LITTLE BLUFF JOURNAL - DECEMBER 2019 (previous months)


Little Bluff cabin cam December 31 - brilliant sunrise - two of them in fact! Here's to what was the BEST 2019 ever! (I guess it was the only 2019 ever, haha)

We have decided to take the rest of the year off - YIPPIE!

Journal Updated on the 30th

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Print Of The Week special (above)

12/01/19 It was a very musical night with winds that howled, whistled, crash-bang-boom, creek. But there were no storms - mostly clear skies and stars. At dawn this morning the gale continued, and had blown in lines of dark clouds that stretched to the horizon and beyond, all moving right-to-left. The clouds are still all gray right now just before sunrise, but I'm hoping there will be a brilliant splash of color to light them up and begin a new month in good order.

Seemed to me that November was a very long, tough month that was slow to end. Perhaps it's because to me in relation December is really only 17 days this year, and those days are counted by the slide programs we'll be doing - the last one being on December 17th. Between now and then we'll have quite a travel schedule, beginning here in a couple of hours as we make our annual trek to the Fayetteville library. On Thursday this week we'll begin the longest and most challenging slide show marathon we've ever attempted (both mentally and physically) - six programs in six different towns in six days (actually eight shows since two of those are doubles - two shows each at two locations). I've been trying to line them up in my head, let's see if I can remember -

Russellville, Springfield (2), Bentonville, Mountain Home (2), Clarksville, and Ft. Smith - YIPPIE we made it! No wait, we'll still have Little Rock and Dover after that, but those should be a piece of cake! I'm looking forward to the challenge, and to seeing everyone at the shows. Ask lots of questions please! (Good thing that our cousin Joseph will be here for that week to keep the pups busy and look after things at the cabin while we're on the road - but he'll have to move over at night since we'll be coming home each night to rest for a few hours, process and package orders, and restock everything.)

Those gray clouds did light up just now, and I realized the wind chill was in the teens or below when I dashed outside to take a picture - wearing only a loose bath robe that blew up to expose, well, you know... It was REFRESHING!

Back to December...



12/05/19 Today we began our "eight shows in six towns in six days" slide program marathon/sprint. We've only ever done two in a row before. First stop, Russellville. It's always one of the very best locations, number and quality of people, and GIANT cookies. This year was no different, except there were a lot less people - there was both the town Christmas Parade and a speech by Sarah Sanders Huckabee going on at the same time close by, but the cookies were a pretty big draw and we had a nice crowd of friendly folks! We got home just before midnight and laid our tired puppies down to rest.

12/06/19 I was up before dawn and working in the gallery to reprint the Black Mat Prints we had sold in Russellville, then assembled them got all packed into the book mobile. My bride showed up about daylight to get her chores done, including counting books we'd sold, restocking all of them into the bookmobile, and processing all of the online orders from the day and night before, then packing all of that up. And then we headed north, to the Nature Center in Springfield, MO for two shows (5 & 7pm). We always LOVE going to Springfield - great facility and even better folks attending. And this is normally our largest show of the year with both shows combined. We ended up with about 260 folks, INCLUDING our daughter, Amber - it was so great to see her smiling face, as always!

As we drove home through the night we were gut-punched with the terrible news that one of the brightest angels on the planet had been taken away without notice - Stacey Wheeler (wife of our Sheriff, Glenn), collapsed at home and died. She was young, full of life and love and spirit, and had always been a driving force and partner to Sheriff Glenn - I don't know how he or the county is going to cope. It feels like we're in a vacuum right now...


STACEY WHEELER. Successful young woman, incredible mom, the driving force behind her husband (our Sheriff). We mourn a tragic loss to the world. R.I.P. dear soul...

It was another midnight arrival back home for us, and we managed to dodge all the deer.

12/07/19 We were both up early and back to work again and headed out the door at 9am towards the library in Bentonville. It's another one of our favorite places to give programs, and today the house was packed with smiling faces and lots of great questions - you know I LOVE questions! We arrived back home after the show about dark and are winding down a bit before starting the recycling process of getting ready to head to Mountain Home tomorrow morning for two shows at the library. I'm looking forward to hiking up to the gallery in the dark and stretching my legs a bit.

So far, three days and all is good.

And on a somewhat humorous note, Pam selected the audio book Shipwreck At The Bottom Of The World, which detailed the harrowing and incredible disaster and survival of the Endurance wreck and 18-month ordeal of her crew (all survived). I'd read the book years ago and it was great to hear it as we drove through the night. The sorts of things all the crew members lived through each day kinda put our little marathon voyage this week into perspective - a walk in the park for us.

Mountain Home, Clarksville, Ft. Smith, then a breather...




12/10/19 We made it home late last night from Clarksville and managed to miss all the deer. I'm running down, but only have one more show in this stretch - an even later night tonight from Ft. Smith. I've been fueled by five days of Casey's pizza and mocha iced coffee (not very healthy!). Tonight I'll need a little more punch to get us home since the late drive will be an hour longer. Tomorrow we'll start to get setup for our Gallery Open House this Saturday, and say goodbye to Stacey....

12/11/19 Turns out there IS a light at the end of the tunnel, and it was a BRILLIANT sunrise this morning! We got home about midnight for the last of six road trips and programs to six different towns (and back home each night) in six days. Two shows left on our schedule before Christmas, plus our open houses at the gallery the next two Saturdays... THANKS TO ALL who came to Ft. Smith last night!


12/12/19 - a sky-full of COLOR at dawn!


12/13/19 - Mia inspecting some pine cones long our loop trail...


12/17/19 - sunrise from above our Cabin this morningwith a bit of ice below - and our LAST slide show tonight...


12/18/19 - 31 degrees and a BRILLIANT sunrise - HAPPY WEDNESDAY! (we made it home before midnight last night after our last slide show of the year - THRILLED to have ended our marathon without accident, equipment failure, sickness, nor mental breakdown...) MANY THANKS to the thousands who attended our 23 programs this season! Now it's time to start catching up...



12/21/19 - Happy first day of winter!


12/23/19 Pam's maple tree just outside her studio window -


12/24/19 There is a teeny, tiny, silver sliver of a crescent moon rising slowly above an orange horizon in the south, southwest. Still an hour before sunrise, the sky has already begun to lighten, and that orange glow is spreading to clouds above the horizon. At first I could still see the entire moon, including the 95% that is in shadow, but the lighter the sky becomes that shadowed part fades away with only the silver sliver visible. That too will fade as sunrise approaches. When I first saw the moon about an hour ago it was just barely above the horizon, and way far to the right (south) - about the farthest it will travel that direction - until probably tomorrow, when the sliver will be even smaller, and it will rise just slightly to the right. Only two weeks ago during the full moon it was way far back to the left in the northeast. The moon makes this full swing from north to south and back again each month, vs. the sun that takes six months to go to the end of it's swing.

More and more clouds have gathered to watch the moonrise and are glowing orange, with a backdrop of a pure-blue sky. It is all quite beautiful. I wish a camera could capture all that my eyes are seeing! Gosh, I guess I must TRY...

OK, I got it! These winter skies are just so darn colorful, but most of the time I simply sit and enjoy instead of running around and making the effort to try and capture with a camera what I know won't do the moment justice. Today was a good example of when the colors of the clouds, sky, and even the silhouetted trees and hills came together to create a special mood - with the tiny moon accent that has now retreated behind the still-glowing orange clouds.

OK, well, I think I got it. One never really knows if the 2D camera has captured the mood of the scene until it is viewed on a flat screen, and with the camera and computer I'm using right now I won't be able to see that until later this morning - if it worked I'll post it here...(see the tiny moon?)


We had a big family Christmas gathering at Pam's parents house on Sunday (they live just a couple of miles as the crow flies, or ten minutes by road). I'm the worst gift-giver on the planet, and this year my only contribution was pizza for dinner, and three wonderful pies for dessert (from our local Blue Mountain Bakery on the Jasper square - I think I gained two pounds just brining them home!) Yesterday my lovely bride and I worked most of the day playing catch-up from Saturday's gallery open house and just trying to get things in order for the end of the year, and packing up a couple of orders for book dealers - the poor UPS man's rented U-Haul truck was PACKED with so many boxes - I don't know how they are able to get everything delivered mostly on time!

Today we still have more business work to do but will get to spend some of today turning our attention to cabin chores that have been piling up. Then we hope to get to take a hike somewhere with the pups and enjoy the great weather we're having in the Ozarks this week.

I've been out roaming around several times at night lately and each time the stars seem brighter and twinkle more. The atmosphere in winter here is cleaner and drier and so those stars show through better. Last night when I left the gallery and started the hike down to the cabin I looked up and saw a giant force in the sky looming over me - it was Orion, The Hunter constellation. He (or is he a she?) will dominant the winter night sky 'til spring when the brightest part of the Milky Way makes a return for the summer.

Those orange clouds have spread far and wide now and the sun is about to peek over the very same ridge way out there that the moon rose from a little while ago. While I realize it would be easy to look up the exact degrees where each rises today, I sometimes prefer the old-fashioned way of measuring such things. The moon rose about two knuckles on my outstretched hand to the right of the big communications tower over yonder on Mockingbird Hill. Looks like there is just enough time for me to make my giant morning smoothie and return to the couch to check that location as the sun rises here in a few minutes... (I was off by one knuckle - it rose three knuckles to the right of the tower).

12/25/19 Happy Christmas to you!


12/26/19 The view from our campsite at Petit Jean State Park -


12/28/19 It’s quite NOISY tonight! We’ve been pounded with howling winds and heavy rainfall for a while this evening, with tornado watches and storm warnings flying about. So far less than an inch of actual rainfall, but since the landscape is pretty dry we will take every drop!

We had a steady flow of delightful folks at the gallery today, and it was great to see so many smiling faces. Holiday sales have wound down and we made it through the peak season without running out of anything - although we are very low on both of our 2020 calendars and the new DVD and may run out soon. Both of the printers that I use for canvas and Black Mat Prints made it through the season without any breakdowns, although they both gulped a log of ink and ate many boxes of paper and rolls of canvas (that’s a good thing). OOPS, did I just jinx myself?

I took the puppies out for a ramble through the woods early this morning since they had to be locked up in the cain all day - they were happy dogs to be set free and we enjoyed another run this evening before all the weather moved in. We visited an ancient (historic?) "tree ladder" near the cabin that was built out of saplings - simply laid up against a large tree with sapling steps nailed on (those steps now covered with lichen). It's just an old deer hunter's tree stand but is taking on more character the older it gets. (I wonder if folks say that about me?).


Christmas day we worked until mid-afternoon, then packed up the RV and headed south for a quick stay at Petit Jean State Park. The weather was warm and we all worked up a sweat hiking about four miles out and back on their new (paved) hike/bike trail from the campground to the Lodge. This is a great new trail and I’d expect to see many more multi-use trails in the state parks and urban areas in the years to come. Our campsite was right on the lake and while there were other campers around, most of their campground sites were empty - and it was such beautiful, warm weather! Petit Jean is one of the best state parks anywhere in the country - and will be even better with the looks of some major construction going on that will include a new visitor center (their current one is tiny).

The new morning we got up early and hiked the Seven Hollows Trail - a trail that is frequently listed by many folks as their favorite in all of Arkansas. It is a great trail indeed, and we had a great time - and only saw ONE other person. Winter is a great time to hike in Arkansas, and especially on this trail since you go by so many big bluffs and rock formations that are partially covered up during the growing season when the leaves are on the trees. We all worked up a good sweat and worked off a pound or two before heading back north and home again.


The natural bridge along Seven Hollows Trail at Petit Jean State Park

My lovely bride has filled up the bird feeders and it’s been quite busy out back this past couple of weeks with lots of hungry bluebirds, titmice, woodpeckers, and upside-down birds.

Sounds like the big storms are winding down for the evening and so am I. Hope you’ve been able to get out and enjoy some of our great winter weather this week!

12/29/19 Today is GARAGE DAY! It’s my first garage and when we moved in it seemed so HUGE! Now we have a 24’ camper van, commercial utility van, and a mid-size SUV living there. Add a bunch of utility cabinets, my rubber canoe, various camping and recreational items - many neatly hung on the walls that are lined with pegboard - lots and lots of hardware items including two very tall ladders, dozens of large tubs filled with misc., and well, you know, the garage is not so large any more! Or should I say there is not as much empty space any more - it’s still the same size, but not as organized as it should be. One of my goals today is to recover as much space as possible, which is mostly just a little organization. And as the nuthatches that are gathering right now just outside the window at the feeders are trying to tell me, once we get the garage in a little better shape, the key is to CONTINUE the process, forever - it’s the only way to keep the walls from closing in over time. Wish me luck, haha...

But first, while my bride is in town grocery shopping for the week, the pups and I are going to pay a visit to MiaWilson Falls along the loop tail here and see if it’s running after the storms and rainfall overnight. Temps in the 50’s with a slight breeze will make for a fine hike, which will of course end back at the garage! HAPPY SUNDAY TO YOU!

EVENING UPDATE. The numbers are going in opposite directions - the temp is falling (into the mid-30’s now) and the winds are HOWLING up to 30-40mph! The pups and I just made a hike in the dark up to the gallery to get something and while it felt great to be out in the crisp air, it took extra effort leaning into the wind to make it up the little hill. For one gust that hit I figured poor little Mia would be blown away, but then I realized that the closer to the ground you are the less the wind speed is. (wind is slowed down by friction by everything on the ground) It was a pretty wild hike and everyone made it back home OK.

The wind is making music that’s quite different from the roaring last night. If I close my eyes I can just picture how the wind is turning corners, twisting around limbs, smashing up against the cabin wall, with each movement having a different pitch and tone and volume. Whistles and moans and groans.

Yes, I actually did get some work done in the garage today, and we can now open our car doors fully! My bride got the Christmas tree and ornaments all packed up and neatly stacked on shelves in the corner. And she loaded up dozens of painting frames onto a pegboard all that her dad built for her a couple of weeks ago - our garage is taking shape and looking better and more functional! But it was just a start - I’ve still got a long way to go.

The pups and I found their waterfall running well on our hike this morning, and the forest was lush with bright mossy greens everywhere. Winter moss always seems to be the most saturated of the entire year - we have a lot of moss-covered boulders along our loop trail. Here's part of the falls -


12/30/19 -


Bitter cold at dawn with temp below freezing at a howling wind. But hey, it's Monday, my favorite day of the week so - HAPPY MONDAY! (And happy birthday to the most wonderful young lady on the planet - Amber Falls - you have made life very special for so many people, especially your ma and pa!)

Somehow I hiked more than eight miles and 15k steps today but never went any farther than between our cabin and the gallery. It was very brisk all day and remained cold and windy, but plenty of sunshine and cobalt blue skies. (I’m not exactly sure that was the correct color of blue, but it seems to be one of many terms to describe really clear blue sky - although I also like just plain old sky blue, or clear blue, or brilliant blue, or robin’s egg blue).

My lovely bride took Amber out for a birthday lunch in Springfield to a Mexican restaurant that normally has a long line to get in - they arrived right when it opened and got the last table. I heard it was amazing food, and then later got my own entire chicken and shrimp burrito for dinner when Pam got home - it was indeed pretty dawn good! (although my high water mark for burritos is the pulled pork one from Sweeto Burrito in Salt Lake City)

Speaking of my bride, she made it home in time for the regular weekly ladies of the greater Boxley area metroplex yoga session at the historic Boxley Baptist Church & Community Building (aka, that little white country church in Boxley). Besides the wonderful yoga and fellowship with everyone (typical crowd is 6-9). news spread that a resident up on Cave Mountain had recently seen a wild cougar near Cave Mtn. Road.

In a bit of other local news, our bug guy from Pest-X texted me this morning to say he would be late for our annual treatment because there was a car on fire in the middle of the road at Mt. Sherman and the highway was closed until they got the fire out and the car removed.

Later on we had a pair of brothers visit our gallery - both Vietnam vets and we spent a good bit of time talking about travel out west sharing stories. As they were leaving, one of the brothers shook my hand and thanked me for what I do because “your pictures touch my heart.” I told him that was nothing and I said “ THANK YOU for what you have done to help keep us free and alive!” There are many heroes wandering among us every day, and I think it is of value to recognize and thank them for their service. So as always, THANKS TO ALL VETS and their families!

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