The Wedge of the San Rafael

The Wedge of the San Rafael
Someone has to live here, in the middle of desert beauty. Might as well be the Kellys.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Boo, the thief

Housekeeping First

First, many thank yous to Marilyn Bown, her husband Gordon, and their lovely daughters and one daughter-in-law, who helped arrange a wonderful book club meeting last week in Salt Lake City. Some 30 bookclubbers (two clubs and part of a quilting book) showed up with their copies of Borrowed Light and Enduring Light. We chatted about the books. I shared some stories about how and why I wrote it, and talked about My Loving Vigil Keeping, which appears to be out already on Amazon. A quilter, Marilyn gave me two lovely pillow cases - with pillows, too - featuring that double wedding ring quilt pattern that Iris was making for Julia. I was stunned.  Thank you all.

Yesterday I had an enjoyable lunch/interview with Cathy Free of the Deseret News, who writes a column called Free Lunch. She wanted to know about my research for My Loving Vigil Keeping, so I brought along the 1900 Winter Quarters census, and a bunch of photos and anecdotes about mining in general and the mine disaster in particular. Let me put in a plug for the Gourmandie French Bakery, a delightful eatery in downtown Salt Lake City, where we had the interview. The food was good, and there were cases of Napoleons, eclairs, and other wickedness. The interview will be out in about three weeks.

And a book launch - apparently a booksigning on steroids - is scheduled for August 11 in South Jordan at the Seagull Bookstore in the South District  from 3-6. The other two authors are bringing along chocolates, and other extravagances. I opted for grapes and maybe those little grape tomatoes which are as good as candy. And there will be drawings for books.

Boo, the Thief

Now to the topic at hand - Boo, our thieving cat. Daughter Liz moved back a couple years ago to regroup, and brought along Flower Jane, a feline refugee from the mean streets of Midland, Texas.  Also in Liz's entourage was Mr. Pants, whose claim to fame is not brains, but a luxurious tail. Last fall, we added to the traveling circus by acquiring Boo, a mostly Siamese named thus because he arrrived around Halloween, and because he's skittish.

He's more than skittish. To quote a line from some stage play: "He would make coffee nervous." From his earliest kitten days, Boo liked to squirrel things away. Liz had a little stuffed Kermit the Frog. Had is the operative word, because Kermit was last sighted being dragged away to points unknown by a kitten not much larger than he was. Rest In Peace, Kermit, wherever you are.

We have our suspicions. Our basement is sort of finished but not quite. The room where Liz sleeps we have charitably dubbed a bedroom, but there is a need for better sheetrock, paint, a carpet, and clever ceiling work to disguise the ductwork. It'll be remodeled next year probably, after we recover from the kitchen remodel that starts any day now. Or never. You know how contractors are.

Boo has a hidey hole in the intricacy of the ductwork, where there is a little shelf. When the doorbell rings, he usually growls (or mutters) and hightails it downstairs to the hidey hole. I suspect that is where he stashes things.

I recently bought a "Draig" (dragon) necklace, to channel my inner Welsh. It seems like a nice thing to wear when I am feeling in need of a dragon, and I have the DNA and the bona fides to wear it. It came in a nice little red satin bag with a drawstring. I set it in a brass bowl on my desk where I keep paperclips. (See accompanying photo) The dragon was inside the little bag, and all was right with the world, until Boo jumped on my desk, took the bag in his mouth and started downstairs with it.

I stopped him immediately, and replaced it in the brass bowl. A few minutes later, Boo did the same thing. I wasn't paying attention until he was down the basement stairs. Fearing that my dragon was about to end up wherever Kermit was, I took off after him. He dropped the red bag by the bedroom where his hidey hole is, and I put the dragon away this time, since Boo was decidedly singleminded about the matter.

Maybe I should put a GPS device in the red bag with the dragon and let Boo have his way. I'm willing to wager that the dragon will end up next to the long-lost Kermit, and probably Jimmy Hoffa and Amelia Earheart, too.

Friday, July 20, 2012

Wanted: Readers

First, some housekeeping: Marilyn Bown, two ward book clubs, a quilters club and a single ward have invited me to their book club meeting in West Jordan on Thursday, July 26. Should be fun. I promise to behave. On August 9, from 6-8 p.m., I'll be schmoozing at the LDS Booksellers Convention somewhere in Salt Lake City. On August 11 from 3-6 p.m., I'll be participating in a book launch at a South Jordan Seagull Bookstore. I like Seagull booksignings. On Wednesday, August 15, from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., I'll be at the BYU Bookstore signing My Loving Vigil Keeping, and whatever else the company puts on the table. And then I'll crawl back in my writer's hole for a while and- ahem - write.

Second, a disclaimer. There's someone out there named Carla Kelly who has written at least one vegan cookbook. It's not moi. I once went vegan for about 20 minutes, and that was enough. I looked on Amazon, and that Carla Kelly's cookbook is nestled 'mongst my books, or vice versa, depending on which Carla Kelly I am.

Third, my interesting friends and their way-out books. We're friends with Barbara and Gene Strate. Barbara is a marvelous little lady who does reiki, and tells way better stories than I can. Her husband, Gene, is the Carbon County Attorney. If you say, "Gene, who?" that's the right answer, because people with an up close and personal acquaintance with Gene have usually been, uh, prosecuted. It's hard to imagine a more kind, gentlemanly fellow than Gene, so he doesn't fit the blood-in-the-water stereotype of a prosecuting attorney.

Gene's a voracious reader, and also a lender of interesting tomes. I just finished his loan of Tales of a Rat-Catching Man, by David Brian Plummer, a Welshmen with the hobby of, eww gross, rat-catching. It's a classic of the genre and the first of many books Plummer wrote about dogs. I returned the favor by sending him The Tiger:  True Story of Vengeance and Survival, by John Vaillant. Published last year, the book tells the tale of a man-eater in that lawless, neglected area of Russia that sits close to China. That book scared the brown spots off my hands.

Gene and I will probably start to challenge each other on who can produce the more off-the-wall read. I'll save my master stroke for a strategic moment, and spring The Ascent of Rum Doodle, by W.E. Brown, on him someday. Written in 1956, this mountain climbing parody is achingly funny, and worth every penny of whatever you have to pay. My older son loaned me his copy. Jeremy and I keep each other in good books.

I don't think Jeremy will be able to "best" me this Christmas, when we do our biggest gotcha books. I finally found him a reasonably affordable copy of The Album of Gunfighters, by J. Marvin and others. Published originally in 1951, this beyond-cool book shows page after gory page of gun fighters - their lives, their deaths, etc. For whatever reason, after a bad guy bit the dust, the townsfolk would line him out on the sidewalk and call in the photographer. Maybe it was as a cautionary tale.  Some of those bad-a**es were drilled right between the eyes, a testimony to someone's sharpshooting. Then there are the photos of hangings. Boy howdy, what a mess. One of the gents lost his head...

It's hard to imagine a more unpolitically correct book. I love it. Wish I had a copy of my own. I ordered it now, because I want to look through The Album of Gunfighters before I have to give it up for Christmas.

My very kind husband got me a great reference work yesterday from Deseret Industries for $50 , T. C. Romney's The Mormon Colonies in Mexico. As it turns out, it was the one book I have been needing to round out my research for my next novel. Thank you, Martin!

For fun and games, I've been reading Steven Havill lately, who writes about a crusty ol' undersheriff in a fictitious New Mexico county. Good stuff.

Yep, we love to read in our house. One thing makes me really sad: People who can read, but choose not to. I can't imagine that much poverty.

Friday, July 6, 2012


This is a cautionary tale, a warning for you not to be as stupid as I was. Once upon a time, Carla and Martin drove north to Montana to visit their son, who lives on the border...

Since Jeremy drives a pickup and my Subaru Forester was more comfortable, we went into Alberta, visiting Waterton Park one day, and then Crowsnest Pass (western Alberta) another. Fascinating place, with a great museum telling about the disaster at Frank, where in 1903, the face of a mountain slid down and buried part of a little town in the valley. Quite a story.

The next day, we decided to go to Head Smashed In Buffalo Jump. This pishkun (buffao jump) shows evidence of use for 5,000 years. It's a UNESCO world heritage site, and another great place to visit.

We're lucky we got to see it, because yours truly was stopped by a roadblock on the Kainai Blackfoot Reserve just north of Cardston. A simple matter, really. We were stopped, along with everyone else, and asked to show proof of insurance. My son, Jeremy, says that's a common procedure on reservations on both sides of the border, done in an effort to stop people from driving "rez rockets," cars with no insurance or current license.

No sweat. My son was driving my car and I was sitting shotgun. I opened my glove compartment and pulled out  my proof of insurance card. Uh, one problem: I didn't have my current one in my car. Doh!  I hunted deeper and deeper through the layers of other insurance cards, expired now, eventually getting down to the one on a clay tablet, but could I find the current one? Nope. Zip. Nada.

"Pull over here," the policeman said. He was a big, hulking member of the tribe (Blackfoot tend to be impressive). We discussed the matter. He wasn't about to let me go on, and he was completely right. Using my smart phone, I called my insurance agency in Price, Utah, and they said they could e-mail me proof of insurance. We waited and waited, and nothing came through on my phone. The cop came back several times, and all I could do was shake my head. And wait some more. Nothing. Finally, I called the agency back and gave the cop the phone, but what could he do? All he heard was someone on the other end of the line, assuring him I had insurance. My son took the phone and told them to fax the paper to his office, on the other side of the border.

So there we were. It was probably obvious to the policeman that I did have insurance, but no actual proof. Jeremy told me later that he certainly could have given me a fine, but probably not sent us packing back across the border. Jeremy's a Border Patrol agent and he knows the US rules, but he wasn't entirely sure about the Blackfoot Confederacy rules.

We were there at least a half hour, maybe more. I'm feeling completely stupid, and rightly so. Finally, the policeman came back and told me, "I'll let you go on. You might be stopped at another roadblock farther on. If you are, this conversation you and I are having never took place. Right?"

"Right," I assured him. "I've already forgotten it." He waved us on our merry way, and we did get to see the Head Smashed In pishkun. No more roadblocks.

When we finally returned to the American side, Jeremy got the fax from his office and I put that in my glove compartment. The e-mail never came through to the Canadian side, even though I could access it on the U.S. side when we returned. I dunno. Maybe my smart phone wasn't so smart. More likely, I just didn't know what to do.

So I owe a real thanks to that nice cop on the Kainai Reserve, who could have given me a ticket, but didn't. He taught me a valuable lesson. Wish I could send him a batch of chocolate chip cookies. I've spent a nice historian's career in recent years (when I worked at Fort Union Trading Post NHS) studying the Blackfeet Nation. They were among the fiercest of tribes that Lewis and Clark encountered, and spent a lot of years giving fits to moutain men and fur traders, and rightly so. It was their land, after all.  All I found was kindness. 

Thanks, Mr. Kainai Policeman. Just so you know, sir, I have a new insurance card and it's right where it should be, in my glove compartment. I'v tossed out all the expired ones, incuding the one on a clay tablet, which I'll probably give to the British Museum...