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Stories that will make you laugh and cry- from Uncle George- an old hippie

California, Sequoias, Bear and Mule Deer

Another Whitlow Smoke School Story-January 2008

Angie and I made a trip in early January 2008 to California to attend an EPA training conference for smoke school providers.  CARB held the training session at the Port Authority at Long Beach Harbor. The building was beautiful. The cafe was on the roof and they had a rooftop patio overlooking the water. The conference was sort of interesting. We learned that the California Air Control Board and most other smoke school providers give a very hard certification test. Angie and I attended a nighttime test just to watch. It was very hard to pass. They had an open window on the second floor parallel to the tip of the smoke machine stack. The glare from the light in the window made it impossible to clearly see the smoke at the densest point in the plume as required by method 9. They jumped on opacity from 10% to 80% which is confusing enough in the daytime. I feel sorry for all of you who use these other smoke school providers and suffer in the hot sun on an asphalt parking lot trying to pass the very difficult, over difficult certification test. If you figure your boss is paying you and losing the man-hours for 3 days training that makes smoke school very expensive.  If I were you, I would not put up with it and insist on Whitlow, like 3,000 other companies have done over the past 6 years.

We also learned that we may need to build another smoke machine and start conducting smoke school in California.  Please see the photo album at the bottom of this page.

 

The trip to Los Angeles was stressful. Before we caught the flight we watched an HBO movie about Snakes on a Plane. In this movie we saw snakes of all sorts and kinds coming out of toilets, air vents, and under the seats to bite the passengers and crews in very suspicious places. I withheld the urge to potty for the 3-hour flight and duck-taped all of the air vents.

 

We rented a SUV to use around LA. Driving there was even more stressful. There were 8 lanes of traffic moving at the speed of sound. I am a qualified bonifide redneck, I live back on the woods you see, just the woman, the kids, and the dawg and me. I am a true redneck- both my dawg and my wallet are on a chain. Well we do have the cat and the three giant pink pigs in the front yard. We were lost most of the time, so I stopped at Radio Shack and got a GPS and hired a kid to figure out how to use it. When we were returning to the L A International Airport the little lady inside the GPS said you are 3 miles from the Louisiana airport. She must be smart. Datgome, I wonder what she looks like. I wonder how she knew we were flying back to Monroe, Louisiana. Who would a thunk it? Get-r-done.

Boudreaux and Thibodaux were working in the south Louisiana sugarhouse plant cutting that sugarcane and piling it up for cooking into syrup. They decide to stop for a coffee break down by the bayou.

Boudreaux ax, " Thib, what is the smartest ting in the world?"

Thibodaux tink about it, take off his LSU hat, scratch his bald head, and say, "I don't know Boud, what it is?"

Boudreaux sip a cup of dat hot Community coffee and say, "A thermos bottle. It keeps hot things hot and cold things cold. How do it know?"

We did spend one romantic night on the Queen Mary ocean liner cruise ship. I guess it was a taste of luxury; it was the only time I have ever set foot on a cruise ship. It was groovy and far out, although the ship was over 50 years old. The ship is supposed to be haunted. We did see one ghost.

Angie and I decided to take a boat trip out of Long Beach Harbor to see the whales. We saw several dolphins swimming in front of and under the boat. I think they were putting on a show for us. Heck, I thought we were at Sea World. They were fun to watch. They reminded me of a pack of water puppies. Seeing the whales was very exciting. I can't believe how close the whales would let the boat get to them. I would say we came to within 15 feet. We loved watching ships with the mountains in the background. The sunset on the Pacific was breathtaking. This is a picture of the setting sun.

 

 

We did go to Hollywood and Beverly Hills where all of the movie stars live. At one point in my life after I gave up on professional baseball and being a cowboy; I wanted to go the Hollywood to be a movie star. I actually was in two movies- Dracula 2000 and The Old Man.  I was and extra in both films. They paid me $80 a day from 5AM to 10PM. It made me appreciate how hard it is to be an actor. They filmed the same set over and over again. In Dracula, I did not get on the film. They decided to film a nighttime Mardi Gras on Bourbon Street scene in mid-July when the temperature in New Orleans was above 90 degrees at night. Normally Mardi Gras is in the winter and most Mardi Gras costumes keep you warm. When they were filming the movie, the ladies were passing out like flies from heatstroke. I spent the entire filming session with an ice chest of crushed ice trying to revive the heatstroke victims.

I got into trouble with the casting director because I changed shirts during the filming. My shirt was totally wet with sweat. The director was really angry. She explained that each set is a continuation of the last set. When they start filming, we have to be standing in the same place and wearing the same clothes. Well, I put my hands on my hips and said that I had thrown the wet shirt in the trash.

 

I got quite a bit of footage in the movie The Old Man. I played the part of a captain on an old steam powered shrimp boat. I had used the boat to rescue hundreds of stranded flood victims and farm animals from the great Mississippi River flood of 1927. My momma was 5 years old then and she remembered playing in the flood water in front of their house. During the movie, besides the scene on the deck, I passed myself 4 times as I was unloading boxes from John Boy's pickup truck. The magic of Hollywood.

Uncle George the shrimp boat captain

They filmed this part of the movie at the Covington Louisiana Marina on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain, which was supposed to represent the Mississippi River at flood stage. Again they filmed the movie in July. It was hotter than Hades and the humidity was up there. They had us dressed in long-sleeved wool clothes which was the style back in 1927. Everyone was dressed in long sleeved wool, except for the star, Arliss Howard, who wore a more comfortable shirt with the sleeves cut off. I actually tried to carry on a conversation with him, but he literally waved me off.

During the scene, they kept filming over and over again, the flood victims as they got off my shrimp boat and walked down the boat dock to waiting taxies and busses.  The vehicles reminded me of John Boy and the Walton's. "Good night John Boy". Like I said, it was very hot and humid even for New Orleans. Jeanne Tripplehorn, the actress, was carrying a baby that was all wrapped up in a blanket.

Years ago when I was helping my momma and daddy in their flea market business Nu-2-U in the July Bonnie and Clyde Trade Days , I witnessed a baby that died from heatstroke, because the momma had it wrapped up in a blanket. I was concerned about Miss Tripplehorn's baby, so during a break, I walked over and lifted the blanket. To my surprise the baby was a doll. It freaked me out. I was wondering how the baby kept so quite. Heck, I thought it was sleeping or maybe dead.

In addition to the passengers, there were a lot of sheep, cows, and pigs on my shrimp boat. One pig squealed every time they started filming the scene.  Later I noticed a man was squeezing the pig by the tentacles. That would probably make me squeal too.

The casting director asked me to play in another part of the movie where some people were picking Spanish moss from Henderson Swamp along side Interstate 10 out of Whisky Bay. We were supposed to be standing in a Cajun pero (boat) picking Spanish moss to sell to use to make bed mattresses. I turned down the part. I thought about all of my personal experience running trotlines amongst the cypress trees and all of the cottonmouth water moccasins and giant red wasp nests as big as a basketball. One time I knocked a wasp nest down while trying the trotline to a cypress limb. I gave the wasps the boat. Another time, I shot a hole in the bottom of my boat when a cottonmouth fell off a cypress limb into the boat by my feet. I was sure surprised at how fast the boat sank. Therefore I turned down the part of the Spanish moss pickers. Later I learned that the scene was cut from the movie.

Sunset in Henderson Swamp

 

Our 2008 trip to Beverly Hills also was disappointing. We took a bus tour of Beverly Hills where my uncle Jed Clampet drove his old truck. Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed. The bus took us past all of the most famous stars, both living and dead. “Now here is one of Brad Pitt’s 15 houses. He paid 15 million bucks for this.” Only trouble was most of the houses had 10-foot wooden gates, or a thousand trees and hedges so you could not see the house at the top of the hill. This tour made me realize just how hard it is to be an actor. They spend their lives surrounded by luxury beyond our wildest dreams and they have to pretend to be normal like you and me.

We met two ladies at a patio restaurant in Hollywood. They were in their 50,s, they had spent their entire life in Hollywood- had never been to any other state,  and they said they had never taken the movie star tour and had never laid eyes on any movie stars. It is no wonder. The tour guide told us that many stars get the expensive boutiques to close down so they can shop. Don’t Bother with the Hollywood tour. I was extremely disappointed that I did not see John Wayne or Marilyn Monroe in Hollywood. Then I found out they were both dead. Shoot. Who would a thunk it?  Elvis has been dead 30 years and he still has 5 hit records a year. I didn’t see Tom Hanks, Swartzenegger, or Britney Spears neither. Shucks.

 

Probably the best part of the trip was watching  beat up on the Ohio State Buckeyes in the BCS NCAA College National Championship- How bout dem Tigers. I was lucky; the TV in the hotel room could not pick up the ball game. Then I learned that it was on in the hotel bar. By the time we made it to the bar, LSU would be winning the game at half time. They never looked back. I probably would have died and had a heart attack if I had known Ohio was winning by 10 to nothing before I got there.

 

The second best part of the trip was spending 2 days in the Sequoia National Park. You simply have to go there. It is amazing; I met people in the gas stations and cafes 50 miles from the bottom of the mountain that have never been there. People get away from the TV and the computer and go see something. This is a beautiful country. Hiking and driving through the park was like being 3,000 years back.

 

It reminded me of my hippie days back in 1969 when I was in the Air Force stationed in Sacramento California. You know peace, love, and the environment. It reminded me of why I first got interested in Christianity. I read in the Bible about a new heaven and a new earth. I witnessed during my lifetime the slow destruction of the cypress, red oaks, and white oaks in the Louisiana forest. The loggers came in and clear-cut every tree for miles and miles. They left my favorite hunting places looking like an atomic bomb had went off. Gradually they replaced the hardwood timber with pine trees that make it from birth to harvest in 10 years. Can’t complain too much- I like toilet paper and use a lot of it. It beats the heck out of poison ivy leaves. I also am a fan of computer paper, 2 X 4’s, and plywood. Besides that, we all need to make a living somehow.

 

Standing on the mountains, we could see the smog and air pollution down in the California valley. It seems like all of the industrial plants below are blamed on most of the pollution, but the truth is, that probably most of the pollution is due to the thousands of vehicles on the freeway, driving bumper to bumper at the speed of sound eight lanes deep. California is striving for vehicles with zero emissions and I expect the rest of the nation to follow-up. It seems that everything starts in California and spreads eastward. Nevertheless, the view of the Sierra Nevada Mountain sunsets were spectacular.

 

The Sequoia forest reminded me of the new heaven and the new earth. The bottom of the Sequoia trees were larger than my house. People standing by the trees looked like pygmies.

 

The trees were so high and so dense that they blocked out the signal on the satellite radio. It was just awesome being there.

 

Look at how deep the snow is on the rooftop

We were about 2 miles in altitude. Snow and ice was all over the ground and on the roads. It was like a white Christmas all over again. At least I did not have to get out my snow shovel. I don’t care that much for snow. We spent 2 nights in this wonderful rustic lodge room. We had fireside meals in the restaurant. We needed the fire. We saw the longest ice cycles hanging from the windows.

         

  

There were signs posted all over the park warning you that bear are wild animals. Who would a thunk it? The rangers said the bears were sleeping this time of year. My luck, they would wake up for supper and find me. On top of the mountain we did not see any live animals.

 

When we went down the mountain to where the snow melted, we started seeing animals. Driving down the road we saw a coon, a bobcat, a coyote, and a fox. We stopped next to a fast moving river with rapids and a beautiful water fall.

 

The temperature here was mild so we hiked along the river to take in the sounds and the sights of the rushing water. The air smelled like fresh earth, humus, and river water. We passed through a green meadow of luscious green grass. Birds were chirping and feeding along the riverbank. I noticed some well used animal trails headed through the grass. I saw some very fresh deer tracks so I decided to try to stalk them. I thought about all of the warning signs for bear, but continued on. I wished I had my 30-06 just in case the bear were hungry.

 

I hiked silently through the soft green lush grass about 100 feet to where the trail went out into the woods and into a thicket. I saw a large tree with low hanging limbs that would offer good cover for deer. In the corner of my left eye I saw something move behind a boulder and my breath left. It was deer antlers as large as a house. The deer was hidden in the thicket behind several very large boulders.  They were in a rather secure area where they could smell and see any bear, coyotes, wolves, or bobcats that may be stalking them. They were lying at the base of the mountain close to the river. I am sure they had an escape plan that included crossing the rapid river. I think that I approached them from downwind. Either that or they simply had no fear of man.

I slowly eased up a little closer to within 15 feet of a mule deer lying on the ground. I could see another large buck mule deer lying on the other side of the first deer. Then I saw a smaller spike buck on the other side of the second deer.

 

After the shock and the buck fever, I backed up back down the trail towards the truck. Angie was walking towards me from the truck. I whispered, “Go get the camera and bring some discs.”

 

Angie and I hiked back to the deer and to my surprise they were still there. We slowly walked up to within 8 feet of the first deer, and took several pictures. The deer just looked at us, and then slowly they got up from the ground. They started browsing eating grass and leaves from the trees. We followed them through the woods and meadow for 30 minutes. The deer kept a distance from us of about 8 feet. I was aware that at any moment they could charge us and pick us off with those huge antlers. Several times they gave us the evil eye, but they never showed us a sign of alarm or much concern. I realized that this was an experience of a lifetime. Read more about the 3 deer down below in the photo album.

  

"Hum, Here Comes Supper"

Angie’s comments:

The trip to the Sierra Mountains was inspiring. It is a visit with nature that I shall always remember. I loved the mountains, the sequoias and especially the river. I perched myself upon a rock above the river and enjoyed listening to the music of the rapids. Nothing could be any more relaxing. Everyone needs a river in their back yard. During our trip I was always finding something beautiful to take a picture of. The most amazing picture taking was of the mule deer. I could not believe that they were not scared off by us. I felt like we were given some amazing gift that day. It was the rare glimpse of nature that we shared with the mule deer. They allowed us to experience them in their home. Thank God they had never been exposed to hunters.

Photo Album of our trip to California Jan 2008

Beverly Hills and Long Beach

Beverly Hills Blvd where my uncle Jed Clampet drove his old truck.

One of Brad Pitt’s 15 houses

Angie on the rooftop of Long Beach Harbor overlooking the water

Whale number 1

Whale number 2

We loved watching ships with the mountains in the background.

Breathtaking sunset on the Pacific

Ship in the sunset

A Ghost we saw on the Queen Mary Cruise Ship

Sequoia National Park

Angie and the Bear

George and the Bear

Angie with huge ice cycles in the lodge window

Snow covered mountain- beautiful

Sunset on the mountain with snow- shockingly beautiful

George with a mountain of snow piled up in the parking lot

Snow covered roof on museum

Angie with a gin and tonic at the fireplace

A pile of snow higher than a car

The Sequoia snowman monster

The first time I saw the mule deer-I had buck fever. Look hidden behind the rock- you just see antlers

Cautiously the deer sticks his head beyond the boulder to see if I am a bear. Look closely beyond the boulder and the first deer, you will see the second large mule deer hidden in the branches.

At this point in time, I stalk around the boulder and come up behind the deer's backside. I get to within 7 feet of the huge mammal. The mule deer twists his head over his back to get a better hidden look at me

Since the deer does not seem alarmed, I walk back around the boulder to come in front of the deer to within 6 feet.

This maneuver kinda ticked the sleeping deer off, so slowly, cautiously the deer woke up, got up- took a leak, and walked for supper.

At this point the deer started browsing for food. Angie and I just walked along beside them taking pictures like we were old friends. I think they were actually posing for the pictures. We followed them for 30 minutes through the thickets, down the river, and into the woods. I even said a few words to them hike my daddy used to talk to his pet ducks out on Woolen Lake, "Come ere boys." Luckily the deer did not talk back. It would be sorta like Mister Ed. The experience was like story time anyway. I am sure we will remember it for the rest of our lives. Get-R-Done.

Smaller mule deer- this was the third deer in the herd that I saw. I guess he was out feeding while the others were sleeping.

Huge mule deer eating grass

Huge mule deer browsing on leaves

Huge mule deer thinking about eating me

Mule deer eating grass

Wile E Coyote looking at me in the snow

Wile E Coyote trying to figure me out- unusual light image

Wile E Coyote peeking at me from behind a tree

Me being dwarfed by the Giant General Sherman Sequoia Tree

George standing inside of a tree

Angie dwarfed by the tree

The tallest living thing on earth

A beautiful sunset view of Sierra Nevada mountains

Sierra Nevada mountain sunset

Another breathtaking vies of Sierra Nevada mountain sunset

This shot of the mountain reminded me of the face of a man lying down to look at the sunset

Sierra Nevada mountain river rocks on bottom

Sierra Nevada mountain humpback

Sierra Nevada mountain river rapids

Sierra Nevada mountain river more rapids

Sierra Nevada mountain river water fall

Sierra Nevada mountain river another water fall

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