Limestone Historian — Don Fife — Oct. 14th

The busiest month seems to be October. Add a visit to Lucerne Valley on October 14th

Don Fife to speak on gold mining in Lucerne Valley CA

— this Saturday — for an insider’s look into mining history with geologist and limestone historian, Don Fife. He grew up in the community when  his father was mining here.

Join us at Lucerne Valley Community Center just east of the library on Hwy 247 East, from 3-5 pm when Lucerne Valley Museum and History Association once again hosts  its “Evening Desert” series. The presentation is free and open to the public. Light refreshments will be available. Home schoolers, bring your students!

Have questions or need directions, call 760-248-6777 and leave a message before Saturday.

I’m Not a Speech Writer!

Devices & Tools That Writers Can Use Like Speech Writers

I came across a snippet of an online class offered by Microsoft Office. In the blog posting, devices that speech writers use are the same tools that authors and poets can use.

You say, “I’m not a speechwriter?”

Yes, you are. You are writing to a people of a discerning ear who can appreciate a good vocabulary, syntax, color, and clarity. Good speeches are written by good writers. Great speeches are created with tools taken from historically famous writers.

In the beginning, John F. Kennedy was not very interesting as a speech giver. He had to work on his presentation, his breathing, his choice of words, and his delivery. But what made a difference for him was learning how tools like “anaphora,” “chiasmus,” and “tricolon” aided his method of writing.

JFK was a list maker.

 

Lists — As his speechwriter, Ted Sorensen, noted in his memoirs, time and again Kennedy preferred to work in lists. Kennedy believed that using simple lists made points memorable, because they were easily repeated. Sometimes, those lists followed the “rule of three,” or “tricolon,” making sure to use three images, arguments or examples.

Other times, Kennedy made longer lists by using “anaphora”: repeating one word several times to expand a list and continue an over-long sentence well past the rules of grammar.

Kennedy often used the classical literary device, “chiasmus,” to invert the word order in a sentence and make a new meaning. (see samples below)

Consider how Kennedy uses “the rule of three” and chiasmus to begin his inaugural address:

“We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom, symbolizing an end as well as a beginning, signifying renewal as well as change.”

writing chart

writing tools chart

Experiment with Different Tools

Simple but powerful control mechanisms, when used in clarity for the audience or reader, will help define the voice of your writing. Are you like JFK? No. You are the writer within using the tools of the trade to define your voice.

Rusty LaGrange

This Heat Driving You Crazy?

Many Things Can Drive You Crazy

I’ve been hearing that when the heat index in your area gets too high or too humid, it causes folks to think there is no relief. Heat begins to drive them truly crazy.

I’ve also known for years that people can find strange ways to cool down. Not just a pool, a garden hose, or the bathtub… but weird ways. I would rather attempt tp stay warm in Winter than cool in Summer.

toddler in basin of water

Cool in a Pool

Sticking a plastic bag of ice down your pants or under your armpits — well, that would work, but not much in public. Sucking on ice pops is only temporary and turns your tongue blue… or orange. Well, you get the idea. Standing with your head in the freezer is silly, but it does feel good until your eyebrows frost up.

Look For relief

Have a friend with a pool? Volunteer to clean it for swimming privileges. Find a cooling station in your closest town. Go to the movies — that’s a cool idea, although it can get a bit pricey if you go often. Many towns have teen centers or senior centers with massive Air Conditioning units. In my area we don’t have those with AC. The High Desert is equipped with evaporative coolers — those big water-guzzling “swamp coolers” that work when it’s dry and hot. It’s down side is the humidity levels — the higher it goes the worse the unit works.

The “Down Side” to Heat

Some folks have given up on creativity to cool down. They actually go crazy, berserk with the thought of immediate relief they can’t find. Their solution is to end it all.

It’s an extreme look at a one-time version of their solution. It’s not funny. And I’m trying not to be.

If you know of anyone who is suffering from the heat, the high humidity — and act as if they want to take themselves out of their suffering, please, call help for them.

resource list

The following list is gathered by public health administrators, like Veterans Affairs, who wish to stop the public health issue that can creep up on some folks. You think “Bullying” is bad… print and keep this list handy.

Suicide Prevention Resources

Warning signs of suicide

  • Talking about wanting to die
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling hopeless or having no purpose
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious, agitated or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings

What to do if you see warning signs of suicide?

  • Do not leave the person alone
  • Remove any firearms, alcohol, drugs or sharp objects that could be used in a suicide attempt
  • Call the U.S. National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-TALK (8255)
  • Take the person to an emergency room or seek help from a medical or mental health professional

 The more of these signs a person shows, the greater the risk. Warning signs are associated with suicide but may not be what causes a suicide. Information from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. 

Have a great summer and stay cool,

Rusty LaGrange

Crazy Weather for Mother’s Day

Everyone is talking about this crazy Spring weather.

Driving rain

Crazy weather caught drivers off guard and hail topped it

I know it can get boring talking about the weather, but in this case, it’s crazy weather. Folks in So. California’s High Desert have been fried, dried, froze, then beat again by extremely high winds.

 

Desert Bloom

Desert Aster, a showy spring bloom

Everyone is talking about this crazy spring weather. So, I must admit, that yes, it’s been crazy. The rain brings such an abundance of wildflowers that it’s the prelude to a color explosion.

In a span of a few days, we went from Springtime conditions of 68 to 78 to 96 degrees, followed by high winds, a short rain shower and then torrential rains with hail, followed by wind and hail. Then only to be dusted by snow in the upper mountains.

Desert blooms

Buttery Yellow Beavertail

As with these crazy seasonal changes, we noticed over time that these series of weird weather patterns are just that — patterns that do come through every ten years or so.

White Frills

This one looks like a Whirling Dervish with white skirts and a yellow turban

With Mother’s Day coming in a few days, let me remind most of you that snow has been recorded on Mother’s Day about every ten years here, and with flurries of snow in the foothills. We usually don’t expect snow this late, that’s why we consider it so odd.

Yup, it’s crazy but that’s what we like about the High Desert.

So instead of talking about the wildflowers, why not go out for Mom’s Day and enjoy a nice breakfast followed by a refreshing walk through the wildflowers.

It will do you good.

Rusty

new owner of HighDesertBlogging.com

Let me know what you think

Looking in My Own Backyard — Museums Hold Many Treasures

Enjoying the Summer as you hunt for antiques and treasures?

I was looking around in my own backyard for groups of people who would associate with the theme of the Southwest. I know it’s a wide-open subject. Among those that enjoy living in the High Desert, and often tell me about there favorite places to eat, visit, and buy, I realized they are also my prospects for my new digital magazine — VintageWest.

Collectibles are fun to find

Hunting through a grand assortment of goodies

Topping the list are those who love rummaging through the tight aisles of an antique store on the fringes of the Mojave River. Out in Oro Grande are  several new antique and collectibles shops, not to mention the many shops scattered throughout the Victor Valley. They’re eclectic, full of treasures, and reasonable in pricing. Times can be very tough for these newer entrepreneurs so if you love the hunt, then by all means take a drive to your favorite vintage place — most have air conditioning, too.

Mind Your Ps and Qs Antiques

Packed with colorful items in themed rooms

Then I thought about the folks who return to a place they enjoy. Families that come here to camp or even better, families who want to search out the Southwest history that lured them here so many times before.

If you now live in the High Desert, you may be one of those who came to visit only to decide that this was Your Country. Something led you here and you just didn’t want to return. These aren’t gold seekers in the same sense as the early pioneers who broke desolate ground to survive the desert’s heat and cold. These people would be better described as Southwest Seekers. “Southwest” being the definitive clue word. Whatever it is that draws people to the region is the same that drew families to Alaska, except the weather.

A jail worth peering into

An old weathered building once held outlaws

Once here, claiming the desert as their “forever home,” it wasn’t long before they, too, wanted others to know about this desert region. They became teachers, historians, authors, and even museum members, and docents. Their history is now a commodity to share and develop. In doing that, a small network of curators, their docents, and a growing number of members, took on the task of keeping the Southwest alive.

Whenever I venture into a new town, I always look for the local museum. I gain my bearings, learn about its history, and meet a few families that are still here —  third and fourth generations.

Now, in my own backyard, are the small museums, the ones that display family histories, they survive on generous donations from other families just learning about their new surroundings. They find adventure in reading about the trails that brought them, and the previous generations, to this land. They crave the stories of the early days, the tools that shaped this land, and the rich, full history that they can see and touch in museums and through historical societies.

A desert shack was once a home for settlers

An old home that beckons

If you are a Southwest Seeker, then you have set before you an array of little history nuggets: Victor Valley Museum in Apple Valley, Route 66 Museum in Victorville and Barstow, Apple Valley Legacy Museum focusing on the Roy Rogers & Dale Evans influence in the Historic Apple Valley Inn complex, Mohahve Historical Society, Lucerne Valley Outdoor Museum, Mojave River Valley Museum in Barstow, and Railroad Museum at Harvey House in Barstow. These are just a few.

There’s plenty more.

Apple Vally's Legacy Museum

A Legacy Museum devoted to the days of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans

Farther out are the clusters of Searles Valley Historical Society’s historical homes, and museums in Trona, the northern tip of the Mojave. South of the Victor Valley is Johnson Valley and Yucca Valley with its Nature Museum. At the extreme end of the Mojave are the tribal lands of the Chemehuevi, Serrano, and Southern Paiute gathered in one point of interest at Malki Museum, just east of Banning on the Morongo Indian Reservation.

This list by no means names the only museums, but the ones where new families coming to the High Desert can search out and find their own treasures, their own pieces of history and interests as they define their own backyards.

Rusty

How A Poem Comes to Life

Anybody Can Write a Poem

The trick is coming up with a good poem that will dive into your reader’s heart, or cause your reader to stop and think, or become mesmerized by the picture you created in their heads.

It’s not easy, and it’s not rocket science either.

Owls

Owls in Love

I write poetry that is either in free-verse or rhyming. I prefer free-verse poems because of its loose construction. No rhyming lines needed. However nearly every grade school student in the USA is introduced to poetry through the simple Japanese form of Haiku. The simplest style being three lines with 5-7-5 syllable count in each line. (There are many other formats than that.)

If I ask you now

Will my heart dance on air

Or die a long death

I just created this. I thought about a universal theme of love and of fear. Will he ask her to marry him or face the rejection and the consequences that follow. Writing poetry can be very freeing if you don’t worry so much about the structure or even word counts.

Remember a trail

Your Mountain Climb

Think of an idea that swirls around in your head. Like when you stand at a prominent point at the end of the trail. A mountain has drawn you up to its peak. Now you are there. How do you feel? What do you see? Do you see something other than what you expected? Was it worth it? Do you want to stay or leave immediately? What made you climb the trail in the first place?

Now You Create a Poem

Now take those thoughts and write them down. Put them in chronological order or mix them with the level of emotion you felt. Find some strong emotional words with good visual meaning. Try to use the natural senses as motivation to help others understand how you feel: see, smell, touch, taste, hear. Use them all if you can. Make it a free-verse. Have fun with it.

So I thought about my first time I climbed to the cliff top trail of Bright Angel in Grand Canyon. I struggled with the idea of even going. You’ll see how I tried to talk myself out of it. I made plenty of excuses in my head. Everyone has a photo of that point. Millions have been there. Why bother? For me, the weather was growing stormy. I really should have gone back to the car but my sister and I were on the last days of vacation. We just had to go see — take a chance — it might be worth it.

I struggled to get here.

The parking lot was full.

I heaved thin air, lungs, ached.

I should never have come.

Then I forgot my camera.

Those batteries are so expensive.

 

My last step was magic.

No one will believe I came here.

Clouds billowed like sails below me.

How will I prove it?

Red cliffs rose like layered-cake bluffs.

I can even taste the fresh air.

I cried like an eagle then soared.

I’ll remember. It’s carved in stone.

I just created this poem (really) and it was a wonderful jump back to 1976. What I didn’t say was the lightning that struck across the point while my sister was holding me steady against the wind so I could get a photo with her camera. I captured the lightning in my photo! We were giddy, hoping the shot would actually show the lightning! We had to wait until the film was processed to find out how awesome it was! I caught it; I have proof!

Here’s a rhymed poem that doesn’t fit the typical pattern, but I have grounded it with the heavier words like sound and ground, birds and world, and place and face. The other rhymed words that you hear are not as strong or easily matched, but it does give the reader the sense of a rhythm because of the meter of the lines — the flow of the words working together to create the feelings and a complete idea.

FOR ELDORA

I find it difficult to speak …

but if the feelings in my heart

could somehow utter sound,

the words would tumble out

and scatter on the ground.

 

Then gently I would gather them …

protect them from the day,

like confused and wounded birds

find a special hide-away —

a shelter from the world.

 

Not hidden in a quiet cove …

Not a leafy place above.

My words have found a place,

in knowing they’ll be loved,

in the smile upon your face.

 

~~ B.A. Rusty LaGrange

~~  Rusty

Escapee Takes Cover at the Ranch

It was a dark and stormy morning… No, Really! And my dogs howled and barked and carried on so loudly that at 5:15 it seemed like the end of the world would happen any second. Something prowled outside the fence, and it was frightening my dogs. I wandered to the dark kitchen, watching the rain beat against the window. It couldn’t be coyotes. Even they didn’t like hunting in the rain at 5 a.m.

Not a Bunny-In-The-Yard Bark

As I got a better idea what was happening, the dogs continued their constant barking. This was not their typical “bunny-in-the-yard” bark. They sounded scared and defensive. I peered through the kitchen window and a large, white body glistened in the half hazy dawn. I stared at it for a long moment until my eyes focused on two beady eyes.

I even backed away. Then a huge pink snout poked through the cat door in the wall next to me. That was a clincher — I realized an escapee had come to The Rusty Bucket Ranch. It wasn’t my hog, so I called my next door neighbor, apologized for calling so early, and asked if they knew anyone raising a hog. Yes! His son down the road was fattening up a white Duroc. Aha! Mystery solved.

How Do You Get a Hog to Follow You?

First, you get dressed warmly because the early morning rain was nearly sleet and driving hard from the north. I bundled up, grabbed a few handfuls of dog cereal and tossed them into a metal bowl. Any pig worth his weight would come running to a promise of food in a rattle-rattle bowl. I was right. On the first rattle, the 100 pound hog was at my front door snuffling and waiting for food.

He seemed nice enough. He followed me out across the yard and back to the empty horse corrals. I knew these old pens would come in handy again. “Piggy” followed me like dog. By the time I reached the corral gate, the owner and his daughter arrived with their own rattle-rattle bowl. I told them the hog would be safe until daylight. They promised to be back soon. They also promised a BBQ pork sandwich when the time came.

BBQ on the Hoof

Once the storm dissipated, they returned in their pickup truck to escort the escapee back to his own pen. “Miss Pinky” followed faithfully the promise of food, and I watched from my window as a little girl, bundled up and sitting on the tailgate, rattled her bowl all the way home. Not quite the nursery rhyme… but you get the idea.

I perked some coffee and sat in the recliner letting the steam warm up my still chilly nose. The storm continued as the sun rose higher but, it came to me that so many strays arrive at the ranch … and I’m warmly encouraged and greatly entertained to know I have “the beacon” flashing above my roof.

Science Lab: What’s In Your Ranch Refrigerator?

Early years on the ranch were full of open-eyed excitement for my young daughter. She wanted to know how everything worked: from cocoons to wasps, bat to lizards. Everything was a potential science lab experiment.

I must admit my own mom was never very good around icky things. Squeamish was the word for it. She avoided dead stuff and called on me to rescue her from a bug, a spider, or the very large Sphinx moth that often looked like a bat rather than a gentle moth. I loved investigating the insides of stuff, mostly bugs. Squeamish was not in my vocabulary.

So when my daughter showed my same interests in nature’s surprises, well, I couldn’t help but beam from ear-to-ear. Once that door was open, all sorts of icky stuff arrived in my refrigerator and freezer. Science Lab was open.

If the cat’s killed a scorpion, and it was huge and hairy, then it went into the freezer. If a bird miscalculated our front window for a portal through the house, she was lovingly placed in the freezer as a volunteer cadaver. Lizards, among field mice, were often brought in by the ranch cats. Their offering was our next lab experiment.

One time, the cat’s brought in a barely living pregnant lizard. She grabbed it up and showed me that it only had minutes to live. It was true. Poor Mrs. Lizard was on her deathbed. Her fat stomach was bulging. My daughter hoped little lizards might come out if we did surgery.

At age four, with the help of my “Exact-o“ knife and my able assistant at my elbow, we dissected it and found three large yellow egg sacs that would have grown into three sleek lizards. We were sad to find out that they were too immature to be recognizable as lizards. But it was interesting all the same. As long as she was wide open, the lizard that is, we found her heart, some purple and green organs, her spine and how the tail connected. In all, it was a great surgery.

My daughter, later on, had learned that skinning a snake is gruesomely cool. She asked if I could show her how it’s done. We have plenty of rattlers in the desert yet we shy away from them as most sane folks do. However, if you’re gonna skin one you need to find one. I must add that messing around with a rattler is something that takes skill and steady nerves. Don’t do this at home without someone to help you and who knows what he’s doing. I say “he” because most ladies don’t want to be in the same county with one. (In fact, I will not explain how to do this on the internet because of the safety factors involved. I don’t want you to get bitten.) Most desert dwellers won’t touch a snake. I don’t touch live ones, just the dead ones.

Sometimes we’ll kill a rattler that is in a dangerous place for our dogs. We don’t kill all rattlers, just the ones that are too stubborn to stay away from the ranch. Needless to say, we did have rattlers in the freezer with their skins, holding off until we had time to thaw and skin them. And, yes, they are edible but there are many other websites that can tell you how to whip up a Snake Fricassee much better than I can. Besides, it just tastes like tough chicken.

The bottom line here is that you can have a science lab in your freezer, too. You just need to capture different bugs, reptiles, and small critters that are easy to handle. Let nature take its course while providing you and your “students” a variety of dead stuff to prod and poke. Maybe your child will aspire to be a scientist, a lab technician, a doctor, or even a serial killer (It’s that how they all start? <grin>) … but we won’t go there.

Gaining Southwest Audiences

I’ve always suspected that for every person who shows interest in the High Desert of Southern California, there are at least 100+ more who are secretly wondering, maybe reading, or even visiting it. Those visitors, Southwest enthusiasts, are newcomers arriving daily as vacationers, relatives of local residents, and even transplants from the urban regions.

The last frames of a mine at Doble near Big BEar

The last frames of a mine at Doble near Big BEar

Whatever you call yourself, be content in the fact that you’ve found a place to learn more about what this desert holds for all of us. I won’t be a cheerleader for everything High Desert, but I will share the gems of what makes this particular region so inviting to so many.

Did you know that the area is a history magnet for German and Japanese vacationers? Their cultures were void of any “cowboy heritage”, stories of outlaw shootouts in the dusty streets never happened, and not one Stetson-styled hat was created for fending off the blazing sun. Their early cultures exist from European warlords, Kings and royal families, and castles surrounded by acres of poor subsistence farming. Actually, the only continent close to sharing our Old West history would be Australia with its large land tracts, penal colonies in a vast desert countryside, and the eventual growth of large ranches — known as stations — of cattle, sheep, and horses.

Closer to home, I find that the culture of film making, Wild West storytelling, and the abundance of rural landscapes were “the perfect storm” to romanticize the culture of the Southwest. It remains the staple of many late night movie watchers who can now enjoy old movies from the comfort of their bedrooms –whether in Berlin, Tokyo or Perth. Movies have brought us closer together.

Since this blog is covering my continuing journey to produce a digital magazine worthy of the readers who love the spirit of the Southwest, I can only do what comes naturally and share my knowledge and extensive background steeped in its rich history.

I plan to cover selected topics each issue that will encourage the Southwest enthusiast in all of us. Admit it, you wore a straw cowboy hat at least once when you were little.

I knew it.

 

Rusty LaGrange