Category Archives: Just Stories


Fungus Hunting

Not sure why I like to go out fungus hunting.

Something about decay has always been attractive.

I have no interest in ever identifying what I find, but that’s true with just about everything I do.

Just another opportunity to be out in the woods, fungus hunting, squirrel hunting, flower hunting. All the same on some level.

It does give me the opportunity to go out blundering through the woods, searching out trees dead standing, dead falls, long dead and rotting trees.

Something relaxing about climbing around all this dead wood. The dead silence of the woods this time of year helps.

Takes a bit of focus I guess, observing rather than just looking.

I’ve been lamenting that most of the shots turn out like crap. Low light, camera shake, disastrous images.

Sunday I was paying attention to what I was doing. A tripod would be worthless here. Nowhere to put it. Trying to figure out where would kill the moment.

I guess I could get a longer lens, set up further away on level ground, zoom in tight.

But that ruins the way I like to do things. Get in tight, within inches, compose as much as possible in the viewfinder so I do virtually no cropping after the fact.

For now, I’ll practice what I know. Slow down my breathing, brace my arms to my sides and at the right moment between slow breaths, push the button.

Doesn’t always work, but I’ll take it.


Silver Springs Assholes

Went out to Silver Springs State Park to my usual spot far off in a field to see if the sunset would amount to anything.

I first heard the buzz of their little engines far off to the southwest. I assumed the landowners on the edge of the state park were out running around their fields.

I soon realized they were circling around me, off to the south, then off to the east. I knew they would be coming down the same trail I was standing in. I decided, the hell with them, I’m not moving.

Four of them came around the bend. I couldn’t see their faces because of the full helmets they were wearing, but their body language said “oh shit.”

I refused to move, they barely slowed down as I made them brush up against the tall grass.

As they went by I raised my camera and took a picture, then realized I still had the lens out to 300 mm and I knew it didn’t work. One of them saw me take the picture.


I fixed the lens to 55 and raised the camera. The one that saw me take the picture had turned around, stopped and was now facing me. I had the feeling he was going to come back to say something I had no interest in, so I called his bluff and stuck my hand in my pocket.

He had a decision to make. Am I going to take my hand out of my pocket with nothing more than my Little Dicky and car keys in my hand, all that I had in there, or, in this day and age of concealed carry, was I going to take something out of my pocket that could kill him. I would have preferred the latter, but me carrying a gun around is probably not a good idea.

The bluff worked, he spun around and I snapped off another shot as he left.


Every day it’s proven to me that the world is full of assholes that think the laws and rules don’t apply to them.

I didn’t think I would run into them out here, out in the middle of nowhere.

I come here to get away from the assholes.


Bees Bees and More Bees

If you’re squeamish about being near bees, or happen to be one of the unlucky few that are allergic to the sting of bees, then I don’t recommend that you try photographing them the way I do.

I could have got out my DSLR and long lens and stood a respectable 10 feet away and there’s a chance I would have got similar results.

But where’s the fun in that.

Instead, I got out my point and shoot that has respectable macro capabilities and took pictures of bees from 2 to 6 inches away.

Some say it’s stupid, which is a possibility, but I like to think it’s a learned skill.

When I was 12 I had my first run in with bees. I was rummaging around a big weed choked lot across the street from Midway Airport. We used to call these lots prairies. When you grow up in the city, this is the closest you get to something big, open and wild. Even though they’re really not all that big, they are to a 12 year old.

I was wandering around the prairie when I came across some big bumblebees that were going in and out of a hole in the ground. I didn’t know bees lived in underground hives, why would I, so I stood watching, fascinated.

Then, like any red blooded American boy, I went and got a stick and started poking around the hole. The bees still came and went, oblivious to me.

So, I jammed the stick a good foot into the hole and moved it around. When I pulled it out it was followed by a steady swarm of big bumblebees, only this time I could hear them buzzing in anger. I did what any red blooded American boy would do at that point and ran like hell.

I got about 50 feet away, what I thought would be a safe distance, stopped and turned around. A big bumblebee made a beeline straight at me, where I learned where the term beeline comes from, and hit me hard in the chest, stinging me.

I don’t remember pain as much as feeling like someone stuck a lit cigarette in my chest, more of a burn. Within a minute the spot where I was stung began to swell. Within two minutes it looked like someone had slipped a golf ball under my skin. I had been in the Boy Scouts for a year at that point and had already learned some first aid. I went home, mixed up some oddball paste concoction and smeared it all over and around the golf ball in my chest. Have no clue if that helped, but I don’t remember the golf ball being there that long.

I did learn a lesson then and over the years to come.

Bees are like men. There are tasks to accomplish and work to be done and as long as you leave them alone, don’t get in there way or stop them, they’ll ignore you and go about their business.

On the sunflowers this day there were also a few wasps. You’ll notice there are no photos of them. I learned a lesson about wasps too over the years.

Wasps are like women. There are tasks to accomplish and work to be done, but it doesn’t matter if you stay out of their way or try to stop them. At some point they’ll turn on you like a rabid dog, for no reason. Next thing you know you’re running trying to get away from them and they continue to pursue you relentlessly. You find yourself begging them to leave you alone and cowering in a corner mumbling, don’t hurt me.

So, where was I…

Well, anyway, I get a kick out of seeing how close I can get to bees and how close I let them get to me. I’ve left them alone as they’ve landed on my Hawaiian shirts to check me out. They soon figure out they’ve been fooled and simply leave.

I knew these bees were here for the pollen. I could see it collecting on their legs and all over their bodies. What I didn’t notice till I looked at the pictures was how much pollen was all over the sunflowers. There are a few shots of pollen on some surrounding leaves, pollen that had fallen off. Never did see that with the naked eye.

One thing I would like to do some day is have a few honey bee hives. Not only would this be good for the bees and good for the plants in the area, I would get to reap the harvest of honey. The cost of honey has risen dramatically the last few years as the honey bee population has dwindled. I hunt the stores looking for bargains to feed my need for honey. The wife looks on with disdain as I open a container of honey and dip a spoon into it, then suck off all that golden goodness.

Much better than candy. Much better for you.

The other day I thought I struck a honey gold mine. A never before seen brand of honey, two 5 pound containers of it, sitting on a shelf and at a decent price.

Of course, I had to buy it all.



Farnsworth House

In April of 2001, when the state of Illinois was considering the purchase of the Farnsworth House and the 62 acres of land it sits on along the Fox River, I wrote a letter and sent it to damn near everyone I knew at the time that had anything to do with conservation, along with sending it to the Letters sections of all the papers.

I knew that in 1996, when the Fox had a 100 year flood event, it inundated the Farnsworth House and it cost $250K to restore it. As the infamous WGN radio host Spike O’Dell said at the time of the 1996 floods… “What did you think was going to happen when you paved everything over, water’s gotta go somewhere.”

I had studied architecture and knew all about Mies and the historic significance of the house, why it was built the way it is and why it’s located where it is… and none of that mattered to me.

Apparently I made that quite clear in part of the letter I wrote back then.

Common sense dictates that you don’t build homes in floodplains.

I think the emphasis on why the State of Illinois should purchase the Farnsworth property needs to be reevaluated. The purchase of the house would include 62 acres of land that borders the Fox River. The land alone, with or without the inclusion of the house, should be purchased by the state.
The Farnsworth property is next to, and across the river from, Silver Springs State Park. Adding the 62 acres to Silver Springs would protect a beautiful stretch of the Fox River from development, and guarantee public access to a body of water that is quickly becoming surrounded by private property.
As for the house, if it is included in the purchase, it should be moved further back on the floodplain. I don’t think moving it will have any effect on its architectural integrity. In the long run, the move will save taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars in repair bills as the house will no longer get damaged by floods.

The picture at the top of this post is from April of 2013, never did bother looking into what it cost to repair it that time. I know there was another high water event just a few years earlier. Those pesky 100 year high water events decided to almost become a regular feature of the river.

I distinctly recall having a conversation about this back then and suggested moving the house to the edge of the cornfield up the hill to the north and east of where it now sits.

Flash forward 14 years to an article that was in the Tribune’s Beacon News on June 19, 2015:

Trust considers moving Mies van der Rohe home on the Fox River

One of the three options being considered is what I suggested 14 years ago.

Ultimately this has nothing to do with the Farnsworth House, the legacy of Mies van der Rohe or whether or not you like glass and steel buildings. I think the world could do just fine with a little less glass and steel.

For me it became a revelation as to why I get bored and disinterested with “issues” so quickly. I have no clue why my brain draws conclusions as quickly as it does, but for many years I’ve felt compelled to share these conclusions with others only to have them met with disinterest and ridicule.

Which is why I now consciously avoid saying much of anything regarding issues.

Yet here it is 14 years and at least two damaging flood events later, someone came up with the brilliant idea that maybe this building should be moved out of the way some how.

Well, there’s a novel idea.

Maybe by the time it gets out of committee and I happen to live to be 90, I’ll see it happen.

But I’m not banking on it.

In the mean time I think an opportunity is being missed.

I hear that on a nice, bright, sunny day the Farnsworth House turns into the world’s largest convection oven.

Imagine the cook offs that could be done.

Maybe this is what Mies intended for the Farnsworth House all along.