The area under our garage has gone through several incarnations during the finishing of the area. What started out as storage area evolved into an office/ family room and then into a guest apartment. In time the area still might be an office and I’m sure we will still use it as a family room too. But for now it is functioning as a guest apartment.
Below are a few photos taken a week or so ago right after I got the final inspection from the city building inspector.
Building codes and zoning codes are sometimes weird things. You will note the top of the Kitchenette has had the burners removed. This is because with burners the area would be considered another inhabitable living area and by zoning we can not do that since we are zoned R-1. Now, if I wanted to connect the house and the garage together then it would be ok because then our home would be a duplex. Or, I can put a hot plate on the area that is now a breadboard and that would be legal. All I have to say is “Go Figure.”
Guest bed and closet. The carpet is an industrial grade carpet tile. This is the first time I had laid carpet tiles and I have to say it was not only easy but I like it too. If I’m ever looking for a project I’ll build a headboard for the bed.
Very empty bookshelves will be filled with books as we dig them out of storage and off our overflowing bookshelves in our house. In time I will build a table but for now a card table will do.
A very small shower.
The heat in this 420 sq. foot room is from the 4kw heater you see in the photo. The countertops are granite tiles and the backsplash is stainless steel tiles.
Because of the concrete pillars that hold up the 2nd floor garage the walls are a full foot thick. The walls are double insulated with 2 layers of R-11 insulation. The sub-sheeting is left over plywood from cement forms and the framing is left over 2X4’s from cement forms. The inside paneling is 1X4 vertical T&G Sitka spruce, and western hemlock. The horizontal paneling is 1X8 T&G western red cedar.
Sunday, August 3, 2008
The area under our garage has gone through several incarnations during the finishing of the area. What started out as storage area evolved into an office/ family room and then into a guest apartment. In time the area still might be an office and I’m sure we will still use it as a family room too. But for now it is functioning as a guest apartment.
Tuesday, May 6, 2008
By: Marcel LaPerriere
Sorting fact from hype is not always easy. Building green is no exception. Over the last couple of years I have been doing a fair bit of research on building green both because I think it is the right thing to do and because I’m working with several clients who want to build green. Recently I was working with a woman who had a very nice modern home designed. The architect was encouraging her to build this home using steel. And, in fact he had even recommended a steel home manufacturing company that not only claimed to be Green, but even has the LEED* endorsement. Sorry, there is no way you will ever convince me that you can build a residential home using steel and consider it green. Here is why:
10% of all greenhouse gases admitted into the atmosphere come from the manufacturing of steel and concrete. Not to mention that 1/3 of the steel produced globally comes from China, where there are few environmental laws. This doesn’t even take into account the amount of fuel required to transport steel to this country from half way around the world. Even though most steel produced today comes from about 40% recycled steel, massive amounts of iron and other minerals have to be extracted from the earth to make steel. Steel of course also requires tons of coal to manufacture. Even well insulated steel walls will never be as energy efficient as wood walls. So, I have to wonder how any manufacture of steel homes can make the claim of being Green.
In my opinion one way to build green requires the builder to substitute wood whenever possible. This is just one of the reasons I’m fond of the Pan Abode Phoenix System. Solid wood walls greatly reduce another product that requires mining and vast amounts of energy to produce, and that is sheetrock. Did you know that 17% of all sheetrock manufactured gets thrown away without being used because of cutouts for windows, doors and hanging sheetrock to minimize seems? The Phoenix System also reduces the amount of fiberglass insulation that is required, thus saving the mining of silica and massive amounts of energy to produce the fiberglass insulation.
All too often I hear that solid wood walls are not energy efficient. I beg to differ. By making walls air tight and doing a good job of insulating in areas of high heat loss like the floor and ceiling, installing good thermal doors and windows and taking advantage of the thermal mass of wood, a truly Green home can be built.
With few exceptions wood is the only building material that will regenerate its self. And, while it is regenerating it is absorbing CO2 from the atmosphere. Producing a steel stud requires 9 times more energy to produce than the equivalent wood stud. Not to mention that wood has over 400 times the resistance to heat transfer than steel. In my book there is no better way to build Green than using wood. In fact a study by the Edinburgh Center for Carbon Management (ECCM) found that by substituting wood whenever possible in the construction of homes that an 88% reduction in greenhouse gasses can be accomplished.
To truly build green you have to take into consideration: resource extraction, product manufacturing, transportation, installation, heating and cooling, longevity of the material in the building, and the eventual disposal of the material when the building is torn down. Through the whole life cycle of the building from resource extraction to disposal no building material has a lower overall carbon footprint than wood.
My motto is “Build Green, use wood!”
* Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design a standard set by the US Green building Council.
Sunday, May 4, 2008
Yesterday was our daughter-in-laws birthday. This is a picture of
Blake writing Jenn and two hearts in the icing of the Birthday cake.
Nate is telling Grandpa how big a piece of cake he wants.
I think Jenn doesn't have a big enough spatula for Nate's piece
of cake, or a large enough cake.
Sunday, April 13, 2008
Grandma taught Blake how to use the sewing machining and he caught on very quickly. They made the two hand puppets you see in the photo and Blake did all the sewing except the hemming. After the puppets were made the boys took the puppets down for a piano lesson with grandma. Blake named his puppet Smiley after Greatgrandma siad the puppet was smiling and Nate named his Mr. Green becasue of the green cloth.
Saturday, April 12, 2008
When we first conceived the idea to put our garage on the street level or 2nd level we had no idea what we would do with the area under the garage. At first we figured we would just leave it open and perhaps put a play area for the grandkids under the garage. Then we thought we should at the very least enclose the walls and make it into storage. But like most things that Connie and I get involved with we never stop with the easy option. Hence the tri-purpose room; office, family room, apartment.
My business partner Fred was by this afternoon for a quick meeting and to see how things were progressing under the garage. He asked if I had been taking photos and I had to admit it had been a while since I had. So, after tonight's dinner I ran down and shot the photos that are posted below.
The back wall with Pan Abode Homes red cedar Phoenix T&G paneling. The 4 foot wide closet can also be seen in the photo. I will sheetrock the inside of the closet. The black ABS pipe is the floor drains from the garage above.
A built in bookshelf is on one corner of the room. Since the garage is supported on 14 one foot square nine foot high concrete pillars the walls between the pillars are over 10 inches thick. I left the pillars showing as I kind of like the look of the concrete between the wood.
The vertical tongue and groove paneling is 1X3 spruce and hemlock that was milled on Prince of Wales Island here in Southeast Alaska. The cabinet fronts are apitong plywood that is a marine grade but is a fraction of the cost of fir marine grade plywood.
You can also see the door to the restroom which will have a small shower. The restroom will be a combination of sheetrock, tile and wood.
Another view of the kitchenette and cabinets. The drawer fronts are made out of left over Hawaiian koa from a cabinet job I did many years ago. The counter tops will be granite tiles.
The electric sub-panel for this room and the garage is feed from the house power. So, I wired in a sub-meter to the right of the panel so that I can track the power separate from the house. This is incase I ever use the room as my business office, or a rental apartment sometime down the line.
To frame the inner walls I used the leftover lumber from the cement forms that we built to pour the garage. The plywood under the wood paneling is all leftover cement forms. Now that I’m better than ½ done with this project I’m happy to say other than the plywood for the cabinets all the other plywood on this project has been left over forms.
I still have many more days of work to finish this project with the sheetrock coming next. Then the restroom to finish with lots of tile work. The floor will be a combination of tile and commercial grade glue down carpet.
Even though this has been a ton of work I’m glad that we decided to finish the area. In time I envision a ping pong table in the middle of the room and a great place for the grandsons to play when they are here.
Friday, March 28, 2008
The boys were at the house last weekend and I’m just now getting a chance to look at the photos I took.
Before eating their afternoon snack Blake and Nate decided to put peanut butter on molasses cookies that Blake and Connie had made the prior weekend.
Sometimes I wonder if Nate gets more on his face than he does in his mouth?
Nate stuffs his cheeks full of popcorn while eating his cookie at the same time.
There is not a day go by that I don’t get a smile on my face thinking of these two boys. They truly bring joy to my life and I know they bring joy to Connie’s life too.
Wednesday, March 19, 2008
Recently I have been asked why Pan Abode Homes over brand X? Without coming right out and bad mouthing brand X which by the way starts with an L I’d suggest that you read the advise I have given other folks in the past. Frankly after doing the searches as I have laid out this is just one of the reasons that Connie and I built a Pan Abode Home over brand X.
When deciding on a home manufacturer or products to use in your home it pays to do a little research. That is where the internet can be a big help to you.
For instance if you decided to build a home using a system built home it pays to Google the manufacture. Go to Google and type in Pan Abode Homes law suit. Check the results then type in other manufactures followed by the words law suits. You might want to also type in other criteria and see what you get. Check the results before you decide which way to build.
As a dealer and home owner of a Pan Abode I know I can safely giving you this advice. Would other dealers of other brand cedar homes feel as secure as I do? Find out for yourself and I think you will see why I not only built a Pan Abode Cedar Home, but am now a dealer
Sunday, March 16, 2008
This weekend Zach, Jenn and Blake went to a workshop so we were asked to watch 2 year old Nate for the 2 days. Of course we protested; as if the only thing we had to do was spend precious time with one of our beloved little grandsons. Just joking of course as there is nothing I’d rather do than spend time with the boys. Frankly, it just doesn’t get better than that!
Saturday was a glorious day so we headed to the playground with Nate.
He ejoyes crawling through the plastic tubes.
Why is it that every kid loves to get dizzy? Here grandma spins him round and round.
It is pure joy watching this happy little face!
Laughing and giggling all day long!
It totally melts my heart when he looks up and asks for my hand.
Sunday was a very rainy and windy day so it was inside playing. He loves to put on grownup cloths and be silly.
Tomorrow is Saint Patrick’s Day and the anniversary of my mother’s death. She passed shortly after my 7th birthday 48 years ago.
As I grow older I have a harder and harder time understanding how my father only saw his children as something to get work out of. He had no love for his own childern and he took zero interest in his grandchildren. I think my son only saw him a couple of times while he was growing up. To me I just can not imagine how any person could not understand the gift that our children are to us and how extremely fortunate we are to have grandchildren. I don’t think a person can truly understand deep family love until their grandchild looks up to them and ask for a hand, or runs over and gives them a hug. I know I’m truly blessed to have my two grandsons, and I cherish each minute I get to spend with them.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
Saturday, February 23, 2008
It’s been a while since I have posted any construction photos, so here goes. I have been working under the garage building the office / family recreation room. It seems like the project has been going on for months, and I guess it has. (When a guy is partially retried I guess he shouldn’t get it too much of a hurry!)
Thursday afternoon the freight company delivered windows I ordered from Pan Abode Cedar Homes, so I took advantage of good weather to install them. Since I have had so much trouble getting Milgard Windows to honor their warranty on a defective window I decided there was no way in you know where that I was going to purchase another window from them. So, on the advice of my contact at Pan Abode I ordered Weathervane Windows. And, so far I’m glad I did. In all the sliding windows I have installed or worked on over the years I have to say these are the smoothest.
Two of 4 windows cut out and nearly ready for the glass.
Another view of the same windows
More on the Milgard Window; as mentioned above I have installed a fair number of new windows over the years, both in new construction and remodel projects. I had always had good luck with Milgard, so when we decided to build we chose Milgard Windows. If you scroll back through the previous posts you will note between the house and the garage we needed 30 windows, and some of them are fairly big. The 30 windows were all their top of the line wood clad fiberglass windows. Anyway shortly after installing one of the bigger 4-0 X 6-0 Low E Argon filled windows we noted it was fogging, which of course meant a bad seal. Well that was a year ago and the window has still not been fixed. First we waited for months and months until they sent the 1st window, of course it was the wrong size. Then after a couple more months they sent the right one. That was last September. But as luck would have it the installer cracked the window as he was finishing the job. Now I don’t blame him, because working with glass there is always that risk. So a 3rd window was ordered and is supposed to be delivered Monday to be installed next month sometime. I guess we will have to see how it goes this time.
But, the long and the short if anyone finds this post via a search engine I could no longer suggest Milgard Windows. I heard they were bought out by a big company a couple of years ago and ever since their service has been poor. I have heard good things about Weathervane Windows, so I hope what I have heard holds true.
Saturday, February 9, 2008
The last 10 days or so it has been snow, snow, and more snow! If it isn’t a record it must be darn near one.
Most people are complaining like crazy, but I like it, even though I’ve been shoveling snow like crazy. The forecast is for more snow through the weekend then rain on Monday; now that I’m not going to like.
A lady asked me the other day who was plowing our parking area. I think she was surprised to find out we have shoveled it all by hand. This photo was taken yesterday morning, 2/8/08.
This photo was taken this afternoon out our bedroom window.
Another photo taken from the bedroom window.
Monday, February 4, 2008
All too many times I have seen heating systems that have been designed for homes more as an after thought than taking center stage as they should in cold climates. Way too often heating costs are much higher than they should be simply because the system was not well thought out. In today’s world of escalating energy costs before the ink hits the paper for the building prints you should have a good idea of how you are going to heat your home. By preplanning how you are going to heat, the house can be built in such a way that you are not only going to save on your heating bills, but the house is going to be comfortably warm too.
Keep in mind that heat is transferred in three ways, Convection, Conduction and Radiation. All of us are familiar with Convection and know that hot air rises. We also know that different materials conduct heat at different rates. However, many of us find that the movement of heat by radiation can be bit puzzling even though we experience it everyday when we feel the warmth of the sun.
By thinking about how heat is transferred and remembering that heat moves from warm to cold we can build a home that is not only comfortable but economical to heat. The fact that Pan Abode Homes are made of wood helps us in our quest for comfortable inexpensive heat. This is because wood has a low *U-factor. In other words wood does a good job of not conducting heat away from where we want it even though it has a relatively low R-value. Additionally the thermal mass of wood will help keep temperatures uniform within the living quarters through a 24 hour day by slowly absorbing and then releasing heat.
If we build the ceilings of our homes relatively airtight we can assure that the transfer of heat via convection will not rob our homes of the *BTU’s that we have generated to heat the home. If we not only insulate well but use materials such as wood that have low conductivity rates this too will help insure we keep the warm air where we want it. The same is true of our floors; lower conductive materials will help keep our home warm.
Now to that mysterious heat; radiation. Radiant heat is a form of energy that travels via electromagnetic waves. These waves do not heat the air they travel through. They release there energy when they hit an object, like people, furniture, floors and walls. In turn those objects release some of that energy in the form of convection or conductive heat. By properly placing windows we can gain significant heat in our homes via solar radiation. If those homes contain large masses of materials such as wood that have a low conductivity rates then the energy is stored for later use. If we then combing in floor radiant heat which works much the same as the radiant heat from the sun we can insure economical, comfortable heat all the time. By heating a surface such as the floor of the home heat is transferred via radiation until it hits another object. This is why people often feel warmer in a home with radiant heat even though the air temperature is cooler than in a home with other forms of heat.
As you can more than likely tell I’m a fan of in floor radiant heating. I’m certainly not a heating expert, but even with my limited knowledge I could nearly write a book on all the attributes of radiant heat. In my own Post and Beam Pan Abode Home, a custom Pan Abode Homes Cutter Design we used Warmboard to hold the PEX tubing for the in floor heating. Of course the design team at Pan Abode did a great job of working with us to insure that the Warmboard worked for our application. Since we were building in Southeast Alaska we knew we would be working in some very tough conditions so we elected not to install the Warmboard until the house was weathered in. This meant that all the rough openings for doors, ceiling heights and so forth had to be part of the design.
Now that we have been heating with the radiant heat for about a year I’m even more pleased with it than I thought I would be. I had read several times that ceiling fans were not necessary with radiant heated homes because there is not much heat loss via convection currents. I found this hard to believe so a ceiling fan was installed in our cathedral ceiling home because I was sure the 2nd floor would be roasting without it. Man was I wrong, as there is truly little to no temperature rise from the 1st to the 2nd floor. I find the only time the fan gets any use is when my grandson are visiting and that is because little kids find that turning off and on a ceiling fan is fun. So far the only problem we have had with the radiant heat is the fact that some of the zones don’t turn on very often because the woodstove more than heats the main living areas. And, because the house has a tight ceiling, convection currents of warm air rising don’t have anywhere to escape so even with the woodstove on, the 2nd floor is seldom much hotter than the 1st floor.
For anyone who is reading this and wants to know how a single 50 gallon hot water heater supplies the BTU’s for the in floor heat please e-mail me. I can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be happy to pass on what I learned designing and putting together our heating system. You can also see photos at this link: Heating System
* U-factor is a measurement of the ability of materials to conduct heat. The lower the conductance the lower the U-factor.
*1 BTU or British Thermal Unit = 1 degree Fahrenheit raise in temperature of one pound of water. Or about the equivalent of burning one wood match.
Deicing Wood Decks
After we completed building our 1500 sq foot Alaskan yellow cedar and western red cedar deck I knew I’d have to do a bit or research to find a deicer that would not harm the deck, or the house. Here is what I found.
In cold climates deicing of wood decks is often a necessity if the deck is going to be used safely. Selecting the wrong deicer can significantly reduce the life of the wood and fasteners in the deck. The most readily available and lest expensive deicer sodium chloride (salt) should never be used because salt is by far the most corrosive of all the deicers. Salt will be absorbed into the grain of the wood and will slow precipitate back out every time the deck is wet greatly reducing the life of the metal fasteners. Salt also attracts and holds moisture.
Deicers that contain potassium chloride are not as corrosive as sodium chloride, but they too should not be used on wood decks because they are still way too corrosive for metal fasteners.
Urea based deicers also known as ammonia sulfates are considered fairly safe around pets, children and are not very corrosive to fasteners. However, urea based deicers should be used carefully if your deck is located near streams or lakes because urea which is also used as a fertilizer releases nitrates. Increased levels of nitrates in some water bodies has increased the growth of both native and invasive species of aquatic plants to the point that the water losses oxygen and kills fish. So, urea based deicers should only be used in areas where water runoff will not enter streams and lakes. In some areas ammonia sulfates are banned so if you are going to use them be sure to check with local regulations.
Of all the various deicers it is clear to me the most environmentally friendly as well as the least corrosive is Calcium Magnesium Acetate (CMA). In fact some studies show that CMA is also a wood preservative because the calcium neutralizes acids and it inhibits rust and other metal corrosion by neutralizing salt’s natural corrosive properties. (If you live near the cost airborne salts will be partially neutralized by CMA) The biggest drawback to CMA deicers is that they are several times more expensive than other deicers. However, if you look at the cost of deck maintenance and replacement then CMA deicers are a real bargain. Luckily CMA deicers are becoming less and less expensive as municipalities and other large users of deicers are purchasing larger quantities each year. They are doing this because they are finding that using CMA deicers cuts maintenance cost on roads, bridges, and other structures.
Before I totally decided to use CMA as the deicer on my deck I had a few more questions to answer. Here they are:
1. How is Calcium Magnesium Acetate made? CMA is a combination of dolomitic lime (limestone), magnesium and acetic acid the same acid that is found in vinegar.
2. Is CMA safe around children and pets? In many tests CMA has proven to be as safe as common table salt to children and pets.
3. What temperatures does CMA work in? CMA works best above 15 degrees Fahrenheit but will work down to temperatures of -20 degrees or lower. (Check the manufactures label and recommendations.)
4. What is the environmental concern when using CMA? CMA like all deicers does have some concerns. It has been shown to deplete oxygen in water, but far less than urea based deicers. In many test CMA has shown to be the least harmful of all deicers to water quality.
5. What does CMA do to floors and carpets? Like most deicers CMA is water soluble so it will clean up easily and does not harm most floor surfaces.
6. Does CMA harm vegetation? CMA of all the deicers is one of the least harmful to most vegetation.
There is one last thing to consider with all deicers when used on decks. Make sure you check that the deicer you select doesn’t include dyes that could discolor the wood. I ran out of CMA deicer and substituted a deicer with potassium chloride that contained a green dye; now I have some permanently green stained wood in portions of my deck. Of course read and follow all the instructions on the packaging.
Sunday, February 3, 2008
As we walked on the frozen lake yesterday afternoon and we looked over at our house I once again realized that we live in paradise. The last couple of weeks the lake has been good and frozen so we have taken many walks on the lake. This morning we walked to the library via the lake and then Connie walked to the grocery store. Both were interesting shortcuts.
Saturday, February 2, 2008
Considerations When Choosing a House Design
By: Marcel LaPerriere
Esthetics: Will it look good and be a home we are proud to call our own?
Function: Will the house fulfill the needs of my family? Will it provide the shelter and comfort that we need in our home?
Cost: What will it cost to build?
Many design classes will teach you that there are 3 things that must be consider when designing or choosing a design. They are; Esthetics, Function, and Cost. After many years of working in the building trades I will argue that a 4th should be added and that is Serviceability.
Many years ago an architect told me his primary goal was to design a home that the owner would always be proud to say they owned. He said it was important that each and every time the owner saw their home amongst the other homes they would proudly point to theirs with no hesitation. This architect demonstrated to me how important esthetics is; especially considering that a house is part of what makes a home for your family.
Obviously when we decided to build our dream home we all want the most value for our money. We want our home to not only look nice but we want it to be comfortable and function well too. Balancing a budget to build a functional house while still making our home look good, can be a challenging task. Add in the fact that we want a low maintenance house, and then the task can become even more of a challenge. However, I would point to red cedar as being one of the most ideal building materials to help us achieve our goals of functioning well, and be esthetically pleasing while still being easy to maintain. By incorporating red cedar into our family’s home balancing all of the design criteria lessens our challenge.
Red cedar functions very well in most building environments and is an especially good building material in our rain forest environment. Red cedar is also a very affordable building material that is easy to build with. And, who doesn’t like the looks of red cedar? Now for the 4th consideration that I have added: Serviceability. Red cedar is known for its longevity. It is extremely rot and insect resistant and hold finishes well making it an easy material to maintain over the life of the home.
Yes, we could all live in tarpaper shacks. They would fulfill our need for shelter. Even with heating costs that tarpaper shack could possibly be economical. However, ascetically a tarpaper shack would not be very pleasing to our eye, and would not function well for our family. I will stick to my assertion that you will have to look long and hard to find a better building material than red cedar. It functions well, it is very economical, it is very pleasing ascetically and best of all is easy to take care of. Short term and long term you will get more value for you’re our hard earned dollars with red cedar than any other building material.
Saturday, January 26, 2008
Sometimes I call them the Boogey Boys and sometimes the Boogey Monsters. This morning they were being play monsters growling at Grandma and me. So for sure they were little monsters today. Nate was being a dinosaur and Blake as was being a tiger. I just wish I could catch all those special moments with the camera.
Blake builds and operates an elevator up a 3 story building. Note the little pipe cleaner men on various levels.
Grandma shows Nate how to make a pipe cleaner man.
Yes, another story. And a long one at that. The good news is this is the last one that I can retrieve from many stories I have written over the years. This story has been published a couple of times in climbing magazines and journals both in print and on line.
Some year ago Readers Digest contacted me after an editor of one of the journals this was published in submitted the story to them for me. They were interested in printing it for their Drama in Real Life section, but I was not willing to submit to their demands. They wanted me to rewrite it and say that I had been saved by praying and that I had been saved by the lord. I am person who believes each person has the right to worship and have their own religious beliefs without being told how think or what to write. So, I was not willing to compromise my beliefs to suit their printing demands even though I woul dhave been paid. (Frankly it's not that well written anyway.)
By: Marcel LaPerriere ©
Falling into a hidden crevasse wasn't what we had in mind when we started our 1974 winter ascent of the Nisqually ice fall on Mount Rainier. Then again we didn't plan on the rain, whiteout conditions, or the 100 mile per hour winds either. Gee, how lucky could we get? Not every 4 day weekend can turn into an epic adventure.
After checking in with the park rangers my climbing partner Mike Humphrey and I started out Friday afternoon from the Paradise Visitors Center. We snowshoed towards Camp Muir, and setup our tent in the last vestige of trees. The sun was setting shooting a spectacular array of reds across the horizon. Perhaps it was the lack of city glow, the higher elevation, or the reflection of the sunset off the crusted snow, which made the sunset so spectacular. I remember Mike and I both commented it was one of the nicest sunsets we had ever seen from the mountains.
After an early dinner we crawled into our down bags, B-S'd for a few minutes then fell deeply asleep. To our surprise we woke a couple hours later to the sound of a pre spring rain baptizing Mike's new JanSport tent. The rest of the night it alternated between rain, and snow.
My body's internal alarm clock woke me at the appointed hour of 4:00 am. I poked my head out of the tent to try and make an assessment of the weather conditions. In the beam of my flashlight all I could see was very large wet snowflakes falling in a light breeze. Mike and I made a quick decision to continue up the mountain, after all the forecast was for clear skies, and moderate winds. If the conditions worsened we could always turn around. Within an hour we had eaten, melted snow for our daily water, and broke camp. We strapped on our snowshoes, hefted on our overweight backpacks and started towards Camp Muir.
Previous climbers had placed plenty of bamboo wands in the snow to mark the way. The abundance of wands made it easy for us to navigate our way up the mountain. If we couldn't find the next wand I would precede ahead until one was located then I would yell to Mike. As he came towards me sometimes he would place an additional green wand in the snow at what he judged to be half way between the last wand. By making sure one of us always kept a wand in sight we had little fear of getting lost.
The snow continued to fall, but as we gained altitude it was no longer as wet as before. This made going easier because the dryer snow didn't bunch up under our snowshoes. After a couple of hours of hiking we estimated we should easily make Camp Muir by midday. Once there we could wait out the storm in relative comfort.
Eventually we couldn't find anymore wands. The other climbers must have turned around short of Camp Muir, or the snow was now getting deep enough to totally bury the wands. Either way we had brought with us plenty of wands and by following a compass course we figured we should still be able to make Camp Muir in a couple more hours. Mike and I now started hiking side by side. We alternated watching the compass and placing wands.
Evidently, our determination to get to Camp Muir was so great that we failed to recognize the conditions were dramatically worsening. Soon, we were hiking in a near zero visibility whiteout, and the wind was blowing much harder than before. We started talking about heading back down the mountain, but decided the hut at Camp Muir was now closer. We continued onwards and upwards in spite of the weather.
I don't know when we first realized that we were lost. Trying as hard as we could we couldn't find our last wand, in the now zero visibility we could be missing it by mere feet, or a mile for all we knew. Shortly after admitting the fact that we were lost, Mike saw that my back was bare and exposed to the elements. As we hiked along all my underclothing, and down jacket had worked their way up under my backpack leaving four inches of my back exposed. I have no idea how long my back was bare, but one things for sure I was loosing body heat rapidly. Between the exposed skin, wet clothing from the earlier rain, and the wind, both Mike and I were getting hypothermic fast. We decided the prudent thing to do was find someplace out of the wind and set up the tent. However, we were now on the Muir Snow field, and finding someplace out of the wind proved impossible.
We settled on a small dip in the terrain, possibly created by a snowdrift. We set up the tent, which proved nearly impossible in the wind that we figured must be blowing over 100 mph. Anchoring the tent was impossible, we would have to rely on our weight to hold it down. With the door of the tent to the lee, and our packs tucked under the fly, Mike and I took off our boots and crawled into our sleeping bags laid on top of foam pads. The noise from the wind against the tent became deafening, but that was still better than being out in the weather. Then the wind started really picking up. With every guest we wondered how long the tent would last. We didn't have to wait long to find out.
As we braced our backs against the tent wall we heard another gust coming. We felt it hit, and then all hell broke loose. Mike and I were rattling around inside the tent like two peas in a pod. The tent was being blown across the Muir Snow field with us in it!
What was left of the tent stopped after traveling who knows how far? Was it 50 feet or was it 200 feet. We certainly weren't going to get out a tape measure to find out. In the tangled up mess it was all we could do to get our coats and boots back on. After fighting our way out of the tent the conditions that met us were even worse than we feared. The tent fly was gone, and many of the poles had broken. Our backpacks, climbing gear, and snowshoes were still back on the snow field someplace beyond our view. We knew the first thing we had to do was find our packs, our survival depended on it.
Mike wrestled with what was left of the tent with the sleeping bags still inside. I pulled the tent poles out of the sewn in tubes that ran over the roof of the now useless tent. We walked hunched over directly up wind Mike dragging the tent, while I placed the broken tent poles as wands. Fortunately it didn't take us long to find our packs, snowshoes, and climbing gear that had been left outside the tent. We gathered everything up, strapped the snowshoes to the back of our packs and started down the mountain without the aid of the compass. Why we didn't use the compass can only be attributed to poor judgment brought on by hypothermia.
Being lost in a whiteout is something I had never experienced before, and hope I never experience again. Mike and I found our selves walking in circles. We didn't even recognizing the fact that the wind was hitting us from different sides, or that we were sometimes going up hill and sometimes down. As guest of wind would hit us we often ended up on all fours crawling to gain another foot or two. More than once the wind blew us over, and threw us around as if we were nothing more than rag dolls. Several times we thought we had found someone else foot prints, only to be surprised, and disappointed that they were our own. The more we traveled the more lost we became. All we knew was we had to get out of the wind.
The first clue as to where we were on the mountain also potentially gave us shelter. I was leading when I saw a crevasse a few feet in front of us. This meant we had to be on the Nisqually Glacier, or possibly the Cowlitz. I yelled to Mike that I was going to see if there was some way for us to get inside the crevasse and out of the wind. Mike just yelled back "ok," and off I went. I never made it to the first crevasse we had seen, within the next two steps I found a different one. As I struggled to stay upright in the wind I accidentally stepped through the roof of a hidden crevasse falling straight down about 60 feet.
As I fell I remember thinking this is it, but evidently this was not my day to die. I ended up tightly wedged between the two walls. My arms were extended above my head, as if I was a mugging victim, not a fallen climber. I was literally hanging by my armpits from the bottom of the pack straps. My face was plastered into the wall ahead of me, and it felt as if I had ran it over a cheese grader. I could feel, and taste warm blood running from my nose. Both my hands had the mittens torn off them never to be seen again. Fortunately my ice ax was still strapped to my right wrist. My upper clothing was pulled so tightly around my neck it felt as if I was wearing a Wall Street necktie. I could feel the chill of my bare back against the glacier ice. Surprisingly, nothing felt broken, or sprained.
Seconds after I fell, Mike yelled down to me "is it windy down there?" I yelled back that it wasn't. Over the howl of the wind I again herd Mike yell, "I'm coming in then." Looking back it's obvious that we were suffering from prolonged hypothermia. Our judgment and decision making skills were so severely impaired by the chilling of our bodies that we were forgetting all of our mountaineering training. Fortunately, I still had it together enough to yell back to Mike, "No, for god's sake don't jump in Mike." Had he, I am sure that crevasse would have been our everlasting resting place. Our bodies would have most likely never been found.
When I was sure Mike wasn't going to jump in I started assessing the environment around me. The crusted snow lid of the crevasse I had broken loose was wedged to my right, about shoulder high. I could feel my legs were straddled over a small projection in the wall. To my left the crevasse got wider, possibly 20 or more feet wide. To my right the crevasse sinuously twisted out of sight. When I looked down there was no bottom insight. Somehow I would have to get my pack off to get un-wedged, and in the process not drop further into the abyss.
While I struggled to un-stick myself Mike drove his ice ax deeply into the snow, and then tied an end of the rope to it. Taking advantage of the natural adrenaline shot I had just received I was able to take my pack off and set it on the wedged snow lid. Then I managed to climb up enough that I was no longer stuck. With my ice ace I dug a small ledge that I could comfortably place my feet on. By this time Mike had sent the rope down to me, I tied my pack on, and he pulled it to the surface.
Prior to sending my pack up I had dug my crampons, and spare mittens out of one of the inner compartments. I tried to put the crampons on in the tight quarters, but unfortunately I ended up dropping both of them into the seemingly bottomless crevasse. Had I been following proper mountaineering practices I should have already been wearing the crampons but I wasn't.
After Mike sent the rope back down the first method I tried using to get myself out of the crevasse was just hand over handing up the rope. This proved impossible, even though I was in top physical condition. The rope was just too small and my hands were much to cold. In my chilled condition my brain still wasn't working. Next I asked Mike to tie knots in the line, so I would have something bigger to grab onto. Mike obviously wasn't thinking either, because he did just that. With each knot he had to pass the entire length of the 150 foot Perlon rope through the bight.
Time was nearly meaningless to me. Was it taking Mike hours, or minutes to tie all the knots? As I waited for the rope to come back down the words from the Blood Sweet and Tears song, "I ain't afraid of dieing, and I don't really care," kept going through my mind. I even started singing it. Truly I wasn't afraid of dieing, but I did care. I kept thinking of my young wife Connie and our infant son Zach; it wouldn't be fair to them for me to die. I had responsibilities, if for no other reason than that, I had to survive. I vowed to my myself that I would get out of this mess, and that I would never be so stupid again.
Again the rope came down to me. Mike had tied hitches in the rope almost perfectly each and every foot. Now I was able to climb a few feet up the rope, but there was no way I was going to climb the entire length. Being out of the wind and the exercise must have warmed me up, because I finally started thinking. I remembered in the top compartment of my pack there was a pair of Jumar ascenders (mechanical devices that grab the rope). I asked Mike to send the Jumars down. I also asked him to untie all the knots so that I could easily slide the ascenders up the rope.
While I was again waiting for Mike I started thinking about asking the little men who live inside Mt. Rainier to help us. No I wasn't hallucinating. Just prior to leaving for the Rainier climb a temporary labor who was working at the machine shop where I was employed told me that little men lived deep in caves within the bowls of Mt. Rainier. He told me they where good little guys and that they would help us if we needed them, all we had to do was ask. He said he frequently telepathically spoke to them, and that I would be able to do the same. At first I thought the guy was putting me on, but he was dead serious. Maybe I should have taken his advice, but I didn't even try, I wasn't that far out of it yet.
Try as I know Mike did his nearly frozen fingers couldn't untie the knots. I yelled up to him to just send the Jumars down anyway. As the rope came back down I grabbed the end and tied it around my waist. Climbing harness were new in those days and not often used by us poorer climbers. I clipped one Jumar into the rope around my waist and the other already had an etrier attached for my feet. Finally I was making my way up and out of the crevasse, crossing each and every knot on the way.
Falling into a crevasse isn't what I would have chosen to do to get out of the wind, and warm up, but it worked. By the time I reached the rim of the crevasse only my extremities were still cold. Poor Mike on the other hand had been exposed to the all the elements. He didn't even have the benefit of the exercise I was getting to help generate some body heat. How long did it take me to extract myself is anyone guess, but it must have been well over an hour, possibly two, or more.
Pulling myself over the rim of the crevasse, I noticed it was just starting to get dark. Mike was so several hypothermic he could barely talk, or walk. I knew we need shelter quick. I contemplated fixing a rope and rappelling back into the wider spot of the crevasse, but I still had no idea how deep it was. Would our rope be long enough? How would we rappel around all the knots? Would Mike be strong enough to make the rappel? I decided the best thing to do was dig a snow cave. We started back up the mountain away from the glacier, this time roped as we should have been before. I was in the lead nearly dragging Mike as we went.
As soon as I was sure we weren't still on the glacier, and we had stumbled onto a steep snow bank I started digging the cave. After the first couple of shovels full of hard wind packed snow the new aluminum snow shovel we had brought along broke making it worthless. In a fit of madness, a stream of foul words spewed from my mouth, I tossed the shovel as far as I could. The shovel had been strapped to my pack when I fell, possibly it had been damaged then, or possibly it was just a cheep shovel. Either way digging a proper cave was now out of the question.
As darkness slowly over took us the storm howled on, even more vicious than before. I started madly chopping into the snow with my ice ax, stopping to scoop out the loose snow with my mitten covered hands. Mike sat and watched, staring blankly at my meager progress. As I dug I kept talking to Mike, encouraging him to also dig, and from time to time he did.
After digging for what must have been near an hour, or possibly more we had a hole straight down into the snow. It was now too dark to see; this hole would have to do. The hole measured about seven feet long, four feet wide, and three feet deep. We lined the hole with the remains of the tent. By standing our backpacks up inside the tent at either end we managed to get a roof over our heads. As we finally crawled into our inadequate shelter, I wondered if this was going to be our end.
We laid our sleeping bags out this time zipping them together. Mike and I stripped to our under shorts and crawled into the bag, placing all our outer down clothing over, and around us. I dug out the MSR camp stove, reached out the door of the tent and scooped up some snow, then made us a cup of tea. I had to keep coaxing Mike out of his apathetic state, even to drink the warm tea. After we finished the tea I made dinner. Even though it was our fist food since breakfast, I had to again coax Mike into eating. I knew the warm liquids, and food was what we both needed, especially Mike.
The warmth from the stove felt good, but melting snow or cooking in our tight quarters wasn't easy. I had to balance the stove, and the pot, plus keep any nylon away from the heat. The added heat was a double edged sword. On one hand we cherished the external heat source, but that heat melted the snow around us, and the steam from boiling water added moister to the air. Staying dry now became an additional burden.
The agony of my feet re-warming kept me from falling asleep, plus I was worried about Mike. He kept drifting in and out of consciousness. Was he sleeping or had the hypothermia progressed to a point of inevitable death? I decided to add some additional heat. Again I lit the MSR stove. This time I placed it between Mike and me, inside the sleeping bag. I had to be especially careful to keep the bag lifted high enough that it didn't melt. I also worried about the fumes, and carbon monoxide poisoning. I made sure we both had our heads outside the bag. The wind was still blowing hard enough that I could feel a draft, so I hoped we had plenty of fresh air inside the tent/cave. I kept the stove going inside the sleeping bag until I could no longer stand the heat. Then I balanced it on my lap outside the bag for another hour or so.
The night passed slowly. I slept for a while, and then re-lit the stove. I had to keep knocking snow from the tent roof to keep it from crushing us. That snow then gravitated into every void that wasn't filled with our bodies, or equipment. Our little hole kept getting smaller, and smaller. On top of our other problems all night long we could hear the frightening sound of avalanches. Some sounded way too close for my comfort. Morning finally came but the storm raged on.
Mike woke up all chipper, and hungry. I was overwhelmed with relief that he was ok. He had saved my life, and I believe I his. Had Mike not made it I knew it would have been my fault for being stupid enough to approach the crevasse in the first place.
All that day the storm raged on. We never even left our little hole. We urinated into one of our empty water bottles, and then threw it out the tent. Each time one of us would scoop new snow for water we tried avoiding the yellow stuff. All day we kept being frightened by the sound of avalanches, some sounded so deafening that it sounded like we were sitting next to a 747. Sometimes it was only minutes between the avalanches, and then there would be a spell of more than an hour. We spent the day eating, drinking tea, sleeping, and worrying about avalanches. But at least both of us were now toasty warm, in our cramped quarters.
During our third night on the mountain the storm finally eased off until it died. We poked our heads out, and to our joy we saw stars shining with the brilliance that is only possible when seen from higher elevations. I poked my head all the way out and could see the lights of the cities below. For once in my life civilization looked good to me. I thought of my wife Connie laying snugly under a pile of blankets, and oh how I wished I was there curled up next to her. The temperature dropped that night, and to our relief we heard far less avalanches.
As the day dawned with the first rays of light we dug ourselves out of our little hole. Had someone been there to witness our exodus I'm sure they would have not believed their eyes. All they would have seen was two nylon blobs emerging from a sea of snow.
The sky was perfectly clear, and the air crisp. With each breath we could feel the insides of our nostrils freezing. I took this as a good sign; it should be cold enough that the avalanche danger would be lower. Mike looked around and recognized a landmark, the Fuhrer's Finger. Now we knew where we were just off the side of the Nisqually Glacier. In fact we could see much of the glacier spreading out below us. Not surprising we also saw we had camped on a small ridge between two avalanche shoots. Fresh avalanche debris fanned out directly below us not more than a few hundred feet away.
Anxiously we packed up; we wanted to be sitting in a restaurant eating a juicy hamburger by lunch time. Pulling the tent out from within the hole proved challenging. I wondered if it was even worth it, but we had already left enough of our past belongings on the mountain. No doubt Mike's brand new tent was a total loss.
We had learned our lesson this time we decided to do everything by the book. Mike dug out his crampons. I of course didn't have any, or did I? It ends up I hadn't dropped just my crampons, but I had drop one of mine and one of Mike's. After the tent blew down, and we retrieved our gear, somehow I had grabbed one of Mike's, and he had grabbed one of mine. Now we each had one crampon each.
We tied into either end of the still knotted rope and headed for the Muir Snow field. Our fist obstacle was to cross the avalanche shoot, a scary proposition indeed with all the new snow. This we did with out incident. Then within a short distant we came to an immense headwall, up it got very steep, and down it would put us back on the glacier. With good visibility we could see no easy way around it, and no sensible alternative. We had to somehow cross this 200 yard wide 60 degree ice. With one crampon each this was going to be fun.
Mike gave me an ice ax belay as I lead the way chopping steps for almost every step I took. When I found a good indention in the ice I belayed Mike to me. An hour, and 3 or 4 pitches later we were back on steep snow, and off the ice. In our stumbling stupor two days earlier how had we crossed this area was it below, on the glacier, or higher up? Neither Mike nor I had clue.
To our relief we reached the Muir Snow field almost immediately after crossing the ice fall. Then we found one of our wands, then another, and another.
As we neared Paradise there were a few people skiing that Monday morning on the newly fallen snow. To the skiers the new snow was a heaven send; to us it had nearly been our death. Watching them ski seamed like such a contrast from our previous two days.
At Paradise we checked out at the ranger station. We didn't tell them the ordeal we had been through, only that we hadn't successfully climbed the Nisqually Ice Fall. I would have been too embarrassed to tell them, and we didn't want to take the time. After all we still wanted that hamburger for lunch.
Mike and I now had a unique bond between us. A bond that can only be founded on an experience such as the one we had gone thorough. Mike and I continued to do a few less serious climbs together over the next couple of years, opting more for backpacking, hiking, and sailing.
One of the biggest shocks in my life came four years after our epic adventure. Mike's sister called me one afternoon to tell me Mike had committed suicide. During the time Connie and I had known Mike, he had suffered debilitating depression off and on, but we thought he was doing better. Shortly before his death Washington State Mental Health had place him on medication that was helping him live a normal life. Then his medication ran out, and the state would no longer help him. He must have felt the only alternative he had was to end his life. So, he jumped off the Aurora Bridge in Seattle ending his life in his mid twenties. To this day I still wonder if I could have made a difference. Could I have saved Mike from his tragic ending? Why didn't Mike seek my help? But mostly I wonder why I wasn’t there when Mike needed me? He had been there when I needed him.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
The most special time of the week for Connie and me is Sunday when we play with our grandsons. This Sunday was as special as ever.
As we walked up the trail from the boy's house Nate decided to stop and hug a tree. He is wearing a coat that his mother and grandmother made Blake when he was Nate's age. This coat is filled with mountain goat hair that Zach found stuck to a tree after a goat had rubbed it off. It is made from one of Zach's old wool shirts, and since the Boys have Canadian roots the red coat with the maple leaf is appropriate.
Blake was getting too hot running around so he said it was refreshing to lay on the snow and ice.
Saturday, January 19, 2008
As promised I did some digging and found a couple more stories I wrote that have been published. The good news for you readers is that most of my old writings were done on computers that are now long obsolete and the only backup was on old floppy disc that I can not read even if I could find them.
A Tail of two Caves
Marcel LaPerriere © 1999
Being stuck in a cave isn't something to be overly concerned about, usually it's just a matter of time, and you can wiggle your way free. However, if your 40 feet underwater, cave diving, with a finite amount of air strapped to your back the consequences can be fatal. That's exactly the predicament I found myself in a couple of years ago diving a saltwater cave in Alaska. All my diving partner Alan Murray could do was watch as I tried to extract myself. Fortunately my cave diving training came back to me, and I knew the answer to survival was don't panic.
As I struggled to free myself, and keep calm, my mind drifted back more than 35 years to my first caving adventures. An experience that was just as life threatening, but I didn't know it at the time.
I envisioned myself as six year old playing with my best friend, Jimmy Hughes. At that age the two of us were inseparable. Our friendship was even closer than the blood brother bond we had initiated upon ourselves by pricking our fingers and commingling our blood. We often shared the same thoughts, which got us into trouble, and surely worried our parents to death.
Like most six year old boys growing up in the late fifties we were constantly building forts, and playing mock war games. We weren't satisfied with your run of the mill forts. No, we needed authenticity, and the endless war movies of that era were our models. We dug trenches as our Grandfathers had over in France during the 1st World War, and fox holes like our fathers had done during the 2nd world war. I guess it was just a natural progression that we would start digging caves.
Jimmy and I grew up in the middle of Colorado cattle ranching country so there was plenty of open land for us to do our digging. The place we chose for much of that digging, including the caves was a 20 foot deep washout about a 1/2 mile from Jimmy's house. The sand in that washout was the ideal consistency for digging deep and fast. Two very important criteria for young boys with little patience. With empty tin cans in hand we started digging caves about halfway up the embankment of the washout.
As cattle grazed five to ten over our heads we dug parallel caves until they reached a length of fifteen, or twenty feet. Then we decided to connect the two caves with a large Head Quarters room, just like we had seen in the movies. The inner room was big enough for us to stand up, and included built in seats molded from sand. Little natural light filtered in so our light was provided by candles sitting on shelves that we had dug into the walls. Now we had a real fort, secure from any enemies. Surely it would protect us from any mock Nazi, or Jap invasions.
After our 3rd or 4th full day of digging we decided just telling Jimmy's parents of our daily progress wasn't enough, we had to show them. That night we again went home to Jimmy's house and told Mr. and Mrs. Hughes of our days work. As usual they complemented us "that's nice, so glad you boys are having fun, keep up the good work, etc" But this time we also got Mr. Hughes to promise he would accompany us in the morning to inspect our handy work.
No two boys more anxiously awaited the morning as we did. We lay in bed excitedly talking about how amazed Jimmy's dad was going to be at our superior skills as cave diggers. We knew as a WW II veteran Mr. Hughes would be proud of the redoubt we had built.
The next morning after wolfing down our breakfast we held Mr. Hughes to his word. The good man that he was, Mr. Hughes enthusiastically hiked along with us. Soon we were talking about the great battles we would fight from the mouths of our caves, and how we would ward off any invaders. Mr. Hughes played along encouraging us boys to use our imaginations.
Finely the caves were in sight. We both anxiously looked up the full length of Mr. Hughes's six foot six height to receive his approval. To our surprise he started to tremble, and exclaimed "my god you boys really did dig some caves." Looking back on it Mr. Hughes just about passed out there on the spot. He and Mrs. Hughes had assumed that the caves we had been telling them about were like the caves we dug in Jimmy's front yard sand pile. Those caves were never more than our arms could fit into, and a collapse would have only buried a few plastic army men.
After a quick inspection of the caves from the outside only, we went back to the Hughes's house, were we retrieved three shovels, and then we headed back to the caves. The three of us spent the rest of the day filling the caves back in, burying everything that we had left inside. Mr. Hughes concerns that the sand caves would collapse kept us from even retrieving the candles and few goodies we had left within the bowels of our bunker.
Both Jimmy and I promised his parents we would never dig caves like that again. But that didn't stop us from doing many other things that were just as stupid and dangerous. Like rock climbing without protection or digging open collapsed mine tunnels. I wonder do young boys have guarding angels, or for that matter adult cave divers?
As I struggled to free myself I knocked my mask up onto my forehead and pulled my regulator most of the way out of my mouth. That was after I snagged my weight belt, and it had fallen off. With each breath I was getting about half saltwater, and I couldn't see, but at least I was making progress. After what seemed like hours, but could have only been a few minutes I was free. With Alan's help I got my diving gear all back in the proper places and we ascended to the surface.
The gentle waves rocked us as we floated 40 feet above the cave. The nightmare of being permanently stuck was now only a bad memory. True to form Alan made some ribbing wise crack, and I'm sure I rebutted with one. While we were analyzing my stupidity of entering too tight of an opening we both came to the conclusion that it was a good thing I didn't panic. Had I, it would have been certain death.
While swimming back to the boat I contemplated telling Alan my method of staying calm was to let my life flash before my eyes back to my earliest caving days, but I didn't. It was just too complicated to explain. I rolled over on my back and watched the clouds drift by. Again I let my imagination drifted back and I saw Alan as a grubby little boy digging caves with Jimmy and me. Somehow I knew, if Alan had grown up with us, he too would have been wielding the digging can. I even envisioned Alan teaching Jimmy and me how to place black powder charges deep within our sand caves. As I came back to reality there was no doubt in my mind, Alan was just as crazy as Jimmy or I had ever been. What more could a guy want from a friend?
The sun was setting as we came back from a walk. I already had the camera in my hands so I snapped a shot across the lake before going inside. (note the 2 chains are for Blake and Nate's swing that is hung between two trees.)
The only view of Mt. Verstovia we have from our house is over the neighbor's roof. I shot this photo outside our front door.
Tuesday, January 15, 2008
You can learn a lot from a 2 year old.
Just in case you ever want to look between your legs this is how it is done. First you get down on your haunches then you spin 180 degrees around, and then just bend over and look though your legs.
Nate talked me through this the other night, of course I understood what he meant when he said “em-gaghezeas jrachmuga timsasia belgerjuer.” I may not have spelled it right but that is what he said while showing how it is done.
Sunday, January 13, 2008
I was talking on the phone to my sister this evening and I was trying to tell her how to find this blog on the web. I suggest that maybe she should just Google my name as I was sure this blog would come up. After all I have a very unusual name so it’s not like I have lots of competition on Google. Anyway as we talked I typed in my name on Google and sure enough there it was, but I also noted that I was mentioned as one of the authors in a book of short stories that was published in 2004. So, I decided to post that story here on line from Growing up on Memory Lane. I might post a few other stories I have had published too if I can find them. Here is the story:
An Elementary Lesson
By Marcel LaPerriere
Back in the 60’s when I was incarcerated at the Sedalia, Colorado Elementary School every cowboy I knew chewed tobacco. Chewing tobacco was as much a part of being a cowboy as his boots or hat. There was nothing I wanted more than to be a cowboy. I dreamed of riding the range amongst a big herd of cattle. I dreamed of being part of a big roundup riding my old trusted horse Paint. I dreamed of sleeping out on the ground next to a campfire with nothing but a bed roll between me and the earth. I dreamed of waking up in the morning to the smell of cowboy coffee, bacon and fried eggs cooked over a pine fire. Yes, I wanted to be a cowboy. I already had the hat and boots, now all I needed was a plug of tobacco in my cheek. My friend Mike Martin could help. His dad was a real cowboy, working as the foreman for one of the largest ranches in Douglas County. And, Mike’s dad chewed tobacco. Just before music class started Mike reached into his pocket and pulled out some of his fathers Pay Day chewing tobacco. It looked and smelled like a candy bar to me. No wonder that cowboys liked tobacco. If it looked and smelled like candy it must taste like candy too. So, when Mike said “bite off a bit and give it a chew,” I did just that, taking an extra large bite. Yuck, it didn’t taste like candy; it tasted worse than anything I had ever put into my mouth. However, if I was going to be a cowboy I had to chew. Immediately the tobacco kicked our saliva glands into high gear. Suddenly our mouths filled with water faster than Plum Creek did during the spring thaw. We couldn’t just spit on the floor of the music room. Leaving the room was not possible. So we swallowed. That’s when the music teacher asked us, “Why aren't you boys singing?” Both Mike and I simultaneously answered with a gulp, swallowing not only the saliva but all the tobacco. Less than a minute later we both ran for the bathroom. The tobacco must have affected my eye sight too, because I noticed that Mike had turned green enough to make a leprechaun jealous. And talk about dizzy, nothing would stand still. Not even the toilet bowl that I was puking into. For the first time in my life I was sick enough to wish I was dead. Mike and I both claimed we had instantly been overcome with flu, a very bad flu. The teacher knew exactly what we had done, but she never said a word. She didn’t have to. She knew the tobacco had punished us more than she ever could. It might have been that day that I decided I wasn¹t cut out to be a cowboy. Or maybe it was years later after I had been thrown from a horse for the umpteenth time that I heard the sea calling me and I moved to the west coast be near the ocean. Sedalia Elementary School may not have prepared me for adult life, or even given me the skills for higher learning. However I did learn a valuable lesson that day in music class. Never again did any tobacco product pass my lips. Maybe every Elementary School should offer a course in chewing tobacco.
Saturday, January 5, 2008
As grandparents we love it when we are asked to baby sit. In fact I hate to call it baby sitting I’d rather just call it fun time with the grandkids, because we do have fun.
Blake and Nate help grandma make dinner.
After dinner it is time to blow bubbles!
Blowing bubbles at 2 years of age is not easy.
But stomping on bubbles is easy and fun!
More stomping and blowing bubbles. Note you get red hands when you play with food coloring at home before you come to your grandparents house.
It is sure fun to eat the whipped cream off the beaters, and when you drop it on the counter, no problem just have grandma hand you a spoon.
It pays to be grandma's #1 helper. After you bake the brownies you also get to make whipped cream.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Having the boys over on New Years Day was a great way to start 2008! Most especially since their mom made lasagna.
Nate sees his brother Blake being silly looking for dinner so he has to be silly too!
Yes, this is extra silly Blake.
The boys love Grandma and her keyboard. I’d tend to not let the boys play with an expensive keyboard but Grandma lets them play and experiment with all the different settings, and they love it.
I hope this early experimentation helps them gain a love for music. Both boys already seem to like it and will often ask me to put on opera when we are driving. Even 2 year old Nate said he wanted opera over more modern music that was playing on the radio the other day.
Nate adjust the various switches while Blake listens on the headphones.