Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Not single spies, but in battalions

The rodent drama continues. I killed the big packrat in the garage but then had to deal with an infestation of deer mice, both in the garage and in the house. I set a battery of traps and now have a body count to match a Shakespearean tragedy: 3 dead in the garage (including the packrat) and 5 in the house (all deer mice).

Rosencrantz and Guildenstern

I have a neighbor who hasn't been to her property in years. She stored an old, trashy camper in the woods across the road, and it has sat out there with its door partially open as long as I've been here. Recently she moved it over near the larger camper she uses as the main dwelling on her property. I suppose it could be a coincidence, but that's about when the rodents started showing up at my place.

The traps are still set.  If I catch many more rodents, I'll have a body count to match a Schwarzenegger movie.  I'll be back . . .

Random Thoughts From Sula

    • Meagher County (pronounced "Marr") in central Montana was named after Thomas Meagher, a fiery Irish patriot who became acting governor of Montana Territory.  According to a least one source, you're supposed to say "Marr" with a touch of Irish brogue, but I don't know how to pull off an Irish brogue, so I say it like a pirate.
    • What is it about fire and water (rivers, lakes, the ocean) that make us sit and stare at them?
    • According to legend the term "peeping tom" comes from a tailor named Tom who peeked out of his shutters when Lady Godiva rode naked through the streets of Coventry to get her husband Leofric to reduce taxes.  There's a lot going on in that sentence.
    • I'm probably not saying it correctly, but sometimes when no one is listening I like to say joie de vivre.  That's another expression you can never use in conversation without sounding pretentious.
    • I'm always confused when people say someone lives at home, as in "He still lives at home" (usually said derisively).  Doesn't everyone live at home (except the homeless)?  

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Remembering the Fires of 2000

The blog is a little over a year old now.  I posted this entry on this date of last year.  It's one of my favorites from last year, so I'm reposting it for those who missed it.

The forest fires of 2000 had a huge impact in the Bitterroot Valley, burning over 350,000 acres and destroying 70 homes and 169 other structures in the valley. This now famous picture was taken by fire behavior analyst John McColgan just north of Sula on August 6, 2000.

McColgan was traveling with the deputy incident commander for the Sula fires when he crossed a bridge over the East Fork of the Bitterroot River. "We just saw the elk, and I stopped and said, 'I'm taking 15 seconds here.'"

According to an article that ran in the Missoulian in late 2000:  “McColgan said the photo does not fully convey the extreme weather conditions that day. ‘It was a fairly violent situation out there,’ he said. ‘It looks fairly serene, but the wind was really whipping.’

“Several forest fires converged near Sula into a firestorm that overran 100,000 acres and destroyed 10 homes. Temperatures in the flame front were estimated at more than 800ºF.  Nevertheless, McColgan said, the wildlife appeared to be taking the crisis in stride, gathering near the East Fork of the Bitterroot River where it crosses under US Highway 93.

"‘They know where to go, where their safe zones are,’ McColgan said. ‘A lot of wildlife did get driven down there to the river. There were some bighorn sheep there. A small deer was standing right underneath me, under the bridge.’ McColgan snapped the photo with a Kodak DC280 digital camera. Since he was working as a Forest Service firefighter, the shot is public property and cannot be sold or used for commercial purposes.

I wanted to see what the site looks like today. Armed with the original photo, and knowing only that it was taken from a bridge north of Sula, I was prepared to search every bridge between Sula and Darby until I found the right view. On my way out I stopped by the Sula Store, and I happened to ask the nice lady running the store if she knew which bridge the famous photo had been taken from. "The first bridge past the Rocky Knob," she said. "Look to your left."

This was the view from the bridge on October 6, 2009.

McColgan's picture turned into a bit of an urban legend. He downloaded his picture to an office computer, and a coworker saw it and e-mailed it to a friend. Then the picture spread like a virus, and people began claiming it was taken in nearly every fire in the west, including the Yellowstone fires of 1988. Some people claimed it was a fake.  A reporter for the Missoulian traced McColgan all the way to his home state of Alaska and settled the matter.  More recently, has added its conclusion that the picture and the story are authentic.

The full story of McColgan's photo, including downloadable copies in two sizes, is here. 

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Autumn on the East Fork

The river is ankle deep and a little lazier than usual.

A solitary aspen.


The East Fork, a little farther downstream.

Montana weather.