We had our second annual Memorial Day cookout at Kingman State Fishing Lake last evening. (Can you tell that I'm busily trying to inaugurate a new tradition?) It almost didn't happen there because of rapid air movement--that kind that comes out of Oklahoma and rushes toward Nebraska, at a clip of up to 39 miles per hour.
Besides the wind, another concern was hail and tornadoes. Kingman Lake was pretty far from our familiar safe shelters. All the way home we saw lightening straight ahead, in the north. This morning I saw a picture of a hailstone that fell in northern Kansas last night. It nestled mostly in the palm of an adult's hand and reached almost to the fingertips. I'm guessing it was 4 inches across. The area up there was in a tornado watch. Earlier in the day when we finally concluded that the weather excitement was likely to happen elsewhere, we opted to go ahead with the plan to go to Kingman Lake.
If Mom and Dad had chosen the picnic spot, it would likely have happened in Marvin and Lois' backyard. Mom didn't relish the prospect of a windy event, and Dad was feeling less adventuresome than usual because of his surgery less than two weeks ago. Deciding to go was one of the many times when the folks in my generation have to choose what seems best for everyone, trying to accommodate the needs of the young and old and those in between. It still doesn't feel good to say, in effect, to one's parents, "You'll just have to put up with what we decide, or skip the event and stay home." It worked out fairly well, with bundling Mom up after the sun slipped behind the trees, and choosing our picnic spot in appropriately close proximity to the restroom facilities.
Everyone in the family who was there last year for the Memorial Day picnic has a memory of an idyllic scene. It was calm and cool and clear and dry. But not everyone could be there. Lowell's family was missing because they were cutting wheat at home. Dad was missing because he was helping Lowell with harvest. Mom and Linda didn't come because it didn't seem worth the effort with Dad not going.
This year, everything was verdant and green, including the wheat, some of which only now is beginning to show a hint of ripening. The air was heavy with humidity--not welcome for people's comfort, but so good for allowing the wheat kernels to fill out and mature without shriveling--especially a hazard with hot, dry winds.
We were still missing quite a few people this year besides those who live elsewhere. Benji is in Chile, and Shane and Dorcas are in Tennessee with Dorcas' family. Kristi and Christy are in Guatemala, and Hannah and Heidi were at a youth girls' cookout. Grant and Clarissa were with a group from Plainview, and Hiromi was working at Wal-Mart. Marcus was missing too. Isaac, Susie, and Adam Peters helped fill the void.
It was really good to have Joel's family present, which will not likely happen often in the foreseeable future.
Kingman Lake has two nice-looking cabins, which can be rented from the Park Service. They are equipped with heating and cooling and a complete kitchen and bathroom, with sleeping space for six people. They are handicap accessible. Food, linens, and toiletries must be furnished by the renter, and the place must be left clean. The cost is $70 a day, with a reservation fee of $14.00. You can read all about it here
. Apparently the cabins were built by inmates in the state penal system.
Both times we've been there, the place was almost forsaken, except for our tribe.
Before we ate, while the boys were exploring, they saw a Common Loon swimming in the lake. A hurried trip back to the cookout area, an excited announcement, and a gaggle of interested observers following them happened then in rapid-fire order, and many of us saw it. It's unusually late to see them migrating through here, and I couldn't see its markings since it was silhouetted against the setting sun, but that silhouette was distinctive, and I presume the boys had been able to see more markings than I could.
Earlier yesterday, at their place, Joseph had seen a hybrid Indigo/Lazuli Bunting. It had the typical bunting shape, but its breast was white, and it had wing bars, with blue elsewhere. Its song combined elements of both the Indigo and Lazuli Buntings. Hybridization between these two species is apparently fairly common, but not commonly seen this late in this area.
On the way home from Kingman Lake, most of the distance is traveled on a road that used to be K14. In Reno County, this road is now treated as a county road, and farther south, it has been renamed K11. This is because of some fancy wheeling and dealing in state agencies, with the county having assumed maintenance expenses for the section of the old K14 within the county, in exchange for the state paying for the construction of a four-lane road on K61 between Hutchinson and McPherson. K14 has been routed east to K17 for at least a portion of its meander through Reno County.
I don't know if the rerouting explains this, but on the trek home via 20-30 miles of that old K14, our caravan of vehicles did not meet a single vehicle between K61 and K400. Marvin and Lois' observation that Kansas has a vastly overbuilt highway system came to mind--good roads with minimal traffic.
I was driving Li'l Red last night. This time I got the headlights on on the second try, so that represents progress. I was feeling fairly good about how things were going on the way home till I discovered that the driver's side window was cockeyed in the extreme. I had cranked it down all the way after I got to the picnic area. When I was ready to leave, it had gotten a lot cooler, and it was still really windy, so I cranked it up. I noticed that it hadn't closed completely, but I couldn't seem to crank it any farther, so I left well enough alone and put up with the wind whistling through the cab at annoying speeds. I was busy hurtling along a bumpy dirt road at the time, and ruing the minimal effect the shocks were exerting on the jolting sensations this involved.
Later, on the highway, when I discovered how bad the window really was, I could hardly force myself to maintain what felt like a slightly reckless 60 mph speed--necessary because of the whole family caravan politely following behind. Lowell's tail lights had long since disappeared up ahead. The top back corner of the window somehow ended up outside the frame at the top of the door, while the top front corner was firmly lodged in the window track, about halfway up. I don't know if side wind pressure had somehow knocked it off its normal track or what.
After Hiromi got home, he checked it out a bit and soon saw that the window was entirely disengaged from the window crank, and he couldn't dislodge it from its racked position. Since there was still a slight chance of rain, he took the precaution of pulling it inside the open-front garage.
I'm still thankful for the use of Li'l Red, but I'm increasingly convinced that I liked my Mercury Villager minivan a whole lot better.
On Sunday, Hiromi and I went with Joel to Wesley Hospital in Wichita to visit two people: Marian Y. and Hiromi's brother-in-law, Vernon Smith (Smitty).
Marian was recovering from an infection which showed up in the vicinity of a port that had been surgically installed the previous week, to facilitate chemotherapy with fewer needle sticks involved. She came home again on Monday, feeling much better, after having the port removed, the infection treated with antibiotics, and taking in IV nourishment and hydration.
Smitty had a stroke on Friday of last week. After fairly normal early morning activities, his wife noticed some strange behavior at the breakfast table and had the presence of mind to call 911. When the first responders arrived, she went to let them in at the front door, and Smitty, who was sitting at the breakfast table, apparently attempted to follow and fell, striking his head on something hard.
At the hospital in Hutchinson, they promptly transferred him to Wichita by ambulance. One concern was bleeding on his brain.
After things were further sorted out, it was discovered that the bleeding on the brain, which was apparently not too extensive, was likely a result of his fall, since the stroke effects happened on the other side of his brain. By Sunday afternoon, he had recovered the ability to speak, to use his right side, and to do a limited amount of walking. We haven't heard when he will be released, but it's good to see him improving gradually.
My sister, Lois, who is a nurse, observed that treating Smitty's condition could be difficult, especially if the stroke was caused by a blood clot. To try to dissolve a clot and control bleeding at the same time--that would be the challenge.
My fall tomatoes have germinated in containers inside--so designated because I'm way too late for the normal planting time. I planted three high-furaneol (good flavor gene) varieties: Fabulous, Red Defender, and Scarlet Red. I've already tried and rejected Mountain Glory (plant health and productivity were both unimpressive in our climate), but have yet to try SecurITY. Scarlet Red is an extremely compact and bushy plant--so much so that it's difficult to find the fruit. Red Defender is apparently very attractive to rabbits or something else, since I replanted three times in several spots last year, and they got nibbled off every time. I did have at least one plant survive, but Hiromi pronounced the fruit slightly less tasty than Fabulous. Both were good though. Hiromi's highly prejudiced in favor of Fabulous, so I'm on my own in experimenting with other varieties. I personally think it makes good sense since Fabulous seed is apparently commercially unavailable now--sad as that is.