TheMcKeeSpot is a blog by Steven McKee. The purpose of this blog is for me to explore things that interest me as I plan for my next 50-plus years on this planet. Starting out, I am writing about my family and activities, but as time progresses, it will be about anything. Stay tuned, check in often and enjoy the ride.
Last week I wrote a post entitled “Anniversaries…of sorts”. The article, with lots of pictures, illustrated some of my memories in acknowledging the 20th anniversary of the Cerro Grande Fire, the subsequent evacuation and recovery. I provided some commentary about these memories.
I did not share with you one of the most vivid memories of the time surrounding the fire and evacuation. May 21st marks what would have been my 20th wedding anniversary. It’s something that I don’t celebrate anymore as it represents one of many painful days that I mark on the calendar in silence. Luckily for us at the time, we planned the wedding NOT in Los Alamos, rather in Santa Fe. The ceremony and reception was held at a little resort south of Santa Fe called Sunrise Springs. Fortunate, I guess. Los Alamos was still evacuated and when it opened by the 20th, we were already planning last minute arrangements and entertaining guests in Santa Fe. Our friends hosted a party in White Rock on the 18th, which was open by that date. You could not even go up the hill to the town site itself on that date.
When we evacuated, we left many of our belongings behind, hoping and praying that it would not be destroyed by the fire. While we were lucky, supplies for the reception and things for the ceremony were left behind. We were able to gather those things up by having requested and received approval for a National Guard escort into the town. Two vehicles under escort by military personnel in Humvee’s. We met them at the entrance to the town and were given approximately 20 minutes to gather up the stuff.
Certainly wasn’t in the criteria that constituted an emergency return to the town, but we asked. When we called to get on the list, the individual on the other end of the line understood and pushed us to the top of the list. Granted, we were trying to get in while the town was still closed, smoldering ashes still were nearby, the fire was north of the town and out of control. No site seeing. In and out.
That in and of itself, makes for a fond memory of the aftermath of the fire. Perhaps having a wedding during a forest fire was foreshadowing of my future happiness. I still remember the trip. The two guardsmen escorts were laughing as I was loading up the jeep with cases of alcohol. We were having an open bar. Cases of wine, champagne, stuff for margaritas, whiskey were loaded up. The special elaborate table settings for over 200 guests were also retrieved. The reception was less about us and more about family and friends.
One of the most interesting memories of that day was that there were people at the reception who we did not know or did not invite. At the end of the ceremony, when there was a reception line, people came up to congratulate us and to thank us. We were are like “who are you”? It turns out that they were friends of guests who we had invited but their homes were actually lost during the fire. They were sleeping in the garages, the floor, the spare bedrooms of others. They came, literally dressed with the clothes on their backs, having lost everything. We were glad they came so that they could find a brief respite from what was a painful event.
The other anniversary worth noting this week is the one year anniversary of this blog. My first post was on May 23rd, 2019. One year and 63 published posts. Looking at the statistics, I can see that if you don’t post regularly, you don’t get many visitors. Certainly I am looking at ways to increase my audience. I have seen an increase recently, probably because I have been writing more. Guess I need to add links to FaceBook, or from my FaceBook pages? Advertise? Make connections, circulate? Write better posts? Open up the discussion to more interesting topics beyond what just comes to mind that day? I have been reading other blogs regarding ideas to increase readership. I don’t have any plans to advertise or even try to make money on this site. Some of my friends think that I should. I am just trying to express myself an outlet for what comes next in life.
I think that I would like to start and make the layout more appealing. Possibly provide links to some of my favorite web sites, perhaps the weather or local news? Other possibilities include a Ruby-cam or a Jewel-cam? Maybe a weekend special feature, book, movie or music reviews? Stock tips? A daily quote? More pictures? What is new and exciting in Chemistry this week? The ideas are endless so ideas from readers are always appreciated.
So hear is to my one year anniversary.
In my profile, I write “The purpose of this blog is for me to explore things that interest me as I plan for my next 50-plus years on this planet”. One year down, at least 50 more to go.
Instead of sleeping in this Sunday, I found myself awake at 3 and out of bed before 5. Had this been a normal work day, I’d be up and showered, having my morning coffee, dog fed and planning our morning walk. But it is Sunday. Son is up and having breakfast. Daughter, who was still awake when I went to bed, is still sleeping. Debating about whether to wake her to go feed the horse.
I went to feed the horse by myself and let daughter sleep in. She always comes to the fence to greet me, expecting me to reach into my coat pocket for some cookies. I do and she is happy.
The snow from earlier this week has been melting, and what it leaves behind is a muddy paddock and by the end of the day, an equally muddy horse. She loves to roll on the ground.
The mountains vary from 11,000 to over 14,000 feet, depending on which mountain range tour are interested in. The peaks over 14,000 are part of the fourteeners that lie along the Sangre De Cristo mountains in southern Colorado. According to wikipedia, Colorado has over 50 mountains over fourteen thousand feet. Wheeler Peak, northeast of Taos and north of Los Alamos, is the tallest peak in New Mexico and lies along the Sangre De Cristo Mountains at 13,167 feet. Depending on where you are at the stables, you can see it on a clear day.
As it was a nice but lazy day with the kids, and snow on most of the trails, a hike was out of the question. None of us ski, so that was out as well. This day turned out to be just like any other day. Son played video games; daughter spent the day doing drawing and other things in her room. As for me, a restful afternoon of eating, reading and a movie or two.
While at the stables feeding Ruby, I heard many birds. The loudest were the black birds that can be seen and heard throughout most of the area. I spied these two in a tree along the canyon top behind the stables.
I call them blackbirds, ravens, or crows without really knowing much about the different species of birds. Fortunately I was able to search the internet. The Parajito Environmental Educational Center at the Los Alamos Nature Center (reproduced from https://peecnature.org/bird-of-the-week-the-american-crow/) was able to tell me that the American Crow is easily found all year in Los Alamos County. Because they are closely related to their larger cousin the Common Raven, it can be hard to distinguish Crows from Ravens with only a casual look at one. Crows fly with a steadier wingbeat, while Ravens spend more flying time gliding. If you get a good look at the bird’s beak, you’ll see the Crow’s beak is smaller in relation to its head. If the bird is flying, look at the shape of its tail feathers – Crows’ tails are squarer and Ravens’ are more wedge-shaped. As the pair in the tree did not fly while I was watching them, I could not distinguish the wing shape.
Once upon a midnight dreary, while I pondered, weak and weary, Over many a quaint and curious volume of forgotten lore— While I nodded, nearly napping, suddenly there came a tapping, As of some one gently rapping, rapping at my chamber door. “’Tis some visitor,” I muttered, “tapping at my chamber door— Only this and nothing more.”
Ah, distinctly I remember it was in the bleak December; And each separate dying ember wrought its ghost upon the floor. Eagerly I wished the morrow;—vainly I had sought to borrow From my books surcease of sorrow—sorrow for the lost Lenore— For the rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore— Nameless here for evermore.
And the silken, sad, uncertain rustling of each purple curtain Thrilled me—filled me with fantastic terrors never felt before; So that now, to still the beating of my heart, I stood repeating “’Tis some visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door— Some late visitor entreating entrance at my chamber door;— This it is and nothing more.”
Presently my soul grew stronger; hesitating then no longer, “Sir,” said I, “or Madam, truly your forgiveness I implore; But the fact is I was napping, and so gently you came rapping, And so faintly you came tapping, tapping at my chamber door, That I scarce was sure I heard you”—here I opened wide the door;— Darkness there and nothing more.
Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before; But the silence was unbroken, and the stillness gave no token, And the only word there spoken was the whispered word, “Lenore?” This I whispered, and an echo murmured back the word, “Lenore!”— Merely this and nothing more.
Back into the chamber turning, all my soul within me burning, Soon again I heard a tapping somewhat louder than before. “Surely,” said I, “surely that is something at my window lattice; Let me see, then, what thereat is, and this mystery explore— Let my heart be still a moment and this mystery explore;— ’Tis the wind and nothing more!”
Open here I flung the shutter, when, with many a flirt and flutter, In there stepped a stately Raven of the saintly days of yore; Not the least obeisance made he; not a minute stopped or stayed he; But, with mien of lord or lady, perched above my chamber door— Perched upon a bust of Pallas just above my chamber door— Perched, and sat, and nothing more.
Then this ebony bird beguiling my sad fancy into smiling, By the grave and stern decorum of the countenance it wore, “Though thy crest be shorn and shaven, thou,” I said, “art sure no craven, Ghastly grim and ancient Raven wandering from the Nightly shore— Tell me what thy lordly name is on the Night’s Plutonian shore!” Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
Much I marvelled this ungainly fowl to hear discourse so plainly, Though its answer little meaning—little relevancy bore; For we cannot help agreeing that no living human being Ever yet was blessed with seeing bird above his chamber door— Bird or beast upon the sculptured bust above his chamber door, With such name as “Nevermore.”
But the Raven, sitting lonely on the placid bust, spoke only That one word, as if his soul in that one word he did outpour. Nothing farther then he uttered—not a feather then he fluttered— Till I scarcely more than muttered “Other friends have flown before— On the morrow he will leave me, as my Hopes have flown before.” Then the bird said “Nevermore.”
Startled at the stillness broken by reply so aptly spoken, “Doubtless,” said I, “what it utters is its only stock and store Caught from some unhappy master whom unmerciful Disaster Followed fast and followed faster till his songs one burden bore— Till the dirges of his Hope that melancholy burden bore Of ‘Never—nevermore’.”
But the Raven still beguiling all my fancy into smiling, Straight I wheeled a cushioned seat in front of bird, and bust and door; Then, upon the velvet sinking, I betook myself to linking Fancy unto fancy, thinking what this ominous bird of yore— What this grim, ungainly, ghastly, gaunt, and ominous bird of yore Meant in croaking “Nevermore.”
This I sat engaged in guessing, but no syllable expressing To the fowl whose fiery eyes now burned into my bosom’s core; This and more I sat divining, with my head at ease reclining On the cushion’s velvet lining that the lamp-light gloated o’er, But whose velvet-violet lining with the lamp-light gloating o’er, She shall press, ah, nevermore!
Then, methought, the air grew denser, perfumed from an unseen censer Swung by Seraphim whose foot-falls tinkled on the tufted floor. “Wretch,” I cried, “thy God hath lent thee—by these angels he hath sent thee Respite—respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore; Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe and forget this lost Lenore!” Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil!— Whether Tempter sent, or whether tempest tossed thee here ashore, Desolate yet all undaunted, on this desert land enchanted— On this home by Horror haunted—tell me truly, I implore— Is there—is there balm in Gilead?—tell me—tell me, I implore!” Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Prophet!” said I, “thing of evil!—prophet still, if bird or devil! By that Heaven that bends above us—by that God we both adore— Tell this soul with sorrow laden if, within the distant Aidenn, It shall clasp a sainted maiden whom the angels name Lenore— Clasp a rare and radiant maiden whom the angels name Lenore.” Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
“Be that word our sign of parting, bird or fiend!” I shrieked, upstarting— “Get thee back into the tempest and the Night’s Plutonian shore! Leave no black plume as a token of that lie thy soul hath spoken! Leave my loneliness unbroken!—quit the bust above my door! Take thy beak from out my heart, and take thy form from off my door!” Quoth the Raven “Nevermore.”
And the Raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door; And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon’s that is dreaming, And the lamp-light o’er him streaming throws his shadow on the floor; And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor Shall be lifted—nevermore!
As a kid, the family would go camping at Poe Valley and Poe Paddy State Parks beck in central Pennsylvania. The parks are named for Big Poe Creek, which runs through the area. There one would also hear the sounds of blackbirds, crows or ravens. Growing up, we were told that Edgar Allen Poe wrote the poem “The Raven” while visiting the area. This is not true by most literary accounts, but nonetheless, makes for an interesting tie between my early life in Pennsylvania to my present life in New Mexico. All of this, based on a bird, Indian tribes, history, and nature…
This folklore is associated with an old inn called the Eutaw House, located in Potters Mills at the intersection of Route 322 and Route 144. The Eutaw House has been in existence for over two centuries. General James Potter, who was notably an aide to George Washington during the American Revolution, originally owned the ground where the building sits today. After Gen. Potter’s death, his children built a log cabin on his property. Later the log cabin would become the Eutaw House and go through a few more renovations. During its early years, the house served as a major inn for early pioneers and travelers. The house was named after the local Eutaw Indian tribe.
As anyone could imagine with the Eutaw House being around for a few centuries, it has gathered some ghost stories through the years. Ghostly shapes have been seen in mirrors throughout the building. In the kitchen and restaurant, trays and plates have been known to flip over or fall off tables. Patrons and employees have seen apparitions and shadows move in the hallways and rooms. One story tells of a prisoner being shot or hung in the attic during the 1800s and a different story says that it was a tree at the corner of the property. During one of the early Indian raids on the Eutaw house, one Indian is said to have been hung on the large old tree. Hearing a rope “thud” or creaking noise has been reported near the tree to this day.
Even with all the ghostly happenings at the Eutaw House, its most interesting story is the speculation that Edgar Allen Poe had once stayed the night at the Inn. Some early folklorists have written that Edgar Allen Poe had once visited the Centre County area and was even inspired to write a few stories such as the Raven during his travels through Central Pennsylvania. The only evidence that leads some credibility is the initial “EAP” that are carved into one of the oldest tables in the Eutaw House. Historians today doubt the legend of Poe’s journey to Centre County, but it makes for a good story nonetheless. ( reproduced from http://discoverypa.blogspot.com/2015/10/edgar-allen-poes-visit-to-central.html)
Well that is enough for today. Hope you enjoy the stories and how a simple thought can span decades, through nature, and have ties into history.
For the past few weeks, I have been troubleshooting a problem with my gas furnace. It was kicking on and off frequently. It was having difficulty reaching the thermostats set temperature. My three level house was cold on the inside. It was colder on the outside.
My daughter’s horse Ruby had gotten clipped about two weeks ago. The shaving of the thick coat of hair requires that she be blanketed when the weather becomes bad and when the temperature falls below 40F. As it often does in northern New Mexico for this time of year, we have rain, freezing rain, snow. The temperatures can fall into the teens at night. The wind chill can make it very, very cold.
This morning, as I write this post, it is cold and raining. Snow is in the forecast. It is a dreary day outside with no heat to speak of. It’s 33 as I grab my boots to get daughter up in order to go feed the horse. Inside is equally cold. It is only 62 and son is out of control playing with the dog.
Ruby has no problem with the cold weather. She gets plenty of hay, a warm and waterproof blanket, and a stall to keep her covered if the weather is bad. But she is a horse, so often we find her outside when the rain or snow is falling.
Now to the furnace. It was inspected when I bought the place a few years back. Worked fine. Of late, it hasn’t been very efficient in keeping the house warm. I figure it is about as old as the house, but not that elements have been upgraded based on the dates of various pieces of equipment. The furnace is a gas-fired water boiler that is the center of a hydronic heating system. The system heats water and circulates it through the various radiators on the three levels of the house.
The furnace appears to work fine in that it kicks on and heats gas. The problems appear to be (1) the zone valves are not working in all zones, and (2) the water lines that circulate during the heating cycle do not have water. This may be why the zone valves have stopped working. This explains why the heat wasn’t getting to the set thermostat setting. No water to circulate, no water to heat. Time to call in the repairman because I am not very good at things mechanical.
Easier said then done. I called on five different outfits. Left messages with three. No return call. Talked to a nice lady on Thursday who could not fit me in until Friday. On the fifth attempt, I was able to get a technician out late in the day. He spent an hour looking at the system. Didn’t fix anything. Couldn’t understand where the circulating water went or why it wasn’t filling. Clogged valve? He took many pictures and said he would call on Friday. Friday came. He called and said that I needed some new parts that would take time to order and receive. So there I was. This weekend and into next week without any heat. Was suppose to have a follow up call to authorize the parts. Nothing. Called Friday. Email and called Saturday. Nothing. Finally, a woman called me to acknowledge the email but had no information. No knowledge about parts, or when then could work on the system. Would call me first thing Monday.
In the mean time, I found the replacement parts on the internet. Some can be purchased at Home Depot and Lowe’s. Wanted to gauge the price of the parts because I am sure they will be marked up significantly. I get skeptical when they say that they need to bring it up to code! Cha-Ching! Wanted to see about ordering the parts if the repair company decides not to call me back. Caution…Based on experience.
So what are The kids and I doing for heat? The house has a fireplace so we have wood. Will probably do that today as it is cold and raining outside. We also have a space heater that has been working nonstop since Friday. Sleep has been great with a couple of blankets and a warm dog to curl up with me.
The question is will they call back? When. When will they order the parts and how long before they arrive? Will they even call me back? I leave for business travel next week. My house will have no heat for a couple of days but it looks like the weather will cooperate. The aquarium has a water heater so the fish will be ok. Jonny the hamster has lots of bedding so he should be fine.
Will it be fixed for Christmas? May be that is what I’ll ask Santa as my present?
More importantly, when will I learn that things don’t last forever. They do require maintenance. Things, and animals, and people, do require proper care if they are to last for a long time.
Today is Sunday August 4. Spent the better part of the past 3 days contemplate my future. In the background is the Fox News broadcast “Life, Liberty & Levin”. I seldom watch the news on TV, but there wasn’t anything else worth watching. The platform is a question and answer session, which is better than many of the talking heads from both sides of the political spectrum. The subject is a discussion about the second Cold War with Niall Ferguson. It entails an economic war as opposed to a military conflict, but that the long view is that China will win because they take a long-term view and that our political system will rive change and we will loose site on the long term. Interesting conversation. I have long found that the interface between economics and history/politics interesting. If I had been smarter, perhaps I could have made a career in the field.
Daughter leaves for the US Pony Club National Championships central region. The competition is in Colorado this year, which is a 6 hour trip near Denver. Son and I will stay home to keep the stress down. I wish her luck in all of the events that she is competing in. Hopefully she will remain n the horse and finish. Both she and Ruby have been practicing hard the past several weeks. She will be competing in show jumping and eventing.
Friday I managed to visit with my financial guy to review my status on the path towards retirement. While I am on tract, I have a few areas to clean up. The discussion covered numerous areas beyond just focusing on 401k balances, debt, and what I plan to do after retirement. Of course, plans are always subject to change. Given the current political climate, I am concerned that much could change and destroy my plans and my future.
Then of course, we had another weekend of a lone gunmen and mass killings. I am pro gun and believe that guns don’t kill people, rather people kill people. That said, I have no problems with background checks, licenses and insurance much like one has for an automobile, keeping automatic guns out of the hands of people, and mental health. You need to keep guns out of the hands of some people. The issue then becomes how. You also need to acknowledge that if people want to harm others, they will. I get a check up annually as far as my mental health as required for my job and my employer. Sadly, I am afraid that the increases in gun killings recently has more to do with the declines in our society and it’s values, the fact that we continue to lesson the value of human life. This is in opposition to those who subscribe to a theory that the increase is associated with the number of guns available.
There is much hate these days, and it surfaces on social media often. Politically, we are divided as a nation and it shows in many areas. I will have more to say about these topics as we continue on the journey of this blog.
The first full day in Flagstaff. We dropped daughter and mother off where the horse has been put up for the weekend. Son and I then embarked on a 90 minute detour north to check out one of the seven wonders of the natural world. The Grand Canyon.
When son walked up to the edge, he looked out and said “amazing “. He stood there in silence for a several minutes, admiring the natural beauty and sheer size of it. It was not what he expected.
We walked around the canyon rim for about an hour. Checked out two gift shops, and then hopped back in the car to return to Flagstaff. Today was the teaching portion of Coconino. It’s where the contestants get to pay to practice dressage, show jumping, and get the opportunity to walk the cross country course.
We got back in time for daughter to bath the horse. As you can see, daughter is telling stories to the other riders who are there washing their horses as well. I wonder what drives so many little girls to ride horses. There are literally a hundred plus competitors here. I only say maybe three male competitors.
After bathing Ruby, it was time to dry the horse and hope that she stays clean until tomorrow.
For daughter, it’s quiet time to get mentally prepared for the competition. After getting the horses tucked into their stalls for the evening, fed, and general getting ready, there was a stable social hour. I was admiring the truck and trailer rig that sponsor had. A heavy duty Ford 350 and a trailer that could hold four horses and a complete camper. Impressive. First class. Then for us it was back to the hotel, dinner and an early bed. Until tomorrow.
Instead of spending the 4th of July at a picnic, watching a parade, or going out to hear music and watch fireworks, I spent the day in the car. As a family, we drove to Flagstaff Arizona for a weekend horse competition for Daughter. My 4th of July hotdog was from a truck stop on I40 heading west. Ketchup but sadly, no onions. The Coconino Horse Trials are held every year about this time. The competition starts on Friday with classes and practice and the competition is Saturday and Sunday. We already know that it will be a long day because her cross country ride is not until 3:23 Sunday afternoon. Then pack up the horse and a 7 hour car ride. Stopping at Goose Downs to change trailers puts us into Los Alamos about 3 am.
For son and I, it is kinda like a family vacation. Of course I’d like to see her compete but my weekend will be spent entertaining him. And since this post is entitled Road Trip, I took a number of obligatory photos on the ride to catalogue this adventure.
Your author, as we pull out of Los Alamos at 7 am. First stop is to Goose Downs to trade trailers and get the other horse for the trip. Of course, we have to entertain son, so it is a must to have WiFi for the trip.
Pit stop at Goose Downs to unload Ruby while we transfer the gear to a larger trailer and load two horses for the long trip west.
Leaving Santa Fe on I25 after Goose Downs. Next stop will be outside Grants for gas along I40. Stops are short, long enough to get a bathroom break.
Eventually we cross into Arizona. I40 often parallels Route 66. So a little nostalgia runs through my mind. The best part of the trip is several hours into Arizona…
Sadly there is no time to stop and check out it the corner, but we played the song twice as we drove past.
Well I’m runnin’ down the road tryin’ to loosen my load
I’ve got seven women on my mind
Four that wanna own me two that wanna
stone me one says she’s a friend of mine
Take it easy
Take it easy
Don’t let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy
Lighten up while you still can
Don’t even try to understand
Just find a place make your stand
Take it easy
Well I’m a standin’ on a corner in Winslow, Arizona
Such a fine sight to see
It’s a girl my lord in a flatbed
Ford slowin’ down to take a look at me
Come on baby
Don’t say maybe
I gotta know if your sweet love is gonna save me
We may lose and we may win
Though we will never be here again
So open up I’m climbin’ in
Take it easy
Yes we sang the great Eagles song, these lyrics courtesy of Google. Both son and daughter just looked at their parents in wonder. It will take awhile, but they need to learn traditions, or at least great music.
Finally Flagstaff and the Coconino Fair Grounds for unpacking and settling Ruby in for the evening. She is on a working vacation.
For the family, it is the hotel, dinner at a brewery and then back to the hotel for bed.
If you spend time with horses, you eventually get introduced to the United States Pony Club. They aim to teach young and old riders the proper rules for taking care of a horse, as well as riding and eventing.
In preparation for my daughter’s next event, she has a mounted pony club meeting today. The have regional and location-specific clubs throughout the country. My daughter rides as a member of the Santa Fe Pony Club, which is one of the clubs in the Southwest Region.
So I dutifully took her to the place where they ride, which is south of Santa Fe. Santa Fe has several places in the area that offer riding and host events, including polo. Just past Lamy, on the way to Galisteo is Goose Downs Farm. This is the place where my daughter rides and trains often.
They offer training for dressage, show jumping and cross country for all ages. Indoor and outdoor. As you know, the weather in New Mexico is nice for most of the year. Today was sunny and low 70’s. I just love the blue sky. You can rent a horse or bring your own. Today my daughter road Wyatt, which is not her horse. We will transport Ruby down later in the week. I like to tell Ruby that she is going to the spa for the week.
Sadly, she was ill prepared for the mounted lesson today because she forgot her equipment, but practiced the dressage course for her ranking in preparation for next week.
Goose Downs has a riding event coming up next weekend (http://www.goosedownsfarm.com). You can board your horse there for a fee, and they even have a bunkhouse where you can stay if your coming from afar.
So while she practiced today, I helped groom the place in preparation for the dressage events this weekend. Thus I managed to get several miles in while pushing the mower.