This was written some time ago, but it still applies, I believe. Thanks for reading. Dear friends, On my drive home tonight, at the small city of Hope, Idaho, I watched a meteor inscribe the black heavens with a golden signature. It blew across the southern sky, as if launched by Orion, and fell behind the Green Monarchs, leaving nothing… Read more →
A Few Thoughts on Abortion and Sex Education
In John Prine’s song, “Way Back Then,” he sings, “I am out undoing all the good I’ve done.” That could be a theme for the past few years in the United States. Environmental laws passed “way back then” are weakened, international agreements are abandoned, traditional friends are snubbed and rancorous, argumentative politics have settled into every level of government. I… Read more →
A Few Thoughts on Questions For My Dad.
My neighbor Aaron Harris showed up with his portable sawmill this week, and we proceeded to make rectangular pieces out round logs harvested from my place by Ma Nature herself: windthrown Douglas fir, cedar and hemlock courtesy of big wind events during the past few years. Brother Kent and I salvaged them with my chainsaw and his tractor. He sent… Read more →
A Few Thoughts About Conservatism
When my grandparents landed in Montana long, long, long ago, they brought with them some interesting sensibilities. They were of the pioneer type, but missed the big push into the country and so ended up being, in reality, settlers. They arrived 34 years after the Northern Pacific, more or less, and so found other folks on the ground already. But… Read more →
A Few Thoughts on Spring and Winter
Spring managed to surprise me this year. Again. I walked to the river yesterday and discovered fresh-grown catkins hanging from an errant Sitka alder that has taken root in the stream bank. I have no idea what that alder is doing there, for most of my experience with said plant has been traversing patches of it above 4,000 feet. Where… Read more →
A Few Thoughts on Vladimir Putin and Ukraine
“There are men in the world who derive as stern an exaltation from the proximity of disaster and ruin, as others from success.” Winston Churchill In 2001, I had the opportunity to travel to the “new” Russia. The USSR had dissolved a decade before and the country was full of optimism for the future. It also had a new president… Read more →
A Few Thoughts on Winter and Our Fellow Travelers.
A bobcat is traveling around the homestead these days, teaching snowshoe hares and ruffed grouse to pay attention, a good and proper thing for a bobcat to do. I see its tracks rambling through my woods. I also had the good luck of a sighting a few weeks ago. In my years in this neck of the woods, I’ve seen… Read more →
A few thoughts on Something and SDRs.
At Oakland Airport, I await a flight to Spokane, last leg home from Seattle. It’s a roundabout way to get there, but it fits the day, which has been roundabout also. I still like to fly, but there are a number of SDRs that go with flying these days I could do without. “SDR,” by the way, stands for Stupid… Read more →
A Few Thoughts on the Meaning of Christmas
As I’ve grown older, the glistening promise of the winter holiday has become a little tarnished. That’s not to say I haven’t had wonderful Christmases, because I have, but there have been some horrendous ones, as well. I think that’s true of many people. Presence of the celebration during a time of trial serves to highlight any misery we might… Read more →
A few thoughts on the closing of Ivano’s
There’s a joke about Ivano’s Ristorante Italiano, a Sandpoint institution for 37 years: Question: “Where’s the best Italian restaurant in Spokane?” Answer: “In Sandpoint.” Alas, no more. I enjoyed what was possibly a last meal at Ivano’s Friday before last. I enjoyed my “employee discount for life,” Jim Lippi’s gift to me when I left his employment once, though it… Read more →
A few thoughts on travels with Gigi
I recently traveled around Washington State with Gigi for a few days, all the way out to the ocean and back. Gigi was often the navigator. She gives advice in a calm, clear voice, and most of the time she knows where she’s going. When she doesn’t — which isn’t often — she still remains composed and continues giving directions.… Read more →
Eulogy for Laddie: a not-so-good, absolutely great dog.
I had a dog, and his name was Laddie.His middle name was “A.D.D.”He was a trial, a joy, and sometimes a baddie,and sometimes he even paid attention to me. “You, dog, were a pain in the ass. Sometimes. And all through your life with me. At intervals. But, you were also the happiest, most exuberant animal I have ever known.… Read more →
A Few Thoughts on Listening.
Our friend Glada McIntire recently moved further into her true realm when she became pure spirit and left her shell behind. I say “our,” because Glada had many friends, and some are my friends as well. I am not privy to details of her transition, but I would hope she accomplished that final shedding in an old growth forest —… Read more →
A few (last) thoughts about politics (at least for a while)
We are all pretty much sick of politics, I think. At least I am, but I have been for quite some time, since Y2K, in fact. The shenanigans of those who govern us, from county commissioners to Senators, are as entertaining as they are disturbing. Altruism is not a common trait in the halls of government, while self-service and acrimony… Read more →
A few thoughts on our post-COVID world.
As vaccine cards are issued and COVID masks come off in our neighborhood — not that masks were ever fully on or that everyone has acquired a card — we can move about the country in a more unrestrained manner. I use the word, “our,” because, we still can’t get into Canada except by special permission. Travel overseas is possible,… Read more →
A few thoughts on the letter “S.”
I don’t know about the rest of you, but I’m tired. In the past 13 months, we’ve suffered a pandemic; contentious elections; not a few moments of momentous internal strife, a few international crises; and bizarre and pervasive conspiracy theories. And, then there was winter. At least winter seems to be over, though it was hard to tell this week.… Read more →
A few thoughts on the “wall” that is really an inefficient fence.
Having survived COVID and feeling sort of — but not completely — immune, I recently traveled down Mexico way. I didn’t go into Mexico, except just a tiny bit, because a.) I didn’t take my passport with me to Arizona, and b.) even if I had, I didn’t want to sit in traffic for an hour to get in and… Read more →
A few thoughts on Surviving COVID-19
I promised myself I would write something light and funny this month. But then, I went to town. I hadn’t been for a while. I’d been pretty much holed up at home for a couple of weeks, since a few days before I tested positive for COVID-19. I am very grateful that my bout with it was somewhat of a… Read more →
More than a few thoughts on the United States; past, present and future.
I am ranging through The American Trails Series, ten books edited by A. B. Guthrie, Jr. and published in the 1960s. They each have a different author, including Wallace Stegner (The Gathering of Zion) and Stewart Holbrook (The Boston Post Road). Beginning with prehistory, they are accounts of major routes of exploration, migration, trade and conquest on the North American… Read more →
Winter at the River
The dog has paused his joyful romp,
quit rolling in the ermine crust
the world has grown since late last night,
to watch and listen, as I must,
to a world so still it must have a say. Read more →
One More Christmas Eve.
Can you smell it? You remember.
Rows of magic electric embers
glow upon verdant tinseled boughs
The fragrance fills the winter house
Gifts piled on the felted cover
Carefully wrapt by loving mother Read more →
A few thoughts on Covid, masks and manliness.
As we approach our national election day, polls reports that Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by 35 points among women, but only by 2 points among men. The good news is that the polls have Trump losing, and the gap is getting wider every day. As a man, though, it sickens me that a large minority of male voters in… Read more →
A few thoughts on pure-d B*** S***
The weather has been unseasonably warm, if you haven’t noticed, and I’ve whiled away a few days getting reacquainted with the prairies and island ranges of central Montana. Day before yesterday, I drove from Chinook through the Bears Paw Mountains, crossed Missouri on the Sanford-McClellan Ferry and found a camp in the Upper Missouri Breaks National Monument. Last night, I… Read more →
A few thoughts on rights and responsibilities
To vilify others because of an affiliation as Democrat or Republican is ludicrous, but we are encouraged to do so by those who benefit by sowing divisiveness and concentrating on issues that keep us apart, rather than leading us into areas of agreement and unity. Read more →
A few thoughts on liberty and justice for all
Bill Hodge, Rob Mason and I are rolling slowly down Bloody Dick Creek Road in the Beaverhead National Forest toward a tour of Big Sheep Creek National Backcountry Byway. The way is bumpy, so typing on my laptop in the back seat is slow and oft redone. But, being on a journey, I feel like journaling. Read more →
A few thoughts… on patriotism
There is nothing wrong with being a patriot — vigorously supporting our country. But our patriotism can’t be blind. Patriotism is not about waving the flag or our guns or yelling at each other over religion, race or sexual orientation. It is not defined by genomic structure or our personal view of Spirit. Read more →
A few thoughts about snails and cougar poop
Bits of life and death decorate the tread. Shards of hide and bits of white fluff mark where a snowshoe hare was consumed by something hungry. The list of suspects is short but impressive. A colony of ants confidently builds a residence in the center of the path, as if to say, “What bear?” Read more →
Skin and flesh ran crimson wet with the life that only just left her. Suddenly I was overcome with anger. This carnage we create is too readily brushed aside as a necessary consequence of modern mobility. Read more →
The Blessings of Retirement
Retirement means, of course, launching full-tilt into the rest of life, set to do all the things we have been wanting to do, but lacked the long, connected strings of time to do them. There’s nothing like a chainsaw, a splitting axe and some old-fashioned salvage logging and wood-cutting to facilitate social distancing. Read more →
A few thoughts as the County Commission guns for 2 nd Amendment rights
Half my fan base insists it’s fruitless to write about national politics in a local venue. The other person seems to agree. But what else is there? Local politics? OK. Why not? Read more →
Spring, Muddy Feet and Rainbows
The world made a switch today, from lingering winter to progressive spring. I anticipate a time when we make a similar switch from this strange and scary time of personal isolation to a more normalized version of life, when every other human might not seem to be a threat. Read more →
The Shores of the Interstate
They are all skeletons of foregone beauty.
When a wagon track ran by and there were no fences Read more →
The canyon wren spirals over the backeddy, the hiss of my butane stove, and across the state-line… Read more →
What Would You Tell Us?
If you could talk, what would you tell us? About the day that they punched the highway past Powell And about the people who came there and stayed in those cabins Built so long ago What would you tell us about the river And what used to come and what no longer does What would you tell us about… Read more →
Sawtooth Adventure (2017)
Over breakfast, Sandy Compton casually mentions that the distance to the Sawtooth summit is just 2.5 miles, as a swallow flies. So I figure, with my limited understanding of off-trail hiking, that our route should be no more than 4.5. We meet Kate, Celeste, Annie and Cary at 7:55am mountain time. We wait a while for two no-shows before driving… Read more →
Ode to Upper Ross Creek
My right knee is troubling me. I’ve gashes in my forearm. I lately closely inspected the Belt formation’s charms. A talus slope, a faulty set of my black Diamond pole. It sank a foot and I went down my head, not in a hole. But on a rock, ‘twas quite a sock, but I didn’t come up bleeding; at least… Read more →
Regarding Surrendering: Step One
Surrender begins with Step One. When we admit our helplessness, even for a moment, we are letting go. We are surrendering something we may know not what, but it is imperative that we do. Here is an excerpt from Side Trips from Cowboy you might find helpful as you move toward surrender. Did you ever get on a carnival ride… Read more →
Winding Road, Next 99 Miles (8 am at Apgar)
I climb out of Montana only to fall into Idaho and a sign appears yellow and black in the late June gloom like a yellow-jacket warning flying by in the dark “Winding Road, Next 99 Miles” US 12, Lewis and Clark Highway Lolo Pass to Kooskia (leave off the “a”) the longest continuous paved curve in Idaho I look… Read more →
Dick Sonnichsen’s new book, “A Leaf in a Stream.”
Blue Creek Press is proud to announce the release of A Leaf In a Stream: Surviving Childhood, Catholicism, Conscription, Career and Cancer. Author Dick Sonnichsen has had an interesting journey. He grew up in a small town in Idaho and traveled the world. Like the leaf he alludes to in the title of A Leaf In A Stream, he has… Read more →
Ranch Report 4.0: Rodentia
Warning: Contains graphic descriptions of violence against rodents. Now that I have your undivided attention . . . The cabin under reconstruction was built in three sections; 1930 (approximately), 1952-53, and 1960, and has been a haven for rodents since the day my grandfather nailed the last shake on the roof in 1930. My sis and I and several others… Read more →
Ranch Report V 3.0
I have been working on “remodeling” the house I grew up in for X number of years. I say “X” — or, more accurately, write “X” — because I have no idea how long I have been remodeling. Let’s just say it has been a long, long time. And for much of that time, I have been removing stuff, which… Read more →
A chapter from “Growing Up Wild”
Author’s note: Growing Up Wild has a book within the book entitled Alex’s Restaurant. This is an excerpt from the book inside the book. Big Dog’s mama didn’t really name him that. She named him after his two grandpappies, Brian O’Shannahan and David Broadwater, but neither name stuck as well as his initials did, because Brian David Broadwater grew up… Read more →
Heart of the World
I am sitting amidst the high sources of one of the wildest, most beautiful streams I’ve ever seen; in one of the wild hearts of the world. The earth has more than one wild heart, and each is a center of renewal, resilience and beauty. Some are larger than others, but size has not much to do with the potency… Read more →
Visiting Chief Joseph — September 19, 1999
“NEZ PARCE CMTY.” — An excerpt from Side Trips From Cowboy Journal entries, September 19 — Dawn, The Keller-Nespelem Divide, Washington. I have just met Alfredo. He and his crew of five young, Spanish-speaking men showed up as I stuffed my dew-soaked bag into its sack. They turn their music up, bring out chain saws, hard hats, gloves, chaps, goggles.… Read more →
Surviving the Mother of All Overscheduled Weekends . . . and watering trees
Sandpoint, the nominal capitol of the vague state of Montaho was VERY busy last weekend. Hundreds of folks from as far away as Athol — heck, maybe even Spokane — strolled the streets with melting huckleberry ice cream running down their arms, because it was also hotter than a firecracker. I probably shouldn’t even say “firecracker.” We’ve been smelling smoke… Read more →
Food for thought: seven black jelly beans & slimy lettuce
My dad loved black jellybeans; licorice flavored, I believed, but — according to some who knows — actually flavored with anise. Whatever. I love black jellybeans too, and have a supply in my candy drawer with the Toblerone chocolate and peanut M&Ms. This evening, I made what a young friend of mine once dubbed “slimy lettuce,” a bowl of hand-torn… Read more →
In the beginning there was stone . . .
. . . and then, came the ice. If you have never hiked into the central Scotchmans, say to Sawtooth or the Melissa Crag or Davis Point, it might be hard to imagine what the place holds for us who have — and for those who will — and why we wish to save this place. To say this place… Read more →
Bizzarity: A 22nd visit to the Nez Perce Cemetery at Nespelem
Of stolen art, murdered mountain lions, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce, prisons with no walls and the Capitol Christmas Tree. It is still morning in Nespelem, but just, and a little foggy near the hilltops yet. A southbound sun has about won the fight with the fog in spite of the resistance of a high, thin layer of cirrus… Read more →
Photography is one of my great loves
And, some days photography even loves me. I took this picture at Nespelem, Washington, in the Nez Perce Cemetery on the Colville Indian Reservation. The tree is an ancient elm that arches over Chief Joseph’s grave. People have left many gifts hanging in that tree. Notice that the cross is accompanied by a coach’s or referee’s whistle, as well as… Read more →
The Girl Who Needed Glasses
There were four of us who arrived in Russia together; Gerald, Hazel, Eugene and I. We arrived in Moscow as most Americans do, dead tired and unprepared for the seemingly eternal phalanx of forms and uniforms one must pass through to enter the Mother Country. Time is already distorted for someone who has just flown half-way around the world, and… Read more →