Friday, October 16, 2020

The Legend of Boggy Creek

For about a hundred years (or maybe it’s a couple of decades, I dunno), I’ve owned one of the multitudes of public domain DVD copies of The Legend of Boggy Creek, which is just this side of unwatchable—grainy, jumpy, dark, most likely taken from a VHS copy of a fading 16mm print. Mind you, I have loved The Legend of Boggy Creek, more or less irrationally, since the day I caught it at the Rives Theater in Martinsville, VA, in 1972, when I was twelve or thirteen. To me, The Legend of Boggy Creek is the ultimate cryptid film. It’s creepy, campy, shot as a docudrama, and features quite a few of the residents (who play themselves—or, in some cases, their own relatives) of the tiny town of Fouke, Arkansas, where the real-life events of the film ostensibly occurred. Having viewed only the abysmal DVD over all these years, it was a joy to discover that, in 2019, Pamela Pierce Barcelou, daughter of Charles B. Pierce, the film’s producer/director, took on the task of restoring the The Legend of Boggy Creek to its rightful quality and aspect ratio, which has given the film a whole new life for those of us who love it (however irrationally). 

Shot for a relatively paltry $100,000, the movie grossed $20 million in 1972 alone. With The Legend of Boggy Creek, Charles B. Pierce made quite the name for himself. In the 1970s and 80s, he enjoyed a successful career as a director, screenwriter, producer, set decorator, cinematographer, and actor (he reportedly wrote the line "Go ahead, make my day!" for Clint Eastwood as Dirty Harry in 1983’s Sudden Impact). His 1976 filmThe Town That Dreaded Sundown, made in a similar style to Boggy Creek, also achieved fair critical and commercial success. In 1985, Pierce returned to his roots with Boggy Creek II: The Legend Continues, though this movie, in which he starred (to less than stellar notices), failed by a long shot to match the success of its progenitor.
Chuck Pierce as young Jim

The Legend of Boggy Creek opens with a young, blond-haired lad named Jim (Chuck Pierce, the director’s son), frantically hauling ass through fields and woodlands until he reaches downtown Fouke, where a gaggle of elderly gentlemen are swapping exciting stories about their day-to-day existences in their rootin’-tootin’ town. Jim blurts out that some kind of huge-hairy-manlike-yet-not-quite-a-man thing has been lurking around his family’s place. The gentlemen chuckle good-naturedly at his panic and send him back home, assuring him that there’s nothing to be afraid of.

Of course, it isn’t long before other folks in the community begin seeing our hairy, bog-dwelling friend. Apparently, living in the bog for extended periods can be boring, and the creature has decided he wants to experience civilization for himself. For him, this does not end altogether well. Before long, half the town has succumbed to panic, and our large, hairy friend ends up receiving a few reasonably well-placed bullets as a result. For a time, he disappears, presumably having decided that being bored in the bog is better than fucked over in Fouke.
Dennis Lamb as farmer O. H. Kennedy, wondering what the HELL is lurking out there in the Sulphur River bottoms.
If you are a cryptid, always remember to stand BEHIND the dude with the gun.
The story as it progresses is narrated by Jim, our young blond friend from the beginning of the film, as an adult. Actor Vern Stierman, who provides the running commentary, does an admirable job of injecting gravitas when gravitas is needed and adopting a light, conversational tone when characters aren’t in the throes of panic. And in true, early 1970s spirit, a couple of ballads interrupt the tense proceedings, the most memorable perhaps being the ballad of young Travis Crabtree, one of many Crabtrees who make appearances in this film. Travis plays himself (and, behind the scenes, was the film's key grip), and earning the right to his own ballad (titled “Nobody Sees the Flowers Bloom But Me”) is probably the most noteworthy thing he does in the film.

Hey, Travis Crabtree,
Wait a minute for me.
Let’s go back in the bottoms,
Back where the fish are bitin’,
Where all the world’s invitin’,
And nobody sees the flowers bloom but me.

Now, to be fair, Travis, on one of his canoe outings, takes us deep into the bottoms, where he introduces us to old-timer Herb Jones (played by Herb Jones), who has lived alone out yonder for twenty years. Herb doesn’t believe for one minute that any creature exists out there. In fact, Herb’s sole purpose for being in the film is apparently to offer a less-credulous view of the goings-on around Fouke.

Hey, Travis Crabtree... wait a minute for me!
Herb Jones: “I ain’t never seen nor heard no monster!”
After some years, our lonely, hairy friend has again grown bored of the rural life and decides to take another shot at socializing. If it went bad before, this time, it goes really bad. Our friend the Fouke Monster has decided to pay a visit to a couple of young couples who have moved into a place along Boggy Creek. The couples—Don & Sue Ford (John Wallis, Bunny Dees) and Charles & Ann Turner (Dave O’Brien, Sarah Coble)—seem sociable enough, but soon, nephews Bobby & Corky Ford (Glenn Caruth, Billy Crawford) arrive for a visit and seem to rile the creature, perhaps because they decided go fishing in its territory. For whatever reason, when the Fouke Monster comes calling, quite the ruckus results, making this the most energetic and engaging story in the movie.

Following the climax, adult Jim returns to his childhood home and reminisces about those long-gone days when he would hear the creature’s frightening cries coming out of the darkness. In a memorable scene, as the sun sets on the landscape, Jim says, “I almost wish I could once again hear that terrible cry, just to remind me that there is still some wilderness left.” And so the cry does again rise into the night, and the ballad of the Boggy Creek Creature—sung by Charles B. Pierce himself (credited as Chuck Bryant)—plays over the end credits. It’s cheesy yet evocative little piece, which conveys the loneliness the creature feels out there in the bog.

Perhaps he dimly wonders why
There is no other such as I.
To touch, to love, before I die,
To listen to my lonely cry.

As crude and even naïve as The Legend of Boggy Creek must seem to those of the younger set, who never experienced the allure and excitement of fright flicks at drive-in theaters and weekend movie-house matinées, the film was, in its way, ground-breaking. With its low budget and earthy documentary style, the film clearly influenced the makers of The Blair Witch Project and other minimalist, ostensibly “real” indie movies. In Boggy Creek, at no time do we get a clear, vivid view of the monster. It is always scene in shadows or silhouetted, often partially obscured by foliage—all of which works to the viewer’s benefit, for that which cannot be fully seen can hardly be criticized as “fakey.” Indeed, it is not seeing the creature in its entirety that makes it more convincing.

As for the human cast, there are no “stars.” Most of the residents of Fouke were able to make an appearance, either in front of or behind the camera. Director Pierce simply wrangled as much help as he could get from the townsfolk, which certainly kept the film’s the budget manageable. While few of the cast would ever find themselves accused of being actors, in most cases, their raw, untrained energy brings a touch of both whimsy and verisimilitude to the proceedings.

There is no doubt The Legend of Boggy Creek helped spawn a plethora of movies about big hairy cryptids. The early 1970s saw plenty of them (many of which I still quite love, however bad they might be). The Creature From Black Lake, Sasquatch: The Legend of Bigfoot, Snowbeast, The Mysterious Monsters, and many more owe much to Charles B. Pierce’s vision. While The Legend of Boggy Creek itself was part of an already rolling cryptid bandwagon, it rose well above most of its contemporaries and imitators, and it is one of the few that are now well-remembered, going on fifty years after its release.

The beautifully restored version of the film can be rented on for $3.99. I strongly recommend it.
Now, what do you reckon that big old dude over there is up to?
Well, maybe not a lot, but what a mighty fun fellow!

Thursday, October 15, 2020

Season’s Greetings

The Halloween season, of course. This year, I feel somewhat compelled to work overtime conjuring up the Halloween spirit, mainly because, well, it’s fookin’ 2020, and we all know how that has gone so far. But beyond that, Ms. B. and I had precious little Halloween last year — not that I would trade our big honking Europe trip for anything in the world — and I think we both want to immerse ourselves in the spirit this year until we start to prune. Now, at Casa de Rodan, the customary decor is Halloween 365 days a year, but I still like to put out a few subtle extras. Pedro the Spider, for example, has moved from his usual indoor perch to his slightly more extravagant outdoor abode. There will be gravestones and jack-o’-lanterns. And traditional as well as non-traditional Halloween movies have been running virtually nonstop here for the past couple of weeks.

Night (Curse) of the Demon is a given each year, as it is my favorite horror film; it appeared on last week’s viewing schedule. House of Dark Shadows and Night of Dark Shadows ran this past weekend. It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown is the absolute, inarguable harbinger of Halloween and cannot be missed; it is slated for this coming weekend at our friends’ outdoor movie night extravaganza, along with Hocus Pocus, which I’ve never seen. Ms. B. and I have also treated ourselves to Sleepy Hollow, The Autopsy of Jane Doe, Terrifier, Lake Mungo, Restoration, Sea Fever, Silence of the Lambs, and others. Me, myself, and I have binged on every Hammer Christopher Lee Dracula, the two Count Yorga movies, King Kong, Frankenstein, Invasion of the Saucer Men, The Mothman Prophecies, The Legend of Boggy Creek, Sasquatch - The Legend of Bigfoot, Westworld, Madhouse, Theater of Blood, War of the Worlds, and lord knows what all else.

It is that time of year, yah. Also on the docket for Ms. B. and me is a trip up to the Blue Ridge Parkway, to Villa Appalaccia and Chateau Morissette wineries, another part of our traditional lead-in to Halloween. Sadly, the pandemic precludes the always-anticipated breakfast at Mabry Mill and lunch at Chateau Morissette’s restaurant. That part really sucks. But we will make do. Lord knows, yes, we are gonna make do.

It is the Halloween season, and that’s all there is to it.
Pedro catching some rays

Friday, October 9, 2020

Birds of a Feather

In the days of yore, geocaching-wise, there existed a series of caches called “Bird Watching: Feathered Friends 2K Series,” placed in honor of one of our favorite local geocachers, Big Tom, who — believe it or not — goes by the handle “Feathered Friends.” Big Tom is a birdwatcher, and should you ever have a question regarding anything bird, he would be your go-to. The caches in the original series, placed back in the mid-2000s, all contained clues that, when collated, provided the coordinates to a cache now considered something of a classic. Over the years, most of the caches in the series have gone missing or fallen into disrepair. Through it all, though, the well-hidden final cache has remained in place and in fair condition; the problem is that, without being able to find all the stages in the series, you couldn’t calculate the final cache’s coordinates.
A beautiful afternoon on the greenway

Happily, thanks to certain old timers willing to share the all-but-unattainable coordinates, I had found the final Bird Watching cache quite some time ago. Recently, however, our local puzzle cache guru (read “heartless monster”), friend Dave, who goes by the handle Rhodorooter, took it upon himself to call on the local caching community to refurbish, restore, and replace the original caches in the series so that the still-extant final cache might once again be found in the manner it was originally intended. I agreed to participate in this venture and, a few weeks ago, placed a cache called “Archaeoptryx - FeatheredFriends 2K Series” (GC8ZNKK). Now, if you frequent this blog, you might be aware that I have some fondness for the climbing of trees. It seemed only apt that a bird-themed cache might involve a change of altitude, and I would never dare disappoint anyone who harbored such expectations of one of my caches. So, yeah, you go after my cache, you get to climb a tree. Have fun.

Now, most of the other participants in this venture have their own antisocial inclinations — Dave, for example, favors creating puzzles so hellish that God himself threw up his hands, said some dirty words, and cursed Dave for all eternity. (Well, that’s what I heard.) Friend Jean (a.k.a. Sull427), also a puzzle maker, shares a similar warped mentality (and may suffer a similar fate). She offered a cache for the series that did require a wee bit of deviant thinking, but at least not the sort that results in permanent brain damage. Old Rob (a.k.a. Old Rob) opted for one of his customary challenging woodland hides. Similarly, friend Skyhawk63 (a.k.a. Tom), placed a traditional cache at the site of the original hide in the series which has, quite literally, been swallowed — irretrievably so — by the hollow tree in which it resides. Diefenbaker (a.k.a. Scott), bless his heart, also succumbed to the accursed lure of the puzzle; at least his was solvable without surgically removing his brain and downloading its vile contents into a William Gibson-esque biocomputer. Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie) went for a classic, relatively simple bird-themed cache. All in all, these made for a bunch of exceptionally fun caches, at a time when, as far as I am concerned, new caches in the area are a godsend, given the pandemic and all.

Today after work, I found the last cache of the new series — “Stately Birds”(GC8ZHEJ) — hidden along the northern reaches of the Atlantic & Yadkin Greenway in Greensboro. The afternoon turned out gray and a tad chilly, but it was perfect for a mile-plus hike through some gorgeous woods that I haven’t visited in several years. I am compelled to tip my hat to friend Dave, twisted though he might be, for heading up this project and enlisting so many fellow geocachers to do what they do best. Maybe God will cut him some slack for being an otherwise almost decent fellow.

Anything is possible.
Old dude on the hunt
Fall is in the air.
Shades of the Blair Witch

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Accent on Nerds

The things you sometimes find when you’re looking for other things....

I was going through old files, searching for a copy of my dad’s obituary, when I happened upon a folder full of family memorabilia, mostly from the 1970s and 80s. Among them were some singularly horrific items featuring my brother and me, the most egregious being an Accent on People feature from The Martinsville Bulletin, Sunday, May 12, 1974. The article was titled “Mark Rainey: A Monstrous Success,” and it related the story of a lad preoccupied with monsters — specifically, Godzilla and other daikaiju — to the point of mania. I can scarcely imagine a sadder, more tragic waste of a young life.

I don’t recall how the feature writer, a Ms. Gail Dudley, stumbled upon me and my unearthly hobbies, but I do recall her (and Bulletin photographer Mike Wray, who only relatively recently retired) coming to my house to conduct an interview and take photos. To be sure, it was an exciting day for me, and an even more exciting one when the article appeared in print. Once in a while, I have actually wondered if any copies of this thing might still exist. Apparently so. At one time, I may have had one tucked away in the vault upstairs, but I am not going in that scary place to hunt for it. The excavation required would prove prohibitive anyway.

But here it is... probably the nerdiest thing you’ll see today. Or maybe ever. If you can’t make out the little print, consider yourself lucky.

Sunday, October 4, 2020

The Fungus Amungus

The world’s most dejected mushroom

Fungus is fun. I’ve always found mushrooms in the wild kind of neat, but Brugger is an honest-to-god mushroom nut. She enjoys photographing them and then making watercolor & ink paintings or mixed-media images of them. These days, whenever I go out geocaching and come upon any striking examples of ye fungus, I make sure I take a few photos of them and send them along her way. This year, the late summer/early fall mushrooms have been plentiful and, in some instances, remarkable in shape, size, and color. As I have photographed these for Ms. B., I have  found myself oddly enamored of them as well.

Yesterday at Piedmont Environmental Center in Jamestown, on a caching outing with friends Old Robgso (a.k.a. Old Rob) and Ms. Fishdownthestair (a.k.a. Natalie), I happened upon what was probably the hugest examples of fungus I have ever encountered. Big, big clusters around a huge tree, each cluster as big or bigger than three or four dinner plates. I know nothing of mushroom types or which ones are edible (so I eat none of them); only that they can be remarkably photogenic. I am including a few shots here. You try not to eat these. Very bad.

The Fungi From Yuggoth, perhaps?
More Yuggothians!
Happy mushrooms! No sign of dejection whatsoever.
More happy little dudes
A mini-mushroom forest
A pretty parasol!
L: There's a nose on that tree! R: Little dudes wearing floppy hats
It’s another Tequila Sunrise
Amanita is the name they call her.
Ma & Pa Shroomie with the young'uns

Sunday, September 27, 2020

The Same Only Different

Heading down to Myrtle Beach, SC, for anything other than a relaxing good time certainly isn’t typical for us fun, wacky folk, but that’s what Ms. B. and friends Terry & Beth ended up doing over the weekend. Our friends Gerry & Bridget, who have hosted us at their beach condo any number of times, have sold said condo, and they generously invited us to take any of the furniture, since they no longer had any need for it. So, Terry & Beth acquired a U-Haul trailer for just that purpose, and on Friday afternoon, we all trucked ourselves down to the beach. Now, we did actually manage to work in a little fun — some good eating and drinking, as well as a wee smidgen of geocaching per me — but we did indeed spend most of our time hauling big-ass furniture out of the place. And then we trucked back to the Triad, unloaded stuff first at Terry & Beth’s, then at Kimberly’s, and then at mine. Lord, all that hauling just about did these old bones in. Maintaining social distance during moving was pretty difficult, but we had all kept ourselves totally isolated during the preceding week, and we wore masks whenever close contact was inevitable.

At the end of it all, I was able to completely overhaul my living room, which you see in the photo above. It’s taken a ton of work, and there may be some tweaking on the whole business yet, but Casa de Rodan has taken on a bit of a new look. Same place, only different.

Sleep. Sleep is good. Whew.
Droolie approves.
View from the front door

Friday, September 18, 2020

Midland With a Twist...

Saturday, September 12, 2020
 ...a pandemic twist, I suppose. For two weeks, Ms. B. and I have been in relatively strict quarantine, venturing out only for groceries, which we’ve ordered in advance and picked up curbside. Her parents in Midland, Michigan, have done the same thing. So, figuring we’ve all performed our due diligence, safety-wise, Kimberly and I hit the road for Midland to spend a few days with her folks, whom we have not seen since January. For us, it’s the first time we haven’t flown on a Michigan trip. The drive took just over fourteen hours, including several pit stops, a picnic lunch, and a handful of geocache stops. Not nearly as many caches as I generally pick up on shorter trips, but I didn’t want to prolong what is already a lengthy drive. A few of the hides proved memorable, at least.
Entrance to Big Walker Mountain Tunnel on I-77 northbound

We set out about eight in the morning, under very gray skies. Rain spat on us several times along the way, but at least we didn’t have to contend with any massive gullywashers. Cache-wise, we came upon The Hotel California (we were living up it up... AND we managed to leave); a birdhouse — or so it appeared — that turned out to be a tiny cat’s outhouse; a benchmark that was not a benchmark; and a few more or less traditional hides of varying difficulty.

At our pit stops, we found that, in Virginia and Michigan, most people took the sensible precautions — wearing masks, maintaining social distance, scrubbing up thoroughly, etc. I was unimpressed at our couple of stops in Ohio, where masks were mostly unseen; at least one unmasked, disgusting fucker did his business and didn’t bother to wash his hands before wiping his slobbering mouth; and one slovenly couple made a brazen show of coughing their lungs out inside the rest area. It’s not charitable of me, I know, but I am far from above wishing karma would visit these useless asses with a vengeance. For the most part, though, the trip was mellow enough, the weather not too shabby, and the caching fun.

Once settled in at the Bruggers’, Kimberly and I opened the inevitable bottle of wine and sat up with her folks until sometime in the wee hours, enjoying good company and conversation.
Abandoned motel in New California, OH, the setting for “Hotel California” (GC8JR05)
Unfortunately, the cache wasn’t in the tower.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

I crawled out of bed before too late this morning, had a bite of breakfast, and then took off on one of Del’s bicycles to hunt some of the neighborhood caches that have popped up since our last visit back in January. Michigan weather is nowhere near as hot and humid as North Carolina’s, but even so, a long ride, both on and off road, damn near melted every bone in my body.

After returning to Casa de Brugger, I scrubbed up the melted remains and joined the rest of the gang on a drive to Sanford, a few miles to the northwest. Back in May, after massive rainfall, the Tittabawassee River, which runs through Sanford and into Midland, swelled to epic proportion and smashed through the Wixton Lake dam in Edenville, just north of Sanford, and the Sanford Dam, which resulted in a massive flood that devastated much of Sanford and Midland. We had visited Sanford on our wintertime visit, and today, we spent some time surveying the damage. Much of the town is still closed down, and Sanford Lake is totally gone, replaced by a huge plain of mud, the river a mere trickle through its center.

My hat’s off to the people of Midland. On our return trip, we had to make a supply run to Meijer, and I would estimate that 99% of the people in the store wore masks and showed due respect for other people’s personal space. I personally saw only two maskless dolts, almost certainly the best show of solidarity against COVID-19 I have seen anywhere. Midland does have a lower infection rate than most of the rest of the state of Michigan. Thank you, good people.
Sanford Lake Dam, four months after the Tittabawassee River blew through it
Rodan’s-eye view from “Yes, It’s Really Up There”

Monday, September 14, 2020
The morning bike ride in Midland has become a most welcome activity, especially when there are caches to be found. Apparently, a number of new ones had come out since yesterday, so the almost-coveted first-to-find honors remained to be claimed. I headed out pretty early and snagged several FTFs. I also did not find a few, partly due to fawlty coordinates and partly due to old dude’s blindness. Although it started out finger-numbing cold, by the time I returned to Casa de Brugger, I had become another sweaty, melty, horrifying mess.

During the afternoon, the family decided to head over to nearby Auburn, to an extensive gift shop called Warmbier Farms. I had done some caching out that way on a previous visit, but happily, the area has been re-stocked, so while the folks did their shopping, I headed after the newer hides. I know, shocked, right? Tree-climbing caches are among my favorites, so I found much joy — and a cache — from fair elevation at “Yes, It’s Really Up There” (GC8Q6AQ). In fact, I found triple the joy on this particular ascent. It was a pretty good-size pine at the end of a rural road. Upon my arrival, I didn’t immediately spy the cache, so I just started climbing. Ah, there it is. Not too low, not too high. Pleasing placement, it is. I managed to grab the container and sign the log with no problem — then, as I rehung it, the blasted thing slipped off the branch, and... plummet. Well, down I go, grab the container, put it securely in my pocket, and climb back up to the proper level. Reach into pocket, and... well, I thought it was securely in there. Sigh. Back down the tree. At least the container was easy to spot both trips down. Once again, up we go with the container. This time, I re-hung it without mishap. I had actually gotten tired of climbing that tree, believe it or not.
Crabby apples at a cache near Warmbier Farms

That wasn’t quite it for the caching adventures. Ms. B. and I had to return to Meijer later for some supplies for tomorrow’s Chicken Marsala, which I am cooking for the family, and a few nearby caches still awaited my attention. My favorite was one of high difficulty rating (4 out of 5), which I found by lucky accident. Ms. B. was waiting for me in the car, so I had resolved to spend no more than a few minutes on the hunt. As soon as I entered the woods, coordinates began bouncing mercilessly. This is a target-rich environment, so I feared hunting a cache of this difficulty level would likely prove an exercise in futility. I decided I would come back and hunt this one when I had plenty of time. I kinda needed to pee, and since I was alone in pretty dense woods, I figured, well, let’s do it. I was just finishing up when I noticed something a hair more symmetrical than the ubiquitous foliage nearby. And what do you know — my gaze had, quite by chance, fallen on the cache. Saved by a pee break!

I spent the rest of the evening indulging in our regular Midland traditions: working on my upcoming Ameri-Scares novel (New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies); drinking wine with Ms. B. on the porch swing (reserved for good-weather trips, of course); and hanging out with the folks watching TV until the wee hours. I would be hard-pressed to imagine a more relaxing, enjoyable time.

Tuesday, September 15, 2020
Why yes, the morning bike ride included more caches. This time, I headed south toward the Midland Grand Curve Trail, which runs east-west along US Highway 10 Business. First, I stopped at a cache at the edge of Stratford Woods, a puzzle cache I had solved years ago but had not had a chance to hunt (it is considered “non-winter friendly,” which in Michigan means business). The trails I found were overgrown, but I decided to see if I could ride them all the way into the park proper. I soon discovered this was not to be; I tried several options, but they all petered out into vast expanses of mud (note the destruction of the dams on the Tittabawassee River referenced upstream). So, reluctantly, I turned around and made my way back to the main road and the paved GCT, which was good for several more finds.

Whenever Ms. B. and I visit her folks, she and I like to provide a dinner or two. I had opted to give Chicken Marsala a shot, since it’s one of my favorite dishes to prepare (well, personally, I prefer Veal Marsala, but Kimberly does not share my fondness of the small dead cow). The family had once again headed out to find treasures, so I made myself at home in the kitchen and, I have to say, this batch hit the mark.

During the afternoon, we took Kimberly’s car down to a nearby shop to have her tires checked out, as they appeared to be losing air. Happily, that issue was resolved quickly and relatively easily. She was then good enough to accompany me to three of the caches I couldn’t find yesterday. Today... success! We turned yesterday’s frownies into smileys. Then, with the weather as perfect as perfect gets — temperature in the mid-60s, low humidity, and a lovely breeze — we took a leisurely bike ride around the neighborhood. I can’t express how perfect an antidote this has been, at least for now, to the anxiety, pressure, and grief that have followed Mom’s passing in July.
Chicken Marsala, probably my best effort yet. Y’all don’t get any.

Wednesday, September 16, 2020
Seriously, I’d hard-pressed to remember when I have last enjoyed entertaining myself as much as on these solo morning biking/geocaching outings in Midland. Today in particular, after a decent night’s sleep (a rarity even in this more relaxed environment), I headed out into a beautiful, temperate morning, with a fair breeze and little traffic to contend with. Yesterday, I had claimed a bunch of caches on the Midland Grand Curve Trail east of Swede Avenue; today, I headed back to the trail, to the west of Swede. I targeted several others in the area, which meant more traffic and more muggles, but even then, it was anything but oppressive. I snagged fourteen caches, I think it was, and passed a most entertaining boneyard on my outbound ride (see below).

Later, Ms. B. and I drove over to Midland City Forest, where we put in about a three-mile hike — yep, caches for the old feller, and nature photography for the nice lady. Found a good many hides and got in some decent exercise. And for the evening, another round of wine and quality time with the family.

Yep, that little dot is a magnetic nano
on a lightpole, about 20 ft. up

Thursday, September 17, 2020
This morning’s bike ride fell more into the “challenging” category than the “exhilarating” one. It started out beautifully: I rode up to a cache I had failed to find on one of our more frigid excursions here a couple of winters ago. This time, it took some hunting, but I finally made the find. A relatively short distance away, there is a cache called “High Enough?” (GC8WYBG). The name is apt, for what we have here is a magnetic nano stuck about 20 feet up on a light pole. At least one previous finder shimmied up that pole, but I felt it more prudent to improvise a tool of the trade, which I did. Yessir, I came, I saw, I conquered, I replaced the cache as it was intended. A couple of years back, I had to perform a similar feat at a nearby Midland cache; I made it happen, but it required far more effort than this one did.

I hunted and found several more caches, but it wasn’t long before the trouble set in. I’m pretty sure Del’s bike has not seen use like I’ve given it in... well... probably ever, and now the chain took to falling off every time I hit a bump. Of course, this started about the time I reached the farthest possible distance from home base — several miles, at this point. I managed to get the troublesome bastard back on each time, though on a couple of occasions, only after considerable difficulty. Without tools, I couldn’t do but so much in the way of reparations. I did manage to nurse the brute back to Casa de Brugger, though I damn near lost my phone in the process. I apparently dropped it while working on the chain; fortunately, I knew exactly where it must have fallen, so I was able to head back and promptly reclaim it.

Once able to avail myself to proper tools, I dusted off the old talents (I was a proficient bicycle mechanic in my adventurous youth) and hammered the rear wheel back to sufficiently increase the chain tension. I hope. Kimberly and I took a ride around the neighborhood this evening, and the contraption functioned swimmingly. I trust it will for Del when he goes out to ride the thing!

Once again, we all enjoyed an evening of wine; fantastic food; stimulating... uh... yeah, that's the word... television; and some wonderful bonding time. Another late night for us old folks, it was.

Friday, September 18, 2020
As all good things must come to an end, so did this trip. Since I first met and got to know Del and Fern, back in 2010, I have felt comfortable and at home with them. But it didn’t take long for me to consider them family; and I have it on good authority the feeling is mutual. Each and every time we get together, I consider the occasion special, particularly since the Bruggers accepted me into their lives never realizing the sorrow, heartbreak, and outright horror they might be in for. But somehow, on this trip — maybe because my mom is gone now — I felt a deeper connection, a sense of belonging and acceptance I haven’t known since I was a kid. Indeed, this week, I experienced a youthful exuberance from spending so much quality time with these good people I have come to love and aspire to honor. Now, make no mistake, I am a crass old fart, and I fear I sometimes open the mouth and insert the foot, but for better or for worse, I believe the family understands where I am coming from. I do hope. As I told Del when we left this morning, I try to be good but it’s so hard that it hurts. Still, I think the Bruggers can only have a positive effect on me.

It goes without saying that Ms. B. and I had a long drive home. We took a different route back, primarily to compare time and quality of the roads. Today’s route was easier and marginally quicker. It also took us down Route 35 through Gallipolis, OH, and Point Pleasant, WV, where, back in 2018, I had spent some of the best solo time of my existence while researching my Ameri-Scares novel, West Virginia: Lair of the Mothman. Since we were passing through on such a long trip, we couldn’t spend a decent amount of time in the area, but I did snag a very cool cache in the shadow of the Silver Memorial Bridge — this one on the Ohio side of the Ohio River.

Back home now, and I must soon return to chipping away at the mountains of minutiae involved in settling Mom’s estate. I don’t yet see the light at the end of the tunnel, but from some of the information I have gotten, the tunnel, at least, may not be quite as dark as it portended. There be hope here.

Be good, be safe, and wear a fucking mask.

The Silver Memorial Bridge over the Ohio River, from the Gallipolis, OH, side.
The geocache host can be seen in the photo.

Ms. B. in the shadow of the bridge

Friday, September 4, 2020

Found a Birdie

“For the Birds” geocart in Alamance County, NC. Found ’em all.

It’s all about personal circumstances: the ever-deepening sense that life is a vastly different animal now than it was only a few days, weeks, or months ago. Maybe it’s because that, now that Mom is gone, the door to one chapter of life has closed and another has opened. I don’t really know what it is; my sensibilities seem to shift day by day. It’s weird. It’s disconcerting. It’s awful. It’s beautiful.

Somehow, that fact hit me hard today — while geocaching. Now, let me tell you. I’ve been caching since early 2008; I’ve had a bazillion transcendent experiences out there in the wild. I have gone out solo, with big groups, with little groups, with the best of friends, with relative strangers. I have discovered some the most beautiful settings that exist on Earth. I have shared laughs, sorrow, frustration, and excitement with folks damn near as goofy as I. I have discovered spiders bigger than Montana. I have seen the world from heights that would have terrified me even as a child, when I was absolutely fearless. I have found serenity deep in pitch dark storm drains. I have driven utterly ludicrous distances to be the first to find a new cache. Call it weird, but venturing out into the world to seek hidden containers and sign my geocaching handle — Damned Rodan — on little slips of paper brings me a unique joy. Geocaching moves me. It’s passion.

I got off work early today, and since there was a new geoart (a series of caches whose icons on the geocaching map create a specific design) a half-hour or so away in Snow Camp, I decided to give it a go on my own. The caches that comprise the geoart (“For the Birds,” it’s called) are all park & grabs — meaning they are hidden so you can just drive up, hop out, quickly find the cache, and sign the log. Generally, such hides are far more fun with a group of folks, more for the social experience than the challenge of actually hunting the caches. Going solo after park & grabs usually falls into the “eh, it’s okay” category. But with all those Death Cooties roaming free out there, I am still not keen on piling into a vehicle with other folks to claim smileys. Yet, today, all by my lonesome... I had a fookin blast. An oddly euphoric experience. Inexplicable, on the surface. Revealing, I guess, if I were to become ridiculously introspective. I’d say I won’t, but I think I already have. Fuggit. Circumstances today were such that I could hardly have enjoyed myself more. The caches in this series lurk along the rural back roads of southern Alamance County. Today, there was virtually no traffic (something I had forgotten was even possible), and going from cache to cache, making the find, and signing the log turned out to be as zen an experience as any I can remember. No stress. No anxiety. No anger. No grief. Just unmitigated satisfaction.

I will take it. Tomorrow is another day. As I deal with the aftermath of Mom’s passing, I keep finding increasingly complicated tangles of red tape to untangle. It is a long, slow, frustrating process; if you have lost loved ones for whom you have assumed responsibility, you may understand what I’m talking about. The issues will get ironed out. Too often, my problem is convincing myself that I don’t have to take care of every detail right now. But that is my nature. It has its benefits and its drawbacks.

Anyway, I welcome this little oasis of joy. May there be plenty more for me and for you.

That is all.

Thursday, September 3, 2020

Writer’s Cramp!

But it was fine enough reason to get a cramp. A great big box full of signature sheets for Borderlands 7 arrived the other day — Saturday, I believe it was. On Sunday, I put in a marathon session, signed the lot of them, and shipped them back to the publisher on Monday. Borderlands 7 is due for release from Borderlands Press on October 1 and will include my story, “Escalation.” Getting into Borderlands has been an aspiration for many years, and I’m mighty proud to have done so with this particular tale.

After a lengthy and highly frustrating delay, Mom’s death certificates finally arrived, so I have been immersed in trying to get things moving toward settling the estate. This promises to be a long and involved process, but at least it feels as if some progress is finally being made.

I’ve inched a little farther forward on my next Ameri-Scares novel — New Hampshire: Ghosts From the Skies. Not as far forward as I would like or really need to, but recent circumstances have hardly been conducive to the fiction writing. I plan to keep plugging along in the coming weeks and get this one in the bag. I believe it’s shaping up to be quite lovely. I have been informed that there are new, promising developments with the television adaptation of Ameri-Scares, so I hope this means good things in the pipe for Elizabeth Massie et moi.

Of course, there has been some geocaching in the bargain. A number of new caches have come out in the area, and a couple of hiking trips to Durham and elsewhere have helped me burn off a few superfluous calories. There are still plenty left to burn though.

Last week, The Martinsville Bulletin ran my article about my mom’s death from COVID-19, which I had adapted from my blog entry, “Wildfire.” They re-titled it “My Mother Is Gone from COVID-19, and You Need to Do Better,” which I’m not mad about, but at least they ran the piece as I wrote it. It is not altogether polite. It isn’t meant to be.

And we’re off.
One of my favorite spots along the Laurel Bluff trail here in Greensboro.
A crumbling old structure amid a forest of bamboo.
Big Bambu!