A Late Winter Storm

Flooded road to the historic Clay Creek Bridge

By now perhaps many of you are aware of the terrible late winter storm that we flatlanders here in the Midwest have experienced. It’s not as if we weren’t warned; we were. More than 3 days ahead of the storm it became ‘the news’ of our region. Already cancelations of event closings were being broadcast on t.v., newsprint and radio. It called for the beginnings of very warm moist air pushing up from the South and then colliding with cold artic air 24 hours later. Hence what we received were 2 full days of driving hard rains with high winds. The final punishment was three inches of heavy wet snow. The end result of this concoction was wide spread massive flooding. It was fast and brutal. The ground was still frozen from our unrelenting artic air we endured most of the past 4 months. With heavy rains falling on frozen ground and snow pac it was a recipe for disaster. We witnessed the farm land below us filling rapidly with rain run off from the upper water shed and smaller creeks that empty into the Clay Creek. Low lying roads and some bridges were washed away. Two small communities in our neighbor state of Nebraska were all but washed away. The western part of our state suffered as well, especially cattle ranchers.

Despite the tragedy and losses, there is still beauty after the raging storm died out. Late last evening we witnessed the landing of an enormous migrating flock of artic geese on the flooded fields below us. They came in at dusk and were slow to rise this morning. By noon the noise they were making was equivalent to a football stadium of cheering crowds. It was an awesome site to behold as they took flight once again, heading to their summer breeding grounds to the North.

Thousands of Snow Geese

And this evening we were reminded that a new day will begin again and the Vernal Equinox is but 48 hours away. Hurry Spring!

Sunset on flooded fields

Childs Play

My Snow Angel

The morning appears with a fresh thick blanket of new fallen snow, so pure and white that it sparkles.

I debate with myself. Now would be the time to do this before I am witnessed.

Fool! Why the need to lay yourself down? Who will pull these old bones up from that cold embrace?

I don ski pants, jacket, warm thick mittens and slide my feet quickly into stiff boots. Determined. The snow is like sifted flour as I lean back and make my fall. I wildly windmill my arms and legs up and down, back and forth. Making it perfect in ways only I can make happen.

I stop, gazing at the breaching sun, realizing I was given this moment to be a child once again. To create my Snow Angel.

A Parhelion View Revisit

A 5 p.m. Sunset Parhelion

A few days ago I wrote of the Parhelion I was fortunate to see one early morning, appearing in our southeastern sky. On that same day towards early evening, I was again able to witness it, this time a sunset Parhelion directly west. It lasted nearly 45 minutes as the sun sank over the clear horizon.

I had been sitting on the sunporch enjoying the last rays of the day while reading a book. I glanced up to look out over the valley below and I did a double take as to what I was seeing. I’ve seen photos of a full Parhelion on the internet but never imagined I’d be viewing a nearly full one out my own window with nothing to disrupt the view other than a few jets passing overhead within the Parhelion. I wondered at that moment if the captain of that ship could see what was before, around or to the side of his view.

We’d had several snowstorms over the past few days so it was impossible to access the door to the open deck with all the snow piled against the glass door, with hopes of getting a crystal clear photo image of what I was seeing. So I did the next best thing by using my cell phone camera and a still camera. I ran between the sunporch windows and the bedroom window a short distance away, trying to capture the best angle and image throughout that 45 minutes of time.

It is unlikely I will ever see this phenomena in the sunset of the day again. But you can guess every cold and clear winter afternoon I’ll be watching for it…..just in case.

A Parhelion View

Sun Dog

This morning as I looked out a south window I was gifted the great view of a Parhelion, also known commonly as a sun halo, sun dog, whirling rainbow, sun pillars or sun spokes.  

I witnessed this atmospheric optical phenomenon last winter as well. I wasn’t certain it was a Parhelion so I snapped some photos for reference later, and enjoyed what I was seeing for nearly an hour before it disappeared with shifting clouds and changes of atmospheric conditions. It was later in the day that I spent a bit of time researching what I’d seen in hours earlier.

A Parhelion is caused by a refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere and characterized by subtly colored patches of colored light, such as a rainbow is. It’s always 22 degrees to the left as well as the right of the sun and of the same altitude above the horizon as the sun. A perfect Parhelion can surround the entire circle of the sun giving a halo effect. Hence the given term sun halo. Parhelion comes from the Greek word parelion meaning beside the sun, such as it was called because it follows the sun as a dog follows it’s master. Sun dog.

In earlier times these Parhelions were given to superstitions. A change of weather to come, a sign of God’s presence and Grace, the birth of a special child were but a few.

It goes without saying what a gift of seeing a Parhelion can be. Conditions must be perfect for it occur and even greater if one can view it longer than 20 minutes before it dissipates. As like a good friend who comes for a brief visit, leaving me to anticipate the next one, the sun dog is a rare treat to witness and one I want to see again and again. I hope you too will see one someday.

The Saved

Harpy Eagle of Central and South America

As a fast moving cloud covered the intense sun, it lent a brief respite from the glare that reflected off the swift current of water cascading over the sharp rocks ahead of him.

It was time to make a decision to what change of direction he needed to take. He could attempt to make the climb up the steep jungled hillside across the water; he could see long ropey tendrils from the Fiscus trees that would give him an almost Tarzan attempt to escape.

Hiding was an alternative as well, tucking into the dark and secret root folds of the massive Lupuna trees nearby. There he would hear them passing by, in search of him and his precious cargo.

The canvas backpack he carried was heavy and he didn’t know how much longer he could continue on in the hot and humid rain forest. Time was running out.

Quickly he glanced at the strapping of the canvas pack. No matter what route he took, he knew he’d not make it to his destination as hoped, safely. They weren’t far behind now and he knew once sighted, he would not be long for this world. His cargo would disappear into the world of illegal trade.

The man realized his only option now was to release what he so desperately was trying to save. He could hear his pursuers closing in, crashing through the dense jungle behind him. Machetes slashing green thickets of vines, grasses and tall bushes like sharp silver swords.

Quickly, he released the strappings of his pack. Nestled inside were two young hooded birds. Future raptor kings of the Peruvian rain forest of Tambopata.

With a thick gauntlet he quickly brought the first bird to his chest, releasing the hood with his right hand. He raised his fist high into the air, allowing the young bird to push off of his fist with powerful feet and sharp talons. He did likewise with the second bird. Go – Now – Fly! He watched intently as both birds found one another and circled effortlessly up towards the forest canopy to safety.

The man had gifted the rainforest his all. As he silently slide down into the thick tall grass he prayed the birds would one day produce more of their species, to grow the dwindling counts of the threatened Harpy Eagle of rain forests. He could hear pounding feet now. So close. He bowed his head and closed his eyes.

Bridge 14-088-170

Clay Creek Ditch Bridge, c.1890

Not far from where I live is an intriguing old bridge I found by chance while searching for old cemetery information within the county I live. It’s but a 4 minute drive from my home up here on the hilltop and I can view it below when the winds blow the Fall leaves from branches and the tall grasses fade and lay down with the first cold snap of the season. I load up the dogs and drive down the worn dirt path to this old relic, it offers them as well as me, a place to explore without the concerns of modern traffic.

The first time I stood on it, I was curious as to why the bridge, which is tall and wide, would be constructed over a creek of this size. Clay Creek Ditch runs from the north watershed of our county and joins the Vermillion River which empties into the great Missouri River, about 8 miles south of here. This native creek was enhanced in depth with the use of mechanical ditch digging equipment many year ago to handle the run off from farm fields that had been tiled for drainage. I would guess the creek to be 30 ft. wide by 12 ft. high from the top of the water to ground level above. I have a fondness for research and wanting to know history and reason for things, and soon I was looking online for answers.

The bridge was built by King Bridge Company of Cleveland, Ohio in 1890. It now is placed on the National Register of Historic Places as of January 14, 2000. At one time a unique plaque was welded to the bridge along with the manufactures bridge identifier but it’s since been destroyed by vandals. It is a timbered deck bridge with some of thickest wood planks I’ve ever seen. They have grayed with age and use but probably are not original to the bridge. The metal trusses were shipped by train to Vermillion from Ohio to be erected over the Vermillion River in the late 1800’s when our little town was being settled. This bridge was well used in it’s time for allowing traffic to cross the river to other parts of South Dakota. Time changes roads and means of transportation and eventually the bridge was moved to where it now rests today. There is an immense section of river bottom farm land below us and the creek prohibited farmers getting to their fields for work without going a long round about way. It was proposed and passed by county vote that the bridge be moved to County Road 314 to span the Clay Creek Ditch in 1980. It is only used by farmers now to get their machinery into the fields but frequently we have those who come to shoot guns, set off fireworks and trap along the creek sides.

I think to myself how wonderful to have been able to witnessed partial disassembling of the bridge, the transport to the area in need and then reassembled once again. A new purpose in the life of Bridge 14-088-170.

A Forever Friend


It’s been stated throughout time, that a dog is man’s best friend. A friend who is always there for you, that seldom complains, always agrees with you and is willing to lick the wounds whether they be real or emotional.

We acquired our best friend the Spring of ’13. My husband and I were volunteer fosters for a dog rescue group in Arizona. It’s a needed job of fixing up the wounded and outcast and helping them work their way towards their forever homes. When we picked up Smokey she was a mere shell of a dog. A broken spirit with a long list of health issues to yet be diagnosed. She only weighed in at twenty seven pounds. We took her home, allowing her to find her comfort zone. We’d find her each day curled into a tight and compact ball in the furthest corner of the room. Tucked into her bushy tail were two amber eyes that followed my every move. She had no appetite, no desire to interact or to go outside other then when we called her to the door. Since we had no history on this dog, she was to be my mystery girl. She was found as a stray in Pinal County, wandering the dusty roads near the edge of the Rez. No collar or other means of identification. A no man’s dog you could say.

The first order of business with our fosters was always a bath. Being homeless and living on the streets for even a short period of time gives tail tell signs of hard living. Most put up a struggle and finish the process with a vigorous body shaking at least 4 times to rid themselves of the indignity of now being clean. But not this dog. She allowed to be bathed with her head hung low, no complaints, no struggles and no eye contact. I wanted to wrap her in my arms and hold her tight. Telling her life would be better soon. But her eyes told me a different story. I wondered how many times this girl had been let down by humans.

She was seen by a Veterinarian appointed by the rescue group. Blood samples were taken for specific tests, poked and prodded all over. A few x-rays were ordered as well. Yes, the Vet said, she’s thin but I’ve seen worse. Feed her well. Show her love.

Her lab work revealed a host of problems, all treatable but it could be a long while before she would be whole again. Prescriptions in hand we walked to the car, mulling over this news. It would be hard to find the proper fit of a family to adopt a needful dog such as this. I didn’t want to see this sweet thing pass through the turnover of ” didn’t fit in, cost too much, wasn’t what we expected” kind of homes. I would not do that to this dog. We’d see her through to better health and give her the home she never had. She’d have a full belly at the end of each day, a warm dog bed to climb into on cold nights. A home to call her own. We would love her to the day she took her last breath and let her pass with dignity. As we pulled away from the parking lot I gently touched her silky ears as she leaned into my hand. It was at that very moment I realized she was going to be my everything. And I would be her world as well.

Part 6: Be Careful What You Wish For

It’s warm and humid in the mid afternoon as we begin the process of crossing from Mexico into Belize. As some would say, “we smell the barn”. Ahead of us lies the Rio Hondo River which divides Belize and Mexico, and begins in Guatemala. The crossing itself is a few miles out from the metropolitan city of Chetumal which is in the State of Yucatan. We must first process out of Mexico before entering into Belize. Forms are filled out, pesos are paid. All relatively easy and organized. Because we have a vehicle and belongings and we need to declare our final destination into Belize, we have planned to hire “a guide” to help us through the process. Before our tires even cross onto Belizean soil a young man steps forward and introduces himself as, John, a customs process guide. Of course, who else? John appears to be in his early 30’s, slender and quick as a whip darting here and there to gather the appropriate forms for us to fill out. He methodically explains the process to us, “no worries Mon, I will get you through”. Passports, signatures and the declarations of belongings are completed as he steers us towards the appropriate building. We groan as we see a long line of others before us. There will be a duty tax to pay after our boxed belongings are looked over and approved.

Surprisingly, our wait is not what we anticipated and we get processed easily through this phase. Our vehicle needs to be emptied and appraised by an agent who tallies up the value, looks over our processed papers from Mexico and with a flourish signs the needed paperwork and redirects us back into the same building to pay our tax. John is patiently waiting on the side of building as he for sure does not want to let us slip away. We pay our tax of $75 US and exit the coolness of the busy office. John has made his way over to our vehicle, standing guard. He asks if his services were beneficial and we shower him with praise but offer no other “tips” other then the steep price he requested at the start of the process. He tells us his day is finished and asks for a ride to the next main highway intersection which is 10 miles away; we agree. He’s a nonstop talker for the next 10 miles while sitting atop our boxes and luggage. He probably makes a decent living doing what he does and is able to support his family, whom he tells us all about. We drop him off at the appointed location and bid him farewell. He already has this thumb out, hitching a ride to the small village he lives in.

The day is quickly fading, as we are too. Gritty with dust and sand, we long for a cooling shower from the heat and humidity of this day. We have made it. We are here. Belize, the land of our thoughts and dreams for the past 5 years. Tomorrow we will make arrangements to have our goods shipped to the island and buy our one way ticket to San Pedro, Ambergris Caye, Belize Central America.

To my readers: These past 6 essays were constructed from a journal I kept during our travel adventure through Mexico to our destination of Belize. Bits and pieces were removed while others were shuffled and reorganized. All were true. Why the title of Be Careful What You Wish For? Because it was a Wish For Dream we chased but never caught. As hard as we tried for over 6 months, I came to realize I would never be able to shape my life to what I wished for. Perhaps it was a dream worthy of chasing and I don’t regret our attempt to make it happen. But wait…it gets even more exciting. I bet you can’t wait to read my journal, “Leaving Belize for Our Real Home”.

Part 5: Be Careful What You Wish For

Written by Leisa Bailey

Today we will reach Villahermosa in the State of Tabasco, and beyond with our last check point at the next State of Campeche. We turn west a bit more onto a long stretch of heavy, thick black asphalt. It feels good to be cruising again on a smoother pavement. We are a distance from the coast and now pass through flatter land with grazing water buffalo and fields of pineapple and strawberries. We see a small fruit stand up ahead and pull over to the shaded underpass to see what’s available. Rural, nondescript dogs with no ownership are scaveraging for pineapple scraps that a man has thrown to them. None go to waste. He indicates the cost and that he will cut it for us. With his well used machete he quickly slices a small pineapple into perfect wedges with a few strokes of his sharp tool and hands them to us with dripping wet fingers. The flies are buzzing about us as we bite into this incredibly sweet fruit. I can say I’ve not tasted a finer pineapple ever.

We resume our drive and although on our map it looks as if nothing is out this way, it proves to be the most beautiful part of the drive so far. Large dense forest grows up to the road not leaving much of a shoulder to pull over to if needed. There are very few villages now and certainly less foot traffic, if any. I’m feeling the most relaxed that I’ve been since we began this journey. Suddenly we are driving into a cloud of migrating butterflies! They are beautiful with black and aqua markings and it pains us to see them on a collision course with the windshield as the migration goes on for miles. We slow and pull over into a tree sheltered pull off and get out of the vehicle to enjoy all this fluttering about. These lovely creatures are resting on our shoulders, heads and even our feet. An extraordinary experience. Pineapples to butterflies.

Within a few hours as we approach the eastern end of this State we pass several signs for the Mayan ruins in the area and beyond, that we’ve read about. Mauchin, Calakmul, El Ramonal and Becan are some of the larger ones. We see the very white graveled roads that lead into the more hilly areas but we have not allotted time to visit these historical sites. It would be easy to spend days appreciating just one of these ruins. Right now we feel the anticipation of reaching this next state border crossing and want to get through it without incidence.

So far our 3 crossings having been simple and quick. A few questions spoken in Spanish which we typically could not answer but we were able to explain by showing our map and pointing to Belize. This is our final State entry before encountering the largest one at Chetumal, leaving Mexico and going into Belize. We have been advised by other travelers that this perhaps could be a bit slower crossing with the most inquisitive military guards so far. As we slowly slide over the ever present topes that are designed to slow traffic before a stop point, we see but only 2 crossing guards ahead. One is working on a large bus line and having all the under carriage luggage removed. We are directed by the lone remaining officer to pull into a sectioned off area. These crossing guards are dressed in military uniform and carry weapons across their shoulders. I am sitting in the passenger side and this guard has selected me to be the one to talk with him. As my window slides down I am looking into the most beautiful green eyes of a serious looking, darker skinned soldier. He has a clipboard in hand. In perfect English he tells me to step out of the vehicle. I feel rather unsettled, as I didn’t anticipate this. He motions for my husband to remain in the vehicle. He’s a ‘right in your face’ kind of person as he begins asking me to state our business. I only answer the questions in the briefest but polite manner and volunteer no additional information. Never once do his eyes leave mine. He’s almost hypnotic to look at, in a way. He stands before me and says nothing. Seconds tick by before he finally dismisses me with a curt nod of his head and motions for me to get back into the vehicle and then with a flourish he turns and crosses the road to help his comrade with the tourist bus. My hands are shaking yet I feel like laughing as I loudly tell my husband to step on it!

Part 4: Be Careful What You Wish For

Written by Leisa Bailey

The Mexican Auto Motel

It is near dark by the time we reach Veracruz and we are immediately consumed by fast and heavy traffic and find ourselves totally in no mans land it seems. We find a fuel station and pull in, taking a brief respite to look at our map which of course is useless to us. This certainly was unexpected, but we continue on a main road looking for anything that offers lodging. We are crawling along at a snails pace and nearly get T-boned at an intersection. The offending driver gestures wildly at us using the international sign for ‘dumb shit’. Then miracoulsy as we are turning a corner, there sits our pot of gold, a relatively newer looking grouping of what looks to us to be storage units with windows. A brightly lit neon sign above states “Utohotel Villa Verde” and we don’t even bother asking the other “does this look okay?” as we whip into the bricked driveway. As we slowly pull up to a covered portico a young woman appears out of a small adjoining office and motions for us to follow her down the narrow drive for a short distance. We are feeling road weary and punchy and begin to laugh as to what this is all about. As she approaches an overhead garage door she pulls out an opener from her pocket and pushes the button. As the door begins to lift she motions for us to drive in. This is hysterical to me for some reason as we have no idea what to expect after we are parked. She smiles, nods her head and motions for us to get out of our vehicle and follow her into the interior side door. Bright white florescent lights are turned on as she shows us around an immaculate hotel room. She’s seeking our approval as she shows us the bedroom, bath and shower room. Of course we nod our heads rapidly with big smiles. We exchange pesos, approximately $50 US, for the room key but before she leaves she shows us the neatest thing ever. On the wall in the bedroom facing towards the driveway is a revolving lazy Susan type turnstile. She shows us a plastic covered menu for meals and drinks, both in English and Spanish and point to the telephone on the wall. Incredible! Wonderful! What a concept we have never experienced! It’s called Mexican Room Service and it worked very well!

It was much later on that we learned from another American traveler, the possible real gist behind such privacy of these commonly found hotels. They are used for private trysts between couples. Perhaps that explains the abundance of mirrors all around the bed as well as the ceiling and the abundance of packaged condoms in the ash trays.

Tomorrow our destination is for Villahermosa in the State of Tabasco. Border crossings have military check points that sometimes can be time consuming and a bit spooky; other times a simple nod and smile gets us through without too much questioning but we’ve been told the crossing into the State of Campeche could be the most difficult. And how right that turned out to be.