The Lope: June 2009

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Transitional Weekend

Time was the theme this past weekend as the Earth and Sun danced a well-rehearsed number and crossed a line on the floor that changes the name we give the season.

Time had hardly started but was soon to end for this baby starling that had fallen from a nest in the Wiley Building. It had probably been blown out by a freakish straight wind Wednesday night. I'd run across it Thursday night during Hutchinson's downtown Third Thursday event and just couldn't leave it. Sharon and Patsy helped with fast research on what exactly to do with the little critter. I fed it (worms, Gatorade dabbed onto its beak) and kept it warm all night (chemical pack wrapped in laundry). Patsy directed me to the right people at the Hutchinson Zoo to take over its care on Friday.

Friday night and Saturday morning, author Andrew Chaikin spoke at the Cosmosphere.

Chaikin is the author of several books on the space program, including A Man on the Moon, upon which Tom Hanks' Emmy-winning HBO miniseries, From the Earth to the Moon, was based. He has the rather cool title of "space journalist."

After doing a video clip of Chaikin for the Cosmosphere, I dallied awhile at the museum Saturday morning and watched rain drip off the fins of a Mercury-Redstone rocket. I feel rather lucky that I - a guy who was raised with the space program - can move among such relics so often.

I saw a clock run backward in the Fox Theatre during a showing of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.

Early Sunday morning Spring gave way to Summer. I saw the first dragon fly of the season in my garden. It eats mosquitoes - if dragon flies could read, I'd hang a "welcome" sign.

We had one of those ten-minute storms Sunday evening. Here it is after it moved on.

Two sounds of summer emerged Sunday. The time had come for the ice cream truck to make its rounds in my neighborhood. Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" has been replaced with "Happy and you know it" complete with cartoon sound effects and a "Hello" that could veer me toward a healthier diet. But not just yet - I bought an ice cream sandwich.

In the background you can hear what I was really excited about - the first sounds of cicadas in Hutchinson, Kansas.

Monday was the first full day of Summer and Spring yielded much in the manner of a delicate rain-drenched flower stepping into a hair dryer. It was just shy of 100 degrees.

Monday evening I was able to get a clip of the sound made by the cicada that most typifies those heard in these parts - Tibicen pruinosa. The little guys - and the ones that sing are all males - had emerged after two or three years growing underground, had moulted and were out singing for females. Whether they get lucky or not, they keel over in a few weeks. I'll have more on cicadas, soon - all in good time.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Summer Solstice 2009

Welcome to summer; try not to shiver too much on this unseasonable cold night in Kansas.

It wasn't Midsummer Day; it was May of 1993 when I last saw Stonehenge. Had it been taken at mid-summer sunrise, this photo would show the sun rising over the Heelstone (the lone one in the distance) framed just like this. And though the site is famed for its solstice alignments, I wouldn't want to be there amidst crowds of modern day pseudo-druids. I picture it as somewhat like a Black Friday sale crowd in robes.

The guards entertained us with accounts of other guests. One had brought an ironing board, his clothes and an iron. He believed he could plug the iron into the mystic energy and leave with crisply pressed shirts. Another had bent a coat-hanger into the shape on an ankh (Egyptian cross) in an attempt to levitate after seeing this done in a commercial for Time-Life books.

All I wanted were pictures and I got them. I was a happy camper, but I'd never carry around that much equipment these days on a vacation: three camera bodies (for different films), seven lenses and three tripods - most of my luggage was camera stuff. (above two photos by Patsy Terrell)

You know what I've realized over the years? Every sunrise is special, no matter where or when it is seen. If you want to veer away from being too sentimental about it, just think for a moment about how it'd be if we'd evolved to breath a chemical mixture that is opaque. No transparent atmosphere means no visible sunrise. This one is pre-dawn, actually, over the Boston Mountains of Arkansas earlier this month, seen from the Sky-Vu Lodge in Winslow.

The tops of those ridges are made of Pennsylvanian sandstone and shale. The valleys cut into Mississippian limestones. You can see fossils from this period, 354 to 290 million years ago, in one of our earlier posts, Winter Frog.

And just because you've been very good, here's a bonus sunrise, shot two days after the one above, in the same location.

A reporter recently asked me how I came to be in so many marvelous places. I was in the Boston Mountains because friends Carl and Kris from Kansas City include me on what has come to be called the Food Coma Caravan, a whirlwind weekend conquest of independently-owned restaurants and off-beat sites, usually with interesting lodging as a base. We even saw a black bear one night.

Access to Stonehenge? A teacher friend of mine signed off on a permit application to shoot photos for educational purposes. I was in England with two friends after we'd all got airline tickets during a fare war. My mom was supposed to go, but couldn't in the end.

What's the common factor here? Friends - they're neater than sunrises (although that bear was pretty cool).

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Happy Flag Day, 2009

Joplin, Missouri, about 1979. This was during a homecoming parade for Missouri Southern State College (now a university). The building is along a stretch of Main Street (west side) that used to be Route 66. See a nearby section of Joplin's Route 66 Main Street shot on Flag Day of 2007, here.

Monday, June 01, 2009

Where is Ace Jackalope? (episode 28)

Why did the jackalope cross the road? Because it's made of brick and really cool. Where is Ace Jackalope?

Hint: Ace wore a pin for a variation of this photo but we can't show it yet because it's a dead giveaway. But I will tell you the pin was bought at the Joliet Area Historical Museum and Route 66 Welcome Center in Illinois.