Bone Is Found— but he is still just a bone… Part III

George, the Bush Devil from my book, “The Bush Devil Ate Sam,” checks out Bone. NO, George, Bone is not edible!

 

This is the third and final post on how Bone was discovered. In last Wednesday’s post my fellow backpackers and I had ended up at the resort on Echo Lake after coming out of the Desolation Wilderness. We had celebrated the first part of our journey with lunch and a beer or three…

 

My system complained about the third beer as we hiked on across Highway 50 and up to Benwood Meadow where we stopped for the night, some 34 miles from where we had started.

Our fourth day started out as a typical backpack day: we climbed. It was gentle at first and then became more serious. Once again snow-covered large segments of the trail. We spread out and searched for tree blazes. I scrambled over a particularly steep section and found myself in a high meadow.

Something half buried in a field of young corn lilies caught my eye. A few days earlier it would have been covered with snow. Curiosity led me to detour through the still soggy ground. Mud sucked at my boots.  My treasure turned out to be a disappointing, short, squat bone. Gnaw marks suggested it had been part of someone’s feast. I was about to toss it when a devious thought popped into my mind.

“Trash,” I hollered at Tom and held up the bone. We had a game where if one person found a piece of trash, the other person had to carry it out. But first you had to catch the other person.

Tom sprinted down the trail with me in pursuit. Unfortunately, we had made it over the mountain and our route ranged from flat to downhill. Tom was very fast. We had traveled two miles and were almost to Showers Lake before he stopped, concerned about leaving our companions too far behind. Very reluctantly, he took the bone and stuffed it in his pack.

“How can you classify a bone as trash,” he whined. I figured Tom would toss his new traveling companion as soon as I was out of sight.

X marks the spot where Bone was found, resting in a high mountain meadow. (Map from the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail book by Thomas Winnett.)

It was a pleasant hike down to Carson Pass on Highway 88, and relatively dry since we were on a south-facing slope. Kit Carson had come through here in February of 1844 along with John C. Fremont. It wasn’t pleasant then. The snow was deep and food was limited. The mountain men ended up dining off of their horses, mules and the camp dog. The dog apparently went quite well with pea soup. Later, the trail they discovered would become a major entry point for the 49ers rushing west to find gold. (Eventually, the trail cut through Diamond Springs, the foothill town where I was raised.)

There was nary a bar, restaurant or gas station near the pass so we hiked on another three miles to Lake Winnemucca. Rain was threatening and I set up my tube tent, a large sheet of plastic shaped into a round tunnel. It wasn’t particularly sturdy, but it was light and dry. Tom, on the other hand, was carrying a luxurious three-season tent. He stacked the women in head to toe and ended up smelling April’s feet all night.

The next day was all downhill— down to Fourth of July Lake, down to Summit City Canyon, and down to Camp Irene on the Mokelumne River. After dropping 4000 feet in 14 miles I found myself bone-tired again.

Camp Irene provided an attractive campsite but turned out to be rattlesnake country. I had discovered the perfect toilet spot, dug my cat hole, and was baring my behind when one buzzed at me. It’s amazing how fast you can pull up your pants. I was lucky the snake didn’t bite me on the butt. I grabbed a stick and chased him away with a couple of sharp prods for good measure. He was lucky I was something of a nature boy. Otherwise he would have been smashed. The next time I did any serious bathroom duty was when I was parked on a flush toilet at Lake Alpine the next day.

Climbing out of Camp Irene is a challenge. The 4000 feet we dropped the day before in 14 miles we were now expected to re-climb in six. Low clouds filled the canyon. It wasn’t raining but it was cold and damp. Somewhere in the mist a male grouse made its familiar ‘whump, whump, whump’ sound, working to attract a female companion. I empathized. Dripping wet Buck Bush grabbed at our legs.

To stay warm and dry we broke out our rain gear. Lynn moved from being cold and miserable to shivering and not caring. She was on the edge of hypothermia, a very dangerous state. The body loses its ability to maintain warmth and the rational mind ceases to function. Coordination spirals downward. It is very easy to die.

Tom and I acted quickly. I fired up my Svea gas stove and Tom had Lynn stand over it wearing her cagoule, a dress like poncho. We positioned the stove carefully. While this wasn’t a solution to hypothermia found in survival guides, it worked. (The recommended solution is to break out your sleeping bag and crawl in naked with the victim.) Within minutes, Lynn was ready to tackle the rest of the mountain.

Hypothermia can strike fast but it can also be quickly cured— assuming of course you catch it in time. Tom was next. “Curt,” he called plaintively from off in the brush where he had gone to pee. I rushed over and begin laughing. He had managed the first half of his chore but couldn’t zip his pants up. His mind was working fine but his coordination had gone south. He was all thumbs. I called Lynn over to help as I returned to the trail chuckling. There are some chores a trek leader doesn’t need to handle.

We hiked the rest of the way into Alpine Lake without difficulty. Since our ride wasn’t coming until the next day, we rented a one-room cabin to share. Rain poured down outside as we relived our adventures and made up tall tales way into the night. Our journey was winding down, but it wasn’t over.

I was shaking the dirt out of my pack at home when the bone fell out. Apparently, I had been carrying it all the way from Winnemucca Lake. “Darn Lovering,” I thought to myself, “I am going to get even.” I decided to keep the bone. There would be an opportunity on a future trip to slip it back into Tom’s pack. I would have revenge!

And that’s it, the story of Bone’s discovery. It started like so many things in our lives often do, as a non-event. Bone didn’t come up as a subject during our night in the cabin. Naked jumping ladies, lost trails, swollen rivers, gorgeous country, rattle snakes, the physical challenge, hypothermia and even the upside-down map were the stories of legend, not a small, insignificant bone that came from who knows what.

But time has the power to rewrite history. When Tom opened his suitcase in Japan at the beginning of a two-year exploration of Asia, Africa and Europe, he found a surprise, the bone. I had my revenge, and the bone became Bone. When I moved to Alaska and was unpacking my boxes, who should fall out but Bone. The tales goes on and on and on…

The Bush Devil has travelled with me since 1967 and Bone since 1977, a combined total of 90 years.

Bone on his pedestal.

The Ten Questions People Most Frequently Ask Bone… The Interview!

Bone has been in many tough situations in his life; he can handle tough questions. Here he rests on top of a saguaro cactus in Arizona looking for border control agents. His lack of official papers, or even a birth certificate, can cause problems at times.

Q: Do you really talk? We’re speaking ethics here, Bone. Blogging is about transparency. That means honesty.

A. Are you crazy? Have you ever heard a bone talk? Of course I don’t talk. I just think out loud.

Q: Curt sometimes refers to you as he. Does this mean you are a male bone?

A. No. He makes assumptions, lot of them. He was showing me to a biologist at a writers’ conference and she suggested I have my DNA tested. “Just cut a small chip off of it,” she said nonchalantly. “You can determine its sex and breed.”

“Just cut a small chip off of it!Outrageous! I am not some it to have chips cut out of. Besides, I lead a rich fantasy life and have no desire to know whether I am male or female. Call me she, he, or Bone, but never it.

Um, I think Bone is definitely a male in this photo. –Curt

Q: You have travelled all over the world and met thousands of people. How do they usually react to you?

A. With befuddlement. You should have seen the look on the face of the customs agent in New Zealand who tried to seize me as ‘animal matter.’ But emotions run the gamut. There was a Japanese man who got off a tour bus at Yellowstone National Park and wanted to hold me for good luck. Soon there were 40 other Japanese handing me around, oohing, and taking photos. I was thrilled. On the opposite side, I know a woman who refuses to touch me, like I have cooties. “I don’t know where Bone has been,” she states primly. Not surprisingly, there is also jealousy. “I want to be you and travel the world,” a good friend in Sacramento told me.

Some people act like I have cooties. This woman almost dropped me and then washed her hands! –Bone

Her daughter, on the other hand, so to speak, understands proper bone etiquette and respect. –Bone

Q:  What is your favorite thing to do?

A. Visit graveyards; there are lots of old bones there. My favorite grave is Smokey Bear’s in Capitan, New Mexico. I once stood on his tombstone for ten minutes trying to communicate but all I could get was something about ‘growling and a prowling and a sniffing the air.’ A close second is the grave of Calamity Jane in Deadwood, South Dakota. What a woman! These are difficult choices, though, when you toss in the likes of Hemingway, Daniel Boone and Billy the Kid. On the light side I once visited Ben and Jerry’s graveyard of discarded ice cream flavors in Vermont. My spookiest experience was a visit to the Capela dos Ossos, the Chapel of Bones, in Evora, Portugal. Those folks definitely have a skeleton in their closet, lots of them.

Bone has a special fondness for unusual graves. Here he hangs out with Billy the Kid in New Mexico. Has he been in a shoot out? Is that blood on his vest?

Q: So, what’s your second most favorite?

A. Too hard; I am a dilettante dabbler, but here are a few.

  • Wandering, of course, anywhere and everywhere and by all modes: bikes, kayaks, rafts, skis, backpacks, sailboats, planes, helicopters, trains, cars, RVs, etc.
  • Visiting wild, remote and beautiful natural areas. I started life wandering the Sierra Nevada Mountains, John Muir’s Range of Light.
  • Seeking out the strange such as ghosts and aliens (I’ve been to Roswell four times).
  • Attending unique events like Burning Man but I also have a fondness for any type of fair.
  • Meeting weird people like Tom.

Bone backpacking on the John Muir Trail.

Tom being eaten by a bony desert monster.

Q: Speaking of Tom, he and Curt ‘discovered’ you in 1977 and you have wandered extensively with both. Which do you like best?

A. Eeyore, the jackass who can’t keep track of his tail. We’re traveling companions and he saved me from being strung up and buried on Boothill in Tombstone Arizona. I’d robbed a bank, cheated at cards and hung out with women of questionable character. (This is what I mean by having a rich fantasy life. It’s also known as evasion.)

“I was in deep trouble in Tombstone. Wyatt Earp had arrested me for robbing a bank and Doc Holiday was checking me for weapons.

My life as Bone was in serious jeopardy.

Odds were I was going to end up on Boothill, along with Billy Clanton.

But then the ever brave Eeyore came to my rescue! I hopped on his back and we went riding off into the sunset while leaping over large rocks.

Q: Which of your journeys has been most memorable?

A. I would have to say traveling the length of Africa in the back of a truck from the Sahara Desert in the north to Cape Town in the south. Almost falling off the back of a riverboat into a piranha infested section of the Amazon River would have to be a close second. I was perched on the back railing doing a photo shoot. And then, of course, there was the 10,000-mile bike trip.

Bone on photo shoot barely escapes falling off the edge into the Piranha infested waters of the Amazon. “I was falling off when Curt leapt across the boat and grabbed me.”

“I was much smarter when I rafted down the Colorado. I wore a life jacket!”

“That didn’t protect me from pirates. The dreaded pirate Steve held a knife to my throat and demanded to know where I buried my treasure.”

Q: You are often seen scrambling over rocks in remote sections of the Southwestern United States. What’s that all about?

A. I’ve developed a fondness for Native American Rock art. It resonates with my bone-like nature. It’s also another excuse to go wandering around in the outdoors. Plus, some those places might be haunted and it is a great place to look for UFOs. Some of the petroglyphs look amazingly like aliens. Finally, wandering in the desert is known to be good for the soul. Ask the Prophets of yore.

How can this guy and his strange dog not be aliens?

Here I am making tracks across White Sands National Monument in New Mexico. It’s a great place to watch out for UFOs.

Q: Ah, being a born-again bone, do you have any insights into the great unknown?

A. Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

Q: Finally, and this may be a little sensitive, but do you always run around naked?

A. What kind of a question is that? Do you think I am uncivilized? For shame. I am the epitome of haute couture! A bow and arrow toting, card-carrying NRA member in Montana has designed and made me two leather vests. What’s more, an 80 plus year old woman in Kansas going on 20 with a crush on Johnny Depp and a room devoted to the Egyptian gods has made me a kilt and several other outfits. Then there is the horse woman actress in Ohio whose husband is an ex-secret service agent who has promised me an outfit and the artist head of a PR firm in the Bahamas who has promised me another. Face it; I am hot stuff, clothed or naked. I may take up a modeling career.

Rod Hilton fashions a new leather vest for bone.

My Bahamian/Canadian friend makes me a new vest in the wilds of Montana. –Bone

Bone, wearing his newly made kilt, fights off a ferocious sea monster in a scene straight out of ‘Pirates of the Caribbean.’

So… now you have heard from Bone, do you have any questions you would like to ask him? He promises to answer.

NEXT BLOGS:

Friday: The stunning temples of Burning Man.

Monday: Bandon by the Sea. It’s back to the Oregon Coast.

Wednesday: The exciting tale of how Bone was rescued from a life of quiet contemplation. Part I

The Journeys of Bone… Forty Years of Wandering the World

Bone has been wandering the world for 40 years. Given his nature, it is only natural that he would end up at Burning Man. He and a butterfly are perched on “Horse with No Name,” preparing to ride off into the desert.

 

Have you met Bone? He’s been hanging around here for 7 years and traveling the world for 40. Once upon a time, and it seems like a long time ago, this blog was even titled the Peripatetic Bone. There’s a story here, of course. In January of 2010, I had attended the San Francisco Writers’ Conference. Part of the event had involved ‘speed dating’ with agents.  I had carried Bone with me to San Francisco and introduced him to three of the agents, suggesting that I wanted to write a book titled “Travels with Bone.” They had been a bit surprised to meet Bone, but had been intrigued by the concept. Each had suggested that I go home and write up a proposal.

 I had also learned at the conference that I needed an Internet presence and would be expected to market any book I succeeded in publishing. I dutifully went home and created a blog for Bone on Word Press. Somewhere in the process, I decided that my first book should be on my Peace Corps experience. So, I wrote and published, “The Bush Devil Ate Sam.” I also changed the name of my blog to “Wandering through Time and Place.”

 I decided it would be fun to reintroduce Bone and do a five-part mini-series on his adventures. Today, I am going to summarize his travels. Next week I will do an interview with Bone. Then I will follow up with three posts on how he was found.

 

Bone has traveled twice to the base of Mt. Everest.

 

Part I: The History of Bone

Sometime in 1900s Bone started his life as part of horse wandering through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. The horse was allegedly eaten by a bear. Bone ended up in a high mountain meadow practicing Zen and being nibbled on by a miscreant rodent.

1977: He was ‘discovered’ by two lost backpackers (Curt Mekemson and Tom Lovering) on the Tahoe Yosemite Trail above Lake Tahoe and launched his career of wandering the world.

1980-81: Bone commenced his first World Tour with Tom.  He visited Asia including Japan, Hong Kong, Bombay, Delhi and Katmandu where he trekked to the base of Mt. Everest. He then wandered on to spend spring and summer in Europe stopping off in Greece, Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Austria, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Germany, Belgium, England and Ireland. Getting cold, Bone headed south and hitched ride in back of truck through Algeria, Niger, Chad, Nigeria, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Zaire, Sudan, Kenya (where he crossed Equator), Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa. He signed on with Tom as crew of sailboat in Cape Town and headed north to Mallorca, stopping off on the islands of St. Helena, Ascension, Cape Verde and Madeira. Back in Europe he explored his possible Viking roots in Sweden, Norway and Finland.

Bone ends up in Tom’s hair (don’t ask) on a 2010 trip down the Colorado River.

1983-86: Bone assumed Cheechako status and moved to Alaska with Curt where he was stalked by a grizzly bear on the Kenai Peninsula, explored Prince William Sound by kayak, learned to winter camp in 30 degree below zero weather while listening to wolves howl, backpacked in the Brooks Range north of the Arctic Circle, and discussed the finer points of eating salmon with Great Brown Bears in Katmai National Park. He escaped briefly to the warmer climate of Hawaii and participated in New Orleans Mardi Gras.

1986: He backpacked the Western US for five months with Curt exploring the Grand Canyon, the Gila Wilderness of New Mexico, the Rockies, and the Wind River Mountains of Wyoming before returning to his beloved Sierras.

1989: Bone went on a six month 10,000-mile solo bike tour with Curt around North America visiting 18 states and 4 Canadian provinces. He ended his journey by meeting Peggy.

1990: The International Society of the BONE was formed at Senior Frogs in Mazatlan, Mexico, where Bone spent the afternoon being pickled in a pitcher of margaritas and being kissed by lovely senoritas.

1991-97: Various members of International Society accompanied Bone on numerous adventures. Highlights included a White House Press Conference with Bill Clinton, being blessed by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square, visiting with Michelangelo’s David, going deep-sea diving in South Pacific and Caribbean, doing a Jane Austin tour of England, and exploring the Yucatan Peninsula. A group adopted him as a good luck charm and took him back to visit the base of Mt. Everest one year and to climb Mt. Kilimanjaro another.

Bone loves high places. Here he is on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in East Africa. (He’s with MJ, fourth from right, standing.)

Bone went diving in the Pacific in 1997 with Jose and Barbara Kirchner, visiting a Japanese ship sunk during World War II and receiving his diving certificate.

1998-99: Bone embarked on 40,000-mile journey in the van, Xanadu, through the US, Canada and Mexico with Peggy and Curt, visiting over 30 National Parks, driving the Alaska and Baja Highways, checking out Smokey the Bear’s and Calamity Jane’s graves, kayaking in the Sea of Cortez, leaf peeping in Vermont, jetting to the Bahamas, pursuing flying saucers in Roswell, New Mexico, and completing his visits to all 50 states, etc. etc. etc.

2000-02: Bone journeys up the Amazon, returns to Europe, cruises to Belize, Cancun and the Cayman’s, and goes to New Zealand where a misguided customs agent tries to arrest and jail him as animal matter.

While in the Amazon, Bone slept in the same room that Jimmy Carter had slept in.

2003: Bone undertakes a 360-mile backpack trip in celebration of his discovery and Curt’s 60th birthday. They begin at Squaw Valley near Lake Tahoe and end by climbing Mt. Whitney. Various friends join them along the way.

2004: Bone visits Hemingway’s grave in Idaho, goes horseback riding with Australians and Bahamians in Montana, and makes his first pilgrimage to Burning Man in Nevada, a very Bone like type of place. He also jets off to Costa Rica.

Bone has a love for anything ancient. Here, he perches on a Mayan sculpture in Costa Rica.

2005-2007: Bone returns to Burning Man twice and revisits Europe twice including special stopovers in Portugal, France, Holland, Germany, and Belgium. He also revisits Mexico.

2008 – 2011: Bone commences another exploration of North America. This time he travels in the van, Quivera, along with Curt, Peggy, and Eeyore the Jackass. His journey takes him over 75,000 miles of American Roads. In May of 2010 he begins his travel blog, The Peripatetic Bone, and rafts 280 miles down the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

2012-2017: Bone goes into semi-retirement in Southern Oregon. Please note the semi, however. He continues the exploration of the West Coast ranging from Big Sur to Vancouver Island, where he kayaks for a week in search of Killer Whales. He wanders through England and Scotland helping Curt find his roots and spends a week traveling by Canal Boat on the Mercer River. Later, he returns to Europe again, traveling through the Mediterranean visiting Turkey, Santorini and other Greek Islands, Dubrovnik, Venice, Rome, Pompeii, Florence, and Barcelona. He returns to Burning Man several times.  On one trip, he is married to the lovely Bonetta, who he met while exploring a swamp in Florida. Rumor has it that it was a shotgun wedding.

Bone and Big Nose Bonetta are married at Burning Man 2013. Bone’s kilt was made for him by an 80-plus year old woman from Kansas. Bonetta is wearing a designer wedding dress with very expensive plastic jewelry to match.

NEXT Wednesday: Bone grants one of his very rare interviews. You won’t want to miss it! (No, Bone doesn’t talk; he just thinks out loud.)

In the Meantime:

Saturday: A return to Burning Man and the last of the sculptures.

Monday: Peggy and I have just been in Bandon on the Oregon Coast. Are you ready for a visual treat?

The Ten Questions People Most Frequently Ask Bone… The 10,000 Mile Journey

Bone checks out Mt. Everest in Nepal

Bone checks out Mt. Everest in Nepal

Note: Last post I introduced you to my travelling companions as Peggy and I make our way around the US and Canada following my bike route. Peggy, Eeyore and I are relatively normal. Well, at least two of the three are. But Bone is way out there. For example, yesterday he was looking for Elvis Presley… but that’s a story for later. Today I want to provide greater insight into Bone’s character by reposting an earlier interview that Bone had. I think that you will agree he/she/it is really strange.

1: Do you really talk. We’re speaking ethics here, Bone. Blogging is about transparency. That means honesty.

Are you crazy? Have you ever heard a bone talk? Of course I don’t talk. I just think out loud.

2: Curt sometimes refers to you as he. Does this mean you are a male bone?

No. He makes assumptions, lot of them. He was showing me to a biologist at the San Francisco Writer’s Conference and she suggested I have my DNA tested. “Just cut a small chip off of it,” she said nonchalantly. “You can determine its sex and breed.”

 “Just cut a small chip off of it?Outrageous! I am not some it to have chips cut out of. Besides, I lead a rich fantasy life and have no desire to know whether I am male or female. Call me she, he, or Bone, but never it.

Um, I think Bone is definitely a male in this photo.

Um, there are reasons why I tend to think of Bone as a male.

3: You have travelled all over the world and met thousands of people. How do they usually react to you?

With befuddlement. You should have seen the look on the face of the customs agent in New Zealand who tried to seize me as ‘animal matter.’ But emotions run the gamut. There was a Japanese man who got off a tour bus at Yellowstone National Park and wanted to hold me for good luck. Soon there were 43 other Japanese handing me around and oohing. On the opposite side, I know a woman who refuses to touch me, like I have cooties. “I don’t know where Bone has been,” she states primly. Not surprisingly, there is also jealousy. “I want to be Bone and travel the world,” a good friend in Sacramento claims.

4:  What is your favorite thing to do?

Visit graveyards; there are lots of old bones there. My favorite grave is Smokey Bear’s in Capitan, New Mexico. I once stood on his tombstone for ten minutes trying to communicate but all I could get was something about ‘growling and a prowling and a sniffing the air.’ A close second is the grave of Calamity Jane in Deadwood, South Dakota. What a woman! These are difficult choices though when you toss in the likes of Hemingway, Daniel Boone and Billy the Kid. On the light side I once visited Ben and Jerry’s graveyard of discarded ice cream flavors in Vermont. My spookiest experience was a visit to the Capela dos Ossos, the Chapel of Bones, in Evora, Portugal. Those folks definitely have a skeleton in their closet, lots of them.

5: So, what’s your second most favorite thing to do?

Too hard; I am a dilettante dabbler, but here are a few.

  • Wandering, of course, anywhere and everywhere and by all modes: bikes, kayaks, rafts, skis, backpacks, sailboats, planes, helicopters, trains, cars, RVs, etc.
  • Visiting wild, remote and beautiful natural areas. I began life wandering the Sierra Nevada Mountains, John Muir’s Range of Light.
  • Seeking out strange phenomena such as ghosts, Big Foot and aliens (I’ve been to Roswell four times).
  • Attending unique events like Burning Man but I also have a fondness for any type of fair.
  • Meeting weird people like Tom.
Tom, being wonderfully weird on a raft trip down the Colorado River he was leading, put on a Bone headpiece.

Tom, being wonderfully weird on a raft trip down the Colorado River he was leading, put on a Bone headpiece.

Bone dressed up for the Canyon trip in his own life best.

Bone dressed up for the Canyon trip in his own life vest. The vest, BTW, was certified by our son Tony, who flies helicopters for the US Coast Guard.

6: Speaking of Tom, he and Curt ‘discovered’ you in 1977 and you have wandered extensively with both. Who do you like best?

Eeyore, the jackass who can’t keep track of his tail. We’re travelling companions and he saved me from being strung up and buried on Boot Hill in Tombstone, Arizona. I’d robbed a bank, cheated at cards and hung out with women of delightful character. (This is what I mean by having a rich fantasy life. It’s also known as evasion.)

7: Which of your journeys has been most memorable?

I would have to say traveling the length of Africa in the back of a truck from the Sahara Desert in the north to Cape Town in the south. Almost falling off the back of a riverboat into a piranha infested section of the Amazon River would have to be a close second. I was perched on the back railing doing a photo shoot. And of course there was my 10,000-mile bike journey.

Bone doing his photo shoot on the Amazon. Shortly after this he started to fall off. I made a quick leap and barely caught him. The photo shoot was over for the day.

Bone doing his photo shoot on the Amazon. Shortly after this he started to fall off. I made a quick leap and barely caught him. The photo shoot was over for the day. We did eat piranha that night in his honor, however. They taste like fish.

8: You are often seen scrambling over rocks in remote sections of the Southwestern United States. What’s that all about?

I’ve developed a fondness for Native American Rock art. It resonates with my bone-like nature. It’s also another excuse to go wandering around in the outdoors. Plus, some those places might be haunted and it is a great place to look for UFOs. Some of the petroglyphs look amazingly like aliens. Finally, wandering in the desert is known to be good for the soul. Ask the Prophets of yore.

9: Ah, being a Born Again Bone, do you have any insights into the great unknown?

Ommmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm.

10: Finally, and this may be a little sensitive, but do you always run around naked?

What kind of question is that? Do you think I am uncivilized? For shame. I am the epitome of haute couture! A bow and arrow toting, card-carrying NRA member in Montana who is building an airplane in his basement has designed and made me two leather vests. What’s more, an 80-plus year old woman in Kansas going on 20 with a crush on Johnny Depp and a room devoted to the Egyptian gods has made me a kilt and several other outfits. Face it; I am hot stuff, clothed or naked. I may take up a modeling career.

Bone celebrates on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro!

Bone celebrates on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro! (red coat above the O)

Here's Bone at the lowest point in North America in Bad Water Basin in Death Valley, 282 feet below sea level. (He was there on the bike trek and has since returned.)

Here’s Bone at the lowest point in North America in Bad Water Basin in Death Valley, 282 feet below sea level. (He was there on the bike trek and has since returned.)

NEXT BLOG: I return to my bike route. My first days are supposed to be easy short days, a time to make up for the fact that I didn’t do anything physical to prepare for my adventure. The second day turns out to be a doozy, however. And I am greeted by a great white whale at the end.

Traveling Companions: Peggy, Eeyore, Bone… 10,000 Miles by Bike

Eeyore rescues Bone from the hangman's noose in Tombstone, Arizona allowing him to continue his journeys around the world. Bone travelled with me on my bike trek.

Eeyore rescues Bone from the hangman’s noose in Tombstone, Arizona allowing him to continue his journeys around the world. Bone travelled with me on my bike trek.

Now that you have had an initial introduction of my journey, it’s time to introduce my travelling companions as Peggy and I cross the country in Quivera the Van retracing my 10,000 mile bike route. If you follow this blog, you know Peggy, of course. She is integral to this story, as she is to all of my blogs. Remember, I met her at the end of my bike trek. Sparks flew. She is the conclusion to this story… and the beginning of another.

I mentioned Eeyore in my first blog of this series. He was peering out the back window, his favorite location when we travel. He prefers looking backward instead of forward. He is a bit of a contrarian. It’s the jackass in him.

Everyone knows this lovable donkey who has trouble keeping track of his tail. He’s been travelling with us for ten years when we travel by van. Normally his life is rather calm. There have been a couple of exceptions, however. The first was the time the teachers kidnapped him from Peggy’s office when she was working as an elementary school principal. They demanded chocolate for ransom.  Peggy dearly loves her chocolate, however, and Eeyore was almost out of luck. He could still be hanging out at Olive Grove Elementary School while being abused (whoops sorry, meant loved) by first graders. Fortunately, Peggy finally gave in. It wasn’t like the teachers were demanding higher salaries…

Bone faces the gallows in Tombstone, Arizona. He'd been cheating at cards, hanging out with loose women, and robbed a bank.

Bone faces the gallows in Tombstone, Arizona. He’d been cheating at cards, hanging out with loose women, and robbing  banks.

The second time was scarier; he had to save Bone from the hangman’s gallows in Tombstone, Arizona. “Wait a minute,” you say. “Who and what is Bone?” Thanks for asking. Those of you who have been around my blog for longer that three years will know the answers. But for the rest of you, here’s the story. In the beginning of my blogging efforts, I had in mind writing a book called “Travels with Bone.” (It’s still coming.) So I developed a blog titled, The Peripatetic Bone. When I decided to write The Bush Devil Ate Sam about my Peace Corps’ experience I changed the blog to Traveling through Time and Place. Here is the very first paragraph from my very first blog.

This is it, the Peripatetic Bone’s blog. And no, I am not Bone. My name is Curtis Mekemson. My wife Peggy and I participate in, or one might say, facilitate, Bone’s wandering ways. Like the ubiquitous gnome, Bone shows up in some rather unique places. Burning Man is an example. Peripatetic means to wander about. It’s a good description for Bone (and me).

My friend Tom Lovering and I found Bone in 1977. He was hanging out half buried in snow in a patch of corn lilies along the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail south of Lake Tahoe. Tom and I had a game when we backpacked. If one of us found trash, the other person had to pack it out. I found Bone, declared he was trash, and Tom had to carry him— at least until he could sneak him back in my pack. Here is Bone’s perspective on being found:

I didn’t plan on seeing the world and becoming famous. Once I was part of a horse located just above the hoof. I had no freedom; I had no glory. Wherever the horse went I went also, a mere slave to his desires. During the summer this meant carrying greenhorn tourists into the backcountry of the mountains above Lake Tahoe. The added pounds gave me bone-jarring headaches. Then the horse died; I like to fantasize that a large bear with big teeth and sharp claws ate him.  Hopefully he ate the tourist as well.

Whatever happened, I was free to be me, Bone. Yes, that’s right, Bone is my name. A kindly coyote picked me up and carried me to a high meadow filled with Corn Lilies. It was there that I discovered my Zen-like nature as I meditated through the seasons. I was alone except for a mouse that came by and nibbled on me occasionally. That hurt. In fact, it interrupted my meditation and scarred me for life; you can still see teeth marks. I blame all of my subsequent bad behavior on that flea bitten miscreant.

My annoyance at the mouse, however, was minor in comparison to my anger at the large two-legged creature who yanked me from my meadow home and begin yelling I was trash as he ran down the trail in pursuit of another two-legged creature.  Can you imagine the insult? I had no way of knowing that this was the beginning of my world travels or that the two creatures, Curt Mekemson and Tom Lovering, would become my servants.

World travels indeed. Bone has now been in over 50 countries and all 50 states. He travelled with me on my 10,000-mile bike trip and with Tom in the back of a truck from the Sahara Desert to South Africa. He has wandered close to 200,000 miles with Peggy and me as we have explored North America. Other people have also carried Bone. He has been blessed by the Pope and attended a Bill Clinton Presidential press conference. “Excuse me, is that a gun in your pocket.” He has been on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro, at the base of Mt. Everest, and on top of Mt. Whitney. He has gone deep sea diving in the Pacific and boated up the Amazon. You get the idea. It’s only proper that he be along with Peggy, Eeyore and me on our present journey.

Bone is going to answer the ten most common questions people ask him in my next blog. After that, I will get back to my bike trip and the big white whale that scared the hell out of me.

Wyatt Earp arrests Bone in Tombstone. Doc Holiday checks him for weapons.

Wyatt Earp arrests Bone in Tombstone. Doc Holiday checks him for weapons.

Bone checks out Billy Clanton's grave on Boothill— thankful it wasn't him.

Bone checks out Billy Clanton’s grave on Boothill— thankful it wasn’t him.

From Kayaking the Cool Pacific to Bicycling the Hot Desert of Burning Man

One of our guides leads the way as we make our way between islands off the we make our way off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia.

One of our guides, Julia, leads the way as we make our way between islands off the northwest coast of Vancouver Island, British Columbia. (Photo by Peggy Mekemson.)

Peggy and I just came off our kayaking adventure out of Fort McNeil on northwestern Vancouver Island. It was a great trip, complete with Orca Whales, good folks, and great food. I am sure there will be several blogs on the experience (grin). But now we are madly preparing for Burning Man. We take off today. Imagine jumping from kayaking in the cool waters of the Pacific Ocean to bicycling in the hot desert of Northern Nevada. Woohoo!

The burning of the Man gives Burning Man its name.

The burning of the Man gives Burning Man its name.

The annual event held in the Black Rock Desert of Northern Nevada ranges from wonderfully whacky to….  (Photo by Tom Lovering)

The art at  Burning Man ranges from wonderfully whacky…. (Photo by Tom Lovering)

…to magnificent.

…to magnificent.

To fill in on the missed blogs, I thought I would repost some stories on Bone. He is going with us to Burning Man. I suspect many of you have yet to meet him even though he figured prominently in my early posts.

Bone hitches a ride on a willing horse at Burning Man.

Bone hitches a ride on a willing horse at Burning Man.

Bone is a diminutive character four inches high and two inches across. Once he was part of a horse, just above the hoof. Now he is free and has an attitude.

Tom Lovering and I found him lounging in a mountain meadow above Lake Tahoe when we were backpacking the Tahoe-Yosemite Trail in 1977. He has been wandering the world ever since. He began his travels with Tom on a two-year exploration of Asia, Africa and Europe in the early 80s and then joined me on my six month 10,000 mile solo bicycle trip around North America.

And that’s just the beginning.

In 1990 the International Society of the Bone was created in Mazatlan, Mexico and Bone began wandering with others. He traveled with a women’s group to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro in Africa and the base of Mt. Everest in Nepal, went deep-sea diving in the Pacific and Caribbean, attended a Presidential Press Conference with Bill Clinton (Is that a bone in your pocket?) and was blessed by the Pope in St. Peter’s Square. He had a close encounter with Piranhas on the Amazon, was kidnapped in Mexico and was seized by a custom agent in New Zealand. He has been to Burning Man 9 times.

Bone looks out on Mt. Everest in Nepal.

Bone looks out on Mt. Everest in Nepal.

And poses perilously on the railing of a boat traveling up the Amazon River. I caught him just as he was about to fall into the Piranhnah infested waters.

And poses perilously on the railing of a boat traveling up the Amazon River. I caught him just as he was about to fall into the Piranha infested waters.

Traveling to Mexico, Bone takes a break by resting on Chacmool, where hearts were once offered up as sacrifices.

Traveling to Mexico, Bone takes a break by resting on Chacmool, where hearts were once offered up as sacrifices.

Checking out the rapids of the Little Colorado River as part of an 18 day trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, Bone wears his life vest for safety.

Checking out the rapids of the Little Colorado River as part of an 18 day trip down the Colorado through the Grand Canyon, Bone wears his life vest for safety.

Tom Lovering goes native and wears Bone in his hair on the Colorado River trip.

Tom Lovering goes native and wears Bone in his hair on the Colorado River trip.

The Bone stories I will blog about this week are about how Tom and I found him. I wasn’t into photography at the time, so sorry, no photos.

Wandering through Time and Place… A Writer’s Perspective

Bone has wandered the world for 35 years doing strange things. Here he rests on the Mayan god Chacmool in the place where sacrificial hearts once resided.

After two years of blogging under the title of Peripatetic Bone, I’ve decided to make changes. Bone, as you may know, was found in the Sierra Nevada Mountains in 1977 and has been travelling the world ever since. He has visited over 50 countries, climbed mountains, gone deep-sea diving, been blessed by the Pope and had many epic adventures.

When I started this blog, my wife Peggy and I were travelling around North America full-time in a 22-foot van. Bone rode up front where he could see the world go by. Introducing him to strangers was a weird but great way to begin conversations. We would do a photo shoot with him and wait for people to start asking questions.

It seemed natural to name my blog The Peripatetic Bone. Times have changed, however. We are now settled in Southern Oregon and Bone has retired, at least temporarily, to his Bone Cave.

Also, from the beginning, I wrote about many non-Bone related subjects. He wasn’t around when three British Warships used Andrew Mekemson for target practice during the Revolutionary War, nor was he with me when I served as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Africa. He even missed Berkeley’s Free Speech Movement.

“Wandering through Time and Place” is my new title. This will allow me to continue my travel focus plus incorporate stories from the past. I also plan to expand my grass-roots solution series with an emphasis on the future. Presently I am reorganizing my blogs to fall under three categories: Looking Back in Time, Wandering the World, and Creating the Future

My new tagline, “A Writer’s Perspective,” is what this blog is primarily about and always has been… story telling. Plus I have another motivation. Presently I am pulling my Africa Peace Corps stories into a book that I will publish digitally this year and in print format next year. Some time in the next few weeks I will create a new WordPress blog linked to this one that will feature a new chapter each week.

None of this means Bone is going away. He will still have his own page on this blog and will appear frequently in my travel tales. Thanks again to all the people who read this blog and make the writing of it fun and worthwhile.

Bone contemplates the future of Bad Bones in Tombstone Arizona.

But not to worry… Bone is a good bone and he is not about to be hanged by mistake.

Nor is he likely to fall into any dark, bottomless pits.

Nor be shot down by a desperado such as Billy the Kid.

Nor is his fate to be chomped down by an ancient Hawaiian deity.

Or become iguana food.

Instead Bone will continue to wander the world.

And have adventures that most people only dream about.

 

 

 

 

Quirky Burning Man

This strange 20-foot tall Alice in Wonderland type rabbit is a great introduction to the quirkiness of Burning Man. Photo by Tom Lovering

Burning Man is wonderfully quirky. Want proof? Walk 50 yards down any road.

I love it. Where else can you get a cold brew from a beer tap drilled in to the side of a coffin or discover an army of Barbie Dolls in their birthday suits.

Walking down one of Black Rock City's many roads, I came upon an army of Barbie Dolls in their birthday suits. Who knows what they were up to...

People wear quirky clothes, drive quirky vehicles and create quirky art. Check out the expressions on the fish below and on the Pitch Fork Man. Or what about the Cat Car? Or how about, uh, twin cats???

Murals are common at Burning Man. I love the expression on the striped fish and how the octopus is hitching a ride on the whale.

Pitch Fork Man is the very definition of quirky.

The Cat Car has always been one of my favorite mutant vehicles.

Here kitty kitty.

Naturally, Bone fits right into the environment. Grown men riding around on stick horsies also qualify. We are, after all the Horse-Bone Tribe.

Burning Man is a Bone kind of event. He is definitely quirky. Here, he plays unicorn on a horse's nose.

Grown men playing cowboys on toy horses also qualify as strange.

Here are a few more of my favorite examples of Burning Man quirkiness.

A tree made completely of bones.

The Suave Sphinx.

Desert mirage... a bar with its own outhouse being pulled by a tractor through the remote playa . We climbed on board and took advantage. Photo by Tom Lovering.

Man crashing bike into empty boxes. The boxes were set up specifically for that purpose.

Couch Car.

See through goat with shadow. Note garbage in stomach.

One Tribe focuses on capturing images of Burning Man and then putting them together in photo collages. I thought this collage did an excellent job of capturing the quirkiness of Burning Man.

And of course there is nothing quirky about me. I am the one on the left.

The Horse-Bone Tribe of Burning Man

Bone and Horse share a moment at Burning Man.

Bone is jealous. We started out as the Horse Tribe of Burning Man. Bone reminded me that he was at Burning Man before the stick horsies were attached to our bikes and begin neighing around.  And he is, after all, a horse bone

So in my mind and Bone’s mind, we are now the Horse-Bone tribe. Whether other members of the tribe agree, who knows…?

Tribes are a big thing at Burning Man. Last year’s program listed over 500… and those are only the ones that bothered to register. (We never have, for example.)

They come in all sizes. The Horse-Bone Tribe ranges from 8-12 people depending on the vagaries of any given year. Other tribes have several hundred members.

The always dapper Scotty, a founding member of the Horse-Bone Tribe of Burning Man.

The tribes live in camps and come in a variety of flavors. Most are unique.

Their names provide a clue to just how unique. Here are a few: Academy of Fools, Arachnophobia, Barbie Death Village, Back to Heaven, Buddha Bunny Camp, Camp Making Bacon, Funky Town, Hippocampus, Jub Jub’s Plastic Circus, Picasso Camp, Reno Housewives, Space Cowboys, Twilight Over Atlantis, Vamp Camp, You Are Here… the list goes on and on.

Two Vamps at Vamp Camp Burning Man

Tribes tend to attract people of similar interests. The Horse-Bone Tribe is made of friends who have spent years working and playing together. Our group includes a bike shop owner, a restaurateur, a judge, a lawyer, an interior decorator, a writer, an elementary school principal, a psychologist, a hospital administrator, a teacher, a trainer/school consultant and other professionals.

HP, Ringer, Sailor Boy and Luna share a laugh at Burning Man.

In other words, we hardly resemble a group of New Age hippies seeking Nirvana in the Black Rock Desert. But we do adopt new personas; there is Scout, Luna, Outlaw, Sparkle, Sailor Boy, Boots, Horny Princess, Sparkle, Scottie and Ringer, plus other disparate characters.

Scout and Trigger pose for a photo at Burning Man.

The first thing we do upon arrival is stake out our territory, literally. We pound stakes into the ground and connect them with ropes. Burning Man has set aside vast area of the desert for tribes and individuals. We can grab as much as we need wherever we want to.

Sparkle sparkling.

Many tribes take on projects that benefit the larger community. These range from teaching Yoga to cooking pancakes, to taking on major art projects. For example, the artist Jim Bowers along with several laser technology scientists and craftsmen have joined together with the TriBe Camp to create the World’s Largest Working Clock this year. (Lasers will project a 5000-foot wide clock in the sky that will accurately reflect hours and minutes.)

Boots and Bone

As for the Horse-Bone Camp, we aren’t nearly that ambitious. So far we have been happy to provide a home base for our tribe to share camping space, dinners, laughs, and companionship on the Playa

Beth, Bone and Unicorn. (Unicorns sometimes join our herd of horses.)

Beth, our bike shop owner, did set up a bike repair shop and repair bikes for neighbors this past year, however. Bone was proud of her.

Self Portrait of Outlaw (thats me), Picasso style.

Last, but far from least, Bones horse, Eeyore, insisted on being included as a member of the Horse Bone Tribe.