Jimmy Smith’s ‘Another View’

Jimmy Smith with his elk in eastern Oregon.

‘Another View’ holds the musings and reflections of Jimmy Smith, long-time bicyclist, one-time retreat center owner and now a retired RVer and part-time gardener, fisher and hunter.

Jimmy and Julianne began their extended RV exploration of the USA in 2009. Ten years later, they continue searching for sunsets to watch, trails to hike, streams to fish, lakes to paddle and new friends to get to know around roaring campfires.

Send your comments by clicking here

WE ARE OUT HERE NOW — September, 15, 2019  

We crossed the vast high plains of Eastern Montana and North Dakota and into Minnesota.

I’ve watched as soggy endless fields of soy beans, corn and unharvested wheat flash by as we head East along two-lane county roads.  I think of the hardy folk that brave the quirks of nature to sow and reap what the land can give.  This growing season seems to have been extra daunting both in getting things planted; and now hoping and praying for enough sunshine to dry out the fields in time for harvest.

Cornfields (Julianne G. Crane)

And then there is this other problem of finding a market.  As the Chinese tighten their belts and explore other sources of agricultural supply, I can’t help but hurt for the people of the land here.

When I attempt to fathom America’s great reset with the rest of the world, I can only hope for a great “Wisdom Counsel”  to convene and prevail.

We will be crossing much of the industrial lands of America left idle by both our desire to get the most product for the cheapest prices, and also a country that lost its pledge to manufacture the very best products ever made in the world.

When did we start going sideways?

It’s always been a bit confusing to me where America started to derail.

Was it when men and women left their land and lent their hands to America’s industrial revolution and traded their freedom for the promise of a good paycheck, and then became a commodity to be exploited? Was that when things begun to unravel?

When I was a younger man, some thought of me as a slacker and slouch when it came to honest labor. I was only trying to escape down over the river bank to go fishing or hunting in the woods outside our door.

It took me becoming an “owner.” I had to turn the key in the door of my own business and own my own piece of land to inherited my father’s zest for what, as a younger man, had looked like endless toiling at his tasks.

About the time I was buying my first new car I naturally purchased a Japanese offering.  It promised to give me much more product with less headache and a more attractive price.

So whose fault was that?  Mine?  Don’t think so.  That’s when the rust started accumulating on all the hard work and nice machines.

Given all that and a generation or two of fast-food earning opportunities, and no promise for a young person to get their own bit of land, I totally understand why our current president was elected.  And, as I’ve excoriated him and his management style, I still think America needs to hit a reset. I will be very interested to see how it all turns out.

Meantime I will continue to pick up cigarette butts in campgrounds, greet people in a friendly manner, and ply the little roads of America hoping for the best.

I will continue to ask the questions with my brow furrowed.  Don’t label me a liberal or a conservative.  I’m a human being trying to find my way.

CHANGING PACE, TAKING A DEEP BREATH — Early September, 2019

I’m beginning to recognize the territory I’ve been resting in the last couple of weeks.  It may be called retirement.  Interesting, 

I had to use spell check to make sure ‘retirement’ was spelled right. Could be some clue.  

Speaking of such, we just arose from a nice midday nap and I’m beginning to wonder what there is to eat around here.  After almost a week on the Idaho side of the Snake River, we are reduced to crackers, peanut butter and fresh canned tuna.  Oh and for me three cans of Coors.  Might be time to hitch up the horses and get to the feed store.  

We’ll do that in the morning and cross more incredible territory into Montana.  Hard to believe that 40 years ago I made my way across all this same territory on my bicycle.  In those days I took a rather dim view of anyone that didn’t sleep on the ground and use peanut butter sandwiches to fuel their RV. 

Jimmy Smith cooling off in the Snake River (Julianne G. Crane)

How many times have I had to learn “Never to say Never.”  I stand corrected though I would still wobble off on my bicycle given the chance.

For the moment though, I’m walking down to this ribbon of cool river and taking a dip. It’s been in the 90s here.

From the comfortable ragged edge. 

A FEW COMPLICATIONS AS WE BEGIN OUR 6-MONTH TRUNDLE ACROSS THE VAST INCREDIBLE LANDS OF OUR AMERICA — Labor Day Weekend, 2019

My harried brow is much relaxed as the stresses of daily life in our little trailer community fade behind the mountains and ridges we’ve crossed.  Other than one phone call requesting help, we’ve been long gone and long out of reach with cell coverage.

For the last few days and nights we’ve been perched along the mighty Snake River just upstream from Hells Canyon.  We gaze across at our lovely state of Oregon from the Idaho side.

Over the past week, we have hugged and supped at the tables of some of our lovely friends along the way and admired all their efforts at homesteading.  All we have now are new friends we haven’t met yet between here and the Midwest.  What a savory feast that promises.

Jimmy Smith repairing Chalet, while Butch Michaelsen assists. (Julianne G. Crane)

Several days back along the Oregon Trail, a sure sign of my relaxed state was displayed when upon erecting our lovely little hard-sided Chalet pop up trailer, one of the tip up walls literally came undone.  That means a catastrophic failure in any book.

As I watched it careening in mid-air, a typical response of any reasonable person would have been to start with a string of expletives.  I found myself laughing.  Now that’s progress of a certain form.

After careful analysis I discovered a less-than-adequate approach to the original construction at the factory.  Imagine that.  Another case of shiny exterior backed up by slip shod construction.  Without that wall it did offer a wonderful view of the Wallowa Mountains we were backed up to, however, something told me I better kick it into gear and make the fix.  By the next morning we were all buttoned up and much stronger because of  the old ‘Jimmy fix.’

Today, due to operator error, we had a humbling failure with our cassette toilet.  I won’t go into details but after a little mopping, we’re all right now.

The coffee is great.  There are some Doves cooing in the cottonwoods by our little traveling home and a mountain stream chuckles right outside our door. Life is good.

FLITTING THOUGHTS HURTLING ACROSS MY INTERIOR LANDSCAPE — Jan. 24, 2019

I have avoided quite successfully any urge to report from my far flung edges of Oregon.

The outdoors has always had a stronger grip on my attention than sitting at my keyboard trying to mine the flitting thoughts hurtling across my interior landscape. But today, with chores done and the comfort of being inside, I will attempt to create some order to my thoughts.

Jimmy Smith caressing his garlic crop. (Julianne G. Crane)

Coastal Oregon produces a soft and kind season that passes for Winter.

I think about all the miles of snow I plowed in some other lifetime. The moan of harsh wind buffeting a flimsy cabin I wintered in once still registers in my memory. Here, in southern Oregon, there has been nothing that could pass for a killing frost this winter and vegetables are alive in my garden.

Knee replacement surgery

With a bit of apprehension I will head into surgery the first week in February to remedy a knee that has worn itself out. For a variety of reasons I have postponed this date until life, as I’ve loved and known, has been challenged due to my hobbling about. It is a fascinating affair witnessing my own slow grope into something akin to old age. I am hopeful this hitch in my get-along will be cast out and I can head up a few more mountain sides.

Sweet Julianne is busy tapping away on her own keyboard as I rest here in the comfort of home. So often I attempt to square my own extraordinary good luck with all that gets reported in the news cycle. Most mornings I read the news before checking my email. I guess just to see if we are still here, if the reckless careening of what passes for leadership has finally blown some cosmic circuit. To say I’m disappointed in our elected leaders is quite an under statement.

Time to head outside, caress my slender vegetables and watch the sky. Each day now the sun crawls north to dapple the edges of the property we call home. All is well.

MY THOUGHTS ARE IN A TANGLE — Nov. 23, 2017

The clouds are caught on all the trees here in our little southern Oregon valley this Thanksgiving morning.

My thoughts are caught somewhat in the same kind of tangle as I, one more time, try to sort through memories and influences that have helped create such a complicated package called ‘me.’  If only it would be possible to render and distill all the wisps into a tidy package and say “THIS IS ME.”  Not easy. Not possible.

I laid awake through much of last night with sweet Julianne coughing her way through some dreadful crud I returned with from my elk hunting trip in the mountains of eastern Oregon.

Before stealing into bed I watched one episode of Ken Burn’s series on Vietnam.  It kind of spoke to the disassociated murk of my past.  I came of age in some kind of autonomous tumbling package alienated from most of the forces governing the world.  I felt nothing.

It seems against all odds that I get this life, this truly precious and comfortable life.  I’m snug and warm and fed.  I have a sweet woman and a growing sense of community.  So how can I have the right to complain and question and rail against the endless injustices I witness?

How do I justify voicing my opinion about party and personalities and practices my government engages in?  And how do I, and we, find our way out of this tangled cloud that is wrapped around each and every one of us?

I wish I had an easy answer. Guess I’ll just go help out the neighbor.

REFLECTING ON MY RELATIONSHIPS WITH WOMEN — Nov. 17, 2017

I’ve been sitting here looking back over my life in terms of my relationships with women.

Given what is happening currently in the ‘MeToo’ movement, I’m invited to review my own possible less-than-appropriate approach to find affection. To the best of my knowledge I never laid hands on anyone without being invited.  But, I must say on many occasions I wiled my way into hearts without any concern for the consequences.

Many of us men, and I speak for myself, went in search of a rare thing called love with very little understanding of what it was.  I am grateful to have reached a place in the arc of my life that I am less dangerous in the ways of the heart. And, I ask for forgiveness for any assaults on tenderness.

OMG … FACEBOOK !!!  — Feb. 15, 2017

In a weak moment a couple days ago–and with nothing but time on my hands and a decent internet connection–I did what I never thought imaginable.  Facebook, or as a friend called it ‘Spacebook,’ entered my realm.

So often I’ve had friends and acquaintances mention their using that method to post their adventures and I just hung and shook my head.  It hasn’t helped that sweet Julianne vigorously wagged her head in the negative as I expressed some interest.  But leave a boy alone with nothing to do and there is trouble on the horizon.

It’s now come to pass.  I don’t want it to dominate my day, but I do want to use the resource as a useful tool without being swamped with unwanted drivel. (Editor’s note: Jimmy has subsequently resigned from Facebook after being hacked — twice.)

On another note

Our winter sojourn shows signs of the beginnings of completion.  About this time each year some mysterious gravitational force starts to influence our thoughts and yearnings.  After knocking around as full-time RVers for going on eight years, a sweet little valley in southern Oregon beckons us where we will continue to rest on rubber tires, but with a sense of community and home.Bike4-2_JulianneGCrane

Julianne with her acute sense of weather events and snow levels is beginning to chart our way from the desert southwest back toward the Pacific Northwest.  There is talk of a pair of kittens to adopt, and hanging baskets of flowers, and plans to build a side-by-side pedal bike that she is enamored with.

While the world, as we know it, roils–the horizon looks all clear from here.

MEMORIES OF A CHILDHOOD FRIEND — Jan. 15, 2017

I remember reading that memories are somewhat like house guests‪–‬some are invited, some not.  Lying in bed, drifting between sleep and wakefulness, I often find myself covering vast territories of memory.

Maybe it is because I have been feeling extremely lucky lately and blessed to be having my life.  Occasionally when I feel this way, memories visit of friends that have not been so lucky.

One such friend was my childhood buddy Johnny Antonace.

Johnny and I grew up on dirt roads in western Pennsylvania and a well-trodden path through a field and woods linked our homes. We were both country boys who loved being outdoors–summer or winter. As with many who grew up in small towns, our lives crisscrossed each others from first grade through high school.

An early memory

When we could not have been more than six or seven and we embarked on a very big adventure.  We had crafted a couple of handsome bows and arrows, and the only thing left for us to do was to go hunting.  Over my new stepmother’s “absolutely not” and my father’s eventual override, Johnny and I headed out into the deep, somewhat unknown, woods near our dirt road.

I only had been on one hike with my dad into that section of the forest to explore the ‘Indian Cave.’ Johnny and I thought that the cave would be the perfect place for rabbits to be waiting for our lethal weapons.  The cave was near a part of the woods known locally as ‘Spooky Hollow’ giving it just enough mystery to easily capture the imagination of a couple young boys with their chests puffed out on a quest.

The cave sat on a bluff overlooking a small brook. We made our way under the eastern forest canopy down the creek. We chose the steep ridge to climb up to the cave.

Looking back I realize we climbed the opposing ridge and our path led us away from the cave, and on and on, deeper into the forest.  Rather than taking stock of our situation and backtracking, we kept pressing onward with our racing hearts taking us further and further into unknown territory.

It was not too long before we both were crying as we stumbled along toward our ‘certain’ premature deaths. Then, magically, we fell into a clearing with an honest-to-goodness house with a kind, motherly woman who calmed us down, asking where our lived.  I quickly shifted into damage control and said all we needed was a ride back to where our dirt road and the woods met. She packed us into her car and drove us through the woods and dropped us off.

I must have mentioned my name because by the time we made our way back to my house, our rescuer had called and informed my step-mom of our frantic cries in the woods.

After my dad returned from work and my mom gave a scathing review of our day, Dad pretty much just shrugged his shoulders and told me to pay closer attention to details the next time I went hiking in the woods.

A few years later

When Johnny and I were about 10, I was still the smallest kid in our age group and I was frequently on the receiving end of a lot of unwanted attention from the bigger boys.

That time in my childhood reminds me of the “Lord Of The Flies” where boys left untended descended into anarchy and violence.  Our little rural neighborhood had most of that, with the exception of violence-to-the-point-of-death.

While I received plenty of beatings, both inside and outside my home, I was not a fighter.  Johnny on the other hand never backed away from a fight.  One day in a field close to home, I watched him square off with another boy. Fists were flying.  One thing I noticed was that although Johnny was crying, he kept swinging away.  I do not remember the outcome of that scrape but I remember being duly impressed with Johnny.

Deep into winter when we were 12 or 13

Johnny and I went ice-skating on a lake a couple miles from home.  By then he was getting to be quite a bit stouter than me and that may have had something to due with the outcome of this adventure.  He suddenly plunged through the ice up to his armpits.  With amazing vigor he extricated himself from the icy water and we struck out for home.  I can still hear us laughing as his clothes started to crack and freeze as we trudged on.

Eventually high school came along and we drifted into different circles of friends.  He was a strapping lad, all about football and physical sports, while I still weighed about 90 pounds. He was a popular guy and went to the prom with one of the prettiest girls in our class.

Antonace_John_DOB_1949-1968
LCpl John Antonace, Jr., USMC
After graduation

I headed to a feeble attempt at higher learning; Johnny headed to the Marine Corps.  It was 1967.

After infantry training in 1968 he came home on leave before shipping out to Vietnam. On his last night home, we rode out on my motorcycle to a spot not too far from where we had our first adventure in the woods a dozen years earlier.

We sat on a hillside, drinking a couple beers as young men do, and with tears in his eyes, he spoke of how he felt he would not be coming home.

As I write this, my throat and chest tighten.  He was right. He did not make it back.  He died, like many other brave young men and women did, too early.  LCpl John Antonace, Jr., USMC, fell in a hostile artillery attack in Quang Tri Province on July 7, 1968, during the Tet Offensive. He was 18 and had only been a Marine for five months.

I miss him still.

I am deeply humbled by my good fortune to have had all the intervening years since our beer together on that hillside–which ironically overlooks the cemetery where he was laid to rest–near Spooky Hollow in western Pennsylvania.

Oh, the house guests of memories.

##

To read … Jimmy’s thoughts from 2014-16, click here

To read “Jimmy’s Views from 2013 — Click here