Sunday, January 31, 2010

A Dip in the River on a Beautiful... January Day?

Some Nebraskans may question my dedication to the television show Deadliest Catch, but in this instance, it has served me well. Just to give you a little background, every year, on the closest Friday to Groundhogs Day, intrepid adventures don outlandish costumes and jump into the icy waters of the South Platte River to raise money for the Lincoln Connection, our local homeless shelter.
Now if I'm going to jump in ice cold water, I'm going to want to mitigate the damages, and what better way than to appropriate outerwear that protects fishermen serving on crab boats on the Bering Sea? Rain gear, hoodie, long underwear, deck boots.

Nebraska Outback is very magnanamous and represented the Fab Four of the Fleet equally, but the F/V Northwestern has some loyal fans, as does the F/V Time Bandit. On my jacket you'll also see the Cornelia Marie and Wizard crests.
Since we were all first-time jumpers, we didn't really understand the whole concept - there are prizes for group costumes (which I think we did a pretty good job on), and for group activity. We didn't know about the group activity part until too late to make good plans.

It's a Norwegian tradition (at least on the F/V Northwestern) to bite the head off a herring to bring good luck during the upcoming fishing season. We didn't have a herring, so we chose goldfish crackers. We didn't win the group activity... I'm sure we would have with a real herring.
And you can see why we didn't win the group costume contest, either. It's hard to compete with the Peace Train!

It's a long way down to the edge of the water, and we are all anxiously crowding down to the bank. Our Deadliest Deckhands crew was still warm and toasty at this point.Those choosing to make the jump are very enthusiastic. We counted down, and at 3:00, the first jumpers entered the water.
Here are the Deckhands getting their toes wet.
We were a team, and stayed together to make sure that no one got into trouble.

However, our Time Bandit representative lived up to the reputation of the Bad Boys of the Bering Sea. Not only was he one of the first in the water, he manned up and went completely under water... TWICE! He is already planning for his costume for next year's jump. As you can see, not all of the jumpers were quite as concerned with their own personal comfort as the Deadliest Deckhands were.

If it wasn't for the holes in the left boot of my hip waders, I would have remained completely warm and dry! Oh, the sacrifices I make!
Even the most intrepid jumpers don't remain in the water long... it's a quick in and out.
Over the 12 year history of the Hoggy Doggy Shadow Splash, the organizers have raised more than $225,000.00 for the Lincoln Connection. This year, the Deadliest Deckhand crew raised $460.00, and the event raised in the area of $15,000.00
After the jump comes the awards ceremony. You won't recognize him here, but Scuba Steve (now warmly dressed in a black Nebraska sweatshirt) won a prize for best costume.
Organizer and local DJ David Fudge is given the key to the city for his efforts putting on the annual event.

It's all in good fun, and all for a good cause. I will be willing to bet that there is some outlandish event going on in your neighborhood that will stretch your comfort zone... why not give it a go?

Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.

On a more serious note, on Friday, Captain Phil Harris was found collapsed in his stateroom on board the Cornelia Marie while they were in Saint Paul Harbor offloading their first load of Opelio Crab. He was life flighted to Anchorage and is receiving the best possible care after suffering a stroke. Please keep him in your prayers.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Same Coin - Two Sides

Being a proponent of tourism can sometimes be controversial, as amazing as that concept is to me. I take no credit for the words written below, they come from a good friend of mine. However, I state unequivocally that I agree with each and every word. Even as a tourism professional, I am unable to make this statement as a representative of my employer, I make it as a private citizen, with the unhindered right of FREE SPEECH! The statements below do NOT reflect the beliefs or the position of the governing body of my employer.

Devastating is the word that comes to mind regarding the process involving the so-called "Spike Petition‟.

The matter of the evolution and convolution of the actual petition process was a fundamentally simple legal question which the President of the Golden Spike properly stated should be determined by a judge rather than by the City Council.

And, as was also made clear to the City Council, the only way to get the petition question before a judge was to not approve the resubmission of the petition to the County Clerk. From a legal perspective, everybody came out a winner. A required legal interpretation is in the hands of the legal system where it belongs. The final outcome is of little consequence.

If the petition makes the ballot and voters approve it, nothing will happen beyond introducing the City‟s Administration into the mad realm of the circular accounting formula involving their Budget, General Fund and Property Tax Relief. They can handle it. The financial impact is insignificant.

So why does devastating come to mind? Because of what it does to people. As much as we may choose to ignore it, corporations, communities, organizations and even governments are made up of people. People who have drive, dedication, imagination and dreams.

The editorial page of the January 24th edition of the North Platte Telegraph addressing this topic is worth framing. It is a classic representation of two people looking at the same coin and focusing on opposite sides. One column reminded people that if you have energy and dreams, anything is possible:

“……. let's put our energy, enthusiasm and imagination behind the greatest marketing opportunity since Buffalo Bill. We are designated by Congress as „Railtown USA‟. That gives us a unique national identity, a brand name. We are the Coca Cola of railroad towns, the Schmucker's Jelly of railfans. The Golden Spike is part of that brand identity; so is Railfest; so is Bailey Yard. The pieces are in place. The promotion has possibilities beyond an old editor's wildest dreams.”

The other column reminded people that, like Christ going to Calvary; even if the sins were committed by others, we will flog you every step of the way:

Over the rocky past of the Golden Spike project, successive city councils have invariably turned a deaf ear to critics of the project, even as grand plans went by the wayside, some funds were mistakenly spent on other projects, and meetings of the Golden Spike board were, for years, held in private. The councils have been steadfast that the controversial project would be completed, as it was, and that all of the hotel/motel occupation tax funds would be available for its use, even when those taxes amounted to more than the amount needed to pay off the debt incurred to build it.

The Golden Spike is simply a structure overlooking the world‟s largest railroad yard. The petition is simply a political statement, the financial outcome of which is pretty insignificant in the scheme of things.

But the message to people is clear. If after all these years, the Golden Spike cannot escape from being “battered and bruised and battled” there is little reason for people to believe any other similar project will.

But it‟s not those projects that are at stake, it‟s the people. Progress is the result of actions taken by motivated people. The motivation to participate in the projects envisioned by the author of the first column will eventually be killed by the perspective of the second column.

Devastation does not fall on observation towers, it falls on people.

Read the editorial page of the January 24th edition of the North Platte Telegraph, fold it lengthwise and decide which side of the coin you want to focus on.

Regards, David M. Harrold

Dave Harrold is the Chairman of North Platte's Original Town Association. He and his organization are responsible for the annual Rail Fest celebration, and for North Platte's designation as Rail Town, USA.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It was Inevitable... Adso it is.

We adopted our new kittie from the Animal Shelter in North Platte in mid-November, just about the time I downloaded Diana Gabaldon's seventh book in the "Outlander" series from Audible, "An Echo In The Bone." If you have never read Diana Gabaldon's books, I highly recommend them, both the Outlander series, and the Lord John series. The series' are related - Lord John is a favorite and central character in the Outlander series.

I have read all of the books, in audiobook format - Davina Porter is a master narrator, and the books all top 40+ hours of reading, so you are immersed in the Scotland and America of the 1700's for a goodly long time.

It wasn't until I took the kittie to the vet recently that we discovered that it is indeed a "he", not a "she". Yes, I can tell the difference, but neutered males don't have a lot of obvious parts, so I wanted to make sure before sticking him with an unsuitable name. After we were sure... In case you haven't begun the series yet, I won't give away too many details, except to say that Jamie and Claire acquire a cat.

… The kitten had completely emptied the dish of cream. He sat down with an audible thump on his tiny backside, rubbed the last of the delicious white stuff from his whiskers, then ambled slowly toward the bed, sides bulging visibly. He sprang up onto the coverlet, burrowed close to me and fell promptly asleep.

Perhaps not quite asleep. I could feel the small vibration of his purring through the quilt.

“What do you think I should call him?” I mused aloud, touching the tip of the soft, wispy tail. “Spot? Puff? Cloudy?”

“Foolish names,” Jamie said, with a lazy tolerance. “Is that what ye were wont to call your pussie-baudrons in Boston, then? Or England?”

“No, I’ve never had a cat before,” I admitted. “Frank was allergic to them – they made him sneeze. And what’s a good Scottish cat name, then – Diarmuid? MacGillivray?”
He snorted, then laughed.

“Adso,” He said positively. “Call him Adso.”

“What sort of name is that?” I demanded, twisting to look back at him in amazement “I’ve heard a good many peculiar Scottish names, but that’s a new one.”
He rested his chin comfortably on my shoulder, watching the kitten sleep.
“My mother had a wee cat named Adso,” he said, surprisingly. “A gray cheetie, verra much like this one.”

“Did she?” I laid a hand on his leg. He rarely spoke of his mother, who died when he was eight.

“Aye, she did. A rare mouser, and that fond of my mother, he didna have much use for us bairns.” He smiled in memory. “Possibly because Jenny dressed him in baby gowns and fed him rusks, and I dropped him into the millpond, to see could he swim. He could, by the way,” he informed me, “but he didna like to.”

“I can’t say I blame him,” I said, amused. “Why was he called Adso, though? Is it a saint’s name?” I was used to the peculiar names of Celtic saints, from Aodh – pronounced OOH – to Dervorgilla, but hadn’t heard of Saint Adso before. Probably the patron saint of mice.

“Not a saint,” he corrected. “A monk. My mother was verra learned – she was educated at Leoch, ye ken, along with Colum and Dougal, and could read Greek and Latin, and a bit of Hebrew as well as French and German. She didna have so much opportunity for reading at Lallybroch, of course, but my father would take pains to have books fetched for her, from Edinburgh and Paris.”

He reached across my body to touch a silky, translucent ear, and the kitten twitched its whiskers, screwing up its face as though about to sneeze, but didn’t open its eyes. The purr continued unabated.

“One of the books she liked was written by an Austrian, from the city of Melk, so she thought it a verra suitable name for the kit.”

“Suitable . . . ?”

“Aye,” he said, nodding toward the empty dish, without the slightest twitch of lip or eyelid. “Adso of Milk.”

A slit of green showed as one eye opened, as though in response to the name. Then it closed again, and the purring resumed.

“Well, if he doesn’t mind, I suppose I don’t,” I said, resigned. “Adso it is.”
And so, Adso it is. Do you think he minds?

The quote is from "The Fiery Cross", the fifth book in the series.

Thanks for stopping by. Adso will be more than happy to warm your lap while you are enjoying your coffee.

Monday, January 25, 2010

A Nebraska Tradition... Homemade Egg Noodles

In a sign of her ever-increasing domesticity, having been a married lady for nearly two years now, the Number One daughter asked her father to teach her how to make homemade egg noodles.

She expressed dismay when she saw the classic Betty Crocker cookbook opened on the counter to the recipe for egg noodles - she thought the recipe had been handed down from generation to generation in her family. Which, truly it has, only via Betty Crocker.

The day started a little earlier than the girls may have liked. An evening that began at Ole's Big Game Steakhouse and Lounge, then on to 5 Trails Winery in Paxton ended at the Longhorn Bar (Or as the Nebraska Outback family affectionately calls it, either the 'Horn or the Longbranch). For mom and dad, the evening ended much earlier, so we had no pity on the night owls. After the ingredients were all assembled, came the measuring, carefully leveling off the flour in the cup. Then the careful separation of the eggs. To his credit, the Mister actually let each one of the girls try their hand at separating an egg, rather than doing it all himself. It is a trial for him – you know, they might not do it right! After that the aerobic workout begins, hand mixing, then kneading. The daughter’s friend got the honors for all of this, as her hands were already gooey. No sense in making more of a mess than was already in progress.To make sure they do it right, the Mister stands close by.Lots of flour is called for, to make sure they don't stick to the surface (sorry, no cloth covered board here). And the action moves to the dining room table, to get the proper angle for the kneading. The girls might have skimped a little on the ten minutes of kneading called for in the recipe, but Dad is anxious to make sure they do the rolling out properly. I think they've got the idea.
Now dad has to demonstrate the proper rolling up technique. Note that the dough had to sit to dry for quite a while - until the edges turn crusty.
Only the thinnest of egg noodles will satisfy the Mister in his chicken and noodles.
He's got to make sure they're doing it right.
He's not going to let them get away with making them too thick.
Now there's nothing left to do but go on a ROAD TRIP while the noodles dry completely.
So we head for the hills. It's a beautiful day for a drive in the Sandhills, up to the ranch where we startle a Mule deer doe in the trees.
She stands and watches for awhile before she decides it's time to get the heck out of Dodge.

Of course, she really put some distance between herself and us when we started target practicing. No, we weren't aiming at the deer with a .22 pistol - it was only an aluminum can.
We had quite an audience. The resident bulls had to see what all the noise was about.
In case you were wondering, this friendly soul is #1409.
The water has to keep flowing so the tank doesn't freeze, but the overflow has frozen into quite an ice berg.
It was no match for the Mister's Ford F150, though. It hardly skittered while crossing the ice.
And now we're back home, the noodles are dry, and it's time to put the chicken on.
Thanks for stopping by. The coffee is always on.
Oh, and here's the recipe, according to Betty Crocker and family tradition:
2 cups all-purpose flour
3 egg yolks
1 egg
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 to 1/2 cup water
Measure flour into bowl; make a well in the center and add egg yolks, whole egg and salt. With hands, thoroughly mix egg into flour. Add water, 1 tablespoon at a time, mixing thoroughly after each addition. (Add only enough water to form dough into a ball.)
Turn dough onto well-floured cloth-covered board; knead until smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Cover, let rest 10 minutes.
Divide dough into 4 equal parts. Roll dough, 1 part at a time, into paper-thin rectangle, keeping remaining dough covered. Roll rectangle around rolling pin; slip out rolling pin.
Cut dough crosswise into 1/8-inch strips for narrow noodles and 1/4-inch strips for wide noodles. Shake out strips and place on towel to dry, about 2 hours.
When dry, break dry strips into smaller pieces. Cook in 3 quarts boiled salted water (1 tablespoon salt) 12 to 13 minutes or until tender. Drain thoroughly.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The Sutherland Reservoir in Winter

After more than a week of dreary overcast skies and dense fog, the sun came out on Saturday and we took advantage of it with a drive around the Sutherland Reservoir. It was kind of questionable early in the day if it was going to turn off nice, but the fog burned off around 10:00.

We started our drive at Sutherland beach. This view is looking west at the island. Sutherland beach features a campground with pads and hookups, and also the nine-hole Oregon Trail Golf Course.
Next we headed toward the outlet, where the Blue Herons were disturbed from their fishing by our presence.
This is Hershey Beach. In the summer, this popular beach will be filled with campers, boaters and swimmers. Today, though the sun was bright, it doesn't look so inviting.
While it may not rival the ice pack heading down from the arctic to cover the Opelio crab fishing grounds in the Bering sea, the ice remaining at Hershey beach looks damn cold!
The pelicans were taking a break from the cold water to sun themselves on the breakwater.
Another Blue Heron who wouldn't sit still to have his picture taken.
The blackbirds (or Grackles, or Starlings... whatever they are) were resting in a tree.
But a short beep of the horn got them flying again.
Like a flower blooming, they burst out of the tree to find a quieter resting place.
This is the spillway into the Reservoir from the cooling pond of NPPD's Gerald Gentleman Power Plant.
The view from the top is impressive.
And here in the canal, the water is deceivingly calm before it rushes over the spillway.
It wouldn't be my cup of tea, but the fishermen were out enjoying the day. I hope they had luck.
Toward the inlet, a hawk was hunting.
The spillway into the Inlet is a little quieter than usual. There isn't any water being let out toward Lake Maloney, so there's not a lot of water flowing in, either.
The Inlet is a Recreation area maintained by the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. There are camping pads with grills, as well as primitive camping and a handicapped fishing pier.
Here is where the ducks and geese were congregating. It was about this moment that I realized that the snow drifts I was trudging through weren't resting on solid ice, but rather slush. Fortunately, I only went through up to my ankles, but it was cold enough.
Safely back in the pickup, with the heater blasting on my frozen feet, I caught the sea gulls through the window.
Taking the back roads back to town, we pass the slough where we disturbed a family of ducks.
The flew up, only to circle around and land again when they realized we were only driving by.
Further on, in the Applegate Drain, a lone female swims along.
This scenic little stream is really a drainage ditch designed to drain the soil from the water that seeps into the water table from the Sutherland Reservoir.
A small herd of horses enjoys the beautiful day grazing in a pasture.
Thanks for stopping by my little corner of Nebraska for a beautiful Saturday afternoon drive. Remember, the coffee is always on.