Apr 16, 2014

Bad Moon on the Rise

Last night was the Salmon River District’s recognition dinner. The town of Salmon is about a three-hour drive from Idaho Falls. Through the high desert, over the Gilmore Summit, along the Lemhi River Valley, to the beautiful old mining town of Salmon. With the Bitterroot Range to the east and the Lemhi Range to the west and straddling the Salmon River the town of Salmon in located in a beautiful natural setting.

For those who are unfamiliar with the history of the area, the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery crossed the continental divide at Lemhi Pass (crossing from what is today Montana into Idaho) and descended into the Lemhi River Valley just a few miles south of where the town of Salmon is today. Their Indian guide Sacajawea was raised in the valley and by the time Lewis and Clark arrived her brother Cameahwait was the chief of the Shoshone tribe in the Valley. They gave Lewis and Clark horses which allowed them to continue on their trek to the Columbia River and the Pacific Ocean.

Our council president, Gregg Landon, and I have gone to fifteen of the eighteen district dinners so far this year. He was riding with me on this trip.

There was a severe wind storm and Interstate-15 was closed from Idaho Falls to Roberts, not an uncommon occurrence around here, due to blowing dust. The wind picks up the dust from the potato fields and visibility drops to almost zero. We took the back roads from Idaho Falls to Roberts and picked up I-15 at Roberts. North to Sage Junction, west on Highway 33, then north on Highway 28 to Salmon. Along the way we saw lots of cattle, several deer, and one moose grazing in the creek below Gilmore Pass. Gregg commented that we need to watch out for them on the drive back because it will be dark.

The dinner finished at about 8:30 and we got back in my truck for the drive back to Idaho Falls. It was dusk and the storm had passed over while we were at the dinner. It was a beautiful evening with a partly cloudy sky. As we were driving the full moon rose through the clouds over the mountains to the east in a glorious display. There was enough lingering twilight for me to see pretty well through most of the heavily timbered Lemhi River Valley where there is always a lot of wildlife.

By the time we started the slow climb up Gilmore Pass it was full dark but by then we were pretty high and up and out of the timbered lowlands. I wasn’t too worried about playing deer-tag at this higher altitude. There are often antelope in that part of the country but we didn’t see a single one on our drive up and I assume they have not migrated back to their normal summer grazing territory in the high sagebrush desert. Right at the edge of my headlights I saw something in the middle of the road and I hit my brakes—hard. Just as I did I realized what I saw was the light feather hairs on the back edges of the legs of a moose. The moose was very dark and all I could see were those light hairs and the moose’s silhouette backlit by the moon.

I was breaking very hard by then and I saw that it was a large cow moose with a young calf right behind it. The cow was in the middle of the road and the calf was behind her to the left in the opposite lane. They were crossing the road from east to west and had stopped as we approached. The truck came to a stop with only about ten feet to spare. It took my heart a lot longer to slow down. As I slowly started rolling again the moose (mooses? meese?) moved back the way they came then ran quite a ways along the side of the road keeping pace with the truck. I finally sped up and left them behind.

I’m glad Gregg warned me to keep a watch out on the return trip. I’m glad the moose had a small strip of light hairs on the back edges of her legs. I’m glad there was a full moon rising. And I’m glad my brakes worked well. Change any one of those things and this story would have ended differently.

I see a bad moon arising.
I see trouble on the way.
. . .
Don’t go around tonight,
Well its bond to take your life,
There’s a bad moon on the rise.

Tripping the Light Fantastic

Come mothers and fathers
Throughout the land
And don't criticize
What you can't understand
Your sons and your daughters
Are beyond your command
Your old road is
Rapidly agin'
Please get out of the new one
If you can't lend your hand
For the times they are a-changin'.
—Bob Dylan

For some reason I have always preferred classic Rock and Roll. Even at the peak of the 70’s Hard Rock craze while all my friends were rockin’ out I listened to “Oldies” radio stations and liked the Beach Boys, Bill Haley & the Comets, Buddy Holly, and Flash Cadillac & the Continental Kids (to name just a few). American Graffiti was (and still is?) my favorite album. I use a question mark because Oh Brother, Where Art Thou, The Beach Boys’ Endless Summer, and Billy Joel’s Stranger are right up there as well. Now I prefer Folk music—not sure why.

Back in the mid-70’s we used to have dance competitions between the wards in the stake we lived in in New Jersey. I think LDS stakes all over the country did the same thing. The first year I can remember the youth in our ward learned to Swing. Our Scoutmaster, Joe McNall, was our teacher and we saw a whole new side of his personality. He was always a pretty easy going guy but when the music started to play he really came alive. We had been on plenty of hikes and canoe trips with him but we had never seen how he could jump and jive. Under Joe’s direction all of us got pretty good at the basic steps and moves of the Swing and, if I remember correctly, we won the competition that first year (1974?). If we didn’t, we should have!

The next year the entire stake learned how to Swing and Joe taught us a full choreographed swing routine to Glenn Miller’s “In the Mood.” For weeks we practiced in the church gym after MIA/Mutual meetings. We all had a great time and we learned many flips, slides, turns, and tricks. Joe taught us everything we learned. I’m sure he had some help but I cannot remember who it was or who they were. Joe also taught us other dances like the Twist, Loco Motion, and Polka, but for us it was all about the Swing.

Debbie McNall (Joe’s daughter) was, of course, my favorite partner. (She was my girlfriend, on-and-off, all through high school.) Shalynn Murphy and I were technically better dance partners and I always enjoyed dancing with Sandy Johnstone and Susan Eckersley as well, but Debbie was my best girl. Our group later went on to compete in several community dance competitions and marathon dance contests. We always did very well and even won a few.

When Nancy and I started dancing together it took some time to adjust to each other. While I had learned to Swing she had learned the West Coast Swing and Lindy Hop and the footwork was slightly different. Over the years we have become pretty good dance partners but she has never been as daring as my high school dance partners with all the flips and slides. While in college we took a few dance classes together and learned Latin dances; Cha-cha, Rumba, Samba, and other classic dance steps; Waltz, Foxtrot, Box-step, Viennese Waltz, and Polka. We taught all our kids to dance and our son Daniel became an excellent ballroom dancer and even worked as a professional dance instructor for a few years. It must have been genetic.

Nancy and I have been chaperoning church dances for many years and I thought we had seen it all. Last Saturday night we chaperoned a four-stake dance. We usually dance to all the slow dances—and of course any Swing songs. We like to dance together and it shows the kids that they can do something more than the Deacon Shuffle; standing in one spot, holding each other awkwardly at arm’s length, and sliding your feet while rocking from side to side. While we dance together we can also monitor the dance floor and intervene if we see a couple dancing too close. (“You have to leave room for the Book of Mormon!” is the typical Mormon standard of proper dance measurement. They typical youth response is, “We’re using the CD version.”) While we were out 'cutting the rug' we saw a couple in a very tight bear hug. A few other kids were watching them with big smiles as we danced over. All I saw was a small petite blonde’s head buried in the chest of a burley athletic looking kid—and there wasn’t even room for a CD between them! When we moved beside them I leaned over and said, "Hey, break it up." They quickly did, and as they separated I saw it was two boys. Nancy thinks they were just goofing around. I think "the times they are a changin'."

Feb 26, 2013

Shoshone Lake Once Again

Varsity Team and Venture Crew 244 voted to do the Shoshone Lake canoe trek for their 2012 high adventure. We scheduled our trek for June 4th through 7th. The backcountry rangers would not issue permits for Shoshone Lake prior to June 15th so we obtained permits for Yellowstone Lake hoping we could switch them for Shoshone Lake permits if the ice came off the lakes by early June. Young Men president Clarke Farrer had led several treks into Shoshone Lake in recent years and served as the guide for Crew 244’s trek.

We met early on the morning of the 4th and headed out for Yellowstone National Park. Those who went were; Escher Whiting, Greg Stevenson, David Hafen, Zach Buell, Nathan Vance, Jonathan Hatch, Nick Madsen, Colby & Bridger Walker, Zach Patterson and his friend Nathan Derby. The adult leaders were Bishop Bryant Hafen, Jared Madsen, and Clarke Farrer.

We borrowed a 15-passenger van and the canoes from the Boy Scouts and towed a cargo trailer full of our gear. Jared Madsen towed the canoe trailer with his pick-up. We drove through Swan Valley and over Pine Creek Pass to Victor, Idaho. We stopped at the Victor Emporium for milkshakes. From there we drove over the Teton Pass into Wilson, Wyoming. We decided to take the scenic drive through Grand Teton National Park by going through Moose, Wyoming. Unfortunately when we arrived at the Park entrance they would not let us enter with the canoe trailer and we had to backtrack and go through Jackson Hole and north on the main highway to Yellowstone NP. We stopped at the Backcountry Ranger Station in Grant Village where we checked in at the Backcountry Ranger’s office. They had just opened Shoshone Lake over the weekend and we were able to change our permits to our original trek plans. We also bought fishing permits. Yellowstone Lake was closed to fishing but Shoshone Lake was open.

We had reserved two adjacent campsites at Bridge Bay Campground. We drove north past West Thumb Bay along the beautiful shore of Yellowstone Lake and set up our camp and had lunch. We all piled into the van and drove to the Old Faithful area of the Park. Just as we pulled up Old Faithful started its periodic eruption and everyone climbed out and ran over to watch one of the world’s natural wonders. There were hundreds of tourists there watching the show.

We decided to hike the loop trail up to the Geyser Hill overlook, down to Grand Geyser, past Castle Geyser, and then into the Old Faithful Lodge for a quick tour on the way. Our timing was perfect as almost every one of the geysers erupted while we were on the hike and we were able to see many of the thermal features in action. We passed a cow elk by the trail and Zach Patterson tried to approach it. When he got too close the elk started to charge him. He withdrew quickly and we all learned a good lesson. Soon after that we came upon a buffalo grazing near the trail. We kept our distance and he was content to keep eating and made for a good photo opportunity. Then as we returned past the Old Faithful geyser it erupted again!

We drove back to Bridge Bay and cooked our dinners. All the food had been divided up into dry bags, one for each pair of canoe partners. After a fireside by the Bishop we went to sleep. A light rain fell during the night. The next morning we left early and drove back down to Grant Village to pick up the canoes and purchase some fishing gear at the trading post. We drove south to the Lewis Lake boat ramp, unloaded the canoes, and stowed our dry bags into the canoes. After parking the vehicles and trailers behind the ranger station we were ready to head out.

It was a beautiful clear morning. We paddled west from the dock directly to the western shore of Lewis Lake and then followed the shoreline north. We stopped for a rest at the thermal area about midway up the lake. After checking out the hot springs we paddled up to the outlet of the Lewis River and started upstream. Two thirds of the river is easy paddling but the upper third is where it gets challenging. The current gradually increases until you have to paddle hard and use all your maneuvering skills. Finally you get to a point where, paddle as hard as you can, you can make no further progress. That’s when it’s time to get out and start wading. We rested and ate lunch before we started the wading portion of the trek. We sent half the group up the trail with as much gear as they could carry and the rest of the group pulled the canoes up the river. Wading up the river is difficult and you have to set you mind to it and keep at it until you succeed. We met up at the outlet where we paddled the canoes to the beach in front of the Outlet campsite.

Because we had fourteen people in our group we had to divide into two crews. The bishop and his crew were camping at the 8S1 Outlet campsite just northeast of the outlet of Shoshone Lake. The other crew paddled across the bay to 8Q9 Channel campsite north and west of the outlet. This campsite is in a better location but not nearly as large or open as Outlet. There was a storm moving in from the north so we put up the rain fly and hung our wet clothes out under it so they could start dying out. We pitched our tents, cooked dinner, cleaned up, and hung up the bear bags. At dusk we did some fishing off the point and caught some huge brook trout. A light snow started to fall so climbed into our bags and went to sleep.

A couple of inches of snow had fallen during the night and it was still cold and cloudy the next morning. After breakfast and breaking down camp the Bishop’s crew paddled over and linked up with the rest of the group. We were just cleaning up as they arrived. There was a discussion about whether to press on or paddle out due to the poor weather. After a group prayer we agreed to paddle north onto the main lake and assess the conditions there. On the lake it was windy with some light snow showers but as long as we stayed close to shore the conditions were not too bad so we decided to paddle on to the narrows and see how things looked there.

We paddled west along the southern shore across the lake to the Narrows. The wind was still blowing and there were waves in the narrows but the weather had improved and the sun was trying to burn through the clouds. We beached our canoes and hiked out to the point to look at the narrows. We went back and held a “waterside” in the protection of some trees. After the Bishop spoke we had a kneeling prayer and we felt good about crossing the narrows.

As a matter of principle any group should paddle hard to shorten the exposure to the dangers of the Narrows crossing. This time we all had to paddle as hard as we could to make headway against the storm. The wind was coming from the north so we had to paddle directly into it. The spray from the canoes cutting through the waves and off the paddles was getting everyone wet and cold. Everyone had a tough crossing and a few of the canoes really had a difficult time. Everyone made the crossing safely and we rested on the beach and had lunch.

The Bishop’s crew was camping at 8R1 North Narrows and the other crew at 8R2 Bluff Top west of the Narrows. After about an hour’s rest the second crew paddled there, unloaded the canoes, and set up camp. After a while two NPS rangers hiked up the trail and came into the campsite and looked around to be sure we were following the rules. They stayed for about ten minutes looking around and asking questions. They checked out the crew’s permit. After they left everyone did some fishing off the point northwest of the campsite. The fishing was great and everyone was catching large lake trout and it made for a lot of fun.

The wind blew fairly steady throughout the morning but by early afternoon the wind had let up enough for the second crew to paddle back to the Narrows and join the Bishop’s crew for dinner. Each crew had caught plenty of fish and kept enough to have a good fish fry for dinner. The Bishop had brought some foil and butter to cook the fish. One of the trout’s flesh was as pink as a salmon. We cooked and ate our dinners together, visited, and had our daily waterside with the Bishop. While we were there the wind died down and by the time we paddled back the lake was peaceful and calm. Everyone went to bed soon after we got back to camp.

We were up early Thursday morning to get an early start on the day and hopefully get off the lakes before the afternoon winds picked up. After a group prayer to start the day we had an easy crossing of the Narrows and paddled back to the outlet of the lake. Before we entered the river we stopped for some whitewater instructions. We were particularly concerned with the snag at the sharp bend in the river that had caught canoes on previous treks. The strength of the current and the flow of the river could easily carry a canoe into the stump of the snag if we were not very careful on that first big bend in the river and during the rest of the river run.

Most of the canoes followed the lead canoe close to the inside curve of the bend, but two canoes got out into the main current and were heading straight for the snag. With some hard paddling and maneuvering they were able to avoid the snag. We continued down the river at a brisk pace and it took some whitewater skill to stay in the middle and avoid the many snags on the sides. There were a few other close calls with sweepers on the banks but everyone came through the rapids upright and dry—except for the last canoe. The six other canoes pulled to shore at the bottom of the run to wait for the Bishop and Escher in the last canoe bringing up the rear. Too much time had passed and they had not appeared. Several of us ran up the trail to investigate. They had run into a rock and swamped. Except for wounded pride and a good soaking they were fine. We helped them round up their gear, drain the water, and reload their canoe. With that the riskiest parts of the trip were over.

The rest of the float down the river was easy. It was a spectacularly beautiful morning and the morning air was calm and clear. It was one of those stunning wilderness experiences that too few people in our modern world have a chance to experience. For a few precious moments it felt like we were the only ones in the world in the middle of all that wild beauty.

We paddled down the river and out into Lewis Lake. Once on the lake you can see the cars and RV’s driving on the highway that skirts the lake on the eastern shore. That’s when you know your wilderness experience is almost over and it’s time to head back to civilization. We followed the western shore south down the lake. There were clouds building on the southern horizon and a light wind was blowing but the conditions were very favorable.

As we got closer to the boat ramp the canoes started veering towards the shore and pretty soon there was a final sprint to see who would arrive first. There was no discussion; everyone just started to paddle faster and faster in an impromptu race to the finish line.

We brought the canoe trailer down and emptied the canoes, cleaned them up, wiped them off (to comply with invasive aquatic species state laws), and loaded then onto the trailer. We loaded all the gear in the truck and trailer. Once everything was loaded we dropped the canoes and trailer in the parking lot behind the ranger station for later treks to use. We loaded into the vehicles for the drive back to Idaho Falls.

The young men were wonderful to be with and we had no problems with any of them. The weather was bad, the wading was grueling, and the first Narrows crossing was perilous but that is the price you have to pay to enjoy wild beauty and peace of untouched wilderness. Seeing the sunrise over Shoshone Lake makes you grateful to the Lord for creating such places of stunning beauty for His children to enjoy.

[I will add photos later when I have time.]

Dec 26, 2012

The End of the World? Or just my Pride

Well, I’m glad the world didn’t end on the 21st. The Mayans got it wrong. But I did have an interesting “Most Embarrassing Moment” experience.

Early in the morning Nancy was blow-drying her hair and tripped a circuit breaker. I was still in bed and as she walked by she said, “Can you help me, the power is out in the bathroom.”

I got up and walked out to the garage and Nancy was flipping breakers. I thought she was just randomly throwing breakers so I told her to stop and let me fix it. It’s a man’s job after all—isn’t it?

I couldn’t see any blown circuits so I thought she might have already fixed it. I went back into the house and into our bathroom and the power was still off. Strange. Back to the circuit board and checked more carefully—still nothing. Back to the bedroom and bathroom to check the ground fault interrupt outlets—nothing. Strange! I kept checking the breakers and nothing worked. The power was out in our bathroom, bedroom, the guest bedroom, the front room, and the den in the basement. Very strange! I couldn’t believe all those rooms were on the same circuit, and WHY were there no thrown breakers? It didn’t make any sense!

The next day all the kids were coming home for Christmas and the power was out to half the house. I did everything I could think of and nothing worked. Finally I gave up and shaved and dressed in the dark and went to work.

Fortunately my council president (and therefor my boss) runs Wheeler Electric, an electrical contracting business. After I had got past the morning rush of emails, phone messages, mail, and other office minutia, I called Jeff and explained my problem. He told me he would send one of his electricians right over. I drove home and took the cover panel off the circuit box while I waited for the electrician.

A Wheeler Electric truck pulled up in front of our house and two guys got out. First I showed them the circuit box then I took them into the bathroom and bedrooms and showed them the problem. They used a gizmo to check the outlets. Some were working and some weren’t. One guy said, “It looks like you might have lost your neutral line.” They went to their truck and got another gizmo then went back to the circuit box and started checking the voltage in each line. The guy pointed to about six double breakers and asked, “Did you turn these off?” I then had one of those awkward “I’m an idiot” moments.

I flipped all six breakers from ‘off’ to ‘on’ and guess what? All the lights came back on! The electricians were very polite—at least until they got back into their truck. I called and thanked Jeff and admitted to being an idiot. He laughed and said, “It didn’t sound like it was anything too bad.”

In my defense, the double circuits were all aligned in the same positions so I assumed . . .
You know the old saying about assuming? It’s true! When the circuits were in the off position I couldn’t see the words ‘off’ because they were covered by the switches and when the circuit box cover was on it blocked the words ‘on’ so it was a bit confusing.

It makes me wonder if the Mayans were predicting the end of my dignity.

Dec 11, 2012

Over the Mountains and Through the Snow

We are excited about the arrival of grandchild number six: Jovie Juliette Farrer, Dan’s and Sarah’s third child. Jovie was born on December 2nd and we were anxious to see her. Very early on the morning of the 8th we left Idaho Falls and drove to Casper, Wyoming.

Because the weathermen were predicting a winter storm we decided to take the interstate route rather than the back roads. It started snowing and blowing south of Pocatello as the storm chased us into Wyoming. Fortunately the snow wasn’t sticking to the roads until the sun came up and we hit Interstate 80 near Green River. As we approached the town the highway was snow packed and very slick and the traffic came to a standstill. I exited the highway and drove through town on surface roads and then got back on the interstate east of town and thereby missed the traffic jam and saved at least an hour. The road conditions were poor between Green River and Rock Springs but they got progressively better the further east we drove. We were driving Nancy’s new Honda CRV and even tough it is an all-wheel drive it is light and doesn’t hold the road very well on snow and ice. We went slipping and sliding down the highway for about an hour and it made things very tense for both of us.

We left the Interstate at Rawlings. The gas was at a quarter tank so I was looking for a gas station. I skipped the few stations right by the exit because they are always more expensive. When we got into the downtown area there were no stations but I figured there had to be some as we left town—I was wrong. I had underestimated the size of Rawlings. Rather than turning around I decided to press on. Just east of town there is a sign that reads, “Casper 119 miles.” The car’s dashboard computer told me I had 118 miles of gas left. Challenge accepted!

The storm hit us again not long after we left Rawlings with high winds and snow blowing so hard that at times visibility was almost zero. It was a regular ground blizzard. Every time I drive across the high plains of Wyoming I think of the pioneers and how miserable it must have been to walk, drive a wagon, or push a handcart across that forbidding and desolate land. I ponder on that struggle, say a prayer of thanks, and turn up the heat.

As I was fighting the wind I was watching the gas gage dip towards empty and decided I really should have filled up in Rawlings. We came to a wide spot in the road with the picturesque name of Muddy Gap and there was a gas station so pulled in. We ended up paying a dollar more per gallon than we would have if I had gone back into Rawlings. But at least we had enough gas to get to Casper without having to worry about running out in the middle of nowhere.

We arrived in Casper without further incident and drove to Sarah’s parents’ house. By an odd twist of irony Sarah’s father’s name is Clark Jensen. I’m not sure if it is easier or more confusing for their kids to have both grandfathers named Clark. Wyatt and Bella greeted us with wonderful enthusiasm and we could tell they missed us. Jovie was awake and looking around in wide-eyed wonder. I’m sure every grandparent thinks their grandchildren are beautiful but there is something extra striking about Jovie. Perhaps it’s the newness of life fresh from heaven.

We played with the kids and visited with Dan and Sarah for a couple of hours then took the kids and Dan to the mall to shop for birthday presents for Dan and to give Sarah a break. We took Nancy and Bella back to Jensen’s then went to check into our hotel. On the way Dan showed me his new office. Dan and Clark were in the ward choir singing ‘For Unto Us’ at the church Christmas program so we all went to watch that and then we went to dinner at the Olive Garden. The food was great but it took almost an hour to get served. It wouldn’t have been a big problem except we were in a hurry to let the kids swim in the hotel pool before it closed at ten. Wyatt and Bella love to swim and Dan and I had fun playing with them.

The next day was Sunday and we had planned on going to church at 2:00 and then driving home. It took us over eight hours to get to Casper and I realized if we left that late then most of the drive would be in the dark. As bad as the roads were I was worried about driving on icy roads in the dark. So we spent the morning at the Jansen’s and then started our drive back to Idaho around noon.

Because I knew that I-80 was horrible I decided to return by a different route. Due to the mountain ranges there is no direct route from Casper to Idaho Falls. We ended up taking the South Pass route made famous by Jedediah Smith and the mountain men. The roads were snow packed up in the passes but for the most part the roads were clear and the drive was much less stressful than the day before.

As I was cruising north on Highway 191 in the middle of nowhere I passed a state trooper going south. I looked at my speedometer and I was doing about 75mph in a 65 zone. Of course he flipped around and came up behind me. He followed me for a long time as I continued to slow down waiting for him to pull me over. He took his sweet time about it and I was wondering what he was waiting for. I’m guessing he was running the license plates or something. Finally his lights came on and we pulled to the side of the road.

Long story short, he clocked me doing 74 but he was merciful and let me off with a warning. He was very nice about it and as he let me go he told me to slow down and watch the speed limits and I told him I would—and I did. And I’m glad I did because not five miles later I passed another trooper. It made we wonder if they were working together. Here is a copy of an email I sent to the Wyoming Highway Patrol’s customer service (ironic name) email box.

From: Clarke Farrer [mailto:cfarrer@grandtetoncouncil.org]
Sent: Tuesday, December 11, 2012 3:49 PM
To: 'whp.customer.comments@wyo.gov'
Subject: Trooper Moller

A few days ago I had the opportunity to “meet” Trooper Moller, badge #85. I was driving too fast and he brought it to my attention.

Trooper Moller was courteous, polite, and professional in has manner and conversation. He looked sharp in his uniform and projected a confident and professional image.

My opinion of Trooper Moller, and the Wyoming Highway Patrol, was augmented by his decision to give me a warning rather than a citation. In fact, I did as he suggested and obeyed the speed limits for the remainder of my drive across your beautiful state.

I just thought you should know that Trooper Moller represented the Wyoming Highway Patrol very well. I came away from our encounter with the impression that you care more about public safety than fines from traffic violations.

Best regards,

Clarke Farrer

From Pinedale and on through the Bridger Teton National Forest the roads were snow packed again. The scenery was fantastic with snow-covered mountains kissed by alpen glow on the peaks. We got to Hoback Junction at dusk and the roads cleared and it was an easy drive past Palisades Reservoir, though Swan Valley, and back into Idaho Falls.

It was a long drive for a short visit but it was well worth it. It was great to spend time with our kids and grandkids but seeing sweet Jovie was a special treat.

Jun 11, 2012

Much Ado About Nothing

I'm pleased to report that things went very well at the ElkFest. There were about two dozen protestors there but for the most part they kept to themselves. At the start of the auction the protesters were wondering around the Square and passing out flyers. I took all the flyers that were offered to me and none of them had graphic images or were offensive. At about 10:30 they gathered at the northwest corner of the Square and they started their protest.
One by one they stood up on the base of the antler arch and they read aloud from the Bible. Some of them read mild passages in a normal voice. And some of them read hellfire and damnation verses in a loud voice. The Square was crowded but most people ignored the protesters. Except for the Mets fan.

One guy showed up in a Mets jersey and was holding a cardboard sign that said, “Let’s Go Mets!” Every time the protestors got loud he started to yell, “Let’s Go Mets! Let’s Go Mets!” And the locals would yell with him, “Let’s Go Mets!” The Mets fans were louder than the preachers and the effect was rather amusing.

I spent most of the morning talking to individual protestors to try to understand them and their motivations better. It was obvious to me that someone had made the decision to not disrupt or disrespect the Boy Scout’s antler auction. As they were wrapping things up I went to their leaders and thanked them for being respectful. They appreciated my comments so much that they called all their members over and had me repeat my comments to the entire group.

The leaders told me that they never intended to use their graphic images, flyers, and aggressive tactics in Jackson. They said they love the Boy Scouts and thanked me for the BSA’s decision to maintain its membership standards. (They said some unkind things about homosexuals.) They told me the only reason they got so aggressive last year was because they were told they could not protest and they felt like they had to make a point and exercise their constitutional rights.

So, everything turned out fine. The Elk Antler Auction went well, the weather was fantastic, and the protestors had a minimal impact on the ElkFest.

Apr 27, 2012

Elk, Antlers, and Protesters

For forty-five years now the Scouts and Scouters in the Jackson District (Jackson Hole, Wyoming) have been collecting elk antlers on the National Elk Refuge and selling them at an auction in town to raise money to fund Scouting programs. Doesn’t that sound like a win-win?

Who wins? Well, first the elk win. Long before the mountain men “discovered” Jackson Hole generations of elk spent their summers in the surrounding mountains and wintered in the valleys. One-hundred years ago, during a particularly harsh winter, the ranchers who settled this beautiful land took pity on the starving elk and started feeding them. The elk thought that was a good deal and they have been kind enough to return every winter since and, in exchange for food, allow tourists to ride around their feeding winter grounds on sleds and take their pictures.

Elk keep their antlers until early spring. They use them to dig through the snow and get to the grass below. Bull elk also use their sexy antlers to impress the ladies and to prove their manhood to other bulls that might try to do the same. The antlers can also make shish kabob out of any one or thing that gets too close for comfort. In the spring their antlers naturally shed—usually on the Elk Refuge where the elk have spent the winter impressing each other. Full grown elk antlers are pretty impressive. They can get as long as four feet and weigh over ten pounds each.

Usually by mid-March the elk have dropped their antlers and headed back into the hills and mountains for the summer. That’s when the Scouts move into action. In a forty-five year partnership with the National Elk Refuge the Scouts spread throughout the refuge picking up the antlers the elk left behind. The antlers are gathered, sorted, bundled, and held for auction. The Scouters organize and conduct the auction each year. Eighty percent of the proceeds go back to the Elk Refuge to help cover the expenses of feeding and protecting the elk during the winter months. The other twenty percent is kept by the Scouts to fund Scouting programs. It’s a fun and unique way to raise money to support Scouting and the Elk Refuge.

Over the years the Scouters of the Jackson District have organized an event around the Antler Auction. ElkFest is their name for the occasion and it includes the Antler Auction and an expo with booths in Jackson’s downtown Antler Square. The booths are manned by local Cub Scouts, Scouts, and other agencies such as WY Fish & Game, US Forest Service, and the National Park Service. Three street blocks north and east of the Square are blocked off and that’s where the auction is conducted and the antlers are displayed and staged for auction. ElkFest has grown to become a major event in Jackson and it now kicks off Jackson’s Old West Days which is their annual community celebration and the opening of the tourist season.

Here is a link to a video about ElkFest: http://vimeo.com/40758092

This all sounds very classic home-town Americana—and it is. But here is where the plot thickens.

A radical religious group, Operation Save America (OSA) has decided that ElkFest would be a good venue to stage a protest. And what are they protesting? Scouting’s membership policis? Animal abuse? The sale of animal parts; antlers, fur, and skulls? The government’s environmental policies? Festivals for kids and families? The answer is none of the above.

They are protesting abortion. OSA has decided that Jackson is the most godless city in the country and they need to be called to repentance—-during ElkFest. What does this have to do with Scouting or the ElkFest? Nothing—they are just using our venue as an opportunity to preach their gospel of hate. Don’t get me wrong, I support their antiabortion position and their right to freedom of speech. It is their inappropriate choice of venue, crowd, and the methods they use that I object to. They use very graphic images and in-your-face preaching to shock and offend people into action. Too often the action is violent.

A little more background. Last year OSA announced their intent to protest at ElkFest. The Jackson City Council considered their request and voted to not grant them a permit because their cause had nothing to do with the kids and family theme of the event. OSA said they didn’t care and would protest anyway. They were told if they did they would be arrested. The City got a protective order from a judge directing OSA to stay at least two blocks away from ElkFest. They ignored the order and protested at ElkFest anyway. Two of them were arrested. The group has spent the past year defending their cause in court and recently the Wyoming Supreme Court ruled against Jackson and said, in a three to two decision, that OSA has the right to protest anywhere and any how they want to on public property. God bless America!

I’m glad we live in a free country that protects the right of all people to express their opinions and beliefs. But I fail to find in the bible where aggression and hatred are justified. It seems to me those are the methods that the Pharisees and Sadducees employed and Jesus used his harshest condemnations for them and their intolerance.

So this year it looks like the voice of the auctioneer and the antlers will have to compete with OSA protestors on all four corners of the Antler Square with bullhorns and graphic posters of aborted babies. How do you explain that to a seven-year-old Tiger Cub Scout?

I'll let you know how it goes.