When I pulled in to Nazareth…

This afternoon, the world lost one of the finest drummers and singers ever to take the stage, as Levon Helm passed away after a battle with throat cancer. My earliest recollection of a song, is “Up on Cripple Creek”, and my all-time favorite song is “The Weight”.  Both are everlasting signatures of Levon’s time with The Band.   I’ve been singing and playing “The Weight” to Joe since he was at least two years old.  So, he too has been influenced by Levon in some way.  I’ve even joked, well-sort of, that if we were to have another boy, his name should be Levon.

I recently met a man who grew up with Levon near Helena, Arkansas.  When we met I said, ‘man, you sure sound alot like Levon Helm from The Band’.  He laughed and described throwing rocks at the water tower with his brother and Levon when he was a kid.   He said that Levon was a genuinely good man, and would come back home every once in a while.  He also said that his name was pronounced “luh-vawn” but when he got famous people called him “lee-von”.

I’m more a fan of Levon’s early work with the Band, than the Dylan and post-Band periods.  His singing towards the time period of the Last Waltz is about as good as it gets.  I don’t think he was the primary songwriter with The Band, but he was certainly the voice of it (whether he liked it or not).  His inflection was right on, every time, depending on the mood of the song.   Last year, I watched the Last Waltz (in it’s entirety for the first time, if you can believe it!) with one of my best friends, and rekindled my interest in The Band’s body of work.  To me there is no finer live musical performance than the following rendition of “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down“.  It is Levon and the Band at their very finest.

Rest in peace, Levon, and thank you for the memories and music.  You have enriched my world, and the world in general, in a way that is hard to quantify…

Dr. Bronner’s Foaming Soap (or the merits of throwing out your anti-bacterial soap…)

Who is Dr. Bronner anyway??? Photo cropped from www.dr.bronner.comDr. Bronner’s has many various uses around the house.  You can wash your body, your beard, your hair, your kids, your dog, your fruits and veggies,  your dishes, your carpet, your car,  your neighbor’s car – you get the picture.   The main thing to remember:  this is highly concentrated stuff, a little goes a long  way!  You need to use the appropriate amount (and type) of Dr. B’s for the job at hand, otherwise you are wasting this precious and wonderful smelling commodity.  The most basic use of Dr. Bronner’s is for hand soap.  What could possibly be better than plain-old supercharged peppermint magic soap?  That’s right:  foaming supercharged peppermint magic soap!  Not only can this foaming magic soap be used at home, it can be used extensively around the campsite! In this post, I’ll show you how to make foaming Dr. Bronner’s hand soap.

//Begin Rant //

Dr. Bronner’s is not promoted, nor should it be, as an “anti-bacterial” soap.  This stuff is too good to be labled anything but “magic soap”.   It is, however, in the “disinfectant” category of soaps.  According to my extensive research (not!), and the Bronner family’s blogger-mom, Lisa Bronner, anti-bacterial soap kills 99.9% of the “bad stuff” and disinfectant soaps kill 99%.   Big whoop.  Before the advent of “anti-bacterial” soap, what did we ever do?  Lions and tigers and germs, oh my!  You don’t need “anti-bacterial” to have clean hands.  Soap and water people, soap and water.  Sure, if you are about to go into surgery or are a dental hygienist, by all means, anti-bacterial is probably preferable for your given trade, but for the average person at home – why subject yourself to even more chemicals that you cant spell, pronounce, or be reasonably sure of the source?  I personally have no earthly idea where or what labs sodiom lauryl sulfate or triclosan are concocted in.  I can, however, wrap my brain around the origins of coconut, hemp, olive, and other oils/extracts that go into Dr. Bronner’s soaps.  Call me crazy. [Read more...]

Back in the day…part III

This is the third in a three part series.  Check out “Back in the day…” part I and part II here…

Cedar Falls - Petit Jean State Park (photo courtesy RWB)

Cedar Falls - Petit Jean State Park (photo courtesy RWB)

So, this is a site about camping, right?  My last two posts have not had much to do with camping, but more to do with how I came to enjoy the sights and scenery between Tennessee and Texas.  This will be my final “Back in the day…” series post, but the first on my experiences at beautiful Petit Jean State Park near Morrilton, Arkansas.

Petit Jean is situated near the Arkansas River between the Ozark and Ouachita Mountains, about an hour northwest of Little Rock in central Arkansas.  The park was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in the 1930s.  At Petit Jean, the CCC worked to create cabins, facilities, roads, and several amazing hiking trails, which provide visitors an opportunity to view what Native Americans and American Pioneers saw more than three hundred years ago.  The natural features of this park are so numerous and great that I’m going give you the gory details in future posts.  Yes folks, gory details!

This beautiful mountain gets its name from an 18th century French girl, whose fiancé was heading out on an expedition to what was then the Louisiana Territory.  Upon hearing this, Petit Jean cut her hair, disguised herself as a boy, and got a job on her fiancé’s boat as a cabin boy.  While on the expedition, Petit Jean became ill near the mountain that now bears her name.  Before she died, she revealed her true identity to her fiancé.  She was buried on the mountain with the name she had assumed on the ship, “little John” (Petit Jean).  The official Petit Jean website has much greater detail of the legend of Petit Jean, as well as the history of the park’s development.

I got my first exposure to Petit Jean around 1984 or 1985, during summer and winter stays with my dad in Texas.  To the best of my recollection, this was also the place where I got an introduction to camping.  Petit Jean was just far enough away between Houston and Memphis to allow us to stretch our legs for a day (or week) or two.  My sisters and I would hike the trails with our dad, learning about nature, self-reliance, and “roughing it”.  Our camps were never really that rough, but several times I remember wondering if we would EVER make it back to civilization….alive. [Read more...]