Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Urban Speaks at Evening OFTA

Professor William Urban of the Monmouth College Department of History spoke last night (2/27/07) at the Warren County Public Library in Monmouth, Illinois about his newly published book, MEDIEVAL MERCENARIES--THE BUSINESS OF WAR. About thirty local residents discovered that Urban's newest book, true to the Greenwood Books review, was both "absorbing and entertaining." A number of provocative questions after the address moved the audience and Urban into discussions of the definitions of "mercenary" in the modern world and the nature of today's armed conflicts in relationship to those of the Middle Ages.

The program was sponsored jointly by the Warren County Public Library Board and the local OFTA(Old Friends Talk Arts) group. OFTA is partially supported by the Buchanan Center for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council--a state agency.

An Icy Break

The icy rain and sleet started to fall on Saturday, Feb. 24th. The power started to go dipsy doodle on Sat. afternoon and plummeted out with an explosive transformer boom around 4:00 PM. Around dinner time our neightbor across the street called and said they had juice and why not come over. We did and had a nice dinner and chat until around 8:00 when their power went down as well. We said we might as well go home as we were all now in the dark. About an hour later theirs went back on again and they called and said, why not bring your jammies. We were not proud and accepted the offer. Little did we know that we would be spending the next two nights there. A house without power and slowing descending to outside temperature in the midwest winter is none too pleasant to inhabit even with plenty of longjohns and down jackets.

We were not able to move back in until Monday morning and even then there were many in our town and the surrounding area that were still without electricity. We thank the Lord for the kindness of neighbors. As this is written we are looking with some trepidation at another oncoming storm for the weekend. Wish us luck. The picture above is not very exciting, but does illustrate sort of what our entire yard looked like in the aftermath of the ice. Luckily we had no major tree limbs fall, but there were plenty down all around.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Down in the Copper Canyon

Just visible, and looking almost like tiny toys, about five hundred feet below our handsome hotel was a small enclave of Tarahumara people. We took the path down to their ledge one afternoon. The view was spectacular whether you looked up, down, or across the canyon, but the living was definitely more primitive than that enjoyed by the tourists topside. No electricity, water from a cliffside spring, laundry washed by pounding on a stone, and one room adobe houses built into the cliff heated by wood stoves.

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

The Colorful Tarahumara Make Striking Photo Subjects

The Tarahumara make for striking photos when you are traveling in the Copper Canyon area, but they also evoke some real ambivilence. Exceedingly young mothers appear to be toting babies, children of three or under are pressed into service to sell tourist goods, and the line between begging and photo-op shilling on the steps of the Chihuahua Cathedral is razor thin. We were consistently told that the Tarahumara do not wish to change their ancient ways, but their overall poverty and lack of educational opportunity are also abundantly clear. One has to believe that the truth is not quite so clear cut. My pictures show some joy but more often than not the expressions are sad or distant.

Monday, February 19, 2007

More Copper Canyon Scenery

Sunrise, sunset, and all hours inbetween this natural wonder just begs the photographer to snap snap snap.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

We Finally Reach the Copper Canyon

Was the struggle to reach the Copper Canyon worth it? The answer is "yes." Fourteen hundred miles to West Texas, then another 300 across the desert to Chihuahua, then several hours on the train up into the Eastern Sierra Madres, and we are there. The pictures should help to make the case.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

We Find More Snow in Creel

You clean up any way you can.

Real men shovel in sandals!

Morning shower temp came in at 14 icicles

Kids are kids regardless.

A chilly house is better than no house.

If you can find the door.

You need insulated rubber pants if you want to sit in the park today.

Creel,at 2500 feet, was cool and damp when we arrived. There were also some hints of a previous day's snowfall still around. Although the lodge at the Best Western had a rustic charm, the lack of hot water in the cabins was not charming at all. We awoke the next morning to find that the town had been blanketed with another four to six inches of snow. It made for beautiful pictures, but the residents clearly had few tools to deal with it. We'll show you a few pairs of pictures first.

Dealing with snow without the tools is an exercise in improvisation in Mexico just as it is in the States in areas that do not really expect to get much.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Early Departure by Chepe from Chihuahua

Oh my God! What time is it?

Is that the sunrise I see before me?

Chepe stands for the Chihuahua and Pacifico railway. It leaves every morning at 6:00 AM for Los Mochis on the Pacific side of Mexico. Those who could stay awake saw the sun slowly rise on the broad expanses of the Chihuahuan high plains.

Our destination was the mountain town of Creel. The train is the last surviving passenger train in Mexico and is clearly sustained primarily by tourists. It is roomy and comfortable, but the real treat is breakfasting on hot coffee, a steaming ham and cheese omelet, and refried beans and salsa in the dining car as the scenery rolls by on either side. It can't get much better than that.

Monday, February 12, 2007

Tis Time to go to Old Mexico

A long coach ride took us from the high plains of West Texas (Fort Davis at over 5000 feet is the highest altitude city in Texas) through the parched Sonoran desert and to the Mexican city of Chihuahua.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Taking to the Sky to get to the Sky

Our first task in the journey to the Copper Canyon was to travel some 1500 miles to our jumping off point in Fort Davis, TX. The flight to El Paso produced some glorious views of the Rockies and the 200 hundred mile ride to Fort Davis re- introduced us to the southwestern dessert and the high plains of Western Texas. You can check them out with the photos above.