On the Smith River with a Spotter scared . . . spitless

This is a story about rafting a river with a Spotter who is scared spitless.

Wait, I misspelled that last word.

The spotter is supposed to look out for rocks and snags in the river, telling the rower to move around the hazards.

So the Spotter and Rower started out fine the first day on the Smith River in Montana. The flows were high but not so high to cancel the trip as we did a year ago. After four years of trying to get a permit, one of our six applicants (all put in for same date, whoever wins takes us all), finally got one. Last year we tried to go on a permit that had been canceled by someone who backed out, as we did when the floods came.

Our leader
Our leader

On our first day at Camp Baker, the put-in spot, we got the briefing from Laura our Leader. Face the danger. Back away from it. Go sideways down the river. Follow the bubbles that indicate current.

A rough landing at our first camp, Lower Scotty Allen campsite, after 12 miles and three hours rowing, but we didn’t overshoot it and go downstream. Fresh vegetables that night for dinner. Weather chilly but clear; the expected rain never showed up.

Next morning: snow. On the 8th of June. So we waited it out, got things mostly dry, packed up and pushed off into something called the “Rock Garden.”

There were rocks – so many that the Spotter went panicky. “There’s a rock. Go back. Back. Back, back, back. BACK, I say!”

So we backed into the bank behind us, spun around, got oars tangled in brush, hit rocks any way. More rocks, more backing. Trying to row forward to avoid hitting the back bank. Final indignity was getting hung up on a rock, trying to get off it before current toppled us. Finally pulled an oar from the oarlock and pushed us off the rock protruding in the middle of our raft. We went to the garden alone while the waves were still on the rocks until we came spinning around a corner and there was Laura, standing hands crossed across her chest before grabbing our bow line.

“I’m scared to death watching you two. I thought I was going to have a heart attack. What are you doing?”

The briefing at Camp Baker now delivered as a lecture:

“Face the danger. Back away from it. Turn the boat and row backwards. Trying to row forward gets you little. You’re working too hard at rowing. Let the river do the work. Stay in the center of the river, not bouncing off the sides. Miss rocks by 20 inches, not 20 feet. I don’t want to see my friends die.”

Which was never my intention, although the Spotter may have had some doubts.

We got back in our boats, a bit chagrined. But we had listened and tried to do better on spotting, rowing and communicating, which we did. Miss the rocks, do better on two-oared turns to face the danger. Watch my back side so that I don’t plow into something worst that what we were trying to avoid up front. No yelling at each other either out of fear or anger. Miss the rocks by 20 inches and settle in for the nice parts of the ride.

That did not include hail while on the river that day before we landed (better but not perfect) at Lower Sunset Cliffs 14 miles downstream and three and a half hours rowing.

Then the weather got better, and we got better at controlling the raft and could turn our attention to . . .

The birds we saw: the Great Horned Owl (staring from a cave on the side of the river – the best sighting of the trip), red hawk, dippers, yellowtails, tanagers, Canada geese (plenty of them), mergansers, catbirds, crows, magpie, red-winged blackbirds, meadowlarks, Swainson thrush, chickadees, Sand hill crane, bluebirds, eagles, mallard ducks and, heard but not seen, wild turkeys.

The animals: Deer, beaver, one quick sighting of a bear by one member.

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The great campsites Laura had picked out: From Lower Scotty Allen to Lower Sunset Cliffs to Upper Parker Flats to Ridgetop. With all the accommodations of home (see above).

Sock drier
Chris’ sock dryer

To great food: The fresh vegetables the first night (always a treat on a camping trip in the wilds), the Spotter’s Everything but the Kitchen Sink Turkey Dish, Chris’ pasta with fresh asparagus and the smorgasbord the last night of ham, Madras lentils and leftover pasta (Indian spaghetti).

To an interesting incident on the last day that would have sent our Spotter crazy if it had happened to us (me, too) but seemed to be taken in stride by the party experiencing it: We spent our last night at Ridgetop, which was more crowded than our other camps. We got there early after two hours of rowing to cover eight miles on the river. Things went along peacefully until late afternoon when other campers showed up for the sites nearby us. It was the only campsite where we could even see other campers. In the middle of cooking our dinner, I started to hear music playing – not out here, please. As Chris said, “There goes the neighborhood.” He was down at the river and realized “Free Falling” by Tom Petty was coming from an orange raft floating down the middle of the river – and there was no one in the raft, Tom Petty or otherwise.

Then people came racing along the bank and just before the curve downstream, a man jumped in the river and tried to swim for the raft. Cold river, strong current and a runaway raft with the campers’ gear heading rapidly downstream. Not a good combination. The swimmer almost got a hold of the raft before it rounded the bend, went into the strong current on the far side of the turn (following the bubbles) and went sailing away. Fortunately, the swimmer made it to the other side of the river and climbed out.

A raft was rowed across the river to pick up the swimmer who would have to figure out how to get through the night with no gear. Another raft went by and asked what was going on. A loose raft. “The beer boat?” he asked. Yep. “That happens a lot.”

Amazed by the others in the party who didn’t seem too upset by all this. “Never leave your boat untied,” said Laura, another good piece of advice.

We found out at the take-out the next day that campers downstream heard the music, ran out to investigate and pulled the delinquent raft ashore. Thanks for the warning, Tom Petty.

We talked about the incident that night, and how terrified our Spotter would have been if that had happened to us. But through the talk, we came to the agreement that we could do this thing together again, no questions asked.

Spotter
The Spotter

Well, maybe one: Why, Ms. Terrified Spotter, did you agree to go on this trip?

“This,” she said,” is the last thing I would chose to do if I were not married to this idiot.”

Signed,

The Idiot

Camp resident

Waders

 

 

 

Why can’t you get a Runza outside of Nebraska?

Runza
Most people take pictures of their food before they eat them, but I could not wait.

First time I heard about Runza was in Ogallala, NE, when a car salesman told me to go get one while my new car was being prepared for me to continue my drive to Arkansas in 2015.

So I went there in a loaned car and had beef, cabbage and onions wrapped in homemade bread. It’s been that way since 1949 when Sally Everett started selling them from a carhop stand in Lincoln, NE.

Then her son, Don, franchised the restaurants, sold Runza across from Memorial Stadium until he moved inside and started selling them from food trucks.

Now there are 80 locations – all within the state of Nebraska. Why not expand outside the state? A question they must hear a lot. So at the Runza in McCook, NE, there is a sign that answers that question:

“Well, we don’t want to be the largest restaurant chain around. We do want to be among the best. That’s why we pour our heart and soul into every store. To maintain this level of hands-on support, proximity plays an important role in our growth strategy.”

Even if you love beef and cabbage, it’s probably not worth driving to Nebraska. But if you are passing through, stop.

Sally Everett
From a handout at the McCook, NE, Runza.

Out ahead of lightning, thunder and rising water

Ian in rain
Ian about to launch on a rainy morning. Sorry about the rain on the lense.

Buffalo River III, Third day — When sleeping in a tent, there’s nothing like a peal of thunder and a flash of lightning to get you up in the morning – especially when it is 1:30 a.m and still dark outside.

That’s what woke us up on our third day on the Buffalo River in Arkansas. The nice thing about the lightning flashes is that you can see how much it is raining. In this case it was one of those big-drop rainfalls that spent the next five hours forming puddles around and then under my tent. So far my MSR one-man tent has always kept me dry without a ground cloth underneath it. I’ve heard too many stories about wet campers from the under liner sticking out from under the tent and collecting pools that come inside. But having now experienced what can happened when water pools under your no-ground-cloth-for-me tent, I can say that a custom cut tarp goes with me the next time.

I had planned to stay snuggled in my sleeping bag and tent until the rain stopped (sometime in August?). But when Ian was outside asking, “Are you awake in there” at 6 a.m., my dry spot in the tent had dwindled to an area almost big enough for me in a fetal position – almost. Foot of the sleeping bag sopping wet. Starting to leak around my head. Time to get up.

Out in rain
Last two miles of the Buffalo River in the rain.

We bundled up wet tents, sleeping bags (for me), clothes and were on the water in rain gear by 7:30 a.m. We had planned the trip to have only a few miles left to paddle on the last day. Which worked out even better in the pouring rain.

Riley’s Dock, our take-out spot, was across the White River from where the Buffalo River empties into it. We chose this as our end spot at the suggestion of Dirst Canoe Rental, which shuttled my truck from Buffalo Point to here. It avoided a half-mile upstream paddle on the White, which could be flowing big time if the Bull Shoals Dam 10 miles up the river was open. Or, we could have paddled downstream on the White five miles or so.

Riley Dock mapBut to get to Riley’s Dock, all you had to do was turn left as you came into the White, paddle 200 yards or so upstream and then drift across the river onto the far side of Smith Island. The dock would be nestled behind a smaller island on the other side. My left turn did not work and I ended more out in the White than I wanted to be. But I remembered Jack, our canoe pod leader on the Willamette River trip in Oregon, telling us about making your kayak into an airplane wing: Angled upstream across the river and with water pushing against your kayak on one side but not on the other, you’ve created a vacuum that keeps planes up in the air and your kayak pushing upstream against the current. And it worked. Still had to paddle, but I rounded Smith Island and headed for home.

Ian made the left turn, got high enough upstream to turn right and dash across on a downstream slant, arriving at the dock just before me.

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Riley’s Dock

Great people at Riley’s Dock. Five bucks to back the truck down the boat ramp to unload kayaks, and they offered a warm, dry cabin for us to change out of wet clothing.

Tide stick
Ian’s tide water marker a yard or so off the river.

Ian had set out tidewater stakes at our campsite the night before to see how far the river might come up. No noticeable change when we got up this morning, but the folks at Riley’s Dock said the rise in the river was now in Ponca, 130 miles or so up the river.

“It will be here this afternoon,” they said.

Toad
Two toads slept under my tent the last night.

And boy did it. I dropped Ian in Springfield, MO, for his flight back to Seattle, and he messaged me later that the river had gone up 12 feet that day. With or without ground cloth, my tent would not have had a dry spot big enough for the toads that jumped out from under it this morning.

We hit it just right. We started on April 29, when the river was dropping below six feet of gage height – above that and rangers recommend only experienced paddlers on the river. It kept dropping on April 30, but then look at the line shooting up on May 1, almost to 18 feet by the end of the day. We’d have been in New Orleans by the end of the week.

Buffalo River feet gauge

 

 

 

 

A calm day with no haystacks in sight

Second day on Buffalo River, Arkansas, Part III — We were up early – around 6 a.m. – but spent a long time at breakfast, getting our gear in order, loading the boats and finally launching around 8:45. We had pored over our maps and figured out that we had paddled up Big Creek on the first day while searching for the Cold Springs schoolhouse, which we never found. The paddle upstream was a hard one, probably because Big Creek is the second largest tributary to the Buffalo River adding nine percent of the full load. Still, it was nice to figure out where we were.

Some wind today but the current kept us going whether we paddled or not. A couple of ripples that kept us on our toes but nothing like at Clabber Creek Shoal on the first day.

Elephant
Standing in front of Elephant Head. I think I am looking serious because of the huge responsibility of taking the selfie.

We used Elephant Head rock as a place we would know exactly where we were on the map. How could anyone miss a 210-foot high rock shaped like an elephant? We paddled another mile or two and stopped in front of Grayface Bluff. Ian suggested we set up the tents first, and it was a good thing we did as we retired to them as some big-drop rains fell on us.

DCIM100GOPRO
Our second camp, up high in the sand and rocks.

Once outside in the evening, Ian put his book away and watched the buzzard and occasional eagles overhead. “I can read anytime, but when can I watch buzzard playing in the thermals on a bluff over the river” We wondered if they were scouting for carrion to make a group meal or if they were drifting back and forth over the bluff for fun, which is what we agreed we’d be doing.

 

Why are there haystacks in the middle of the Buffalo River?

(Ian admits the sound in the video above is terrible, but what I am saying is we are starting a 30-mile float trip on the Buffalo River in Arkansas and the bridge behind me was underwater in the 1982 flood.)

The guidebook describes the Clabber Creek Shoal as the “wildest rapids of the lower river.”

That’s a lie.

It’s the wildest rapid on all 135 miles of the Buffalo River in Arkansas, from Ponca down to the White River. I know because after my third trip there recently, I have floated all those miles over all those rapids.

The book “Buffalo River Handbook” by Kenneth L. Smith, talks about Clabber Creek Shoal current going right, then left, don’t get swept into the right bank and don’t get swamped by the haystacks.

Haystacks? Odd thing to have in the river.

Since then I have learned that “haystack” waves are not like the riffles, wave trains and strainers and stags I had glided happily over or have avoided on previous trips on the Buffalo. Haystacks don’t move downstream as you do; they stay right there where some underwater rock – or rocks – put them.

I, in my ignorance and hubris, figured I’d have no problem. Even a 275-prop will come down if you aim your tackle low enough.

No problem avoiding the right bank. On to the haystack waves, bow first and over the top as I always once did. I got up and over one. Sloughed through another and looked into the base of a Cecil B. DeMille wave. Sometimes the prop runs over you, and the Red Sea wave wins no matter where you aim your attack.

It flicked my kayak over to the left, and I remembered two things as the kayak turned: Stay with the boat and don’t lose your paddle. Fortunately, all my belongings were well attached. Dry bags, water jugs and carabiners all held to my new shock cords. My hatch cover leaked some, but tent, sleeping bag, camp chairs and coats (a bit damp) all stayed aboard.

The only things dumped into the river were unattached: the map case, my Stanley coffee thermos and me.

I pulled myself up over the overturned boat with my paddle in hand and peeked over the hull to see my thermos headed for the goal line. Kicking for shore with two legs and one arm as down the river we went.

Ian, my partner, took his kayak to the left of the haystacks, stayed upright and then did things in the right order. First getting the map case, then the thermos and finally towing me and kayak the last few yards to shore.

DCIM100GOPRO
Mostly wet and checking my fogged binoculars. Photo by Ian Gunn

The underwater camera seems to be working fine, but looking through the binoculars (in the pocket of my life vest, which I was wearing) is like examining a one-celled animal swishing around on a fogged microscope slide.

Up until then, the trip had gone swimmingly. We launched at Dillard Ferry, upstream from Buffalo Point, and got to what we thought would be our first night’s camping spot at noon. So we decided to push on to the second night camp spot. We needed the rescued maps and Ian’s GPS to try to find it, and never did. But it’s hard to get lost when the river is pushing you downstream.

First camp
First night’s campsite.

We found a great campsite but unfortunately followed some awful campers. Fire still smoldering, cigarette butts everywhere, soap and other trash strewn around and the TP flowers nearby with their white and brown blossoms.

Rekindled the fire, dried out clothes in sun, cooked, ate, read and to bed in skivvies – although the long johns are nearby.

Also see “Clobbered at Clabber Creek

DCIM100GOPRO
Cruising by Painted Bluff. Photo by Ian Gunn.
DCIM100GOPRO
Not a haystack wave in sight. Photo by Ian Gunn.

 

Traveling in the land of long-sticked squeegee poles

Long stick

Traveling in the past couple weeks in the land of long poled squeegees where you can mop the suds off your truck windshield without standing on your tire or reaching through your opened front door. Out of the short-sticked cities like Seattle, Denver, Wichita, Omaha and Kansas City, and out into the Midwest countryside to visit Huntington, OR; Flagler, CO; Fall River, KS; Iola, KS; and Chadron, NE, in a two week drive to a float trip on the Buffalo River in northern Arkansas.

Flagler
Camping near Flagler, CO.

“Afoot and light-hearted I take to the open road,

Healthy, free, the world before me,

The long brown path before me leading wherever I choose.”

Thank you, Walt, and I’m sure you would appreciate a trip across America to look at the country and “check on the crops,” as my parents and grandparents used to say before starting out on each evening’s drive.

From driveway to driveway clocked 4,047 miles across 13 states, listened to all my songs from “Nada de Nada” by Braho to Paul Robeson’s version of the “Song of the Volga Boatmen.” Became a fan of Michael Smerconish on Sirius Radio and wondered how long a stick Mark Levin was sitting on. That yelp, that nasty attitude.

Farmers just poking their heads out to prepare grounds for planting. Past fields of green wheat, corn stubble and one large field of uncut soybeans, perhaps not worth the harvest expense when penciled against the crop prices undercut by tariffs.

Fall River
Sunrise at Fall River State Park, KS.

Oil wells starting in Russell, KS, which led to the question: What are they pumping into? Never anything there that looks like it could hold as much as a 55-gallon barrel. Underground?

Also went against the advice of the President and took a big risk of cancer by driving through the wind turbines near Sylvan Grove, KS. But worth it to get out of southern Wyoming. Every land has something of value, something worth looking at, but southern Wyoming from Evanston to Cheyenne may come the closest to that know-nothing description used by transportation planners and realtors: “vacant land.” All I can say for this trip is that it wasn’t snowing and Interstate 80 was open.

But enough of criticism:

“Henceforth I whimper no more, postpone no more, need nothing,

Done with indoor complaints, libraries, querulous criticisms,

Strong and content I travel the open road.”

Because of a late rain on our river trip (more in a later post), I was on the road a day early for my return trip but not early enough to reach my favorite Indian casino in Sloan, IA, the WinnaVegas Casino Resort, before dark. (How can you see America in the dark?) A large casino in a large field where patrons the last time I was there were talking about harvesting corn while a short lady threw tens from arms that barely cleared the rail around the dice table. They bet hard tens, I stayed on the pass line.

MapsWithout the planned trip to WinnaVegas, that meant I could strike out anywhere on my path back to short-sticked Seattle. Getting out the maps, I noticed that U.S. Highway 24 goes all the way across the state of Kansas.

Route 24 was a big deal in my childhood and an even bigger one later when its expansion looked like it would go through our farmland. My bumper sticker showing a highway sign of Hwy. 24 with a prohibited mark over it perplexed many in Seattle. But that battle is over and done with, and there will be no remorse, no hard feelings here.

“They pass, I also pass, any thing passes, none can be interdicted,

None but are accepted, none but shall be dear to me.”

 Compared to one-lane rural roads in Northwest Ohio, 24 could handle barreling semis, brook no stop signs and travel on to Toledo in one direction and who knew where in the other. Turns out it may be the only thing that connects Toledo, OH, with Vail, CO. Hard to imagine someone in Vail building a road to Toledo. More likely the other way around.

“Don’t ride your bikes on 24,” my folks said.

“We drove on 24 in drivers’ training class today,” we said after scaring Mr. Bard half to death as we traveled further to getting our licenses.

So from Rossville, KS, to just past Menlo, KS, where I turned north to head into Nebraska, I drove on 24, a two-lane blacktop except where planners decided to take some vacant land from some farmer and add two more rows of concrete (Oops, I forgot. No more whimpering). With Mrs. Mabel Apple in the GPS forever telling me to turn left and get on Interstate 70, it was just like Mom saying, “Don’t ride on 24.”

But I did.

“Allons! the road is before us!

It is safe—I have tried it—my own feet have tried it well—be not detain’d!”

(“Song of the Open Road,” Walt Whitman)

Route 24

New Seawolves faces, same results — a win

Lost

Lost 2
What it looks like when the lineout is lost: Ball overthrown and the Houston, in yellow, take it.

Some new names in the Seattle Seawolves professional rugby team’s starting lineup Sunday night, but the same results – another win.

This one against the Houston Sabercats, 27-14. at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, WA.

Scoring in the first half was limited to a penalty kick by Seawolves’ Brock Staller, and a try by Houston after they stole a Seattle lineout, won a scrum, scurried the ball out to the backs and Osea Kolinisan scored in the corner. Sam Windsor uncharacteristically missed the conversion kick but added a penalty later after Seattle failed to release a tackled player. The half ended 3-8 with Houston ahead.

Seattle stayed on the Houston side of the field in the first half but found every way in rugby to loose the ball, the momentum and scoring opportunities – offside penalties, lost lineouts, knock-ons, ball not thrown in straight in the lineout and giving up the ball in their own loose rucks.

A long run by Eric Duechle looked like it might overcome the scattered play as he broke through several tackles and flopped into the try zone, slamming the ball behind him. Looked like a try, but the referee called it a dribble – didn’t touch the ball down to score – and a Houston player picked up the ball and ran it out of trouble.

With six minutes gone in the second half, the Seawolves took the lead again on a maul off their own lineout when Jeremy Lenaerts touched down for five points. Staller converted for two more.

Then it looked like the kicks by Staller and Windsor would decide the game. Windsor slotted a penalty kick after Seattle was offside to lead 10-11. Minutes later, Staller put up three more points after Houston was offside – 13-11. Staller had two more penalty attempts but missed them.

After a Seattle player entered the loose ruck from the side, Windsor connected to put Houston up, 13-14.

And that was it for Houston as the Seawolves took over the last 10 minutes of the game. The forwards pushed the ball down to just short of the Houston try line before getting the ball out, spotting one well aimed pass and Sequoyah Burke-Combs got the ball down just inside the out-of-bounds pylon. Staller kicked the conversion from the corner.

Duechle made up for that dribble earlier, running beneath an up-and-under kick, gathering in a deflected catch and holding off tacklers before touching down. Staller’s kick was good for a 27-14 win.

Houston has only won one game, but for Seattle it has to feel good to win without some of their regular players. Phil Mack played for Canada Friday night against the USA national team at Starfire. J.P. Smith filled in well for him at scrum half. Kellen Gordon, Dan Trierweiler and John Hayden spelled Stephan Coetzee and Tim Metcher. Oli Kilifi, who had played Friday night for the USA Eagles, sat out until well into the second half. Ben Cima and Peter Tiberio shuffled the stand-off and fullback positions for missing Matt Turner, the usual fullback.

With four wins and two losses and 20 table points, the Seawolves are right behind the New Orleans Gold, who have only played five games to collect 21 points. Right behind Seattle is the Glendale, Colo., team with 20 table points and a 3-2-1 record.

The Seawolves are back at Starfire Stadium on March 31 against the San Diego Legion, who saw the Toronto Arrows score 24 points in the second half Sunday night to win 27-20.

Next Saturday, Seattle is at Austin, who have yet to win a game this season. The game will be on ROOTS-TV. Seawolves have a bye on the weekend of March 23-24.

Won

Won 2.jpg
When the lineout is won: Ball straight to jumper, then on to the scrum half.

Why aren’t U.S. national rugby games on TV?

The Friday night game between the United States and Canada’s national rugby teams had eight lead changes and four times during the match when the opponents were separated by one point before the U.S. Eagles ran in a last minute try to win 30-25.

It was, as a first-time rugby viewer said afterwards, a “great match.”

Which leads to this question: Right now I can go out in the TV room and watch Scotland host Wales; Italy versus England is next and the Vancouver Sevens prelims will be on later this afternoon. Six Nations coverage continues tomorrow with France at Ireland and the Major League Rugby is on with San Diego at Toronto and then Houston at Seattle’s home team, the Seawolves, at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila, another sellout.

So why wasn’t the great match between the U.S. Eagles and the Canadians on TV, cable or otherwise where I don’t have to pay premium boxing/wrestling/martial arts fees to watch? At least having it on TV would get it into the local newspaper’s TV listing to show that an international match is happening right here in River City.

Wasn’t ignored on KING-TV, who did a great article on the two Seattle Seawolves who played in last night’s game at Starfire:

https://www.king5.com/article/sports/seawolves-teammates-on-opposing-sides-of-championship-game/281-8dacf189-b5e1-4660-9638-c42af8a76b36

The Eagles have three more games over the summer in the Pacific Nation Cup before they head into the Rugby World Cup in Japan in September. Will those games be on TV?

 

Let’s stop the clock for penalty, conversion kicks in rugby

Too much kicking and not enough tackling left the United States national rugby team down 32-25 to the Uruguayan team Saturday night at Starfire Stadium in Tukwila.

Straight ahead running by the Uruguay backs had a lot to do with the South American team’s victory in the American Rugby Championship.

The U.S. Eagles kicked away possession and saw the Uruguayan back cutting through their defense. The only way the U.S. team could score was from mauls from their own lineouts with Joe Taufete’e, the hooker, scoring three tries.

Uruguay led 19-13 at half, put up another try early in the second half (24-13) before Taufete’s scored his third try (24-18).

One more try by the Uruguayan backs before the U.S. got untangled enough to run in a try (29-25). With a minute to go, Uruguay chose to take a penalty kick and frittered away the minute so that when the ball flew through the uprights the game was over, 32-25.

It might as well have been like taking a knee in slow football: The Uruguayan kicker got a drink of water from the trainer, lined up the ball, hesitated, hesitated and finally kicked it as the clock ran out.

My suggestion: Stop the clock for penalty kicks and conversions. The kickers take too long and burn up too many minutes.

Stop the clock when a try is scored and restart it after the conversion kick is taken.

Same with a penalty: When the team decides to kick for goal, stop the clock and restart it when the play resumes.

Why let the dawdling kicker run down minutes off the clock while he is waiting for the tee to be brought in, adjusting the ball on a tee as big as a traffic cone, scraping his feet on the turf, backing up, taking three steps to the side, grimacing or doing other facial contortions and finally approaching and putting foot to ball.

Let’s spend that time running, scrummaging, tackling, scoring tries and playing rugby.

More international rugby at Starfire Friday night at 7 when the U.S. Eagles take on the Canadian national team.

Conversations on a train to Chicago

CutbankI’m headed back home for two days of hunting and fixing my mother’s cars. I’ve worked as a mechanic, but now I’m in school in clinical engineering.

Which is?

Mostly I will be fixing medical equipment, which might pay more to support my collection of several vehicles and my BMW motorcycle.

You might do some work on some of the equipment that helps me get around, something that might help with what diabetes has done to my legs.

What kind of treatment are you getting? How long you had it?

I got it from being around something very Orange.

ShelbyBet I know where that happened.

You’re probably old enough to know about Agent Orange. Saw lots of it in you know where.

You fully eligible at VA?

I am.

Had a friend that could never get to be fully eligible for MS treatment even though he ate lunch sitting on top of Agent Orange barrels.

Gotta stay positive though. You know how to count in Spanish?

How?

What do you call four gringos in quicksand?

What?

El quatro cinco.

You heard about Sven and Ole and their great fishing spot, right?

Tell me.

It was so great that Sven told Ole they should mark it. So Ole leaned over and painted a big X on the back of the boat.

You stupid, that won’t work; what if we don’t get the same boat when we come back?

Hey, we better give up our table for the next bunch of diners.

Let me tell you this though, the best ride is from Chicago to San Francisco – great views in the daylight rather than passing through the Cascades at night.

Night all.

Malta

Great day, huh? Waking up in beautiful Montana, larch trees yellow, snow on the ground.

Where you from?

Austin, but our daughter works in Seattle.

And you?

Taught Spanish in Mexico.

You won’t think there’d be much need for Spanish teachers in Mexico.

Also in Guatemala, Alaska . . .

Williston

I’m a TV camerawoman and when I was hired in 1992, I was the third woman to hold that job in my city.

Me? I wanted to be a forester since I was five years old. We were bombed out in our German city, and I went to live with my grandparents in the country. I came to America because of a woman, and I’m still with her 50 years later.

She on the train?

No, she’s a military kid and doesn’t like to travel, but I just spent a week on a 50,000-acre ranch, hunting deer in Missouri Breaks and Bearpaw forest. I carried both a rifle and a camera and only shot with the camera. I did my forestry training in Germany and hunting was part of it there. Hunting makes me feel more connected to land, following the fauna and the flora.

You always travel by train?

Mostly. I like to see the land from the ground up – not at 50,000 feet. And you travel on trains much?

I do, said the camerawoman. I don’t like that you can’t pull over to the side of the road if something goes wrong on a plane.

Let me show you some of the photos I shot of the deer. They always stop at the top of a hill and look back at what scared them before going over the top. So I “shot” this one right at the perfect moment.

And here’s one that we followed for hours.

And this one.

And this one.

And this one.

Maybe we should give up our table,

Red Wing

Here’s my theory on questions: When you drive, you can see the road and you can ask about it. But if it weren’t for the road, you would not be driving. So if it weren’t for the universe, you would not be able to ask a question about the universe.

And where does that lead you?

To my own mysteries, which are:

Number 1: Why does God hate trailer parks?

Number 2: Why do you never see old limousines? Really, you ever see one? Where do they go?

And lastly, Number 3: What did pigeons do before there were cities?

WinonaDid you hear that Hillary Clinton said all black people look alike?

She said it was a joke.

Yeah, but she made it sound as if race doesn’t exist.

It doesn’t, according to the latest National Geographic.

You need to get better reading material.

ColumbusLike what?

I just read a book by Tucker Carlson, whom I admire.

Can’t agree with you on that. He always seems off the news, talking about things his audience of one would like to hear rather than Mueller, investigations, etc.

Hey, he’s telling the truth about the Trump administration – the good economy, the . .

He had a good economy when he came into office. And there’s more than the economy. He’s taking down the American culture, what it has come to represent over more than 200 years.

And he wants to get us into a war because he knows that the wartime presidents are more remembered and admired.

That’s baloney. All I can say is that when I go to bed each night, I say “Thank God for Donald Trump.”

He’s a crass, a racist, incompetent . .

I say thank God for Donald Trump for what he’s done, but you’re a liberal and you don’t want to talk about it. So good night.

Chicago