Thursday, December 30, 2010

Home for the Holidays

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2005. All rights reserved.

Home for the holidays.

That was always Grandma’s house as I was growing up. For nearly twenty years, no matter where we lived or what the circumstances, our family made a regular pilgrimage to Grandma Amelia’s home, a clean and spacious ranch-style structure on the rural edges of Billings, Montana.

Grandpa Ben lived there too, of course, but it was always “Grandma’s house.” She was the one who kept up the place and made arrangements, answering the phone and greeting us at the door with hugs and kisses.

Continued at...
Home for the Holidays

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Grandma's House

Monday, December 20, 2010

The World in Hattie's Jars

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1993. All rights reserved.

Hattie Gietzen holds a piece of the Holy Land in her hand. In the other palm she grips part of Hawaii. And on shelves and bureaus throughout her tidy Idaho home are portions of Belize, Death Valley, Alaska, Panama, Saudi Arabia and the Gulf of Mexico.

This 89-year-old woman has been collecting sand from all over the world for more than 20 years. The samples -- hundreds of them -- are gathered in small baby food jars marked with neat labels identifying the source of the sand.

"This one here is from the oldest pyramid in Egypt," she says, holding up a jar of white sand. "My niece brought me that one in 1983 after she went on a tour over there."

Continued at... The World in Hattie's Jars

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Out of the Past
Beach Walkway Path

Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Sun Stands Still

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 1997. All rights reserved.

This is as dark as it gets: fifteen hours of night, give or take a few minutes, at latitudes near the 45th parallel and nine hours of daylight, if you're lucky.

It is the week of the winter "solstice," a word derived from Latin meaning "sun stands still." For two or three days the sun seems to rise and set in the same places on the horizon and at the same times, as if uncertain whether to continue on its southward journey or to start creeping north again.

Ancient peoples once kindled huge bonfires on these nights, designed to urge the sun to burn warmer and longer. Among the Goths and Saxons, this tradition evolved into the Yule Girth Festival. Night fires still burn for some folks at solstice.

Imagine not knowing how the sun's decline was related to the tilt of the Earth in its orbit. Could the southerly retreat continue until the sun vanishes altogether, as it does during a full eclipse? Or could it get stuck here, in this track across the heavens, locking these lands into eternal winter?

Continued at... The Sun Stands Still

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Solstice Sunset atop Midnight Dome, Dawson City, Yukon, Canada

Friday, December 17, 2010

If It's Thursday Night, It's Bullseyes

by Michael Hofferber. Copyright © 2007. All rights reserved.

On Thursday nights in late winter the three taverns facing the railroad tracks in Shoshone, Idaho, are comfortably warm and inviting. Inside any of the establishments customers will be lined up at the bar and scattered among dimly lit tables. Reba will be wailing from the juke box and a crowd will have gathered around the electronic dart machine at one end of the room.

"Pock!" goes a soft-tipped dart into the board and instantly the machine tallies its score. Then another player toes the foul line.

This sparsely populated niche of southern Idaho is a long way from England, where throwing darts at a circular, numbered board is a passionate pasttime. But out of every eighty-five residents in the all-rural Lincoln County at least one is a competitive dart-thrower.

Continued at... If It's Thursday Night, It's Bullseyes

Michael Hofferber
Rural Delivery
Three Darts in the Bull's-Eye of a Dartboard