Sunday, December 26, 2010


Yes, that's what I said. Today, two days before Christmas, I have a GUEST BLOGGER. Every Christmas season one of my grand children, in this case a grand son, comes to visit. He is a "City Boy" and living in LA at the age of seven (then not now), does not have the freedom I had when I was growing up. Since we live in a gated community and have a somewhat sane group of seniors, we have quite a bit of freedom for him.

In anticipation of this years visit he wrote this story of a previous visit for his English Class at his school. (It hasn't been corrected yet!) Without further ado I present My Guest Blogger. (He is now 12 years old.)

FREEDOM - 2005


Chapter 1 - Into the Resort

Every December, my parents and I take an eight hour drive to Phoenix, Arizona to meet with up our relatives. We go to my Aunt Patty and Uncle Chris’ House, and spend Christmas time there. Mainly, it’s my Mom’s side of the family, but it makes up for both sides! There’s Uncle Dan, Uncle Rob, Uncle Pat, Uncle John, Uncle Chris, Aunt Patty, Aunt Amy, Aunt Buffy, Grandma Mary Kay, Grandpa Bruce, and cousins Kenny, Kellen, Caidan, Paul, Patrick, Ian, Meghan Stewart, and Maegan Rennie! To name a few!
So, we’ll rock around the Christmas tree for a few days, and then everyone will start to go home. Not us, though, as we have one last stop. We go with our Grandma and Grandpa down to their home in Happy Trails Resort. Happy Trails is a nice place. It basically is a large group of block clusters connected by a primary road of the same name.
This story follows my adventure, the first time I went there. I was seven years old, in the back seat of our car, with my nose buried in my Game Boy. I was playing Pokémon Crystal, an old game. Mom and Dad were talking parent gibberish about the economy and such.
“We’re here,” Dad said. We pulled into the driveway as he whistled softly, then proclaimed, “The eagle has landed,” as he always did.
“Come on, Stewart, get out,” Mom said, holding open the door.
“Hang on a second, Mom, I’m almost finished…”
“Get out, sweetie.”
“Look, I’m just defeating this monster! Look at his HP here, I just need to launch an Ember attack and use a Pokeball on it!” Funny, how I was talking gibberish. She snatched away my Game Boy. “Aw, come on! I was just about to save,” I complained.
We walked up to the door and knocked. My grandparents greeted us, and we entered. I explored the house for a bit, but soon got bored. It was a small house, connected to a small mobile home. “What am I supposed to do?” I moaned.
My family eventually got sick of me. “JUST GO OUTSIDE,” Grandpa shouted. Grandpa has a temper.
“Where do ... where do I go in this small house?” I asked. Grandpa looked at me in disbelief.
“Who said you’re confined to your house at this age?” he said.
I was surprised as well! I had always been held back from roaming alone. Then again, I was a big city kid. So, naturally, I became excited at this opportunity. I ran for my parents, who prepared a rules briefing.
“Alright, Stew, if you want to roam, you’ll have to follow the rules!” My mother started. “Number 1: Don’t talk to strangers. Number 2: Look both ways. Number 3…” I dozed off a bit there. “…Number 42, The MOST important rule: Do NOT pass Happy Trails Ave.!” Well, I understood. Doing so would mean I could leave our block cluster.

“Here is a map and my cell phone. Well, I think we’re done here,” my mom wrapped up, and off I went into the resort!
Chapter 2 – Freedom… But Where?
I was alone in the world. This felt great! No dependencies, no rules… I was finally free! I had brought along my scooter as well. The only thing about using a small scooter on a minor road in a minor resort that probably doesn’t get much maintenance is the bumps!!! Honestly, I probably wear glasses now because I got used to the motion blur! There were also these odd sprinkler-head things in the road every now and then, so I kept falling over. Who puts a sprinkler head in the middle of an asphalt road?
I decided to circle my block cluster a few times. I looked around. Happy Trails was a nice place. Very sunny and beautiful. The houses were arranged in neat rows, and you just felt wonderful in that nice community. Also, I think I saw a blue mailbox once! I eventually reached a strange area. It was a Y-Shaped intersection. There weren’t any Y-Shaped intersections in our cluster. I examined the map. I couldn’t find the street I was on.
Yes, I was now officially lost. I was in a random place somewhere. It could be anywhere. I tried retracing my steps, but I couldn’t figure out which way I came from. So I wandered through the resort, trying to think. Then I remembered that my parents had planned for this… Bless their souls! I pulled out Mom’s phone. I quickly flipped it open. I hit a few buttons. Nothing happened. So apparently, Mom forgot to charge it. Way to go for the emergency plan, huh, Mom? I sat down on the curb. I lay back. I had to face it, I was lost. I was as lost as Dick Cheney at a rap concert. I was as lost as Steve Jobs at an Adobe Flash Convention. I was, as I’ve stated, VERY lost.
I decided to ask for help from someone. As I walked up to the patio, I saw a sign along the lines of: MR. AND MRS. KNOKSON 298 WINSLOW DRIVE, HAPPY TRAILS
Wait, I was still in Happy Trails? How could this be if I couldn’t find the street? I decided to look at the map again, more closely this time. I still couldn’t find the street… Then all of a sudden I understood. I realized that I was metaphorically holding the map upside-down. I also realized I was physically holding the map upside-down.
Chapter 3 - My Mistake
When I was 7 years old, I didn’t exactly understand the concept of maps. I didn’t realize that I was supposed to turn the map based on how I moved. Therefore, my confused self had completely messed up my route. I hadn’t gone around my block cluster, but I had accidentally crossed Happy Trails and wandered to the northwest of the resort. The reason I couldn’t locate my street on the map was because my focus was inside my block cluster. With my new knowledge, I quickly located my street.
By now, however, I was really tired and lazy. I just wanted to get home. I started on my way, but I was too exhausted to continue. Just then a resort police car came along. I acted as pitifully as I could, and he took me back to my Grandparent’s.

As we headed off into the world, only one thing was on my 7-year old mind… I GOTTA RIDE IN A COP CAR!!!! That’s the fantasy of every little kid, isn’t it?
Moral: Be sure to hold the map the right way around before going off adventuring!

Stewart ready for FREEDOM 2010
Photo Courtesy Paul Smith

Friday, October 29, 2010


This part of my psychic healing process is a result of a much deeper and longer relation. I say relation, as was the first part, I admit it, I am a tree hugger! There, thats out, now on with my story. All through our conjugal life together, we (mostly me) have always planted trees on our owned home lots.

Our first home purchase was in Orland Park, Illinois on three acres, just waiting for planting to start. The front yard sloped to the street and the septic field helped make a green summer lawn. Since there was obviously a good supply of water I cut ten small branches from a weeping willow nearby and stuck them in the ground near the street. It wasn't long before there were ten little willow trees sprouted.
Orland Park, Illinois - 1st house 1959
In the back yard was a beautiful large garden. Soon it was being prepped with my new rototiller from Sears. Late in the summer I got five hundred bare root pine trees from the Dept of Agriculture and planted several rows around the garden. Unfortunately we never got to enjoy our tree plantation other than when we passed nearby on our travels we would drive by the old home to view their growth. The next year (1961) Nalco Chemical Co transferred me to Anaheim, CA.

Soon we were living in our next purchase on Orange Ave, Anaheim in a Grove house left as they built new tract homes around it. It had the equivalent of two lots back to back from street to street. The garage and nice yard in the back and the old house on the front. Lots of room for trees! Planted a row of Eucalyptus next to the block wall fence with adjacent houses overlooking it. Within a year they had grown to about twelve feet. Made a very good screen. Folks did not mind because they got shade in the afternoon. They did require trimming though.
Happy Trails, Arizona, #1232 - Last house 2004
Acacia Salicina, desert weeping willow
Soon the Lady of the house began to feel loneliness for family back in Illinois. I was becoming disgusted with my job and the folks I worked with. At the end of the year (1964) we sold the house, packed all our belongings and six children in a big yellow bus and left, towing our VW Microbus behind. That exciting trip is another story. We ended parking it at my father-in-law's farmhouse yard in a snow storm. It stayed there for six months fully loaded until we moved to Rockford, Illinois in the spring. We lived (?) in the upper floor of the farmhouse. I traveled to Rockford every Monday, stayed with another employee and came back Friday evening. 

I was employed in a much better job, where I could put my university learning to use, at Pierce Chemical Co. A small company on the outskirts of Rockford in a country setting. Couldn't have that smell in the city! I was able to purchase another home, which again was an older house, but was blessed with a complete set of farm buildings, including a four car garage. The kicker? It was surrounded by seven acres of good farm land. Aha . . . trees! It didn't take long. Soon I had DA trees ordered and planted. All around the perimeter fence I planted alternating Arborvitae and Asian Elm. That took about 1,500 trees. Then about 500 miscellaneous Pine trees up the drive, in the goose pasture and fruit trees in the goose pasture. Much more went on there as we lived there for nine years. The call of the wild was heard again, in 1974 we sold almost everything we had, packed a big truck and headed west without employment . . . thats another story.
Happy Trails, Arizona - Sunset
The next few years did not bode well for tree planting. We purchased a house on Lodi a few blocks away from the one we had left ten years before in Anaheim, CA. No room for any landscaping. Next we upgraded to a larger home in east Anaheim on Trevor Ave. Backed up on the river bed, (not much water in it) surrounded by six foot block wall. Very nice, but mature trees that satisfied.

Then came another home further east in Norco, close to Riverside. Lots of room, but no time for anything except working to pay for the upgrading to the last homes. An electrical contracting partnership adventure that lasted for a few years and then electrical service work for a few more. After family moved out we moved to east Riverside near the U. of California campus to a smaller home on Mt Vernon Ave. The commuting not at all satisfying the work was OK, but another change, I decided to go into civil service work with the Riverside County inspection department.

The Mt Vernon home was a 1/2 acre adjacent to a dedicated City Park. I thought this to be my retirement home. It had 1/4 acre of completely vacant land. Trees were planted to fill that space. We had fruit trees, grape vines, eucalyptus trees and more. I even planted trees outside the chain link fence I had put up. The park was dedicated but not improved, so . . . somewhere around 83 trees were planted at that home.

I had retired and we were into the Recreational Vehicle travel mode.  It soon became clear if we intended to travel we would need a secure base we could leave for an extended time. While visiting children in the Phoenix area we visited Happy Trails, liked it, bought it, moved in 1999.
8:05 AM
So nine years later it became clear I would not be able to continue with the home care required to maintain our little home and a Recreational Vehicle. The RV was traded and we ended up with a tow trailer parked on our Happy Trails lot and a fifth wheel trailer on a lot in Juniper Ridge in the mountains of the Mogollon Rim. The two years later it became clear that change was not enough. (I was getting old[er] . . . dammit!)
8:10 AM
Now I am getting close to the crux of the situation. We had a tree (I knew it had to be a tree!) in our front yard that kept growing (sounds like a Cottonwood.) up out and around. The real problem was it bloomed mid October for about a month. The little yellow puffs blew around like snow. Then the blooms became beans that became very long. The beans popped open and the birds came and fed on them. The only problem being the pods had a difficult time becoming unattached from the tree. For months dropping and blowing around. The long thin leaves were continually dropping and blowing.
8:15 AM

Previous years I would vacuum, (yes, you midwesterners, vacuum) the leaves and junk twice, early spring and late fall. This took care of the problem, most of the time. As the tree got larger and larger there was more of everything and, I hate to say it, less of me. As old folks around these parts say, "To make a long story short." I got into trouble with the folks here at HT who have the job of 'yard police.' We were in the mountains when I got the first letter, I responded by asking our lot caretaker to contact them and do whatever was wanted. That was not enough. Rather than drive to HT I called and asked them to hold off, that I would remove the tree when I got back in October. OK.
8:20 AM

So there is the problem I faced. I dreaded coming back to face a worst scenario than"The Cottonwood!" Here it is: October 13th the tree trimmer came as promised at 7:55. He started at 8:00 AM. At 8:30 the cherry picker basket was set down on the truck, task done. I have another bruise on my tree heart. Two in six weeks.
8:25 AM
The last cut - to the ground

Saturday, October 23, 2010


In early summer of 2005 we were busy improving our lot in the cool mountains. We had received a gift of five desert hardy plants that turned out to be exceedingly beautiful and lush. Humming Birds loved the blossoms of the Hyssop, unfortunately it contracted an unknown fatal disease. It has not been replaced as yet. The Lavender has smelled heavenly. The Nearly Wild Rose blooms more profusely each year. The Spiraea has become a hardy bush covered with deep blue blossoms for nearly a month in late summer.
L:Lavender. Center to Back:Tyme, Violet Skull Cap, Nearly Wild Rose,
Blue Spiraea. R:Hyssop. Far Upper Right: Russian Sage.
The lady of the house had bought and planted an Asian Elm tree the year before, 2004. Now, 2005,  she was looking for an Aspen, but none of the nurseries, including Home Depot and Lowes, had any stock. One day after our weekly shopping trip to town, she was digging a hole in our rock hard, unrelenting soil. I sauntered up asked, "What are you planting now?" She grinned, looked at me, then picked up a spindly tree and plopped it into the hole, splashed in water and planting soil. I looked at it and blanched. (That means turned pale with fear and foreboding.) I said in an overly loud voice, "That's a Cottonwood!" "Why, yes it is," was the response.

I suppose you may think this may be humorous or even a bit of a wacky exchange, but let me explain. Here at our summer abode, in the previous year, 2004, there had arisen problems with several sewer lines being plugged, one of our little lakes (ponds) got messed up with some roots plugging an aerator and several other such problems. The varmint responsible, you guessed it, "The Cottonwood." There was much ado about a lot and everyone in charge of everything was all bent out of shape. Thinking of how to control what ever! Home owners were at a loss as to what really was going on, although a few were even cursing the white fuzz that blew around from "The Cottonwoods." The owners of a Cottonwood were silent.

Needless to say, there was a large movement to remove the offensive monsters from the area under discussion. In all there were, I think, only four of the offenders in the park of any size. Two of which were at least forty feet high. Thereupon descended the SWAT team armed with Memos, letters and a newly hatched Guideline with two lines on the page:
1.   "Thou shall not plant any tree called Cottonwood within the confines of the park." And,
2.   "There shall not be any tree known as Cottonwood to be allowed to remain within the confines of said park in a living state at any time in the future or any other time to follow that."

The Cottonwood Tree owners gritted their teeth and called Tree Removal Services. Within a week all the Cottonwood trees within the confines of the park had departed the living state. All, that is, except one very large Cottonwood on top of a hill. The removal of this last of the Cottonwoods was a sad day for some, especially it's owner and many of us. The Cottonwood is a green thing of beauty, unfortunately fast growing and unstoppable in it's expansion. Just too much for our tiny lots where we precariously park our living quarters, cars, bicycles and bits of greenery to lighten the somber crushed rock material spread over all. Being of volcanic origin, the crushed rock resembles cinders from a furnace. Actually they are cinders . . . from a big furnace.

Now back to the Cottonwood seedling. There was a lively conversation over that newly planted tree! I said, "Put is back in the pot and we can take it back for credit." "No, I have dug the hole it's planted and I want it right there." All my ranting and explanations of, "They will make us remove it!" to avail. "OK, it will come out sometime." was the best response I could elicit.

One of the busybodies in the park came by and gazed at the tree for what I thought was longer than just curiosity. Sure enough, "What kind of tree is that?" came from her lips. "Ugh . . . , it belongs to the Poplar family." was my response. "I think that must be a Cottonwood!" I could not deny, nor did I try to deny. From there I got a lecture about how bad a tree it was and that the powers that be would make me remove it from my lot . . . . I think we stood there for at least ten minutes while I was lectured. Finally, my reply, "I will take care of it when the time comes." The person left. At that time I did not realize how prophetic the statement of 'when the time comes' was.

The rest of the summer went by with only a few natters on my part about the "tree having to come out." And it just grew. The SWAT team never came by, I did not receive a notice of removal. And it grew more.

June of 2006 was another spectacular year in the mountains. We were really liking the quiet; Elk, Deer, Coyotes drifting by. (Too many Rabbits.) We settled in, set up our computers and proceeded to do our quietness. The Cottonwood had grown . . . as expected. The bushes were trimmed, new perennials and annuals planted. We sat and watched them all grow; thats the way retirement should proceed. Enjoyment of the space and time was our goal; we were achieving it. The Cottonwood entered into our conversaton later before we were to return south. "I think that Cottonwood should be removed before we leave this year." The response was such that leaving without it's removal was the most intelligent thing to do.

June of 2007 was nearly a repeat of 2006 as far as the Cottonwood was concerned. Except it grew even more and seemingly faster than ever before. 2008 was even more of the same and became more passe' if possible? The Cottonwood spurted growth to ever greater speeds and size. By 2009 I was in a frenzy. Arriving in June The Cottonwood was frightening. Somehow I swallowed hard and turned my back to the problem, knowing it was not the time for action yet. I cut the main trunk at about ten feet in height to keep it from getting too tall to handle. No one was either aware of my problem or maybe no one cared anymore. I never asked to find out.

Now, June 2010 came and with cause for dread for me. The Cottonwood had multiplied in size beyond all my comprehension. Topping it the previous year just gave it a spurt in growth out instead of up. The trunk was now nearly five inches in diameter and expanding daily. Further, as it was a beautiful green growing tree, I had become attached. All that summer I pushed and prodded for the demise of The Cottonwood. I was beginning to hate myself. Why had I allowed this to happen? Now I had to be the Ogre and kill the monster. So along about mid-summer everything came to a head. Our confrontation was harsh, sad and final. A decision was made that before the end of our occupation for the summer The Cottonwood would die! The Lady wanted and did call our son in the Valley and asked if he would come to assist me in the terrible deed. As it turned out he could not, due to a project he was responsible for at the Hospital. (He probably did not want to hurt his mother's feelings either.)

One of our neighbors had a large trailer that would hold all the branches and trunk in one load and was willing to haul it to the garbage center just three miles away. So one day, September 12th to be exact, the trailer was parked next door and the cutting began. The first day all but the topmost branches were cut. That was enough for my psyche to handle for the day. The next morning the top branches came down and the trunk was cut at four feet so that the decorative chair would be attached to keep it from blowing over.

The deed was done. I am now writing this post to my blog to work out the feelings I had and have about the situation called "The Cottonwood." So far, I think it is working. I can now see the humor, (a little) the sadness, (a lot) and acceptance (sigh) of the happening (transaction) between all concerned.

The End

Sunday, October 17, 2010


     The last few weeks have been very traumatic, for me at least. So, since the trauma has to do with things that are growing, it occurred to me I should be positive before I dwell on more negative things. Most of you know I am a "tree hugger" and my favorite species being the Oak or Quercus family. 
      In 2005 I planted an Gambel Oak seedling and promptly in the second year an Elk or Deer bit off 18 inches (half!) of the tree. As a result there have been measures taken to protect the remainder of the tree as you will see below.
      I have put together, in Print Shop, two pages depicting the first five years of this trees life. Rather than re-writing the information on them, I include both these pages here. There will be more to report next year, providing the Elk don't get inside my cage. Or even if they do . . .

So through the wonders of the Apple computer, for your edification, they are published in this blog.
Even though you might not be a genuine "tree hugger" ENJOY! I had fun.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


It seems to me the logical thing to do is to continue my likes to do! So here we go into another field: Flowers, Botany that is, getting more sophisticated? We move up to the mountains June 1st to get away from the huge metropolitan mash called Phoenix and the HEAT. An unknown benefit are the open spaces of the Juniper Forest and . . . Wild Flowers!

The most prolific in size is the Sunflower. The 2nd year we were here was a Sunflower year (must have been enough rain). Every meadow in the forest was filled with 6 to 8 foot high plants with 4 to 5 inch blossoms. Here are several in front of the Cottage. The roof is 81/2' high. They are like treesIn the photo below, through the patio, the Juniper forest can be seen. There are many open spaces (meadows) where the wild flowers are abundant. The Coyote chase Rabbit daily, but most of their diet are the berries of wild flowers and bushes, some melon like fruits and of course the many rodents other than Rabbit that live in the forest. This foraging must be sufficient, cause every time we see one, it looks very healthy.

Common Sunflower, Kansas sunflower, mirasol, annual sunflower. Helianthus annuus. Sunflower Family (Compositae) Height: To 9'. Flowers: Bright yellow ray flowers, maroon disk flowers: to 5" wide. Leaves: Dull green, stiff hairs; lower leaves are broadly trangular to heart shaped; irrgularly toothed; to 12" long. Blooms: May-October. Elevation:100' to 7,000'. Comments: Annual; state flower of Kansas. Frost sensitive. Flowers are heliotropic (face the sun). Seeds eaten by birds, rodents and humans. Native Americans use seeds to make purple and black dye; yellow dye is made from the flowers. Eight species of Helianthus in Arizona.

The next most prolific wild flower is a member of the Phlox family, Verbena. By prolific what is meant, when the temperature, wind, cloud cover, rain and frost conditions are just right for individual species, only then are they in that category . . . prolific.

MEXICAN VERVAIN, Sweet William (See Comment below), Verbena ciliata. Height:To 1 1/2' with sprawling stems. Flowers: Lavender to purple, small: to 1/8" wide, on a broad spike. Leaves: Dark green, lance shaped, 3-lobed, jagged toothed, to 3" long. Blooms: May-Sept. Elevation: 1,00' to 7,500'. Habitat: Roadsides, disturbed ground, and dry river bottoms. Comments: Plant is quite hairy. Nineteen species of Verbena (ver-BEE-nah)  in Arizona, many hybridize, making identification difficult. Photos taken July 2007 at Juniper Ridge RV Resort.

Next I will go on with a rare wild flower: SEGO LILY, star tulip, butterfly tulip, butterfly lily, mariposa lily. Calochortus nuttallii Lily family (Liliaceae) Height: To 20". Flowers: Tuliplike, with 3 creamy white to lavender petals; yellow petal base marked with a crescent-shped purple band; dense, slender hairs near base of petals to 2" wide, to 5 flowers per stalk. Leaves: Grayish green, narrow, grasslike; margins rolled upward, to 4" long. Blooms: May -July. Elevation: 5,000' to 8,000'. Habitat: Dry mesas, open pine forests, and hillsides. Comments: State flower of Utah. Bulbous root once used for food by natives and Mormons. Photo taken June 2008 Juniper Ridge RV Resort.

MEXICAN HAT, Upright prairie coneflower, yellow coneflower.  Ratibida columnaris, Sunflower Family (Compositae) Height: to 3', Flowers: Drooping rays, yellow with reddish brown or all reddish brown to 1 1/2" long; disks are purplish grown and tubular, covering a cone-shaped column to 1 1/2" long; terminal flowerhead to 3" wide. Leaves: Green, narrow, pinnately cleft into 5, 7 or 9 narrow segments; to 6" long. Blooms: June-October. Elevation: 5,000' to 8,500'. Habitat: Roadsides, fields, and open clearing in pine forests. Perenial herb, two species in AZ. Ref: "Epple and Epple." Photos taken September 8, 2007, #475 Juniper Ridge RV Resort.

I think this is enough for this Post . . . get'em too long, nobody wants to read 'em.