This page holds the musings and reflections of Jimmy Smith, long-time bicyclist, one-time retreat center owner and now a semi-retired, extended-time RVer and part-time fisher and hunter.
Jimmy and Julianne began their extended RV exploration of the USA in 2009, where they have been primarily searching for sunsets to watch, trails to hike, streams to fish, lakes to paddle and new friends to get to know around roaring campfires.
Photo: Jimmy Smith with his elk in eastern Oregon.
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‘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 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. (Unbelievably I spelled Vietnam with a “n” on the end. Thankfully there was spell check.) That kind of speaks to the disassociated murk of my past. I came of age in some kind of autonomous careening package alienated from most of the forces governing the world. I felt nothing.
Without laboring over the endless languages and packages that each reported the one true way to god, I have had a child-like sense that I was supported and guided through the deep dark forest of my own life.
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 our world, 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 men 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.
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.
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.
One early memory was 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 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 a couple years later, 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.
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 Views from 2013 — Click here“
Photos, unless otherwise noted, by Julianne G. Cran