More Dogs on Main Street
July 7, 2007
In a remarkable display of widespread common sense, we managed to get through the 4th of July holiday without setting the place on fire. Between the images of the fires in the Uinta Basin and Tahoe areas, and lots of warnings from officials, the flow of napalm and other incendiary devices from Evanston seems to have slowed this year. Even my pyromaniac neighbor behaved. Actually, it was so hot that he spent the holiday at home in Salt Lake in front of the air conditioner, rather than at his cabin. It’s not often that you see good judgment exercised on such a large scale, and it’s kind of refreshing.
Conditions are tinder dry. Over the holiday, we drove up to Wolf Creek Pass to look at wild flowers and make the annual hike to the location of my grandparents’ old sheep camp. Their cabin was on a little meadow with a high peak behind it. There is almost always snow on the side of the mountain, sometimes so deep that it’s hard to get through some of the back roads. There was typically enough snow there that they could count on it for a steady supply of ice for refrigeration all summer. This year, there were only two little patches left. They were the remnants of some big cornices. The little kids all had to hike up to the ridge to have a July snowball fight. Some years, there is enough snow to do some July sledding, and we usually bring a couple of plastic garbage bags along for that.
It’s interesting watching the youngest generation trying to get their brains around the idea that their own grandparents had grandparents. They were trying to figure out how life would have been possible in a sheep camp, miles from nowhere. It seemed pretty rough. Then somebody realized that there were no iPods or Gameboys. Life without plumbing was one thing. Life without electronics would have been quite another.
From the pass, we could see over to the Tabiona side of the mountains, and off in the distance, the smoke from the Neola fire. The fire had created its own micro-climate, with huge thunderhead clouds built up above it, and a layer of dense smoke below. The clouds didn’t produce any rain to put the fire out, but the heat from the fire was enough to form the only cloud on the horizon. The last few afternoons, the clouds have built up more generally over the high country. We could sure use the rain. The bark beetles have killed whole stands of lodge pole pine in the Uintas, and something else has killed off a lot of the fir trees. It’s a forest loaded with deadwood waiting for a lightning strike or bottle rocket to set it off.
In casual conversation with neighbors, the topic of doing a little advance fire planning has come up. Several years ago there was a fire close enough that we got a little more organized about where to go, how to alert everybody, and how to know who was home or unaccounted for. It could be time to dig that out again.
The big holiday news was Joey Chestnut’s glorious victory in the Nathan’s Famous Franks hotdog eating contest. On Coney Island, he porked down 66 hotdogs and buns in 12 minutes. It was a moment of national pride to see the hotdog-eating trophy returned to the U.S. A Japanese man has held the record for 7 years. If there are trophies to be given for excess consumption, it seems only right that an American should be the winner.
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I think I may have set a similar record for M&Ms, though nobody was keeping score. Somebody had been to Costco and showed up with a 55-gallon drum of M&Ms. It was a daunting challenge, but inspired by Joey Chestnut’s 66 hotdog record, everybody did their best on the M&Ms. Unless the dog missed a couple under the couch, we ate every last one of them. We’re trying to arrange a tanker truck to deliver another load, or maybe filling an empty grain silo with M&Ms. We could rig up the augers that used to deliver grain into the feedlot to provide a steady flow of M&Ms into the candy jars on the kitchen counter.
The rest of the family has not fully embraced the joy of my new 1953 Farmall tractor. There is some skepticism about its aesthetic qualities, parked there in the front yard. People keep asking questions like, "Does it do anything?" and "What are you going to use it for?" Explaining that the PTO works, and that I got the hydraulic controls unfrozen doesn’t seem to do it for them. My niece’s 4-year old thinks it’s pretty cool, though, and was quite eager to come over and sit on it. It’s a little noisy for his taste, and he’s been a little reluctant to go for a ride. In fact, he runs for cover whenever I start the engine. But he loves sitting on it and making his own tractor noises while jiggling the steering wheel. If the tractor never does anything more than that, it’s really enough. That’s all it needs to do. Though I’m dying to find something to run off the PTO the more Rube Goldberg looking the better.
The Fourth of July is the heart of summer. We all celebrate in different ways, whether it is gorging on hotdogs at Coney Island, watching the parade in Park City, or getting the headlights working on the Farmall in Woodland.
Keep cool. I open every window at night and get the house chilled down by morning. There’s something kind of nice about having it down to 50 degrees, and eating breakfast half shivering in the sun. By mid-morning, I’ve got it all closed up, trapping the cold in and the heat out. The afternoons still get a little uncomfortable. What we need is a good rain.