Wednesday, February 26, 2014



In the 1920s and early 30s, my father lived in Douglas as his family managed the beanery at the railroad depot there.  Across the border, he claimed, a billboard painted on the side of a cantina pitched “Miller High Life – the Champagne of Bottle Beers.”  This early memory was etched into his brain until his dying day in 1995.  For the entire adult portion of his 77 years, he never ordered any cerveza but Miller High Life when eating Mexican food.

At his passing, I added to my bucket list a trip to Douglas in order to peer across the border and confirm or deny his billboard claim.  April of this year it would be scheduled.

Your passage of SB 1062 has changed that schedule.  Regardless of how you parse it, 1062 amends the existing statutes, allowing business owners to deny service to gay and lesbian customers so long as proprietors were acting solely on their religious beliefs.  Since business owners have long been entitled to “reserve the right to refuse business to anyone,” this legislation serves nothing more than to codify discrimination against a particular group of citizens.  The veil of protecting a religious class edges frighteningly toward the tenets of Islamic fundamentalism you elsewhere so vehemently oppose.

If the esteemed legislators in Arizona wish to practice a Judeo-Christian form of Shiriah Law, they are free to do so in their homes and their churches, but a careful reading of the United State’s Constitution’s First Amendment would preclude this from happening in the halls of the State Capital in Phoenix.

Until the legislature demonstrates a grasp of:

·      What is and what is not constitutional,
·      What actions do and do not protect the rights of all citizens, and
·      How discriminatory legislation such as SB 1062 conflicts with Jesus’ principal message of love,

…scheduled visits to Douglas or other part of the state will have to remain on the bucket list.

This is truly sad because I’d really like to enjoy something besides a Miller with my enchiladas.


The Church of the Open Road

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Review: This House of Sky – Landscapes of a Western Mind

I just returned from a quick trip to mid-twentieth century Montana.  The vehicle?  Ivan Doig’s 1978 memoir “This House of Sky.”

Mr. Doig’s enchantment with the land and the work grounded thereon is exceeded only by his appreciation of family.  Doig’s father, Charlie, wed a woman much younger than he.  Tragically, only a few years after Ivan’s birth, she dies.  Her mother, after a time, comes to live with the bachelor pair, forming a unique family unit with uncommon stresses and uncommon devotion.

Ivan Doig recounts the hopscotch life of a ranch foreman (his father) across Montana’s landscape of ferocious beauty and through towns the map has long forgotten.  Doig tells of his times summering with sheep in high meadows (catch the rescue efforts during an unseasonal storm to realize it ain’t all that bucolic all the time), rooming in town with, essentially, strangers, because that’s what had to be done while attending school, and wrestling with the conflict of honoring his Dad’s legacy and life and turning away from it for a university education and the potential of better tomorrows.  Along the way, we are introduced to a cavalcade of characters that will come to populate much of Doig’s fiction. 

This is a touching, evolutionary tale set in a past kids my age still remember.  It is a book that, once again, once I finished it, I didn’t pick up another for a few days, simply so I could savor the story and its telling.

See your local, independent bookseller.


“This House of Sky – Landscapes of a Western Mind” Ivan Doig. 1978, 1998.  $14.95.

© 2014
Church of the Open Road Press

Monday, February 3, 2014


The Lord raised his hands high over the course
of the American River and said “Dam it…”
…And they did.

 Impetus for the start of construction 
of Folsom Dam, 1952

The upside of an unseasonably warm and dry winter is the elongated riding season motorcyclists are enjoying in California.  The downside is drought.

Back in the early-fifties, Sacramento, located at the confluence of the American and Sacramento Rivers lay rife for a catastrophic flood.  One storm barreling up the American River complex could inundate the capitol, flood tens of thousands of homes, sacrifice countless lives and cause untold sums in damages.  The Folsom Dam, just east of Reprisa – site of Folsom Prison – would serve to protect the city, provide hydroelectric power, offer irrigation for valley farms and serve as a minor Mecca for recreation.

The story goes that upon completion, a three-year fill timeline was expected.  But an unexpected storm did, indeed, barrel up the canyon and the lake was filled in less than a year.

Through wet years and dry, the reservoir has risen and fallen at the command of those who mete out water satisfying the needs of farmers, city-folk, power companies and salmon.

Until now.

As recently as April of 2013, Folsom Lake was nearly brimming.  Along its springtime shores grew acres of Lupine.
Click on any photo to expand 'em all.

The Bureau of Reclamation makes commitments to interests down stream, and by September, the reservoir is drawn down ready to accept the upcoming runoff due to begin in October or November.

In preparation for its initial fill, the basin was denuded of plant life.  When the capacity is reduced, interesting evidence of our geologic past appears.

Boating access is stymied as the water level falls below the reach of the ramps.  But usually, not this far.

A larger than usual amount of lake bottom is exposed.  After decades under water, many of the soluble minerals have melted away.  Much of the granite that once graced the area has decomposed.

Rounded domes and outcrops remain in places – looking, perhaps, a bit more weathered than before the lake.

Some say it looks like a moonscape.  (I've not been to the moon, although I understand Alice might have.)

As the reservoir drains away, the American finds its old course slipping past gravel bars around sweeping bends.

Our history, of course, predates the dam.  And with the pool of water depleted it is easy to find artifacts of our past.  Water had been diverted into a canal on the South Fork.  A mechanism was installed to keep debris out.

Bent iron stock served as steps in the side of the dam that diverted water into the canal.

Some artifacts are easily dated.  Note that this can had both a pull-tab – outlawed some time ago – and a bar code – something relatively recent.

Others not so easy.  A busted obsidian point similar to this was spotted half buried in some decomposed granite.

Some are tricky.  A tin sign, neatly punch-lettered “Red Rock Mine” floated downstream from somewhere.  Perhaps a decade or two after the rush?

Close examination of the nails holding the sign to the log show that they are round-headed not cast square ones.  This tells us “Not quite so old…”

Whole communities lived in the canyon.  Foundations and walls, under the surface for six decades are again exposed.

And then there’s just the weird remains of those things natural and man made that set the mind to fantasy.  A Spielberg creation?

Neptune’s lectern?

Remnants of an alien craft?

A sea creature vanquishes whatever it’s vanquishing…

One wonders whether someday the old dam itself will be an artifact upon which people look back and, well, wonder.

As of January 31, the region has received 17% of its seasonal precipitation.  The lake stands at less than 15% of capacity.  Its drained carcass serves as a stark reminder that the west is arid land.  With the allure of majestic coastal vistas, verdant, fertile valleys, gold in the foothills, timber in the Sierra, winter sports and summer ones, too, it is easy to overtax Mother Nature. 

An argument could be made that we’ve done that.

Note:  If you are an east coaster with plans to escape the terrible winter you are experiencing by coming out west, please consider packing a bucket or two of ice that you can drop in the remnants of old Folsom Lake.  You probably’d be happy to rid yourself of it.  And we could really use the water.  Thanks.

© 2014
Church of the Open Road Press