Photography And Half-Thoughts By Mitchell Hegman

...because some of it is pretty and some of it is not.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Mayday Tree

The seasons have traveled four times around the mayday tree since my first life ended. 
That life, a good one.
Then, I kicked high and pitched my stones far enough to vanish from sight.  I walked hand in hand with the most beautiful woman in the world.  I embraced both day and night. 
Today, my mayday tree will hold in full bloom against the sun for the fourth time since my first life ended.  The sweet perfume of uncountable ivory flowers will entice bees from all the blue sky that surrounds.
I shall—as I do each spring—stand below the canopy of blossoms on my tree and listen to the humming of a thousand bees at once.  I will gaze up into the dense clusters of flowers and allow the blurring frenzy of bees above me to wipe away all sorrows and all insecurities.
The mayday tree has come to bloom early.  This, the promise of another good life. 

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

As Previously Mentioned

Dogs fetch sticks.  Cats are waiting for you to do the same.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Monday, April 27, 2015

Saving Money

I know of at least one sure-fire method to saving a great deal of money.   Don’t buy a ski boat.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Bannack Ghost Town

Though now a tumbleweed ghost town, Bannack at one time supported a population of thousands.  Established in the early 1860s during the unruly days of the Montana gold rush, Bannack served briefly as the capital of Montana Territory.  The town’s most notorious resident was Henry Plummer.  Plummer managed to convince the townspeople to elect him as their sheriff in 1863.  Plummer, at the same time, was purportedly the leader of a gang of “road agents.”   Plummer’s gang was accused of robbing and murdering dozens of people in and around the Grasshopper Creek and Alder Gulch gold fields.  Some claim that Plummer and his gang murdered over 100 people.  The famous vigilante movement in Virginia City, Montana arose as a way to protect the public from the road agents.

Posted are two photographs from a brief visit to Bannack last weekend as we left the Big Hole Valley.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Machines That Kill People

I am pretty certain that if a button were available that would, upon pressing it, release machines to kill an enemy, plenty of people would be willing press the button.  Certainly the radicalized Muslims in the Middle East would press the button and send machines to annihilate the United States.  Similarly, there are more than a few American who would be willing to press the button and send killing machines to the Middle East, to North Korea, to Russia, and—in some cases—other states comprising this nation.

We are not all that far from having such a button.  In the last couple of years, as illustration, much had been made of the use of unmanned killing drones by our military and by such agencies as the CIA.  Just yesterday, news about CIA drones inadvertently killing hostages held by Al-Qaeda splashed across the world news.  We have every manner of robot performing dangerous missions of surveillance.   All indications are that the next generation of jet fighters will be unmanned.  Dreams of a robotic soldier are not merely science fiction.

I find something particularly chilling about machines attacking men.  I am not yet worried about hordes of machines taking over the planet; but I do worry that we will begin to see war as something of a video game.  War is hell when waged by men, but men on the battlefield sometimes make last second judgments that save innocent lives.  Moments of humanity sometimes alter and limit the bloodshed.

I fully understand the worthy intentions behind unmanned drones, but cooler heads were behind those intentions.  If, on one side of the battlefield, we have nothing but machines and on the other side we have people, what might be the outcome?  What if a bad guy has all the machines?   If we cannot smell the battle, if we never hear screaming, if we see war only on sterile screens: will we fully understand it?   While we may at present fancy this idea of machines killing enemies because we are commanding the machines, a day will likely come when cold machines come for us and we see this differently.      

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, April 24, 2015

First Rain

Finally came moisture to the dry scarps and long thirsty pine trees.   Near sun-fall, the night before last, dense clouds pressed against the high mountains and dusky curtains of rain fell across the lake.  Wind-driven droplets snare-drummed at the windows of my house.  The prairie bluebirds twirled down from the sky to find cover.  I ran outside and extended my arm into the chill spray.

Yes, to rain!

Finally came the first rain from an eerie light.
--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Thought 41

I was just sitting here wondering if anyone out there has a fear of goldfish.  I mean, why not?  Goldfish can be a little scary when they bust out of their bowls and flop around.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Eating Broccoli and Other Disturbing Behaviors

Last night, as a sat eating broccoli because I really wanted to eat broccoli, the thought occurred that I am beginning to act very much like an adult.  As a kid, I equated eating broccoli with eating dead tree stumps.  Now I purchase fresh broccoli on purpose.

That’s not the only disturbing adult behavior I have adopted.  I now pair-up my socks and organize them in a drawer as soon as I retrieve them from the dryer instead of stuffing the whole pile away at once.  I regularly “shake” my throw rugs.  I feel like a dirty monster if I can’t floss my teeth after dinner.  I sometimes pay attention to televised advertisements for household cleaning products.  On occasion, I purchase something based on televised advertisements.  I enjoy reading articles about electrical code enforcement issues.  I am not opposed to yelling at people on the television.
I am beginning to think that adulthood is a form of lunacy.        

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


As I gazed upon the stars last night, an alligator-shaped cloud slowly slithered across the open sky and ate the crescent moon.  I thought to myself: “fucking alligator!”  I never did trust them.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, April 20, 2015

The Land of 10,000 Haystacks

The western half of Montana is defined by basin and range topography.  If you drive more than 100 miles in any direction, you are bound to negotiate a mountain pass, cross a winding river, and cross through at least one handsome valley.  Honestly, I cannot think of a drive that I have grown tired of here—and I have been crossing these ranges and basins for my entire life.

Even for Montanans, the Big Hole Valley is a little out-of-the way.  Most of us go there simply to go there.  Nearly 7,000 feet in elevation, many miles wide, rimmed by lofty peaks, and still dominated by huge cattle ranches and real cowboys: the Big Hole is my favorite of all the wide valleys in Montana.  Long ago, the valley became known as “The Land of 10,000 Haystacks.”   In the early days, all of the haystacks were made by using “beaverslide hay stackers.”   Beaverslides were invented in the Big Hole as a way to stack the natural grass hays grown there.

At the center of the valley is the tiny town of Wisdom.  Though often Wisdom records the coldest daily temperature of all the lower 48 states, I cannot think of a more handsome town.  Down the road, Jackson boasts one of the better natural hot springs in Montana.  Driving toward the Bitterroot Range from Wisdom, you will encounter Big Hole National Battlefield.  At this site in 1877, the Nez Perce Indians skirmished with the U.S. Cavalry.  That is its own story—a sad one at that.

I have never been able to drive all the way though the Big Hole Valley without stopping to snap a few pictures.  I am posting photographs from a drive through the valley yesterday.  Included is a photo of some beaverslides.

--Mitchell Hegman 

Sunday, April 19, 2015

The Charcoal Kilns at Canyon Creek

The Hecla Consolidated Mining Company constructed the kilns at Canyon Creek in the late 1800s.  The kilns are located in a narrow canyon at an elevation of about 6,500 feet in the Pioneer Range.  Canyon Creek tumbles down from the stony Pioneer Range to feed into the Big Hole River near Melrose, Montana.  Roughly halfway between the kilns and Melrose, in the broad basin far below, the town of Glendale (now a ghost town) grew around a smelter built for smelting the silver ore from nearby mines.

The kilns at Canyon Creek were constructed to provide charcoal as fuel for the smelting process at Glendale.  Each kiln burned down 35 to 45 cords of wood to produce charcoal.  Many hundreds of acres of timber were harvested from nearby slopes each year to supply cordwood.  The smelter at Glendale operated from 1881 until 1900.  Only the smokestack and a few collapsing buildings remain at Glendale.  The kilns, however, are still standing.

Yesterday, while on our way to the Big Hole Valley, I, that girl, my sister, and my brother-in-law diverted to see the kilns.  The kilns impressed me.  Posted are three photographs I took while there.
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Chimpanzees Using Spears

The other day I saw a post on Facebook about a troop of chimpanzees in Senegal that have been observed making spears from tree branches.  Some of the chimpanzees gnawed on the end of the sticks to sharpen them to a point.  The chimpanzees then used the spears for hunting bushbabies.  Bushbabies are smaller, nocturnal primates with huge eyes and big ears.  The chimpanzees used the spears to stab into bushbaby nests and hideouts while the bushbabies were sleeping.

Chimpanzees are notably intelligent.  They have been observed using “tools” for many years.  Some troops use rocks to smash open the hard shells of nuts.  Some troops use sticks to “fish” termites from holes in termite mounds.  Chimpanzees will throw sticks and stones to intimidate challengers.

At the same time, chimpanzees are notably violent.  Perhaps you recall the 2009 attack on Carla Nash by a chimpanzee.  The attack left Carla without a face.  She eventually underwent a successful face transplant.  Troops of chimpanzees are known to stage violent attacks on other chimpanzees.  They are aggressive and territorial.  They will murder and cannibalize.

Witnessing chimpanzees using spears, while remarkable, is also disturbing.  How long before a troop marches off to war with spears?  If that happens, do we merely observe them…or do we stop them and save them from themselves?

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, April 17, 2015

My Body is Not a Wonderland

The human body is a compendium of electrical circuits and electrical impulses.  Interestingly, in 2001 song release, singer-songwriter John Mayer claimed his girlfriend’s body was “a wonderland.”  Honestly, that sounds far more intriguing than a bunch of electrical stuff.  What, I wonder, does her body look like?  Where might I find a girl like that?

Sorry.  I am off-track.

A standard issue human body, as I stated previously, is packed with electrical circuits and electrical components.  Though none of our natural human parts have been listed by Underwriter’s Laboratories (UL)—a requirement for all of the electrical widgets in your home—they generally function quite well.  Our brains, as example, function by way of synapses firing electrical impulses.  The human heart is equipped with something called the sinoatrial node (SA node).  The SA node is an electrical signal generator—the natural pacemaker for heartbeats.  The entire human nervous system is not that far removed from the electrical wiring in your home.

I could go on and on about the human electrical systems, but I am still somewhat distracted by the thought of John Mayer’s girlfriend.  I would love to see photos of her.  Do you suppose she might have a few UL listed parts?
I mention all of this human wiring because I think something is wrong with my own electrical system wiring.  Odd things happen to me at night.  I suspect that my system is over-charging when I sleep.  The end result of this overcharging is a bunch of weird dreams about fish swimming in my bed and unreal scenarios where bottles of Scotch are used as currency.  When I wake in the morning, the overcharging always leaves my hair all staticky and sticky-uppy.  I have posted a selfie to show you what I am talking about.
--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Two Simple Rules

I have lived most of my life by following two simple rules.  Don’t drive the wrong direction down one-way streets.  Don’t sleep in haunted rooms.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Citizens, Mammoth Hot Springs

Photographs of some local elk I bumped into at the General Store in, Mammoth Hot Springs.

--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Mammoth Hot Springs

Yesterday, that girl and I drove to Mammoth Hot Springs by way of the Paradise Valley.  I will be teaching a class for Yellowstone Park employees at a facility in Mammoth today.  Posted is a photograph from The Paradise Valley and a photograph from Mammoth Hot Springs.  The park headquarters is located at Mammoth.  The U.S. Cavalry managed the park for many years and constructed the buildings in the second photograph in 1891.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, April 13, 2015


Here we are.  We have arrived at April 13.  This is the date of my birth.  If you multiply 13 by 4.53846154, your product will be my age.  If you multiply 13 by 150.461538462 your product will be the year of my birth.  I am all about 4615 this year.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Simple Song

Long ago, I lost the urge to amplify
To plug in
To crush the silence
Today I desire to be a simple song
A song that follows you around corners
A small song that pierces walls like a bullet
Allow me a burst of sharp notes like the meadowlark’s
And a final note that sticks like an arrow.

--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, April 11, 2015


Yesterday I drove from Helena to Billings for another “adventure” in teaching.  The whole sky above me was filled with cotton candy clouds pushing on in their single direction.  Fresh snow on the chevron peaks made the mountain ranges look like rows upon rows of dazzling white tents pitched against the horizons.  Cloud shadows roved slowly across the open scarps and vales as I drove the long, straight stretches of highway strung between higher points.  I nearly drifted off the road on two occasions while gazing off into the endless ranchlands.

If this is work, I guess I don’t want to stop working just yet.
Posted are a couple of photographs I snapped of the Bridger Mountains at one on my stops along the way.

--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, April 10, 2015

New Carpet

My sister and brother-in-law had new carpet installed throughout much of their home.  When I stopped in to visit my brother-in-law a couple days ago, I walked across the laminate kitchen floor and peered into the living room.  “Call Deb and tell her that I am running all over the new carpet,” I told my brother-in-law.



I peeled off my shoes and jumped onto the new carpet. “Smells great!”  I looped around the living room, twice.  Then I ran down the hall and looped once through the spare bedroom before heading back to wheel through the living room again.

I could hear my brother-in-law’s end of a conversation with my sister: “He’s running all over the place…I’m not kidding…His shoes are in the kitchen…I think he likes it…”

--Mitchell Hegman 

Thursday, April 9, 2015

You Will Not Find a Single Hawaiian Living in Gardiner, Montana

While trying to find the zip code for Gardiner, Montana, I chanced upon demographic information for the town at  Gardiner, for those unfamiliar, is a tiny town teetering on steep embankments just above the Yellowstone River at the Northwest entrance to Yellowstone Park.
Assuming the information I found is accurate, Gardiner is somewhat unusual.  By unusual, I mean mostly white and aging.  The median age is 47.1.  I checked a couple of other sites with demographics and found a median age of 37.6 for the United States as a whole.  As a point of interest, Uganda and Gaza Strip have the lowest median ages in the world.  The median age in these two tumultuous and impoverished places has been held to a startlingly low age of 15.

Gardiner, Montana, has a total population of 875.  Not a single Hawaiian lives in Gardiner, which might spare the use (maybe abuse) of vowels, but reduces human diversity.  You will find four Asians in the little town.  I am not sure if it is possible to locate the Asians all at once, but you should be able to locate at least one on a given day.  One black person lives in Gardiner, Montana.  The average household supports the lives of 1.88 persons.  When you split the population by sex, you will find three extra males.

I am most interested in the .88 person in each house.  What does .88 of a person look like?  What is missing?  Do they lack the part of them that wants to earn money by working (like some of my friends)?  I think I have the three extra males figured out.  They are probably cranky old electricians—thrice divorced.  If so, I may be seeing the three men in a continuing education class I will be presenting to Yellowstone Park Employees at Mammoth Hot Springs next week.

Finally, in the event you are also looking for Gardiner’s zip code, the code is 59030.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Back-Handed Compliments

I first talked with “that girl” on a dating site.  Dating sites are a natural venue for exaggeration and false images.  Many people use old photographs for their profile pictures and fib about their age, weight, height, financial status, etc.  I met that girl for a hiking date after we had talked on the phone for a while.  Upon seeing that girl in person for the very first time, I said: “You look way better in person!”

She offered a puzzled expression.

I laughed.  “That did not quite sound right.  I think that is what they call a back-handed compliment.  I intended to make nice.”

That occurred some six months ago.  Last weekend, that girl evened the score with me.  After I showed her an image of me that someone had just texted to my twice-as-smarter-than-me-phone, that girl said: “You look tall in that picture!”

Yep…a back-handed compliment.

Just for fun, I have posted the picture.  Maybe the tiny house in the background gives the false impression of elevation.
--Mitchell Hegman

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

We Went Birdy

About fourteen years ago my wife and I went “birding” for the first time.  That evening, my sweet, foreign born, English-mangling wife informed someone over the phone that we “went birdy.”  Birdy, indeed.  We joined our local Audubon Society on a guided excursion to some nearby habitats.  Following is my journal entry from the day of our birding adventure.
Our birding consisted of a country drive out beyond Silver City with many stops at riparian areas, meadows, and mountainsides.  At each stop, groups of people piled out of our six cars and—quietly, mind you—swept the expanse in search of birds with binoculars (by-nok-a-ler in wifespeak).
A typical stop went something like this:
Person Number One:  (Spotting a bird in flight and pointing to the sky above.) Green-necked whooping-swallow in flight.
Everyone Grouped Nearby:    Oooooooh.  (Heads turning.  Me turning the wrong direction.)
Our Guide: If you listen, you can hear a nail-driving monkey-swearing nuthatch.  The sound is distinct.  We are hearing a male arguing against urban sprawl.  Sounds like this. (Makes sounds with exaggerated enunciation.)  Sweet-sweet-soooooweet, chugga-chugga-chugga, whoo-whoo.
Everyone:  (listening intently.)
Me: ?  (Picking up a pretty rock.)
Our Guide:  Non-sticky flycatcher in flight.  (Points.)  A male with poor credit and an unbalanced checkbook.  You can tell them apart from the honey-on-rye flycatcher because the honey-on-rye has wings about a centimeter longer and has an impeccable credit score.
Me: (I throw the rock picked up earlier.)
Wife:  This birdy is pretty fun.  Give me the by-nok-a-ler if you’re not going to use them.
Our Guide:  See that?  (Points to a tree about five miles distant.)   That’s a whoopee-cushion lark.  They prefer Coors beer and build their nest from discarded underwear.
Me:  Is that a gopher over there?  (I thumb through a field guide on birds, then stare in dismay at one of the panels in the guide.)  You mean to tell me that there really is such a thing as a yellow-bellied sapsucker?  Geez, I thought they were only in cartoons.
My favorite birds from the trip were the American goldfinch (a lemon with wings) and the lazuli bunting (a strikingly blue bullet that overwinters in the Southern United States and Mexico).  After seeing the bunting through binoculars I kept saying to everyone when they pointed out a new bird for me: “Well, that’s nice, but it’s certainly no lazuli bunting.”  I suppose that I have become a bird snob.  Another cool thing is when a bunch of little birds mob big birds.  I really enjoyed watching sparrows dive-bombing a raven in midair and chasing the big bird the hell out of there.  And, as a male, I enjoy pointing out how the male birds are more colorful than the females.
Posted is an image of a lazuli bunting.

--Mitchell Hegman

Monday, April 6, 2015


Some mornings, I wake and find that all I have is this: __________________.

--Mitchell Hegman

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Cemetery Island

Only a little more than a dozen miles east of Helena, Montana, the windswept waves of Canyon Ferry Reservoir shuffle overtop of what was once Canton Valley.  In July of 1805, the Lewis and Clark Corps of Discovery pushed through the valley as they followed the Missouri River.  The river, at that time, looped through fertile bottoms there.  By the end of the late 1800s, Canton Valley boasted a modest population of ranchers and prospectors and all manner of people seeking a beginning in the New West.

After the construction of (the second) Canyon Ferry Dam in the 1950s, the waters of Canyon Ferry Reservoir slowly swallowed the whole valley.  The looping river, the ranches, the first dam, and a small village named Canton—all vanished inch by inch as the waters rose.

As a boy, I spent summers at my Aunt Jo’s cabin on the reservoir.  While fishing from her floating dock in one of the boulder-heaped bays, I imagined trout swimming through underwater mansions. I imagined schools of perch splitting apart like above-water antelope bands to pour right through submerged post-and-rail fences.  I imagined the underwater forests.

Yesterday, that girl and I walked down through the boulders at Overlook to view Cemetery Island.  A cemetery dating back to the days of Canton Valley remains on the isolated land mass there.  Posted are a couple of photographs I captured with my twice-as-smarter-than-me-phone.  One is a photo of that girl standing among the boulders.
--Mitchell Hegman

Saturday, April 4, 2015

On the Land

Where I live, spring arrives by air, by water, and by land.  In the air, the first sign of spring appears in the neon blue form of bluebirds.  Bluebirds arrive first.  The second sign of spring is the full expansion of open water on the valley lakes.  The final and surest harbinger of spring is Hooker’s Townsendia.

As a point of fact, I may find a few random “outbursts” of white or purplish phlox before I spot a Townsendia in bloom.  But Townsendia has my heart.  These tufted plants favor open to rocky shoulders of ground on the dry prairies.  In bloom, the Townsendia display like miniature wedding bouquets—one after another.  Though the flowers are small, only slightly larger than your thumbnail, they are showy and bright when caught in the sun.

Posted is a twice-as-smarter-than-me-phone image of a Hooker’s Townsendia.  I found a collection of the flowers near my solar array yesterday.
--Mitchell Hegman

Friday, April 3, 2015

Alarming Research

I am alarmed.  Not long ago, I wrote a blog about research conducted in Great Britain revealing that sea gulls in cities are forgoing their normal diet of fish for a diet of human junk food.  The gulls are fond of burgers and fries.  Yesterday, I chanced on an article in Sky News about research on the eating habits of city dwelling ant populations.  Seems that some city ants have also developed a taste for burgers and fries and just about any human food they can glean from the sidewalks and streets.

The research on the eating habits of city ants was conducted in New York City.  Researchers found that ant populations living along the pavement and traffic islands in Manhattan are showing distinct signs of sustaining on human garbage in the form of junk food.  Ant populations under study in the nearby parks do not show the same.  The park ants still eat regular ant stuff—whatever that is.

As I stated at the outset of this blog, I am alarmed by these studies.  I mean, don’t we have anything better to study?  Might we be better served by determining if flies are attracted to dirty windows as opposed to clean windows?  Maybe more research on the human side would be helpful.  I am always in favor of more research on ways to make sure old men can sustain erections.  

--Mitchell Hegman

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Loneliness, Part 5

I wake to the sound of a radio scratching out sounds in a distant room.  A woman is singing in her whiskey voice that she plans to take my love for her and run away without me.  The song ends with a single drum beat that sound like a door slamming against silence on both sides.

I have been here before.

--Mitchell Hegman

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


All good things must come to an end.  Fruitcake and idiocy will have several half-lives remaining.

--Mitchell Hegman