Friday, August 28, 2015

Ringneck Pheasants in My Office: Goodbye Sweet Sixteen!

"Well, according to this download from the internet,
we need to dunk their beaks in water if they are
hatched from an incubator."
Brenda and I leaned over the cardboard pen
in my office and stared at the two week old chicks.
"That sounds easy." She said.
After fifteen minutes of catching the tiny chicks
and dunking their heads in the water dispenser
we were satisfied they knew how to drink and
felt like accomplished pheasant mothers.
It was not easy! They were tiny,
but fast as greased lightning.
Six weeks later the phone rang
and Brenda asked me how our babies were.
"They are fine but I had to put a top on the pen
because they kept flying out to sit on the windowsill.
Now the odor in the room burns your eyes because
they grew so fast but when I try to clean the pen
they all fly out! Can you help me release them
to the yard tomorrow?"
Brenda stood in the middle of my backyard
where the pheasants were SUPPOSED to live happily ever after.
"Okay, when I slide them out of Milo's cat carrier
into the pen, you can put the top on the pen." I said.
Ugh. We stared up into the sky as the sixteen pheasants
shot straight up into the sky as if out of a cannon and
away into the wild blue yonder and I said,
"Goodbye sweet sixteen!"

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Forty Year Reunion Roosevelt High School Seattle Washington Class of 1975

You know you are getting old when your reunion name tags
are in LARGE PRINT (thankfully),
you hear the word, "Legacy" in the program,
and a missing husband has NOT
sneaked off for a smoke but is sound asleep in the car.
Our reunion was held at the swanky Sand Point country club
and I arrived with my classmate Bill Cook in his
cherry restored 1967 candy apple red Mustang.
I'd dieted all summer to squeeze into my size twelve
white and pink-rosed cocktail dress but it was
tough breathing since I only got down to a size fourteen.
The zipper got caught on my back-fat while getting ready
and Terry was still at work.
Luckily one of Troy's friends was home next door
and managed to zip me in.
Probably scarred him for life!
Only a hundred of our six hundred classmates showed up
and I remembered most of them.
All past slights from high school are forgiven when
you know you are down to your last few decades
so I hugged people that I couldn't stand when I was eighteen.
I sat at a table with my best Latin club friend,
Marie McGarry and she had come up from California to see us all.
I was also with Bryant elementary friend Marcia Burkhart
and there was a good showing of Bryant and Assumption people.
Right after dinner, Aime Lambert ran up to me and said,
"Gretchen, have you seen Tom?! I can't find him anywhere?!"
I told her I hadn't seen him and an hour later
she told me, "I found him asleep in the car!"
I just laughed because I was ready for bed too.
We are almost sixty now and old and tired
and ready to retire.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

"That Gretchen is SO Stupid."

As I watched the needle on the scale creep
up, my life passed before my eyes.
The moment I had worked so hard for
for five long years had arrived.
I had been selected to be
a flight attendant and the only thing
between me and my dream job was my weight.
As I stared in horror,
the needle climbed to one hundred and thirty pounds
and I felt the floor open up under me.
Blackness and dizziness started enveloping me
and I finally heard a distant voice saying,
"Do you think you can lose that last five pounds
by training? You have six weeks before you are
scheduled in Houston."
A miracle.
It was a miracle.
After eating 1,000 calories a day for five years
I was HIRED.
"Oh yes, that will be easy." I said
smiling at the young lady in the hotel room.
Only two weeks ago I had been sorting mail
at four-thirty in the afternoon
when I overheard the mail carrier
on the next aisle over say,
"That Gretchen is SO stupid.
She never knows when to give up."

Sunday, August 9, 2015

Visiting Alaska and Denali National Park

This was the trip of a lifetime. Seeing Denali was my husband's lifelong dream and we were fortunate enough for the summit to come out for fifteen minutes during our Back Country Tour on our last day of vacation. Our bus driver, Dave Salmon, stopped so we could take pictures. He was an outstanding guide with twenty years of experience. He has a Master's degree in zoology and gave detailed information on bears, caribou, moose, ground squirrels, ptarmigan and mosquitoes. He also gave us information on the history of the park, the geography and geology of the area. He was also friendly and funny and treated our group like one big happy family. We met many many interesting people from every state in our great country from grass farmer's from Wisconsin to sugarcane farmers along the Mississippi. We met a group of sisters living near us in Seattle and are going to further our friendship too. We also met visitors from every other country while at the park and had fun taking pictures of each other all over the park. It was on the Back Country Tour that I got to fulfill one of my life time dreams. I was able to pan for gold on a real claim in Alaska in the Kantishna river behind the lodge. Being a Seattle native, the gold rush was a big area of our school studies because Seattle was grown from supplying the miners of the Klondike gold rush. When I was ten, in 1966, I remember thinking it would be so exciting to pan for gold. While I didn't find a nugget big enough to pay for our vacation, I had a lot of fun trying. At one point a grizzly bear was chasing a herd of caribou about a mile from our bus. It was fun to watch until the herd began to tire and the reality of what might happen dawned on us. Our entire bus began to chant at the caribou, "Run, run, run!" and up and over the ridge they went, leaving the disgruntled bear to a lunch of wild blueberries.
The new visitor's center at the park is stunning. I've been to lots of national park centers and none can compare Denali visitor's center beauty, range of displays and friendly rangers. Ranger Mark's talk on the wolf packs of the parks was fantastic. We learned so much about the wolves and he had two pelts which were saved when illegal hunters killed them. There are two free buses which circle the park. We took the Riley creek campground bus around the lower parts of the park, which is a hop-on hop off bus. One stop is at the Horseshoe lake trail head. A mother moose lives near the lake with her calves. She was feeding on muddy lake grass close to the shore and didn't mind us all taking pictures of her. The other free bus, the Savage river bus, goes fourteen miles into the park. It is also a hop-on hop-off bus. We got on and off all over the route. One of my favorite spots was the historical Savage river cabin. At one time in the 1930s there were forty cabins and a mess hall so it was fun to look in the windows and see all the old furniture and supplies. This bus drops off my favorite part of the trip which was the dog sled home and demonstration. I didn't know the park had this and it was one of MY life long dreams to see real life mushers mush. We were allowed to see the kennels and pet many of the dogs and when we were in the stands waiting for ranger Mark to introduce the show, you should have heard the dogs howling to be part of the sled team! When the ranger woman flew around the mud track with the dogs at top speed, it was thrilling! Neither my husband or myself had ever been on a long train ride before but like most people, we love trains. I had bought an upgrade to the Gold Dome car and it was worth every penny. This was a one time trip up to Alaska for us since we are getting older and I would suggest paying extra for this FANTASTIC ride. Our conductor George has been on the television show about Alaska and we felt like we had gone through a time machine when he came to punch our tickets wearing a traditional Alaska railroad conductor's uniform with cap. In the Gold Star cabin, you are on the top of the train in an assigned seat with plenty of leg room and able to walk around and meet neighbors and go outside to take more pictures. The meals are included in the price and we met wonderful people from all over our great country. The scenery was stunning and we saw many moose and it was exciting going over the three hundred foot high trestle bridge. My work friend from a previous job, James Ogden, has now been promoted to conductor so if you take this trip, tell him, "Gretchen says, 'Hi'" I do hope you take this trip to Alaska. It is the only untouched ecosystem left on our lovely planet and when you see the vastness of six million acres, you will be glad you did.