Friday, October 27, 2017

Hey Sherpa Pem, Can You Find My Pants?

Dear Uncle  George,

May 15, 1907:
Crooked River.  It is true to name.  Mr. Thompson carrying the instrument part of the time.  Mr. Ray McCollough is name of the boy, I talked to him about smoking.  Only seventeen years old and has an old pipe between his lips often.
Sent my instruments to Far West, with Mr. Ruben Sloan.  Passed some places with fat stock, sheep that had just been shorn, hogs, goats.

Val May 15, 2013:
Got to the Crooked River in Ray County.  Forgot my camera.

Had to go home, 75 miles out of my way, to get it.  Feel cranky.  May or may not have cussed.

If I had a Sherpa like you did, I bet he would have remembered to bring my camera to the PHOTO shoot.

I have met a Sherpa in real life.  His name is Pem.  He is so amazing that Glamour Magazine would say he is "bad ass."

He has climbed Mt. Everest.  Twice.  Without oxygen.

The second time he did it, his fiance and a friend climbed with him.  The friend performed their marriage ceremony at the summit.   You can read about them here:

It took 12 segments of directions to get to the Crooked River, including not one, but two dirt roads with mooing cows.  They were laying down so everyone knows that rain was on the way.  People don't always believe that old farmer's tale, but Gary Lezak from Channel 41 News says it is legit.  This is, however, the same guy that mixes solid stripes with plaid so clearly he can't be completely trusted.

There were so many unmarked roads that I am sure it was practically just as hard as climbing Mr. Everest.  That is why I needed Pem.

This is one of the first times I have traveled to the wilds of Missouri (aka no cell service).  I think it is the quietest place in the state.  It was so quiet that I got sort of scared.  Scared enough that I kept looking back at Mrs. Fun, the only link to civilization, and my bug spray I forgot in the car.

I am pretty sure I was trespassing on someone's land.
I mean, who the freak mows this?

Just keep walking, just keep walking

I bet you had long pants on when you were tromping around.  I, however, was not as smart.  I had on shorts because, my heck, it was 93*.  And as the 8th graders on the boy's soccer team voted...I have great legs so why cover them up.

This leads to the the spawns of the devil himself...ticks.  I think they originate out of Wyoming...which makes perfect sense.

As my dad likes to call some things, they truly are "little bald-headed bastards."  I doubt they have a lot of hair and they are little so the name surely applies.  I found 7 freeloaders, burrowing into my skin.  We can't forget the chigger bites.  Let's not even go there.

The Crooked River should really be named "Crooked Landfill."  I found a set of lounge chairs, broken umbrella, and a weird, brown, slimy something.

The river is so filthy that it reminds me of the Ganges in India.  That thing is filled with cremated dead bodies, so what exactly is the Crooked River filled with?

Maybe that is why there were lounge chairs there.  A guy needs a comfy place to rest after dragging a heavy mobster from the car through the weeds.

Another similarity to the Ganges is that there are steps on the bank leading down to the river, in the middle of no where.  These random steps support my idea that perhaps some dead bodies may or may not have been tossed in here.


Think about it.  Once you use the amount of cement needed to sink a body to the bottom of the river, I guess you have to do something with the leftover mix.  No one wants to carry all that heavy material back to the car.

I bet somebody somewhere thought "I've got it!  We will make steps so the next time we have need to come back here reasons, we can get to the river's edge safely."  Safety first as Tom Allison used to say.  I've seen the edited version of "The Godfather" so I know how former business partners can end up swimming with the fishes.

Despite one the dirt roads being named "Trout Road," I don't have much hope in the idea that there are actually trout swimming in this dump river.

 I think the guy is the forefront is happy because he wore his long pants.  

Don't let this lovely scene fool you.  This place is janky.

All this effort for one George shot.  I hope you enjoy it.

The good news is that I made it back to the car, safe and mostly sound.  
More good news is that I actually made my way out of the most isolated, silent location in Missouri.  And super good news is that I found a Sonic in Lawson that sold strawberry lemonade and had a local car wash.

The best news of all, however, is that I didn't see any mobsters out for a leisurely stroll.  However, if I had, I bet I could have borrowed some bug spray.


Tuesday, January 10, 2017

No Rich Men In Richmond

Dear Uncle George,

George May 10, 1907:
I rose early and found directions to Edwin Whitmer, son of John C. Whitmer. Anxious to get through, so went to without breakfast.  Mr. Whitmer said he could not give me information I desired.  He did not believe things that were taught by the Whitmerite Church, so he had not taken an interest in them.  Met Mrs. Miller who was popping corn and preparing to entertain some children in the evening.

Val May 10, 2013:
Had some yummy Life cereal, with a side of fiber.  Fixed the vacuum.  Check on dead fish. Good lemonade, although not hard.  Lunch at a saloon.  Found some $1 store pregnancy tests (ekk!).  Graves made of cement tree trunks.  Matt broke up a fist fight at the Wendy's in Grandview.  Stopped at the jail site that is now a thrift store and bought cheap pearls for the Great Gatsby party.  This is the cemetery that Bob Ford is buried in, who shot Jesse James, otherwise known as the coward who shall not be named.

Despite the name, Richmond, Missouri is not full of rich monds. Or men.  And I didn't meet any men named Rich.  I looked around for some, but nope.  My hopes of finding an 82 year old sugar daddy...dashed.

As a matter of fact, it is unsettling close to the village of Orrick.  The next time I was by Richmond, I was photographing it.  Most of the community was spread all over the place.  Boards. Nails. Underwear.  And don't forget the recreational trailer that was flipped completely over, thus thwarting plans for the weekend at Lake of the Ozarks.

A tornado ripped through Orrick on May 9th, 2014, 
exactly 364 days after this blog post outing to Richmond.  Life is so strange.

I know these have nothing to do with the Mini Mission, 
but they are interesting to look at.  And it is my blog so...

This touched me.  I didn't know it was a song.  
Not by any old band either...Casting Crowns...
one of my favorites.  Which makes it even super cooler.

He wasn't praising.  One half wall left.  Can you believe that?

Richmond is not as exciting (thank goodness).  It basically is on the map because it is the eventual resting place of many of the members of the Whitmer family. Some stayed true to Mormonism.  Some did not.

Grave of David Whitmer, one of Three Witnesses

Oliver Cowdrey is buried in this cemetery as well, 
but his gravestone was torn away 
by a tornado (now there's a surprise) in June 1878.

Rich-men-less Richmond

I brought my lovelies Carol and Aubrey along for the ride.  Not that either of them needed $1 pregnancy tests from the Dollar Store, but you know, sometimes a missionary likes some companions.  Although they left me out of the teal color club.  

This is a monument site that was dedicated in 1911 
for the Book of Mormon, Three Witnesses and Joseph Smith. 
(George came back in 1911 and photographed the site)

Post note:  December 2016  
I was at the Jiffy Lube the other day, and this really old gentlemen came in and sat next to me.  I recognized him.  Since my seahorse is broken, I couldn't remember where from.   But it was Alvin Whitmer, out of Richmond, the second great grandson of Peter Whitmer.  They have not come back to the Church since, as he put it..."We got kicked out in 1840."  Pity he doesn't live there now.  He looks about 82.  :)


Thursday, September 8, 2016

Dear Jack White, you're irritating.

Written by Uncle George:  May 9th, 1907
Rose before 5:35 am.  Bath.  Breakfast.  Twenty-one meals for $3 and it was good food.  Out about five miles east of Kansas City and made a view of the Big Blue.  Very muddy and sluggish.  

Val:  May 9th, 2013
Accidentally ruined The Boy's Boy Scout shirt.  Ate some chocolate fiber.   Listened to Adam Levine.  Felt sorry for the folks in North Dakota.

The day started out pretty annoying.  Seth was about two minutes from finally finishing that blasted Eagle Scout Boy Scout program.  So it made sense (not) that I should ruin his very expensive uniform and every single patch on it in the wash. Nice.

It didn't have this much bling, but when you have to buy news patches and sew each patch on by hand AND the patches are about as thick as the walls of ancient Troy, you feel irritated.  And when you pull back your hands from your work, your fingers worn to the nub from shoving the needle into those patches, you feel irritated about that, too.

Plus, I had to go to the city.  I am not going to lie. Nobody in KC knows where "Kaw Township" (name circa 1830).  It took about 984 years to track down. Irritating.

In case you are curious, The Big Blue River is in the northeast corner of Kansas City.  North of Independence Avenue, which if you live in the city, you know what I am saying.  It isn't your Big Blue River, Uncle George.

And it is certainly not the best part of town for a missionary to be running around in. Especially a woman.  Alone.  That isn't some--"rich girls use to describe almost everything that's not clad with lily polos and pearls"--statement.  It's just a fact.  By the way, this statement was made by someone who was upset about being judged based on where they reside and how they live.  See the logic? Everyone knows that one mean judgement deserves another.

The real truth I've never said out loud is that "all fat, white middle-aged Midwestern housewives" lives are full of lily polos and pearls.  That, and apparently we think about Jack White.  A lot.  

According to Jack White.

Jack White, the musician, a few years ago said that very thing.  He said that we fatties sit around gossiping about his love life.  

Drats.  Our secret is out.

Jack, you are spot on.  Not only do we spend all our days gossiping about you, but twisting our perfectly manicured fingernails around all those pearls we wear.

"Kaw Township" is quite a place.  I saw a drug deal go down in a pavilion.  There was trash everywhere.  I found a 1970's stereo speaker with a smashed desk.  There was a piece of house siding laying on the ground.  There were blue tarps covering a lot of the roofs.

Actually, I like blue tarps.  I grew up with them all over Alaska.  They are basically the Duct tape of the housing world.  They feel familiar.  And who doesn't like Royal Blue...which actually makes sense in KC.

Royal Blue and The Fat Lady, representing the rest of us.

I didn't dare leave sight of the Mini.  For it's sake, not mine.  There was no fishing for fun, either.  And I saw some fresh graves.  For real.

I am not sure why I felt sorry for the folks of North Dakota May 9th, 2013.  I am a humanitarian, and much like the Indian widows, I guess I feel sorry for Dakotans on a regular basis.  Actually, it is one of two states I have not visited.  I can only guess that they aren't clad with lily polos or pearls and that is why I can't be bothered.

But I bet they have blue tarps.  And no concern for Jack White's love life.  

One more thing.  When I heard that Jack said about what Midwestern women, I wrote him a letter.  You know I did.

It went something like this:

Dear Jack White,
You don't need to worry.  Speaking for all fat, middle-aged housewives in the Midwest, we don't sit around talking about your love life.  Because we don't even know who you are.  Or anything about you.  Except that you are irritating.
Bye Felicia,

Well, me and my nubby fingers got to go.  I have 1,000's of calories to consume (man, I hope I don't drop any food on my lily polo).  And Jack White to mock.  Now that I know who he is.



Sunday, July 24, 2016

" Who Needs Hell When You Have Wyoming?"

Dear Uncle George,

I have decided a state is my nemesis.

I don't know Anne Proulx.  Candidly, she sounds kinda of nutty but we should have a conversation.  We seriously have something big in common:  we can't stand Wyoming.

Here she is.  We practically look like twins.

She writes fictional wild-west tales that include Satan in Wyoming.  You know the one, where the Prince of Darkness is moonlighting as an interior designer, brainstorming the look of eternal damnation.

I know what he has gone with...a winter motif.  Lavished in bright red velvet (a given), snow and wind.  Lots of wind.

Having been to Wyoming three disastrous times (not including that one visit to an old boyfriend) I can totally believe it.

And if by chance, you want to visit Hell on earth, I know the port of entry:
Casper (aka The Great Terrible).

The answer is Casper, Alex, for $100.

My last letter to you included the news that I was going to go back to Casper in February 2016 to photograph Martin's Cove for the Church.  I tried to go in 2015, but there was no snow.  No snow.  No story.  No story.  No pictures.

My heart tries to trust in the unseen, so I thought this year, "Man, wouldn't a little snow be great?  Snow to tell the story of the handcart pioneers."

I made plans.  I even bought special snow boots.  Hand warmers.  Gortex.  My first Gortex, ever.  I mean, I am a freaking Alaskan.  How hard could it be?

Don't try to play me, Casper.  I am on to your shifty ways.

Literally, the minute my plane landed in Denver (not kidding--that very minute), it began to snow.

Enter stage left...Blizzard Kayla.

A scheduled trip of three days became a trip of seven days, three of which I spent trapped in my hotel room.  A hotel room in The Great Terrible?  Yeah, it's all that and more.  All that.  The good news is that the local Chinese restaurant was the only place that stayed open, so I feasted on Asian ethnic food that is as good as could be expected in a town that based it's name on a misspelling.

If Anne had been in the state, I am sure she would have invited me over and fed me freshly slain cattle meat.  But obviously she is aware of the hardships of winter in The Great Terrible and has moved to Seattle.  Thanks for nothing, Anne.

Finally, the storm broke.  I was able to drive the 64 treacherous miles to the site.  And as they say in Star Wars, "This is where the fun begins."

It was actually pretty in it's own sort of way.  For about 8 minutes.

Martin's Cove has a long, tender pioneer history that I am not skilled enough to write. However Wikepedia is because, hello, everyone knows what you read there is totally true.

Their story is beyond remarkable.  Catastrophic, actually.  And that was what I was there to photograph.  Catastrophe.  How do you do that?  "Engage wholly."

So I did.  At a cost.  

I feel like that "little snow" was not about me.  It was about the people who lived the story...the pioneers.  And my small photography offering was to help tell their story.

I gave what I could.

I can say that because, at this very moment here in Kansas City, we are in the middle of a "heat dome" (heat wave 110* with index).  And I can feel my frostbite burning in my hands and feet.  

Even with all my Alaskan grit, my winter wear planning, and my fancy 6 hour hand and feet warmers I got frostbite.  Freaking Wyoming wind.

With the combination of the snow storm and the -15*, my body did not have the fortitude to combat wind as well.  

The Great Terrible defeated me those couple days.  Me, as a person.  Not me, as a photographer.  And here is how I know:

Many of the summer shots are mine.  But those winter shots...those winter shots own part of my soul.  
The actual trail

The missionaries on site make their own period costumes

There is a working ranch.  It is called the Sun Ranch

Missionaries live there year round. 
They are the toughest missionaries.  Ever.

My favorite picture

This is what frost bite in the making looks like  :)

I like a church that wears many hats

I wish I could say that I finished all the photographs I wanted to take but I can't. More snow arrived, and after the interstate reopened, I got the heck out of Dodge, er... I mean Cowtown.  

A big shout out to you, The Great Terrible, because you won.

In the words of some other religion I found on-line:  "There is no place on Earth closer to Hell than Cleveland."  

Whatever, Cleveland.  Have you seen Wyoming's interior design?  Anne and I know a guy... :)


Thursday, December 10, 2015

I Got Home (17 months ago, but whose counting?)

Dear Uncle George,


My name is Valerie and I am your great grand niece.  It is true.  We have met before a couple years back, but you know, you are dead.  I don't know if time is really an issue for you dead folks, but here in the land of the living, it is a commodity.  I am guessing that being dead really isn't too hard or time consuming, so it may be that too much time on your hands is hard for you.  As hard as it is for the band, Styx.

Blogging seems to be pretty much a dead activity (no pun intended) nowadays.  With Facebook, the king of two sentence comments and stupid memes, nobody has the attention span to write, little lone read, anything of length.  If it doesn't have some picture of flying horses or poorly dressed folks at Walmart, ain't nobody got time for that.

But cat memes?  That is another story.

As a matter of fact, blogs are so old school that the only ones who seem to be doing it are radical Al-Qaeda extremists.  It appears that terrorist work is sporadic and kind of hard to come by.  By the looks of it, they have too much time on their hands, too.  I don't follow their blogs, but it seems that they like to use theirs to brag about the evil doings of their organization.  Nobody's got time for that, either.

I have been out of pocket for um, yeah, the last 17 months.  I am only able to connect with you now because the UPS guy has stood me up for the last 7 hours and has forced me to stay home.  I never stay home for 7 whole hours in a row except when I sleeping.  And the sleeping is up in the air when Mr. Fun's snoring is flared up.

I hardly know where to begin.

Let's start with that I drove around a lot in summer 2014.  Over 6,100 miles as a matter of fact.  I drove from KC to Nauvoo, Illinois to start the trip west.  I was gone for five weeks and saw a lot of stuff.  It was super freaking hot in the desert of Arizona.  And I thought I might get kidnapped in Dodge City, Kansas.  Which, of course, gave me the opportunity to literally say "Let's get the hell out of Dodge," as Joe Popper always says.  There was no us in the "let's" but I said it, anyway.  I am rebellious like that.

I fell madly, truly, deeply in love with Nebraska.  It might be because they are "nice"...and they even tell you in their state slogan.  I got to ride in a combine with some guy who looked pretty freaked out some strange woman was basically sitting on his lap.  I ate Nebraska corn.  I stayed in a Microtel which was the tiniest room ever.  I wore my "Nebraska" Big Red t-shirt so I looked like a local. I made a boyfriend named...I have forgotten.  He is of Swedish decent like everyone else there.  And I went to the Pioneer Village in Minden, which I hear is full of heathens who equate Jesus Christ to Chris Angel.  Because they both can walk on water.  All good Nebraskans know that.  Of course.

Southern Iowa is actually really beautiful, despite what their Nebraskan neighbors say.

Wyoming, on the other hand, totally sucks.  Or more aptly put, "blows."

Dear Wyoming, you are the worst place in the United States.  I am positive.  And since I have been everywhere, I can judge you.  Go ahead and try to redeem yourself.  You can't.  I didn't know I could like a place less than New Hampshire.  But I can.  And it is called "Casper."

Oh yeah, you tried to talk fancy to me with your lack of speed limit and your poser Autobon road, but I saw right through you when the hotel desk clerk told me I would have drive another 100 miles to get the last hotel room.  Or drive to Denver.  Or sleep in the Mini.  Alone.  In the Walmart parking lot.

And don't even get me started on the city water.  Or that damn wind.  I thought I was done with you but alas, the Church asked me last week if I would go back to Casper to photograph Martin's Cove in the winter.

Karma.  I am reaping it.

The trip started to blur together after I entered the Salt Lake Valley like my man, Brigham.  I cried.  I taped some signs on the Mini.  I took a selfie.  Official "trek" over.  As unceremoniously as it began.

I drove on to California to see my folks and swim in their pool.  I touched the ocean in San Diego.  In Arizona, I had a drink at the saloon in Tombstone.  Got hit on by a old cowboy from Nebraska (he must have felt my honorary Nebraskan vibe) who moved to Tombstone to "slow down."  From Nebraska living.  He invited me to move in with him, but he lived outside of town.  I declined.  I mean, who wants to deal with a commute anymore?

I got scared in Oklahoma when the car just got tired and stopped going.  There isn't a Mini dealership in the entire state of OK.  Or Nebraska.  I know that because I almost got crushed by a semi in Ogallala and it ripped off part of the windshield.  Ogallala.  Stupid "Lonesome Dove" made it look like a rural nirvana.  Nope.  Smelly, dirty, and no internet.  But I got a t-shirt there that says something witty like "I like red meat."  I bought it for my brother, but kept it for my greedy self.  Never to wear it.  Good thing I found another way to waste Mr. Fun's money.

Speaking of Mr. Fun, as always, he stayed home to pay for all my "gallivanting" as my mother calls it.  Whatever it is called, I did it.  And he paid for it.  Oprah calls that "multitasking."  I call that "winning."  For me.

I mean, come on.  Five weeks I didn't have to make dinner?   How is that not a win?  I ate $1.00 chicken sandwiches from McDonalds and whatever granola bars I found on the floor of the passenger side of the car.  And those Gushers...mmm.  That is a love affair for the ages.

This rambling has gone on long enough. I was going to insert pictures but eh, I am too spent.  Besides, the UPS man finally showed so all bets of staying home any longer are off.  There is a Mini to drive and Fun's money to spend.

Some things never change.

No worries, Uncle George.  I am back.  Really back.  :)

One more thing I learned in Nebraska is how to spy a lazy farmer.  If you don't know how, well, I can't help you.  Bless you and your ugly corn field's heart.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Who needs a memory? I have a camera.

Dear Uncle George,

If you weren't dead and I was a better texter, I would pull a sort of Britney Spears and text you a note.

And it would read something like this..."We need a break."

I know the last time I wrote on this blog was in March.  It isn't because I don't love you.  It isn't because I needed a break then.  But I do now.

I have been busy.  I hate it when people say that.  I hate it that everyone tells everyone else how busy they are.  Like a badge of honor.  "I am busy.  So busy.  So super busy.  Look at me.  My busy is so much busier than your busy that I barely have time to tell you how busy I am."  I hate it as an excuse.  But it is the truth.  And today, it is mine.

And of course, since my Sea Monster is broken I can't tell you what I have been so busy doing.  You certainly could read all about why I don't know what I have been doing the last four months, but I don't remember which post it was.  But that said, I do remember I wrote one.  And it had some creepy picture of some body part from the stem of a brain.   Nice.  Everybody likes a visual.

Wait!  I have the answer.  I will look at my photography files!

So, I know I took a trip to California to have a tea party with my niece who is my Mini Me (little shout out to Willie Nelson "Free Willie" t-shirt circa 1974)

I know that I went to "Take Your Child To Work Day" with my dad.  So what that I am the oldest one ever in the history of the world to do it.

Personal time was short.  Then I had the whole photography missionary gig to do.

Welcome to spring in the Midwest.  This is Orrick, Missouri.  Home of a F-3 tornado. 
Gee, I sure could have used my dad's hard hat here.

I welcomed home about 25 World War 2 vets from an Honor Flight.  This fella was about 90.  Look how good his skin looks.

I saw a bunch of happy Mormons help the city of Independence beautify a park for kids with special needs.

AND I made a new best friend named Jason or Travis.  I think.  What I particularly liked is that he gave me a tour of his "ink."  And recommended a artist in Blue Springs.  Bless his heart, however, I am true blue loyal to a guy named John Monk.  That is of course, if I finally ever give in and get a henna on my hand.  

(I think his name actually is Jason Mason--for reals)

Hung out with 12 amazing other Missourians at a leadership academy.

Enjoyed every sunset I could get my eyes on.

Collected some money for the poor 

Welcomed home Boyfriend from his two year mission.  
The Girl waited faithfully the entire time.

Saw some really cool looking people.

Enjoyed a pretty spring at the Temple

A pretty wet spring.  :)

Here is where I am at right now....I am leaving in two days to go west.  I am going to drive the Mormon Pioneer Trail from Nauvoo, Illinois to Salt Lake City Utah then to San Diego, California.  

Then I will drive the Mormon Battalion Route home though the Southwest.  

Of course Mrs. Fun will be my chariot.  And I will be gone about a month.  And, once again, I am going alone.

Even you won't be with me, since you didn't do this trip.  I guess that we did your mission last summer.   And now I will do mine.