Sunday, June 29, 2014

Apex Park Hike

Jefferson County's Apex Park trails are nearly all back in operation after reconstruction from the great September 2013 floods.  I did a short hike on the Pick-N-Sledge trail today.

The wildflowers were in bloom.  Here is a picture of a bright cluster of Prickly Poppy (Argemone Polyanthemos) flowers.

Notice that the flowers are all turned in my direction.  I attribute this to my sunny disposition.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Climbing Grays and Torreys Peaks

Today was a day to climb mountains! 

My younger son and I woke at 3:00 a.m., hopped in the car, and headed for Grays Peak (summit elevation 14,270 feet). 

At 4:30 a.m. we arrived at a parking lot right off the highway and three miles away from the actual start of the trail. This remote departure point was necessary because my Mazda has very low clearance and would have sloughed off useful parts (muffler, catalytic converter, driveshaft, etc.) all along the rough jeep road leading up to the trailhead.  Here is a photo of the beginning of the jeep road that my son and I walked in the faint pre-dawn illumination of a quarter moon, augmented by an ingenious little light my son wore on a head-strap. 

At the two mile mark a young man driving a jacked-up, stripped-down Toyota Land Cruiser FJ40 (small jeep, big tires) graciously picked us up and gave us a lift to the trailhead.  We arrived in a cloud of dust as the Land Cruiser bounced over rocks and ruts into the trailhead parking lot.

My son needed to stay on schedule and therefore immediately took off like a rabbit and was soon out of sight.  My own speed was leisurely, bordering on shambling.  This slow and steady approach worked well for me at first; but after an hour and fifteen minutes, my legs grew leaden and I couldn't walk twenty steps without having to stop and catch my breath.  I threw in the towel at an elevation of about 12,000 feet and sluggishly retraced my steps to the car, arriving there exhausted and foot-sore at about 9:30 a.m.  After enjoying a recuperative nap, I was surprised to receive a triumphant text from my son:

"Bagged Grays and Torreys both.  I'm down under 13K feet.  Everything going smooth."

My son was feeling so energetic after conquering Grays Peak that he hiked down a saddle and then up into the adjacent Torreys Peak (summit elevation 14,275 feet).  It was an impressive double-14er day for him.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

The Aspen Spoon

During yesterday's hike in the Golden Gate Canyon State Park, my younger son departed the trail to scavenge a dead aspen branch about six feet long.  He broke off chunks of it until he was left with a short, twisted fragment, which he stowed in his pack.  It seemed like an odd souvenir to me.

Last night, after whittling late into the evening, my son produced a hand-made spoon.  It is a strange, medieval-looking spoon, a spoon with an elbow.

The aspen spoon was tested on a bowl of oatmeal this morning and performed admirably.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Ashley Sterne Presented at Court

From Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.) April 14, 1921.  By a strange coincidence this is my second blog entry today that mentions a steamroller.

[Note:  this humorous piece is sprinkled with British slang from the early twentieth century.  "Bimble" means to amble in aimlessly.  A "josser" is an old man.  "Pot-hooks and hangers" are the elementary characters formed by children learning to write.  A "beauty chorus" is an ensemble of chorus girls.]

Presented at Court

"Tell me," I said to the official who was propping up the door-post, ''tell me, where is fancy bred — I mean, is this a picture palace, a steam laundry, a free lunch, Dempsey versus Carpentier at last, or a public auction, into which this motley throng so motleyly throngeth?"

"This, sir," replied the official, whom I rightly deduced was a plainclothes policeman disguised in uniform, "is a police court, Mr. Mugford Wumply in the chair, assisted by a full beauty chorus of local J's.P.  One long scream from start to finish — no amusement tax — no orchestra — no hawkers — no circulars — no waiting — just about to begin."

"Well," I remarked, "so long as I get a hearty laugh, what boots it?  Any star turn to-day?"

"Monster programme," said the minion of the law, "including two drunk and disorderlies, one case of bigamy, another of trigamy, an attempted homicide, a successful barmecide. and a case of pushing a Bath chair in excess of the speed limit."

So I bimbled in, too.  I'd never been in a police-court before — not even in the dock — and everything was new to me.  At the further end of the room there was a Coronation Chair on a platform, containing a benevolent-looking gentleman who was apparently busy lining the minutes of the last meeting with a quill-pen that badly needed oiling.

"Who," I asked the gentleman in the seat beside me, "is the venerable josser doing 'pothooks and hangers' in the Domesday Book thing?"

"That's the magistrate, Mr. Mugford Wumply, J.P.," he replied.

"Oh," I said. "And what might J.P. stand for?"

"It might stand for jam pudding, but it doesn't," retorted my frivolous neighbor.  "It just means that he's the Justice Purveyor."

"I see.  And the old boy just beneath him?"

"That's the magistrate's clerk. He keeps old Wumply right on points of law, and sees that he don't exercise any common sense."

While we were waiting for the proceedings to proceed I took a look at the audience. We were neither numerous nor costly.

Besides me and my informant there was a coal-heaver who was taking a hard-earned holiday; two dear old ladies who had mistaken the show for a Revival meeting and were worried because there weren't any hymn-books; a newspaper reporter who had come along to fill up seven of the eight pages of the local rag; and a young fellow who looked like a dyspeptic, but who subsequently turned out to be a detective.

"Call the first case," said Mr. Wumply, and a constable disappeared through the side door and fetched up a perfectly splendid criminal.

"Benjamin Buggins," began the magistrate's clerk, "you are charged with obstructing a steamroller in the execution of its duty, in that, to wit, you didn't push, shove, thrust, hurl, and propel into the gutter the said steam roller. Are you guilty or not guilty, s'welp me bob?"


"Very well, then," said the magistrate.  "Seven days' C.B.  Next man in."

A gentleman with villainously criminal features — I could tell he was a murderer at first sight — climbed into the dock.

"Please, your Worship," he began, "I wish to apply for a poet's licence."

"Any poet's licences left, Mr. Clamface?" inquired the magistrate of his clerk.

The cleric whispered frantically in the old boy's ear.

"Oh, ah, of course!" said Mr. Wumply.  "No, we don't stock 'em.  You've come to the wrong shop.  Try the Stores.  Constable, throw the applicant into the street, and box his ears for contempt of court.  Next case!"

And the constabulary went out and laid hold of one Jeremiah Juggins, a wholesale pawnbroker, charged with smacking his wife.

"Guilty or not guilty?"

"Not guilty, with a strong recommendation to mercy," pleaded Mr. Juggins.

"At about 8.15," began P.C. 5467, "I saw the accused — "

"That's enough," snapped the clerk.  "Push off. Call Mrs. Juggins."

Mrs. Juggins stepped into the witness box.

"Your name is Judy Juggins?" began the clerk.

"Yes," said the woman.

"I said it was," said the clerk, angrily.  "Don't waste the time of the Court."

"Do you want to ask any questions?" said the magistrate, addressing the prisoner.

"Please, sir, I want to ask where flies go to in the winter-time."

"Guilty," said Mr. Wumply.  "Forty shillings and costs. Threepence in the shilling off for prompt cash.  Bring in a nice fresh prisoner."

The constabulary again went out to see what they could find, and meanwhile a little old lady with elastic-sided boots and a strong smell of gin hopped into the box and applied for an injunction.

"What sort of an injunction would you like?" asked the magistrate, kindly.  "Just an ordinary plain one, or one with knobs?"

The little old lady explained that she would like one under the Public Health Act, to restrain her neighbor's hens from laying eggs with dull sickening thuds in the middle of the night.

"Certainly, madam," said the magistrate.  "Anything to oblige a lady.  Just get an injunction out of the injunction box, Mr. Clamface, and give the applicantess one.  In fact, do the thing well and give her two — one in each hand."

The little old lady thanked his J.P.-ship and withdrew.  In the interim the police had fortunately been able to find another criminal.  They pushed him into the dock, and as soon as he came up to breathe he was charged with being in possession of a dog-licence without a dog.  Prisoner admitted the charge in two different positions.

"This is a very serious offence," began Mr. Wumply, "and one which I can not possibly overlook.  Some people seem to think that licences can be played last and foose — that is to say loost and fasse—hang it! you know what I mean — can be trifled with any old how.  It is time that an example was made of someone.  It is a heinous crime to take out a dog-licence without taking out a dog, too, besides being a sinful waste of paper.  I see you have been convicted twice previously, firstly for poaching preserved eggs, and secondly for shooting rubbish without a licence, and I feel I should not be doing my duty to society if I sentenced you to anything less than what I am now going to sentence you to.  You will receive a fine not exceeding forty shillings in the Second Division, and you will further receive your costs when our Mr. Clamface there has found out what they amount to — both sentences to run consecutively and concurrently.  Your licence will be endorsed back and front, and I sincerely hope this will be a lesson to you.

"The Court will now rise for a bottle of lunch.  I will sit again at three pip emma, when I hope the constables will have been able to rope in a fresh supply of criminals."

The business of the morning being apparently at an end, I rose to propose a hearty vote of thanks to the chairman; but, finding that someone had pinched my watch, my purse, my umbrella, and one of my boots while I had been absorbing justice, I turned it into a vote of censure.  I was carried out unanimously.

Golden Gate Canyon Hike

Today my younger son and I took a hike in the Golden Gate Canyon State Park.  To be specific, we hiked the Coyote trail, which took us past Bootleg Bottom, where we observed a cabin used by moonshiners during Prohibition.  Close by we were surprised to discover a defunct gasoline-powered steamroller from the late 1950s or early 1960s.  (My Internet research failed to determine whether it was a Buffalo Springfield, an International Harvester, a Galion, or some other brand.)  Few things are more unexpected than a steamroller beside a forest trail.

The Coyote trail then intersected the Mule Deer trail, which took us on a long loop past Panorama Point before returning us to our car.  Panorama Point, a favorite wedding venue, afforded striking views of the Rocky Mountains that my little camera and I were incompetent to capture.  But I'll include a photo anyway.

Saturday, June 7, 2014


The Weather Underground website predicted afternoon rain today.  So I shied away from a hike in the foothills and kept close to home by walking beside the nearby reservoir.  When I arrived at water's edge, I saw two majestic pelicans on the wing.  To my vexation, by the time I fumbled to retrieve my digital camera from my day pack and take aim, the only picture I could capture was of one of the birds departing.

For this small, grainy, and generally amateurish image, I apologize to my far-flung readership (especially my loyal blog followers from Ukraine, who deserve much better in their time of turmoil).  It's difficult to tell head from tail in this picture.  The picture could just as well be showing a headless bird with a skinny, white tail -- or perhaps a sort of strange bird-like drone -- flying to the left.

As I circled the reservoir, I came across a whole flock of pelicans.  From Wikipedia: "American white pelicans like to come together in groups of a dozen or more birds to feed, as they can thus cooperate and corral fish to one another."  Three of the birds had finished their meal and were ready for a bit of exercise.

 Here is a close-up photo from the Internet that shows a pelican showing off.

As I was returning home from the reservoir, I passed by a school parking lot and discovered a different kind of pelican.

Volunteer Flower Garden

A nice lady in my townhouse association provides a flower garden every year for the enjoyment of the residents.  She goes to a local garden center and picks out flowers of various sizes and colors and then plants them in a pleasing arrangement.  Some years (though not this year) I help by turning over the soil, a job suited to my aptitudes.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Ashley Sterne The Lost Shilling

A comic trifle from Table Talk (Melbourne, Vic.), June 17 1920.

The Lost Shilling

By Ashley Sterne.

An editor had just paid me a shilling for a lovely serial story of 200,000 words, entitled, "The Murder of Mouldy Martha, or Life in a Strait Waist coat," and, feeling rich beyond the dreams of avarice, I slipped it into my pocket and jumped on a bus, where I found a seat between a lady who was nursing a vegetable marrow and a choleric gentleman who was nursing a grievance.

"All fares, please!" cried the conductor.

"Excuse me," I said, while I felt in my pocket for my shilling.

"Where do you.want to go?"

"King's Cross," I replied.

"Is he?  What about?" retorted the conductor. "But never mind him.  Have a ticket for Charing Cross— we're selling quite a lot of 'em to day.  Last Tuesday's Dover express is coming in, so they say."

"Charing Cross, Victoria Cross, Banbury Cross, any old cross you've got will do for me," I said.

But I couldn't find my shilling.  The position was serious.  It was all the money I possessed.  Unless I could find it I should be cast out into the Strand, penniless, shillingless, friendless, bankrupt, unhonored and unstrung. . . ' '

"I'll take your fare when I come back from lunch," called the conductor, as he went upstairs to the first floor.

At that moment something cold began to slide down my chest.  At first I thought I was shedding my skin.  Then I wondered if a jellyfish had blown in through an open button. Next I speculated whether my front collar-stud had gone off its head and tried to escape. Lastly I thought of my shilling.  Of course, it must be the shilling!  There must be a hole in the pocket I had put it in — my top left-hand waistcoat pocket, along with the ticket for my watch and a cigarette picture of Julius Caesar swimming the Rubicon.  Likewise there must be a hole in my shirt and another in my vest.  The shilling had drawn heavily on the arm of coincidence and fallen through all three.

"Conductor " I cried, as he came downstairs again, "I've found my money, but it's inside my clothes.  What shall I do?"

"You might get under the seat and remove your clothes," he remarked.

His suggestion didn't appeal to me.  The weather was very cold.  Besides, I had a nasty, hacking cough. Also a panic had broken out in the bus at the bare suggestion.  Already the choleric gentleman was climbing up the bell cord, and the lady with the vegetable marrow was trying to hang herself with one of the handstraps.

"Look here," I said, struck with a bright. idea, "will you take a postage stamp? A three-ha'penny stamp, all nicely frilled round the edges, instead of a penny?  Come be a sport, be a brick, be a paving stone, be good, sweet maid, dare to be a Daniel."

"Hand it over, then," growled the conductor. "But I don't collect 'em myself.  My hobby's champagne corks and bits of radium.  I'll chance it being a forgery.  Charing Cross!  Any body for the 'orspital or the lions in Trafalgar Square?"

I got out, and tying my trousers with string at the ankles to prevent my shilling from falling out and getting lost in London, I sought a toilet saloon where they have dressing rooms on hire.

I soon got out of my clothes, and there, standing up on the rim of my left sock, was — not my shilling, but a shirt button made out of solid oyster shell.  In my disappointment I tried to drown myself in the washing basin.  Then I thought better of it.  My shilling must be in my clothes.  I systematically went through my pockets.

There was the shilling, just where I had put it.  Julius Caesar must have picked it up when I felt there before, or else it must have fallen into the Rubicon.  Hurriedly I dressed again, putting both feet into one boot to save time.  Then I passed into the shop.

"Buon giorno, moosoo," said Signor Tonsilitis, the boss.  "Pay at the desk, please.  Miss False-fringe, take one shilling.for the dressing-room!"

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Ashley Sterne Oh My Aunt

Fresh from Trove newspaper archive of the National Library of Australia comes one of Ashley Sterne's Aunt Louisa burlesques, republished in Table Talk magazine (Melbourne, Victoria), on November 17th 1921.

Unfortunately, the magazine was not fully flat when the archive scan was made, and a swath about eight letters wide was omitted at the left margin.  For the most part, it was relatively easy to fill in the gaps with plausible words.  But one particularly important word was missing, the word that specified what caused Aunt Louisa to swallow the thermometer bulb.  I took it upon myself to interpolate that it was eleven sneezes (and not coughs or hiccups) that were to blame.  I bear full responsibility for any diminution of comic effect caused by my interpolation.

Oh, My Aunt

In the morning two days before Aunt Louisa was due to take her departure, she called to me from the sitting room, whither she had retired after making but a meagre breakfast off of two poached eggs, two kidneys, a cold mackerel, and half a melon.

"Reginald, have you got a thermometer?"

"Yes, Aunt," I said and forthwith went into the hall and unhooked from the wall a much-prized combined thermometer and barometer, about the size of a banjo, which I had won some time back at our local fruit and vegetable show with an exhibit of six sweet potatoes bought for threepence at the Covent Garden Market the day before.

"And how do you suppose, Reginald, I am going to place that thing under my tongue?" she snapped.  "I meant a clinical thermometer."

I hadn't got one.  The nearest approach I possessed to a clinical thermometer was a clinometer, field, Mark V, a relic of my Army days.  I asked her if she'd like that, and she got as cross as a hot cross bun.  She looked rather like one, too.

Soon it transpired that she was quite far from well.  I was scarcely surprised.  I didn't exactly feel like four aces in one hand myself.  Nor would you, gentle (and, I trust, concerned reader, if you had spent three hours in the most sweltering part of the previous day trying to find your way out of the maze at the Crystal Palace supporting on your arm a fat, peevish aunt firmly obsessed with the unjust idea that you were playing "here we go round the mulberry bush" with her on purpose.

When I asked Aunt Louisa (who had never before seen a glass structure larger than a cucumber frame) how the Crystal Palace impressed her, she only said that she was sorry for the poor woman who had to clean the windows.

However I am not one to bear a grudge, and when Aunt Louisa complained of that tired feeling, I said very genuinely that I was sorry.  If she were taken seriously ill it was obvious that she couldn't return home on the following Friday, and so, when I said that I was sorry, you can take from me that I meant it.

Aunt Louisa having at length concluded the catalogue of her symptoms, I knew that the only thing to do was to call in the doctor.

He at once proceeded to take Aunt Louisa's temperature.  It was a little unfortunate, perhaps, that she should have chosen the moment when the thermometer was in her mouth to sneeze eleven times straight off the mark but luckily the doctor had brought a spare thermometer with him.  Also, he didn't seem to think that the bulb of the first one, which Aunt Louisa had swallowed, would entail any very serious consequences.  Rather did he think it would tend to relieve the sinking feeling.

But after he had felt her pulse, her tongue, and made her say "Ah" ninety-nine times, and tapped her beneath the knee to make her kick – she kicked fine; she nearly dropped a goal with the cat, which was a fascinated spectator of the proceedings – after he had done all this, I say, he ordered Aunt Louisa off to bed at once, and as soon as she had retired, I asked him, "What is it, doctor?  Is it anything – anything that will prevent her travelling home next Friday?"

"I am very puzzled," he replied.  "I can't quite make the case out.  She's certainly got a fever of some sort, but whether it's typhoid or hay I can't tell until I've looked it up in a book.  Tell me, has she been near any hay recently?"

I reflected a moment.  "No," I said at last, "not hay.  But a couple of days ago she drank an iced lemon-squash through a straw.  For goodness' sake try to make it hay fever."

"I'll do my best," he replied.

And he did.  Two days later Aunt Louisa presented me with my freedom by returning home.