Author Archives: Alan Bates

Skywatch Friday – Little Dixie Skies

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This past weekend my wife and I ventured down to southeast Oklahoma to celebrate our 30th Wedding Anniversary. Southeast Oklahoma is quite mountainous and woodsy, think Arkansas. In Oklahoma it is called “Little Dixie” because it is so different in a lot of ways from the rest of Oklahoma which is mainly western in nature. Think Arkansas

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Our first day we went hiking, just a nice short 3.3 mile route and it kicked our rear ends. Part of the issue was it was almost 100F and had a lot of vertical, about 800 feet overall. But you know, we would walk for a while and rest for a while and pretty soon it was over. And we were tired at the end of the day.

After the first 200 yards, we did not see anybody. I guess most people were smarter than we were.

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We stopped at this tree for a break. I’ve read a lot about “Native American Guide Trees” online where people claim that Native Americans shaped trees like this as guides to routes and water and other things. I am very skeptical as I see very little original information plus it seems like a very labor intensive way to transmit information. But my my mind is still open to the possibility.

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So yep, the hike was a little hard for us but we were happy to be doing it.

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Heather is always ready for anything.

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I loved the look of the light filtering through the leaves.

She had some fun with me. I love geocaching, she not so much but she is good at it. We were looking for one and she found it when I could not and she taunted me a little bit. That’s all right!! I guess I’ll keep her. After 30 years we have learned a lot about each other.

Later on in the week, she had to bail me out twice during a rough spot I had during a kayaking expedition we were on. I kept running into rocks and turning over so she came up and rode my kayak down through the rapids while I walked down on the bank. I wish I had photos but I ruined my camera when it took one too many dunks. She’s bailed me out a bunch of times during our 30 years we’ve been together.

I am linking with Skywatch Friday

Skywatch Friday – Beach Sky

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This is from one of our trips to Orange Beach, Alabama when we had a windy day. It makes for a nice photo. Right now though I am thinking about Hurricane Dorian and the people who suffered from the destructive force it unleashed on the Bahamas.

(Current as of 9/3, check https://www.nhc.noaa.gov for updates)

As I write this, the storm is expected to travel, excruciatingly slowly up the coast of the US and who knows what it will do. I sat through a category I hurricane back in the 1980s. It was Alicia and I lived one hundred miles from the coast so its force was much attenuated by the time it go to me but it was scary enough. Next time I vowed to go to Nebraska. (Since then though I have decided that Oklahoma is far enough.) I have no idea what it would feel like to be on an island just a few feet above the ocean and no safe shelter from the storms.

There is no way to point at any one particular storm and say that it is caused by global warming. I am convinced though that we are experiencing human caused climate change and increased hurricanes are just one of the many results of this. I found a web site, SkepticalScience.com that provides a lot of information presented in such a way that even I can understand it. It also has a guide on common myths and misconceptions presented by climate change skeptics. Check it out, bookmark it and keep it handy. The first step to solving a problem is admitting that you have a problem.

I am linking with Skywatch Friday

“Blinded by the Light” – starring the Music of Bruce Springsteen

The family went to see another movie on Sunday. “Blinded by the Light” by Gurinder Chada, starring Vivek Kalra, as Javed, a young Pakastani living in a small town in England in 1987 with his parents and sister. He lives a life dominated by his Father and family which doesn’t leave him much room to himself and he doesn’t quite know what to do about it until one day…

A friend of his loans him a couple of tapes (it’s 1987, and you could loan somebody tapes, and share the music, how the crap do you share music in this day of downloads???? Yeah, I don’t know either!)

Through Springsteen’s music, Javed feels understood finally, that somebody else has felt hopeless in a small town yet still found a way to find hope in this world. This is helped by a sympathetic teacher that recognizes Javed’s writing talent and of course the love a of a good woman, a new girlfriend.

Javed eventually finds his voice, gets the courage to stand up against his socially rigid, controlling father, and learns that he can find a future without building a wall against his Pakastani upbringing.

It was eyeopening for me, I was like a quarter generation off Bruce Springsteen’s core audience. I liked some of his music but found it a little pretentious for my tastes plus I wondered why he never really rocked out. But then again I never listened to the lyrics. I never listen to lyrics except for hit them over the head lyrics like Carly Simon’s “Come Upstairs” … “Come upstairs, we can take off the phone, Come Upstairs, you can take off my clothes”!!! (Yes, I get those lyrics). Oops sorry, (not sorry), I am really digressing bad.

The first song, Javed listens to “Dancing in the Dark”

I get up in the evenin’
And I ain’t got nothin’ to say
I come home in the mornin’
I go to bed feelin’ the same way
I ain’t nothin’ but tired
Man, I’m just tired and bored with myself
Hey there, baby, I could use just a little helpYou can’t start a fire
You can’t start a fire without a spark
This gun’s for hire
Even if we’re just dancin’ in the dark

And its like wow, and it is on and on. And it is fun watching Javed grows up right before our eyes and learns how to be his own person. In the meantime, movie magic happens and people break out singing and dancing.

This is a great, feel good, eye opening movie. I highly recommend it. How many stars you give to movie, give all of them to this one.

Labor Day 2019

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Labor Day is here, the historical end of Summer. We went down to Chickasha and picked the kid up from college. He was in good spirits and his room wasn’t as messy as what we were anticipating. But then again he had only been in it a week and a half. I’m sure given time he’ll get it as messy as anybody else.

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Labor Day of course is a holiday to celebrate labor. We celebrate it by taking the day off and not working. Labor has a big history in this country. Labor Unions used to be a big deal but not so much any longer. For some reason they have a negative connotation in many people’s minds. In my career I was never a union member but I worked with all sorts of union contractors and crafts unions. I never had one issue with them. Unions have changed though. Above is a photo of a union protest of a renovation project downtown some years ago. Are they union members? Heck no, they are homeless people that the union hired to protest on their behalf. Where were the actual union members? Working I guess, I don’t know. I thought the whole situation was hilarious.

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Speaking of protestors and hilarity, here are my wife and son protesting at City Hall here in Tulsa about a move that was going to shut down a community theater. My son is an excellent protester with his loud booming voice.

We are not protesting this year at Labor Day. We have been going to movies and enjoying our son’s company until we take him back to school early Monday afternoon. When we come back I’ll celebrate by mowing our yard. It has been a couple weeks and I might need to hire a haying crew to come out and cut and bale it.

Have a great holiday, if you are celebrating it. I found a few quotes about labor on Al Gore’s interwebs that he invented.

  • My grandfather once told me that there were two kinds of people: those who do the work and those who take the credit. He told me to try to be in the first group; there was much less competition.
    Indira Gandhi
  • No labor, however humble, is dishonoring.
    The Talmud
  • All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.
    Martin Luther King Jr.

I am linking with Our World Tuesday

“Where’d You Go Bernadette” with Cate Blanchette

Heather and I celebrated our new status of being emptynesters by going to a movie on a Thursday night. Who does that besides people with no kids at home?

Heather picked the movie and it was a good one, “Where Did You Go Bernadette” about a wife and mother and also former award winning architect, Bernadette Fox, who after a career reversal twenty years ago has turned into a moody hot mess of hell on wheels, kind of like a female Donald Trump without a twitter account, at war with everybody.

Her husband tries to arrange an intervention to address all these issues, and poof! she bolts. Where did she go, so her husband and daughter go look for her.

This is a great movie, Cate Blanchette does a great job, it has a great message. Also, just so you know, everybody keeps their clothes on, and keeps their language clean and no vegans were harmed during the filming of this movie. I give it four stars out of four, or five out of five, or however many stars you got it gets.

Small Town Skywatch – Sapulpa, Oklahoma

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Last weekend I was in the Tulsa suburb of Sapulpa. I had never spent much time in the downtown area before and I was surprised to see many attractive older buildings that were well maintained and seemed to have many businesses in them along with apartments on the upper floors. The main street is also part of Route 66 as it winds its way through town.

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Creek County Courthouse

And all under some intense deep blue skies and big fluffy white clouds.

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Renovated Apartment Building

So I enjoyed my walk up and down downtown Sapulpa. I am convinced that towns, big and small, need a vital and thriving downtown for the city as a whole to be successful.

I have some more photos I will share later.

I am linking with Skywatch Friday

Our World – Cruising Split Rock Creek in search of Jesse James

On our recent family reunion in South Dakota, a cousin arranged for us to go on a Jesse James Pontoon Boat Tour on Split Rock Creek at a park of the same name near Garretson, South Dakota. It didn’t cost very much and it didn’t take very long but it was a load of fun.

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We were about twenty or so people on this “Norwegian Cruise Lines” vessel. The guide and pilot is Norwegian by ancestry and was a total hoot. He gave everybody a nickname. His regular job is teaching Native American History and Language at a local high school. He knew his stuff.

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As we poked along in the boat he told us about the Lakota Native Americans and a little about their culture. He talked about the flora and fauna, he showed us flint tools and talked about what they were for. All the while asking us questions and making fun of us. He engaged the kids a lot, and didn’t make fun of them. I bet he is a great teacher.

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He grew up in the area and he knew my cousin very well. He also pointed out that the land on both sides of the creek was privately owned. The fine for trespassing is $105 per person. I don’t think he was joking about that.

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He showed us where Jesse James hid out for a while in a cave high up from the creek. He talked about how in years past the landowner let people go look at it. He’s been there apparently the cave is extensive and has ten foot high ceilings. No tours any more, no trespassing, stay away!!

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We got to the end of the creek’s dammed up portion and he pointed out the nice cottage. That looks perfect to me.

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On the way back he hailed the kayakers. Everybody was a target for this guy. Totally good natured and fun. The tour only lasts a half hour or so but he packs a lot of fun into it.

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Here’s the dam across the creek. Built by the WPA way back when. It’s amazing how much the WPA and the CCC built that is still being used today. What a legacy all these years later.

Here’s a link to the Jesse James Tour facebook page.

And here is some more information about Jesse James and the Split Rock Creek. And yet even more information about this beautiful creek in southeast South Dakota.

I am linking with Our World Tuesday

Skywatch Friday – Thunderhead

We took our son to college earlier this week and on the way back we found this big huge cloud squatting over Tulsa. As big and scary as it was, there was only a little lightning and thunder and it moved on.

Just a couple hours earlier, our son was beaming just before we left him. We took him to a college that has a program for young people like him on the Autism Spectrum who want to get a degree. So we moved him in and we and he got oriented on what is going on and then it came time for goodbyes and he was ready. We were to, kind of, we noticed that we didn’t pack tissues in the car for the trip back home. He has almost 50 hours of college hours with a solid B average from a community college here in Tulsa so we know he can do the academics. He just needs help navigating things socially and we think he can get where he is enrolled.

I am thankful that there are more and more programs to help youngsters with various issues get an education and learn how to live independently.

I am linking with Skywatch Friday

Sioux Valley Baptist Church

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Earlier this month I drove up to southeast South Dakota for the annual family reunion on my father’s side of the family. It was fun, connecting with my cousin and his family and an aunt and uncle and met many other relatives. The day of the reunion it is tradition to attend the services at Sioux Valley Baptist Church, a small country church on a dirt road on land donated by my great great grandfather, Nels Norgaard, back in 1888.

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It usually has about six or seven people attend but on Norgaard Sunday it was full. Quite a testament to the church and its people that they have kept it going for 131 years.

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My uncle said that the interior is just like it was when he was a kid, the furnishings, paintings on the wall, and the decorations and he is in his 80’s now.

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The high point of the service has always been the singing. There was a family member who was really talented but he passed away. It was hard to replace him on piano but hey youtube was at the ready and so we sang “It is Well with my Soul”, “When the Roll is Called Up Yonder”, and everybody’s favorite “The King is Coming” a great song about redemption. It starts out slow and builds to a climax. The lyrics include:

"Happy faces line the hallways
Those whose lives have been redeemed
Broken homes that He has mended
Those from prison He has freed
Little children and the aged
Hand in hand stand all aglow
Who were crippled, broken, ruined
Clad in garments white as snow"

Every stanza ends with, “Praise God, He is coming for me!”

I don’t care whether you are believer or not, the idea and the imagery is wonderful!!

Later on we had a picnic in Del Rapids with everybody. Here is a photo of some of us. Can you spot me? Or at least the top of my head?

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I am linking with Our World Tuesday



Stagecoach Skywatch

Last weekend I drove up to southeast South Dakota for a family reunion. I met up with my aunt and uncle from the east coast and my cousin and his family from the west coast and joined countless others in a weekend of learning about the family, visiting, seeing the sights and other activities. One evening under a beautiful blue sky at a relative’s farm a gorgeous stagecoach powered by two beautiful horses showed up. A “Surprise” by our host.

And it wasn’t just for looking at, we were all offered rides and I do believe every single person there had a short ride or two.

Some even got to ride shotgun with the driver.

It was a beautiful sight.

Smiles all around inside. You can’t ride a coach and be unhappy.

My aunt and uncle from the east coast loved it.

They were there for a while making sure everybody got to ride. I loved the shadows on the stage. The workmanship and finish on the coach was exquisite.

Shotgun was a favorite of the younger set. They had the ability to climb up the wheel to get there!

It was a get together that nobody there will soon forget.

I am linking with Skywatch Friday