Welcome to my World

Welcome to the domain different--to paraphrase from New Mexico's capital city of Santa Fe which bills itself "The City Different." Perhaps this space is not completely unique but my world shapes what I write as well as many other facets of my life. The four Ds figure prominently but there are many other things as well. Here you will learn what makes me tick, what thrills and inspires me, experiences that impact my life and many other antidotes, vignettes and journal notes that set the paradigm for Dierdre O'Dare and her alter ego Gwynn Morgan and the fiction and poetry they write. I sell nothing here--just share with friends and others who may wander in. There will be pictures, poems, observations, rants on occasion and sometimes even jokes. Welcome to our world!

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Another Diatribe--"White Privilege"

Do not lecture me about “White Privilege”.  First, I did not ask or choose to be born to Caucasian parents. It was the luck of the draw and has not gotten me much if anything in the ‘privilege’ department anyway, right from day one. As long as I can remember, and that is from about age four to this day, three months short of my seventy-fourth birthday, I have lived mainly in ethnically mixed neighborhoods and followed a lifestyle very much the same as did my neighbors, be they Black, Latino, Asian, American Indian or ‘white’.  (By the way we are all immigrants, even the American Indians who came from Asia eons ago, so lay off that bit too.) We shopped at the same stores and I often drove cars older than theirs. They usually had a larger TV and bought more ‘stuff’ for their kids than I did. While I was employed by the US government, I worked alongside people of all races and ethnicity and never got a promotion or an honor/award ahead of any of them. Upon retirement, they got the same pensions for their grades as I did.

Yes, I got a college education. That happened simply because I was a decent student and made better grades than most of my contemporaries so that I was valedictorian of my high school class and when I finally started college, four years later, I got a scholarship and a Pell Grant which paid for most of my schooling. I also worked twenty hours a week the last year while doing my graduate work. I completed work for both a Bachelor’s and a Master’s degree in four years and several summer sessions and went to work the Monday after completing requirements for the latter on the previous Friday.  I had no time or money for a trip to the continent or even a short vacash to Ft Lauderdale or a Colorado resort in the summer. If I had any advantage there, it may have been that my parents were also college educated—although much of their lifestyle and behavior did not indicate that—and that they read to me when I was small and encouraged—with however much force they felt necessary—that I excel in my school work.  There is nothing to say a parent of any minority child could not do the same and many do,

The fallacy of the whole “White Privilege” meme is that people of western European ancestry are deemed somehow unfairly gifted so they are all automatically upper middle class or higher and can always go to college, usually get a ‘position’ (as opposed to a mere job!) in a family owned firm and live the life of Riley. In the 1950s they had the darling little house with the white picket fence, the 2.5 blonde and adorable children, the spotty dog in the front yard and all the latest and nicest gadgets and labor saving devices in their home. They got a new car every year and ---well, I almost gag over this blatantly false depiction.  I was old enough in the 1950s to look around and know just how false this was! At least 75% of the Caucasian Americans were several notches down the scale from that.

From Colonial times on there have always been those who have come to be called “white trash.” (1)  They make up a majority of the Caucasian people resident in the US and have always been a very slight notch, if any, above the people of various other races and ethnicity, most of whom they worked alongside and suffered the same hardships and ill-treatment. Even then there were only a few who either came to the New World with money and aristocratic backgrounds or had the kind of clever and manipulative power to come out on top of every deal until they had bought and fought their way to that upper tier. The rest had little or no property, earned their meager living by working for the wealthy folk and struggled for every morsel and bit of gain. The so called American Dream has always been a lie—yes, it was possible to rise above your station of birth and some did but it was not probable—not then, now or ever.

This very situation is why we are where we are today. This group ,which Spiro Agnew labeled “the Silent Majority” have been at best ignored, and at worst, insulted, maligned and taken advantage of by the “Establishment” who look coldly and condescendingly down their noses at this “basket of deplorables.” They’re the unwashed, inbred, drunk or drugged up redneck, hillbilly, white trash, who have never been considered a minority, deserving of all care and goodness since they were so badly damaged and deprived by the “Privileged” Whites. It does not matter whether those in power are leftist or right wing, Democrat or Republican, Liberal or Conservative, They are really just so far apart they bump asses on the backside of the political spectrum circle!! A huge group of their fellow humans who are accidentally also of western European stock do not count.

Anyway, in the campaign of 2016, this mass finally got damn good and mad, sick and tired of everybody cutting in ahead of them on the line to anything. (2) One candidate took notice of them and told them—true or false—exactly what they wanted to hear.  The major part of this group are the people who have gotten their hands dirty, dug in the mines, kept the trains running, worked the assembly lines, toiled on small or larger farms to feed the nation and much of the world, and struggled along without ever saying very much. They just did all the bloody work!! Traditionally they voted Democrat as their parents and grandparents had because allegedly the Democrats were “the party of the people.” That hasn’t worked so well the last few decades because this mass is no darling for the peace, love and everything-free-for-everyone group. Maybe people of color, exotic refugees from foreign places and the ever-growing welfare class have more pizzazz, sex appeal or just make better poster kids.  

And damn it, I totally understand where this disaffected mass were coming from. Yes, they’ve been sold a bill of goods and it is not going to have the happy ending they hoped for so they will still be mad in four, forty or probably even more years. They will keep trying to find a fixer for their plight.

WTF is “white privilege” anyway? Is it just being too flappin’ dumb to somehow get in there and get yours? Is it some kind of conspiracy or black helicopter plot to keep the white trash in their place? None of them know the whys but they have revolted this one time and if even a little bit of it works, they will be back.  Count on it. Meanwhile you can take this guilt trip you are trying to put on me and many others and shove it right up your collective ass. A hell of a lot of us are NOT going to buy it. If this life is privilege, you can have it. Maybe next incarnation we will all return in some other racial or ethnic form and see how that works. This current one sure sucks.

1. White Trash by Nancy Isenberg ISBN 9780670785971, Viking Books
2. Strangers in Their Own Land by Arlie Russell Hochschild ISBN 9781620972250 The New Press

Monday, January 30, 2017

Monday Memoir: Photography

I grew up with a house full of cameras. My dad had been a photojournalist for a time in Kansas City before meeting my mother. After they married and we ended up in Arizona, he continued to write and to illustrate many of his articles and features. So taking pictures, even using a darkroom to develop the film and make prints was rather commonplace to me. Although I ended up in a lot of photos, in time I knew I wanted a camera of my own to take pictures of what I wanted  to remember or feature. That took quite awhile.

Mom with a Lieca
I finally got my own camera, I think it was the Christmas I was a senior in high school. In a house full of the likes of a Leica, a Rolleiflex, a Speed Graphic and  others of similar quality and capacity, my first camera was a lowly Kodak "Brownie" snapshot camera but I was thrilled silly! It took eight shots on a roll of film--I cannot even recall the size now (126?) but it was a bit over an inch wide and the negatives were roughly 1" x 2".  I could not say what was on the very first roll of pictures I took but a shot of me the last day at school and one I took of the friend who snapped me were among the early ones. After that it was mostly horses.

Dad with Speed Graphic
A bit later, about the time I started college, I got a slightly more sophisticated model, one that used "flash cubes" and could take pictures inside or in dimmer light. With it I got photos of roommates and friends, the dorms I lived in and then the apartment where I lived off campus the last two years. I still had that camera when I graduated and headed off to my first job -- with the US Army at Fort Huachuca. I then took pictures of various places I went, of my new car, the 1971 Ford Pinto I got that fall, and when I moved to Bisbee to live in a cheaper residence!

Last day of school
Probably the first Christmas after my marriage, one of my gifts was an Olympus SLR (single lens reflex) camera. It was small and light but a good step up from the snapshot type  cameras I had used up to that point. My husband had an older camera he had gotten at a PX while in the military and we took a lot of scenic pictures on the many weekend trips we took the first two or three years.  Those two cameras went from Bisbee, AZ to Falcon, CO with us and then on to Olivehurst, CA. We had returned to Arizona some years later when we both got Pentax type cameras which could use a variety of lenses and were near professional quality. I have many boxes of slides we took with all of these cameras and will try to scan my favorites "one of these days."
Coming from a family of avid photographers and becoming the "archivist" by virtue of being now the matriarch of the clan, more or less, I still have boxes and albums full of photos to be scanned if I live that long!

After my dad had passed away and then my youngest brother, the only one of us three kids who seriously pursued photography along with his other  endeavors, I fell heir to the stash of family cameras. Most of them I have gotten rid of  although I still have my little Olympus and one of the Nikons that Dad had ended up with  But some few years back I discovered digital and jumped right in. It is soooo convenient to look over your results, simply hit 'delete' to get rid of those that did not come out just right and to snap away with abandon because you are not wasting expensive film. What freedom!

These days I take a lot of photos of trains, sunsets, scenery, my dogs, and on some of my trips.  No scanning required; I just link the camera by a USB cable to the computer and with a couple of clicks, voila, there they are. And no, I have not gotten into taking them with my phone or tablet--maybe someday but most of mine I want to edit/crop/study before they go out to the world!  Two fairly recent efforts below. I expect to be taking photos as long as I live. It is kind of in the genes, I guess. and certainly in the nurture I grew up with.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Monday Memoir--Quilts

I missed last week being totally caught up in the season's first major sled dog race, the Copper Basin 300 in which several of my favorite mushers were competing. However, although the race season will continue through mid-March when the Iditarod will be over, I'll try to keep going here *almost* every week! This time I want to talk about quilts, another hobby and passion of mine.

            I grew up with quilts. My maternal grandmother was an old time quilter. Like generations before her in the Kentucky hill country, she grew up with a waste not, want not philosophy. Her era was long before our disposable economy came to be when the women of the family, and that included girls barely past toddler age, made sure nothing was wasted. They grew much of the family food in a garden and sewed clothing for the whole family, rough Lindsey Woolsey and canvas pants and work clothes for the men folk, shirts and simple garments for the little ones and more elaborate dresses for the older girls and women.
Each length of fabric was precious, so after a garment was cut out, the scraps were shaped and stitched into quilts. To use all the bits and pieces, many of the designs were elaborate and utilized very small pieces. The end results were things of beauty even if hand made and often of patterns the main seamstress invented. During the Depression years, this habit continued. By then chicken feed, flour and other commodities came in cotton bags many of which were printed with floral and other patterns so they could be recycled into dish towels, aprons and other clothing. Still, the smallest scraps were put to use!
I was a mere toddler when I can first recall sleeping under the small quilt Grandma Witt made for me. I was not yet able to appreciate the fine little stitches to piece the top and the elaborate patterns also stitched to secure the layers of top, filling or batting and the back. That was the actual quilting and was often done by a group of women who came together for “quilting bees” to gossip and visit, drink coffee, tea or other things and sew on the quilt, stretched in a frame, probably set up in the largest room of the house. I could not tell you the pattern of that quilt face but even then might recognize a piece here and there as in a dress or apron my mom had and soon dresses made for me. Many more of her quilts came to our family and were both used and cherished. I still have a couple, fragile now and put safely away.
By the time I was in my late teens, Grandma was starting to lose her keen eyesight and arthritis was taking its toll on her hands. However, she and her younger sister still sewed and I was kept in clothes through high school by their work although by then I began to take up sewing myself. I kept myself in clothes most of my college and working days and also made many things for my daughter and western shirts for the family menfolk.
The first time I fell in love, I decided I should begin to accumulate a “hope chest” of things for my future home. I shocked my paternal aunts when I told them not to start me on a collection of silver tableware for it was too hard to take care of so I preferred stainless steel! About that time, since I had sewed enough to have a big stash of pieces and scraps, I decided to start a quilt. My nine-square patches were not perfect and not exactly sized so when I tried to put them together, they were not coming out well and I gave up, putting the parts away for many years. They accompanied me through many moves and travels.
First quilt-top half front
Actually it was not until after my husband had passed away in 2003 that I dug out the old  efforts with the idea of trying
to make the quilt for real. I found I did not have enough for a full bed sized quilt. First I took apart, adjusted and reassembled the many squares so they would be fairly uniform and then made lots more. I cut narrow strips and smaller squares to put the nine-patch squares together. It took some time and I would pause now and then to remember the history of this or that piece of cotton—a dress I had made while in college, something I had made for my daughter. The work went
First quilt- lower half front
slowly and I spent quite a lot of that summer, 2004, on the project, watched by the two dogs I had then.
Finally the top was done. I bought the batting and then decided to make the back somewhat decorative also although not with small pieces. Still it was not too plain or dull! It all went together and I started to use it on my bed. I had received some quilts from a dear friend including one she made in memory of my husband—he’d befriended her too—in the style of the memorial robes the Plains Indians had crafted. From those I got some ideas to delve into new methods and designs for my work.
Technically my projects have never been “quilts” for instead of the patterns of binding stitches, I just tie through them in many places with compatible or complimentary colors of yarn. I’ve never had a frame or a circle of friends to quilt with me! So they are patchwork comforters, I guess.
The second quilt or coverlet I attempted was almost too big a project. My brother, then living in Colorado while I was yet in Arizona, was a life long railroad fan as well as being employed with that industry all his adult life. I was going to make him a train-themed quilt for his California King sized bed. Do you know how humongous they are!?
part of the train quilt
I discovered a wonderful on-line fabric store called eQuilter.com and was delighted to find they had lots of cotton fabric with train themed prints. The pieces I put together ranged from about 18 x 24 inches down to roughly inch wide strips in track patterns. This one is fully reversible and decorative on both sides. It was supposed to be a Christmas gift but took me longer than I had planned! Still I was not displeased with the results and Charlie liked it. He still uses it at times and it is not in bad shape.
Since then I have made a few more bed-sized quilts and Alaska and the other is in pink patterns to honor the fact she is a breast cancer survivor. Each one of my quilts is always created so either side can be displayed.
sled dog face
many crib or lap robe sized ones as well as some pictorial wall hangings and other decorative or useful pieced items such as place mats and coasters. In fact I do a lot more fabric art and household or decorative items now than clothes. Many friends and family members have one or more of my smaller items. Most of them are themed as in the two sided lap robe quilt I made for lady musher Deedee Jonrowe after she lost her home and possessions to an Alaskan  wildfire in 2014. One side of it is about sled dogs and Alaska and the other is in pink patterns to honor the fact she is a breast cancer survivor. Each one of my quilts is always created so either side can be displayed.

Breast cancer pink side
Right now I have my original quilt on my bed but sadly it is mostly hidden from view with a protective dust cover since I now have two dogs who insist on sleeping on ‘my’ bed—or maybe letting me sleep on their bed if the truth be known. Since they are both inside and outdoor dogs, they do bring in dust, dry grass and other debris which would not be good for my special first quilt. I think their company and love is worth more than seeing those bits of fabric all the time…but I still treasure it and try to keep it from to much wear and tear. I have not made one for a time and the itch is starting, especially when I get the emails from eQuilter and look at the fabulous fabrics and patterns they have! Some are too complex for my skill but they give me ideas. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

Memoir Monday: Recollections of Hunting

First let me explain a few things so my readers do not condemn me out of hand! Back in the era I am writing about (1950-65 mainly) hunting in the southwest and many parts of the country was totally acceptable by most of the society. My family did not ever "trophy hunt" because our purpose for hunting big game was for food. When "any deer/elk/pronghorn" permits became common, we never killed females although that was allowed. Like with domestic livestock, one male can breed several females so taking one or two males from a herd will not jeopardize its continuity. And finally,on our ranch we raised horses, mules and burros--and they are not meat animals! We might have done well to raise some chickens, rabbits, a pig or fatten a calf but did not for a variety of reasons. Thus meat in the freezer was a high priority for our family's welfare.

Okay that sets the stage. I first hunted in 1955 after turning twelve the spring of that year. I shot a
small buck and helpd my dd field dress it, load it onto one of our mules and bring it home. It was fairly young and the meat was very good. Over the next several years I shot a deer most seasons. Dad went elk hunting more and also sometimes pronghorns (called "antelope" incorrectly) but I seldom did.

A couple of times we brought down a good sized mule deer (this is a southwestern species of deer with long 'mulish' ears that is also called Blacktails.) They are frequently found not in timber country but the chaparral vegetation zone of brush and very small trees like juniper and pinon pine. At least twice we could not pick it up and get the whole carcass onto a horse or mule so cut it in half and put half on each of two of our mounts. That usually meant a long walk
down the hills to where we had left the horse trailer and Jeep truck or even clear home if we had ridden out from there.

There were some scary times. Once, Dad's shot broke a deer's hind leg. Sometimes you get a bullet deflected by a limb or bush or maybe just make a bad shot. Anyway, we trailed this deer for quite a ways as we were very adamant about not leaving an animal to suffer and die. Finally we saw it down in a canyon and headed down to finish it off.  While Dad kept his rifle on the deer--which appeared to be dead or exhausted, I hiked over on foot with just my handgun. I came up under the deer at the start of the upslope. All at once it got up and charged at me! By now I was too close to being between Dad and the deer and he did not dare to shoot. I pulled out my handgun--I think it was an old .32 revolver at that time--and emptied it at the deer, aiming for the head! A final shot did penetrate right between the eyes and it fell with an antler barely touching the toe of my boot!That was about the scariest thing that ever happened to me while hunting.

I have a lot of good memories of those adventures. As the oldest kid in the family I went with my dad for several years before my first brother was old enough and even before the second one was born! Do I miss it? Yes and no, mostly no. Now I would never go out with the specific goal of shooting and killing an animal unless there was a real need to do so for food. That's not likely. So I 'hunt" with a camera or just my two eyes to enjoy seeing wildlife.

Like the Native Americans who thanked the Great Spirit and the spirit of the animal they had slain, I gave thanks for the creatures who gave their life so we could eat healthy meat. but I do not have that need now.  I get meat at the super market--but contrary to one clearly naive person's notion--that meat is not created by some mysterious cloning or duplication process but comes from animals that were once alive and were raised and then killed for that purpose!  I could hardly believe this was for real!!

Monday, January 2, 2017

Monday's Memoir: A Cowboy Girl's Big Mentor

Even in the late 1950s, the Old West was a memory,
not a reality, but for a young woman who was
Charley Bryant and me about 1958.
determined to immerse herself in the western life, there were still mentors who had lived the real deal. One of my most significant among these was an old gentleman who had never learned to drive and still rode a horse or a mule wherever he went.  He was really not a cowboy but a horse trainer by trade, among the best as far as training the traditional cow pony and the range raised horses who had not been 'socialized' since the first day they stood on wobbly stilt legs!

When I first came to know him, Charley Bryant was probably in his mid sixties. He was a big man, about 6'2" and at  least 200#. I doubt that he had ever been handsome but he had a face full of character and that inner strength was revealed in everything he did. He was not a person of many words and often gave rather oblique or minimal advice, even if you asked him a direct question. He also had a repertoire of  "malapropisms" that probably came from mishearing words and not being very literate. A favorite of mine was when he described a dubious character as "traveling under a consumed name." While I realize the correct word is assumed,  his version worked very well! If you took an alias, in time you used it up!!

One of his claims to fame was the ability to teach almost every animal he trained how to do a gait commonly called a "running walk." While it resembles the natural gait of Tennessee Walkers and some American Standardbreds, it lacks the high knee action and tendency to lower the rear end that such horses exhibit in shows. It is midway between a walk and a trot but once a steed masters the gait, it is both faster than a walk and much easier to ride than a trot.  As such it is a sought-after gait for a cowpony or a horse/mule for trail riding.When asked how he did this, Charley usually said, "You do it with the bit and the spur."

As I rode many miles with him and observed, I discovered that was indeed true although a very simplified version. By a deft combination of gently urging the animal on with a tap of the spur, you then checked it, with a light tug on the reins, from going into a trot. Some picked it up very fast while others required lengthy patient repetitions but somehow, I never saw a steed that Charley failed to teach this gait. And if future riders enforced it with an occasional bit and spur reminder, the animal kept the skill for a long time.

The photo at left is crossing the Verde River. Charley is on Stormy, a fine cowpony he owned for some time that I was occasionally privileged to ride. He was leading a mule being gentled prior to riding and I was on my little Indian pony Tonalea that Charley and my Dad had bought up on the Navajo reservation. Charley helped me a lot in training my fine mare Tina, my all time favorite horse that I got as a yearling and raised and trained with help from Charley and my dad. Charley said she was one of the finest he'd ever seen, and that was high praise indeed! He definitely knew horses.

That was just one example of Mr Bryant's expertise. He had a huge bag of tricks, compiled over half a century and more as he followed this trade. He occasionally would share stories of the old west as he had lived it, before and after the turn of the last century. One concerned crawling out of a hall where a dance was being held--I think a school house--where outlaws had shot the lights out and the bullets had left the floor slippery with blood! Now that sounds like something out of a dime dreadful by the likes of Ned Buntline, but knowing Charley, who read and wrote very minimally, I doubt that it was.

His wife, who was his second spouse, was kin to a family who lived near us. The youngest girl of that family was and still is a dear friend of mine.  Elvie Bryant drove and they always had an old car of some kind that she drove to get them to town for supplies or feed and such. I never saw her in anything but an old cotton house dress, usually with an apron. She was a good cook in a simple ranch and farm way and usually had a few chickens and maybe rabbits, a goat or even a calf being fed up. Although not a cowboy girl herself, she  had all the skills of a frontier country woman. She was a very admirable person in her own quiet way.

Charley himself often wore not Levis but bib overalls, long johns at all seasons and  lace up "packer boots," instead of typical cowboy boots. They had enough heel to be safe in a stirrup but perhaps were easier on and off or otherwise more practical to him. He could rope ad brand and do all the regular cowboy tasks and did take care of the small cattle herds of several residents in the Verde Valley who had a "day job" that kept them from this daily work.

I count myself blessed to have been able to tag along with this wonderful old fellow for the better part of ten years. He slowly grew a bit more stiff and somewhat more cautious about getting on a rank horse or mule but he was still riding and working when I had to leave that life and move into a new phase of mine. An aspiring cowboy girl could not have asked for a better teacher!