Fall Trip to Ha Ha Tonka

Intro

Fall is my favorite season in the Ozarks. The mild weather and the changing leaves always draw me outdoors.

It signifies a time to load the dogs up in the car and take them for a good walk somewhere else. I was really looking forward to this fall because these are some of the best times I have with my dogs, and I knew I didn’t have many falls left with Sable.

Unfortunately, she didn’t make it to this one. It’s also the first fall that Heed joined the family, so it was a bit different. I thought about venturing out somewhere else on the first trip, but I know the trails at Ha Ha Tonka and love the scenery. I will probably go to Bennett Springs this coming weekend.

Since I went in the afternoon and intended to stick around until sunset, I took the 35mm with me. Yeah, old school, but I’m too cheap to buy a digital camera that can produce nice evening photos, and this thing just works! It has treated me to some amazing low-light photos, both at dusk and twilight. (I’m sure it would do well at sunrise, but I can’t say that I’ve ever tried.)

The Photos

I don’t have the photos back yet, but I do have a few from my phone, so you are stuck with those. Like every other digital camera I’ve owned, it sucks at low-light photos, but I managed to get a few decent photos during the magic hour.

I WISH I had taken more film, because I found out today that I missed an extremely rare sighting of the Northern Lights in Missouri!!! I ended up leaving around 7.30, before dusk fully hit, because I ran out of film.

OK, the photos.

image: Sunset behind the castle
Sunset behind the castle

On the next two, you’ll see the castle peaking out of the top right corner, with the lake below in the valley.

image: Sunset on the lake
Sunset on Lake of the Ozarks

image: Sunset on the lake - alt
Sunset on Lake of the Ozarks – Alternate Filter

This tree has been here as long as I can remember. They have improved the lookout platforms, basically blocking the trail down to this tree, so it should be here for years to come as well.

This photo is a bit blurry, but I think I have some on the 35 mm as well.

image: Dead tree and Valley
A dead tree with changing leaves in the background

You can view the rest of the photos by copying the above image link and hacking the ending. I currently have photos haha-1 through haha-23 available.

References

Ha Ha Tonka

Life without Sable - Day 1

The first breakfast

Today was the first day without Sable. The first morning I woke up to never hear her yip for food again, and I didn’t get to see her do her little hydraulics bounce. She picked that up from a bad habit of Journey’s where he got excited and would bounce on his front legs whenever it was time to eat. She couldn’t jump quite as high, but she bounced a bit.

Lately she had been doing an awesome job of sitting down for her food. I haven’t forced her to do that in the past couple years because I could tell her hips were getting bad. But, as I adopted Heed, I was making the boys sit for their food and wait. And, she picked that up and started doing it again. It made me a happy and proud of her, yet a bit sad because I figured it hurt her to do that, but it was of her own choice, and she seemed proud to do it.

And lately, I had seen that she had a bit of a hard time sitting or laying down. I had the trip with Dana’s family planned, so I figured that would be a good time to take her to the vet for a check-up. Sable had a good life, and there are a lot of things I provided for her, but I wish I would have taken her in for her arthritis a long time ago. It wouldn’t have made a difference on her longevity, but I think it would have offered her a lot more comfort. I never did because the vet was aware of it and they never suggested I do anything about it other than make sure I got her to drop some weight and take her on walks.

The first time leaving for work without her

I guess yesterday was really the first, but she was still alive yesterday, and I thought I would be bringing her home last night. This was tough, taking the boys outside to give them their treats and not having to coax her along. Lately, she would be content just laying inside all day, but this was a way to make her go out and explore a bit in the morning.

When I first started doing this, she didn’t really want to go out. So, I fixed up the landing pad off of the front-back porch (my house is built backwards) to try to help her out. I had considered building a ramp for her too, but thought I’d hold off until it got bad. But as this became a habit, she was willing to come outside in the morning. It still took a bit of calling or encouragement to get her started, but you could see the excitement and happiness, and the anticipation of the rawhide chew.

The first walk without her

And this was the toughest of all. I was crying on the way home from work just anticipating this. I’m used to coming home, seeing the boys spaz out, Heed usually jumping the fence, and then coming inside to hear her yipping at the basement door to come in. Occasionally, I would let her come up the steps. Lately though, I had been making her wait a bit, and I would come around to the basement with a leash to encourage her to go outside and walk with us. I had really been focusing on this lately, because I noticed if I missed one day, she was sore and I had to coax her a lot the next day.

She always looked forward to walks, and as I had recently been forcing myself to stick to this with her, she did a great job. All I had to do was go down there with the leash, and lately she was almost always sitting there on her bed waiting for me to come get her. She would be slow-moving at first, but then she would pick it up a bit and was excited to go. By the time I opened the gate, she was ready to take off.

Tonight, I obviously didn’t go down to the basement to get her. As I rounded the first corner and then came up to the cross-path I cut in the field, I stopped. Journey always marks this spot, and I always look back to see Sable coming around the corner, checking to make sure she’s keeping up with us. I looked back tonight, almost out of reflex, and probably not “one last time.” I caught myself as I was doing it, and pictured her walking around the corner. As we got to the next turn, I did the same thing again. At this point, I had a heavy heart and I was crying so much that I didn’t end up looking back again until we were on our way to the back stretch.

After the second turn, we go through a bit of a cut-out in the trees, and I typically waited for her to wade through the brush and catch up. If I didn’t do this, she usually went out the fence and into the neighbor’s field, and no clue when she would come back. But as long as I waited for her, she would stick with us. From that point, we went up by the briers and made turn three, then walked down the small path that I cut across the field. This path cuts across the field and lets out right after turn one. Sable usually held back a little bit here, hunting for rabbits. I used it as a chance to get up to the back path which comes off of turn one instead, and this gave her a chance to cut across to us.

It’s not so much that she’s lazy. That’s definitely a part of it, but for some reason, given the choice she would rather wade through tall grass and burrs instead of walking down a path. So, this cross-leg gave Journey and I a chance to follow the path and get onto the back path quickly, so she could come and catch up. The back path dumps back into the main path around turn two. Here again, I wait for Sable to catch up so she doesn’t go exploring in the neighbor’s yard.

At the point I reached that tonight, I was crying again. Sable usually would be right behind us at this point, wading through the burrs. I would have to give her a few seconds to catch up, and she would cut through the trees instead. I looked back and reflected on this briefly tonight, wiping my tears.

Here, we were on the last bit of the walk. We would head back up to turn three by the briers, but instead of proceeding down the cross-path, we would walk along the fence. And almost always, after we were behind the walnut trees, Journey and I would stop and wait for her as she went exploring for rabbits or just wading through tall grass again. This is where sometimes she would follow us back into the yard, and sometimes she would explore a bit and then come around to the garage later to meet us. This is where I lost her Friday and thought I was going to be late getting her to the vet and going over to Dana’s, because I waited until the last possible minute on Friday to walk them. Tonight, I slowed and looked, but didn’t stop.

Closing Thoughts

Writing has always seemed to be a way to soothe me or give me an outlet. Obviously I’m not above crying either. To say I’m a sentimental man would be a ridiculous understatement. Dana described me last night as loyal, while I said girly :-D. Whatever, one of us has to be sensitive.

As I was walking, and as I write this, I’m amazed at how people can write tributes or novels about their lives with their dogs. Maybe it’s my style, I wait until something like this happens, and then I reflect and write my memories, but I imagine they do the same thing and are having to recall their memories. I’m thinking of the book The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be as an example, and I haven’t read it since I was a kid. By that I mean, Mom used to read us bits of it. But I never had the impression that the author wrote any of that during the dog’s life. I guess the easiest thing would be to write about good times, good memories, as they happen, but I don’t think that’s how it happened.

At least, I don’t imagine it that way. I imagine that upon losing the dog, he looked back and decided to write a book about him. Why I think about this is because of the statement above, writing lets me vent, and I know that I’ll have this to look back on later, and that naturally led me to think about it.

One other persistent thought is how I handle and accept death. I definitely fall into the side that holds on forever. I have had to deal with a lot of deaths now in my adult years, both family and furry family, and I feel my acceptance of death has grown, but my pain threshold has not. I guess that’s a good thing.

Uncle Howard and I weren’t close enough, but I had some fond memories, and I’m so grateful for the time I was able to spend with him before he passed. Grandma Phyllis and I were very close, but not close enough! :-D For all the times I spent with her, I wish there were more. I know I’m going to say the same about my parents when its their time, and I know I need to do something about that now.

And when my Aunt Harriet passed, I was extremely sad that I didn’t know her more in my adult years. I think we spent a decent amount of time with her as kids, but not enough as adults. She was always so loving and happy to see you, and it’s hard to believe she’s not here anymore.

With Sable, I knew her time was coming soon, but I thought I had another year. To me, and I know I’m warped, there is no difference between a furry family member and one that has selective hair growth. I think this goes back to be being super-sensitive, but my dogs are my family, and you can go ahead and call me crazy but that’s how it is. I spend a lot of time with them, I like to include them on my adventures, and I’m sad when I cannot do that. Knowing she didn’t have a lot of time left may have helped, but it happened sooner than I thought. And, I found out that while I am extremely grateful that her passing and pain did not drag on, and I know this is just a part of the circle of life, it hurts no less than any other loss.

I dwell on that because I thought that as I accepted life and death more, that I would be better equipped to celebrate the life and be thankful for the time we had, and that it would lessen the pain I feel. But, that is not the case, and in retrospect, I am glad for that.

I still walk by the Dizzer’s tree and say hi from time to time, so I know I’ll continue to do the same with Sable. I’m really going to miss her, and it’s going to be a rough couple of days. I think my first trip to the lake or Ha Ha Tonka without her is going to be tough. One foot in front of the other, and I’ll always remember the time we were a part of each others lives.

References

The Dog Who Wouldn’t Be by Farley Mowat

Google Voice rocks!

Google voice rocks, we all agree. But the best part is the humor value that they didn’t advertize, which goes right back to reading your voicemails.

Check this one out from Nate last week. The bits in italics are the words that Google couldn’t quite make out:

> Hey, it's me. Just *return* your phone *call much for* your call about
    > I should be around for the next little. Well anyway *I have a serious
    > criminal background. But a Adams free. So talk* to *soon.* Bye.

Now, when you look at the actual message, I can only speculate that W’s (Dubyah) invasive assault on our privacy and civil liberties helped contribute to this:

> Hey, it's me. Just returning your phone call. I should be around for a
    > while but I may have a terrorist screaming in the background, but I'm
    > free, so call me back. Bye.

He has an interesting naming scheme for his family members. He refers to his dog, Otis, as Terrorist. Then he had his first child, Eli, who actually had his nickname of T2 (for terrorist #2) before his real name. And the boy is usually really happy, and really loud, so he’s living up to it.

And then there’s the one this morning from Dana:

> Hi Damon, *pull* the boat. I here. I just dropped *Tammy* off of work.
    > *And,* hey *mama if* that works. *My* stop. So *If* you call on your
    > way. If you call on your way in call me over *to* you later. Bye.

For some reason, she said my last name, so that one makes sense for “pull the boat,” but hey mama?? That was “call me at the office.”

Swiss Trip

Swiss Trip

We just returned from our trip to Switzerland; this was my first time to Europe in 15 years, and Dana’s first time ever. While things didn’t go anywhere near as planned, we still had a good time.

This was an important trip because I have been wanting to go ever since I returned to the States in ‘96, but never had enough vacation time, money or nerve I guess. So the 5th anniversary was a big enough event to make us do it, and now hopefully the next trip will be a little bit sooner.

The skiing was pretty good; I was worried when we came into Interlaken and everything was green, and we were at about 30 hours of no sleep at this point. But, luckily there was enough man-made snow and we were able to find some mountains that were shaded fairly well so they retained their snow. And, it was warm enough that we were able to ski nude; we didn’t, but we could have, and that’s almost as good.

Plus, it made trekking around when we weren’t skiing pretty enjoyable. Most of the time, I was able to go without a jacket, and Dana didn’t have to put on the 50 layers she brought, which probably helped her considerably with laundry yesterday.

All in all, not only was the trip fun, it was very educational, and since Dana is going to eventually record all of our happenings in her journal, I’m going to talk about the educational part.

I could go on and on, but I decided to narrow it down to five things that I consider to be the most important:

1. Underwear

I brought just enough underwear, however I guess I really freaked out about sweaty feet; I think I had a total of around 20 pairs of socks. Every time Dana opened a bag, she found more socks. I ended up having a large shopping bag dedicated to them and hung that in the locker.

Dana on the other hand, brought enough underwear to move to Europe and live there for about three years without ever having to wash any of it. I’m not really sure why; I think on my socks, I just kept forgetting that I brought some over to her house. But her underwear was easy to inventory, because she put it in the top pockets of the suitcases. The funny thing is some perv at the airport could have stolen half of it and she never would have noticed, and that may have happened anyway, I don’t really know.

2. Yogurt

Guess what, TSA considers this a liquid. If you put this in your bag because you have no free hands to carry it because you’re carrying suitcases full of underwear, they’re going to stop you. They won’t say anything about why you need 30 pairs of underwear for a 10 day vacation, but they won’t let you get through with the yogurt. And, I guess they don’t like to watch people eat either, because they’ll let you eat it, just not on this side of security.

3. Culture Shock, & What it takes to be Swiss – Pt 1

I kind of expected the culture to be a bit of a shock to Dana. Not in a bad way, just eye opening. I was a bit worried we wouldn’t be in country long enough for her to really be immersed in it, and while I know what there were aspects that we were not exposed to, I think we got a pretty good dose.

We actually learned one very important thing it takes to be Swiss. You may think yodeling, a funky name like Sven, a St. Bernard (I only saw two the entire time, I think global warming is scaring them off…) or a knack for making chocolate, but sorry, that’s not it. It’s this:

You need to pick your nose in public!

At first, we saw men doing it on the train. Almost none were discreet about it, and the most important thing, they can multi-task! The could carry on a conversation with someone else while picking their nose. While I never saw any synchronized nose-picking, I have no doubt that if it ever becomes an Olympic sport, the Swiss will dominate.

Then, we started seeing women doing it too. If any reading this, you’re probably thinking the nasty hags and the dirty old men who don’t give a crap about anything were the only ones, but you would be incredibly wrong. We saw all ages, types, etc. doing it. The only thing any of them really had in common was that they were Swiss.

Also, I caught someone who must have moved to Switzerland recently. She was sitting across from her friend on the train, and at first she was digging without abandon. Then at one point, she started to get a little self-conscious about it. At that point, she was talking with her friend, and I didn’t notice at first when she was drilling for gold if she was talking with her friend. But as they conversed, you could see her hold her hand by her nose, pretending to scratch it, etc, and then you’d see her quickly start drilling and then stop when her friend would look away. You might think I have a staring problem, and that’s probably true, but I watched all of this in the reflection of the glass, so it was really more of an indirect stare and she had no clue I was doing it. Turns out that tricks on ice really help with riding the trains too.

4. What it takes to be Swiss – Pt 2

If your a man, really, all you have to worry about is part 1. But if you’re a woman, there is an additional requirement, and men need to be aware of this as well because if you want to be Swiss or at least try to blend in for your vacation, your woman will need to adhere to this.

I couldn’t find the law online, so I am not positive of the actual parameters, but it appears that it applies to all women 50 or younger, and is highly recommended for all other women as well. Since this wasn’t the case when I was there in ‘95, my guess is that this law went into affect around 2000 or 2005, and was probably somewhat retroactive based on their date of birth, and that they gave bonuses or something like that to people that were in the optional category.

OK enough about speculating around the specifics, it’s nose rings. You could tell who the tourist women were because they were basically the only women without nose rings. Don’t get me wrong, almost all of them were tasteful, but we even saw a woman who I would guess to be about 60 sporting one working at Coop. I really have no idea why this was a requirement. My best guess is that it helps justify part 1 because they can always say to outsiders that they were adjusting their nose ring. I’m hoping that Wikipedia will come to the rescue soon and provide the details of the law and why it went into effect, but for now, all we can do is guess.

I wish though that I would have known this before we went, because I was telling Dana that they wear a lot of black and typically aren’t too flashy; we could have avoided all that stress I put on her by just getting her a magnetic nose ring. Sure, she probably couldn’t go through customs with it because they’d accuse her of not being a US citizen, but it would have been easy enough to throw in a bag (maybe hide it with her underwear so no one knew) and then fake it once we got there.

5. Breakfast

I mentioned a few years ago, maybe when talking with CW, who knows, that I missed the sandwiches; you can even get them from gas stations along the highway and they seem to be of the same quality. They’re simple – extremely hard bread, a bit of butter, cheese, and sometimes hard salami.

And I know I was freaking out ahead of time about the coffee, going on and on telling Dana that it’s strong but not bitter and I think she’ll like it, and even if she didn’t she needed to order it anyway so I could drink it.

Well, we had half-board with our hotel, and my breakfast every morning consisted of the above two staples. I’d mix in an apple or banana, or TSA’s favorite (yogurt) on occasion just to pretend I was trying to be healthy, but damn, if I had that set out for me for breakfast every morning, I’d turn into a morning person! I seriously looked forward to waking up, I wanted to make sure we didn’t have to skip our breakfast to get onto the slopes.

0.1 Side-Note

OK I guess this is really #6, and I’m treating it more as a side-note because Dana didn’t really get to experience this, but the money. They have coins up to 5CHF, which at this time was about $5 USD. To some people that may be annoying, but imagine if you could pay for almost anything using quarters, dimes or nickels. You can quickly tell the amount apart based on the size, no fumbling through your bills looking for the right one. When you did have to use bills, they were at least colored differently and different sizes as well. I didn’t fully learn the bill system because I didn’t use them as much.

But more importantly, prices with the tax included, it’s so nice! Here, I use my card for everything, so I don’t really worry about it. But there, I was using cash for everything I could because it was easier and cheaper for us, and if you are only getting a few things, you could actually have the exact change ready to go before you were even up at the register. A 5CHF beer was 5CHF; BAM! There’s your coin.

That wasn’t anything new to me, and I always liked that system, but it was nice to be able to use it again.

Closing

So, I guess that’s about it. I think with the above 5.1 tips, we’ll be covered for our next trip. For some reason, I felt I needed a closing, but now as I’m here, it really feels like a waste. But being that I can’t throw anything away, I’m not willing to sacrifice the little digital bits that so graciously gave their lives to capturing this heading and the first sentence, or the power that it took to capture them, or the calories that my body used to type this, so I’ll just ramble a bit about it and waste a few more in the process. We’ll call that good.

Footnote / Apology

If you’re Swiss and you’re reading this, my first comment is WHY??? But, I just want to let you know, I’m not judging you, at least not much. I am aware that I am projecting my culture on you and that’s not fair. If it makes you feel any better, I’ll go do some disgusting US habit in return, just let me know what that is.

Also, we really enjoyed your country and the trip, aside from any buggers that may have inadvertently been added to our meals.