deemed a plethora of knowledge to me in my first year on a wildland fire engine. I watched him as he dipped the business end of the thermometer into the water and began to spin the instrument on the string provided. It would end up giving us the wet and dry bulb temperatures within the area, with that we could figure out the relative humidity and would guesstimate the wind speed and direction. A good portion of forest fire fighting is knowledge of weather and topography.
 
It was a warm July day and the temperature was in the lower eighties with a wind coming out of the west at a pretty good clip.  Doug’s face was stuck in that middle stare he tended to get when his attention or mind would wander. Sort of like a casual deer stuck in oncoming headlights. I think it was mainly because Doug and I were tired and had nothing more to say to one another.

A tone-out rang over the mobile radio.
“Rockaway rural fire department. Please respond to reports of thick smoke coming from somewhere behind Lake Lytle. All ODF channels and resources in the area please respond, I will notify station ninety one.”Doug’s eyes widened a little more, his mouth dropped in utter disbelief and he stopped swinging the belt weather device. My training was all I knew and I was eager to taste my first fire, Doug on the other hand seemed to be contemplating the finer points of the situation. I had already darned my Nomex clothes and grabbed my web gear. We were about a half an hour up the Nehalem River when we got the call and it seemed my adrenaline wouldn’t let me take it completely easy on our way out.
 
We turned onto highway 101 just south of the small town of Garibaldi, we were instructed not to drive code-three as it is statistically more common to incite an accident than running with no lights and sirens. I was driving however and kept it a few miles an hour passed the limit, I blame it on my adrenaline. Rockaway Oregon. A small beach community situated just north of Tillamook along the rugged coastline of the northwestern part of the state. The fire call had put the smoke behind Lake Lytle. I had gone there when I was a kid to race remote control boats and hover crafts, my father would fish for Bass. I knew where to drive to, but we needed specifics, it was as if old man Doug had read my mind as he grasped the radio microphone and called into station ninety-one, the numerical designation for the Forestry headquarters in Tillamook, about ten miles south.
 
“Ninety one, ninety one fifty six, direct.” Doug was, is and always will be state ID number fifty six.
Jennifer, our dispatcher, replied back in her usual pleasant tone and gave us detailed directions to the access point of the incident. She also gave us a rough report on the situation.

“Fire is perceived to be moving up-slope with winds out of the northwest at fifteen to twenty miles per hour. It is moving in dense green slash and felled timber. There is an active operation at the bottom of the unit, the site foreman has agreed to meet you at the gate.” She said in what seemed like a few minutes. 
“Copy.” Doug simply replied.

I pulled our trusty ninety-one-thirteen engine down the rather benign looking residential street of Rockaway, heading toward the eastward coastal mountains and flanking the side of Lake Lytle, I could see the yellow gate up ahead indicating it was private land, the yellow meant it was owned by the Stimpson Timber Company. I stopped when I saw the rough looking logger striding out to meet us at the gate. Doug got out of the engine as soon as it was safe to do so, I could tell he was trying hard to contain his excitement, but I also think that he knew that this could be a scary situation. He’d seen his share of fires over land and knew that every one was different and held the capacity for imminent danger. This was Doug’s thirtieth year with the state and it was to be his last before retirement, this fire would surely be one of his last on an engine.

The logger led us up the road, for some reason I was expecting it to be a ways up but as soon as we rounded the first corner and came to the fresh clear cut timber I could actually see the fire itself. This was my first forest fire, I had only excitement coursing through my veins. We drove up the access road into the timber unit, Doug was finagling his gear in the passenger seat as we approached the flat topped landing at the end of a spur road nearby. At this point we were above where the fire was burning, and since it was active in an ongoing logging operation there were numerous piles of green slash bundled all around the vehicles, piles of fuel the size of two story houses, and the fire was edging closer to our location.

We got out of the engine and quickly put on our assigned fire pack and safety gear, I grabbed a hazel hoe, my favorite hand tool, and walked over to Doug who was standing at the edge of the landing observing the fire.
“Brian, I want you to go down there and try to find the source of the fire.” He said excitedly. “Don’t forget the digital camera!” He shouted.

Fire investigation and cause accountability are a huge part of the forest fire process, in this situation with it being an active logging operation on private forest land meant that every detail of this fire needed to be documented, hence the digital camera. I felt like I was repelling down a cliff face, I practically jogged down the steep grade taking care not to catch my boot in the crux of a tree limb as this would not have been the best time to break or sprain an ankle, it would have compounded the situation. My task, it seemed, was simple. I had to go down and establish the origin of the fire, take photos and note any oddities. Near the location where I felt the fire began I found a small clearing with a long-bar Husqvarna and a fuel can sitting neatly nearby. I took a few photos and glanced up to the top of the landing, realizing at that time I had no battery life left within my handset radio that was strapped to my chest. I could see Doug standing there with a couple of Rockaway rural volunteers and my boss Kevin Hill.

Kevin had been working with wildland fire for over fifteen years, he’d started his time as an inmate crew coordinator working for the South Fork Prison with a crew of ten inmates. It was very common to work side by side with prisoners on a forest fire, Kevin, at the age of nineteen was in charge of the crew, and thus acquired his unique personality therein.

I could see Kevin and Doug both motioning me to come back to the top of the landing, Kevin had a tendency to be abrasive toward everyone and it was not my goal in life to get him angry. It was obvious he came from a dysfunctional family because he always had something to prove, especially against his subordinates.

When I returned to the top of the landing it seemed the fire had gained serious traction upon the mountain’s side. It was less than thirty feet from the giant slash piles at the top, it was this point in which I remember seeing a real look of concern on Kevin and Doug’s faces. There were numerous structure fire engines on the landing with us, we were the only forestry rig though. There were rules and methods the structure hounds knew nothing about when it came to forest fire fighting, in this case the most important was to park your resource vehicles in a position for easy egress. They had parked and chalked the wheels facing inward, a standard structure engine tender is not exactly easy to turn around on a forest landing. I could see Kevin calmly walking toward me as I stood by the engine trying to find another battery pack for my chest radio.
 
"Get that fucking thing out of here!"

I look behind me and I see this!

His icy blue gaze met me and I could see something different in his expression. 
“Brian, I want you to get this fucking engine out of here, go and meet up with the five hundred at the other spur intersection.” He sort of shouted but I think it wasn’t necessarily directed at me in a negative fashion. He was serious, a standard type-six engine like 91-13 cost the state taxpayer around seventy thousand dollars each. Plus he absolutely needed me as a resource. Doug decided to stay back and aide Kevin. I fired up the diesel truck and went to go rendezvous with our larger 500 gallon engine, 91-12.
 
My two friends, Randy Bowman and Nick Reinecker were assigned that day to 91-12. They had been way up the Trask River drainage when the fire call came out, I was surprised to see them in Rockway so quickly, to this day I’m unsure of the break-neck  speeds that were required for them to be there when they were. Regardless they were there and ready to aide with five hundred additional gallons of water. I, for some reason, thought this would be of great use to us.
 
I pulled up to the side of 91-12 and addressed Nick and Randy. They too had the look of amazement upon their faces. I looked out of my passenger side window to see the very landing I had just been upon. The fire was beginning to lick the edge of the piles. The structure engines were leaving and I could see Kevin’s pickup in the rear of the caravan. To allow them all an exit we pulled 91-13 and 91-12 up the spur road to get out of the way. One of the big red fire engines turned up the spur and chalked their wheels, the crew got out and began unfurling their hose. I’m not sure why they stopped right there, they inadvertently blocked my engine in on the spur road with no exit, something that made me immediately uncomfortable, they were smack dab in between our two forestry rigs and they seemed to be quite content in setting up shop right there.
 
I was about to go address their commander in charge and ask her to move their engine but something else caught my attention. The giant green pile of fuel was ablaze… and it was sending hundreds of thousands of burning embers aloft all over the freshly cut timber unit. In our training this was what was known as a ‘watch-out situation.’ We quickly realized that our three engines were right in the middle of a proverbial tinderbox and burning debris was falling down like hot snow all over us.
 
It was game time. As if every piece of burning material was intentionally trying to cause it’s own spot fire, the wind was now a constant twenty miles an hour and our humidity percentage was dropping. This is a recipe for disaster. The fire had gone from less than an acre to something with the potential to grow a hundred times that size in less than ten minutes. Fire, any fire, is cause for pandemonium, even amongst trained professionals.

When the Rockaway rural volunteers saw what was happening a look of panic struck their faces, this was no house fire. In just a few seconds we had about twenty active spot fires burning around us. Randy, Nick, myself and the structure hounds worked feverishly to drench what we could see, not knowing at the time that it was a frivolous attempt at controlling a runaway freight train.
 
The time came when we all realized we were in a position of real danger and the prospect of a timely exit raged through our minds. 91-12 had already packed up and was heading down the mainline road. I had tried to find another way out by following the spur but to no avail, I saw more spot fires flaring up behind me in the rearview mirror. There was still large equipment left from the timber operation, in my particular area it was a D-7 bulldozer, a rather large example of physical engineering. The operator was trying to get it to a safe location before the fire consumed the whole mountain side and there was till a multi-ton structure fire engine sitting in the middle of the only exit road. Not only that but it was situated between two steep cut banks on either side, leaving very little room to get a vehicle by. At some point I met up with that engine’s commander and gave her a ride back to her engine, it was then in which I told her to get that thing out of the road so we could get down, she didn’t offer any resistance to the idea, she was excited too.
 
I dropped her off near the backside of her engine, she looked to the road and told me to go ahead and try to get by. Against my better judgment I tried, it was at that time that the Dozer operator decided to go against all logic and try and drive it on the cut bank around our two engines. Why he didn’t wait the five seconds for me to get clear I’m unsure.  Regardless at one point I was between a structure fire engine and a D-7 bulldozer. What made the matter more terrifying was the fact that the cut bank was at such a grade that the huge dozer began to tip and ride on one of it’s treads, performing one of the most fantastic and unnerving balancing acts I think I have ever seen. I gunned the gas pedal and got the hell out of there.

--

Just down the road I met up with everyone else, by that time we had all of our available resources there set up outside of the burn area along the mainline road. Wheels chalked and panel doors open, people were going every direction. I got out of the engine and went to go find Doug. He told me to go find Kevin and ask for orders. I was instructed to take as much hose as I could carry and head up the newly formed fire trail to construct the progressive hose lay, a process in which a number of lengths of hose are joined together in what is called a trunk line with fifty foot lateral hoses branching out every two hundred feet. This particular hose lay was going uphill right through the slash unit, with active flames flanking our left side, the same fires that I had previously tried in vain to extinguish just a few minutes earlier.
At the top I met up with Randy and Nick along with my long time friend and associate, Ed Wallmark. He’d been in the fire protection program for around ten years and was most certainly my immediate supervisor for the time being. We were instructed to assemble the hose lay and to begin to wet down the surrounding area to try and stymie the flame front. Eddy stood atop a massive deck of processed logs, ready to be brought by truck to the mill, it was a great position for area command as it was higher up but not enough to be out of the action.

I proceeded toward an area where I could see the front moving toward, hose in hand and geared to the teeth with protective and heavy equipment, I walked into what seemed like the gates of hell itself.

Opening the valve on the nozzle and drenching the area around me, I actually felt like I was making a difference. In hind sight it was a beautifully surreal experience. In the background was the town of Rockaway and an un obstructed view of the Pacific Ocean with the late summer afternoon sun reflecting off the surface of the sea and super heated wafts of air blowing me in the face. Just then the wind picked up and flared the fire into the fuel patch I was spraying, completely nullifying any water efforts I was making. The wind fanned the flames and before I knew it I was being licked by the orange and yellow monster. I felt an immense pull from the hose I was holding and I was thrust backward onto my backside on the ground. I looked behind me and saw Eddy with the hose in his hand, he had pulled me away from the fire right in time as I had to run to get out of there. The hose began to singe and burn, collateral damage.

Nick, Randy and myself all decided to generally stick together since we were no longer in our engines and this fire was a first for all of us. Eddy was alright with that and gave us orders to hold that spur road, which we did for the time being.  Around seven in the evening we received our dinner, the local Kentucky Fried Chicken had taken pity upon us and prepared a feast for everyone on the fire. I used to work for that same restaurant and had told myself I’d never eat it again, but I can safely say it was one of the most satisfying meals I’d ever eaten. Fueled by exhaustion I even chewed the bones down to the marrow. We were committed to the fire, we would be there all night, and we knew it.


'To boldly go...'
Tinderbox

By one in the morning the active flame front had subsided and left a thirty five acre mountain side in ruinous smolders. Since they hadn’t had the time to truck the timber to the mill there was active flame and hot spots burning red and white all throughout the night. It was then in which we could actually gain a foothold on the incident. Trip after trip to the water tender, we were dumping thousands and thousands of gallons onto the blaze. The timber deck where Ed had set up command hours earlier was burning so hot you could have melted steel within it. Imagine twenty full grown trees bound together and burning in the center. At one point Randy and I put on as much gear as we could just to see how close to that burning deck we could actually get. I think about thirty feet was the extent of it as the blowing heat and embers proved too much to handle. We threw sticks in it to watch the effect, if they were small enough they would literally burst into flame before even landing in the fire. It was hot. You could even feel the heat through the vehicle as you would drive by it throughout the entire night.
 
At four in the morning tiredness and fatigue set in but little had changed. The fire had been so severe that it actually created an additional three acre incident two miles away, a testament to dangerous fire behavior.
 
Finally around seven in the morning we heard from Kevin with instructions to meet him at the bottom of the hill for breakfast. Subway had forked up biscuits and gravy for the crew, quite appreciated after a night like that. At that point Kevin told us to get ready to go back to the compound and rest as the day crew was en route.
 
A few years later I had asked Kevin about that fire, in my latter years on a fire engine I had never seen fire behavior like that and had gained some perspective from that fire. I think even Kevin at the time was concerned. That was the biggest fire the Tillamook District had in the prior sixty years, and it was my first.
 
People back at the office were to tell me in the beginning hour of the incident one could hear a pin drop in the giant building, they described it through the radio reports from Kevin. The fire had gone from an acre or so to twenty five acres in ten minutes. At the time I thought it was a normal fire for the area.  I remember getting back to the compound around eight in the morning that day, gearing down and getting the engine ready for the day crew. I was tired and ready to go home.
I ended up falling asleep in my own bed around noon and waking up around four that afternoon, Kevin had told us as soon as we woke to check back in at the compound. I got into my trusty red Toyota and went back to work.

As I pulled into headquarters I saw 91-12 on the tarmac with Randy and Nick in full fire gear. I wasn’t expecting to go back to Rockaway, Kevin told us we would be on Initial Attack that day so we had to be around the office.

I walked up to the window and saw Nick sitting in the driver’s seat. Before I had a chance to ask him what was going on, he looked at me and told me to get geared up. We had another incident forty five minutes south, a seven acre fire just outside of the small town of Beaver. I had three and a half hours of sleep after my first fire ever, my second was to begin immediately.

Monday, June 23, 2014

TO BURY A FRIEND

Sometimes things happen that cannot really be explained logically.  These things can take on many forms; Life, love, stress and struggle.  And sometimes true tragedy happens.  This last week has been no exception for me and my family. What you're about to read is an emotional expression of a first hand account of burying a friend.

Yesterday morning I had to bury a family friend.  A family member really, one I had only recently come to know.  Its quite a thing to grab a shovel in your hand and know that what you're about to do signifies a great and true finality, an end to something.  Its symbolic both good and bad to sink the blade into the top soil, depress downward and pry up a mound of Earth, set aside and repeat process.  Its quite a thing.  You see, a pet is a family member in my eyes and even once removed, while living in proximity, a pet is still a family member all the same.  Yesterday I was to bury a family member. 

Do you express personal disgust at yourself for literally throwing dirt on their faces?  Do you take pride in doing this great deed?  Both really.  You treat the situation as respectfully as possible, despite the nature of it all.  You take the time to wrap them in a cloth and put their favorite possession within their grip and you take another moment afterward to do what you must to fully appreciate the situation.  A moment of silence in many ways.  You think inward.

Her name was George, and she will be missed.

Friday, June 20, 2014

A TWIN-VASION


A twinvasion indeed!  A word I made up by cleverly adjoining two words together; "Twin" and "Invasion."  A word I've come to describe the third great chapter in my life, this being my thirties.  Of course I'm already two years into this (and a half!) realm but I'm finding sometimes a period of acclimation is necessary.  

A year ago had someone told me I was going to be the father of fraternal twins I would have spit my beer all over them.  Had they mentioned in addendum to that that I would become the defacto stepfather to another set of nine-year-old twins simultaneously I might have taken another swig and proceeded to exhale it all over the individual telling me this.  Had they mentioned that the set of twin black kittens I had recently acquired acted as the harbinger of all of this... well I might have simply stopped believing you.  I mean, how is that possible?  

Its true, an invasion of sorts has taken place within the last year, and it came in waves of two's.  The tides have reached their highest point and the waters are beginning to recede.  Though I'm not finding destruction in their wake, but absolute creation.  Sure, the wave came crashing over my adventurous twenties, putting a very symbolic end to the aimless and rowdy ways I had come to expect as normal.  Leaving behind what is seeming to be a fertile land to thrive upon, this tsunami has carved rivers and valleys and revealed bountiful lands that were otherwise veiled behind the coastal fog.

Fatherhood.  Here goes!

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Cattail Flour:

When I first heard one could actually eat cattail it was while browsing through a US Army survival manual I have that stands at roughly a bajillion pages thick. Regardless it goes over what kinds of unconventional plants a human may ingest in a number of different environmental types. I remember reading the section on Cattail and thinking that might be fun to do. Everyone, I give you the process to refine flour using a fine local plant; the Cattail.

First I went out for collection, I’m sure there’s better ways to do it but my novice regard made it seem fairly straight forward, I found a place where Cattails are, pulled off the side of the road and voila I started pulling my first Cattail. On my first mission out I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to be looking for so I naturally grabbed the biggest healthiest looking one I could find. It stood well over my head at around eight to nine feet high. It had long frond leaves that hung down, a giant grass. I knew I was supposed to be interested in the tubers (the thick roots of Cattail that network the underground) so when I pulled one up I decided to do it with relative carefulness so as not to rip the tuber from the root ball. I must admit, they do not come out all the time, but I stacked the harvested bundle together and kept going. That time I brought home about 7 individual Cattail plants. As soon as I got home I proceeded toward the burn pile and began stripping the flower down to its stalk. Stripping, though racy, might be the best way to describe the process. Once you’ve got it down to a single stalk begin shaking the dirt clods away from the root ball and the attached tuber. They look like, well, a big thick root and it are undeniably recognized as the main giant root emanating from the plant stalk. Separate the tubers and begin to scrub them free of dirt.

The remainder of the plant is not just thrown aside, in ancient times the leaves were used as an excellent weaving material, thus giving the ability to not only feed, but for other practical uses as well. The flowers, the main brown part that distinguishes it as a Cattail, while young can be boiled and eaten like corn as well. But for the fall season, as I was in, my only usable options were the tubers. I do not know how to weave.

So the first time I tried to do this I somewhat failed, or almost succeeded, depending on how you perceive it. I boiled the tubers, un-skinned, peeled and dried them in a food dehydrator. The next day I took a mortar and pestle to it and followed some rudimentary directions on the internet. They told me to put it all in a bowl of water, so I did. I, however was supposed to peal them before I extracted the starch, therefore it turned out to look like an oatmealy mess.

The second time I did this turned out quite differently as I was properly prepared this time with a potato peeler and a fine strainer for separation. My harvesting techniques had changed as well, that time I had brought a shovel to dig a little to expose tubers under the surface. While doing so it dawned on me that I didn’t need to harvest the fronds at all considering all I needed were the tubers, plus I wouldn’t kill the plant that way; more sustainable. This time I came back with a few handfuls of tubers and a frond or two to perhaps give weaving a whirl later on. The labor inductive part of this task was to peel the tubers down to their white stringy innards. For a few handfuls of tubers it took me nearly forty five minutes to peel every piece, though it was my first time. But that wasn’t the most time consuming part of the process. There was still the matter of extracting the starch from the root, which consisted of a steady resolve, sturdy butter knife and a working surface of some kind. The idea here is to literally scrape the starch right out of the stock, it almost was always a brilliant white compared with the drab brownish that was the tuber itself and it resembled that of ricotta cheese.

Quite a while later, I’m not sure exactly as time merely became an illusion after a bit, I had finished scraping every last ounce of starch from that gooey mess. The tubers proved hard to hold onto while I was endeavoring to scrape their innards out, take caution if you try this method. According to the internet there’s another way to do that by working the roots with your hands in water but my way was talked about as being more fun.

So, I had a bowl full of what looked like mashed potatoes with little string fibers from the tubers themselves. The next step in the process was simple, submerge in water and wait. So I did, I filled the bowl up and went out drinkin’ with the dudes.

The following morning it had all separated and I easily poured off the remaining water to be left with what looked like day old, wet cream of wheat. I took that and poured it carefully onto a sheet of wax paper and proceeded to put it in the food dehydrator.

Then I waited for two days.

When I took the wax paper sheet out it had what resembled a white cow-pie, it was somewhat gross looking but more importantly it was dry. The ‘last’ step in the process was to use the mortar and pestle to grind out the flour.

There you have it! Cattail flour! YAY! What I’ve realized is that this is a very labor intensive process that is not for the faint of heart. There was a great deal of work that went into this for what I got in return but it was informative. I’m glad to know if I had to survive on the elements, I could even cook bread with proper time and prep.

Thanks for reading!

Brian