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The Camp At Lost Creek

Outside of Anaconda, Montana there is a state park called Lost Creek. My family has a lot of history there as over a hundred years ago it was the favorite place to hunt for my grandfather Lee Allen. Back then he lived in Anaconda and went to the Lost Creek area often to hunt. It was not a state park back then. The preferred prey was mountain goat, a species that is now protected in this area. Over a hundred years ago, my grandfather, his brother and their father thought nothing of shooting three of these magnificent animals a day. I still have a set of horns from that period as a testament to the days before the dawn of environmental awareness. I must interject here that my grandfather’s family hunted for meat and hides and not for sport.

In 1994, I took my wife on her first visit to the area. It was kind of a walk down memory lane for me. Things had changed a lot. The slag piles in Anaconda were being turned onto a golf course and progress seemed to be everywhere. After we toured the museum there and visited nearby Deer Lodge, we decided to camp at Lost Creek for the night. It was late in the season and a little cold but we both felt up for exchanging our hotel in Deer Lodge for a night in the woods. I had regaled my wife with our family history in the area and wanted to show her a bit of the “real” Montana.

We tried to buy firewood in Anaconda but none was available. We arrived at the camp ground just before dusk only to discover there was no wood there either. I blew off the whole wood idea as I had an ancient Coleman stove with us. As I unpacked the tent, I noticed the sky was getting black and then Boom! One of those famous Rocky Mountain thunderstorms was upon us in an instant. I struggled with the tent poles and one broke in typical “Made In China” fashion. I managed a temporary splint and hung a tarp between three trees for extra insurance.

When I finally got the whole camp set up, my wife and dog were both unhappily in the tent waiting for me. Our dog wanted to get back in the car and go back to the hotel. My wife was probably thinking the same. However, I wanted to show them both what pioneering stock I was from. Our dog became fixed on leaving to the point of whining until at last I produce a package of hot dogs and began cooking them on the stove. He settled right in. My wife followed and we all sat around with the rain pouring down to have a typical camp meal of hot dogs and beans.

After dinner, we decided to turn in. I forgot to mention to my wife that I had purposely pitched the tent square on a moose path for added authenticity. “What’s that?” My wife jumped up. I told her that it was only a moose rubbing against of tent. Our dog didn’t seem bothered but then again his belly was full of hot dogs.

When at last everyone was finally settled down and peace had pervaded, my wife jumped up again, this time with her .38 in hand. “I hear something coming in the door of the tent!” she exclaimed. I grabbed a flashlight and put the beam to the tent fly. Sure enough, there was an intruder: A deer mouse looking startled in the light. I finally convinced my wife not to blow away the rodent, shoed it out of the tent and we all went to sleep.

I woke up early the next morning to see if I could scrounge up some dry firewood. I finally made a small fire but I literally had to drag our dog out of the tent. It seemed he had gotten pretty content with the idea of a sleeping bag. Again, food was the bait! I put on some bacon and eggs and finally both my wife and dog reluctantly joined me.

As the day warmed up, we explored the Lost Creek canyon and its small stream. We even saw a couple of mountain goats on the steep canyon’s walls. That was a big treat and after a few hours we broke camp and decided to go down to the Clark’s Fork for some fishing. As we were leaving the campground we saw something unbelievable. Next to the road was a large big horned sheep. He was just sitting there enjoying the fact that he too was protected in this environment. At first I thought he might be ill as he didn’t move when I approached with a camera. No, he was fine all right. The day was getting hot and he was in his favorite resting place and was not going to be bothered by the likes of me. I took a lot of photos and even some video footage. The big boy never budged an inch.

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As we left for the valley below us, I couldn’t help thinking what my grandfather would have done after seeing a sitting big horned sheep a century ago. I squeezed the sound of that shot out of my mind and off we went toward Drummond and the waiting trout.

For more on this area, read my book The Horse Whisperers from Anaconda

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Education

Several of you undoubtedly recall my various slaps at our education system in the United States. In a word, it is an embarrassment. The United States now ranks 17th in education world-wide with even lower rankings for math and reading. What has happened?

When I was an English teacher nearly 50 years ago, the United States ranked number one. I honestly thought it would be that way forever. Why not? What could possibly change it? Apparently, everything!

It’s not a money thing. When I taught English, I was making a whopping $11,800 per year and that included extra pay for being a credentialed reading specialist. Today, the average high school teacher’s salary is $47,259. While that is not a fortune and surely teachers have been and are still underpaid, the money thing would still seem not to apply. So what’s changed in the last 50 years? A lot!

First, the collective will of America to properly educate their children has diminished. Education is no longer considered the most important thing in a child’s life. Too often, the most important thing is a cell phone with which the average child learns LOL but can’t spell the word laughing. Today’s kids have too much of everything and therefore don’t see the same urgency in learning as prior generations.

Second, education standards have been lowered to accommodate minorities and disadvantaged students. Standardized testing has continually been down shifted to allow minority and disadvantaged students to score passing grades. Kids aren’t held back to re-complete grades as they once were. In today’s world everyone get’s a participation trophy and there is little motivation to truly be the best.

Third, the quality of teaching personnel has greatly degraded. In many locations, people who teach our youth are not even required to be credentialed to do so. It’s like anyone with a heart and some free time is allowed to teach. Background checks are sketchy as well. When I taught in public schools, I was first required to submit to a complete FBI background check and swear my allegiance to the United States in front of a federal judge. Try that today! A neighbor of mine recently told me that their daughter’s teacher simply tells the class to look up things on the internet; the teacher can not be bothered with actual teaching because she is too busy texting her boyfriend with the hope of getting laid.

Fourth, even though there has been a continual cry for more money, schools are not adequately funded. They never have been. Money that is set aside for schools often never arrives in the classroom; it is eaten up and wasted in the bureaucracy of school administration and local politics. New programs are often politically motivated and wind up being a waste of precious money that should be put into qualified teachers, books and computers.

Fifth, the change in curriculum over the years has “dumbed down” our young scholars. Cursive writing is no longer taught, foreign languages still remain an elective subject and even basic reading skills are not taught today. There will always be the need to write a coherent letter or have a meaningful conversation yet our children are not being prepared for these most simple tasks. To be prepared to interact with other cultures who speak other languages is all but out of the question and relegated to fantasy land.

Sixth, there is no real want to be educated on the part of much of today’s youth. They would rather play on the smart phone and see no real need for much formal education. Most can’t look into the future beyond today’s Instagram. With a lack of aspiration on both the part of students and teachers, there is no motivation to be educated. As Pelagius said, “There is no worse death than the end of hope.”

If these six crucial points can be addressed by students, teachers and the public at large, there is a chance that we can once again be number one in education. More importantly, we can regain our place in the world as leaders and innovators. Without drastic intervention very soon, we will be doomed to be a nation of dummies.

PS – Let’s not forget the trades. We have an acute shortage of plumbers, carpenters, metal workers and other trades people. If you want your washing machine repaired, you’re apt to see a guy my age show up at your door. We need more education in these areas as well.

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Lessons From A River Runs Through It

Thoughts for the mid-week….

allenrizzi

As a fly fisherman, I have always enjoyed Norman Mclean’s book, “A River Runs Through It.” I also enjoyed the Robert Redford movie immensely as well. The two combined have provided me with many lessons to deal with my mid-life and senior years. They also served as an inspiration for my book, “The Blackest of Canyons and Other Micro Tales of Fly Fishing,”

Mclean’s tale is painted against a canvass of fly fishing in Missoula, Montana and provides the reader with a wealth of lessons and observations for dealing with life’s ambiguities and general unfairness.Here are several examples found as quotes in the book and movie:

From the book:

“The hardest thing usually to leave behind, as was the case now, can loosely be called the conscience.” That’s the starting point for all of life’s lessons.To truly learn these lessons we must first find our conscience.

From the…

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The Godfather’s Priest?

Photographs are memories. I have a great many (15,000 plus) tucked away in my archives. Most portray days gone by when photographs were held in high esteem. They were once not merely snapshots of everyday living. From these photographs I have been able to draw a better understanding of my family and their lives. Photographs can form a collective memory of individuals that lasts a long time. In most cases this is a good thing. However….

The photograph that I frequently use for my online presence is one that was taken for the 25th anniversary of my marriage to my lovely wife. For this photo, we were both dressed in traditional Tirolean attire and I thought my individual photo looked fine until a couple of years ago.

My brother was on a Skype call to me in Italy from Mexico when he inquired about this photo. “Why are you dressed like a priest?” he asked. I explained Tirolean fashion at length to little avail. He was struck by the photo and concluded our call by stating flatly that I looked like the Godfather’s priest. (I suppose it was the lack of a coat collar.)

RizziAllen

I have thought about that conversation a lot and I do hope that I will be remembered more for being a writer than looking like the Godfather’s priest. But just in case, “Vi benedetto!”

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Lunedi Senza Parole #118

Indovina dove! Guess where!
Foto © Allen E. Rizzi

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Animal Cruelty

Thoughts for a Sunday…

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Animal cruelty – Everyone seems to condemn it and yet it continues to grow in our society at an alarming rate. Why?

Just last night, I saw a report on television about a dog that was chained and dragged from a pick-up truck by two of our errant morons here in North Carolina. Why? Kicks! It seems that many people these days just aren’t stimulated enough by everyday kind s of things; they need a double dose of caffeine and something really nuts to get their blood moving, It’s pathetic but becoming all too common.

People who torture animals seem to have a deep-seated psychopathology that will someday erupt into far worse violence against people. We see this time after time. The mass shooter often got his start shooting dogs and cats or dismembering small birds. It’s a sickness to be sure and one that needs intervention at an early…

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Ponokáómitaa

Here’s a poem I wrote a couple of years ago. It was originally written in Siksika (Blackfoot), which is a Native-American language that I am slowly learning, and then translated to English. It was published by Subprimal Poetry in 2016. The song-like structure is purposeful as it was intended to be recorded and released as Native-American music. I include it here for your enjoyment.

Ponokáómitaa  

© 2016 Allen E. Rizzi

Máóhk, the color of sunrise, was my pony,
Áápi like the clouds was his blaze.
Sik, the color of earth, was his eyes,
He was mine for a time in the haze.

Ponokáómitaa, he was my friend
When others would not stand with me.
His spirit, it stays in my heart
Like the scent of the tall green pine tree.

Come sit by the fire, my friend,
Let us dream of tomorrow.
Together we’ll speak of today
But never of yesterday’s sorrow.

Ponokáómitaa, come to me in the morning
So that I may ride young once again
Like the man of my youth come alive,
Head high and hair in the wind.

Come sit by the fire, my friend,
Let us dream of tomorrow.
Together we’ll speak of today
But never of yesterday’s sorrow.

Ponokáómitaa, I am proud to say,
I hear the silence we now share.

Here’s the Subprimal Poetry site with a recorded voice version of this poem. Please feel free to leave a comment.

https://subprimal.com/issues/issue6/ponokaomitaa-by-allen-e-rizzi

For more on the Siksika language and Blackfoot heritage, see my other posts:

https://rizziallen.wordpress.com/2016/09/23/o-gyee/

https://rizziallen.wordpress.com/2016/08/05/blackfoot-moccasins/

I would love your comments here!

ᖹᒧᐧᖹᖱᔪᒣᖽ (nitsíniiyi’taki) ((Thank You!))

Photo: Müstair, Switzerland 2001 by Rachel Rizzi

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The Rock

Some 55 plus years ago, many of my friends and I surfed a break called Secos. The name Secos was short for Arroyo Secos State Park, which was located north of Malibu, California.

I remember camping there when I was 13 and 14 years old and porting our boards under the Pacific Coast Highway in order to reach the water. Secos had a few good things going for it back then. The break peeled off from a massive rock toward the left. It was therefore pretty much a right break only. On really big days with a strong south swell, one could take-off behind the rock but the choice was always limited to that straight right ending up on the beach south some 100 to 150 yards.

A couple of years later I discovered another great thing about Secos when I started driving there in my own car. There was unlimited parking along the right side of PCH facing south. On crowded days we had to walk a quarter to a half a mile just to reach the beach. This huge “parking lot” was great for spotting people you knew by their parked car. We always approached from the south and there was this long grade down to Secos where you could get a good idea of the surfing conditions as well as who was there.

One late summer day the surf at Secos was really big, perhaps in the 10-12 foot range and definitely breaking outside the rock. I took my turn in the stuff but it was pretty brutal. As I was paddling out between sets in a mountain of white water, a seal surfaced next to my board and barked in surprise. I literally flew off my board in equal surprise. But my goal was to get beyond the soup for the next set.

The wind had picked-up in the early afternoon and each wave seemed to hang a little longer before the break. This, combined with an outgoing tide, gave some to the biggest waves the appearance of being sucked out beneath the face. As I was still inside the break line, I paddled harder but noticed that the next set had already begun. I decided to hang back a bit and not get beat up for nothing.

As I was bobbing in the foam, I saw a guy I knew take off boldly behind the rock. It was Tak Takawara, another surfer I knew, but not well. The wave was big but all of a sudden the bottom was sucked out during the takeoff, tossing Tak onto the enormous rock. I didn’t hear his leg break; the roar of the waves was too great. Tak finally made it to the beach, literally bloody and broken. I heard that he broke both legs but was later informed that it was only one.

It was always popular to take off right next to the rock even in small surf. However, the incident that day always kept me always a bit away from the rock. Also after that day, I just plain refused to take off behind the rock. A few weeks went by after the disaster and I finally saw Tak again. It was up the coast a couple of miles at a break called County Line. This is where Ventura and Los Angeles counties met. I was coming out of the water and I noticed Tak sitting on the rocks that reinforced the highway. He was bored to death because he couldn’t go in the water and he sat there poking with his crutches at ground squirrels that peaked out occasionally from between the rocks. We exchanged a passing smile and a few words before I went up to my car.

That was the last time I remember seeing Tak. I know that he got back to surfing because I heard his name from time to time along the coast. I tried to look him up a few years back and found a man by the same name who was a camera man in Hollywood. I’m guessing it was him. Through all these years the rock, the seal, Tak and that whole strange day have been etched into my mind. They are called memories and I truly hope that all of you have some special ones to cherish as well.

If you get a chance, read a few more of my memories in: Fifty Years Ago – A Surfing Trilogy: And Other Surfing Stories from the 1960’s.

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Blackfoot Moccasins

For many years I have been in possession of a pair of moccasins that were given to my grandfather as a 5-year-old child in Anaconda, Montana. They were made by a nearby Blackfoot Indian tribe in 1899. The story is detailed in my book, The Horse Whisperers from Anaconda.

I have recently been researching the design on these moccasins and their meaning. I would also like to know their exact origin. The moccasins are ankle high, made of deer leather and crafted for a five-year old. There are what appear to be inter-joined flowers in blue, yellow and green used in the beaded design. The tongue is scalloped as is the overlap that hides the laces. The likely location of the tribe that made these is somewhere between Missoula and Butte, Montana. The most likely the location is Deer Lodge, Montana. Recently an expert in moccasins suggested that they may be of Cree or Blackfoot origin. I am hoping that the description and photo can help pinpoint their exact origin.

Is there anyone out there who can help?

Nitsíniiyi’taki

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Reading The Label

When I was a boy of perhaps 13 or 14 years old, I developed a unique habit of carefully studying the labels on the many 45 rpm records that I owned. Fortunately, I had a girlfriend whose father owned a jukebox supply business and I was set free in an endless inventory of 45’s to pick and choose at a nickel a record. In time, this gave me a large inventory of my own. I spent many a long afternoon dodging my school homework and quietly going through these records and learning the artists, writers and arrangers. The labels themselves intrigued me. Names that have since vanished were the standard stock in those days: Sun, Laurie, Decca and the like. I learned a great deal about their catalogs, artists and writers.

The first great fact that I discovered was that Dion did indeed have a last name just like the rest of us. It was DiMucci, and it was plainly printed on each of the records for which he wrote or co-wrote the song. This great epiphany soon gave way to hours of studying the B-sides of all of his hits and not so hits. I learned that Dion’s B-side hit “Little Miss Blue” actually was anonymous and that the writer’s name had eluded discovery. (It did turn up years later.) Then patterns began to develop as I learned the names of the great songwriters of those days.

Some names and their relationship to the record were obvious at first glance. Neil Sedaka wrote most of his own stuff and it was not unusual to see his name listed as the writer, sometimes alongside that of one of his co-writers, Carole King. Others were less obvious. John D. Loudermilk had a small hit of his own but in fact was a writer of many hit records for other artists. Bobby Vee wrote only a few of his own songs.

Gradually, I honed my mini talent to include learning all of the writers, artists, arrangers, back-up groups and their inter-relationships and histories. Everyone has heard of Richie Valens. However, I actually grew up in the same town in which he lived, San Fernando, California. I taught school at the high school he attended and I learned the intimate details of his life history, including where the parents of his famous girlfriend Donna lived. They were, in fact, customers of mine when I had a paper route as a youth. The line, “I had a girl, Donna was her name” became more vivid to me as I could picture how he may have stood outside his girlfriend’s house on a street darkened by the foliage of heavy maple trees.

There are a lot of unwritten histories out there and I am proud to say that I learned a lot of them by first reading the labels on my old 45’s.

Later in life, my love for writing seduced me into the world of song writing. Because I became a writer of music, I learned even more of the names and the histories. When you are out there on the streets peddling your tunes on Tin Pan Alley, you develop a real empathy for other writers and artists. This is not an easy business. But learning how others had dealt with the same adversity decades before helped to see me through many long days and even longer nights.

Now I have many compiled catalogs in my head. They are much like the old stock lists I had searched as a youth in that back room of the business of my girlfriend’s father. It is of little use to anyone but myself. This nostalgia collection spans from the 50’s to the late 80’s and includes thousands of titles. Perhaps I would make a good Jeopardy contestant if the answer was, “He wrote Bobby Vee’s hit ‘The Night Has A Thousand Eyes.’” (Answer: “Who is Snuff Garrett?”) Right, Alex!

So I leave you with a parting question to ponder on behalf of all of those semi-known artists and writers (myself included). Who sang the 1966 one hit wonder “You’re Gonna Miss Me?” (Answer: The 13th Floor Elevators, of course!)

The photo above is the cover to my book, Three A.M. – The Complete 1970s Song Lyrics, available at Amazon.com. It catalogs the lyrics to my 1970’s music.

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