With summer just starting in Leadville, Colorado, it’s hard to believe hunting season is just around the corner! We haven’t yet learned if we drew tags for this year (fingers crossed), but I’m already brushing up on my harvesting skills. We’re down to just a few packages of fajita meat in the freezer from last fall’s roadkill, so I’m looking forward to restocking soon!
If you’re a hunter or hiker (hunting for breathtaking scenery), you should consider purchasing and learning how to use a GPS (Global Positioning System). It will help immensely when you need to remember where you left your tasty meat, or if you’ve lost yourself in the excitement of the hunt, it will help you find your way back home!
Sally, a fellow hunter and writer, recently provided me with a Top 10 list of GPS devices and a link to an article with more information about each. Here’s what she sent:
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In the books I read as a child, the hero, well anyone who was hunting, did so with a bow and arrow. They navigated from memory or by using the sun and the stars (not at the same time naturally). Today, it’s a little different, but a large part of me loves the idea of ditching technology and going out, me versus the moose mano a mano or well, womano a moose.
Now we have small children and I have a tech obsessed husband, the question has not been what technology to use, but which type of each gadget available. One of the ones he loves most is the GPS device, as someone who is great at navigating without a map, using one is a disaster in the making, so I’ll give it to him, GPS are useful because they tell me where on the map I am and how to get to my destination. So, after a bit of trial and error, we’ve worked through and reviewed the top 10 available right now, which are:
Montana 680 Touchscreen GPS (Garmin)
Rhino 750 (Garmin)
Oregon 650t GPS (Garmin)
eTrex 10 (Garmin)
eTrex 20x (Garmin)
DeLorme InReach SE
Back Track G2 (Bushnell)
Foretex 401 (Garmin)
That’s just the list. I’ve put together the pros and cons of each as well as a review in this article covering the top 10 handheld GPS devices.
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Please check out Sally’s article for lots of info on this very important tool! I know that after some of my hunting expeditions, I could benefit from knowing how to use a GPS (but so far, my husband hasn’t steered me wrong)!
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If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!
Alpha Peak LLC (my old publishing imprint) is now STRACK PRESS LLC!
I decided it was time to update my old company name and to create a logo that was more in line with my work. The word “strack” is an old-school military term that means “very strict in one’s military appearance and grooming.” In other words, totally squared away!
After running a 99designs logo contest, the designer Caluya (TM) captured exactly what I was looking for. The logo has 12 open-book-style lines that also look like military chevrons, and the font is clean and bold. I asked for it in red, white, blue, black, and gold.
Books already published will maintain the Alpha Peak LLC imprint, but all future publications will be from Strack Press.
When I finally shook off the shackles of my religion, a process that took years, I freed my suffering psyche from a bondage I felt was never fair or right. After all, if God has made us “in his own image,” then He has made us as flawed as He must be. Instead of humanity being obligated to pray for forgiveness and mercy, should not He ask forgiveness of us?
Would a father or mother today truly condemn their child to eternal damnation for any degree of offense or disobedience? I suppose there must be consequences, right?
But eternal damnation? If my child were born with the genetic makeup to perpetrate a heinous crime, then I ought to weep for passing down that predisposition. I ought not to wish upon that child eternal damnation. Both nature and nurture influence mental health, though as we learn more about the brain and its chemistry, it would appear that nature pulls more sway. Is it a child’s fault that s/he is chemically unbalanced? I think not. Continue reading Easter Weekend: Let Us Rejoice?→
Sign up now for a chance to win one of 5 autographed copies of this crazy adult fairy tale! Until then, download an e-version (for only $2.99) and maybe buy a copy for a friend (for only $6.99)! Thanks!
I’m SO excited about the upcoming release of my Grimm’s Fairy Tales / The Twilight Zone mashup, an adult fairy tale! Written from a second-person point of view, this twisted tale is one I hadn’t intended to write, but hey, when the muse throws sex in your face, you’ve got to do something with it!
Pre-orders for ebooks are open now and will be released with the paperback on March 12, 2017 (a full moon!). And check out the cover artwork!!!
Ask me where I had it designed . . .
Thank you for your support! The ebook is only $2.99 and the paperback will be $6.99. Worth it for the artwork alone, I’d say!
In 2014 I wrote a post called “Brown-Chicken-Brown-Cow” (say it like you’re imitating the soundtrack to a ’70s porn film) in which I exposed my first sexual encounter, one that could have ended in disaster. I was lucky.
Many decades later and with 33+ years of marriage to the same guy, I’m pleased to say my luck has not run out. I’ll soon publish a novella called The Hare, Raising Truth about love and lust and lucky charms, and I’ve dedicated it to my husband. He is, truly, my lucky charm (oh, stop your gagging. It’s true). It’s a creepy story, but Mike said it’s my best writing yet. Yeah, he read it under sedation awaiting surgery, but I’m quite certain it didn’t affect his judgment at all. (read more for quick writing prompts about love!)Continue reading Does Love Need Prompting? Love Prompts!→
In last month’s newsletter I challenged readers to study their hands and tell me their story. Sometimes it’s difficult to create a fresh prompt idea, but I stared at my own suspended fingers over the keyboard and there it was. Art teachers often have students draw their hands, an exercise more difficult than it sounds, so it’s not a unique idea. I frequently say, “Bah, humbug!” to people who complain of writer’s block because even if they may not know how to start their next scene, they can always look at whatever’s in front of them—their hands, for instance—and write a description.
But I don’t want to write a description today. I fear falling into clichéd comparisons between my hands and my mother’s, sentimental ponderings over how my hands have held and fed and clothed and disciplined my children, mundane expressions about how handy these gadgets have been over the years—the anatomy of tendons and veins, the soft cheeks and huggable bodies, the constant completion of tasks performed without a thought. Continue reading My Right Hand(edness)→
This time last year Mike was stacking wood and shoveling snow (I just read last year’s newsletter!) in a “blustery 18 degrees” and today he does the same in 9 degrees of blowing snow. I’m comfy in my fuzzy pink bathrobe by the fire, still determined to give the snail-mail authorities a little extra business this year.
Travel this past year included two weeks in California where I was honored to help my sister Christine and her children with my brother-in-law Keith’s transition from this world to the next, my trip to Smith College to speak on a panel at their Leadership Conference, a trip to sister Carol’s to visit with Mum and sister Charlene, an unexpected trip to Hilton Head to visit with author Janet Sheppard Kelleher (where I parasailed and avoided gators and dropped my phone in the ocean and put together my book Haikus Can Amuse—because I dropped my phone in the ocean), a week in Maine to visit with my Mum and family at Susie and Jim’s gorgeous waterfront home, a road trip to visit Jake in Austin and another couple of weeks in the trailer at Moab and Lake Powell with Mike and the Ranger-dog. I’m becoming quite the Stand-Up-Paddleboarder and absolutely love being on the water! There were also several Colorado road trips to attend various author events at schools and libraries. Pitch: Please support your local libraries! They do much to support their communities and their local authors.
I continue to write and publish my books on Amazon and blog at www.leadvillelaurel.com about lots of things including another no-kill hunting season and my first warm elk harvesting from an early morning roadkill call. We finally had a legitimate reason to purchase a separate freezer. Waterwight hit the streets on Leap Day. It was great fun to write, and now I’m working on Waterwight: Flux, the second book in the series. I have a feeling 2017 will be a year of great productivity as I have several other writing projects in various stages of completion already.
Training for and competing in his 11th one-hundred-mile mountain bike race this summer just wasn’t exciting enough for Mike, and though it wasn’t his plan, he ended the race in time to manage one of many of the wildfires in Colorado last summer. After several exhausting days he returned to a structure fire, and as soon as he was convinced all was in control, I drove him to Denver to have his second hip replacement, but not before I sent him off to California to climb mountains with his brother Mark over Labor Day weekend. He had to make sure he used up every last bone surface and I had to get him out of the house to compete in a 3-Day Novel contest. By the way, he’s now quite happy being Titanium Man, and I wrote my best piece of fiction ever. Not sure what the county would do without his Emergency Manager expertise, and he’s pretty happy with his influence in many areas throughout our community.
He humored me by letting me offer our home for Leadville’s Victorian Homes Tour right after Thanksgiving, for which I felt compelled to complete the installation of hardwood floors in several rooms. We had a toilet in our living room until the day before Thanksgiving and couldn’t really use the kitchen for the whole week prior, but that didn’t stop me from being able to feed an Army Thanksgiving afternoon.
Have I mentioned what a great guy my husband is?
As for our sons, Jake still enjoys life in Austin working in the IT world and still working on the van that broke down there over a year ago. My Mum made the difficult decision to stop driving last summer and sent her vehicle to him, much to his surprise and delight. He visited us this past summer and at Thanksgiving, but will stay in Austin to have a friends’ Christmas this year. I knew it had to happen at some point, and it will be most peculiar having our first Christmas without him home, but we’re happy he has good friends with whom to share the celebration.
First Lieutenant Nicholas McHargue (Army National Guard promotion this past summer) continues to work at the mine while completing prerequisites for applications to medical schools. We still love having him live just a mile away, and I think he enjoys his mum’s home cooking every once in a while.
The Ranger-dog is still a goofball and loves traveling with us. If you’re interested in knowing more about him, I wrote a blog post called “Don’t Get a Dog” which you might want to read before making a decision to get a dog. We really do like him.
And so, as this year comes to a close, I reflect on things that have stayed the same, but acknowledge the many things that have changed. Like most everyone else, we lost and gained family members and friends this year. The gains are always happy, the losses always sad, especially when we think “too soon” or “not fair.”
When the fruitcakes stopped coming, we knew Nell was dead.
I met Mike’s 2nd cousin twice or thrice removed by marriage when we were young West Point cadets. We managed somehow to earn off-post passes several weekends during our last semester at the Academy, and Nell and Dave lived about an hour’s drive away. We’d hop into Mike’s sexy red Datsun 280ZX and visit the old folks at their split-level old-folks-smelling home on many acres of overgrown land and think we were in heaven. Anything away from West Point felt like heaven.
They were educated, classy people. Discussions around their dinner table always left us young kids with things to ponder when we weren’t busy making out in the music room.
“I don’t see anything, and even if I did, I won’t tell!” Nell’s declaration still makes me laugh. I guess we’d forgotten to close the door.
After we married, Mike and I stayed in touch with them by snail mail, and that’s when the fruitcakes started coming. I remember the first year the red box arrived.
“What is it?” Mike asked.
“A fruitcake. Looks fancy.”
“Eeww. That’s not really even a dessert.” Mike has never been a dessert person, preferring a second helping of lasagna over anything that might taste sugary. “You could probably hurt someone with that.”
I’m pretty sure I re-gifted the first several years of fruitcakes that came from the Collin Street Bakery in round red “keepsake” tins. They probably got the biggest laugh at several white elephant parties. But one year I decided to honor my by-marriage relatives by keeping their gift for myself. I remember feeling guilty about opening the seal and making that first slice knowing I’d probably end up throwing the rest away.
And oh . . . my . . . gosh. It was sumptuous. It may have taken a week, but I ate the whole darned thing. I ate the whole darned thing all by myself every year for several years.
Fast forward to our assignment back at West Point about nine years after graduation, and now we had opportunities to bring our tiny tots to visit with Nell again. Dave had left this world behind, and the woman I thought was ancient when we were cadets now appeared greatly diminished. I remember chopping down our first Charlie Brown tree on her property Jake’s first Christmas when Nick was almost three. And I remember feeling sad.
The fruitcakes kept coming for years to several new addresses after we left West Point, and we kept the snail mail authorities in pocket change with our cards and letters. Nell remained active in The Arts programs in her community and would write pages about the goings-on about Warwick, which I could easily read until in her later years when her fingers must have frustrated her greatly.
And then there came no more.
(I’ll add some photos of Nell to this post when I find them).
* I was inspired to write this post by a West Point peer, Chip Armstrong, who has a loyal following on Facebook by posting the occasional word or phrase that provokes comment. Today’s word was fruitcake, and he even attached a photo of a C-ration fruitcake tin. We would eat anything as cadets, even those cans of tasteless, crumbly, cake-ish dried fruit. Can you say ‘constipation’?
When Mike’s phone rings at 2:30 a.m.—or any other cold, dark hour—I anticipate the worst. His official job title is Lake County Emergency Manager, but he also volunteers for our county Search and Rescue team. Someone’s probably lost in the mountains.
“What’s that again?” Mike’s oh-dark-thirty voice sounds confused. He flips on the light and I pull the covers over my head like a vampire recoiling from a sunbeam. “Let me ask the wife,” he continues, and now I’m confused.
“Hey, dear, you wanna go carve up some tasty elk?”
You’ve got to be kidding me, I think. It’s 2:30 in the morning and it’s cold outside and it’s warm in bed and it’s 2:30 in the morning and it’s cold outside and I’ve never carved up an actual whole elk before and I’m a little bit scared and it’s 2:30 in the morning.
“Ahhhhh . . . yeah, I guess, you wanna?” I steel myself for his response. Maybe he doesn’t wanna, and then I could say, “We could’ve had elk meat this year, but . . .”
But he says “sure.”
We stumble into warm, unimportant clothes and Ranger looks at us dazed, he stretches, shakes, turns in a circle and plops back onto his bed.
We added our names to the Sheriff’s Department Roadkill List last year after discovering it was “a thing” from another hunter and had already turned down a couple of previous calls for side-of-the-road deer when we weren’t available for a speedy response. We had no real excuse this time, and we were told it was a cow elk about a 15-minute drive away. It was my hunting season. I had a tag for a cow elk (not necessary for a roadkill) and hadn’t seen a single sign of one, probably because I was hunting up in the mountains during daylight, not along county roads at night.
As we approach the mile marker we were told she was near, Mike slows his truck and I strain my eyes to find her. My butterflies wake up. My time has finally come to put my YouTube and book-learnin’ to practical use. For the past couple of years I’d watched and re-watched Fred Eichler’s YouTube video on the “gutless method” of harvesting meat from an elk until I knew I could do it when the time came.
The time had come.
“There she is,” I point to the body conveniently lying on her side just off the road. Mike parks his truck so the headlights illuminate the scene. It’s about 3 a.m. and not as cold as it could be. She’s gorgeous. She’s young.
And she’s still warm. Her open eyes, lovey long-lashed soft brown, disinterested, nonjudgmental, show no sign of fear or struggle. I stroke the so-soft fur along her neck and thank her for what I’m about to do. A knot catches in my throat and I can’t look into her eyes again.
With two short-bladed knives at the ready, my Havalon and Mike’s Gerber, I raise her right leg.
“Here, hold this up,” I direct Mike. I take a deep breath and visualize Eichler as he makes short, fast cuts until the shoulder peels away from its blade. It works, and Mike deposits our first quarter on a clean tarp.
The right hind quarter is more difficult because of its size and the bones involved and the fact that I’m cutting near the gut. After another deep breath—I’m sweating at this point—I do exactly what I’ve burned into my brain, find the hip socket, think briefly about Mike’s new titanium hip, shake that thought from my head, and with Mike holding up the weight of it, after several more slices along the curvature of the butt bone (that’s the technical name), we have a beautiful hind quarter.
“What’s next?” Mike asks.
“Backstrap,” I say, “and I’d like to keep the pelt.”
After cutting the hide up the belly, I have Mike pull back on the pelt while I release it with quick slices from the warm body. I’m surprised by how easily it peels away. When I get over the backbone, I’m ready to liberate the first backstrap, that long, tender meat along the length of the backbone. Piece of cake.
Now I’m nervous because I want the tenderloin. To do that, I’ve got to make an incision below the bottom rib, reach my hand inside, grab it, and cut it on either end from its connective tissue. I’m afraid of puncturing the gut with my knife. Despite the headlights, we’re really working in the dark, and I can’t seem to feel what I’m after.
My hand slides between the gut and the ribs and I marvel at the warmth and silky smoothness. I push back against the abdomen and continue my search for the most prized piece, but to no avail.
“Let’s roll her on the other side,” I tell Mike, though I feel guilty I’ve failed this task. As we roll her over, a car creeps by and then speeds off toward the pass to Aspen.
“Bet they’ve never seen something like this before,” Mike says, and we laugh at what a sight we must be—nighttime knife-wielding roadside butchers eerily illuminated in the headlights. “At least if they call the police they’ll already know about the road kill notification.”
By the time the next two quarters and backstrap are liberated, I feel like I’ve just competed in a wrestling match. I’m sweating bullets. I’ve used muscle fibers that have been dormant for years. I must get the tenderloin from this side.
I reach my hand in again and hear the sound of air escaping.
“You didn’t cut the intestines, did you?” Mike jumps back with an expression of foul anticipation.
But there’s no smell. My hand probes up higher into the rib cage and I feel something flat. “I think it was a lung. You should really feel in here,” I tell him, and he does. “I think if you’ll use both hands and pull back on the gut, I can find it.” He pulls the now-bulging gut away from the backbone and my hand finds the treasure. I cut out the large-baked-potato-size tenderloin.
After bagging and storing the meat and pelt in the back of the truck, we look at what remains on the side of the road.
“We should probably pull it farther back into the brush,” Mike suggests, and this turns into no easy task. Even with all we’ve removed, it takes the two of us with arms around the weighty head to pull what remains of the cow into a place she won’t be spotted from the road.
It’s still dark when we get home and we’re stupid tired. Our garage is cold. We work together to hang the four quarters from hooks in the rafters and the place is transformed into the freezer scene from Rocky.
Ranger is happy to see us and even happier to sniff our blood-stained boots. I shower and fall into bed, knowing my real work—skinning, butchering, packaging and freezing all that meat—is just beginning.
“Bet you never thought you’d be doing stuff like this 33 years ago,” Mike says.
“Nope. Never in a million years.”
I close my eyes and know I’ll never forget a single moment from the past few hours. I’ll never forget those lovely brown eyes.
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If you like my writing, you might enjoy my books! Check them out here, and thank you!