In Which There Were Critters

I’m at home for a few minutes, finishing up lunch, after having taken Sophie into the vet. She wasn’t feeling good – strange vomiting patterns, etc. – so I took her in. They think it’s odd, but that there’s nothing wrong with her that they can find. Maybe hairballs? She’s kind of an obsessive groomer. Anyway, now I’m sitting at my desk catching up on blogs, and Sophie is sitting on the desk next to the keyboard, watching the cursor move on the monitor and occasionally looking at me with big aqua-colored eyes and blinking. She’s really a very pretty kitty.

What I wanted to say is (oh dear, now she’ trying to catch the cursor, and I can’t see the monitor anymore… LOL) that this was the coolest vet visit ever. I go to the Humane Society clinic, for a number of reasons (cost, good cause, great vets) and they recently brought on an “exotic animals” vet. Well, while I was sitting there waiting with Sophie, a woman who reminded me of Katharine Hepburn when she was older came in with an enormous dog kennel thing. Inside the kennel? A Canada Goose. She apparently works with AIDA (one of my very favorite causes) and has a pair of injured, unreleasable geese at her place. (Go to that website and turn on your speakers…) This one has had a broken wing for a long time, and she was bringing it in to have the wing amputated so that its mobility would improve.

While she and I are talking, in comes a person with a great big tortoise named Four Wheel Drive… not sure what was wrong with it…

In the exam room, I could hear brand new kittens mewing on the other side of the wall.

And then I heard our vet (she has a distinctive voice) exclaim, “Oooh! It tickles!” Well, naturally, I wanted to know what was tickling… so I asked the vet assistant when she came out. It turns out that Goose Lady has a pet bat – has had for four years – and she keeps it in her shirt! I asked her about it after I checked Sophie out, and she let me see it. Such a tiny little thing – although she assures me that it was a “big” bat for Idaho – with big ears and the tiniest little sharp teeth you ever saw. Like if someone crossed one of those huge furry moths with a mouse. She rescued it when it was a 6-gram pink thing, and now it goes practically everywhere with her, tucked inside her shirt. It likes to be over her heart, but wanders around under there all over her front and back. The bat’s name was Mowgli, or something like that, and I honestly don’t know what kind of bat it was, but it could hide entirely in her hand. Big ears. Soft light-colored hair on its head.

A couple of days ago I saw a fox near our company’s parking lot, and the day before that we saw a young deer on campus, so I guess it’s just being a very wild animal sort of week!

In Which We Get Away

We got out of town about midday on Friday and started driving up toward Cascade.

About 2/3 of the way there, my car’s gauges started acting up. We laughed – my dashboard has been known to go temporarily demonically possessed – until all of the gauges hit zero and stopped bouncing. Soon afterward my stereo cut out, followed by the fans, followed by turn signals, dome lights, and windshield wipers. Our battery was dead. We got to the edge of Cascade and pulled into the first gas station we saw to ask for directions to the nearest mechanic – and the car died. Dead as a doornail.

A kind passerby gave us a jump-start and directions to a mechanic, and we began limping through town. We ended up at an auto shop right across the street from our hotel (the beautiful Ashley Inn) where, once again, the car died. Luckily for us, we’d managed to stall out at the one auto shop in the entire country where not a single person knew the first thing about cars. (Really, folks, when Ryan and I are closer to diagnosing the problem than you are, you’ve got a problem.) The man who owned the shop didn’t even want us to leave our car there, but frankly, we didn’t have a choice. We grabbed our suitcase, walked across the highway, and checked into the hotel.

(A quick tangent about the Ashley Inn. The place isn’t old, but it’s decorated in Victorian style, and feels like being in a century-old mansion. The beds have footboards – footboards, people, can I tell you how much I love footboards? – and everything is done up in toile. Every room has a fireplace. Most have bay windows; some – be still my heart – are in turrets. Most exquisitely, certain of the rooms have rain showers and enormous two-person jetted tubs with colored lights and marble surrounds. I swoon, even now, just thinking about those bathtubs. The Ashley Inn serves a real complementary breakfast every morning and seemingly unlimited hot cookies and cold milk in the evening. Pricey, and not the sort of thing we’re likely to shell out for too often, but definitely worth it for a special occasion. I can just imagine getting married there.)

Sans car, we wandered Cascade on foot that afternoon. We walked a couple “blocks” north to a river beach, acquired a canoe, and set out across a wide spot in the river. As if to prove that Friday was going to be a bad day for transportation, we quickly realized (although not so quickly that we weren’t in the middle of the river) that we were taking on water. We paddled to shore before our electronics got doused and traded in our “two-seated canoe with leak” for a more water-tight model with, alas, only one seat. Being hardy types, this didn’t dissuade us. A stack of life jackets served Ryan just about as well as my precarious perch above the water.

My parents (who, fortunately, are gypsies) came up to Cascade so that my dad could fix the car. Although my car has a brand new battery and a brand new starter, it apparently wanted a brand new alternator, too.

The next day we got up and had fresh waffles for breakfast, then headed down the road a ways to the flea market. We’d often driven past it but had never stopped, and I was curious. Other than amethyst and orange-opal rings that caught my eye, it was basically a great big “knives and blow guns” festival. After that, we drove up to McCall and wandered around for a while, playing tourist. I was looking for things you can only get in Idaho, but the closest I really got was “things you can only get in Idaho but that are technically produced in Montana when you buy them from this particular line of stores.” We ate lunch at a Chinese restaurant on the lake and made snarky raised-eyebrow faces at our fortune cookies, and at the classy sailboats on Payette Lake.

On Saturday evening we walked out the back door of the inn and up a wooden ramp onto the train station platform, where the Thunder Mountain Line was waiting for us. For some inexplicable reason, the passenger load was relatively light that night, so we got our choice of seats and plenty of socialization with the conductor and crew. (Crew? That doesn’t seem right for a train, but whatever.) The scenery was just beautiful – places you can’t see any other way, places that you know haven’t been touched by man since they laid those tracks a hundred years ago. We passed under a steel trestle bridge built in 1913 and through the world’s shortest solid-rock tunnel (37 feet). Finally we stopped next to an abandoned farmhouse, where a delicious chicken barbecue was laid out for us. A young lady played guitar and sang for us all – she was really good – and we enjoyed a beautiful evening in the mountain before climbing back aboard the train. The trip back was cool on the open-air cars, and I had to pick more than one bug out of my plastic glass of champagne, but it was absolutely divine…

On Sunday morning we had breakfast again and then drove up to McCall… past McCall… off the main road… and down a bumpy, twisty dirt road to the Ya-Hoo Corral for a trail ride. Ryan had never ridden a horse before, and it had been a long time for me, so we were both very excited. They gave him a placid mount named Skip, and me a willful mare named Roha (shouldn’t that have been a J?), and we headed up into the mountains for yet another trip that you could only experience given our particular mode of transportation. I don’t know if it is true for everyone, but Ryan and I marveled at how natural it feels to be on horseback. It’s like we were designed to do it. (Maybe that’s just good saddle design, I dunno.) By the end of the trip, my city boy was talking about buying horses and moving to Valley County (to a house with an enormous bathtub).

The day, and the weekend, ended all too soon… but I feel so much better, having escaped for a few days. Ryan isn’t feeling very well today, so we’re hoping he didn’t catch some kind of a bug (literally or figuratively – we don’t get many ticks out here, but it is possible). I’m having a helluva day at work, but it’s over now, and I can go to class and think about horses and evening train rides through evergreen mountains… well, and classroom management, but that’s what multitasking is for.

In Which I Share Scenes from a Getaway

“Happiness consists of living each day as if it were the first day of your honeymoon and the last day of your vacation.” -Anonymous

I am back from our weekend getaway – wish I wasn’t, but that’s just how life rolls. I wanted to set up a little slideshow on here, to try to cut down on the download time for those of you whose connections choke on photo-heavy blogs, but I can’t access the slideshow-making services from behind our firewall. Too bad, so sad. 🙂 As a compromise, I’m going to try to hold down the number of photos I post here, but if you’re interested in seeing more you can take a look here. (I’m assuming that link works; this is my first foray into Flickr-land, and I can’t check it out from work.)

_loveseat   _fireplace
Such a beautiful, tranquil room. This one, done in blue rather than pink, is apparently the owner’s favorite.

_canoe2  _canoe
Canoes work best when they float.

_2horses  _chip


  _view   view2
The view from lunch, and the view from our horseback ride.

loco   _train


_dessert   _dinner

In Which I Have Difficulty Photographing a Cat

“Sophie,” I said the other day, “why don’t you let me take a picture of your pretty blue eyes?”

She blinked at me and arranged herself on the top of the kitty condo, facing the camera dead-on, big blue beauties focused on the lens. I looked through the viewfinder, got her in focus, and this is what I got:

The Difficulty of Photographing a Cat

Finally she moved to the back of the desk chair, and I was able to catch a badly-lit, poorly-focused shot that may – if you have good vision and imagination – reveal to you the blueness of her eyeballs.

sophie on chair

Stubborn kitty. 🙂 

In Which I am a Shutterbug


I don’t ever really know what people think when they think of Idaho. I know a lot of people in the southern part of the country assume we’re in the Arctic Circle. I know most people think “potato farm,” but I doubt they could visualize such a thing. (Quick: what does a potato plant look like? See, told you.) (Not to mention the fact that I’ve lived in Idaho for over a decade now and have yet to encounter a potato farmer, unless you count Jared Zabransky, who is from Oregon.)

goose family

If I had to describe Idaho to myself as I was twelve years ago, I would talk about the fact that we actually have four seasons (of interest to a gal raised in Colorado, land of no spring). I’d talk about the way the water looks like chunks of polished crystal when it flies through the air. I’d mention the tactile, silky drape of the hills when the setting sun hits them. And I’d tell myself about the geese…

baby geese

…the baby geese who will practically eat out of your hand.


I’d be remiss if I failed to mention the strange political and educational climate here.

star and moon

I’d probably have to explain this photo to myself, so I’d talk about the brightness of the stars and moon when you live in a state without major light pollution, and I’d talk about the way it feels to zip across the lake under a bespeckled sky. Slow shutter speed plus bumpy boat ride makes for interesting shots.

Good Start to the Week

second_prizeI found out early this morning that I won Second Place in Kimbooktu’s book gadget contest!

I invented a “book cloak” that you can make yourself (follow the link for simple instructions) to hide books you’re embarrassed to be seen reading in public. I never in a million years thought I’d actually win anything, to be honest – some of the other inventions were so funny and outrageous that I thought sure my mundane little gadget would fall by the wayside. But it didn’t, and now it shall forever live in Kimbooktu infamy. 🙂

In addition to a cute trophy graphic, Second Place receives:

When I receive my prizes I’ll take a picture (both for y’all, and at Kimbooktu’s request).

I’m very excited about the prizes, but much more so about creating something that people found interesting and useful. Thank you so much if you voted for me. This really inspires me to keep doing and creating. 🙂

Fishing Diary, Revisited

Lesley left me a comment a few days ago asking for more information about Muriel Foster’s Fishing Diary, so I took a few pictures to share.

Apparently Muriel was a very interesting, active woman and an avid “fisherwoman.” Throughout her life, she kept a fishing diary. Now, to someone like myself who is not a serious angler, the idea of a fishing diary seems kind of odd. A quick Google Search, however, shows that plenty of people keep detailed and illustrated diaries of their fishing exploits. There’s even fishing diary software you can buy! I suppose it makes sense; if you love to fish, you would want to keep a record of your trips so that you remember the best places, the big catches, and the good times. Really, is it so different from this blog? This is a fishing diary in many ways, only the fish I catch happen to be books…

Anyway, Muriel kept this particular fishing diary for many years, starting in 1913. Each page is filled not only with notes but with lush illustrations of the wildlife, fish, and landscapes Muriel saw while out on the water. It’s a beautiful book even if you have no interest in fishing. She was a talented illustrator.

Years later, Muriel’s grandchild found the diary and decided that it ought to be shared with a broader audience than the family circle. Her efforts led to the creation of a facsimile book, very much similar to Muriel’s original diary. It was published in 1980 and apparently met with sufficient success that it was re-released 16 years later. My copy is the first edition.

The book comes in a nice little box. When I first saw it I thought it was probably some sort of Hallmark gift book.


Inside the box, the volume is bound in leather with a gold-stamped title. Let us all spare a moment in recognition of my wrath at people who put price stickers on nice book covers.


There is an inscription inside the front cover. The purchaser gave it to his (?) fishing buddies as a momento of all the good times they had shared and the good times he hoped to share in the future. I love a good book inscription, and always try to remember to write in the books I give as gifts. They just add that extra bit of story…


One of the most elaborate of the illustrations – practically an illuminsted manuscript – right at the front:


A few more examples of the art and entries:



As time progressed – and we’re talking something like 30 years here – the illustrations become simpler and the handwriting less clear. The totals decrease as well, indicating either lack of vigor in the anglers or evolution of the fishing spots. Muriel’s aging process is visible on the pages, although she rarely refers to any personal details: here, a mention of a friend’s injured leg; there, a brief reference to arthritis.

The back of the book is devoted to tables and illustrations that teach how to weigh and measure a fish.


Really a beautiful book. If you can find a copy – I suspect the 1996 edition is the same as the 1980 – it would make a very nice addition to the library of your favorite angler, naturalist, illustrator, or bibliophile.