Tag Archives: #wanderingkeri

The Shooting of Len Nielson

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If you’ve been reading Wanderingkeri for a while you may remember Chills, a Nudge, and Footsteps when I talked about starting an unknown journey to learn the stories of my great-grandparents and by extension their family. That nudge has become an obsession to learn and tell their stories because we need to see how much their trials and experiences may teach us, lead us, and guide us in the days of our lives.  The following story is about my grandfather Tom Murdoch Nicol.  What stories are hiding in your family?

 

(Tom, Upper Right)Written on the back of the this picture is the following: “This is the Children’s play tent they have a good time. Tom is always making something. I wish you could see it. The boy standing by Tom with his hat on one side, the little girl and the boy by her are neighbor’s children also the one just back of John with the paper in his hand. The rest are mine. Can you tell them by their looks? All well hope you are. Don’t think that house is ours. Ours is a little bigger than that. I wish I could see you all but don’t know when that will be.” Love to all Tressa

The Shooting of Len Nielson

Heat mirages wafted across the desert ahead of them, dust softly puffed from beneath their horse’s hoofs as the boys rode south and back north, east then west looking for cattle strayed from their ranch. The air carried the occasional morning meadow lark song and the two boys kept an eye out for rattlesnakes that may stretch out or worse coil up beneath the sagebrush or in the rock filled outcrops throughout the ranch.

Tom, the oldest, had his pistol holstered at his side. He prized his pistol and was proud of it and proud of his ability to hit what he aimed at almost all the time. Hyrum, his father, had taught him to shoot at an early age as he had taught each of his boys to use weapons for protection, especially riding the ranch; rattlesnakes weren’t the only varmints that would and could injure a man or animal.  When his parent’s first came to the desert country to homestead, Tom was only two and Chase, riding next to him now, was just an infant. They’d moved onto the “Rez” when it was first opened to white settlement in 1906, and though Duchesne had grown the Nicol’s ranch was about 15 miles from town and was as desolate an area as when the Indians were first confined to the newly designated Uintah Valley Reservation in 1863.

Stopping on the top of a hard packed sandy hill searching for tell-tale signs of the wandering cattle, Tom lifted his hat and wiped his forehead wet from the persistent sun pounding down. He pulled his pistol out and shot at a rock a fair piece away; the dust popping just below the target, his steady black mare not twitching when the pistol fired. We haven’t seen a track of those cows Chase. Let’s take a break, why don’t we ride over to Len’s and see if he’s seen any strays out his way. It’s been a while since we’ve been over. Besides, the horses could use some rest and water before we move on.

Spotting Len out in his yard, Tom and Chase hallo’d as they trotted their horses next to the barn, and climbed down from their thirsty mounts. Might we water our horses Len, Chase asked? Sure boys, help yourselves.  What are you doing this far out in this heat? Searching for some cattle that wandered away from the herd. You haven’t seen any strays up this way have you Len?  Not up here, but I haven’t been out in the back acres for a while, they could be up there, but it’s pretty dried out, not much water over that way.

While the horses drank, the boys and Len leaned against the barn in the shade. That’s a nice pistol you’ve got there Tom, can I see it? Tom reached down and pulled the pistol from its holster, flipping it over to hand the butt of the gun to Len when the pistol fired mid-flip and it was pointed right at Len! As if in slow motion Tom saw where the bullet entered in the front and exited the back of Len’s neck and then watched as Len dropped to the ground.

What should they do? They were just boys, he didn’t want to go to jail, it was an accident; all these thoughts raced through Tom’s mind as he  grabbed his horse, flew into the saddle and galloped away leaving Chase staring down at Len. Pushing his horse as fast as she could run through the miles between Len’s cabin and theirs Tom was certain Len was dying or even dead and what was he to do?

His litttle black horse was lathered and on her knees when Tom jumped from her back and ran to his mother,  he blurted out “I by accident shot Len Nielson”! Being the mother of seven boys Isabella had developed nerves of steel where the actions of her boys were concerned, but at this pronouncement she collapsed to the ground.  Tom was breathing hard and tears dry on his face, the twins Alva and Alma were yelling Tom’s going to jail, pandemonium had broken loose for a minute and just as suddenly stopped when Isabella said, Stop yelling.  Let’s kneel down here and say a prayer. Isabella turned to one of the youngest boys, John Murray and said, John you say the prayer please.  As they knelt there in the yard, John prayed harder than he had ever said a prayer before. Please bless Len to be alright. Please bless that Tom won’t go to jail. Amen.

After the prayer, Isabella turned and said, Kenneth, take care of Tom’s horse.  I hope you didn’t ride her to death Tom, she said, as she and Tom hitched the wagon and then whipped the horses into a cantor as they turned back up the road to Len’s cabin.

Stretched out on the ground Len closed his eyes and knew he was going to die. Chase, yelled Len! Len! What should I do? But Len was clutching at his neck blood oozing between his fingers, slowly dripping to puddles beneath his head. At once Chase knew what to do! He pulled his handkerchief out of his pocket; stuffed one end in the front bullet hole and the other end into the back bullet hole and held on tight. Slowly the blood stopped running out onto the dirt, but Chase was also afraid Len was going to die.

Looking toward home Chase saw a rolling cloud of dust and knew help was on the way.   Isabella and Tom were off the wagon seat hardly before the horses had stopped. Bending over Isabella said a prayer of thanks that Len was yet alive, and that Chase had known what to do to stop the bleeding.   It was a miracle that the track of the bullet missed all of Len’s major arteries, missed his larynx and missed his spine and major muscles.  If Chase hadn’t stuffed his handkerchief into the holes he would probably have died from blood loss.

Over the next weeks life on the ranch returned to normal; Tom’s horse didn’t die, John Murray at age five was certain that it was his prayer that saved Len’s life, and Tom and Chase found the stray cattle.  Stopping over to check on Len the boys were grateful that Len didn’t hold any hard feelings; him saying it was an accident, but he was glad he wasn’t dead and he supposed that with that kind of thing between them that they’d always be friends.[i]

 

[i] Author’s Note: This fictionalized story of the shooting of Len Nielson is based upon the true experiences of Thomas M. Nicol (age about 14) and H. Chase Nicol (age about 12) as told to Tom’s son Keith Nicol and recounted in the James and Mary Murray Murdoch Family History.  Additional facts of the prayer given by John Murray Nicol (age 85) given to author Keri Nicol Vest-Vergari (Tom’s oldest granddaughter). As to who actually went to Len’s aid is unknown from family lore, but taking author’s license, as a mother I could not imagine that Isabella would stay at home waiting, but rather go as quickly as possible to offer aid to what may have become a tragedy.

 

Today’s Tribute is to Newton’s 1st Law of Motion

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Christmas holiday company left 45 minutes ago … though they’re out the door the ions, electrons, neutrons, atoms, & quarks are still spinning all around and bombarding me. There is definitely active energy excitement going on here.  Even the silence feels like it has weight.  My mind doesn’t want to generate thought, my body doesn’t want to do much but remain stopped. The past week(s) we’ve proven Newton’s 1st law of motion: that a body in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless unless acted upon by an unbalanced force. Well my body wants to work on the other half of Newton’s first law of motion – sometimes referred to as the law of inertia that an object at rest stays at rest until acted upon by an unbalanced force.

Charlie; our foster dog … he misses his real momma

Was I being mean or what?

The 4500 miles, a new dog member to our family, then our annual 5 course plus dessert Christmas Eve dinner (carb overload) and wonderful friends, Christmas dinner and more wonderful friends (less carbs), Sweetie’s daughter & husband spent a few days successfully getting us onto the X-C ski tracks around McCall for the first time this year (like we’ve had nooooo snow to speak of) and so now the biggest unbalanced force that will be acting upon me will be the combined efforts of the dogs at my feet for a walk … later … much later.

And with that statement I am closing up the year of our Lord Two Thousand and Seventeen with a sigh of contentment, a heart full of gratitude for uncountable blessings, and a prayer of thanksgiving in my heart for all the days of this year. All the days of love, days of friendship, days of pain, days of sorrow, days of hope, days of joy, days of tears, days of failure, days of success, days of shadow and days of sunshine.

Thank you for joining me on this year’s journey around the sun. I’ve loved every minute of it I hope you have too!

 

Praise ye the Lord. O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.  Psalms 106

4,530 Miles & Popcorn Crack

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Oven-Baked Popcorn — Beware! It’s Addicting

I’m eating oven-baked caramel popcorn (aka popcorn crack). A nibble becomes a taste, becomes a handful, becomes three handfuls, then what the heck! I’ll just eat the whole dang bag full. In lieu of eating the whole dang sack of popcorn and randomly wandering through the never-ending pages of Pinterest (which is as addicting as my popcorn crack) I started counting Wanderingkeri  miles … it started when I noticed the Escape-mobile turned 45,000 while driving to Council last night.

Then I thought of the miles I’ve driven just since November … from Boise to Riverton, Utah (baby shower 358 x 2), Boise to the gas station at Sweetzer Summit (meet Mom 1/2 way 193 x 2), Boise to Highland Utah for Thanksgiving (367 x 2), Boise to American Fork, Utah (funeral 369 x 2), Boise to Orem, Utah (help Mom move 378 x 2). Of course this includes the trips from Boise to Council (at least 5, I think @ 120 x 2) but not the miles around town, or the miles within the trips. (that’s just too OCD for me right now).

So the major legs of travel, point to point adds up to:  4, 530 miles and December isn’t even over yet!!

What to do these miles mean besides calluses on my rear end ? They mean LOVE, they mean FAMILY, they mean TRADITIONS …  a perfect trifecta. Better than this popcorn, but not by much! BTW  this is a great travel snack (you’ll want to bring extra – make a double batch).

Oven-Baked Popcorn aka Popcorn Crack

Pop 1 cup of popcorn & set aside

Melt 1 cup (2 cubes) butter

Add 2 cups brown sugar

Add 1/2 teaspoon salt

On medium heat bring mixture to a slow boil, then boil for 5 minutes

Remove from heat

Stir in 1/2 t baking soda

Add 1 teaspoon vanilla

When mixture becomes creamy, but still hot, gently pour over popped corn mixing as you pour (I put popcorn in a tall sauce pot so kernels don’t spill out)

Once popcorn is evenly coated, spread out onto a roasting pan or cookie sheet(s)

Place in Pre-heated 250 degrees F oven

Bake for 1 hour

Every 15 minutes using a spatula carefully turn popcorn over and separate kernel clumps.

Once out of the oven, tip onto the counter-top to cool, continuing to separate kernel clumps.

Once cooled store in large plastic storage or paper bags.

 

Merry Christmas my friends!

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. John 3:16 KJV #lighttheworld

 

Hot Days, Cool Nights … Siesta Anyone?

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Mount Rainer in the sunshine

The past few weeks our days start early, until about noon, when the thermometer hits 100+ it’s time for me to hide out in the air conditioning until about 20:00 (that’s 8:00 pm for you non-military time folks). It’s so hot I’ve run out of adjectives … blazing hot, melting hot, boiling hot, sizzling, scorching, red hot … and if someone says, “well, it’s a dry heat at least” … as they search for a positive … I’m glad they’re positive. Sweetie hooches up in his gun shop while I spend time researching an elusive ancestor and reading … I now understand Spanish and Italian siestas and I embrace them!!

But, I’m positively breaking my live in the now philosophy and am looking forward to next week when we’ll hitch up the Mini Winnie (I’ve yet to find that perfect name for her) and head for the mountains and rivers of Eastern Idaho and Montana and wishful thinking … cooler temps? maybe?

You’d think with all these free afternoons hidden away that I’d have my traveling list written and have everything ready to go. Nope, notta even a little bit, well, except when I think about it in-between books. I suppose I’d better get out from under this siesta fogginess and make sure we don’t forget something … though one of my well-worn travel motto’s is “if we don’t have it we don’t need it”, or  if we really do need ‘it’ then “Improvise, Adapt, & Overcome” (Marines Thank you for letting me steal your unofficial motto).

It’s a celestial month, August 2017, and on the night of the 11th we’ll be in the mountains of Eastern Idaho and in the midst of the Perseid’s Meteor Shower  and although there’ll be a waning gibbous moon  I’m hoping to see more than a few “shooting stars” sitting in the darkness on that mountain side.

When we return from mystery rivers, dutch-oven dinners, concerts and the night of shooting stars, we’ll only have a few days to prep for before Solar Eclipse Party people  head our way.  Oh! I’ll need a list for that too … our 30+ people eclipse party seems small compared with the thousands upon thousands of solar eclipse seeking hordes that have rented every hotel, motel, cow pasture, campground and free open space between here and the west coast just to watch the stars come out in the middle of the day (or that’s what the solar experts are saying)! Our little “ranch” is dead-center of the solar eclipse path … That reminds me, I’d better practice my camera’s time-lapse settings (like the rest of the world is doing). I’m planning on this party to be as much fun as 4th of July last year … I hope no one is disappointed … sometimes it’s hard to beat a chart topper, but it’s definitely a bar to reach for.

Sunset in Packwood Washington

Last weekend we packed our fishing gear and headed to Washington state to fish some creeks and rivers near Mt Rainier … we weren’t disappointed. Sweetie’s daughter, new to the fly fishing addiction, caught the 2 largest trout while I not fishing at the time &  hiking in my flipflops slid right over damp moss, down slick rock and into the creek. Two lessons from that watery encounter … First, take your own advice and remember the lessons you taught the grandkids to “Don’t hike in your flipflops”, and Second, don’t put your phone in your jacket pocket when you skid into an icy cold mountain stream … can anyone say, “Hello new iphone 7”?

Hot days, cool nights and breezes through the pines … life is good!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Moving onto Boise Time

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My “Up Early” in Council is about 7 a.m. and means a saunter up the rails to trails, while the sun rises, the dog chases tweety birds, and what the day brings is generally a surprise.  But, when I’m on Boise Time it’s up at the sun crack of dawn to start my Get Off My Butt and Get Something Done list before I have to hooch up and hide out from solar activity (right now the temp is hovering mid-ninety and climbing). The past couple of days the list included finally planting the patio flower pots, moving & fixing the drip system, thinning the peaches and apples, hunting weeds, weeds, weeds and Virginia Creeper taming … you know, vines up and not down the arbor posts. The grapes, peaches, blackberries, apples and pears still need to be put under  camo netting to keep the crazy bird lady’s battalion of voracious beaks  from devouring the fruits of the mini-orchard’s labor.

2017 Garlic Harvest

For the first time this season the dehydrator is off the shelf and I’ve started the first batch of winter’s mint teas.

This year’s garlic harvest is drying out and I’m pleased to say the bulbs are big and healthy. They weren’t part of February’s Great Greenhouse Apocalypse, but were snug in their beds enduring this winter’s snowmageddon.

Garlic & Clam Sauce anyone?

Speaking of the Great Greenhouse Apocalypse you might be interested to know that 8 tomato plants, 8 peppers, and one basil plant survived … we had to breakdown and buy a spaghetti squash, San Marzano tomatoes, a roma grape tomato, and a couple more basil plants. They seem to be taking well to their new home and are already flowering.

Next week I think new potatoes may be ready to debut on the dinner table … along with some fresh peas and a maybe a steak?

I’m psyched though and hard work has a reward! Tomorrow the shovels, rakes, hoses, and ladder are going back in the shed ’cause “We’re Going Fishing”!! Yeah! Fishing Time! Finally the snow pack has melted enough that most of these western rivers are actually not flooding, so maybe, we won’t get swept away. At least I hope not.

These are my slow wanderings … where my wandering doesn’t always mean I need to be going to some great, distant adventure; sometimes it’s just a bit of gardening, a good book in the shade, checking a few items off a list or an evening standing in a river with my Sweetie.

For all of my blessings, I am thankful … Life is good and I am blessed.

This is a taste of Council Time …  where I plan my next adventures and wanders.  

The 2017 Great Greenhouse Apocalypse

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Survivors of the 2017 Great Greenhouse Apocalypse

Well, aren’t I glad I didn’t stay home yesterday and work in the yard when the weather was beautiful and the sun was shining because today it is gray and rainy and my yard chores will not be done, and the lawn won’t be mowed, nor the garden beds roto-tilled.

I guess it’ll be time in the greenhouse adjusting watering for the survivor plantlings and I’ll be feeling badly that most of my greenlings are dead. That’s right. Dead.  Dead. Dead. I gave them their first fertilization, mixed it too strong, and now … sad, withered, wilted , shriveled, dead or on life support mixed peppers, tomatoes, and basil plants  must be interred in the compost bin.

It’s far too late in the season to begin again so I’ll be planting garden center veggies … which if you add in the cost of running the greenhouse, seeds, planting medium, the new mist watering system and buying 5$ plants to grow a veg … well, off the top of my head I’m estimating that each tomato or pepper I harvest this fall will cost me 10-15$ (well, maybe not ‘that’ much). But, hey, I can’t worry about that now, can I?

Because, it’s not the money, or the harvest itself (well, maybe a little), but it is digging in dirt, waging war against weeds, and against the hordes of fruit loving, voracious beaks the crazy bird lady next door entices to the neighborhood, and my horrible assigned pressurized irrigation time (middle of the night). Those things keep my heart pumping and mind focused, but it’s truly the wonder in my spirit when I watch a minuscule seed burst open seeking sunlight,then mature into God’s gift of life … fresh, bountiful food for our table, bounty in the freezer and  jars on shelves.

I’m fearful the sight of shriveled, dead plantlings might burn your eyes out, so here’s a photo of The Survivors of the Wanderingkeri 2017 great greenhouse apocalypse …. Chimayo Chili Peppers.

10 Pounds in a 1 Pound Sack

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For more than 30 years Sweetie’s cousins fly from Pennsylvania to Idaho, to fish and hunt. Since I met them I’ve waxed poetic of red rocks, ponderosa and piñon pines, petroglyphs, and pictographs, the spirit and ancientness of southern Utah, and northern Arizona. Almost my FAVORITE place on earth …. so far.  We’ve encouraged, begged, wheedled, teased, and guilted them to come and experience another part of the west … and this year, in fact in 4 weeks, a couple of them are taking us up on our invitation to come face to face with God’s watercolor box.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnticipation! Planning for an extended road trip is always exciting, don’t you think? Sweetie warns me that I always try to put 10 pounds in a 1 pound sack when I’m planning … I admit, I generally do. Though I am getting better … well, at least I’m trying.

This is exactly a road trip … to taste, to feel spirit and solitude, to breathe ancientness so that it plants seeds so deep they will have to come again and again.

We’re packing the Micro Minnie Winnie campbox  that we acquired last fall … it’ll be it’s long distance break in trip. Which reminds me we have to give it a name, maybe on this trip it’ll let us know what it is.  The cousins are renting a Cruise America RV (little) and we’re hitting the highway for this 10 day road trip.

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Camp-Box Supreme Everything we need … nothing more, nothing less

In a nutshell: Boise to Salt Lake City where we’ll meet up with the cousins, then down to Moab (Arches & Canyonland National Parks), then Bluff  (Cedar Mesa and Hovenweep National Monument). We’ll drive through Monument Valley (yeah John Wayne and John Ford!) on our way to the South Rim of the Grand Canyon. After the enormous expanse of that canyon we’ll head north and walk, hike, climb and work ourselves down through Wire Pass (a coooool small, slot canyon which connects to the longer Buckskin Gulch canyon). We’ll work our way west through Kanab (stopping always at Houston’s Trail’s End for chicken fried steak) then on toward Zion National Park.  To complete the circle we’ll wend our way through small towns Utah to I-15 and head north for an evening and a morning in SLC before sliding home to Boise.

It makes me breathless just thinking about it …  10 pounds in a 1 pound sack? What do you think?

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*Links are for your convenience if you want to know more about the places I’m wandering to. I receive no compensation for any links I put in my posts.