Monthly Archives: February 2016

This is Miss Abigail.


On Saturday morning, Miss Abigail was happy – but hopeful – at Rezq Dogs in Dodson, Montana. By Saturday evening, she was miserable and terrified, on a five-hour-long drive from Dodson back to Bozeman – at high speed, in heavy rain and winds, and with a bald guy sitting beside her, attempting to reassure her that she was going to be okay. It wasn’t working very well – she seemed to be in Cheyne-Stokes breathing for the entire trip home. I couldn’t believe that a creature could maintain those stress levels – that respiration rate, for one thing – for that long. But we had to get her home.

Abby is between 12 and 18 months old; she was born in a kennel on the Fort Belknap reservation, with an owner who raises sled dogs for the mush market; for some reason, nobody was interested in Abby, and she almost went feral; no human interaction, and I’m not sure who was feeding her or if she was foraging.

She came to RezQ Dogs after having been found with a bullet in her right shoulder; after surgery and physical therapy, she lived with RezQ from October until yesterday. (I cannot for the life of me imagine why she wasn’t bought from the breeder; she’s purebred Siberian Husky, and absolutely gorgeous. But I can now understand why she wasn’t adopted for four months, and there are two components here; there is a very small adoption pool in Dodson, as there aren’t any sizable communities closer than Great Falls, and RezQ was being very picky about where they placed her; several applications were rejected. We were lucky! 🙂

I decided to drive up to Dodson via the six-hour route, and home via the five-hour; I did not want to get my hopes up on Abby being our dog, so I hedged my investment; I figured that we’d make the drive to “see as much of Montana as possible” and, just maybe, pick up a puppy. But from the moment she came around the corner at the kennel, my heart was captive.

We finally got her home Saturday night, and then had much to do with trying to get her settled in. I realized on Sunday morning that I’d never spent an entire day so singly devoted to a single purpose; when any of my children were born, there were many other things to do on those days that were associated with having new little blessings, but many events happened normally. I’ve done marathons and a half Ironman, but on those days we went out to eat or spent time with friends.

But Saturday, from morning prayers to nighttime review, was all about Abby.

And it’s been all about Abby since then, with the rare diversion. We are tethered by a 30 inch lead; she’s having to learn that I am her person, even though she’d much rather have Ethel be her person – Kim’s softer voice and hand and manner really appeal to her more than my whiskey-and-cigarette vocal chords and man-motions (I am not feeling any jealousy about this at all. I’m way too spiritually advanced for that). Also, Miss Abby hasn’t actually pooped since she became a Puckett, so I’m keeping her close for that eventuality. A three-day Huskypoop would not be a casual event.

She sleeps in a crate on my side of the bedroom, and currently she’s on the Learn to Earn program – we’re not actually feeding her in a bowl, but she is living on treats when she does the right thing.

Last night, we watched Sergeant York (“When you comin’ home, Alvin?”) and at the start of the movie, she was excited by watching the screen; then she became agitated. We thought it might because of the gunshots in the opening scene (although, to be fair, how much like an actual gunshot would the sound effects of a 1940’s movie be, anyway:) – but then she calmed back down and by the final battle scenes, she was asleep. She’s learning to sleep through pretty much anything – this morning, I had her in the training room with me while I was doing a 90 minute bike ride; at the start, she was excited by all of the new stuff to sniff, then seemed to be agitated by the trainer noise and motion – after a half hour, she was laying down between my bike and the wall.

She seems to be pretty adaptable and resilient – more so than I would be, in her situation. She’s going to be fine, I’m sure.

Although she seems to want to be Ethel’s dog (although, again, I’m not the least bit jealous. This doesn’t bother me at all. I won’t bring it up again. No, really! : )

This morning was a bad swim at the Bozeman Swim Center.


From 5:30 AM to 7:30, one swims the lengths – 50 meters, 100 meters per lap. From 7:30 ’till noon, one swims the widths – 20 yards, 40 yards per lap.

Now, that sounds like not that big a difference; 20 yards to (around) 55 yards. But I found out this morning that swimming 20 yards has not really been swimming 20 yards; I suspect that it’s closer to 17 or less, because of the push-off from the side. So I thought that I was getting better at swimming, but all I’ve done is get better at pushing off.

I found this out by having such a terrible swim when I was actually swimming the lengths. Now, I was swimming lengths because Ethel said that there are now open lanes in the early morning, because the high school swim team has stopped training. But we still had somebody asking to get into our lane, which mean swimming circles rather than splitting the lane.

So swimming widths isn’t getting me better, and lengths aren’t sustainable because it’s too crowded. Bozeman has the worst ratio of swimmers to swim lanes that I’ve ever seen.

So we have to move.

So I told Ethel, “I swear to God, Agnes, we may have to move.


  • Agnes

“Agnes” is one of Ethel’s five names. It is the one that gets used the least (or, at least, that was the case until the last few months). Because she’s only Agnes when “…we may have to move”.

And “Agnes” is a Bogart. A Bogart is an instance of the “Play it again, Sam” variety – because Bogart never said “Play it again, Sam”, even though everybody thinks that he said it. So a Bogart is a misquote from a movie.

In this case, the movie was “The Neighbors”, a late 80s offering with Belushi and Ackryod that we never finished. It was…pretty crude, so we stopped it well less than an hour into it. But the last thing that I can remember from the movie is Belushi turning to his wife after “the neighbors” did yet another outlandish thing, and saying “I swear to God, Agnes, we may have to move.”

Now, I don’t know that he actually said “…we may have to move”, and I’m not sure about the “Swear to God…” part either. But I do know – because I went looking – that the wife’s name was not actually AGNES – it was Enid.

But I only heard it once, thirty years ago – but I’ve said “Swear to God, Agnes” many hundreds of times. So Ethel is not Enid, but Agnes.

  • Ethel

Ethel is Ethel because of this T-shirt that we bought while on our first Western skiing trip, to Purgatory, in January of ’93, that we now keep in a shadow box on the bedroom wall:


‘Nuff said.

  • Adrian

Ethel is Adrian when we are separated, and I’m calling out to her – although, to be fair, we’re both Adrian in this context. This happened when I started running races, and we’d be looking for each other in the crowd after the race; calling out “Kim!” or “Jim!” is an activity with a low return on investment, because a lot of people will answer.

But if we called out, ala Rocky, “Adrian! Adrian!” not only would we not get false positives, but we’d also get other folks to pick it up can carry it along.

  • Kim

Ethel’s mother called her Kim. Well, not exactly – Ethel’s mother named her Kimberly. Now, every so often, Ethel decides that she’s tired of being called Ethel, so she says “My mother named me Kim”.

No, she didn’t, Ethel. She named you Kimberly. Do you want me to call you Kimberly?

  • Alvin

The Fifth Name of Ethel is Alvin.

Ethel is only Alvin when she’s away from home, and she won’t come home, and we’re talking on the phone, and I want her to come home, and I’m pleading with her to come home.

The name comes from  Sergeant York, a movie biopic of Alvin York, the Tennessee Christian conscientious objector who was the most decorated soldier of World War I. (Jimnethel give it Two Thumbs Up). He was a back-woods hillbilly who made it very, very big.

When the war was over, they didn’t let Alvin York go straight home. First, he had to go to New York City, and get decorated and feted and sit in ticker-tape parades and all sorts of big-city nonsense. He wanted to go home, but felt obligated to show up at all of these affairs.

So they finally got a telephone installed in the general store in Alvin’s home village of Pall Mall, TN, and little Mother York is led to it, and they make a long-distance phone call to New York City, to Alvin’s hotel room. And then, in one of the most pathos-filled moments of cinema, Mother York stands on tiptoe, and holding the earpiece to her ear, stretches up to get her mouth near the phone’s microphone, and she says, in her little country voice:

“Alvin? When you comin’ home, Alvin? When you comin’ home, son?”


A couple of weeks ago, we hosted the monthly Adult Pot Luck for St. James’ Episcopal at our home in Bozeman.

One of the guests brought a bottle of wine – and not only that, but it was a fancy bottle, one with a cork. Now, I’m just spitballing here, but it seems to me that, when I used to drink wine (back when Dinosaurs Roamed the Earth, or something over 11253 days ago) Mad Dog 20/20 came with a screw top. I don’t think I’ve ever had wine that came in a bottle with a cork.

And, since it’s been over 30 years since I’ve had any wine at all, we certainly didn’t have a corkscrew.

But fear not! …because I have a cordless hammer drill, and some large machine screws!


Once we got the screw in tight, then we had to wiggle it loose with a pair of channel locks.

There were only three of us who were aware of the bodacious irony of a recovered alcoholic going to this much effort to get the cork out of a bottle; we were the folks with the least possible interest in the contents, but we had to be good hosts.

It was a very pleasant evening (the *Tool Time moments notwithstanding) – lots of nice church folk and their doings*, good food, and nobody wound up under the coffee table. There was a time when an evening without somebody under the coffee table would have been a waste*, but we’re older now.

Speaking of church – Ethel has been firing off land anchors right and left, and nowhere more than at St. James. We’ve both got volunteer gigs in the liturgy; we’re both doing the readings and I’m “LEMming”*. We’ve also picked up some service gigs and some involvement in church business. This is rather strange – St. James has a very active congregation, but they welcomed us in and put us to work. We’ve been in many parishes where it was pretty much “sit there and be pew potatoes and wait your turn”. So we’re very glad to be here.

We’re also both pretty active in the fellowship(s) locally, making plenty of meetings and sponsoring folks, although Ethel seems to be getting only oldtimers, while I’ve had as many as four newbies concurrently (supposed to be) working on a Fourth Step at the same time. We’re busy and happy on that front.

Triathlon?…not so good. The tri club here is dead, and nobody is interested in reviving it. One of the reasons that Ethel wanted to move was to be more involved with other trifolk, training and such together, but here that just doesn’t happen. So that was a swing and a miss in the move to Montana. And the race season seems to be pretty limited here, as well.

And skiing? The drive is no good, but the terrain is fantastic – but it’s been spring since late January, and the snow situation is getting pretty sketchy. Because of the drive, we may choose to get our pass at Bridger next year, and buy a car-top gear box to substitute for the locker until one is available. (Next year, Bridger will have actual cell towers!.. and the year after that is when they’ve planned the big base expansion, with more lockers. So we might get lucky).

Now, Bozeman drivers are still the slowest I’ve ever seen, and the parking situation is…well, we’ll cover that under separate cover.

But the neighbors remain neighborly, and Bozeman is still the friendliest place that we’ve ever seen.

People will even go to great lengths to open your bottles.

*I never actually saw the TV show “Tool Time”, but my friend Rich used to quote it – most of the quotes were grunts.

*Extra credit for whomever can name that reference

*Actually, when that was the case, I didn’t even have a coffee table. But the statement is true in spirit.

*This refers to the role of Lay Eucharistic Minister, the guy carrying the chalice during communion, not the suicidal primates, but when you think about an alky toting around an open goblet of wine, “lemming” doesn’t seem too inappropriate….

I just looked on Ethel’s desk in her office and saw a pill bottle – an anti-fungal prescription for Lucy from the vet.

One look at Lucy shows that the anti-fungal isn’t working:


When we got Lucy from the rescue, her name was “Shadow”. We quickly found out that that was because she followed her owner everywhere, all the time. Turns out that Lucy had been abandoned once or twice, and so she had abandonment issues.

That was twelve years ago.

Now, you’d think that, by now, Lucy’s abandonment issues would have vanished – since her IQ is on the level of a diet soda, how long would she remember that she was abandoned, anyway? She doesn’t remember anything else, how could she remember that?

But if something is simple enough, then it never changes – there aren’t enough moving parts to rearrange. And Lucy’s psyche is pretty darn simple. And she still follows Ethel, everywhere, all the time.

If I ever wonder where Ethel is, I just look for Lucy. If I see Lucy by the back door, it means that Ethel went outside. If I see Lucy by the garage door, it means that Ethel went out and got in the car and drove away.

(It may have been last week that Ethel drove away, but that’s okay – Lucy doesn’t handle concepts like “passage of time”. Lucy just keeps looking at that door.)

Although sometimes using Lucy as an Ethel monitor doesn’t work – if Ethel goes to the bathroom, Lucy goes with her, and I can’t see either one of them. (You’d think that this would be crowded, especially in the little parlor room off the hall. But there’s room for Lucy between the toilet and the vanity. Even if she has to scrunch up a little). And, truth be told, if Lucy is visible, then Ethel is usually visible. Two feet seems to be Lucy’s tolerance – if Ethel moves more than two feet, then Lucy has to get up and follow her. So usually, if I can see Lucy, then I can see Ethel.

But sometimes Ethel goes into a room and closes the door, forgetting that Lucy is following her. Then I will walk down the hall and see Lucy staring at the office or bedroom or training room door, frantic – she’ll even look at me, briefly, then back at the door, then back at me, then back at the door, as if to say “Dad! Mom’s…behind that door! She left me! Dad! She’s…in there! Do something!”

(I don’t do something, BTW).

I googled images for “Argument” and this thing showed up. I don’t know what it is, but it fits:


I’ve been thinking a lot about argument lately – mainly because my Big Book tells me twice to avoid it, to not do it (and it gives further injunctions against fighting anything or anyone, and it does that in italics) but I tend to fall into it anyway.

And I’ve figured something out – a way of looking at things that has greatly helped me to keep from arguing.

And this huge piece of wisdom is this – there ain’t no sense in it.

(Okay, you can say “duh” all you want – but you keep arguing, don’t you?)

Here’s why there ain’t no sense in it – because there’s nothing to change.

I’ve about figured out, for myself – read “it seems to me” – that if two honest and logical people seriously disagree about some abstract issue, then the disagreement will boil down to differences in definitions, or in values.

I mean, think about it – if you’re honest, then you’re not leaving anything out. If you’re logical, then you’re not thinking incorrectly. Therefore, the only things to argue about are what the words themselves mean (definitions) or what is important (values).

If you’re arguing over whether Quiznos or Firehouse has the best subs, then you’re arguing about tastes and preferences, which all come back to values. When you eat a Quizons and he eats a Quiznos, you’re pointing at the same thing, but valuing it differently. (A case could be made here that that, in itself, is an argument about DEFINITIONS, since the parties are defining “best” as having different criteria. But those criteria are based on their values).

If you’re arguing about whether Nick Saban or Bear Bryant is the greatest football coach of all time*, the records are all there; the quotes are all there; what you’re really talking about is “what does greatest mean”.

And now, I’m going to throw a little spin on this – definitions could be argued, but there’s no sense in it, because there’s a dictionary, right there. But it contains multiple definitions for each word – and the one that you “pick” will be the one that’s important to you, which comes back down to “values”.

Two people can argue about “the program”  – but one of them might be reading the Big Book where it’s defined, and the other person is quoting his sponsor, or something he heard or read somewhere else. They aren’t arguing over anything other than their definitions, which are based on their values.

(You can also “pick” a definition that’s not in the dictionary. This last weekend, I got into an argument with a friend over a definition – although I kept telling him that I didn’t want to argue. But he kept saying that “truth” is whatever you think it is, and I kept saying that that’s pretty much the opposite of “truth”. But it’s important for him to believe that “truth” is a social or ideological construct, because his values are structured that way (he’s Californian. Yeah, I know))

Now, it’s possible that an argumentative discussion could result in one of the parties deciding that he has the wrong definition of terms being used – that’s happened with me, and I learned something, and said “thank you”. But once we both agreed on the definitions, the argument went away. If the parties can stop and examine their definitions, quite often they realize that they aren’t arguing about the same thing – that their words are pointing at different concepts – and there’s no sense in continuing the discussion.

That won’t happen in arguments about values. And I’m not sure what all the true origins of values are, but I am pretty sure of one thing – they are not set, nor are they changed, by argument.

So nobody can win – if the purpose of the argument is to change the other person’s mind. Now, if the purpose of the argument is to show how smart you are, then that’s a different matter (although a case could be made that the fact that you’re arguing just to show how smart you are just shows how dumb you are, but that’s another post).

When I can stop long enough to realized that there is no argument – because either we’re not talking about the same thing (definitions) or different things are important to us (values) then I just say “Okay” and move on.


*if you are arguing that somebody besides Nick or Bear is the greatest football coach of all time, then you have already left the “honest and logical” stuff out, so never mind. Get your medication adjusted and come back to it 🙂

Last night, I told Ethel that we were going to watch “Bear Bryant meets Marko Ramius”.


Okay, it wasn’t that exactly (although the dog’s name is “Bear”). It had *nothing to do with football, and not much to do with Russian submarines.

…I just finished rereading “Red Storm Rising” – it’s been thirty years since the last time I read that. And now I’ve picked up “The Hunt for Red October” – I haven’t read that book since the weekend that I shacked up with ten snowboarders in a small hotel room in West Virginia during the East Coast Blizzard in March of ’93.

So I’ve been deep into submarines lately, and last night just felt like the right time to pull this movie out. (note: it’s never a bad time to pull this movie out).

The tag line –

              On the nuclear submarine USS Alabama, one man has absolute power.

And one man will do anything to stop him.

– is fairly bogus, and way over-simplified. This is NOT a simple movie. It is not formulaic, and it is not going to go the way that you think it will.

It is true that the main plot line of the movie revolves around whether or not the Crimson Tide should fire her nuclear-warhead-tipped ballistic missiles. But the two characters are not enemies; and they are not always at odds.

What this movie seems to be, to my mind, is a litmus test. Litmus paper can tell if a solution is acidic or basic – if it turns red, the solution is acidic; blue, it’s a base. This movie is a litmus test for one’s values and attitudes. You find out what you really think by deciding (as the movie plays out) whether Denzel’s character, or Gene Hackman’s, is doing the right thing.

Circumstances change during the movie, and as they do, we keep being presented with new questions about the same thing. And having to discuss, debate, and decide, over and over again.

(It’s a good idea, if you’re watching this with somebody else, to be prepared to pause it at any time, so that you can discuss what’s going on now, and why they should or should not do this or that. Plan some padding in the time allotted for watching, and leave room at the end for spirited debate. It’s a brain burner).

It’s surprising to me to find out what I actually think; I believe myself to be an introspective sort, but I found myself saying “But wait a minute…” several times during this last watching; did I really think that? Or was I collapsing some of my preconceptions, and hadn’t thought it through?

This all reminds me of watching college football games in which I do not have an actual favorite team; I don’t know who I’m rooting for until I see which way my knees are leaning during each play. If they are leaning in the direction that the running back is going, then I’m for the team on offense – if my knees are leaning in the other direction, then I’m actually rooting for the team on defense.

It’s good to find out what my brain is doing – and often surprising to find out that I don’t know.

*   “nothing to do with football” – almost. Extra points for anyone who can point out in the comments the only football reference 🙂

On Saturday, my friend Randy and I skied the Big Couloir at Big Sky:

Big Couloir

The couloir is that dogleg on the right side of the photograph – pretty much the only skiable line down from the top 🙂

Big Sky is supposedly known for its extreme terrain, but this particular slope just wasn’t that extreme at all – even though Wikipedia says

Big Sky Resort in Montana has a run called “Big Couloir” at 50 degree pitch for over 1,000 feet of vertical is one of the most intense in-bounds trails in America”(sic).

So “one of the most intense in-bound trails” was easy for me. We skied it twice, in fact, in a row. However, the next level – Corbet’s Couloir – is impossible for me.

(Full disclosure – Randy and I came in from the side, just below the top – the top was a bit too rocky. I suspect that, were there more snow, I’d try coming in from the top, which would be more difficult. But it still wouldn’t be Corbet’s).

The title of this post does not refer to coming off a cornice into a couloir – it refers to one of the theories about how dinosaurs learned how to fly and become birds; the idea that they ran and jumped while flapping their wings (or some such). It’s basically an attempt to describe just how these critters went from walking around to flying; a big evolutionary change that just doesn’t seem to be incremental.

I have the same sort of problem with Corbet’s – there’s nothing in between for me to learn on. There’s things like Big Couloir, which are easy, and then there’s Corbet’s, which is impossible. And there’s no graduated change for me – there’s nothing more difficult than Big, but less difficult than Corbet’s, for me to make the transition.

So I’m FEEL LIKE I’m ready to give up on skiing now*, and move to the Big Island. Might as well, if I can’t ski Corbet’s. I reckon I’m stuck because I want to get *better*, and for me “get better” doesn’t mean “look smoother while skiing” or “be more efficient” or any such non-measurables; it means being able to do something that I couldn’t do before.

I suppose that I could work on bumps, of course – one can never ski the bumps too well.

*I gave up on skiing in 2005, and moved to the desert, and was miserable for many years, until we got a place in the mountains so that I could start skiing again. So I probably won’t be moving to the Big Island, especially since Ethel won’t go (She says that she will, but she won’t). I might just keep trying to find some way to graduate from the other stuff to Corbet’s – maybe start off with a jump from the top into Big, then a bigger jump, etc etc.