In my previous blog I discussed my recent excursion to the far reaches of West Texas, that is, El Paso. It was there that I hiked the Franklin Mountains and had a challenging but memorable experience. As I hiked I thought of the other mountain ranges of West Texas that I have enjoyed hiking including the Davis Mountains, the Chisos Mountains of Big Bend, and not to be forgotten, the Guadalupe Mountains.
I have hiked the Guadalupe Mountains almost a dozen times, and am always held in wonderment. The highest point in Texas is Guadalupe Peak at 8,700 ft. You can see for over a hundred miles in almost any direction. I have watched the sun set while at the peak, been at the peak when it is dark, and I have watched the sun rise from the peak; all enjoyable experiences. The trails are challenging and many are quite remote. You can hike for days in the Guadalupe Mountains without seeing anyone. The Peak trail is challenging but you will see a number of folks on that trail.
The Guadalupe Mountains from what I have read were formed differently than neighboring mountain ranges such as the Rockies. They are a distinct ecosystem unto themselves. One of my favorite treasure books I read this past year was Legend and Lore of the Guadalupe Mountains written by W. C. Jameson. He is a very well-known author of many treasure books. His treasure tales are captivating but what I really enjoy most about Jameson’s writing is his attention to history. I actually love his history stories related to the Guadalupe Mountains more than his treasure stories. I have read many of his treasure books but I think the Guadalupe Mountains is my favorite.
If you are ever on a venture to see Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico, the Guadalupe Mountains are just 40 miles down the road. You will feel like you are out in the middle of “no where” and you would be right. But that is the lure of the Guadalupe Mountains. I will make it a point to reread his book before my next excursion to the Guadalupe Mountains. It will quite literally add to the adventure.
We have all heard William Shatner in Star Trek say, “To boldly go where no one has gone before.” It’s catchy and it makes you want to join the exploration. But you know what? You don’t have to go into the future to explore. It is all around us. If we occasionally take time to explore our past, I think it can make us better people.
When I drive by a dilapidated farmhouse out in the country or an abandoned factory in a city, I have the urge to explore them. Most of the time I do not stop; no trespassing signs, safety concerns, and besides, I’m usually driving purposely towards my destination. I’m a reflective person. I like spending a few moments walking in the presence of where others went before. The few times I have stopped have always been rewarding.
I believe the word castle creates more imaginative thoughts in most people’s minds than almost any other word I can think of. The word castle just immediately transports you to a different time. A land far away: a time of adventure. Just think how many movies show us the mysterious castles situated high on a hilltop. Even the sounds of castles conjure up thoughts. The huge gates being opened with the horses galloping over the bridge spanning the moat. The blacksmith banging on steel. The pigeons seeking shelter in the tall towers. Not to mention all the battle scenes with arrows flying, battering rams, swords, arrows, and hot oil.
Farmhouses can do the same for me. I guess this goes back to my very early years as a child visiting my grandparent’s farm. They had an 800 acre spread in the central Texas hill country that is hilly, covered with an abundance of oak trees and lots of wildlife, notably deer. The spring brings the wildflowers and beautiful bluebonnets. I remember Grandpa milking the cow as he would sometimes squirt the milk at me, and then giggle. Most mornings Grandma, who we called Mama Sue, would go into the chicken coup, shoo away the hens, and collect the eggs.
She cooked on an old big black stove. Everything seemed greasy to me and Grandpa would sip his hot black coffee out of the saucer. The milk was thick, warm, and had some sort of scum on the top that I did not like. Being from the city, I was used to cold milk from a bottle, not fresh milk poured from the can that Grandpa had just collected. She would sometimes get a coat hanger, grab a chicken and cut off his head. Fried chicken is what we ate in those days.
I really liked riding on the tractor with Grandpa, or in the back of his pickup when he made the rounds to feed the cattle. I enjoyed messing around in the barn playing hide and seek among the stacked hay bales with my brothers and cousins. I recall watching a sow with her piglets, a big Billy goat roaming around the barnyard, petting a gentle milk cow, and watching the peacocks fluff up their feathers. I learned to shoot guns at an early age as we occasionally we would go to the dump with 22 rifles.
My grandparents lived on that farm all of their adult lives before they eventually retired to live in town. They raised their five kids there, of whom my mom was the middle child. That was a way of life I will never know. I think I might have liked it, but of course I will never know the amount of work involved.
I remember as a second grader working on a craft project where we had to cut out material and paste on an 8 by 12 piece of cardboard to tell what we would like to be when we grew up. I had Mom help me cut out a red shirt from some old cloth, and from the blue cloth some pants. I told her I wanted to be a farmer like Grandpa. She had a quiet, almost sad look on her face. Years later Mom told me just how much work is involved on a farm.
The next day in class some of the girls had all white dresses on their cardboard because they wanted to be nurses. I understood that, but some of the guys had all blue uniforms because they wanted to be policeman, or all red uniforms for those wanting to be a fireman, and that I did not understand. I just thought they would all like to be farmers like their grandparents. I assumed they all had grandparents from the farm like me. Funny how we get some thought patterns in our thinking without realizing it can be way off.
The old farmhouse that I visited in the 1950’s had wood burning stoves, creaky wooden floors and smelled old to me, but I liked it. When my uncle built a new house on the same spot, the old farmhouse was moved to become a barn, next to the old barn. Over fifty years later I recall peeking into the old farmhouse that was now storing grain. There was the bedroom where I had slept, and the den where we warmed ourselves by the fire. Times past, times long ago, where others had gone before. Where aunts and uncles had been born and raised. Where horses, cows, donkeys, sheep and goats had roamed about. A way of life that most Americans in centuries past lived, yet alien too many of us now.
I think Mama Sue and Grandpa represented millions in that they were hard working, God fearing, decent people that helped to continue nourishing the sound foundation our country was built on. Their way of still fascinates me in a lot of ways. I also felt a lot of love from all my grandparents, all born right about 1900. My grandparent’s generation, those that were adults in the early 20th century, were inspirational to me in many ways. You don’t have to be an archeologist like Indiana Jones visiting exotic far away places in the quest to explore. You may not find an ancient artifact worth millions like they do in the movies, which as you know, you are not allowed to keep, but your exploration brings a different kind of treasure. A treasure you can keep in your heart. “To go where ones have gone before,” renews my dedication to try and pass the same blessings I received from past generations on to my kids and future generations. By the way, I have an old oil lamp on my bookcase that came from the junkyard of my grandparent’s farm. It looks old but may only be 50 or 60 years old. Not much of an antique, much less an artifact, and it may actually be just trash, but it is treasure to me. It brings back a treasure trove of wonderful memories.
The idea of being stranded on a remote island sounds romantic. Especially if you were stranded with someone pretty like Mary Ann on Gilligan’s Island. I always enjoyed looking at her when I was a teenager watching reruns of Gilligan’s Island. Some men liked Ginger, but for me it was Mary Ann. When I was a little kid I watched the movie Swiss Family Robinson and it really captured my imagination. As a child my family also had Golden Books one of which was Robinson Crusoe. I must have read the book dozens of times. Fantasizing about living on an island brought many a good thought.
I remember watching an episode on Sixty Minutes about a man on his honeymoon who took his bride to the Maldives, a group of about one thousand tiny islands in the Indian Ocean. It was supposed to be pleasure in the sand and sun. The Danish couple had an argument, and he killed his bride. The Maldives is a land where very little violent crime occurs, and consequently the government was not sure exactly how to punish the man from Holland. For his punishment he was banished to a remote tiny island. Only catch and a good one for the Dutchman, there were were about five girls on the island with him. They cooked for him and he lived with them. When Sixty Minutes interviewed him on the remote island he was quite content. As a matter of fact when Sixty Minutesreturned a few years later, the marooned man was still quite content and expressed no desire to return to civilization. That is probably the only time I have heard where someone was actually happy to be stranded. In reality, being a castaway would be anything but fun.
My research regarding famous castaways told of some sailors being stranded for decades in the South Pacific. There were a number of stories involving lost ships in the South Indian Ocean whose survivors spent years on such islands as the remote Crozet Islands. I choose to place a spot on the game board of Treasure Trove in the Indian Ocean and called it Castaway Island. There is actually no such island there, only stories told of lost fishermen washed ashore who struggled to survive. Many ships did find islands that had had castaways, but most perished prior to being rescued. I now realize thanks to the Internet that there is a tiny island called Castaway Island, part of Fiji, a tourist destination in the South Pacific.
I am one of those people who often hear about things well after it seems everyone else has already heard it. If it’s the news, I am always hours, often days behind. If there is new gadget to buy, I am always years behind. If there is a hot stock, it has already hit its peak about the time I decide to buy. I just recently read of something that is not necessarily new, but it was news to me: memorial diamonds.
In 1999, a company called LifeGem began producing diamonds from the bodies of deceased loved ones or animals. There are now a number of companies that offer the service. As you know it takes Mother Nature millions of years to produce a diamond, basically carbon under intense pressure and heat. Synthetic diamonds are created the same way: intense heat and pressure, but in a drastically shorter period of time. Technology now allows people to take some hair or ashes(DNA) from the body of a deceased loved one and turn it into a diamond in as little as three to six months. For some people this is weird, while others feel it is a nice way to remeber a spouse, cherished loved one or pet. Treasured memoreis turned into treasure.
Prices vary from $1500 to over $25,000 depending on the size and type of diamond ordered. Many changes are taking place in the funeral industry. Fifty years ago only about 5% of people were cremated. That has risen to over 40% today. Many people are opting out of expensive caskets and would prefer to have a different way to remember their loved one than necessarily a grave stone. I doubt many people are going to have the ashes rocketed into space as some do. Some will sprinkle the ashes over a favorite garden area or landscape, or place them in an urn. I think this idea of memorial diamonds will continue to grow in popularity, especially for those who have the money to do so.
I don’t think I have the money to buy a black diamond to honor Marley, our black cat, however maybe I should check to see what a black pearl would cost. I doubt if I will do that either. Time to give Marley a hug and enjoy him while he is still with us.
I grew up in Texas. The land of cattle, oil, cotton, and open skies: a land rich in history and natural resources. I am almost 60 years old now and upon reflection I believe my most favorite course I ever had in over 20 years of education was my 7th grade Texas history course. It was also in 7th grade that I initiated myself into another Texas tradition called football. At least that is when I began playing on an organized level. Have you ever wanted something so bad it was like wishing for treasure; like a treasure hunt. Unfortunately, some treasure hunts such as my quest to become a football player do no always end well,
Prior to that, when I was about seven years old, my three brothers and I got football uniforms for Christmas; football helmets, shoulder pads, jerseys, the whole outfit. We had a spacious backyard and we often played there. There was an abundance of boys in the neighborhood who also had uniforms so they also joined us. I really enjoyed it and dreamed of being a football player. Occasionally Dad would take us to high school games on Friday nights. It was fun to stay up late under the bright lights.
In 1966 my time arrived. I do not remember much about my first day of school in junior high, but I do remember a lot of guys going out for football. We were lined up in the gym in our underwear to get the required physical. They had to check for hernias which meant the doctor pushing in a sensitive spot and asking us each to cough. Even to this day I hate physical exams, especially with the prostate check at my age. The showers were just big open stalls with many dozens of us crammed in there together. I had dreamed of playing football, but had never given one thought to the smelly nasty locker rooms. I also realized after sizing up the other boys that many were bigger. I was too busy at the time to give it much thought.
I was hopeful my speed would make up the difference for lack of size, but unfortunately, I was not blessed in that capacity either. The weeks passed and we had our first game. Mom and Dad showed up and I was ashamed that I had little to show for my efforts as I was second string and played little, if any. The season worn on and not only did my team not win a single game, we only scored six points all season. I did enjoy learning the intricacies of the game, especially offensive and defensive formations. I also hoped I would get bigger.
The next year we turned it around, not losing a single game. I hesitate to say we because I was still on the bench. Mom dropped out of coming: I did not blame her. The following year as I entered high school I still had my hopes of someday playing under the Friday night lights. Actually, one of the worst years of my life was about to begin.
The coaches had high expectations for us since we had come out of junior high doing well. Many players have positive experiences in athletics, notably football. That was not to be my experience. I found the coaches to be domineering, insensitive, and not very effective. The joy I had in learning offensive and defensive schemes was diminished as we seemed to be doing the same things year in and year out. To this day I can think of very little encouragement we received from the coaches and a lot of belittling comments. We won most and we lost some. Dad quit coming as I was still a bench warmer. Little do people realize how hard the second stringers work during the week. I felt like an expendable commodity. It would not have bothered coach one bit if a second stringer got injured. I stuck around for one more year of what we call the junior varsity. I did not bother to try out for varsity as I knew I would be wasting my time and theirs; four years was enough.
I suppose the coaches were young and did the best they could. To this day I have very little respect for them. I think they may have been pretty good players when they were college students and in some ways seemed frustrated they were not pro athletes. I learned a lot from football, a lot about life so to speak: Discipline in exercise and eating, commitment to a team, the desire to compete, to keep going when things are not easy. Unfortunately, there is a price to pay for most things. I was not injured seriously, so that was good. However, I will never be as trusting of authority as I was the first few years of football. Every since then I do not like to be around domineering people, and often show disdain for bully type personalities, which is what many coaches were. I do not miss wearing the uniform. I wish I could say it missed me, but I am not sure it ever knew I was there. Some treasure hunts are no fun.
I was watching an interview of Michael Phelps by Bob Costas about Michael’s future plans. As of today, Michael has no desire to swim in the next Olympics. He expressed a desire to scuba dive, and with sharks. One of his swimming competitors at the Olympics is from South Africa and invited Michael to visit him and swim with Great White sharks. Michael did say that he would be in a cage underwater, not actually in the open water with the sharks. Sharks are his favorite animal he expressed. Now it was time to have a little fun in life. Michael is not alone in his fascination of sharks. Most of us are, especially Great White sharks.
I choose to place a number of islands on the game board of Treasure Trove such as Crocodile Island, Dragon Island, Skull Island, Treasure Island, and a Shark Island. There are a several actual Shark Islands throughout the world, and I choose the one near Australia to place on the game board.
Included within the booklet of instructions for the game is an eight page footnote section talking about actual treasure findings throughout history, as with as information regarding places on the game board. The following is from the footnote section about Shark Island.
There is an actual Shark Island off Nambia’s coast in southwest Africa. One of the Cocos Islands is named the “Island of the Sharks” off Costa Rica’s west coast in Central America because of the large numbers of sharks present. Shark Bay is off the west coast of Australia. There is also tiny Shark Island off Cornulla Beach, New South Wales, near Australia’s southeast coast. It is a world famous spot to surf with its huge waves.
I love to scuba dive, but actually enjoy the little fishes rather than sharks. I also know people and especially kids are fascinated by sharks. It was only fitting to include a Skull Island on the game board. I also hope Michael Phelps has a safe excursion on his travels to Africa.