In the Footprints of Jesse James

I have been traveling a lot across the Midwest and decided that I need to start breaking up the miles with small adventures. Today I happen to be in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

Doing a little research, I decided to find something off the beaten path. I found Devil’s Gulch Park in Garretson, South Dakota.

I am told that I share genetics with Jesse James. (I’m still trying to get physical proof of the family tree). However, if unconventional living is genetic, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. I have never been one for following the crowd or doing what everyone else is doing.

I read about a historical site that is famous for one of Jesse James getaways in 1876. Devil’s Gulch is a “mini canyon”. According to local lore, Jesse James evaded capture on horseback by spurring his horse to jump this ravine. I figured it would be a nice roadside attraction to break up my drive.

Arriving on a side road with just a road sign to point the way, I found the gate to the gravel road closed. It didn’t say to stay out so I decided to follow in my outlaw ancestors footsteps and jump the fence. I’m guessing the gate just meant don’t drive, so surely hiking would be fine.
I didn’t really account for all of the mud or ice I’d trudge through along the way. My shoes sank in the mud and I struggled to keep my balance on the ice. The eeriest part was the voices I heard carried on the wind from a place I could not identify. It left me looking over my shoulder continually and then snickering to myself when I realized that Jesse James must have done the same in his attempt to escape.

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About half a mile up the gravel road I found the gulch. I read the sign that stated Jesse James: “spun his horse and sprinted towards the chasm. With the lawmen watching with mouths agape Jesse’s horse hurled itself across the 20-foot gorge.”

I walked out over the metal grid footbridge that now crosses the gorge, gripping the sides so I didn’t fall on the ice. I decided after standing on the bridge and looking down to the water 60 feet below, this was indeed would have been an impressive feat. I also decided that my rebel ways ended when it came to personal safety and turned around instead of continuing on the ice covered Devil’s Stairway that leads down to the water.

It wasn’t an overly exciting excursion, however, it was a nice break from the drivers seat. I also always feel a little accomplished when I get a little dirt on the shoes.

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Being a model

I was an ugly kid. I’m not kidding. I had red hair (a curse for a child) that I kept chopped into a short boyish cut because it closely resembled an afro. I had freckles, braces, and thick brown ugly glasses. Throw in being a total tom boy, a bit on the nerdy side, and all of my clothes were second hand. It doesn’t do much for the self-esteem.

I grew up knowing I was smart and not pretty. I was fine with it. It served me well in many aspects in my life. However, I have never been fully comfortable with my looks. I think many people feel this way and struggle being comfortable in our own bodies. I am forever a work in progress and as I grow older I am really trying to work on accepting my body and being comfortable in my own skin.

This body has served me well. It has carried me around the world. I have danced, I have hiked, I have swam, I have created and nourished another human being. I do love my body. I also still catch a twinge of self consciousness when put in front of a camera. I don’t know how to act. I don’t know how to “be” pretty the way some women seem to just instinctly know.

A photographer friend of mine, Tom Styrkowicz, is working on a new project. It is called the RedHead Experiment. He asked if he could photograph me for the project. I agreed. I knew it would be awkward for me simply because I feel awkward being in front of the camera. Tom always has a way of making a person feel comfortable though.

I actually had a great time. We had fans blowing and it was easier to be natural when I knew the focus was more on my hair. As a result, we ended up with some great shots, and he chose this one as his cover image!

I’m sure being comfortable and accepting of my physical appearance will be a lifetime pursuit, but moments like these make it a little easier (and fun)!


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Take me out to the ball game

I realized I haven’t taken my son to a ball game. That seems wrong seeing that the KC Royals was in the World Series last year. However, the price of tickets have went up, and honestly, dragging a kid to a long game just isn’t that much fun. I mean, I get bored and start people watching. I can’t expect a 7 year old not to get bored and restless. Then it becomes more about entertaining him and not about the game at all.

The solution was to go to a game that is more kid friendly. The KC T-bones was the answer. They are an independent professional baseball team and are geared more towards families and kiddos. The tickets are affordable, the mascot is interactive, and there’s a bounce house and playground behind the bleachers. Throw in a fully loaded hot dog and a cold beer (for mom of course) and a fun evening was had by all. I only  heard “I’m bored” once and it was short lived when my son discovered the playground.

I still don’t think he’s ready for the Royals (or maybe I’m not ready for a kid and the Royals) but I can no longer say that I haven’t taken him to a game.


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Find Shapes in the Clouds

Finding shapes in the clouds was one of my favorite things to do when I was little. It’s something that I don’t take time to do anymore. It’s hard to slow down sometimes. My biggest struggle is that as a self-employed entrepreneur I’m always working. I always have something I can be doing and if I’m not in the studio, I’m working on my computer or phone.

It became apparent to me that this was a problem when my son made a comment about how I was always on my phone or computer. I knew he was right. I made a promise to myself that I would put the technology away when he was home from school in the evenings. My time would be quality time with him.

One of his favorite things to do is jump on the trampoline. I love the trampoline too because it completely wears him out. However, I have quit jumping on the trampoline. It seems my back wants to go into complete spasm after jumping for awhile. Its not use to being jolted around like that.

I found a nice compromise. I set a hammock up in the back yard. I put it near the trampoline so I could watch him. Most of the time this is enough for him; just having me present. While he played and jumped, I kicked off my shoes, laid in the hammock and watched the clouds. I found a dragon breathing fire and various other objects. At one point my son even jumped in the hammock with me and we pointed out shapes together. Sometimes the smallest things can make a whole world of difference.


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Run with wolves

I have a friend who recently had a dog dumped on him. He doesn’t really have time to give it the exercise that it needs. I have been really wanting a dog to hike with. The issue is, I have a dog. However, my dog isn’t a good Kansas dog. It’s a Great Pyrennes Mountain Dog. It was made to lay in the snow and herd sheep. I’m sure it’s great at its job. However, it can’t take the Kansas heat and enjoys mostly laying in the air conditioning.

The weather is nearly perfect to be outside which doesn’t seem to happen a whole lot in Kansas. My muscles in my back are also real angry from sitting on the floor painting for several day sin the studio. Time for a little stretch and exercise. I decided to take my friends dog for a hike this morning. I dropped my son off at school, grabbed a coffee, and kidnapped my friend’s foster dog. It’s a husky/wolf mix; a beautiful and timid dog.

I decided that I would let the dog lead. If it wanted to jog, we jogged. If it wanted to stop and smell stuff, we stopped. If it wanted to pee on stuff….well, I took the opportunity to look around and enjoy the scenery. The fun part was that I ended up taking some side trails I don’t normally take. Instead of taking the small bridge, we shot down the side and through the dried up waterway.

Only once, when we approached a slight climb near the end did the dog stop and refuse to move. Even with coaxing he looked up the trail and abruptly turned around to go back the way he came. I took his lead. I don’t know what was up the trail, but if he didn’t want any of it, I didn’t either.

It was nice to move at a different pace, see it a different way, and share one of my favorite places with a creature that loved the experience as much as me.


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Color Fun

A few months back I signed my family up for our first 5K race. I thought it would be a lot of fun to do it as a family, and to add to the fun, I signed up for the Color Run. This is where you get to throw the colored powdered and get covered.

As luck would have it, the same weekend I ended up with WAY too much on my schedule. Something had to give. It was the Color Run. I was bummed and as a last hope effort I still went the day before and picked up our shirts and the powder. It became apparent very quickly that there was no way the race was going to make it into my schedule.

About a week later I forgot all about the race and the bag of goodies. I had laid it in the back seat of my car and conveniently forgot it was there. I started cleaning my car and found it. I decided just because we didn’t race, didn’t mean we still couldn’t have fun.

To celebrate my sons last day of summer vacation, we put on our shirts and had our own little color fun out in the yard. There was a lot of laughing and play. When it was all over we hooked the sprinkler to the trampoline and jumped and giggled and let the colors run off.

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Exploring my neighborhood

I moved into a new studio space a few months ago, but haven’t really explore the area much. I go there to work and then I usually just leave. I decided this week that I needed to do a little walking.

For lunch I walked down to a local El Salvadorian restaurant called the El Salvadoreno. As far as I know I’ve never had this kind of food and I was feeling a little adventurous. I can’t remember the name of what I ordered, but it was essentially a homemade corn tortilla stuffed with pork and cheese.  It was delicious!!  And shockingly it was super affordable. I’m talking cheaper than any of the fast food places I normally drive to when I think I’m starving and need something right now.

After getting my fill, I walked back towards my studio enjoying the weather and looking in the windows. I stopped at a pie shop called the Upper Crust. Oh my goodness!!! They have a whole assortment of pies and mini pies. You could even see the ladies in the back peeling apples and cutting them up. Seriously, I’m think I saw love going into these pies.

They are not super cheap, but I walked away with a mini bumbleberry pie (blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and apple) and a cup of coffee for $9. I figure it all works itself out since my lunch only cost $2.50. Shamefully, I must admit, I ate the entire pie (hey, don’t judge me, it was mini). I have no regrets.


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