High Winds

The storms that continue to dampen this section of Wyoming are often accompanied by high winds.

Wyoming has even had some tornadoes of late, one becoming an internet sensation.
While we are a windy state in some areas, Ten Sleep manages to be quieter than most.
Until the other night.
Boy… when my tire swing is angled at 45 degrees… it is BLOWING.
I heard a crash… not overly loud… and being surrounded by trees… that’s not unusual.
But we found the tree this morning, laid over by my back gate.
It was a dead one we’ve cut to a height of about 10 feet… but the base had rotted and it was tipped over.
So with another storm looming on the horizon this morning… it was delegated to job of the day.
Did I take pictures?
Uh, no…
Oops…
How exciting can it be to chainsaw a tree and repair a fence?
I do want you to know it is *highly tempting* to go take a picture of my new gate, though.
It is the best it’s looked in the 20 years I’ve lived here!
But it is a simple woven wire gate, like hundreds of other wire gates in this world.
So instead, enjoy this…

Dam

One thing about living on a ranch… you’ll have a variety of jobs to keep you occupied.
Cowboy one day…
Farmer the next…
Mechanic…
Plumber…
Inventor…
Vet…
Fence builder…
Irrigator…
Dam engineer…
Those days when you ride so hard and so long don’t end when the cowboying is done.
You often go put in more hours of work on something.
To get water on the fields we have to flood irrigate.
To flood irrigate you need a ditch full of water.
To get a ditch full of water you need a dam.
And if you are my boys…
Somehow you find some pretty girls to help!
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The first step I don’t have photos of… the dam log stretches clear across the creek and is underwater here.  They did that the day before.  Then shorter sticks will be placed upright in front of it.
Note my boys’ tanned bodies… at least from the t-shirt sleeves down.
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Next straw is floated out to the sticks, forced underwater, up against the sticks, creating a fairly solid dam.
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It works amazingly well.
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The water isn’t cold either.
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And my boys are NOT obnoxious about splashing cold water either.
The girls started it.
That’s what they said.
Why shouldn’t I believe them?

My Half Day Off

took half a day “off” today…
Everyone else went to a neighbor’s branding, and a full horsetrailer left me out…
I didn’t complain.
I attempted to sleep in.
After they woke me up at 5:30 am.
After the dogs barked.
After the doors slammed.
After someone forgot something, and came back in, and slammed the door again.
After the dogs barked again.
If I lived in town, I would have gone garage sale-ing.  A fun, mindless, cheap, entertainment with the chance of finding treasure.  The closest town is 45 miles away.  They had 5 garage sales listed in the paper.  I couldn’t bring myself to do it.
I took a long shower.
I dressed up.
I sat down.
I sighed.
I changed clothes.
I decided to go work in my garden.
I called a friend on the outside chance we could go have coffee.
She said “Yes.”
YAY!
I changed clothes.
Enjoyed myself immensely for a couple of hours…
Returned home.
Changed clothes.
Mowed my lawn.
For hours.
It’s a big lawn.
The grass was going to seed and TALL.
Too much rain lately.
Finished.
Put my lawnmower away.
It began to sprinkle.
Rain again.
NO COOKING ALL DAY LONG.
HOW COOL IS THAT????
I LOVE DAYS OFF!
Redrocks

The Continuing Travels of Cousin Robb 2

To complete Cousin Robb’s email from yesterday…
Here it is.
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Some experiences are impossible to understand, much less mistake for mundane. For me, these usually have to do with just another example of the inhumanity of humanity:
  • The hundreds of faces of the tortured in an infamous Khmer Rouge jail left me in tears (physical pain that even Hitler’s crew couldn’t touch (and against their own people, no less!)). The attached “killing fields” of Cambodia take torture and death to levels and feelings I didn’t know existed.
  • Without even mentioning the Vietnam War (funny, in Vietnam, the call it the American War), did you know the US dropped more bombs on Cambodia than all bombs dropped in WWII, by BOTH side!. And the Cambodian-land mined limbless are everywhere…I gave a lot of cash to them, as many tend to migrate to begging, as they understand the heartstrings (or heartchains) that they pull on….
  • Did you know we flew 580,000 bombing missions in Laos? A third of the country was injured, killed or made homeless….too bad we didn’t have CNN then! After all my time on the road, I’m not keen on judging much anymore, but the facts and stories from their side do make you think…. Funny though, through all my travels in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, I did not find one grudge against us Americans – everyone was terrific.
  • Seeing the completely empty faces of Sri Lankan refugees in the flesh cannot be explained. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen such resignation of life.
  • In reality, as we merrily visit our favorite places like the Giza pyramids, the warriors of Xian, Machu Pichu, Angkor Wat, it should always occur to us that the millions of workers it took to create probably didn’t have a good dental plan, much less wages or dare I say, freedom. Traveling on the cheap, I have seen so much poverty and lack of basic freedoms for the masses (instituted by the rich, powerful few) that I feel disingenuous. These experiences make me wiser, but how will it make the world a better place?
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(Halong Bay)
Other interesting tales:
  • So out of my head one night (in India)that my friend had to remind me that we were pushed head down into the sand the night before and searched by two local cops looking for anything to bring them a payoff (and not finding any drugs on us just made the experience worse)….though speaking of which, the system of bribery and payoffs can be extremely efficient in some ways to our own more ethical, albeit red-taped system (and I’m a certified fraud examiner, no less)…but only as long as you have a pocketful of cash and the courage to haggle with a mustached-laden perp with a badge and a gun. Always contentious, but never dull!
  • Even burning buses and cars and gunfire in the streets of Bangkok only sound exciting to me when on CNN or sending emails to friends. There were only 15 people on my 737 from Bombay to Bangkok in April. Only a few months before, the rebels took over the airport for days, so no one but the 15 of us intrepids were willing to risk a “duck and cover.” It took five of us and a big wad of cash to get a taxi into the city through empty streets and occasional gunfire – we felt like those crazy journalist you see on the front lines. We passed the same burning vehicles I had watched on BBC the night before in Mumbai. And to top it off, the govt. Army had two sets of weapons, M-16s and Super soakers! You see, I also landed in the middle of the biggest water fight in the world…Thailand’s New Year celebration. Imagine ten’s of thousands of people in the streets aggressively shooting each other with water guns while rebels with real guns are only blocks away. I couldn’t go out to find something to eat without getting completely soaked or blockaded by tanks and machine guns…you just can’t make that kind of absurdity up!
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(The local 7-11 is a woman on a rowboat, bringing everything from snacks to tampons …)
After my half-hearted attempt at a psychological paradigm shift (remembering my normal life), other interesting, yet trivial tidbits emerge:
  • I have not worn shoes or socks since the first week in February;
  • The last time I wore a jacket was December 26th;
  • I’m outside so often my armpits are tanned;
  • Doing a good turn daily in this part of the world is easy; it’s sad that losing the embarrassment and/or gaining the courage to begin took months to get over….
  • In nine months, only three times have I slept in the same bed for more than three nights.
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(Supper… at the market)
Well, have I diluted the extent of my personal human experience? Am I just tired with lost perspective? Maybe I need a good dose of suffering. Obviously suffering brings new awareness. Specifically: an acute realization of the beauty of not suffering!  Nah, I think I’m just like you….struggling for the air of fulfillment while drowning in a bowl of mixed blessings….
Sidebar: To answer the most common question I receive: “When are you coming back,” I can only answer by saying that I am currently island hopping in Southern Thailand. It is truly one of the most beautiful places on Earth with perfect islands, beaches, cliffs and emerald waters. They filmed movies like the 007 “Golden Gun” here, as well as “The Beach.” …..I think I’ll play Leonardo in the jungle a little longer….
I miss you all and wish you nothing but the best!
Robert
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(Cave exploration by walking and kayaking.)

The Continuing Travels of Cousin Robb

For those of you that have followed me for a while, you know I share my Cousin Robb’s worldwide adventures.
Cousin Robb is a workaholic who saves his money and then quits his job to go travel the world… usually as far from tourist destinations as possible.
Other adventures of his can be found by scrolling down and looking on the left side of this page for links to his unbelievable photographs and stories.
I’m splitting this entry into two parts…
The guy got a little wordy in his last email…
Is it because his dad and my dad both came from the same storytelling grandfather?
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(Angkor Wat… built in the 12th century)
Friends and family!
Funny how many emails I’ve received asking if I am still alive (it’s not that bad out here)…or, even more prevalent, merely requesting something new to read while supposedly working… Interestingly, in parallel for the last few months, I have asked the same of myself: When will an extraordinary experience unfold worth sharing, worthy of words….worthy of your employer’s time and money? Well, it took me quite some time to realize that the experiences I seek were not lacking – as they truly unfold daily. They had just become, curiously enough, unconsciously mundane…quite extraordinary in and of itself!
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Since my last communiqué, my travels have included Southern India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and now Thailand. Yet what does one do? Where does one go when the extraordinary becomes the ordinary…when new beginnings are rife with routine: another amazing sunset; another timeless artifact; remarkable painting; beautiful sculpture; beach paradise; priceless ruin, wat, temple, monastery, cathedral, tomb …this world is full of the priceless. What are you suppose to feel over and over again? Awe? or Yawn? (extraordinary similar in tone and mouth structure). But, of course, it is plainly just a matter of perspective…and simply this regurgitation at your (employer’s) expense has been most helpful! (As well as remembering that as late as 35 years of age, I was still working in a windowless cube….).
In context, it does makes a bit of since, considering I am pushing into nearly a year without knowing where I am going to sleep each night, where or what my next meal will be, who my next friend or foe will be…..so the search for life continues rather quickly, yet over much time.
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So as I think back over these months with a beginner’s mind, several experiences do feel valuable, thought-provoking, or simply entertaining:
  • Sharing meals with homeless, street kids. When traveling alone, I eat from streets stalls or vendors 80% of the time. Over the last few months, if there is a street kid around, I’ve taken to waving him/her over to eat with me. After their initial disappointment that money is not being given (a real no-no), the experience comes in one of four forms: 1) they refuse 2) they accept, take the food and run away 3) they stay and eat, but I don’t exist to them and they run away with a full mouth, or 4) they eat, smile and laugh with me for a few minutes (unfortunately, this is quite the minority). I had forgotten how priceless this simple act really is…. And remember, they don’t know a word of English.
  • My morning game: As I wake each morning, instead of turning off an alarm, I calculate how many seconds it takes me to say (out loud) the name of the town and country I am in. And as I will have been in six countries in five months, rarely sleeping more than two nights in any one place, it is sometimes not so easy. This now mundane game used to be an exceptional feeling of exotic freedom…..
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Tests of will:
  • Night diving in deep uncharted waters of Cambodia (monsters always just out of flashlight range and being so far from anywhere, you just don’t bother with the section entitled “Emergency Contacts.” My dives here in Koh Phi Phi, Thailand were fantastic – including Tiger sharks (one snuck up behind me for a nice little surprise), Black-tipped sharks, Sea snake, Morey eels and the extraordinary feeling of vertigo and lost direction due to swimming through huge schools of yellow snappers. On a secluded island beach in Vietnam, I swam through a jellyfish – imagine 37 people sticking needles into you for three hours (pain may be the ultimate rush, but it takes a lot of energy to endure that for three hours…and, of course, the boat to pick us up arrived as the pain subsided).
  • Paying a soldier to take you to the real Viet Cong underground tunnels – football field in length, creepy dark, and sometimes too small to crawl through without taking off your daypack and pushing it in front of you as you crawl on your belly (and impossible to turn back) – the most claustrophobic I will ever be (and the most scared I’d been since that girl told me she was pregnant 20 years ago).
  • Local culinary “I dare you’s” such as: Vietnamese canine cuisine! Cambodian moonshine shots with huge centipedes (hallucinogenic?), cobras and scorpions in the bottles. Fried spiders, ant larvae soup, fresh grub worm snacks at the market, snakes, eels, goat scrotum soup, etc. As they are not picky about their proteins, the markets in North Vietnam are a culinary nightmare for any westerner. By the way, I had fishballs for dinner last night (quite the paradox, as they’re huge in this part of the world, but you’re always hungry after….).
After this list of fun foods, and the crazier experiences in general, my thoughts turn to a junky….one who needs a consistent, if not increasing, fix in order to remain, as only the junky would explain, stable. Why else would I put that stuff in my mouth?
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(To be continued… this is one of his little tour guides…)