Category Archives: Prairie Dog Posse Travels

Down A Mississppi Rabbit Hole


I loved the hands I saw, the one clasping a wreath on a stone

This post is about a visit to a very bad rabbit hole which left me feeling like Alice. Perplexed, confused, mad, upset, and helplessly along for the ride.  It’s also about me processing the toxic leftovers of being robbed at gunpoint in Jackson, Mississippi. I thought had forgiven the two thuglets who changed my worldview, but I think that will take more time and work. Right now, I would happily shoot them both if I had a gun, which fixes nothing and takes me to their playing field. I choose not to go there.

So many beautiful stone portraits in the Greenwood Cemetery

Jackson, Mississippi, it turns out is a crime-ridden festering wound of a city, facts which are not bruited about in the guidebooks touting the history of the place. Eudora Welty is probably sadly spinning in her grave in the Greenwood cemetery. It is a city of have everythings and have nothings.

I have never seen another sleeping angel, loved this

I landed up in Jackson as a result of wanting to see something of the area before I got down to the ‘bidness’ of grantwriting instruction in West Monroe, Louisiana which is about 80 miles away. Vicksburg is about 30 miles from Jackson and the whole of Mississippi is full of sad southern history. The South has most definitely not risen again in this part of Mississippi.  I started my Sunday hoping to find a few second hand stores and some curious vintage, but I discovered everything but restaurants is closed on Sunday in this part of the country. Buffets full of  fat men and pick ups everywhere I looked.

400 unknown confederate soldiers graves are lined up in rows in the center of the Greenwood cemetery

The people I met on my visit were unfailingly kind and nice with the exception of the two well-dressed in gangster duds wannabees who collided with my world. It took two of the scumlets to have enough courage to rob a woman alone in a cemetery on a Sunday morning at gunpoint. That to me, is the definition of cowardice, I find them rather like hyenas who only hunt in vicious packs. Yes, I understand they are economically oppressed, terribly poor, living in substandard housing, etc. etc. etc. Hurting and terrifying others is not the answer.

Greenwood cemetery and the little house where I found the dropped key

Why is America sending billions and billions to other countries to help their people and here we do nothing. I get these two guys have no opportunities, no education and no future. They were between 18 and 22 and probably each one has fathered children, the ubitiquous baby daddy. Their single girlfriends will be raising the next generation of thugs and hyenas alone and crying when their boys get shot in the streets or go to prison.  Wake up America, you can’t turn your backs and expect things to get better.

I thought these were hilarious, no nonsense headstones, probably a whole family of middle class merchants

That being said, it is still really unpleasant to become the target of two black thugs in a very white historic cemetery on a Sunday morning when the entire state of Mississippi is in church. You could go bowling on the empty streets of Jackson on a Sunday. I had made my pilgrimage to Eudora Welty’s home in Belhaven, very nice upscale older residential area, and I knew she was buried in the historic Greenwood Cemetery.

The cemetery is right smack downtown, a stone’s throw from the state capital and the supreme court. I felt safe, I was on my guard. I even drove all the way around the cemetery before I went in to check it out. There were rolls of barbed wire on the top of the fence and only one way in. My assumption, wrong, it turns out, was that this was to discourage vandals because the cemetery is old, historic and pristine. More cemetery angels intact than I have ever seen in one place.  Sunday morning, empty streets, historic cemetery, another couple on a motorcycle in the cemetery on a sunny morning. I decided to go in and look around. I parked, got out my camera and began happily snapping pictures.

Martha Eliza and Laura Louisa Mims, twins? Odd headstones.

I noticed the hyenas, one in an orange hoody and one in a red hoody, just kind of standing around and talking to each other. I wasn’t comfortable so I started slowly back to my car. I have to believe God was on my side because I reached in my pocket for the car key and it was gone. Just remembering that moment makes my heart pound all over again. I started retracing my steps and there is a little wooden house in the middle of the cemetery. The key was on the front porch in plain sight where it had fallen from my pocket. I truly think if I had not been able to give them the key and the car they were after, they would have gunned me down without a second thought.

The Harper family has a Harper angel

I was shaking when I got to the car, I opened it with the remote button and I thought, “I’m safe, I made it.” I sat down  in the car and had not even swung my legs in, when suddenly I heard footsteps running my way, the heavy set thug had run up and I could see his boots. Expensive, suede work boots, untied, white socks. I looked up and saw the gun. A matte black pistol, probably a 38. “Get out da cah”.  He grabbed my camera and my car key and waved the gun at me, “Walk away”. I did, I started up a small hill, fully expecting to be shot in the back. The second thug, a thinner punk in a red hoodie, said, “What’s in yo pocket?”  I said, “My phone.” “Give it here” , he held out his hand impatiently and grabbed the phone, again telling me to “Walk away, walk faster.” As soon as I heard the car start and get put in gear, I turned around to see them backing out of the cemetery at a high rate of speed to turn right and race away.

General Barksdale was shot on horseback leading a charge in the battle of Gettysburg, he died two days later in a Union Hospital.

My purse with my i.d., credit cards and cash was in the trunk with my jewelry. I was a good tourist, I put everything out of sight, I kept it safe. My i.d. was gone, my phone was gone, my money and credit cards were gone and I was forty miles from my hotel room.  My beloved camera was gone but my phone I missed the most. Iphones seem to gather up your life and carry it around for you. Photos, contacts, messages, internet. Amazing how dependent we become and how fast.

Barksdale, "Tell my wife and family I am killed" were his last words.

Jeff Rudis and David McCarty were in the cemetery the same time and day I was. David was driving a white car parked about a football field from me, and Jeff was walking his dog Chase on the other side of the cemetery. In your dreams you cannot call out for help, but in real life I had no problem at all hollering “Help” at the top of my lungs while walking towards where I had seen the two guys.

They both came running, blessings on them, and both had cell phones. We waited about 15 minutes, no cop, so David went to hunt for them, the officer had managed to miss the cemetery entrance. He finally arrived, a young black officer who was very to the point and probably used to this sort of thing in his sordid city-although hopefully not female tourists in cemeteries on Sunday mornings.

I am so glad I did not lose this little shot of a nest on top of a tombstone

He was a bit clueless though. I told him the stolen car was a rental. A black Dodge Avenger with Ohio plates.  He wanted to see the rental agreement and know the license number.  Really Officer? Really? It’s a RENTAL. David helped me get hold of Alamo National car rental and get the plates and the VIN. The officer said, “We will get the car back, maybe not this week, but we will get it back.” He took a very short statement, gave me a case number and left me in the cemetery where I had been robbed. No offer of transport or help in Jackson. You get robbed at gunpoint here and you are on your own.

This Goddess was amazing, in fanastic shape, so beautiful

Jeff Rudis stepped up and offered to take me back to his apartment and let me use his computer and telephone to shut off my credit cards and let people know what had happened. We walked to his house with Chase, his big white dog. The thuglets had approached Jeff and asked him if Chase bit, when he told them sometimes, they backed off.  Hint: carry a loaded dog in Jackson. It seemed so normal, people talking on the curb outside a place that is revitalizing the neighborhood, nice houses and apartments, all just a few blocks from the cemetery and behind it a burned out ghetto. Jeff had moved to Jackson from Hattiesburg to take a job promotion just a few weeks before so this was a nasty introduction to his new hometown. His girlfriend was moving to Jackson too, and I think all this probably helped them choose a safer neighborhood for her new apartment. I cannot thank Jeff enough, he handed me a beer because he thought I needed one, he offered hospitality and help, and he gave me a ride home when we figured out the rental company was not going to help me out. Actually, I have been told they will be coming after me for their lost car. The icing on the cake.

I have never seen so many cemetery angels. I would like to go back--with a bodyguard--and take more pictures.

I got back to Vicksburg and Jeff insisted on coming in to make sure I was safe and hand me over to the hotel staff before he made the long drive back home. I hope he shows his girl friend this post and she understands he is a really great guy if she doesn’t already know that. The hotel staff were wonderful and comforting, they had spoken to my friend Corky who had flown me in for the consult in Louisiana, and they fronted me forty dollars for food until he got there the next day.  Even the maid knocked on the door to check up on me. I had about twenty four hours alone to process all that had happened and in retrospect I am glad about that. I never cried or fell apart but I didn’t sleep well for days. Flashbacks  to the sound of  the boots the gun and what if?

Even the borken pieces were all gathered up and carefully kept with the graves. I found that amazing

Terry sent my passport so I got home at the end of the week after a rough travel day and I spent the next days  getting my life back, Iphone, i.d., and credit cards. On Sunday my family came over because they had been without electricity for five days. They all had long hot showers, played on the computers, charged their phones and ate the ham and potato soup I made. Here’s the thing. When I was making that soup with my left over ham bone and chopping up potatoes in my warm kitchen I knew I was the lucky one. I was not in some roach infested rotting old tenement wondering where my next meal was coming from. I got everything back and I’m fine. They are not, they never will be. Their lives are already over. Its just a matter of time, they are walking dead men one way or another.

Two of tthese little angels flanked a gigantically tall capital with a southern gent on the top. Only birds could touch him.

The tragedy is not the carjacking and robbery, that’s a scary irritation, the tragedy is in the human lives that are being wasted every day. Christians fight like crazy against abortion but do little to save the people that are already here in the worst parts of this country. Why don’t we care for each other more and better?

Broken urn

The final illumination and grace note to this whole thing was getting my Iphone back. The pictures I shot with my Iphone were stored in the I cloud. Bless you Steve Jobs, wherever you are. These beautiful angels are the ironic illustrations to this long story which ends with me safe and whole and home.

Angel head, so pretty and so intact, I loved seeing these




Price is Right and So Are Petroglyphs

  May 27th, Salt Lake City and South!

Train headed for Soldier Summit

 After a successful airport extraction and stashing Pam’s paraphenalia we joyously hit the road to Price and petroglyphs in Nine Mile Canyon.Then it dawns on me it is Friday at 5:00 p.m. on a three-day weekend. Oh my lord, what was I thinking? Traffic is inching along at about ten miles an hour and time is slipping by. We want to get to Price before dark and our thoughts turn to poor Paula. She has to fight this crappy traffic all the way from Logan, well north of Salt Lake City to join us with the Wonder Jeep for our run to the canyons tomorrow.

 Still, Pam and I are deliriously happy to be starting out on our vacation.  Make that  mostly happy. Finally, when I’m ready to get out of the car and slap a few lousy drivers we get to American Fork and I know Spanish Fork is just ahead, along with our turn off the interstate onto highway 89 and south to Price. Bad jokes ensue regarding forks in the road but we make the turn to the two lane and say toodles to the worst of the traffic. Of course I have to pass a few trailers the size of brontosauruses, or is that brontosauri? Who cares, we are headed up to Soldier Summit and Helper and right after that, Price.

The railyard at Soldier Summit, where the helper engines live

We get the Moon Guide out and Navigator Pam satisfies our curiousity. Helper is a railroad town and it got its moniker because of the fact that heavily laden coal trains couldn’t make the pass at Soldier Summit without a helper engine. We get off the highway to drive through Helper because we can and we’re curious.

Mid-century modern, eternally ugly library and auditorium in Helper

Finding the main drag, I am enchanted. There is a big-assed black statue of a miner in front of the really ugly 1940’s style library. The statue is one of those giant tire guys you used to see advertising what else?  Tires. I have seen them done up as Paul Bunyan, cowboys, cooks and tire guys, but this one is a coal miner complete with a six foot long pick axe.  Photo op!

Giant Miner with Pam, fill in the rest of the caption yourself, preferably with something slightly smutty.

We cruise the rest of the town finding the old Rainbow Bar whose front is covered with cobalt blue glass tiles. Pam takes about 20 shots, and we are both sad that this is Utah and the bar is not open. 

Pam trying to get the perfect shot of the blue glass front of the Rainbow

It would be cool to slug down a beer there, but we keep going and find the rest of the town is really rather charming with a lot of empty stores. The guide book tells us the town is trying to reinvent itself and has a lot of art galleries.  we’ll be back to investigate the “ghost galleries.”

Beautiful downtown helper with the Fyr Fly

On to Price! We find our motel. Such a deal, I found it on line. I never heard of the National Nine chain before but its clean, simple and the price is right. You know how you can determine you are in a cheap motel? No hairdryer, ever. Luckily, I can stuff my mop into a ponytail and a baseball cap and so can Pam. Pam and I are campers from way back. We are outdoorsy girls with evil senses of humor who don’t mind getting dirty and looking like hell when we go baying after fun.

This is as grubby as Paula ever gets, the jeep gets dirty but not Ms. P.

Then there is Paula. She drives a jeep and she drives it well off road and on. Her  jeep is jacked up for off road, it has a winch on one end and a compressor on the other and she knows how to use them. She is a talented artist and photographer and she is passionate about petroglyphs and rock art. She loves to go exploring off road and she doesn’t mind getting dirty, much. Paula loves pink, she’s an adorable blond with nice hair, fingernails, a great tan, and really cute clothes.  We know she will be traveling with a hairdryer, make up and product for her own mop. We will probably have to tie her down to convince her this is a NO MAKEUP weekend. This girl who jeeps with a bunch of rough tough guys has never slept in a tent, a fact that just boggles our minds.

Walmart, Price Utah

We settle in at the motel, eat fast food for dinner and consider it heavenly not to cook. Paula arrives and its just like being 17 all over again, clothes and crap everywhere. Pam is getting over sickiness so she passes out early and the last two of the Posse yap all night.

 Next morning, we request that the poor housekeepers not even bother with our room, all the 500 pieces from the Mini and Paula’s stuff and us in general. They are so sweet and give us a ton of towels and toilet paper, probably just glad to not have to deal with That Room. We gather ourselves up and make the list of things we need to pick up.

KMart, across from the motel, so handy.

Price has a KMart and a WalMart, and I cannot believe I visited both of them the same day. I took pictures as proof. Hey, I needed a shovel and gloves okay? I have ghost town scrounging plans and this is the best place to top off the supply stash.

Fascinating fact: If you want to go shopping in a store that is EMPTY, go on Sunday. The Mormon folk are spending the day with family and they generally don’t go shopping.  It was great, our own ghost towns full of imported from China Crap. 

Best instagram shot ever. The ball was there and Walmart was empty. I love this!

 I took my all time favorite instagram shot in Walmart. I didn’t stage it either. I saw it and snapped it in situ.

We did Sunday brunch at McDonald’s, Pam and I made a pact to avoid cooking even if it meant junk food. Utah doesn’t have tons of organic stores in small towns, so we’ll take what we get if the price is right. And now, finally to the gas station and jumping off to Nine Mile Canyon!

Next: We find Nine Mile Canyon is 40 Miles of fabulousity and the roughest road ever!




Artful Rabbit Hits Utah, Let’s Get this Party Started!

Accoutrements that all fit neatly into the Fyr Fly

May 26, day two, on to to Salt Lake. After a good night’s sleep, I packed up the Mini with all 500 pieces of assorted luggage and accoutrements, snugged it down, dropped the top and headed out of Ontario, Oregon. I headed straight across Interstate 84 and the bleakness of Southern Idaho, dropping south into Utah and on into Salt Lake City.

I was speaking at at the UASLA conference, that’s the Utah Association of Student Loan Administrators, which got me launched on this proposed  5000 mile expedition in the first place.

Almost there! walking around break, too hot to drop the top. My rule is 85 degrees and air conditioning!

Really, if you are driving to Salt Lake City why not just  keep on going? The best parts of the state are all south of here anyway, am I right? Of course I am.

I had to make Salt Lake, drive through the heart of the city and find the campus guest house at the University. Get there, check in, drag a comb through my hair, round up the usual suspects and head for a baseball game by 6:00 p.m. I made it with time to spare, I drive fast, quel surprise eh?

The Salt Lake Bees are a home town fave, they are the Triple A team for the Anaheim Angels. I love minor league ball.

The Bee's Knees, Salt Lake Bees Ballpark. Perfect evening!

The fans are always great and the atmosphere is just plain fun. These guys have a great ballpark too, the Apiary is its nickname. Bees=apiary, cuteness abounds. I digress, the conference had gotten a skybox with dinner included. Oh boy! Hotdogs and foul balls. The highlight of the evening was almost having my head removed by a foul ball that whacked the plexiglass window behind me. Okay, enough baseball.

Our tricky chef at work.

The next night our big dinner was at Benihana and we just about filled the place. Our chef was fun and the food was great. I went for the Ahi seared tuna, so good I had to take a picture, knowing I would want to remember it when I hit the back country and chili in cans.

I have died and gone to heaven. Ahi tuna, barely grilled and so yummy.


Outside the restaurant was a fantastic art installation, what a great find to stumble on. An empty lot full of wiggly poles. I loved it!

Art installation, loved stumbling on this, it was really dramatic and fun at the same time

The next day, my speaking chores finished and an excellent conference over I said good bye to all my Utah buddies and packed up the fyrfly again. I lit out to kill some time before I picked up my partner in crime, Pam, at the airport. She flew in to meet me to maximize her vacation. Accidental retirement (me) does have its good side, I no longer have to worry about how many days off I can take. I only have to worry about paying for my hijinx.

Utah capitol building

I adore Utah and have spent days and days exploring the state but this was my first time spending time in Salt Lake City. What a cool town. I had just enough time to go wandering around their capital campus. I have my own state capital at my doorstep living in Olympia so its always fun to compare Capitol buildings.

The dome of the state capitol

This was cool! The place was EMPTY, in summer the government apparently shuts down on Fridays and the building was empty except for some arab tourists, an organized group with a guide and little old me and my big old camera.

The inside of the dome is painted with Sea Gulls! I wonder if there was trompe l'oeil poop on the floor underneath?

Gorgeous murals, probably from the 20's or so, on panels around the ceiling showing Utah history.

and tucked up in the corners were adorable griffons with flamingo pink wings! How strangely gay is this?

Heroic sculpture abounded, this is Brigham Young's hand. The whole statue must have been ten feet high.


The top floor was laced with beautiful stone sculptures, like this native American chief's head.

Bonneville Salt Flats anyone? I didn't write this gent's name down, but he was a native son who broke speed records up the wazoo back in the day. Gorgeous bronze sculpture too.

I went to the gift store across the street, fighting off ten thousand Chinese tourists on the way, and found a wonderful Utah map and a book about petroglyphs.  In the next few days I planned to see finally see enough petroglyphs and rock art to make me happy, and I was looking forward to making the trip in the company of Pam and Paula and the magic jeep.

Oops, four o’clock, time to hit the road to the airport and scoop up Pam and her suitcases, figure out where to stash them and head to Price, jumping off point for petroglyphic pleasure. Have you met the Prairie Dog Posse yet? Stay tuned….

The Posse Rides...


Rabbit Doesn’t Run, She Just Drives Fast

Packed and ready to roll. 8:20 and sunshine!

Day the first of the epic adventure. The one featuring 3 women (for part of it, two for the rest) 1 Mini Cooper, and 3 weeks camping and carousing through parts of 8 states.

 I will rendevous with the rest of what has been tagged the Prairie Dog Posse on Friday after an epic solo drive to Salt Lake City. I’m presenting at one of my favorite conferences, UASLA, wall to wall campus based lending professionals and me.

I spent the two nights previous to launch running around like a crazy woman. What would I forget/lose/neglect? So far just my binocular which somehow got left in the garage. Rats. My jittery nerves took most of the day to settle into road mode, but 500 miles in one day will either un-jitter you or ruin you for life. I’m relaxing in the Ontario Inn, in Ontario, Oregon. $49.95 with my senior discount. (crap, at least getting old is good for something.)

I stopped at the Bonneville dam and hatchery to stretch my legs and wander around in the sunshine. This is the first Sign of the Day!

This damned town is confusing. There are cross streets with the same name. How can you be at the intersection of 4th Ave SW and 4th Ave SW? Ditto, 1st, 2nd, etc. No wonder it took me thirty cranky minutes to find this place. Which reminds me of the signs. This was a day featuring signs.

Power! How perfect is this? Its a sign!

It also featured going fast and sunshine. Two things I like a lot. I’m posting this going to bed and Hoping I can find coffee in the morning, another long drive ahead of me, all the way to Salt Lake City. The adventure is underway!

Peace. I like this one a lot too.

This little guy gave me my own wonderful concert!

I love spring, May brings irises like these I found at Bonneville


"That's a tur-bin, not a tur bine, and it has flat fins that don't hurt fish. It's not a blender." I cracked up and walked away from a frazzled ranger and large pack of little kids on a tour.

The non blender tur BAN and the ranger and pack of visitors.

My favorite thing I saw today was a windmill blade on a semi trailer, so big it had outriders clearing the way. To get an idea of how big the blades are picture three semi trucks up there instead of windmill blades. yep, HUGE!


The best signs were in a gift store. Messages that seemed sent to me directly!

The best sign of all. Me and bug splattered Mini smiling because the day is OVER!

Psst! Hey P-Doggs! This one's for you and Tori, who had heart surgery today.