Monday, June 15, 2015

June 11, 2015
Anchorage, Alaska

   Once again the Thomas' begin another adventure today. The Pinkerton's arrived last night from Arkansas. They have been fellow traveling companions on many of our adventures.  
We boarded an Alaska Airlines Aztec flight to Seattle on the first leg of our Alaskan Adventure. (Just FYI in case you rent a car in Anchorage!)
ALASKA - DAY 1:
Our room at the Marriott gave us a great view of the parking lot. The mountains outside of Anchorage were on the other side, though they were partially obscured by a bad case of haze. After the free breakfast at Marriott we hailed a Taxi and 
headed to the Hertz car rental office downtown Anchorage. We had already reserved our sedan for the week at a much cheaper price than if we had rented from Hertz at the airport office. In fact, in a later conversation Debby had with the airport agent, he said, "You got a very good price!" (Just FYI in case you rent a car in Anchorage!) The downtown office was supposed to open at 0800; we arrived about 0900. The agent was not there. After several phone calls and an hour of waiting around, the man finally showed up and made some lame excuse for not being there at 0800.
   A half hour later we had our car loaded and we were on the road. Our first stop was a detour to Walmart where we bought a case of water and other necessary supplies.  
   So we headed back to the car. At this point we were about two and one half hours behind schedule. Once behind the wheel, Ron decided he should have made a stop at the bathroom and got out of the car. I decided to go with him. As we walked across the parking lot, I heard Debby and Nancy laughing hysterically. I turn around to comment, "Never pass up a bathroom!" They were still laughing as they also followed us to the bathrooms.
   So about 3 hours later than we intended, we set the GPS and headed towards Denali. A half hour down the road we doubted if the GPS was right and so we turned around and went back towards Anchorage. A half hour later we realized the GPS was smarter than the 4 of us put together, so we turned back around...another half hour wasted. *Sigh.
   We decided to stop in Wasilla, home of Sarah Palin, to have lunch. Somehow, along the way we missed the turn. *Sigh.
   Towards the end of town, we spied a burger joint on the highway and pulled in hoping we picked a good place. I don't believe any of us were impressed but we made it work.
   Continuing on Highway 3 towards Highway 1, we watched the woods and meadows, even the ponds of water, expecting to see a lot of wildlife. We saw two birds...a Raven and a Sea Gull, I think. *sigh.
   We passed the town of Willow and the Talkeetna turnoff. There was a lot of road construction going on, causing us several delays all the way to Denali. Apparently, Alaska land moves and shifts enough to cause the highways to buckle.
We finally arrived at the Princess Lodge, where we would spend our second night. *Whew!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Christmas Snows


The Christmas Snows

As I look back into my life as a child on the old farm, in my minds eye, I can see bits and pieces of our way of life.  The old run-down log house with the extension on the front; the rusty looking tin roof over the kitchen. The old roof and washed out siding made the old place look....well, OLD!  

The Arkansas winters had a beauty that's hard for a kid to describe. The soft, fluffy snows were the best I can remember. I loved the way they covered the deep grass in the pasture. It's like a huge fluffy blanket was carefully laid on top of the drooping grass and resembling small, fluffy clouds!  I liked the way the snow fell from the sky on a calm, windless day. The large, fluffy snowflakes seemed to stick together with others as they slowly dropped from the sky. I loved the way the snow stacked up on the old fence posts, giving them a white top hat.  Tree branches and bushes would droop down as it snowed, bending ever lower under the growing weight of winter's snow. 

Without indoor plumbing, it was always hard to trudge through the fresh snow to the outhouse next to the barn and sit down on that cold, frosty seat!  It didn't take us long to do our duty and get back o the house!

We always had morning chores to do, no matter if it snowed, or not. The chickens, pigs and cows had to be fed and watered.  We milked the cows before sending them out to pasture, or letting them lounge around inside the dry barn. The fresh snow around the barn was welcome because it covered up all the yuck and muck produced by the cows. It made great fertilizer but still was no fun to step in!  The fresh blanket of snow covered the yucky mess and made you feel like you could walk on it!  But we KNEW better!

A few days before Christmas, and after chores and a hot breakfast, we bundled up and went out searching for the perfect Christmas Tree, oftentimes in the snow. Our sister, Mary, would usually stay indoors with Mom, fixing goodies for us to eat; baking pies, cakes, cookies, fudge and peanut brittle and all kinds of stuff!  Mary was 8 years older than me and I can't remember much interaction I had with her. 

The three of us boys, Arnold, me and Pat, bundled up in boots, warm hats, mittens and coats, headed out on the 360 acres looking for a Cedar Tree, just right to set up in one corner of the living room. We usually knew where to go because we began scouting the land for a Christmas Tree long before Thanksgiving arrived!

Arnold was the older brother; 6 years older than me, and 8 years older than Pat!  Charlie came along two years after Pat and accompanied us on tree excursions when he was 4 or 5. If the ground was snow covered,we would take turns dragging the tree back to the house. Sometimes it took two of us pulling together just to get it moving. 

We couldn't wait until Arnold cut some boards to make a cross and nail it to the bottom of the tree so it could stand upright in the corner. Mom would bring out decorations to trim the tree; colored lights, garland, foil icicles, shiny balls, an assortment of trinkets and a bright, shiny, silver star for the very top. 

Mom would pop corn to use for more garland. She would fix us up with a needle and long piece of thread to sew the popped popcorn together, making a garland that would later serve as a bird treat. We would hang it on the tree, drooping a little every few inches, as resembling heavy snows drooping Pine branches. At night, in the dark, with the colored lights on, our tree looked like something in a fairy tale book!  It was always the perfect tree!  

On Christmas morning, very early, still dark outside, we came into the living room and saw the brightly lit Christmas Tree inviting us to come closer. Presents filled the floor beneath the tree; there were always hidden presents within the branches, some hard to find....but we managed!  Leaning against one wall would be bags of Oranges and Apples. Sometimes, our Grandpa Hunter would send us a large toe sack full of English Walnuts from the farm he worked on in California. It would be leaning up against the wall, ready to sample!  

Mom and Dad slept in their bed in the other corner in the living room. We would carefully make enough noise in our mostly uncontrollable excitement to wake them up and tell them that Santa Claus had come!  (As if they didn't know). We always checked to see if Santa had found the cookies and milk we left for On the table for him. Those Christmas years that we had completely forgotten to leave cookies and milk for him were the saddest times of all. We just KNEW that we were causing Santa Claus to starve!

What was my favorite ever Christmas present??  The Red Ryder Daisy BB gun, of course!!  

...by Mike Thomas


Tuesday, July 09, 2013

PLEASANT VIEW SCHOOL

I loved Pleasant View School. 

During my first 12-1/2 years of life many fond events will forever be burned into my memories. The many adventures on our old farm in Northwest Arkansas lie far behind me, only memories remain. 

My older brother, Arnold, used to be sweet on this little gal named Betty Cagle.  I must say that she was soft as cotton and very nice.  She used to pass me love notes to take home to him. It happened a lot, but I didn't mind cause she would grab me and give me a big hug (for being the mailman I guess). 

My 5-6 grade teacher, Mrs Jenkins, was a shirt-tail cousin, although I didn't know it at the time. I'm sure she knew. I got straight "A's" in her class. I guess I was pretty smart back then.  
I was sweet on Sharon Lancaster.  although she never knew it. I was way too shy for that to become known. I also liked Patricia Moon. She was fun to be around.  She was very nice...and smart. I remember on one occasion when Karl Thorpe was chosen to be her escort at some event,  I wished that it had been me escorting her!  Sherry Maye. was nice. I liked her a lot, too. I doubt if she ever took notice of me.  I won't even mention Wilma and Judy.  I guess I just liked the girls!  It helped that our school had so many nice ones!

I remember staying all night with Clifton Medlock one time. We thought we would have an evening of free time to do as we wished. I think we were going to go fishing.  Next I knew, Clifton's dad had him working in the field!  So much for fishing!

I stayed overnight with my friend David  one time, too.  Breakfast came early at the Harrison's.  Mrs Harrison had the largest spread of food I had ever seen!  And  it wasn't even daylight yet!  I couldn't believe it!  There were a bunch of us to feed. They must have had a big family!  She made scrambled, boiled and fried eggs. There was bacon, sausage and ham. We had several large plates of home-made biscuits; 3 kinds of gravy and I can't even remember it all!  I just knew I'd never seen that much food in somebody's home, ever!

We loved playing marbles and throwing our Barlow  knives playing Mumbly Peg and Spread Out. You won't see stuff like that in school today!  It's not politically correct, proper nor safe. In fact, a kid can be expelled from school indefinitely for even having s knife at school. And I can't even talk about guns!

Reminds me of the POGO cartoon comic strip where he comes up and reports, "We has seen the enemy, and they is us!"

I never felt like I was close friends with some of the cooler guys.  Lee Powell, Dub Tilly and Don Trotter had their own little clique and I was never part of their group. But I did like them and we got along okay. 

Grade school was fun, though. We had sports to play, mostly baseball and basketball. I was never any good at the games but I liked playing. I was usually chosen last. That speaks for itself!
It was fun riding the school bus. It would always turn around at our house so we had plenty of time to run out and catch it. 

We were still a long way from school one day when fire started coming up around the gas pedal.   The driver grabbed a Goldfish bowl from one of the kids bringing some Goldfish to school, for show and tell I guess. He poured some of it around where the pedal rod goes through the floor and got it put out. We still unloaded the bus and started walking. Didn't have cell phones in those days. So we had a long walk. The Goldfish saved the day and didn't even know it!

Paul  Millsap was my best friend because he lived the closest to me there at White Rock, only about a mile away. We always played together in the summertime. Our family moved away to Kansas after I finished 8th grade and life as I knew it ceased to exist. 

I wonder what ever happened to all of them?  I hated having to move away. I will always think of those days and my Arkansas friends with fond memories and longing....and, occasionally, just to remember, the good old days. 

Mike Thomas





Wednesday, December 12, 2012

COLORADO

COLORADO

HEADING HOME! We drove away from Branson, MO early Tuesday morning and headed West. We spent the night in Colby. KS. It was 21 degrees this morning when we headed for Colorado Springs.

Flat Stanley wanted to visit the headquarters of FOCUS ON THE FAMILY. There was still snow on the ground but the temperature had warmed to 42 degrees and felt much better than the early morning chill I had while filling my gas tank in Colby, Kansas!

We took a brief self-guided tour of the Bookstore building. It is a very intriguing place for kids. The Adventures in Odyssey exhibit is awesome! This would be a great place to bring the kids. The little ones we saw there were having the time of their lives! A kid could spend hours in there having fun!

Following lunch we headed out to GARDEN OF THE GODS, a City Park on the edge of town. It's a beautiful area of interesting red rock formations created eons ago and slowly, through an erosion process, created the awesome formations we see today. The park is used by joggers, hikers and horse-back riders. The one-way road allows self guided car tours with turn-outs, viewpoints and photo ops. I give it two thumbs up!

We decided to try to get past Denver before the heart of rush hour began. But much like Portland, I think rush hour started around 1:30 PM! It was stop and go occasionally but not as bad as could have been a couple of hours later! The 3 or 4 car pile up on the Expressway at exit 181 blocked traffic for a while, until the wreckers showed up and the PoPo's redirected traffic off the freeway and merged them back on at the 181 entrance on the other side. I needed to get off and refuel anyway.

This evening we stopped in Fort Collins, CO for the night. We had dinner at Famous Dave's before coming back to the Hilton. Tomorrow we head on towards Wyoming, Utah, and Idaho. We have been most fortunate that bad weather has been ahead of us or behind us this entire trip!

God is good!























Wednesday, December 05, 2012

MULBERRY, ARKANSAS

Mulberry, Arkansas
1940 - 2012

When I was a kid coming to Town with my Dad to sell or trade produce, or maybe get a store bought haircut at Gene and Shorty's Barber Shop, the town of Mulberry, Arkansas seemed like a busy city to a small country boy of 5 or 6. I can't recall parking being a problem but it was much busier than our 360-acre farm about 20 miles away.

The street scene changed a little over the years. There were few changes to storefronts but the parked cars slowly became more early 50's than the 1940's vintage seen in the photograph. Many, like Dad's, were old pickup's with cattle racks on the back. I remember the big store on the right side of the unmarked street was a Five and Dime. We never had a dime but that didn't stop us from going inside and looking at all the neat toys and stuff!

The building on the left side was our Bank, though I doubt Dad and Mom ever had much in it! We always enjoyed seeing the Cowboy roam the street, when we came to town. Seems like he was always there walking in and out of every store, greeting employees and customers like they were old friends. He was dressed up like Roy Rogers; a white Stetson hat on his head, button up long sleeved western shirt with a bandana tied around his neck, jeans and flashy cowboy boots with Spurs on the heels. To complete the Cowboy look he wore a kid's Gun and Holster outfit with twin Six-Shooters and fake bullets attached to the belt, ready to be used if make-believe bandits came to town. He might have worn a Sheriff's star; I can't be sure. But he was, in his own mind, a town hero who looked out for others and kept the peace.

I don't know how old he was. As a little kid during those days, I "looked up" at most everyone, but he was a man, probably around 25 or 30 years old, in a physical sense. But mentally he was still a kid who played "Cowboys and Indians" like we did.

Today, 2012, about 65 years later, the streets of Mulberry are virtually vacant. To snap this street scene, I stand in the middle of the street, inside the unmarked "Round-a-bout" people once used to be able to turn around in, to park on the other side of the street. Stores have closed and deteriorated. Gene and Shorty have passed on and the Barber Shop has closed. The Cowboy is gone; only his image and memory remains in the minds of those who met him.

As I reflect upon all of this, it amazes me how quickly a city can turn from booming to bombing. Although more people now live in Mulberry than ever before, the stores remain vacant. With the building of Interstate Highway 40, people can live farther away from work, yet still be only a short time away from shopping and jobs in other cities.

.....just noticing how things change and remembering,
The Good 'Ol Days.






Saturday, February 04, 2012

CLOSING IN ON RETIREMENT

Having turned 65 already, I have been considering retirement. 
Although I will miss my routine of getting up early and going to work, I believe I will quickly set that aside and focus on the next level of my life.

I am making plans to retire in 4 weeks.  At that time I will undertake several things I have been putting off too long.  I have computer work I wish to "polish" by sorting pictures, writing documents and organizing my files.  I have plans to do some long needed work around the house.  Things have been neglected and need to be spruced up a bit; both inside and out!  My garage is a mess!  I will be hauling away un-needed  junk that I thought I needed at the time I acquired it.  I have some things to sell; others to give away. 

I have volunteer work I want to do.  I have a Great GrandDaughter I want to spend time with and get better acquainted; perhaps a couple of Great GrandSons, too; time permitting.

I have much hiking to do to get my body in shape for a month long backpacking trip in the Northern Cascades along the Pacific Crest Trail in August.  I have to plan the trip to mesh with the Wilderness Trek for our Metro Teens.  My August trip will be awesome!  I hope to be able to do about 100 miles along the PCT, including side trips, taking hundreds of photographs and soaking in amazing scenery!  This is important to me as I may be nearly blind in a few years from Macular Degeneration.  It's uncertain as to how long I will have my vision, but as long as I have it, I want to use it as much as I can.  What better place than the Mountains of northern Washington?

I suppose there are uncertainties in life; we cannot always prepare for what may come.  I believe we must do what we can, however, to experience what we can in the time God allocated for us.  I appreciate the health I do have.  I hate the thought of growing old and feeble and ending up in a Nursing Home unable to care for myself.  The though of that does not appeal to me at all.

But for now, I am excited to be working my final month before retirement. 

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

This was my first backpacking trip this year.  Brian and I took Bob and his son, Zach, to the Goat Rocks Wilderness for the weekend.  Had a great trip.  The snow was much higher than we anticipated but we had no trouble finding our destination, as I had camped there several years now.  The trip honed my back country (trail-less) experience.  We followed map and compass for this trip.  The night was VERY COLD!  We had a nice campsite and a warm fire with plenty of dried wood.

I've always wanted to see Goat Rocks in the Winter.  I guess this is the next best thing.  The winter terrain would have 12 feet of soft snow on it.  At least this way we can walk on top of the snow without sinking in!  To me, this day was a highlight in my entire backpacking experience!

Enjoy the pictures.


Mosquitoes .... had to bundle up!




The bridge over Goat Creek

Skunk Cabbage in bloom.

We had a bunch of these to cross!

Solid snow on the trail in about 1/2 mile from the bridge.

I had chains for my boots!  Very handy!!

After 4 miles we found the Lily Basin trail marker at Snowgrass.

Zach & Bob clowning around in the deep snow.

We found a clear spot on a bluff where we made camp.

My new Rainshadow II tent.

Nice campfire ring by Bob's tent but lots of snow close by.

It was a warm fire on a cold day.

We melted snow for drinking water.



I cooked up a nice, big skillet of Fajitas.

My steak fajitas were a big hit!

Early morning campfire with plenty of dry wood!

Yes....I was sitting there warming my feet!

A view of Hawkeye Point off to my left.

Looking uphill towards the Old Snowy ridge.

Finally able to tighten up my tent after the nights wind and rain.

Hiked up to the PCT near Old Snowy.  Looking at Mt Adams

We camped in those trees once upon a time.

Standing on top of 6 to 8 feet of snow up here!

Brian looking over at Ives Peak.

......towards Cispus Pass.

Zach looking over towards Goat Lake under snow.

We camped on that ridge last year.

Hawkeye Point above Goat Lake where we hiked last year.

Ives Peak


South towards Mt. Adams.

Mt Adams view.

Mt St. Helens behind the trees.


Brian enjoying the day.  So was I.

I always wanted to see The Goat Rocks in Winter.

Can you believe it's JULY??

We had a great day today!

Mt Adams was majestic!

We did a lot of cross country hiking today.

Who knows where the trail is anyway??








Heading home after cross country backpacking on mostly snowfields.

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