Arkansas July 4th 2017

My vacation end of June could not arrive fast enough, once again, same feeling I had end of April when my spring vacation approached. My full time job is very stressful much of the time, but things beyond my control, have increased my stress this year over years past. I get another break in August, but it will be shorter, due to even more circumstances beyond my control, code for problems and events in the past few years that prevent some of us from taking additional time off from work. A year ago mid June, I lost my Dad to a massive heart attack, and this year, on the anniversary of that very day he collapsed in the yard, Mom began having problems that prompted a trip to the emergency room of our local MOBAP hospital. Luckily for us, Dr Draper was on duty that evening…he was the attending physician the evening that Dad collapsed and we really liked his bedside manner and attitude…too many times these days, you rarely find a good physician on duty, one you can understand and one that understands you, emergency rooms are often a training ground for new doctors. Last year we found out that Dr Draper is a keeper, with thirty five years of experience, we were delighted to find out that not only did MOBAP keep him on staff, they also promoted him to Chief of Staff in the ER here. Mom had shortness of breath and the evaluating nurse quickly whisked her inside to a room right away and began trying to get to the bottom of it. From the get go, Dr Draper figured it was either pneumonia or congestive heart failure and xrays eventually confirmed it was pneumonia after she was admitted later that evening to the intensive care unit of the hospital. She was hospitalized for a week and then released on the one year anniversary of the day we laid my Dad to rest, scarey timing for my sister and I for a few days there. Later it was determined that Mom had one of the bad pneumonia`s and told it would take at least four weeks before she could go outside, which was fine with her as she barely had the strength to walk up and down the hallway at home. She has had home health care nurses taking care of her daily and they released her today due to the progress she has made with her daily exercises and she can now go outside and attend to her flowers once again as well as go to church services and eat out once again.

I was able to take my vacation and go quartz crystal hunting in Arkansas once again after receiving her blessings, aided by good neighbors checking on her often and my sister staying in touch and visiting her often as well. Onyx and I took off by 7 am on Thursday the 29th and took the shorter route, south on Hwy 63 to Hwy 67 to 440 around Little Rock and then I-30 southwest to Hwy 70 west into Hot Springs. When I was down there in May, I learned that Arkansas highway crews were expanding 70 between Hot Springs and I-30 and had made much progress since we were there then. This time as we entered from the east end, it was obvious that traffic would soon be traveling on four lanes at least ten miles in toward Hot Springs before running into active construction work. Crews were building a few bridges in the middle of the construction area and that was slowing down the progress, but I am sure that by the time we return in November, it should be four lanes of traffic moving thru there. We had to come to a stop a few times thru there for large dumptrucks turning in and out of specific areas, giving me a chance to look at roadcuts looking for quartz veins…while I didn`t see anything in the shale cuts, after mentioning that to Robert Kuhn later on, he told me that is how quartz is often discovered in that area. By the time we arrived at the condo early afternoon Thursday….

   

….it was already getting very warm outside. I noticed this time, there were no bugs flying all around the doorway and the flowers were in bloom and quite pretty, including all the crepe myrtles at every condo building…

I quickly unpacked the truck and moved everything inside the condo, where I discovered soon after, that my laptop had bit the dust and would not even power up, so I made a trip to Walmart to get a new universal power cord for it, but even that didn`t work, so after a subsequent trip to Walmart to return the cord and replace the laptop with a tablet, I was back in business for email and internet browsing. I soon discovered tho, that I would not be able to load up any of my photos as this was more of a chrome book, not a true tablet. Needless to say, it was replaced as soon as I returned home.

Chuck and his family were set to come down and join me on Saturday evening, so I had contacted Tony to see if we could hunt and dig at his mine on Sunday and Monday, instead of our normal Friday and Saturday. I planned to visit friends and mineral dealers the first couple of days, starting with Johnny B  on Friday morning and then checking on Fisher Mtn Mine once again, which is under the control of Judy`s Crystal Shop these days. I ate a couple of bananas on the way down there and by 2 pm, I was good and hungry, so Onyx and I drove over to the south side of Lake Hamilton, to get some fried catfish and jumbo shrimp at Bubba`s trailer…he was a little busy when we arrived but the wait is always worth it, as well as the price.  I checked in with Mom by phone to let her know we made it down safe and sound and then went to Scoops to get a few quarts of home made ice cream for the next few days of dessert, then settled in to make some contacts and set up some visits for the next two days. We had some great sunsets and a few storms roll through and across the lake while there. The

fireworks display was great again as usual…here are a few highlights from the display over Lake Hamilton Saturday evening…

…here are a few more highlights, but for more of my trip to Arkansas in July, go to my other blog site  www.jwjrocks.com  for the rest of the story. 🙂

..sure was a great show, this was the last one before the finale of the show, which I shot all in video…you can see the videos I shot at the fireworks show on my facebook page, here is the link :

https://www.facebook.com/jwjphoto

I enjoyed my vacation, it just didnt last long enough, like normal. 🙂

Structure Fire Riverside Reptile Ranch in Stanton

I had just finished making an appointment to see one of my doctors at 9 am on Thursday morning, when the fire tones dropped for a structure fire at the Reptile Ranch in Stanton…my appointment was at 11 am so I reasoned that I had enough time to run down there and shoot it and return in time for the appointment. I texted Jim Bartle to let him know about it, figuring he was tied up with the preparations for the Meramac Fair this weekend and sure enough he was…he called as I was turning on to eastbound I-44 and I told him I could see heavy smoke in the sky ahead. He said he would get Mark Hilse headed that way too so I could shoot photos and Mark could shoot some video of it so they could get it on the wire soon as breaking news. Five minutes later I parked at the north end of their parking lot, out of the way, and hoofed it down the road to the front of the structure, a long shed back behind a wooden fence with a cabin attached….

…and well involved as you can see in the first image I shot above…only the paid crew and Chief Eric had arrived so far, one hoseline was off and being operated by one firefighter, spraying water on the Pony Express Cabin while the long shed in the background was fully involved as well….

…the single firefighter on the hoseline by the cabin was doing his best to get water on the north end of the shed to cool it down until more firefighters arrived, when a second line was then stretched…

…and Mike Kelly, Battalion Chief at St Clair FPD, arrived just ahead of his pumper and crew, to assist with operations…..the second hoseline was stretched by Firefighter Trevor Woods. I was still shooting from the highway pavement, but quickly stepped down into the grassy ditchline as St Clairs pumper approached from the interstate…..

…Mike assisted Trevor on the hoseline as he prepared to attack the fire from the south side of the fire…

…as Firefighter Ray Enloe was packing up preparing to join the attack. St Clair backed their pumper into the parking lot on the south side and firefighters scrambled to hook up a supply line so that St Clair could feed water to the Sullivan attack pumper as Trevor and Mike began their attack….

Ray came over and took over backing up Trevor on the hoseline a few minutes later…right before the height of the fire….apparently the gate was locked and a halligan tool was requested to open it and allow firefighters better access to the heavy flames, which were increasing strength and lattitude fast….

A couple of additional firefighters joined the fight from St Clair FPD as the fire continued to grow in intensity….

…while St Clairs pumper returned to the Stanton Fire Station for another load of water, and returned shortly just ahead of Bourbon Fire Department arriving with their tanker…

…as the fire grew closer to the main Reptile Ranch building, firefighters positioned the hoseline through a large shrub to gain a better threshold on the attack and to try and prevent the flames from spreading to the main building…

…the attempt to get thru the shrubbery didnt work well, so firefighters then maneuvered around it as best as they could, the access looked pretty tight through there…

…in the meantime, Firefighter Kory Snelson was kept busy helping with the supply lines and operating Pumper 854….

…and the attack on the north end was still a work in progress as well….firefighters even though short handed, were working hard to overcome the intensity and size of the inferno….

…by now the crews on the south end were fighting tremendous heavy flame and thick black clouds of smoke billowing up into the sky with the gasses inside the black smoke re-igniting occasionally high above the main body of fire below….

Crews on the north end made a good effort to hit the main body of fire from their side while the south side firefighters attacked from their side and soon the heavy fire was knocked down, saving the main building from catching fire…

…during that fight, the Pony Express Cabin re-ignited and firefighters once again attacked and knocked it down….

..and while their attention was turned back to the cabin, the fire on the south side intensified once again and the north side firefighters re-joined the fight on the south end again…

..knocking the heavy flames down once again and leaving the north end and middle of the shed burning…

With a few extra firefighters on scene now, Ray and Trevor took a much needed break from firefighting…

…while St Clair and the north side firefighters continued their fight against the flames….

…I walked back to the highway and up to the north side where I saw that firefighters had that end knocked down and under better control as well…

…and soon after, it was looking much better in general…

Franklin County Sheriffs Office responded four deputies and Crawford Electric was on hand to disconnect the electric hazards as well….

Firefighters were continuing to fight the fire as I headed out to get ready for my doctors appointment…

Great Job by all who responded !!  No animals, wildlife, or personnel were injured or lost….only food and property lost by the Reptile Ranch. 

 

 

 

 

Sunset During Thunderstorm May 27th

On the 27th of May, we had a thunderstorm roll through and by us right at sunset…made for some interesting images…

…and then a rainbow formed behind me….

…the colors just kept intensifying as it became darker and then after all that, I captured a lightning bolt without even knowing it til later during the editing…

Thunderstorm in St Louis County

I took my break at work the evening of May 22nd to go get something to eat and spotted a thunderstorm approaching Maplewood from the southwest, so I stopped to photograph it on Sunnen Drive….

..it was pretty on its approach, but soon turned dark and foreboding, and then when it arrived it unleashed a little bit of wind and whole lot of rain. 

MVA Near Harmon Truck Repair May 12th

I responded to a report of a vehicle accident on the South Service Road just west of the city limits, there was entrapment as well and I arrived right behind the fire department, as the sun was setting, to find a single Dodge pick up on its side and firefighters working to get the driver and passenger out….

Firefighters and Paramedics worked side by side to remove the windshield and extricate the occupants safely, good teamwork once again by all !!

Arkansas Springtime April 2017

I took my spring vacation trip to Arkansas a few weeks after my early spring trip to southern Illinois and western Kentucky, joined by friends there to dig again at our friend`s privately owned quartz mine and to visit with some of my Arkansas mineral dealers as well as a new friend who has owned and dug at several of his own quartz crystal mines in the Mt Ida and Hot Springs areas for years. Mom usually goes with me on these trips, but had an appointment with her cancer doctor and stuck around for that…she is faithful in keeping her appointments with her doctor and getting regular checkups, probably a big reason why she is now a 17 year cancer survivor. Onyx and I headed west on I-44, about mid morning of April 29th, on our way to Hot Springs…I had checked the radar before we left and it looked good til at least Joplin, where I figured we would likely first run into some stormy weather on the way down there…little did I know what we were going to be in for, or even what the entire Midwest was going to be in for the rest of that week. I thought I was going to have to rent a ferry to get me, Onyx, and the truck and quartz back to Missouri for a while there. We drove down to Joplin and turned south on Hwy 71, now also known as I-49, and when we neared Neosho, we ran into the first thunderstorm, which contained very little lightning and thunder, but a whole slew of rainfall…folks I have never seen rainfall like this stuff !!  It was coming in hard and fast, blowing sideways across the road from southwest to northeast, which meant we were driving right into it…Onyx is not a thunderstorm loving kinda dog, so he curled up into a ball in the backseat and rode it out there…and normally you look for the rain in the dark clouds of the storm…not this time…it was coming out of the bright white clouds on the backside of the dark storm clouds. I didnt realize that until about the second or third blast that we encountered…and I am used to cloudbursts that last maybe a few miles and then you run out of it…nope, not this time either…I pulled over for a minute under the Anderson overpass to photograph it…..coming off the overpass in buckets let me tell ya…..

…..this first storm lasted at least twenty miles, which put us close to the state line, where I intended to fill up my gas tank. I pulled into the first Phillips 66 down there, under the narrow canopy and put my Phillips card into the gas pump…tells me to check inside with the clerk…which meant I had to run fifty feet across in the hard slammin rain to the station…nope, nada, that was not gonna happen…so got into my truck and kept driving south. Had I known there was another Phillips just south of there, I would have gone there but did not know and drove to the Caseys General Store instead, their canopy was much bigger and wider, so that when I parked in the middle, I knew I would not get wet at all, and their pumps worked just fine. Filled the tank and headed over to McDonalds to get Onyx and I some food and then continued south…the hard rain continued til Fayetteville, only then did it begin to let up, and then as we climbed up the Boston Mountains on 71, it finally stopped raining…wow what an experience that was !!

With this reprieve, I drove over to my buddy Adam Lagaveens house in Sallisaw to visit with him awhile and pick up some more of this quartz collection that he was getting rid of, this time several smokeys and arkimers and other goodies that I was happy to help him out with…what are friends for after all. We headed south once again an hour later and ran into another heavy rainstorm down near Waldron, where I had planned to stop and change out the flowers on the graves of my grandparents for Mom, since she wasnt able to make the trip…however I decided to do this another day I was there and we continued south…the rain finally came to a stop as we got close to Y City and as we turned east on Hwy 270 there, we found a little water across the roadway in our lane, so I went around it in the on-coming lane of traffic very quickly. I figured we might see more water across the roadway, but apparently that rain never moved east from there…we saw some dark storm clouds, but by then I knew the hard rain was not contained in them and we had nothing to worry about…..

…..so we had clear sailing all the way down to Hot Springs from there. Weird how that works up here, completely the opposite, with rain coming from the dark clouds yet down there it was in the bright white clouds….learn something new everyday. We arrived at the condo safe and sound around 4 pm and after getting everything moved inside, I looked at Onyx and asked him if he was as hungry as I was…well he is always hungry so we loaded up and drove south to the other side of Lake Hamilton and stopped off at a trailer in a parking lot, called Bubbas Fried Catfish. I had read about this place, they have a restaurant on the east side of Hot Springs but by that time I didnt really want to drive any further than I had to, and this was much closer, so we decided to try it out. I purchased the catfish plate with fried shrimp and fries, and boy was it good…took it back to the condo where Onyx and I pigged out…they believe in feeding you at that place, four big and wide catfish fillets and ten big butterfly shrimp, and steak fries too !!  We were fat cats after eating all that and then headed up to the home-made ice cream shop near Walmart to get some good stuff for later. After a good nights rest and sleeping in for a change, we took it easy the next day and visited with my new friend Robert, who owns a few mines in the area…he and I have talked by email for the better part of a year, he has been a wealth of information for me on quartz in the area and turned out he is a good friend of one of my mineral dealer friends as well. He showed me much of the quartz he has dug in the past few years and invited me and Onyx to go with him up to one of his mines the next morning.

Bright and early the next morning we were again at Roberts place and followed him up to his mine, way up in the middle of nowheresville is how I would describe the location. I offered to help him set up his new pump to remove the water in the pit but he pointed out a location down near the water and told me to dig there and see what I could find…the day before that he was finding some nice phantom crystal points that folks in Japan apparently go nuts for…I found a few of them and a few small clusters that he let me keep. After he got the pump running and pumping finally, he fired up his trackhoe and removed some of the rock back behind me and then I helped him clean out a few pockets that we found in there, filling a few buckets for him to clean and sort the next few days. By 3 pm, Onyx and I had to leave to keep an appointment with a model in Hot Springs, so we took off in that direction, running into some slow traffic as we got close and even tho we were running a little late, keeping in contact with him by text, I discovered he was going to be late as well, and it all worked out just fine. I took him to supper after at the Habachi Sushi Buffet and then Onyx and I got back in time to shoot a great sunset behind the condo on the lake….

I was trying to block the sunlight from my lens and came away with a neat photo as it was….

…lots of sunbeams and even some geese flying thru there…sure was pretty. The next day, Onyx and I drove back up to Waldron to Sehorn Cemetery, where my grandparents are buried…this is a beautiful cemetery, perched upon a hill with a nice view of the surrounding valley near Winfield, Arkansas, and majestic tall pines and cedars standing tall and guarding the knoll there. There was a fast moving tornado that touched down there last year and damaged many of the old trees, but the pretty ones survived, even though their branches were stripped bare or twisted around, while other trees next to them were left unscathed.

My quartz hunting buddy Adam, who I stop to visit with each year on my way down there, his Mom is buried here, her maiden name was Sehorn, so its like their family cemetery…she has a beautiful black stone marker with an engraved angel curled up on the side of it…it really stands out and captures your attention front and center when you enter the grounds…not far from the graves of my grandparents.  An hour later we were headed back to Hot Springs…I had thought about stopping to see my Uncle Harold and Aunt Raye, but as I drove by their house and didnt notice any activity, I thought they might be taking an early afternoon nap and didnt have their number with me to check, so drove on back to Hot Springs. I photographed some beautiful flowers in the farm fields close by….

I also stopped by the small waterfall on the Fourche LaFave River at Y City on the way back, it is easily accessible from Hwy 71 by a short walk to see…

…and then I drove out to my favorite waterfall near Hot Springs, called many things, but known as Blue Hole Falls, due to all the rainfall, it was really running heavy over the shelf of novaculite there that day….its a double decker and we rarely see that water on the left side running over the shelf at all….

I then drove over to the Phillips station in town to fill my tank, finding out that it was now a Valero station instead…on my way back to the condo I spotted two of Hot Springs Fire Departments trucks headed to a vehicle accident….

…and then decided to head over to Outback Steakhouse for supper….love their steaks and my buddy Jake is a waiter there as well, always takes good care of me. We returned to the condo just in time for another beautiful sunset….

The next day I slept in again and then visited with friends and we had yet another great sunset that evening…

…and then on Wednesday morning, we started off with beautiful skies and then it clouded up by mid morning and those torrential downpours started in again…

…above you see the clouds thickening up, and then the darker clouds came in…I`m shooting to the west from the balcony and there is a gorgeous house over there on the south shore that I am focused on…

I was going to driver over and visit with Gary Fleck, one of my mineral dealer friends, that day, but once there, I couldnt find anyone there, so I headed back to the condo for an easy day off…as it turned out, he was next door doing some cleaning at his Moms house and we just missed each other. I returned the next day right after Chris Keyme arrived in town, and he rode over there with me…explained to him that I was going to visit and prob purchase some new stuff from Gary as well…we had a great time and visit there with Gary and Chris got to see some beautiful stuff that Gary has inside and outside his home as well. That evening, after more of my rockhounding friends arrived, we had supper at the Habachi Sushi Buffet and then Onyx and I headed back to the condo for ice cream. Some of my friends came in late that night and some early the next day, meeting up at the earlier arranged time and meeting place before our drive up Hwy 270 to Mount Ida to dig and collect quartz crystals at a privately owned mine. 

We dug there two days and had a great time together, found a lot of pretty quartz crystals and plates of quartz and clusters too. On Saturday, we stopped off at Burl`s Smokehouse on the way to Mt Ida, told my group I was going to get a sandwich and chips for lunch there, and everyone followed me inside to get one as well…the next thing you knew, instead of one sandwich, the gals there were making up ten sandwiches for us…I ordered a smoked ham sandwich on white bread with mayo, double meat, and here is what it looked like when I had it later at lunch time….

…DELISH and yes, Onyx did help me finish it off and he enjoyed it too. We had supper the second night at Outback Steakhouse and since some left earlier than some of us others, I had them make reservations there and ask for my buddy Jake to take care of us there…which he did. The next morning most of us met at Cracker Barrel for a good breakfast and then held a rock and mineral swap in the parking lot, before driving over to see my friend Robert, where several of us bought some crystal clusters from him. My friend John, took a real shine to Robert as I had earlier in the week, and was invited to go to his mine on Monday morning, so John delayed his departure an extra day to go rockhunting with Robert, while the rest either headed home that afternoon, or like me and Onyx, took off the next morning.

We enjoyed the last of our ice cream and another great sunset that evening….

…and the next morning, Onyx and I headed north toward Missouri…leaving about 8 am to avoid the traffic jams that are so prevalent in the Little Rock area…I intended to take 440 around the city and on up to Hwy 67, however ran into a huge traffic jam soon after passing up 430. Needless to say I exited 440 and turned north to try and go around it, but got lost in doing so and can safely tell you that I received tremendous help from the Little Rock PD after calling their non emergency line, the Desk Sgt was able to get me over to I-630 fast and on my way north soon after. I did see a very pretty Little Rock FD Hook and Ladder truck just before turning on to 630. I also wasnt sure how bad the flooding would be north of Little Rock, but as soon as I started getting close to the turn on to Hwy 63 and near the town of Hoxie, which is a major UP town, I spotted UP Maintenance crews trying to shore up their rail lines with heavy rock to prevent the roadbeds from washing away and either side of Hwy 63 was water as far as the eye could see, water right under the train trestles and road bridges too. It was pretty scarey for a few miles up 63 to the north.

I stopped for a few minutes just south of Hardy to photograph an old mill and water race, and gave Onxy a bit of a break to stretch his legs too….its called Morgans Mill…

and then we continued northbound on Hwy 63 and arrived home a few hours later, tired but happy, another good trip with good friends, food, and scenery, and of course, more rocks for the collection. If you would like to see more of the rocks part of this trip, check out  my other blog at www.jwjrocks.com 

 

 

House Fire Fawn Ridge Circle in April

As I was getting ready to go to work one evening, the fire tones dropped and the Fire Department was dispatched to a Residential Structure Fire on Fawn Ridge Circle, which is just on the other side of the interstate from me…I had just enough time to grab a few photos for the paper before I left, so I headed over there and arrived right after the first pumper. I parked a block up the street, well out of their way, and walked down to find smoke coming from the rear entrance to the basement, as firefighters were setting up hoselines and preparing for positive pressure ventilation, and extra firefighters arriving in more fire trucks…

Sullivan Police arrived, blocked off the street, and helped with hoselines until more firefighters arrived…great teamwork people !!

Gorgeous Sunset Over Ohio River in March

I was down in southern Illinois again mid March, to dig for some beautiful blue fluorite crystals with several friends from all over the country. We were staying south of there in western Kentucky and crossed the Ohio River each morning and evening on the ferry at Cave-in-Rock…the first evening back across we reached the crossing just in time for the start of a gorgeous sunset..we had to wait for the ferry to come back to the north side of the river to pick us all up, so I first walked down to the bank of the river to shoot my initial images….

 

One of my buddies, Chuck Reed photographed me down by the riverside, photographing the setting sun….

…finally the ferry made it back across and picked us all up to take us to the south side…we all got out of our vehicles to watch this beautiful story unfold….

…simply gorgeous…and this is what we were digging for down there….

Another great trip with great friends and great scenery and sunsets !!

jwjphoto7@gmail.com

 

Burden Falls, Southern Illinois

On one of my trips to Southern Illinois this spring to dig into some old fluorite mines, I came across a set of waterfalls deep in the Shawnee National Forest called Burden Falls…you can drive right up to them…Onyx and I arrived one time right after a nice spring day rainstorm…very pretty place….

…and the pretty moss covered boulders below by the creek….

Camper Fire at Flying J end of January

I arrived just behind the Fire Department for a camper fire in the parking lot at Flying J..came in as flames showing, but they were not….

..that is Jimmy on the nozzle and Damon backing him up….

…they made a good stop on it !!