This is my Mom snoozing on a tour bus in Ireland years ago. She loved Dad, her kids, grandkids, and great grandkids, her brothers and sisters, and all their offspring. She also loved Notre Dame Football, Gonzaga Basketball (long before it was cool, she worked there as a young woman), the Denver Broncos, Joe Montana, Rose Kennedy, the Democratic Party, and especially Sandy Koufax.
She was a copper miner’s daughter, and a forest ranger’s wife. She was tough as nails and very loving. You crossed her at your own peril. She, my brother and I all graduated from the University of New Mexico the same day.
And she was Irish, not as much as ancestry dot com might say, but I wouldn’t tell her that if I were you. She loved Ireland and everything Irish. So on my Mom’s behalf, Happy Saint Patrick’s Day. I love you and miss you every day.
The family went to see “Only the Brave – The Story of the Granite Mountain Hot Shots” last weekend. It is a great movie about a group of 19 elite firefighters who died fighting a fire in the Weaver Mountains near Yarnell, Arizona in 2013. It was a shocking loss by any measure but especially because these were guys who were trained to avoid such disasters. I mean the movie was great but it was based on a true event and to me that kind of overshadows everything.
Below is one of the eeriest videos I have ever seen. It includes some footage shot by the guys who died soon afterward.
There is a lot of commentary and articles speculating about what happened. Just google it and you can find plenty of articles with all sorts of speculation about how these guys ended up in such a terrible situation. It is all overwhelming especially since nobody knows for sure.
There is now an Arizona State Memorial for the hotshots. It is definitely on my bucket list. Check the link. It has brief profiles of each of the guys who died. It is heartbreaking, these guys were in the prime of their lives.
I had a very personal interest in the movie. My father, who passed away in August, worked in the Forest Service and although he wasn’t a hot shot, or spent much time on the front lines, he fought forest fires for years. When I was a kid, during a dry summer he’d be gone almost the whole season, Idaho, Montana, California, Nevada, Arizona. We didn’t hear anything from him, and then he would show up one day covered in dirt and soot, smelly, and exhausted. Afterwards he would have to be very careful around my mother to give the impression that he didn’t like the work.
When I was a kid, the hotshots, the smoke jumpers, and helitack crews were hard as nails men doing back breaking labor. The hotshots rode in trucks to as close to the fire as they could and then humped across country with their equipment, food, shelter, and water on their back to the fire. The theory was that you get these guys on a fire fast to keep the fire from getting bigger. They were expected to handle anything that came up. I remember my mother talking of the hotshots as being a rough bunch.
Payson Hotshots, playing frisbee football
So nowadays, they have a little bit of glamor to them and have really nice vehicles to ride instead of the backs of trucks that I remember but the work itself is just as hard if not harder. After a half century or more of fire extreme suppression, and perhaps global warming, the fuel to burn is more than ever and the weather conditions hotter and drier than ever and so the work may be difficult and dangerous than their predecessors had it.
Forest Fire in Idaho, 1960’s, photo by my father.
I have only seen a few fires and they have been from a distance and they definitely puckered me up although I was miles from them.
Forest Fire in Idaho under control, photo by my Dad.
I can only imagine what being next to one would be like. It is hard to figure out what my Dad went through. He tended to downplay everything to no big deal and my mom’s Irish tended to embellish things perhaps a bit much. She was part of the Forest Service wives club that was pretty close knit so she could find out about stuff that dad didn’t like to talk about. She said she heard one time he drove a truck through a fire to get a guy that had been stranded behind the lines and that the paint had got burned off the truck in process. Dad said nonsense, he got the guy sure, but there was no danger, and no paint was burned. And it wasn’t just Dad. In the small towns we lived in, the Forest Service guys were the dads who took the Boy Scouts camping and led all sorts of other things. They were community minded men, and so were their wives. It was very close knit. Whenever dad got transferred somewhere we generally knew people where we were going.
Slurry bomber in Idaho, mid 1960’s, photo by my Dad.
So anyway, it is a great movie. I think it accurately shows how brave these guys were. And like I said, I have never been anywhere close to a fire but I think it shows accurately what being near a fire is like and how backbreaking building a fire line and clearing brush is. So as you can probably guess, I strongly recommend this movie.
The Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, and the beginning of Winter was yesterday. So on the plus side the days are going to get longer! And on the downside the weather is going to get colder before it starts getting warmer. So I can go run in the woods and go geocaching without worry about ticks, chiggers, spiders, and snakes. Winter is when I can really relax in the woods and not worry about what I am about to step on or find underneath a rock.
Hey, plus Christmas is just a couple days off. Christmas is great but what I really like is the week between Christmas and New Years. This year I’m going to take the days off and we’ll go to some movies and just kind of chill. In early January we are all going to fly up to Idaho and go visit my Dad. Now southeast Idaho, that is where they have real winter. I don’t anticipate moving up there, ever!!! If anything I want to move south.
This time of year is special because this is around the time of my late Mother’s birthday. Not a day goes by that I don’t miss her. I don’t have very many photographs of her but this old faded polaroid is my favorite. She was smart and sassy and tough as nails and really loved her family. The wife of a Forest Ranger and the daughter of a copper miner and a dyed in the wool old school Democrat with an Irish twinkle in eye. I wonder what she thinks as she is surveying all that is going on these days in America.
Way, way back in the middle of the 1960’s when our family was living in Price, Utah the parents took us kids and drove over to Winnemucca, Nevada and deposited us kids in the care of our Aunt Mary. The parents continued on to San Francisco to attend the wedding of my Uncle Glenn and Aunt Pat. Winnemucca was quite a place. Out in the middle of the desert but we were kids and we had a good time. I mean, we lived in a desert.
The images are kind of washed out but left to right this is my grandmother, my aunt Delores, and my Mother. I love the scarves and the handbags, and how my grandmother has her sweater buttoned at her neck.
So when they came to pick up up it sounded like quite a party went on. Mom and Dad went to a topless place for lunch and Mom was telling about how the ladies had tassels and they could make them tassels go round and round and a few of the more skilled ladies could make their tassels go in opposite directions.
Knowing Dad, he was probably interested in that Navy warship approaching the bridge.
So anyways ole Dad had a camera. A very nice one at that he has given to me. And back then you know film was expensive, and processing was expensive. So taking a photo was a very calculated thing. You were making an investment at the same time as you were taking a photo.
I struck it rich with this. My folks told me that they drove the old family Buick LeSabre through the tree with the hole and that they took a picture!! Well I never saw the picture until now. My mother is driving the car and my dad my the photo. So thank you for sharing this photo with me.
So anyway these photos you are looking at have never seen the light of day until now. My sister Ellen saved a ton of dad’s slides for me when she was getting the house ready. I love scanning old slides. I love analog photos, warts and all.
Old dad was a Forest Ranger (or maybe it is like the Marines) and he loved taking pictures of forests and trees.
I love looking at old photographs. It is like buried treasure for me.
And by the way, my uncle Glenn and aunt Pat are still married and doing fine.
This week’s Skywatch Friday shot is from my mother’s beloved Idaho. She grew up there and moved for a time and came back when she and my Dad retired. She’s been gone for some time and I think of her every day. Most of what I am today is because of her.
She was a natural Forest Ranger’s wife. She loved the mountains and loved her family. She always told Dad that she would live anywhere but she had to be able to see mountains.
We lived in some really out of the way places sometimes in Forest Service houses. I remember when we moved from Coyote, New Mexico to Payson, Arizona and you know what. The houses we lived in were exactly the same!!
Coytote, New Mexico Ranger Station, brother Bob on her right on my on her left.
She loved her kids, her grandkids, and her many nieces and nephews, and their kids too!!
Here she is giving Logan a lift.
She had her health issues but she never let them slow her down.
It’s my mother’s birthday. She has been gone for while but I think about her every day. Above is Mom with my brother Bob and me at the Ranger Station in Coyote, New Mexico. Once a month or so we would dress up and load up and head out of the mountains and into Santa Fe for church. Notice my brother Bob rocking the high waisted jeans and my bald head whiting out the whole pic.
I think that is my sister, Ellen in this picture. Mom loved children. Notice the mountain in the background. She always said she would never live anywhere where she couldn’t see the mountains. She was a true Forest Ranger’s wife.
Here she is with Logan in Idaho. They both seem pretty happy with each other.
Mom, the smallest, was part of a huge family. When Dad retired they moved back to Mom’s native Idaho where many of her brothers and sisters lived. She loved getting together with them, and their many kids and grand-kids.