Archive for December, 2011

One last post before all of 2011’s sand runs through the hour-glass!  Here are a few of the many rubber duckies that I have come across at the Falls of the Ohio over the years.  I thought it would be a fun way to end the year. If you would like to see more ducky images…I’ve posted a new collection, “Kentucky Lucky Ducky Collection” which can be found in my Pages section.  Have a Happy New Year and may 2012 be kind to all!

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The holiday season is upon us and I’m here at the Falls of the Ohio to renew one of my Christmas traditions.  For many years, I have been creating and sending out card images from stuff I’ve made or found washed up here.  This post documents what I came up with on this particular visit along the Ohio River.  Friends and family tell me they enjoy receiving these admittedly unusual cards.

To continue the story a bit from my last post, I came across some evidence that my friend Steve the Arrowhead Man had visited this area before me.  I came across this site where he sat on a log and chipped away rock from its matrix to reveal the projectile point that he sees within it.  The wind has blown away his foot prints.  Talking with Steve, he is an individual who believes that “all hell is about to break loose” and he views man’s poor treatment of the environment as the reason this crisis will occur.  To him, it might not happen today or tomorrow, but the road before us is clear to him and it is not a pretty picture.  During my last conversation with Steve he urged me to obtain a book on edible wild plants and study it.  I know that Steve has been periodically homeless and has tried living off the land.  I’ll admit that during my more pessimistic moods…that I agree with him.  However, I come out to the river to appreciate the natural world and exercise my creative muscles.  This usually puts me in a better frame of mind.

Since my last visit the river level has dropped exposing more of its sandy shoreline.  The aluminum boat that was out here is gone and I wondered if Steve was able to salvage it or if the authorities contacted its owner based on the registration numbers along its side?  As I walk along the bank, I’m keeping my eyes open for whatever is new that has washed ashore.  As usual I find toys like this miniature dinosaur which I scooped up into my collecting bag.  There’s an animated holiday special that airs on television each year that has been a favorite of mine since I was a child.  I know I’m revealing a lot here by admitting that I’m a fan of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”!  There is one setting within this Christmas classic that always gets me.  It’s the Island of Misfit Toys where irregular play things (like a train with square wheels and a Charlie in the Box) are sent into “exile” on this island and “exist” with the hope that Santa Claus will eventually rescue them and present them to kids who will love them.  Ah, pathetic fallacy strikes again. The poignancy of that image has loomed large in my imagination ever since I first saw it.  At times I feel that the Falls of the Ohio State  Park is that island and that the lost and misfit toys arrive here via the river.  Here are a few other toys I found on this particular day.

Here is the remains of a remote control car that was deposited upon the driftwood.  I wonder why it found itself in the river?

I came across this washed-up plush figure with a big nose and mustache.  I feel I “know” this character, but can’t place him at the moment.  Lying less that ten feet away from him was this very recognizable and classic character.  I wonder if they  traveled together?

I turned this Winnie the Pooh plush figure over and removed the burrs that were attached to it and then brushed some of the wet sand off of it.  Who doesn’t love Winnie the Pooh and what is he doing in the river?  He is far away from the Hundred Acre Woods.  I carried Pooh and the “mustache man” with me as I gathered the other items I found (including a large chunk of Styrofoam and parts of a garden hose) and proceeded to make my next Falls creation.

Here is version #1 of the Styro-Snowman.  He’s a bit larger than most of the figures I have made out here.  I used a plastic coffee container for a hat, but wasn’t satisfied with it.  I wish I could have found different head-gear, but this is what that day presented to me.  I posed my two little outcast friends at his base and snapped this image.  This was a relatively warm and super bright day as you can see by the strong cast shadows.

This is version #2 minus the coffee container.  The eyes are the blackened remains of nuts from the buckeye tree.  I used other buckeyes and a few walnuts for the “buttons”.  The remaining elements are plastic fragments and driftwood.  Here is another detail.

I also found a length of yellow nylon rope which I employed as a belt.  I tucked the Pooh figure under it as well as a plastic booze bottle to add that extra element of holiday cheer.

As the day was moving along and since I was needed elsewhere…I left this figure at this location, but added one more element.

I added this message in the sand and walked away.  Inside my camera were enough images that I later printed for my holiday cards.  Along the walk back I noticed this white chair near the top of a tree.

This image is another reminder of how high the river can get during one of its flood stages.  The chair was deposited here during last Spring’s high water, but is especially visible now because the leaves have dropped.  I’m always amazed at how variable this relatively small place can be.  I hope everyone out there in the wider world has a great holiday season and I will end with one more message in the sand.

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As expected we set a new yearly rain total record and we still have time left in 2011.  At the moment, we have had 66 inches of rain breaking the old mark by two inches.  I waited for the river to go down a bit before returning to the Falls of the Ohio.  The water was still high which restricted how far I could go.  One very noticeable difference from my last visit was this lost boat.  The high water we did receive loosened it from its mooring up river and it showed up here.  I wonder if someone will attempt to salvage it?

I am always hopeful that I will find lots of cool stuff and this is what I came up with on this trip.  I’ve started collecting the plastic toy wheels that come off toy trucks and cars.  I don’t know what I will eventually do with them, but then again that’s part of the fun!  Here’s a closer image of the blue plastic parachutist in the spot where he landed.

This other figure in the blue coat is my friend Steve the Arrowhead Man.  I’ve nicknamed him this because he likes to knap or chip projectile points from the local rock as the Indigenous people once did.  For him it is a primeval aesthetic.  Steve was the only person I saw on this very cold, but sunny day.  Steve was hunting for rock, but was having no luck because the river was still too high.  I asked how life was treating him and he said that things were a little better for him.  He now has permission to be in the park to practice his craft.  Steve did tell me he once received a ticket for “littering” because someone found a small pile of rock chips he made during the creation of an arrowhead.  We both had a good laugh about that considering his “waste” rock is far less offensive than the daily barrage of plastic bottles and Styrofoam cups that other visitors have strewn about the park.  The new administration at the park has actually embraced people like Steve and potentially me too.  The two of us are living interpreters of the Falls of the Ohio State Park.  For so long, it felt like the only interesting events occurred in this place two hundred or more years a go.  The Falls, however, is a living site and should be treated as such.  This blog is a sampling of the reality that exits in the park at the present moment.  No doubt two hundred years from now people will find a completely different set of circumstances and folks might be curious about us…or not?

This is the figure I made with found materials on this day.  I walked as far east as I could in the park before the river and deposited driftwood blocked the way.  Along my walk, I came across a discarded life vest and I appropriated it for this figure.  I also found the Styrofoam here and there and carried it under my arms. The distinctive black eyes are old nuts from the buckeye tree. The nose is the spray nozzle from a plastic bottle.  A friend told me the other day that he prefers the animal sculptures I make over the “human presences” I create from these poor materials.  I had to agree, but told him that my figures do contain a certain amount of realism to them because they reflect so well the absurdity of the human condition and our relationship to the planet.

With his thin smile I left this figure waving goodbye and turned around for home.  It was time because I was feeling cold and my left knee was aching.  One of the parting remarks that Steve said to me was that he was considering trying to save the aluminum boat we saw earlier.  I wonder if he tried?  I’ll ask him next time I see him.

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The Ohio River continues to rise and as this year draws to a close…it will go down as either our wettest ever or close to the top.  At the time of this writing,  we are more than twenty inches above normal rainfall.  During a usual year, we can expect a bit more than forty inches of precipitation and we are past the sixty inches mark with a forecast calling for even more heavy downpours.  I believe we set the old mark in 2004 for most rain in our Kentuckiana area.  Okay, so all this is a bit boring I admit, however, it sets the stage for the day and this adventure at the Falls of the Ohio.

Because the river was rising, the normal shoreline at the Falls was underwater which in turn forced me to higher ground.  That means today’s adventure took place on the large pile of driftwood that formed during last spring’s flooding.  The large wooden mound is interlaced with all kinds of debris that floated in with the bloated river which acts as an attraction for scavengers such as myself and an acquaintance I came across today who goes by the nickname “Pig Boy”.  Yes, he bears some resemblance to a pig, but as he told me…he came by this unflattering handle because he enjoys getting dirty especially by the river.  “Piggie” and I have this in common and so we get along famously.  It had been a while since I saw him last and I asked if anything was new?  That’s when he related to me a recent nightmare he experienced and as he spoke the following images came to my mind and through the miracle of digital means I present to it to you for your perusal. I began to hear bits of the old “Twilight Zone” theme in my brain.

As the dream begins, Pig Boy found himself on the very driftwood mountain we were standing upon.  He was there because over the months this mound shifts and falls under its own weight and decomposition revealing new “treasures” originally captured by the river.  As Pig Boy explained it…he was just in his own head space checking out the variety of packaging that was intermixed with all the wood.  That’s when the most curious thing happened when he looked up.

All kinds of plastic bottles and containers were emerging from the driftwood pile and moving towards him as if he were a plastic magnet.  Pig Boy was transfixed and unable to move as this plastic wave began to close in on him.

More and more plastic kept coming towards him and before long it started to build up around his body which made moving or running away even harder.

Soon the bottles reached his waist and were piling up even more!  Not all of these bottles were empty and some of them contained river water and the backwash of old soft drinks and who knows what else? By this time in Piggie’s dream he was truly getting alarmed and he remembers this voice telling him that he needed to get out of there!

Before all these plastic bottles could completely overwhelm him… Pig Boy remembers letting out a scream because he was just so frightened.  The feeling  of helplessness was upon him and he forced himself to wake up which he did in a cold sweat.  He recalls the immense feeling of relief when he realized that this had all been a bad dream.  I could feel the claustrophobic sense of being engulfed by all this plastic as my friend relayed his story to me and I became scared as well.

And so I asked my friend after such a bad dream…what was he doing back here?  He replied that he didn’t have a good answer and that he is compelled to come out here for the thrill of discovery or something like that.  Pig Boy can’t help himself.  Every once in a while, you can actually find something useful out here that can be recycled in some way and besides it’s nice to be out in nature.  After a few more minutes and various pleasantries…we parted wishing the other well and happy hunting.  I stood there on the driftwood by myself and looked up at the river which to my imagination seemed higher in the short amount of time I had been out there.  My mind then turned to something I had read about how our oceans are now becoming increasingly filled with plastic garbage that coagulates into large masses and probably will never go away.  That thought was in turn interrupted by a drop of rain that fell on my cheek and I decided it was time to go home too.  I’ll bet we establish that new rainfall record before the end of the year.  Stay dry everybody.

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