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Archive for April, 2008

On most other Mondays of the year, I would be working at my weekday job, which I do to pay my living expenses here on the Gulf Coast during my two-year personal mission as a hurricane relief volunteer.

Not today, though.

Today is a Holiday for me.

And for other Mississippi State employees, as well.

You see, almost 150 years ago, Mississippi was neck deep in a little thing called the American Civil War. And even though the side (Confederate) they were on, lost, some folks still have a difficult time letting it go all the way.

Above right: My ‘Home-Away-From Home’.

On Monday, May 26, 2008, the last Monday of May, most Americans will observe ‘Memorial Day’ in the United States.

Today, however, the State of Mississippi and six other, former members of the Confederate States of America, are observing ‘Confederate Memorial Day!

So, most State facilities are officially closed today, except those being manned by ‘skeleton’ crews, such as the state facility I work at weekdays.

OK. That works for me. In a month, we can do it again…

‘THANK YOU’ – PET NAMES:

As I was checking out with my groceries last evening at the WalMart in Waveland, the Register Clerk, said: “Thanks, hon, have a good evening.” (I know you Wallie World haters, ‘what the hell are you doing shopping there, anyway!? – it was the only grocery store open there at that time of the evening – sorry).

Above right: Spiderwort plant in front of my trailer.

I responded, “You, too.” and walked to my car. pushing the cart ahead of me.

Upon leaving the WalMart parking lot, and turning left onto Hwy 90, then heading east towards the Bay St. Louis bridge, I checked my gas gauge and decided that I better top off the half-full tank, while I was over here. So I pulled into an Exxon quick stop, gassed up and went inside to get a bottle of water and my receipt.

As the clerk inside handed me my receipt, she said, “Thanks, love, have a good one.”

To which I said, “You, too.”

Just in the last week, I can think of at least three other times I have been leaving places of business in Pass Christian, Long Beach and Gulfport, and the Register clerk said: “Thank you, darlin!” “Thanks, sweetie.” and “Thanks, babe.”

And, at work, last week, in the cafeteria at noon, picking up my food tray and moving to have my meal ticket punched, one day, one of the ladies says, “Thanks, babe.” And another day, another lady says, “Thanks, baby.”

After the Exxon Station clerk last evening, I thought to myself: ‘Good grief! What the heck is going on here…?”

How come so many people are addressing me (and others they come into daily contact), with these ‘affectionate pet names’???

Why is that?

I didn’t spend a whole lot of time wondering about it, I was just glad that the same clerks and people weren’t saying such things as: “Thanks, jerkface!” Or, “Thank you, dirt bag.” Or, worst of all, saying NOTHING! Not thanking me at all for my patronage of their store.

As I’ve often heard, ‘It could always be worse.”

Amen, to that, Brother (and Sister)!

So, today, I will take some time for myself. Do some image editing, answer some emails, eat a little Wisconsin cheadder cheese, go take a few images of flowers, shrimp and oyster boats, and perhaps, the gulf waters (only two blocks to the south). And maybe another thing or two…

Back to work tomorrow morning; back to volunteering tomorrow evening.

Thanks to those of you who have been stopping by to check in on the ‘Coast Rat’!

You are all welcome here anytime!

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Since April 1982, the last Saturday morning in April every year is a special day on the campus of the University of Wisconsin, in Madison, when the Annual Crazylegs Classic, takes place.

The Crazylegs Classic is an 8K Run, Wheelchair Race, and 2K Walk, starting on the State Capitol Square, and ending in Camp Randall Stadium, on the UW-Campus. As of this evening, Crazylegs officials have said that as of Friday evening, approximately 16,000+ people have registered for the event, a new participation record.

What kind of a race is it? According to the 2008 Crazylegs Classic web site, “No less of an authority than Runner’s World magazine has rated the Crazylegs Classic as one of America’s Best 100 Events.”

The Crazylegs Classic is named after and was started in 1982, to honor former University of Wisconsin and Los Angeles Rams football star, and former UW Athletic Director, the late Elroy “Crazylegs” Hirsch.

The first race had 1525 runners, and raised $9,500 to benefit the UW Athletic depart programs. The 2007 Crazylegs saw 14,966 runner & walkers, and raised approximately $300,000 for UW-Madison athletic programs.

So what.

For your blogger, his personal connection with the Crazylegs Classic goes back 20 years, serving as a Registration Volunteer, and more specifically for the last 15 years or so, as Race T-Shirt ‘Captain’, overseeing distribution of what was last year, approximately 15,000 Race t-shirts to runners and walkers when they came to the UW-Madison campus to pickup their race numbers and commemorative t-shirts.

During the first 17 years of that relationship, I was a friend of Elroy’s. My family relationship with Elroy, though, goes back over 60 years, as my father and Elroy played basketball together in a post- WWII basketball league in Madison. My father and Elroy were friends for 55 years, and that friendship and my race volunteer involvement led to my friendship with him.

During the two days of the Crazylegs in April 2007, my youngest son, Andy, came on board as a Crazylegs Classic volunteer, when he served as the Co-Captain with me of T-Shirt distribution area and volunteer crew, at the Johnson Pavilion at the Kohl Center on the UW-Madison campus.

2008 Crazylegs Classic T-Shirt Distribution Captain Andy, far right, with three University of Wisconsin-Madison Cheerleaders, at 2007 Crazylegs Classic race number/t-shirt pickup.

Today, as I continue my two-year personal mission to the Mississippi Gulf Coast to help families here rebuild their homes and lives, son Andy, in my absence, is now carrying the torch, and is serving at this year’s Crazylegs as the T-Shirt Distribution Captain .

When I talked with him this evening, at about 9:30pm, as I pretty much expected, Andy was ‘bushed’ from the long day of, first, setup – from 8:00am until 12:00pm, and then the race number and t-shirt pickup for the 15,000+ pre-registered runners and walkers, which ran from 12:00pm until 8:oopm this evening.

Tomorrow morning, beginning at 7:00am, until 9:30am, Andy and his large crew of fellow volunteers, will be handing out thousands more of the shirts which didn’t get picked up during today’s session. At about 8:15am is ‘wacko-time’ at shirt pickup, when most of the rest of those who did not get there this afternoon standing in long lines to get their shirts, and beat it up to the Square in Madison, in time for the staggard starts of the race.

Andy has always been a very sociable person, and I have no doubt he is doing a great job of overseeing t-shirt distribution this weekend at the 2008 Crazylegs Classic, and his father, for one, is tremendously proud of his volunteer efforts to help out!

Like father, like son?

You bet!

Post Note: The actual number of people registered for the 2008 Crazylegs Classic, was a new record 17,296 runners, walkers and wheel chair racers, breaking the 2007 record of 14,966! GO BUCKY!

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On February 29, 2008, the SMRC, in Long Beach, Mississippi, started a Blue Bird Trail program on its 45-acre campus, guided by Naturalist John, and his faithful, tree-climbing wonder dog, Emily

Today, April 24, 2008, is Blue Bird weekly survey day at the Long Beach campus of SMRC, bright and partly cloudy, temperature about 70 degrees.

Nesting box #10 – 2 growing Blue Bird babies, and probably 3 sterile eggs.

Here is what we found this morning among the 13 nesting boxes:

Box #1- 5 eggs. Last week: 1 egg (only box out before this year)

Box #2- 3 babies flew the nest, two sterile eggs. Last week: 5 babies

Box #4- Few pieces of new straw. Last week: 5 babies, flew the nest

Box #6- 5 eggs. Last week: nest built, 2 eggs. This box was empty the week before..

Box #7- few pieces of new straw. Last week: empty box

Box #8- 5 babies. Last week: 5 eggs

Nesting Box #8- 5 Blue Bird babies growing fast.

Box #9- No action since last week. Last week: nest fully built

Box #10- 2 babies, 3 eggs- probably sterile. Last week: 1 baby hatched, 4 eggs

Box #11- 6 Chickadee eggs. Last week: 5 Chickadee eggs

Nesting box #11- 6 Chickadee eggs in natural incubation.

Totals this week: 15 Blue Bird eggs- 5 probably sterile, 10 Blue Bird babies, and 6 Chickadee eggs.

Totals last week: 23 Blue Bird eggs or babies, and 5 Chickadee eggs!

Another update will be along next weekend.

Happy Birding!


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The waters were like a beautiful, glimmering mirror, driving westerly along the beach on Highway 90 in Pass Christian Saturday morning.

Just a hint of a breeze, but not enough to really cause a ripple in the calm, Mississippi Gulf Coast waters.

How quietly deceiving.

As I drove along, witnessing such calm beauty, I couldn’t help thinking about if I was on this very spot, at this very time, on August 29, 2005, just 32 months ago, this same beautiful, calm water, would be 27 feet over my head, and I would be dead, like 32 others were in Pass Christian that day, 3 of whom, still have yet to be found.

The beaches have been cleaned up, and look really nice again.

Highway 90 is in the process of being re-paved, to erase scarred, ugly reminder of what Katrina did to it.

And almost all of the lots in The Pass have had the storm debris removed from them.

There remains thousands of dead Southern Pine trees, though, killed by the salt water of Katrina’s 31-foot surge.

Of the homes which were spared by Katrina in The Pass, were damaged in some manner, but were left on their foundations, many have been repaired, many not yet back to where they were on Aug. 28, 2005.

Many of the empty lots there, most still having the empty foundation slabs, have had new ‘tree houses’ of some nature, built upon them, much higher in elevation than their predecessors.

And, multitudes of the lots and slabs remain empty. Waiting.

Except for those still hosting one of the many FEMA trailers still around this town of formerly 7,000 residents.

There has been progress, yes, but so much remains to be done.

Volunteers from out-of-state and the area, are still coming to help, but in much smaller numbers than in the past. It shows that there are people from outside who still are aware and understand and care that much remains to be done all along the Mississippi and Louisiana Gulf Coast and in New Orleans, to help families recover from Katrina.

I received an email yesterday from my friend, Pastor Dennis Perger, of Jordan Lutheran Church, in rural Argyle, Wisconsin, inquiring about bringing another youth group down to Pass Christian this summer, like he has the past two years, for a week of volunteer work.

This evening, on my way back ‘home’ to my trailer in Long beach, I stopped in The Pass at The Tent Village, where Pastor Dennis and his group stayed last summer, to see if the Village could still host them.

A delightful, dedicated fellow, Wesley Beaver, is in charge of the Tent Village now, and advised that, yes, indeed, they are still operating and accepting volunteers there to come and help recover in The Pass.

However, Wesley shares my estimate of the great deal of work yet to be done, and asked me to try to inform anyone I could that many more volunteers were still needed here, and to ask that interested volunteers, school and church groups, whoever, call him to make arrangements to stay in the Tent Village, and help in the rebuilding and recovery of Pass Christian. Wesley can be reached at: 228-216-5189.

The situation is similar all along the gulf coast.

For the past 15 months, your bloger has lived, worked and volunteered on the Mississippi Gulf Coast on a two-year personal mission, in an attempt to help in a small way with that enormous rebuilding process. It has been an amazing experience and privilege for me. Like many down here, though, I want to do still more, and I would like you to join with me in that effort.

Scene in Pass Christian, Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina; one of several thousand homes destroyed there.

~~~~~And, here is where Your Help Is Needed!

To further that goal of further assisting families on the Gulf Coast recover from Katrina, as well as also attempt to respond to the needs of other Americans experiencing future castatrophic loss, from whatever cause, as their needs may be, and our abilities, resources and available personnel permit, I am founding a new, 501(c)(3) charitable organization, called SAMARITAN DEEDS MISSIONS (SDM), and am seeking similar feeling people who wish to join with myself and others with the mission to help our fellow Americans in that rebuilding process, growing in effectiveness and scope, in ways that aren’t possible with a personal mission, and ultimately, to complete as much of the recovery process as is practicable. The main point of this new mission is to be devoted to helping Americans in their time of need, first!

Madison, WI Katrina worker Jordan Peterson, top image, and his father, Baraboo, WI electrician Neal Peterson, work on wiring a home in Pass Christian, Mississippi, helping families there recover from Hurricane Katrina, which had a 31′ storm surge in Pass Christian.

I have spent much of my life trying to respond to the needs of other Americans in their time of pain, and bring long years of experience to this new caring organization, to help in guiding its charitable mission efforts. Several of my long-time, fellow charitable workers in other missions , are joining in this new important effort. But many more are needed to make a real difference to suffering families. YOU are needed!

Realistically, that recovery process along the Gulf Coast from the effects of Katrina, will continue for several years to come, until our work here is no longer needed. There is a lot more that we can do now to help our fellow Americans in their time of need, as well as help with other disasters occurring in the United States.

Some might say, “That’s our government’s job to help in a disaster.” Well, if Katrina is any indication, FEMA’s historic, miserable, slow (non) response to Katrina’s aftermath doesn’t provide too much self-assurance in that department. FEMA was required to make public on June 1, 2007, their new plan for responding to future disasters, like Katrina. They missed that deadline, and more since then, and still do not have a new plan in place as of this date, with the start of the 2008 Hurricane season starting on June 1, 2008, ready or not!

Losing your home, having it just dissappear – never to be found, during Katrina’s 31′ storm surge, created incredible stress for survivor Evie Worland, of Henderson Point, at Pass Christian.

What HAS made such a critical difference in helping families on the Gulf Coast and in New Orleans recover after suffering such serious losses in Katrina and Rita, has been the work of faith-based organizations and other private groups who have organized and stepped up to lend a meaningful and timely hand. That’s us, folks!

A windshield eye view of all that is left of Second Street in Pass Christian, MS four weeks after Katrina virtually destroyed 60% of the small city of 7000+ people.

And, as you would expect, there are start-up costs in creating and getting a new charitable organization off the ground and up and running , as well as other organizational needs, and I would take this opportunity to ask you who read this, to please consider helping in making the organization a reality, by contributing financially, and/or contributing your time and/or other resources, as you may be able to, and by helping publicize the need to others for support of this new organization of veteran charitable workers and their strong desire to help others. Those who contribute, will receive receipts for their contributions. Contributions can be made to: SAMARITANS DEEDS MISSIONS, and sent to: SAMARITANS DEEDS MISSIONS, P. O. Box 531, Long Beach, MS 39560. To Volunteer, contact: SDMissions@cableone.net

Work on a website for SDM is under way, but additional help and suggestions are welcome. I know many of you have some incredible skills in that technical area. Fund-raising is a whole other challenge, and a strong effort in that area is definitely needed, to help make SDM efforts successful.

Please be aware that this (now) very small, fledgling, charitable organization is not to be confused or thought to be affiliated with the huge, $300+ million dollar Samaritans Purse organization. We could sure put some of their funds to good and meaningful use, though…

SINCERE THANKS to you all for any and all assistance you may be able to lend to help SAMARITANS DEEDS MISSIONS in fulfilling its mission to help fellow Americans in need!

Can you help?

Will you help?

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On Feb. 29, 2008, on the 45-acre Center where I work weekdays, my buddy, Naturalist John, myself and another fellow employee, erected 12 new Blue Bird nesting boxes throughout the campus.

These 12 new nesting boxes followed one which has been in place already for many years.

Per John’s directions, the boxes were all placed at least 100 years away from each other, and all had to face south, with the boxes ending up approximately five feet off the ground. The mounting poles all had 2″ gray electrical PVC pipe around it, to keep raccoons and other climbing critters from visiting the nesting boxes uninvited.

This naturalist effort was made to see if a Blue Bird Trail could be established on the campus, in the hopes that possibly in the future, area residents and visitors might walk along the trail and view pairs of Blue Birds raising their young.

We had no idea if the venture would have any success or not.

In the past 2-3 weeks, I have shared images on this blog of some of the Blue Birds who liked what we did, and decided to mate and raise families in the boxes.

How successful has the experimental program been?

Well, every Friday morning, Naturalist John and myself, and, of course, his constant pal, Emily, the tree-climbing, wonder dog, conduct a brief inspection of the nesting boxes to too what is going on with them, if anything.

Here is what we found this morning, April 18, 2008, among the 13 boxes:

Box #1- 1 egg (only box out before this year)

Box #2- 5 babies

Box #4- 5 babies, flew the nest yesterday

Box #6- nest built, 2 eggs. This box was empty last week.

Box #8- 5 eggs

Box #9- nest fully built

Box #10- 1 baby hatched, 4 eggs

Box #11- 5 Chickadee eggs

Totals: 23 Blue Bird eggs or babies, and 5 Chickadee eggs!

On Thursday, April 17, 2008, Poppa Blue Bird feeds the 5 babies in Box #4. The 5 babies flew from the nest later in the day.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

Needless-to-say, Naturalist John is pretty much beside himself over how successful the new Program has been in only seven weeks.

For myself, it has been a real pleasure helping John get the program off the ground (no pun intended), and to see so many Blue Birds co-existing with all the people and automobiles that also are in their living ranges, every single day.

It kinda helps give me hope at least, that maybe all of God’s creatures may have a shot at living together in harmony some day after all.

I’ll keep you posted…

{Again, no pun intended. Really.}

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It’s sharing time…

I love many places, some of which I have even been fortunate to have lived in.

Below, I am sharing some of my personal favorite images I shot over a decade ago, in one of my (if not my all-time) favorite places on earth!

Do any of these scenes look familiar?

Here is a favorite place of mine:

It’s very near Moose, and Moran Junction…

This next one is close to there, too – shot early in the morning when there was considerable ground fog.

The next three were shot about 30 miles farther south, in very late afternoon…

The next one is a the location of a “slide”…

And now, dear friends, this is my heart and my soul place.

The water is a beautiful, shimmering emerald color.

And this is one of my all-time favorite places…

The Snake… Mt. Moran in the center distance, guarding over all.

One of my favorite images from some 40+ years of photographing.

When I am at Jackson Hole, I am content.

I am warm.

I am at peace.

I am home.

I am.

Note: I was fortunate to live, and work in, and fall in love with Wyoming, for about 4 years in the mid-1970’s. Looking back now, I’m not sure why I ever left…

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Another bright and beautiful day on the Mississippi Gulf Coast!

Tax Day is a good day to put one’s mind on something more pleasant, like the many pairs of Bluebirds nesting on the 45-acre campus where I spend my weekdays working to pay my expenses while on mission.

During my morning break, I grabbed my Nikon and jumped in my little blue pickum-up truck (coincidence, yes), and headed for one of our nesting pairs, to see if I could snap an image or two of one of the new five babies there flying away from the nesting box on his or her first flight.

Unfortunately, I was not able to snap one of the babies flying, but, I was fortunate enough to catch the Momma and Poppa Bluebird zipping in and out with tiny morsels of food for the fast-growing, little rug rats, our first babies on the campus.

So, here goes…

Momma seems to be saying: “Ok, kids, time to come out and play!” Poppa sits by patiently with a black bug in his beak, for his turn feeding the kids.

Poppa lines up for the next drop, with a big, hungry mouth just waiting for breakfast.

“Poppa’s on the way, kiddies! One juicy, black bug coming up!”

“Here we go, no fighting now; there’ll be more when Momma gets here in a few minutes!”

Every Friday morning, my naturalist buddy and fellow Center employee, John, and I, and his dog, Emily, go around to all of the 13 nesting houses on the campus and see what’s going on inside them. Can’t hardly wait ’til this Friday, to see how many babies there are from all the eggs we counted last week.

As you might be able to figure out, I love this aspect of my job, to be sure!

More to come…

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