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Ever worn a pair of Sitka Sneakers? Any Alaskan sourdough can tell you from the cheechako aka green horn crowd by your footwear. Well, mostly.  The hard-core, out in the bush folks that work the coast lines, the bogs, and the fish aka slime lines use rubber boots.  Got to.  These knee high rubberized boots with reinforced steel toes, light flannel lining, and grunge moss brown color are staple footwear for natives. Sometimes the mud and dirt give them a slightly different color.  Europeans and folks in the Lower 48 refer to them as Wellingtons. Think Pomplona, Spain has a corner on the bull running?  Well, yes, they do, but Sitka and their distinctive rubber boot run raises money for charity without horns and danger. Gotta smile and luv those folks living in winter, rain, and snow eight months of the year.

Bowman wearing Sitka Sneakers on MV/Malaspina as lookout during heavy fog

Just another day with boots

Alaskan sourdough wears her sneakers most days, even to a community dance

Totem poles tell tales that are reflected in Alaskan life and seasons.  Take the one about Fog Woman. She married Raven who came to live in her in the village. Unfortunately,  the village was starving at the time so Fog Woman asked her new mate to take his slaves and find food.  Raven went out hunting but returned empty handed. Fog Woman asked him again to go and again he returned with no food. She asked a third time and he left.  This time, Fog Woman was extremely hungry. She sent a helper to draw water from the river and bring it to her.  She looked deep into the bucket and called on fish to come to her then quickly tossed the water back into a nearby stream. Salmon swam up in such numbers the entire village feasted. Raven was jealous when he returned and begged Fog Woman to show him her trick.  Some say she did show him, others say she did not.  At any rate, each year to this day, the salmon swim up river in enough numbers to keep the people fed. I know the legend is true because I saw the salmon migrating and saw a totem honoring Fog Woman and Raven at Potlatch Park near Totem Bight, Ketchikan.

Artist Terry Pyles named his salmon piece after James Yeltatzie, Haida carver of the original wood statue. The Yeltatzie Salmon on Ketchikan Creek can be found in Ketchikan, Alaska on a salmon migration stream.

Two horses breeze

Kentucky, A Land Where Horses Reign

There's something magical about a Kentucky morning. Sun yawning awake, a vibrating light, mist skimming the bluegrass, and miles of board fence. Times past, fencing always stood white, but these days it's often creosote brown.

Waiting for the pony rider

Amble down to a race track and the scene morphs into something other worldly. Shapes, shrouded and gauzy, materialize before you through an ethereal fog. Muffled, rhythmic pounding slides into your consciousness. Horses snort in cadence, breath smoking in air, canter past before vanishing down track.

In these brief moments, you are witness to the sorting out of greatness, the separating of winners, the training of athletes destined for a brief glory flash or a page in racing annals.

Washing feet and legs post workout

"...Down row, a groom slipped an exercise saddle off a tall chestnut back from workout. Horse lowered his head for the halter and the pair turned toward a wash stand. Sweat and saddle marks melted as water splashed against his copper red coat. The colt shook himself. Droplets jumped into the air, hung in a bright halo, and disappeared in the time it took to draw a breath. The sharp tapping noise of a farrier's hammer vibrated. In the distance, a dog barked.Veterinarians, eyes narrowed, moved in  medicinal smelling whispers from horse to horse. The green odor of alfalfa and horse musk floated in the air." --Excerpt from short story "The Stooper".

Stall rubdown

The wind sweeps from the Texas Panhandle north across Kansas, Nebraska, into the grand prairies of Canada, changing only in intensity and, sometimes, direction. Tallgrass, six feet high with roots digging as deep again into the earth, covered the land with an undulating richness. The Platte River, rising in the Rockies and spilling into the Missouri River, forms a dividing line for the north-south migration of animals and birds and the east-west route for bipedal pilgrims.

Now, in 2012 the buffalo herds have disappeared. The sweet grass plowed under. The Flint Hills mapped and scarred by windmills and concrete highways. Bird migrations decreasing. The Platte, reduced to a braided river kneeling before urban and rural needs. Wind, grey with grit or high and wild, blows constantly, offering insanity and companionship. (Nebraska and the Sandhill Crane migration near Kearney, 2012)

Platte River, Early Morning, Nebraska, 2012

Sandhill Cranes roosting at Audubon's Rowe Sanctuary, Nebraska, 2012

Was it Jack London's classic short story "To Build a Fire" that beckoned me more than half a century into my life to Alaska? Into the stark Denali wilderness?  Drew me to a rancid-smelling dog musher, and a howling run through blue tundra forests? And, in the wildness, to discover Japanese photographer Michio Hoshino's coffee table books chronicling his love affair with the great Arctic bears, one which embraced him in a death waltz?
(Excerpt 2011 non-fiction article, "Books, Please. Not e." N. Hartney, Alaska photos 2010)

Braided Rivers as seen from Hurricane Gulch Bridge, Alaska

Denali National Park and Preserve, Alaska

 In a land green with meadows and pure glacier melt streams, I tölt across lava flows beneath the Arctic Circle, climb into high geothermal plains and traverse the mid-Atlantic Ridge continental plates on hearty Icelandic ponies. Jaeja! A remount herd, half-wild and running free, followed across this land of ice and fire.
(Arkansas Horsemen's Round Up, August 2009, for full Iceland article and photos)

Gooafoss Waterfall (Waterfall of the Gods) formed by the cascading waters of the Skjalfandafljot River

Icelandic Ponies in meadow near volanic mountains and glacier fields,
northwestern Iceland

Hot mud spring in the Myvatn Basin, Mid-Atlantic Ridge

Once upon a saddle, deep in the Navajo Indian Reservation among hogans, red rock spires and ancient cliff dwellings, Skywalker and I traversed the desertscape. Not especially remarkable, that simple dark brown gelding climbed up mountain goat trails above the tree line and down into flash flood canyons flowing with muddy water. He stood on picket lines at night and cantered through sagebrush days. Together we walked-the-sky of northern Arizona and southern Utah. 
(See Arkansas Horsemen's Round Up, November 2007, for full Navajo Land article and photos)

Rainbow Arch in Glen Canyon National Recreation Area, Utah, 2007

Spider Rock in Canyon de Chelly
Navajo Indian Reservation, Arizona, 2007

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