Not-so-Sharp Jesse

Jesse W. Sharp, a 28 year old bachelor from Ocoee, Tennessee attempted to ride over the brink of the Horseshoe Falls in a 3.6m long plastic kayak on June 5, 1990.

Jesse’s kayak before

Sharp, unemployed at the time, was an experienced white water kayaker. Three people who accompanied Sharp to Niagara Falls to video-tape his trip told police that Mr. Sharp had been planning the trip for years. They also told police that Sharp was attempting to go over the Falls in the kayak to advance his career in stunting.

Sharp’s idea was to gain enough speed in his kayak to project himself over the falls and the pummeling water that would surely claim his life. He would then traverse the rapids below the falls, ending up four miles downstream in Lewiston. So confident was Jesse about making the trip that he parked his car at Artpark in Lewiston and made dinner reservations for that evening.

Powerhouse operators, noticing what was about to unfold, diverted water from the river in an attempt to ground the kayaker.

But to no avail, Jesse Sharp was determined, and simply skirted around the rocks in his kayak. Just as Sharp reached the brink of the falls he raised his paddle above his head and then, at 1:45 pm, the kayak plummeted over the brink and vanished into the raging waters below.

Sharp did not wear a protective helmet so his face would be visible on film. He also didn’t wish to wear a life jacket, believing it would interfere with his ability to escape in the event that he was caught underneath the Falls. After “shooting the falls”, he intended to continue down river through the rapids to Lewiston, New York to the restaurant where he’d made his dinner reservation. His body has never been recovered.

Oh well, I’m sure this at least qualified Jesse for a Darwin Award! Especially as he was a bachelor, presumably leaving none of his genes behind.

Ohio Honeymoon

Honeymoon OhioOn our honeymoon in 1988 we visited good friend Larry Wingert. He’d been a Rotary exchange student to Harrismith in South Africa back in 1969-1970.

We flew out of Lawton Oklahoma to Dallas/Fort Worth, on to Little Rock Arkansas, to Cincinatti and on to our destination: Akron, Ohio. on Friday 8 April. Larry’s friend Dave “Zee” picked us up at the airport, took us to his condominium and fed us. Later, Larry fetched us in his Subaru and took us to his beautiful old home on North Portage Path.

I love the canoeing connection with his home: North Portage Path is an 8000 year old path along which native Americans portaged their canoes from the Cuyahoga river out of lake Erie, across a mere eight miles to the Tuscarawas River from where it flows into the Muskingum river, then into the Ohio and on to the Mississippi. Thus they could paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf Of Mexico with only an eight mile portage, something any Dusi paddler would do without a second thought! The amazing thing: You can still paddle from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico today, unbroken except for one short section – and along that you could pop in to Larry’s place for tea! America’s waterways are astonishing.

Larry indulged us lavishly. On our arrival in the States some weeks before, we received a letter saying “Please accept these portraits of old American Presidents and USE this plastic card!” Various big denomination dollar bills and a credit card for gas (or petrol)! How’s that!?

He then indulged Aitch’s joy in shopping, especially deli shopping at the best places.

Followed by a big cook-up at home . .

When a man is cooking you a steak you can pretend to love his cat . .

. . and music with the two of them on the piano, shoving me aside and asking me to please stop singing!

Then he took us to parks and nature resorts for me to indulge in my birding passion. When he wasn’t able to join us, he handed over the keys to his Subaru. Above and beyond . .

One morning we visited Cuyahoga River State Park quarry area.

Afterwards we went shopping at another rather special deli – its obvious Larry is GOOD at this! For supper Larry cooked us some great steaks on his portable barbeque outside his kitchen door. We ate like kings.

A visit to Kendall Lake; Later to Cleveland’s Old Arcade Centre and a look at Lake Erie. Supper at a French restaurant on Larry; He had already spoiled us generously, now this.

Suitably fortified, we moved back home to liquers and piano and song! They shoved me aside and asked me to please stop singing. To bed 2am, rise 5.30am; off to Boston 13 April 1988. Cape Cod is next . .

The Day The Music Died

Sixty years ago today a plane fell out of the sky and this was finished:

American Rock n Roll musicians Buddy Holly (22), Ritchie Valens (17), and JP ‘The Big Bopper’ Richardson (28) were killed when their plane crashed in Iowa.

In 1971 Don McLean sang about that day AND – less known – about another day ten years later:

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When asked what “American Pie” meant, McLean jokingly replied, “It means I don’t ever have to work again if I don’t want to.” Later, he stated, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on, maintaining a dignified silence.” In February 2015, McLean announced he would reveal the meaning of the lyrics to the song when the original manuscript went for auction. The lyrics and notes were auctioned on April 7, and sold for $1.2 million. In the sale catalogue notes, McLean revealed the meaning in the song’s lyrics: “Basically in American Pie things are heading in the wrong direction. Life is becoming less idyllic. I don’t know whether you consider that wrong or right but it is a morality song in a sense.” The king mentioned was Elvis, the jester was Bob Dylan.

Then the song also contains a much longer, and near-verbatim description of the death of Meredith Hunter at the hands of drunken Hells Angels at a free concert in California ten years after the plane crash that killed Holly, Valens, and Richardson. Where the music died a much more tragic and violent death. A death that was not an accident.

Oh, and as I watched him on the stage
My hands were clenched in fists of rage
No angel born in Hell
Could break that Satan’s spell

And as the flames climbed high into the night
To light the sacrificial rite
I saw Satan laughing with delight
The day the music died

In 1972 the title of the song came to bite me when I embarrassingly cocked up the most important part of my matric dance. None of that.

Oklahoma Mountain Oyster Fry

Back when I was seventeen or eighteen I became an American farmer – a certified Future Farmer of America and I can still hear how Mr. Schneeburger would say EFFIFFAY in Ag Shop class. In Ag Shop I craftily constructed a rotating cattle feeder made of a 55gal drum, mounted on a wheelrim on an axle that would always turn away from the wind thanks to an angled weather vane on top. Thus keeping the cattle feed dry in all weather. Clever, hey!? Trouble was my birdshit welding, so it fell over in the first little breeze. Still, the thought was there and I was – maybe – on my way to greater things.

I went to hog shows – where the winner wouldn’t be looking quite so pleased with himself if he read what his mistress had planned for him on the placard:

I planted peanuts in Fort Cobb – well, watched some Mexican fellas do it anyhow. I sprayed something on Jim’s lands. I drove in Walter & Pug Hrbacek’s – or was it Gene & Odie Mindemann’s? – airconditioned cab of their big combine harvester or tractor (yeah, a farmer should remember which it was!) with an eight-track tape sound system overhead. Remember them?

okla 8-track tape

My farming career peaked when I took part in the big annual roundup, catching, de-horning, castrating, branding and inoculating the bull calves.

Then we went home to wash up and joined up again to eat the produce and wash it down with beer. It was my first ‘mountain oyster fry’. It was like this, but in Walter’s barn, not at a church, and not in Texas:

Ball with Jesus_Testicle

They’re delicious, and they smell good – unlike the smell of burning cowhide from the branding! – but I found them best fried and covered in batter. You don’t really want to see them, especially not raw. I only ate the well-battered ones. They also get better with each ice-cold beer!

Okla testicles fried

Recently I found out they do it better in Montana where they add a competitive eating of bull balls, or “Rocky Mountain oysters” and they throw in women’s hot oil wrestling, a women’s wet-T-shirt event, and a men’s “big ball” competition – basically a men’s “wet thin white underwear show”. Sounds like fun, huh?!

They make good products too, good merchandise: One for an insecure man, and how useful is this one for a lady who has a dick of a boss?

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Not a Billionaire

As you take a picture of the kids they say “LEMMESEE” and look at the photo of themselves on your phone, then say ooh! or ugh!

In 1944 a three year old girl apparently said that to her Dad and he had to explain the film would first have to be sent away to the lab when they got back home from their holiday and then the lab would develop it and send it back to them and only THEN could she see the pic he had taken of her. She thought that completely unreasonable and so her Dad set to work and in 1948 the first Land Polaroid cameras went on sale. His name was Edwin Land and his Polaroid Corporation became very famous indeed. Instant pictures in 1948 looked like a miracle, like the fax did forty years later.

Some of you will remember those cameras:

Polaroid Land camera
Edwin Land and a surprised codger

I first got to use a Polaroid camera in 1973 when – in my quest to do as little schoolwork as possible – I was kindly allowed onto the Annual Staff of Apache High School where our job was to be amateur reporters and amateur fund-raisers and to cobble together this school annual under the wonderful friendly guidance of our teacher Virginia Darnell.

 

 

We had old cameras with bellows and a newer version.

 

So why am I not a millionaire? Because everyone knows Polaroid went bust as newer technology came out and nowadays there’s absolutely no need for paper photos when you have all your digital photos instantly viewable and always available on your camera. Everyone KNOWS that.

Except – – – this:

Polaroid new camera
2017 Polaroid cameras

and this:

Fuji-Mini-70 instant camera   Camera, instant

Seems kids still want to hold a paper copy of their image in their hand. Last year Polaroid launched new instant cameras which look very retro-similar to the ‘new’ ones we used in the seventies!  My predictions on new stuff that eventually ‘went viral’ has usually been ‘hmph! that’ll never take off!’

Time will tell if paper photos make a comeback. Recently Jess saw a pink one in the window of a camera shop and said she NEEDED it! “Dad, you don’t understand! It instantly prints out a paper photo!”, she said.

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Thanks to fellow optometrist Ann Elsner, Professor of Optometry at Indiana University for a lovely article on Polaroid’s 70th anniversary 1948 – 2018.

 

R.I.P Herve de Rauville

Dammit, Hervie died!

Herve

Me, Herve, Dave Jones, Jurie, Steve - The Lincoln loaded

Me, Herve in red, Dave Jones, Jurie the cameraman and Steve, Chris Greeff’s buddy. Greeff took the pic, cutting off the nose of the Lincoln to make sure he got my elbow in. The Lincoln is loaded and ready to take us to paddle the Ocoee River in Tennessee after a night at Dave Jones’ house in Atlanta. Dave is a military man, a dentist and an international paddler. We were there cos Chris Greeff is a military man, a dentist and an international paddler. Weirdos like that tend to stick together.

Here’s Herve on all fours studying the map of the rapids of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon. Willem van Riet left of Herve with the ducktail is telling us about the moerse rapids he went through that day.

1984 Grand Canyon (3)

Here is Hervie again, red cap left back, in the Swim Team, much as he tried to earnestly explain why his swim didn’t actually count as a swim! Competitive swine, our Herve!

Canyon 1984

. . and here he stands dead centre with the faded red cap at the end of our 480km trip through the Canyon:

1984 Grand Canyon (4)

My last supper with Herve was positively biblical: He arrived in a cloud of holy blue smoke in a hundred year old chariot – a faded yellow Merc diesel with four million miles on the clock. Nice car, Herve, I said. ‘Hey! Think of the money I save’, said he. He brought four quarts of beer and six bottles of ‘communion wine’ which he called his ‘quota wine’. I thought, ‘quota for the night!?’ but it turned out he owned shares in a Western Cape wine farm and – just like they did with their workers – you get some of your pay in liquid form. Suddenly I thought I understood ‘liquidity’.

We had gathered together, dearly beloved, to write down Herve’s tales of the Umkomaas. As the evening progressed I would say ‘but Herve, wasn’t that the Dusi?’ Oh, Yes! We’re talking Umko, hey? But Herve, wasn’t that the Berg? Oh, Yes! We’re talking Umko, hey? But Herve, wasn’t that the Breede? Oh, Yes! The Crocodile? Oh, Yes! But you didn’t saw your boat in half to get it on a plane to go to Umko, did you, Herve? Oh, Yes! We’re talking Umko, hey?

We laughed for seven and a half hours. Then he left after midnight in a cloud of holy blue smoke in a hundred year old chariot – a faded yellow Merc diesel with four million miles on the clock.

Too soon. Go well, Herve.

Hand-Me-Down

You like that jersey fella?

Sure do.

Do you know who gave it to me?

No. You’re not going to take a picture are you?

Did you know I have two Moms? Gogo Mary and . . .

Oh, yes, the lady in America!

Right! Katie Patterson. She sent me a parcel one Christmas with this jersey in it. Around 1990 I think. The jersey’s way older’n you!

Yeah, you showed me a picture of her.

Oh. Well, here she is again:

Apache Patterson Lunch (1).jpg

She has a lovely smile, just like Gogo Mary, says the boy. Knows just how to say the right things at times, my boy (and the very wrong things at other times!!).

When did you go to America?

1973. I was seventeen.

How did you get there?

I flew.

You flew! In what?

A jet plane.

They had jet planes back then?

Yeah, I didn’t swim. I think the first commercial jet flew in the late fifties.

Oh.

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wikipedia: The first purpose-built jet airliner was the British de Havilland Comet which entered service in 1952.

Here’s a bit about flying in 1973.