Friday, December 14, 2001


At a recent planning commission meeting, the old issue of house numbering came up again – or should I say the somewhat amusing lack thereof. It's been a while since this subject came up in a public meeting, but I wasn't surprised to hear about it.

This is because our brand shiny new police chief issued a warning/plea in one of his newspaper columns earlier this season asking would citizens please attend to this matter with all due haste and diligence so that his three brand shiny new police officers (not to mention the two more seasoned ones, whom I'm sure would be happy to be free of current, ahem, obstacles to finding which house's barking dog is the barking dog that prompted the 911 barking dog call du jour) can find their way around.

He – as does our zoning/streets Superman – backs up this plea with, of course, an ordinance of which most of us living here have been largely ignorant, Chapter 12 of Title 12 on Building Numbering, to wit:

12.12.101 - Conformance with provisions required. It is unlawful for any person to erect or maintain any house or building not numbered in conformity with this chapter.

The chapter then goes on to detail the numbering scheme adopted for Saratoga, in which the highway is the boundary between "East" and "West" X Street, and all numbers of buildings on the east or south side of the street shall bear odd numbers, and all on the west or north side shall bear even numbers.

OK, whatever. Never mind that I see west side houses with odd numbers and south side houses with even numbers. None of my biz!

As I look over the provisions of this tasty tidbit from the Saratoga Municipal Code (and I bet now all of you are wishing you had run for town council so you, too, could have a copy of the Code Saratogae handy whenever you have a burning desire to look up, e.g. the official definition of "alley" which is in use in Saratoga's legal documents!), I have to chuckle, because, sorry as I am to say it, our new chief and his three new cops are probably the only people in town who even care about house numbers, street addresses, what have you.

What about the post office, UPS, FedEx, out-of-towners may ask. Surely they need this vital information in order to function properly within the town, don't they?

Well, no.

Take our much-beloved UPSman. While he doesn't live here, he does pick up a fresh new copy of the local paper every Wednesday, dines here, occasionally hangs out here, and seems to possess a memory for names, faces and other relevant data that would make our much-beloved former U.S. Senator Al Simpson look like the poster boy for Alzheimer's Disease (Simpson hadn't seen me since I was about 14 years old and had a very different hair color, but at this year's annual convention of the Wyoming Press Convention, at which he was the keynote speaker, he caught me after the banquet and yelled from across the room "Hey Kate! How's your dad?").

Indeed, should I ever find myself unaware of to what job an acquaintance of mine might have switched, I need only ask UPSman. He knows our movements, our issues, our hopes, our up-to-the-minute whereabouts better than anyone!

For example - even this summer, when I switched jobs from the newspaper to the chamber of commerce, did I get the pleasure of sharing my news with him? NO! Before my very first day on my new job was over, I ran into him on the street and he said "Hey, Kate - congratulations on the new job! Hey, are you going to be in your office in about ten minutes? I've got a box for you."

Very nonchalantly said, too, I might add. Especially since I was utterly flabbergasted and sputtering.

He didn't even comment on the sputter; he's used to it.

There have been times when he – or the FedEx man – being unable to locate me, has left a package for me in my car. Or my mother's.

It's a good thing, too, because now as I think about it, I have no idea what my street address is. I know what street I live on, only because I'm a block west of the highway. But number? I'm stumped. And it's way too cold to pad outside in my bare feet and examine the front of my apartment to see. I think I live in C. But I'm not sure.

I'd wager that UPSman couldn't tell you either, though on occasion he's made deliveries to me there, too, just to keep me on my toes.

As for the U.S. mail, that too is irrelevant – we have a post office, and the social, intellectual and cultural life of the town would not be what it is without it.

My only issue with the post office is the complete and utter time vortex it poses whenever I'm foolish enough to go in there in the daytime. It's like an ongoing, permanent sewing circle without the sewing; a coffee klatch without the coffee. And it goes on all day long.

I do feel sorry for our new constabulary, though, as I do for all people who move here from bigger, more superficially organized cities. Direction-giving here fulfills every cliched expectation of the transplanted urbanite: when I send someone to the hot pool, I say, "Take a right at the old gas station that used to be a river guide but now has real estate signs out front and keep going down the highway until you get to the bottom of the hill. On your left is Brian's store. Take a left there, pass Uncle Dick's house and keep following that road to the dead end. You can't miss it."

Of course, by saying those four magic words "You can't miss it," I'm virtually guaranteeing that my befuddled visitor or newcomer will. And said visitor/newcomer will come back and demand a street address for the dang thing.

And I will send him to the police department, because they're the only ones who know or care.

Wednesday, December 12, 2001


I just received notification that one of the moderators at a site called somehow found this web page and liked what I have to say enough to recommend it as some of the best content on the web. Well!

Anyway, it will be interesting to see what people out in the wide world think of it. We can all take a look at what they have to say on Backwash's Discuss This Content message board.

Whattaya know?

More later... off soon to a meeting to plan the Platte Valley Festival of Birds, then choir practice. No rest for the wicked.

Monday, December 10, 2001


"I read a little book once about the top of the soil, just the first six inches under the grass, and everything that happens in it. If you have a ten-power microscope and if you take the time and care, you could spend all day every day for more than a year seeing and understanding all the things that are happening in just one square foot of topsoil. There are plants and animals and chemicals growing and changing all the time in a tiny world like that. There is a fungus which makes a noose with a trigger, and when small creatures come into it, bang!, the noose closes and catches them and the fungus eats the animals. There are eggs that hatch and insects that make certain scents to call other insects to love or to die and much more, so much more – all in one square foot of dirt. So how can anyone with eyes to see and a heart to question say he is bored, there is nothing to do?"

-- Theodore Sturgeon, Godbody, 1986

It is not news to anyone with even just a smattering of a scientific education that there are entire little worlds in a square of topsoil, on an inch of human skin or at the bottom of a lake. But isn't it nice to be reminded once in a while?

I didn't have a microscope with me Sunday when I hit Saratoga Lake for a bout of ice fishing, but I didn't need one. I got a show anyway, livening up considerably an outing that I still suspected, despite my fishing buddy's assurances to the contrary, would be a bit on the dull side.

I should have known better!

Now, I did a spot of ice fishing as a little girl when my grandfather (a native of Wisconsin) was still alive, and found it a pursuit best left to grandfathers. Being exposed on a frozen expanse of water, enduring the wind and my frozen hair whipping at my face, huddling and peering down a boring little hole in the ice and listening to Grandpa curse held small amusement.

And under those circumstances, it still would.

This time, however, I was in a hut, which in addition to shelter, warmth and privacy, transformed utterly the whole ice fishing thing forever.

In a dark hut the ice and the holes in it glow – my partner calls it the movie screen, and indeed the sight draws and holds the eye like a movie would even on pain of neck cricks and other discomforts. And in clear, clean water like we have in Saratoga Lake, even the very bottom (or at least the tops of the seaweed forest) is visible.

Between the hole and the weedtops there's a lot going on.

First, of course, there are the fish themselves, ostensible point of the entire exercise that they are, that coyly approach, start away from, flirt with, sample, and finally bite on the technicolor jig and bait rig one is working before them like a tiny marionette. To one who has grown up shore fishing or messing about with spinners alongside streams (we'll save my short and rather pitiful fly-fishing prowess for another entry) it's a brand new spectacle that might do for TV but is certainly never possible to see oneself! But there it is.

And there... as one bows over the holes in the ice and giggles at the partner's cursing of the propane heater (shades of Grandpa there)... the fish aren't the only movie stars. Tiny little water fleas, cilia spinning, dart around just under the water's surface. Minnows fart around in the seaweed and are fun to scare witless with the bait rig.

And water boatmen, surely among the cutest of the hemipterae with their big black eyes and furiously whirling feet whiz crazily by now and then. These bugs can stay underwater for incredibly long lengths of time because they dress themselves in a silvery suit of tiny air bubbles, I remember from my old textbooks, and indeed those swimming in my ice hole are silvery, though on a pin in my collection they are black.

Forgetting as I watch them swim that these bubbles can absorb oxygen from the water, I resolve to wait a bug out and see how long it would take before he comes up to the surface for air. My books tell me that boatmen take on air through little tubes on their shoulders but have never seen this actually happen. Chances should be good; where else in an ice-covered lake can a boatman surface but at my ice hole?

Alas, it's not to be. But that's OK because I see everything else. I become exhausted on the bugs' behalf as they fight their own buoyancy with powerful strokes of their oar-like back legs (I remember having to identify sub-species by counting the tarsi – foot segments – at the ends of these legs), struggling downward to where the food is. Their movements are jerky, with sudden bursts of speed and changes of direction that remind me of a friend's pair of Jack Russell terriers caroming around my office when they come to visit. I find myself laughing down into my ice hole as my fishing buddy laughs at me.

He's probably amused that I'm so fascinated by fish food, I think. And so he is, because he's done the same thing, watched boatmen and water striders and water scorpions. We have matching scars from trying to catch and play with predaceous diving beetles.

He has never forgotten what I'm just again remembering: No day is a dull day.

Next time I'm bringing popcorn (Should taste good with the schnapps!).

Oh, and for those who are interested: Yes, Saratoga Lake is fine for fishing, and the fishing – and catching – are pretty good. Go for it, if you've a mind to!