Hello and Welcome

Hello. Welcome to my new blog...'Between the Jackets'. What's it about? Life. Everything that happens between the jackets of birth and death. The real story. It's about people of all shapes and sizes, different personalities, unusual struggles, and funny situations. This also includes children, animals, crawling, creeping, and swimming creatures.

Let's face it, some days life serves you a big plate of worms. Not very tasty in my opinion. Other days it's a 'picture perfect' stuffed turkey next to a crystal dish filled with cranberry sauce. Yum! And please don't forget there are going to be those 'cheeseburger and fries' days, which essentially boils down to the funny, awkward, and in between moments of day to day living. Because life is pretty much unpredictable, I'm going to do my best at getting it right. Some days I know I won't. The best books and stories ever written come from personal experience and the struggles we face every day. These struggles we eventually overcome and, oftentimes, laugh about. They are the hidden treasures that make up the space 'Between the Jackets' and are well worth remembering.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Conch Shell Calls Horses to Dinner

Greg and I love to go once in awhile to a condo in the Hawaiian Islands on the island of Maui. It's the perfect place to go and relax with the fishies in the ocean. We get up most mornings when we're there and swim in a lovely u-shaped place called Turtle Bay. Dozens of sea turtles are always more than happy to swim next to us beneath the rolling sea when we snorkel. Yes, I love to swim, dance, sing, jog, walk, explore, scuba dive, and snorkel while there. Doesn't everyone? I always go home well fed and completely exhausted--that equals about ten pounds of unwanted body fat.

One of my favorite things to do while there in the early mornings (besides eating papaya drizzled in lime juice) is blow on a conch shell. The islanders make it look so simple. It's not. But with practice a non-native woman like myself can actually blow into a conch and make quite a bit of noise.

Last year when we were in Hawaii my husband bought a conch to take home with us. How fun is that? If you're going to remember Hawaii...buy a shell that can make noise. It brings back all sorts of memories on a continual basis.

Why? Because I don't let it sit in our living room without taking it outside and blowing it on our front steps every couple of weeks. It's so dang entertaining...maybe not to my neighbors, but I do believe the horses and chickens have gotten used to it. Check the videos out.

Rockhounding Junkies--part one

Julie's Top Eight Places to Rock Hound in Utah--The Rockhounding Junkies

One of our favorite activities is to find a place where the entire family can collect beautiful rocks. Hah! Is that really possible? For the Helms, yes! We believe in Peter Pan and Puff the magic Dragon, remember? Our family motto: Rock Adventures are for Everyone...as long as it's safe. That doesn't mean we're not going to climb steep mountains and forge rocky streams on our quests. It means that we're going to try hard to keep everyone safe while we're doing it, and keep any real danger at level zero. With teenagers it's a work in progress...believe me!

It's important to remember to wear long pants. If anyone falls, the knees are protected. Make certain you take enough food and water for your group. Sandals or open toed shoes are forbidden. Who want's a bug bite on top of their toe? There's plenty of snake holes, too. A diamondback rattler curled under a rock and waiting to strike is easy to imagine. Their bite is mean. So watch out! Children hate to have dirt in any kind of shoe. Tennis shoes or boots are worthwhile investments when it involves collecting rocks.

There are many places in Utah that are too steep or too difficult to hike with children. I'm going to name eight places we actually dug at to find beautiful rocks with our family. Utah is a magical rainbow when it comes to finding colored collectable stones. Taking five gallon buckets is a must. Cardboard boxes (I don't care how strong you think those suckers were stapled or glued) are useless for storing rocks. Spend the money and buy plastic. It works!

1. The Dugway Geode Beds (Juab County):  Any rock hounder mother or father who is worth their salt can't miss a trip to these beds. Of course it took us a couple of visits to ACTUALLY find REAL geodes. We dug at rocky holes that looked well-used before we even started digging, with nothing to show for it except blistered hands and sunburns. What the heck did geodes look like anyway? We discovered more dig sites, broke up a lot of dirt balls, threw away countless roundish rock hopefuls, and exhausted ourselves swinging picks and shoveling in mounds of clay and dirt until we found our first, second, third geode and the magic happened. We wanted...we needed...we craved...more, more, more.

Dirty? You can't go to the beds without transforming into a massive dust bowl yourself--crusty fingernails, filthy clothes, grit on teeth, dust and gnats up your nose, and endless unknown particles dropping into your hair are all part of the charm.. These become the most cherished moments. The younger children weren't the best diggers; they got tired quick and were constantly drinking water under the hot sun. Drinking plenty of water does what to a child? That's right, we stopped digging frequently, dodged the snake holes, and took children potty, dangled their little butts over holes we dug in the dirt for them.

Swinging picks are out of the question for children, and the shovels too big for their small feet. So small hammers or large metal spoons were given to the littler ones. The older children dug like they were mining gold, with fierce determination and endless energy. Between a husband and the adolescent diggers, children are the most enthusiastic when a geode is finally cut open, and in front of their eyes purplish crystals sparkle like rare diamonds.

So in the end, when we're driving home after the sun has set over graveled roads, and owls are dive bombing our car, it's been worth it. The teenagers are watching a Bugs Bunny cartoon contentedly on the DVD player. The children lie sleeping all snug in the car, with visions of geodes displayed in a jar.

One of the funnest trips we took to the geode beds was when my husband hauled his tile saw in the back of his black pickup truck and cut geodes as the kids and I found them on site. Talk about instant gratification. Once you find a geode, you're overcome with a mad desire to see what's on the inside. It was a race to see which of us, young or old, could find the biggest, most colorful, unique geode of the day.

If the sky is clouded over when you head out to the geode beds early in the morning, it's even better. Remember--you're going there to dig not fry eggs. The less sun the better, and it's easier to work. We always pack lunches and take plenty of water. Sunscreen, the spray kind that doesn't sting eyes, quickly becomes your best friend.

2.  Topaz Mountain (Juab County):  Wow! Topaz Mountain is situated between the Drum Mountains rising to the west and the Dugway Geode Beds to the northwest. The day we headed out with our family to dig, every rock collector in the state must have decided to head that way, too. Men, women, children, dogs, old diggers, young diggers; the place reminded me of Hogle Zoo. Busy! Busy! Busy! People moved across giant rock gravel like worker ants preparing for the winter. Sparkles glimmered from every rock. We asked a man mining up the mountain a ways where to start digging. He stood in front of his hole, brandishing his pick, and told us anywhere. Clearly though, he didn't want us digging in his spot. Rock hounders get very territorial if you get too close to where they're digging.

So where does the sparkling rock come from? The crystal in the mountain. And since Utah frowns on rock hounders using their own explosive devices, I guess some unknown person comes in and dynamites new sections once in a while for topaz enthusiasts. If a person loves topaz, brown sparkly crystals that quite possibly can be made into pieces of jewelry, then this place is perfect for any rock hounder.

The older children set off to find their dig spots higher up the mountain, while my daughter and I found spots where the younger ones could dig that appeared less tricky for tiny feet to navigate. The topaz crystals are there, but you need to find them. Many of the crystal pieces we found that day were picked up right off the ground. That was the funnest part. The littler ones got a few bumped knees, but nothing too serious. Ziploc bags worked best for our collecting on this trip, though we wished we could have filled our buckets. So don't go on this expedition expecting buckets of topaz like we did that first time. It's not going to happen. Much of it needs to be carefully extracted from rock. You can gather the heavier rocks, too, but it was a lot more fun picking the crystal up by hand and shoving it down our jean's pockets or into our plastic bags.

3.  Copralite Mountain (Juab County):  A really incredible place to find big rocks of gem quality copralite--fossilized feces. We don't get to collect dinosaur bones here in Utah, but rather the next best thing--dinosaur poop. Don't worry, it's not still stinky. Whew!

Copralites are trace fossils which show the petrified diet of an animal that lived millions of years ago. How fun is that? We bought a local rock hunting book, found the spot we wanted to investigate, and left early one morning. We saw people that we assumed were rock collectors in other areas, but it didn't seem like anyone was finding much. We kept following the directions in the book we had and drove right to the magic dinosaur poop spot. Hooray!

Collecting the petrified poop exhausted us. The stuff is everywhere. And it's heavy! Yeah! We needed our five gallon buckets for this expedition. We found more than poop, though. There was agate, jasper, petrified plants...and rocks we couldn't identify.

The colors? Look up at a rainbow the next time it rains and imagine rocks of every color--red, purple, blue, pink, green, white, orange, grey--and you'll be correct. We kept busier than a hive of honey bees. I think we even found a dinosaur bone jetting out of one piece of copralite. Don't get excited; it's only a guess. Can anything get more thrilling?
We collected until our buckets were filled and our backs and arms ached non-stop. My daughter and I had to use the muscles of her oldest sons to carry the buckets down the hill. A few of the bigger rocks were rolled down, away from the younger children, but close enough to the Suburban we could drop them in the back after the buckets were loaded.

We've taken several more trips back to our "no-tell-em" dinosaur poop spot. One trip to a gold mine would never be enough, right? Copralite Mountain became our gold mine. And the beautiful thing about the whole experience? We didn't need to dig holes. The petrified rocks on top of that hill were waiting patiently for us every time we returned. We collected them like you pick corn from a stalk, one rock at a time, and loved it. It's a good two and a half hour drive from Lehi but well worth the trouble.

4.  Riley's Canyon (Summit County): Holy crap! No, wait. That's dinosaur poop. The stuff my family hunted down on this particular trip was petrified red horned coral--beautiful gem quality material when polished. We drove from the four way stop in Francis, Utah, down highway 35, six miles heading southeast, and stopped at a trailhead to the left of the road called Riley's Canyon. Through a rickety fence, we opened and closed to keep the cows in, we hiked a couple of miles up a trail.

The first piece of red coral of the day was found laying on top of the soil on the left side of a steep hill--not too dangerous if you hang onto the children's hands as you're climbing up the steepest part. The hill doesn't get flat on top, but it's definitely less steep. We hung our picks from our belt loops, so that we could dig if we wanted. The coral was scattered everywhere across the ground in a large area. You have to get the hang of what you were looking for...the coral is dirty. It looks more like the petrified branch of a tree. But once you've found a piece, and if you're in a good spot, you find plenty more. It's a matter of spotting it.

We even found jasper, agate, some petrified sea bed, another type of coral, plant fossils, perhaps even an egg, and again, rocks that were cool looking but that we couldn't identify. What a blast! We took empty backpacks and filled them until the zippers bulged. Once again, my daughter's sons carried them back down the mountain trail. Though it should have been easier going downhill, the younger children were exhausted, so it took a bit of coaxing and carrying to get everyone down the trail to the car. But what a trail! Red horned coral quickly became our next best treasure.

It's only fair to  mention that Becca's boys, Brigham and Dominic, seemed to sniff the red coral out on that mountain like they were bloodhounds. They found more than any of us put together. And that's hard to admit...since I really wanted to find more than them. It's okay, though. When they weren't looking I stole some. I felt plenty guilty when each of them offered up handfuls of their own coral to add to my pittance. Even Becca felt sorry for me and gave me most of hers. It's good to share, don't you think? I'm going to polish them some coral and make them each a ring. That ought a do it!

Please note the next four rock hounding expeditions will be included in another post. This one got too big. So for more exciting adventure from the Rockhounding Junkies keep checking back. You don't want to miss out on the excitement--not with crying, thirsty children, daring teenagers, and incredibly courageous mothers involved. Right? Of course not!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Fainting Goats are for Real?

Fainting goats, also known as the myotonic Tennessee Fainters, seem to be the new popular goat to own in the goat world. When I saw my first fainter it was by accident on the Internet. I was scrolling through funny videos on YouTube and clicked on a goat video. Who would have believed a hooved animal with a stubby little tail that goes baa-baa faints? Me? You’re right. I’d believe in just about anything. They’re such cute weird little creatures. Yep! Every once in a while Mother Nature decides to surprise humankind with some oddity to tickle the hearts of those who really enjoy different animals. That would definitely be my nineteen grandchildren and me.

Oh, my gosh! I was hooked. When these goats get startled or frightened their muscles lock up and they fall over. When it happens their legs go straight as a board, until they can move again. It’s the strangest thing to watch…and worth a laugh or two.

Being as I’m the kind of person who is always on the lookout for nature’s newest and most talked about miracles, it made perfect sense to procure one of these goats sooner than later.

Some fainting goats are tinier than others. I quickly discovered the fainters that most appealed to me were the miniature silky fainters, which essentially means a goat with a lot of long silky hair, that is usually smaller than the standard fainter. Anything smaller than an average goat, though I had no idea what that meant until I studied it, seemed perfect for our family.

Finding the right fainter though, was harder than it looked. And the cost! Expensive! No doubt, something I presently owned and valued less than I valued my desire to procure a goat would need to be sold ASAP.

The first myotonic goat I bought was a darling little doe that didn’t faint. She didn't have long hair either. I jumped and shouted, waved my arms, tried to catch her off guard, and she stood there looking at me like I was a crazy woman. It didn’t matter to me, though. I thought she was beautiful. The round little moon spots that covered her furry tri-colored body reminded me of chocolate chip cookies. I wanted to name her Cookie, but the grandchildren named her Missy.

The problem was she didn’t faint. I wanted a fainter that actually fainted, perhaps a buck, so Missy could have babies. You know the old saying…once you think like a mother…you always think like a mother. Everything I’ve ever owned has needed a baby or two.

So the next goat I bought was a black and white little buck. All my husband had to do was say, “Boo!” and down our new little guy went in a straight-legged faint. The grandchildren named him Oreo. Sometimes he wouldn’t drop to the ground on all fours. His back legs would stiffen for a few seconds, and off he’d run. He quickly became the sweetheart of the two.

A third little black and white doe became part of our herd after that. She didn't seem to be a fainter either...until one morning I was carrying some hay out to their feed buckets, and I tripped on a stone in the large corralled area where they were kept. The three goats were running by my feet, eager to be fed. Hay flew in four directions, as I fell forward, twisting midair, so that my back would hit the ground instead of my face. When I turned to see what had happened to the goats, if one of them had been injured, there was cookie lying right next to me. All four hooves pointed skyward. She had fainted. I began laughing. By the time I was up and moving, so was she, bouncing around my legs as if nothing had happened.

Would everything I was doing be worth my efforts? Of course…until feeding, worming, vaccinating, trimming hooves, birthing problems, neutering, and dehorning took a little of the fun out of it.

Notice I didn’t say excitement, because life is seldom boring at our house. But then…isn’t that how it is on a chicken/goat/horse ranch? The unexpected goes along with the expected. Life is life; it marches on with or without me. I might as well have a good time, and that includes the many surprises along the way.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Angel Rolls Stone Away?

Dominic, one of my grandson’s, came home from Young Men’s one evening in Francis, Utah and told his mother and I a very strange story indeed. Fortunate enough to be staying the night, I was able to listen in on the good juice.

Nic walked into the house looking puzzled, and asked his mother if what his teacher had told him was true about a pioneer man named, Brooks. Becca looked as confused as Nic. I didn’t remember a pioneer with that name either, so no help was coming from my side of the fence.

“Who was he?” she asked him.

“Our teacher told us a weird story tonight about a giant rock and a man who martyred the Prophet Joseph Smith. He was buried over one hundred years ago in the Peoa Cemetery,” he told her. “A few years ago a boy scout wanted to do an Eagle Project and didn’t know what to do. Someone in his ward gave him the idea of putting a grave marker on the grave of Brooks, who had been laid to rest in an unmarked grave near a tree. It seems that one night a giant rock rolled down the steep hill near the cemetery and came to rest directly of top of the grave of Mr. Brooks. The rock was left where it rolled.

“The scout thought it was a worthwhile project and took care of getting a plaque made that would mark Mr. Brook’s grave. When the plaque was ready, the boy talked a local farmer into moving the stone from the grave. The plaque would be placed on the grave when the boy could arrange it. However, the next morning the residents of Peoa, along with the boy and farmer, got a BIG surprise. Someone or something had rolled the stone back on top of the grave during the night. The giant rock was left where it had been rolled, and the plague that marked the grave of Mr. Brooks was attached to the top of the rock. Supposedly, it’s still there. So is it true?” Nic asked us. “Because it’s a really cool story.”

Neither Becca nor I had the answer to that one. Both of us loved the story though, as it was right up our alley. We love the paranormal…anything that goes bump in the night is irresistible and interesting, especially a giant rock that might have been rolled back on a martyr’s grave by an angel of God. Who else would have done it? The stone had left those involved with a silent but strong message. “Leave the stone alone! It’s right where God wants it.” Obviously Nic, and the rest of the boys the teacher talked to that night, ate it up.

Each of us went to bed that night marveling a bit over the story. Was it exaggerated? Did the grave and the giant rock with the plaque really exist?

The next morning we dropped Becca’s children off at their schools and drove to the local gasoline station to buy our morning diet cokes and bag of goodies. “Becca?” I asked. “Where is Peoa from here?”

Becca gave me the kind of look that told me she was one hundred percent on board. “I don’t think it’s far…you drive past Oakley and keep going until you run into Peoa.” She pointed north, or at least, that’s what it looked like to me.

“Why not go see if the grave and the rock are in the cemetery in Peoa?” I asked her. “We have the time. If the story is true…the rock will still be there.”

“How will we find the rock?” she asked.

“It’ll be the biggest one.” I really didn’t know if that was a correct assumption. When you shoot from the hip, your best guess is all you’ve got sometimes.

Off we went, two women in a suburban on a mission to find the truth. We kind of reminded me of Sherlock Holmes and Doc Watson, only more feminine. The famous investigator and his sidekick never took children on a case. We had Becca’s two little girls with us, watching Daffy Duck and Bugs Bunny cartoons in the back seat of her car. Becca let me drive. She was our designated scout and official direction giver.

We followed the road and within several minutes were driving into Peoa. If we had blinked, we would have missed it. An antique red brick schoolhouse to the left of the road confirmed we were in the right place; the Peoa name built into the framework of the historical building so many years ago still hung above the old door.  We slowed down but kept driving. The Peoa Cemetery wasn’t much further down the road to our left.

The pioneer graveyard was larger than I imagined. I pictured maybe twenty graves, but there many many more, and it was still in use. Modern gravestones dotted the ground, intermixed with the old. It was surrounded on three sides by hills—two sides steeper than the side on the north. Interesting place! Where was the giant rock? I drove through an open gate. “Keep your eyes open,” I told Becca. Snow and ice covered most of the graves. The road was icy dirt, wet and muddy from melting snow. And then I saw it…a giant rock loomed in the distance to my right. “That’s it!”

“Mom! Oh my gosh!”

We turned right, drove down the road a ways, and stopped the car. The girls continued to watch cartoons, momentarily, while we opened our doors and ran to check the rock. It was slippery outside and cold. We’d just be a minute. Sure enough…the metal plaque was there, complete with Mr. Brook's name and his greatest contribution to history. It read: Brooks—Participant in the Martyrdom of the Prophet Joseph Smith.

Becca used my cell phone and took several pictures.

Nic’s story was true!

Did an angel move the rock? Who knows. Your guess is as good as mine.

Becca went home and did some research after that. She found a site with more information about Brooks…just in case you want to read more. We certainly did. The link is below. 

Click here for more about Mr. Brooks. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=36526063.  

Here is a link if you would like to know more about The Fate and the Persecutors of Joseph Smith: Transmutations of An American Myth by Richard C. Poulsen (an assistant professor of English at Brigham Young University).

Here is a link if you are interested in the book, "The Fate of the Persecutors of The Prophet Joseph Smith," by N. B. Lundwall (Editor), John A. Widtsoe

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Skinwalker Ranch

Hunt for the Skinwalker Ranch, a book by Colm A. Kelleher,PH., and George Knapp, journalist—This book was given to me by a very good friend of mine for my birthday a few years ago. Of course she knew I’d gobble a book right up about unusual and strange phenomena occurring on a cattle ranch in Uintah County during the 90’s. I’m a natural born hunter, explorer, and adventurer… if the unexplained is out there, and not too dangerous or frightening for a housewife and mother of six, I’m game to seek it out.                               
Naturally a ranch in Utah where I could actually drive to in person and witness any number of spooky inexplicable happenings became irresistible. Cattle mutilations, giant wolf creatures, Sasquatch, inner-dimensional beings, alien encounters, UFO’s, dinosaurs and footprints, sightings of strange creatures, odd blinking lights and orbs, floating cigar-shaped boxes, bizarre energy readings, or even a Skinwalker, an evil witch or medicine man that can assume the forms of animals …all this strikes fear into the average person…especially me. Why not go find that scary place and see for myself? Rumor had it that plenty of weird, spine tingling, hair-raising scary was available? Hah! I could handle it.

After reading the book, I did a bit of research on my own, and then approached my husband.  I asked if he’d like to take a nice Saturday afternoon drive. A quiet peaceful little romp to the Skinwalker Ranch would be such a fun afternoon for the two of us, I explained. And I knew right how to get him there. Of course I did happen to read that security was everywhere on the ranch, and that no one, not even aliens or giant wolves were supposed to trespass.

We drove up to the gate that was pictured in the book on a late Saturday afternoon. The exact gate---as there was the KEEP OUT sign posted boldly. Everything had fallen into place perfectly thus far. “So what do we do now?” my husband asked.

Wolves howl, right? So I climbed out of the car and howled…again and again…I howled at the ranch, the cliffs, the trees, the rocks, and anything else listening. My husband, ever a skeptic, smiled and began taking pictures. I laughed between howls. I even pulled out a rabbit whistle I’d bought at Cabela’s the day before and blew on it. My husband grabbed it from me, showed me how to use it, and handed it back. I blew it correctly after that. Combined with our location, being careful to NOT go beyond the gate, the squealing rabbit sounds made my skin crawl after a while. I stopped and pulled the binoculars out. It felt slightly eerie out there but nothing terrified me beyond belief. Of course you never know...an otherworldly creature could have been hiding in the bushes and trees, and I simply missed it.      

Security cameras or not, after finding a more private spot to use the bathroom, I got busy hunting for footprints, strange creatures, a BIG BAD wolf, anything out of the ordinary. I found some interesting footprints and saw something, don’t know what, moving against the cliffs in the distance. More photographs were taken. We never ventured beyond the gate, but I can’t help wondering if the security cameras got an eyeful when I found a bathroom. If so…a lot of people, probably men, are still laughing. Sick…but true. A pity the new owner of the ranch didn’t think to provide a portable outhouse for the occasional interloper.  

We stayed out there, me making as much noise as possible, for a couple of hours. That’s when the incredible idea hit me our spying could be much spookier if we came back at night. So we left and went hiking to look for dead mutilated cow bones. In the book about the ranch it said there were times their cows were found dead, their bones broken, as if they’d been dropped from a distance and hit the ground hard.  Scary scary stuff! We found the bones of an animal that did look cowish (even without the hair) and took pictures. Look at the crack in the pelvis of this one.

I wanted to return to the ranch in heavy dark, a few hours after sunset. So after hiking we drove to a small town and found a Ute Indian pow-wow taking place at a local grade school. My husband asked if we could sit and watch. The Ute Indians generously allowed us to observe them; the men, women, and children were beautiful dancers and in full costume. I loved the feathers and moccasins. The beat of their drums entranced us.

Unable to help myself I thought of the Skinwalker…and inconspicuously checked the crowd, wondering if there was an evil medicine man watching me…and if he knew why we were there. The Ute Indians take Skinwalkers very serious. So do other tribes. Though I don’t understand their cultures…the many strange occurrences on the Skinwalker Ranch seemed to lend credence to this particular Indian legend.

At half past ten that evening, we pulled up again to the gate that marked the beginning of the Skinwalker Ranch. This time I asked my husband to open the windows in the car. He did it, then lowered his seat and leaned back to take a nap. He wasn’t sleeping though. He snores when he sleeps, and he never began snoring or breathing like he does when he’s out. He was listening for anything unusual or strange…just like me.

Yeah! The atmosphere felt right this time. Something about the place felt completely out of the ordinary. The Twilight Zone theme song actually kept replaying in my head. Outer Limits took over after that. Heart pounding and knees shaking, I sat there listening to things go ‘bump in the night’ for over an hour before I’d had enough—things meaning…stuff I couldn’t explain away. We did see some strange orb-type lights moving above the ranch house in the distance. I shook the pretender up for that sighting. What were orbs doing above the trees and house? Neither one of us had a clue.

Can’t say what…but a voice inside of my head kept screaming for us to leave. Who knows why? Was it a guardian angel? Deep in my gut I couldn’t shake the feeling we were being watched by something not particularly friendly…and it wasn’t the security cameras. We’d been around those for hours. By the time my husband closed the windows and started the car…we were both shaking in our boots and couldn’t wait to get out of there. My husband drove the car from the ranch that night like aliens were chasing us. Perhaps…we were being followed, but that’s another story.


Bigfoot? For the person who lacks the ‘high adventure’ and ‘paranormal--fact or fiction’ genes, and that’s certainly NOT me, Bigfoot is just another legend to scare children into their beds when glasses of water, trips to the bathroom, and short cute stories don’t seem to be working.

Some people say Bigfoot is a gentle elusive creature of the forest—a watcher. Others think the hairy giant two-footer is a meat eater and capable of aggression towards mankind if antagonized. I’d like to add here that if the Big Fella could be harassed to the point of tearing arms and legs off, it would probably be because a couple of hunters, out trying to have a good time over the weekend, ended up doing something stupid.

So is Bigfoot a stinky human--man, woman, child--covered in hair that has far more intelligence than what we’ve accredited to it? After all, they have managed to avoid most of mankind, as we understand it. Or is Bigfoot an animal with keen intelligence, excellent elusive abilities, and a yet undiscovered species of great ape?

I’ve often wondered if the reason we don’t find more clues to the whereabouts of this creature is because we think of Bigfoot as more animal than man. Here’s another thought. Is the old boy the same hairy man, described in ancient historical texts and the Bible, known as Cane—the first man to slay his brother and be cursed by God? That would make, at least, one Bigfoot, thousands of years old.

Restless and bored, I decided to go on a walk several years ago to visit a pioneer graveyard I knew about. Because I’m an enthusiastic collector of rocks, I grabbed my camera, just in case an incredible gorgeous stone, one that was too big to be carried home, needed to be photographed.

It didn’t take me long to drive down Highway 73 to the bottom of the hill, where I could start climbing to the graveyard. A short steep path winds up the hill, which I quickly took, as the sun now hung much lower in the sky than I wanted. Feeling slightly uneasy, yet determined to accomplish what I’d set out to do, I noticed what looked like a gigantic footprint in the softer dirt on the left side of the hill—a HUMAN foot. The uneasiness already enveloping me immediately raised several notches. Finding the first print led me to the second, even the third and fourth prints that led up the path. On top of the hill near the graveyard I found more prints. There were probably twenty prints of different shapes and sizes in all. Wow! Could any little hiking trip get weirder? How was I ever going to convince anyone I’d seen something so completely unexpected yet real?

Then I remembered that my camera was in my car. I could photograph the footprints. The sun kept up its downward spiral, but my camera was soon in hand, and I began snapping photos. But wait! Who would believe the footprints were much larger than normal if something wasn’t used to help establish their credibility? So I quickly took off my shoe (size six) and laid it next to the prints I photographed. Bigfoot—fact or fiction. I don’t know. I’m trying to find the pictures so you can see for yourself, but until I do…go to Alien Dave's Bigfoot link. The picture of the nineteen inch footprint with the black shoe next to it is the one I took. I did find one picture taken of a man with strange orange hair...but his feet aren't big, and he hates going barefoot.

Meanwhile, I'd love to hear what you think. Is Bigfoot real or a hoax? Do you believe in monstrous unidentified life forms? Are you a non-believer? Where did Bigfoot originate? Have you had any of your own experiences with him/her?  Do you have your own theories? Discoveries? Please feel free to share.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Ghost Hunter

Ghosts? Do scary things go bump in the night? Do cameras and recording devices really capture images and voices? Seriously, I think we all wonder a little. I mean…I watch Ghost Adventures and Ghost Hunters and get my thrills, but one can’t help wonder if it’s all a set up to give viewers like me, who want to believe, a thrill.

Last May a group of friends and I took a trip to England hosted by another dear friend, Cheryl. Knowing how adventurous we all are, Cheryl planned a tour of haunted streets and aged buildings one afternoon, which delighted us to the tips of our shoes. It was easy to imagine an ancient warrior walking the streets, perhaps a Scotsman dressed in kilt and girdle, brandishing his mighty sword.
Bill, Cheryl’s husband even drove us to a couple of old graveyards, where we flashed our cameras above gravestones and scared ourselves so bad we laughed our guts out afterwards.

One night after eating dinner at a pub that was several hundred years old and was supposed to be haunted, we were walking up the street past a castle of considerable size (can’t remember the name), and we were laughing again, probably because we were a bit nervous about being in the dark. When we’d walked down the street to eat, the sun was just setting. A few streetlights littered our walkway, but not enough to dispel the night shrouded shadows and black areas.

On the stone foundation of the castle I noticed an old wooden plank door, rounded at the top like many of the ancient doors. This happened to be one of the areas surrounded in complete darkness, but I couldn’t stop myself from walking over there. Once I got closer, as I strained to see, the rusted hinges and lock and deteriorated condition of the door became more evident. The door was about my height, (5’7’)--maybe a bit higher but not by much. Near the top a ragged hole came into view, a hole just big enough for my camera lens.

Ah ha! I thought. A perfect moment for an amateur ghost hunter, and I grabbed my camera and turned it on. I was right. The camera lens fit right into that hole. I took two pictures, one right after the other. The camera was set for night pictures and automatic flash. Keep in mind that behind that ancient door…there were no lights. It was pitch black. Below you will see the two pictures I took. Notice how the pictures change.  Study the shapes of the multiple orbs. So what did I get? Multiple ghosts?  An apparition of a woman or man? Something was hiding behind that door in the musty smelling darkness, but what? Your guess is as good as mine.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Herman stew or cock-a-doodle-do

I live on a five-acre ranch and have always owned a few horses and dogs. Last year I decided it would be a learning experience for my husband and me if we bought a few chickens that could lay eggs. No more eating store bought eggs! “Ranch wives have chicken coops and gather their own eggs,” I told Greg and promised that not over a dozen or so would be bought. But alas, the baby chicks were incredibly cute, and before I knew it there were forty-nine total; chicks that quickly grew into two roosters and forty-seven hens. The chicken lady told me my chicks were ALL female. She obviously guessed wrong.

Greg quickly converted one of the three stalls in our barn into a chicken coop, complete with laying boxes, perches, plenty of straw…and endless chicken poop. In fact, birds have no problem pooping everywhere, including their five-gallon water bucket. Ugh!

I’m happy to announce today that it has indeed been a worthwhile venture. How else would I have learned about roosters killing other roosters, dogs chasing and killing chickens for sport, hungry vicious coyotes and fox, that skunks and mink can dig under your barn into a coop and tear your hens to pieces, that snakes favorite meals are baby chicks, that chickens can drown in a horse trough, that red lights are needed in the winter to keep chickens warm AND from eating their own eggs, and last but not least, that chickens can just plain disappear and no one other than God himself knows where they’ve gone?

When spring finally came, I proudly announced to the same chicken lady when I was buying more chicks…that I counted myself lucky to have fourteen hens left and one cocky rooster named, Herman. (Herman murdered George one day when I was out hunting rocks.)
Here were my choices when I realized that Herman was a crazy unpredictable Casanova in the hen house, and that he could no longer live among my egg layers. His first and only love was to chase those hens and…cock-a-doodle-do…you get the picture. What a pain! He could both lose his head and end up in my stew pot. Keep in mind I had no idea who would have butchered him; it wouldn’t have me. In a crisis situation I might get through the plucking and gutting part, but not the killing (I named every chicken). Or Herman could fend for himself in the open. I turned him out of the hen house to roam to his heart’s content, knowing that by doing so, he would probably get carried off in the dead of night and eaten.
Imagine how surprised I was when some hungry daring little creature didn’t eat Herman that first night, or the night after that? Herman made himself a nest outside, where my fox trotter and her filly are fenced. He kept safe by sleeping with the horses. Smart bird…my boy Herman. It has now been four months. Herman waits for me every morning and walks me to his feed bowl. If I don’t get there soon enough he starts pecking my legs, and I have to drop the bucket and run…but most mornings, he and I get along just fine.     

Hello and Welcome

Hello. Welcome to my new blog...'Between the Jackets'. What's it about? Life. Everything that happens between the jackets of birth and death. The real story. It's about people of all shapes and sizes, different personalities, unusual struggles, and funny situations. This also includes children, animals, crawling, creeping, and swimming creatures.

Let's face it, some days life serves you a big plate of worms. Not very tasty in my opinion. Other days it's a 'picture perfect' stuffed turkey next to a crystal dish filled with cranberry sauce. Yum! And please don't forget there are going to be those 'cheeseburger and fries' days, which essentially boils down to the funny, awkward, and in between moments of day to day living. Because life is pretty much unpredictable, I'm going to do my best at getting it right. Some days I know I won't. The best books and stories ever written come from personal experience and the struggles we face every day. These struggles we eventually overcome and, oftentimes, laugh about. They are the hidden treasures that make up the space 'Between the Jackets' and are well worth remembering.