Archive for the ‘Articles’ Category

Putting You In Your Pictures

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

David LaBelle joins his college photography class in a group photo, thanks to use of a self-timer.

Have you ever wanted to make a picture and be in it, but there was nobody else around to press the shutter button? Most of us have.

Long before ovens or thermostats or devices that turned on lights when we are away from home, cameras were designed with self-timers so the person pressing the shutter button could be in the picture without asking a passerby to compose and press the shutter.

Thankfully, most cameras today, even smartphones, have built-in self-timers that allow you time to position yourself in the frame before the picture is made.

I am not a gadget guy, a geek or a propeller head, like so many photography buffs. Truth is, I embrace the motto “less is more” in most aspects of my life. My friends are surprised I even use email.

That is why my favorite camera remains the Nikon F film camera with the eye-level prism. Without motor drive, light meter battery or autofocus, this is base photography. But it does have a self-timer!

Beyond being able to be visually present in group portraits or team photos, the self-timer feature can be a wonderful tool for making intimate self-portraits without somebody else watching, which can alter the mood of your pictures.

I am confident artists for thousands of years—before the invention of photography in the early 1800s—would have coveted a device with a self-timer to record their image, instead of painting or drawing from a reverse-reflected image.

Using a self-timer also allows you to place yourself in beautiful landscapes or historical sites. Most self-timers allow you to adjust times from 10 to 30 seconds so you have time to get in the picture and put on your best face or casual-looking pose.

A few suggestions when using your camera’s self-timer:

  • Get the exposure right, then organize the composition before jumping into the picture.
  • Stabilize the camera. Use a tripod to keep the camera still and hold the composition you arranged in the viewfinder or back of a cellphone. Tripods are made for all cameras, even smartphones.
  • Use a flash if subjects are in deep shadows
  • Make more than one image. Somebody always closes their eyes or gives a neighbor the rabbit ears.
  • Most self-timers—whether on film, digital or smartphone cameras—have adjustable time increments that allow you to get in the picture. Some have a blinking light that increases the final few seconds before the shutter fires.
  • Consult your camera’s manual or look online for instructions to engage the self-timer for your particular camera or smartphone. You may have to download an app.

Photographer, teacher, author and lecturer David LaBelle has worked for newspapers and magazines across the U.S. Visit

A Buddy: Don’t Leave Home Without One

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

One more reason to explore with a buddy: You can leave your selfie stick at home. Not only will you appear in more pictures, but you will have someone to share memories and talk about them for years to come.
© iStock/sasapanchenko

Going solo is all the rage now. It is borne of a quest to test or prove oneself, or a need for peace and solitude.

However, many of us are firm believers in the buddy system—always have been, always will be. The only time we need solitude is when nature calls.

There are countless reasons to adhere to the buddy system. Here are five tried-and-true benefits of not going it alone:

  • The safety factor. All too often, the nightly news airs tragic stories that might have turned out differently had another person gone along. A buddy can provide assistance, go for help, or treat and comfort someone who gets sick or injured.
  • Someone to share the load. Toting a canoe or hauling any gear is always easier with more than one person. For example, when backpacking, splitting up shared supplies and equipment—such as a tent, first-aid kit or cookware—lightens the load for everyone.
  • An expanded skill set. Research shows multiple people possess more or better skills than a single individual. Some people are good at fixing things. Others may be better at starting fires or cooking.
  • An extra set of hands. Hanging a tarp, pitching a tent and preparing meals are always easier when there’s another set of hands around.
  • A second opinion. Venturing outdoors often requires making choices and decisions, such as which trail to take, where to set up camp, or when to call it quits due to bad weather or extenuating circumstances. Having someone else to confer with can reduce the chances of errors.

Find Largemouth Bass in the Veggie Section
Bass love vegetation. It provides good cover. Vegetation also can provide anglers with excellent opportunities, if they know how to fish it. In dense vegetation, use heavier line and longer, heavier rods. Avoid fishing crosswind, which can otherwise impede penetration. Look for openings or soft spots in the vegetation and cast along the edges. Be prepared for quick strikes as the bait or lure sinks toward the bottom.

How to Get the Wet Out
After a soggy day of hiking, stuff each hiking boot with newspapers to absorb moisture. Replace the newspapers when they start to get soaked.To prevent cracking, avoid drying leather boots too fast, such as in the sun, in front of a heater vent or by using a blow dryer on high heat.


What’s Special About May?

  • National Wildflower Week, May 6-12.
  • National Bike Month.
  • National Barbecue Month.

Catch of the Month
Here are prime fishing opportunities around the state in May.

  • The Keys: bonito, bonefish, barracuda, grouper, martin, shark, tarpon, swordfish, tuna, snook and snapper.
  • Central: bluegill, sunfish and bass.
  • Northwest: jack, amberjack, bluefish, bluegill, catfish, cobia, drum, bonito, grouper, seatrout, snapper, bass, triggerfish, sheepshead, mackerel, pompano, sunfish and wahoo.
  • Central West: bass, crappie, flounder, bluefish, bluegill, drum, seatrout, sunfish, cobia, grouper, tripletail, snapper, barracuda, ladyfish, mackerel, permit, bonito, pompano, porgy, grunt, snook and sheepshead.
  • Southwest: bass, barracuda, tarpon, ladyfish, jack, snook, bluegill, drum, permit, pompano, sunfish, shark, seatrout, grouper, tripletail and snapper.

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Email your submission to moc.stnerrucadirolfnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the Gulf Coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

Look Up! Be Safe Around Electricity

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

An Illinois asphalt truck operator raised the bed so he could clean the tailgate area, contacting the overhead power lines. Miraculously, the operator was shocked three times and survived. The truck, above and opposite page, was destroyed.
Photos courtesy of Steve Hancock, Corn Belt Energy Corp.

Never take for granted the location of power lines—and always stay clear of people or objects who are in contact with electricity

When electricity comes into contact with a person or something he or she is touching, the results can be deadly.

On March 10, 2019, baseball coach Corey Crum and his wife, Shana, were killed and their 14-year-old son, Chase, was injured when they were electrocuted while installing concrete pilings for a new scoreboard at a Florida high school.

Like many places in the Florida Panhandle, the Liberty County High School baseball field in Bristol was heavily damaged when Hurricane Michael—a Category 4 storm—struck in October.

Along with members of the baseball team, parents and community volunteers, the Crums had gathered for a work day. Corey, who was in the construction business, donated the pilings and the labor to install them, in anticipation of the new scoreboard being placed later that week.

“Coach Crum was operating a boom lift and unloading a piece of equipment from a trailer when the boom of the lift made contact with overhead power lines,” the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office posted on its Facebook site. “This electrified the boom lift, electrocuting Coach Crum. The coach’s wife then attempted to aid him, and was also electrocuted. Their son also attempted to help the two, and he was electrocuted and injured.”

The couple died at the scene. Chase was hospitalized and later released.

Your Own Safety Must Come First
When seeing a loved one in distress, the instinct is to rush in to help. But when the distress is a result of contact with electricity, that is the wrong move.

Touching a person who is still in contact with an electrical source may pass the current through you—and you cannot help if you become another victim.

First responders to an accident involving downed power lines on the ground, draped across a car or touching a piece of equipment also face the possibility of a deadly electric shock.

Electricity can be an invisible killer.

You do not have to touch a live wire to suffer serious electrical injury or death.In fact, you can be electrocuted by just walking within 35 feet of a downed power line because of “step potential.”

That term refers to the difference in voltage in energized ground. Electricity spreads through the ground in invisible rippling rings, like a stone dropped in water. The voltage is highest in the ring closest to the power source. It dissipates to progressively lower voltages the further out it goes.

If someone steps from one voltage ring to another, electricity can surge through them—up one leg, through their body and down through their other leg.

A person whose body connects two different voltage points completes the circuit and becomes the path for the current.

A human hand touching someone who is in contact with a live wire and the ground completes the circuit. The same is true of a television antenna, a metal ladder, an irrigation pipe, a damp wooden pole or a tall piece of machinery.

Failure to notice high-voltage power lines can be a deadly oversight.

An asphalt truck operator in Illinois made what could have been three deadly mistakes when he came in contact with 7,200 volts of electricity a few years ago.

The operator did not notice the overhead power lines when he raised the truck bed and stepped to the back of the truck to clean the tailgate area. As electricity coursed through his body, he was blown away from the truck into a ditch. He got up to go back to the truck to retrieve something, and was shocked a second time. He made another attempt, and again was blown away from the truck.

“Believe it or not he survived,” says Steve Hancock, vice president of electric distribution for Corn Belt Energy Corp. and presenter of the live line electrical safety demonstration for the Bloomington, Indiana, cooperative.

If Possible, Stay In the Car
In accidents that bring down power lines, instinct tells us to flee danger. However, unless the vehicle is in imminent risk of catching on fire, it is best to stay in your vehicle, call 911 and wait for help.

“Knowing what actions to take to stay safe can make the difference between life and death,” says Molly Hall, executive director of the Energy Education Council and its Safe Electricity program. “After any car wreck, it is natural for people to want to get out of the car. However, when the wreck involves a power pole, that is the exact wrong thing to do.”

If you are involved or come upon an accident involving toppled power poles and lines, don’t leave your vehicle.

Although the inclination is to step in and help the injured, if the line is energized and you step out of the car, your body becomes the path for the electricity, and you can be electrocuted.

Similarly, you can be shocked while standing outside the vehicle and tending to an accident victim. That is because the voltage in the ground may be lower than the voltage in the vehicle.

Wait for trained assistance to arrive or you could become an additional victim.

While downed lines can sometimes show they are live with electricity by arcing and sparking, this is not always the case. Live power lines do not always show signs such as arcing or sparking. Treat all downed lines as energized.

If the vehicle is on fire—or you smell gas, and have reason to believe the car is going to ignite—jump from the vehicle, with both feet hitting the ground at the same time. Do not run or merely step out, and do not touch the vehicle and the ground at the same time. Hop or shuffle to safety, keeping both feet together as you leave the area so one foot won’t be in a higher voltage zone than another.

Stepping from one voltage level to another allows the body to become a path for the electricity. A large difference in voltage between both feet could kill you.

Knowing this can mean the difference between life and death.

Oh Mama, Here They Come

Thursday, April 25th, 2019

No member of the Red Hot Mamas is left behind in the troupe, including 90-year-old Ruth McDermid in the rumble seat. Since 1991, members of the organization have
been dancing and doing monthly community service projects.
Photos courtesy of Red Hot Mamas

These red hot performers keep crowds happy with flamboyance and radiance

Mikki Stevens slips into a floral muumuu and carefully plasters on too much makeup. She is ready to perform in a parade with three dozen other women in her northern Idaho dance troupe, the Red Hot Mamas.

Pushing shopping carts—sometimes walkers—and dancing with mops or pink flamingo inner tubes nestled on their hips, the women flaunt their flamboyant outfits and flash radiant smiles.

They laugh as much as spectators do along parade routes throughout the Northwest. They have performed for two presidential inaugurations, three Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parades, college football bowl games and television shows.

“Our latest fun was doing a precision marching routine with silver mops to the song ‘76 Trombones,’” says Mikki, 70, president and choreographer for the Red Hot Mamas.

Mikki devotes her time to the troupe after she gets off work teaching public speaking at North Idaho College.

Based in Coeur d’Alene, the Mamas launch their spring parade season
May 18, performing at the Lilac Armed Forces Torchlight Parade in Spokane, Washington.

“Our surprises for this year might be vacuum cleaners or chopper walkers, sort of like a motorcycle chopper only done on walkers,” Mikki says. “We’ll attach handlebars, tailpipes, motorcycle accessories and costume our traditional muumuus with a motorcycle theme.”

Besides dancing down a parade route, the Mamas provide motivational speakers and perform at fundraisers, assisted living centers, churches and “for anyone who won’t call the cops,” Mikki says.

“We’re zany entertainers and opposition overcomers,” she adds.

Seeing onlookers’ expressions and hearing them laugh, the Mamas know they have achieved their trademarked mission: “Dedicated to exploitation of merriment and enhancement of the ridiculous.”

The troupe’s performance director, Deborah Miranda, 47, says she strives to make eye contact with her audience.

“It’s hard to describe the looks on people’s faces when they see us coming down the street,” she says. “Our amazing costumes, choreography and the crazy music just puts us off the charts. When you see people’s faces light up, you can change their lives for just one little moment. I love, love, love it.”

Deborah, operations manager of Northwest Tile and Floors in Coeur d’Alene, says she became a Mama in 2014 because she wanted to perform in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade.

As they dance, it is hard to tell who enjoys it more—spectators or the Mamas who connect with their audience.

“Laughter, happy tears, heartfelt joy—those are the things the audiences get from us, but those are the very same things we get from our audiences,” says Karen Welts, 74, a Mama for 22 years.

Karen joined the Mamas in 1997 after retiring as a commercial insurance agent and seeing the women in a Memorial Day parade.

A Nagging Question
Mikki launched the nonprofit troupe in 1991 after she and her husband, Dennis, moved back to their hometown of Coeur d’Alene. Facing her 40s, a timeless question nagged at her.

Is that all there is?

They had lived throughout the West and Alaska. Dennis worked in restaurants and construction. Mikki was a dancer, fitness trainer, body builder, actress and voice animator of several roles, including the teenage Pebbles, the famed Flintstones’ daughter.

To answer her question, Mikki says she envisioned a humorous entertainment and community service ensemble—one where women could “play dress up,” she says. “Dance. Sing. Hug. Wear too much makeup and too many rhinestones. Resurrect dreams. Explore gifts and talents barely imagined. Change the world by spreading hope, humor, light and joy.”

She placed an ad in a local newspaper, inviting women to embrace her vision and perform in a Fourth of July parade. Forty like-minded ladies auditioned, and the Red Hot Mamas came to life.

Ranging in age from 18 to 90, the Mamas have survived life challenges of cancer, joint replacements and loss of loves ones—yet they still manage to smile.

Mikki lives with cancer—a constant reminder to herself to live intensely every day. She attributes her energy and creativity to her spiritual beliefs.

“God’s love walked me through deep depression and cancer,” she says of her incurable follicular lymphoma. “Once you have it, you always have it. Treatments can knock it back. Oncologists don’t call it remission but say, ‘Watch and wait,’ which is good.”

Long-Distance Mamas
Not all Mamas live in northern Idaho. Long-distance members watch a video, practice, then meet at an event.

“We had a group from Texas dance with us,” Mikki says. “The girls choose which events they want to perform in and commit to those rehearsals. We’ve taken close to 80 Mamas to the two presidential inaugurations.”

They rehearse twice a week at donated parking lots and a dance studio at Spokane Valley Jazzercise. Monthly membership costs $20. The annual costume fee ranges from $100 to $150.

Mikki emphasizes the Mamas’ main purpose is community service.

“Every month, we perform for a fund-raiser or help an individual,” she says. “The big shows are dazzling and bring smiles of joy to countless people, but our steadfast underlying mission is the boots-on-the-ground service to help others.”

Gadgets Galore

Monday, April 8th, 2019

Smart and Secure Is Just the Start
Watch packages get delivered from work, monitor your pets, keep an eye on the baby crib at night and play back time-lapse videos in crystal-clear resolution from your smartphone with the rechargeable, wireless Wyze Cam 1080p HD.
The camera’s magnetic base includes an adhesive plate that makes it easy to mount. It can be stacked, rotated, twisted and turned in almost any direction to get just the right view. Barely bigger than a tennis ball, its modern design makes it a friendly, non-invasive addition that can be tucked anywhere indoors.
Wyze Cam works seamlessly with Alexa and responds to commands such as, “Alexa, show me the kids’ room” so you can keep an eye on any place you’re monitoring. It also includes smoke alarm and carbon monoxide alerts that are sent straight to your phone.
Wyze Cam has 30-foot night vision, includes motion and sound detection, and comes with a 6-foot charging cable. It includes cloud storage and is compatible with iOs 8.0 and Android 5.0.
Available on Amazon for $25.98.


Stay Safely Charged With Weego22
No power? No problem. Next time you’re road tripping and the battery dies, there’s no need to wait for roadside assistance or a passerby with cables. Weego22 comes to the rescue.

As a multipurpose jump starter, Weego22 can jumpstart 5-liter-plus gas engines and 2.5-liter-plus diesels in minutes. It has ATVs and motorcycles covered too.

Weego22’s inventors created it using safely designed Smarty Clamps that tell you if you’re not connecting it right. It will only do the jumpstart job if connected correctly, so you don’t have to worry about things igniting that aren’t supposed to. Weego22 has a built-in anti-spark feature, and overheat and power surge protection.

What if the car dies in the dark? Weego22 has a built-in LED flashlight with strobe and SOS modes to help you see clearly and flag down help in a risky situation.

The benefits don’t stop there. If you’re camping or working from your laptop while adventuring and your mobile device dies, you will likely need a more convenient way to charge devices than by burning car fuel. The Weego22 includes a USB port so you can charge your phone, laptop or tablet.

Available on Amazon for $72.44.


Perfect Your Garnishing Skills
If you are a culinary artist who relishes in entertaining the eyes and taste buds, this simple tool is likely to become an indispensable kitchen aid. The TRRUT Salad Cutter transforms carrots, melons, apples and more into gorgeous spirals and floral designs, providing the perfect accents for party platters, fruit salads and centerpieces. Place your fruit in the center of the cone, rotate the TRRUT clockwise like a pencil sharpener and watch the thin, floral-like slices emerge.

This little fruit-sculptor also multipurposes as a peeler and shredder, which makes it a functional, practical, artistic tool.

TRRUT’s fruit cutter is made with a rust-resistant stainless steel blade that is easy to clean.

Available on Amazon for $7.99


This Smart Clock Keeps You Cool
Don’t let this little gadget’s size fool you. This USB Mini Flexible Time Clock Fan boasts an LED real-time clock display and pumps out enough air to keep you cool at the office on a hot summer day.

Its compact size makes it convenient without taking up desk space—it plugs into a USB port. No additional batteries are needed. It will even plug into your laptop’s USB port, so if you’re blogging on the beach, you have a built-in, low-power-consumption cooler to fan you while you work.

The fan’s long, flexible neck is sturdy and bendable so the breeze can be conveniently directed. The fan blades are soft, eliminating the risk of unlucky encounters. If you’re looking for an easy, at-a-glance time display and you like quirky, cool gadgets, the Mini Flexible Time Clock is a fun addition.

Available on Amazon for $11.89


An Aptly Named Cooler
Whether you’re a social butterfly or prefer to lie low, partying just got a whole lot cooler for everyone with the Coolest Cooler on board.

The Coolest is made for rugged transport with its shock-proof material, durable wheels and slide-out carry handle. It has a built-in speaker and plug in that can stream up to eight hours of nonstop tunes.

These hard-shell coolers come with a choice of three lid designs: a rechargeable blender lid, an ice-crushing rechargeable blender lid and an 8.4-watt solar-powered lid to boost blender and speaker power. The solar top doubles as a bar table. This cooler also includes a built-in USB charger.

This all-in-one ice chest packs a magnetic bottle opener, corkscrew, four plastic picnic plates, a ceramic knife, a built-in safety case to store valuables while you splash in the surf, and a built-in bungee net for hauling gear. The Coolest reportedly keeps ice frozen for up to five days.

Available from and the starting at $249.99

Little Free Libraries

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Children check out books available at a Little Free Library in Mountlake Terrace, Washington.

Sprinkled around the world are little houses of joy for book lovers, hiding treasures waiting to be discovered—and the treasures are free. Just open the door and select a book.

The houses—known as Little Free Libraries—are the initiative of a nonprofit organization that inspires a love of reading and sparks creativity by fostering neighborhood book exchanges around the world.

There are more than 75,000 Little Free Libraries in all 50 states and 88 countries. Through these libraries, readers exchange millions of books each year, profoundly increasing access for bibliophiles of all ages and backgrounds.

Teacher Todd H. Bol created the first Little Free Library in 2009 to share books with his neighbors. The response was so overwhelming. Todd crafted a vision for a community-led grassroots movement. Todd built it in honor of his mother, a schoolteacher and lifelong reader. When he placed the structure in his Hudson, Wisconsin, front yard, Todd saw the take a book, share a book concept resonate with his neighbors, and he began shaping a vision to bring Little Free Libraries to the rest of the world.

After teaming with Rick Brooks, a community-minded outreach program manager at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Todd dreamed up a big goal: to build 2,510 Little Free Libraries—one more than the 2,509 public libraries created by Andrew Carnegie.

In May 2012, Todd and Rick established Little Free Library as a 501(c)(3) organization. Today, there Little Free Library book exchanges around the world, including the Netherlands, Brazil, Japan, Australia, Ghana and Pakistan.

Your Little Free Libraries
Ruralite invited readers to share stories and pictures of their Little Free Libraries. We bring some of those stories to you here. If you missed the chance to share here, you can still share your story and photos on our Facebook page at, or on Instagram #RuraliteLFL.
To find a Little Free Library in your neighborhood, or start your own, visit here.


Remembering a Friend
The library in front of our house in La Grande, Oregon, is dedicated to the memory of Thelma Hansen, a resident on our street for more than 40 years. She owned a bookstore and was an advocate for reading. In July 2014, the opening of the little library was celebrated by a crowd of neighbors and friends, including two of Thelma’s daughters. My son, Zachary—who built the little library for me as a Christmas gift—was on hand for the installation. The books to fill the library were donated by many people. Five years later, hundreds of volumes for children and adults have been exchanged at the library. I think Thelma would be honored, as she loved books and did everything she could to promote reading.

— Carol Lauritzen
La Grande, Oregon


Our Little Free Library Story
We first encountered a Little Free Library while visiting our daughter in Edmonds, Washington. We thought it was a great idea, so our Little Free Library booksharing box was installed in our rural neighborhood in summer 2014. It is registered in the National Little Free Library organization, Charter No. 23054.

The theory behind Little Free Libraries is to “take a book, return a book.” My husband initially built a small house for all of our library books. Several neighbors helped with the painting—bright colors to catch the eye—installation and book donations for the Little Free Library. It was a neighborhood project.

After a few weeks, we noticed a little boy trying to reach the library door. I looked at my husband and said, “We need to build a children’s library.” He built a second house and installed it on a shorter post next to the adult section. Now the kids can reach the door latch and the books are at their eye level.

We decorate for the season or holidays. It is designed to make every age feel welcomed and encouraged to come take a look.

Kids on bikes are common visitors. Walkers, joggers, bikers, children, and dogs stop by to check it out. Someone has even placed a geocache in the library, and painted rocks decorate the ground nearby.

New books are picked up at the local library sales so books already read can be replaced.

There is a notebook in the library for comments and reviews. Several neighbors, including the kids, have said they appreciate the library. It’s a great place to meet neighbors and make new friends.

We have great neighbors and everyone seems to watch over the library and help maintain it. We encourage visitors to the neighborhood to check out the books and spread the word.

—Nancy and Mike Valentine
West Richland, Washington


Seasonal Reading
Three Little Free Libraries— located along the Valdez Small Boat Harbor in Alaska—were created collaboratively by the Valdez Consortium Library and the city of Valdez Parks Maintenance Department, with permission from the city of Valdez Port Department. The libraries are stocked with donated books from the community of Valdez and maintained by the Valdez Consortium Library. The libraries are open late May to early September.
—Sharon Scheidt
Valdez, Alaska


Community Center Look-a-Like
This is our Little Free Library in Alfalfa, Oregon. My husband, Mel, built it to look like our community center, which is where we placed it. We live about 15 miles east of Bend, where a lot of people do not have access to the public library, but like to read. I try to change the books frequently. I also try to include children’s books and sometimes movies.
—Diana and Mel Asher
Alfalfa, Oregon


Little Library Fills a Void
My daughter, Heather Davenport, was helping her grandparents deliver Meals on Wheels when she was introduced to the novelty of Little Free Libraries. Their route took them through several neighborhoods in the community. Her grandparents pointed out the libraries as they passed.

Heather was intrigued by the characteristics and unique personalities of each library. Inspired, she embarked on a scavenger hunt across town to visit other Little Free Libraries. She discovered there was no library near our home outside Bend, Oregon.

Heather wanted to make a library for our neighborhood. She scoured thrift stores for materials that could be repurposed and up-cycled to build the library. With the help of her father and grandfather, the parts were modified, painted and weatherproofed. Her vision became a reality.

She called out to family and friends for book donations. The shelves soon were stocked, and her Little Free Library was born.

Heather took care to place the library on a sturdy fence post in view of the road at a spot where it was safe to pull off. She adorned her library with lights to provide visibility and illumination during the winter. It did not take long before the library was discovered and the activity began.

Heather went off to college last fall but her library lives on. I have taken over as custodian of the library while Heather is away at school. Her brother brings books in from out of state to trade.

Heather continues to enjoy visiting her library when she is home on break to see what is new. She hoped the books would provide entertainment, knowledge, vicarious adventure and companionship to patrons of the library.

Imagine what stories the books could tell, beyond the print on their pages. Where have they come from? Where will they go from here?
—Lyn Davenport
Bend, Oregon


Hailey Russell’s Little Free Library hangs on the side of Irwin Drug in Grangeville, Idaho.

Little Free Library Born From Grangeville Senior Project

By Lorie Palmer

A walk on the Boise Greenbelt in the spring of 2017 changed the course of Hailey Russell’s senior project.

“I was leaning toward planting trees, but when I saw this little library on a walk with my sister, I knew it was something I wanted to do,” says Hailey, 19, who graduated from Grangeville High School in May 2018.

In September 2017, Hailey’s own Little Free Library was placed on the wall of Irwin Drug, facing Heritage Square and Main Street in Grangeville, Idaho.

Lenora Akin of Lenora’s Custom Cabinets was a mentor through the project, as well as Hailey’s family.

“I cannot thank Lenora enough for all she did with cutting, and piecing and building,” Hailey says. “And for letting me use all her great power tools.”

When Irwin Drug owner Chad Jungert heard about Hailey’s project, he was quick to offer his outer wall for a hanging space.

“I also want to thank Chad for allowing the Little Free Library to be on his building. It’s a great, accessible, visible space,” Hailey says.

She added cameras around the area to aid in halting vandalism.

Hailey filled her library with books from thrift stores, yard sales and her own home.

“My mom and older sister were both English majors—we have a lot of books. A lot,” she says.

The selection includes classics, popular fiction, nonfiction, young adult and children’s books. People are invited to take books and leave a book for someone else.

“I want there to be something for anyone who stops by,” Hailey says.

As for her own reading tastes, well, she said, it may be a bit surprising.

Ironically, Hailey is not a big reader.

“I did not like the accelerated reading program in elementary school where you had to read and take tests constantly,” she says. “It made me dislike reading.”

Despite her opinion of reading, Hailey says she understands its importance.

“My dad reads the newspaper every single day,” she says. “My mom read to my sister and me all the time. I like the idea of people having a book option when the library isn’t open, or they don’t have money to purchase one.”

And, she says she does have a few favorites of her own.

These include “Lemony Snicket’s A Series of Unfortunate Events,” “The Hunger Games” and John Green books such as “The Fault in Our Stars.”

“When I am not forced to read—quantity over quality—I enjoy it more,” she says.

Hailey lives in Nampa and attends the College of Western Idaho, where she is studying business. When she was home in Grangeville for Christmas break, she added a few books to the library.

“It makes me happy to see people use it,” Hailey says. “A lot of people tell me how much they enjoy it, and that makes me feel good.”


The Shape of Things

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Geometric shapes are all around us. Notice the rectangles, circles and triangles present in everyday life.
Photos by David LaBelle

Ever travel to a zoo with an architect? While you are busy looking at the living creatures—birds, animals, fish and reptiles—they are admiring the design of the enclosure. I remember a visit to an aquarium at the Oregon coast. The volunteer went on and on about the magnificent enclosure and the architect.

People have different interests and see different things. One person’s trash is another’s treasure, and beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

As we go about our busy lives, few of us give much thought to geometrical shapes—circles and squares, pyramids and rectangles. Unless we are architects, we likely don’t appreciate or even notice the many shapes that form our world.

It can be like that traveling with a graphically aware photographer who sees design or beauty in everything. My wife is like that. Rarely do we walk long before she stops and studies a leaf, a twisted branch or a creature’s nest. She lives in constant awe of nature.

Like me, she is a photography teacher, but her background is in art. One of her favorite assignments is to ask her students to take a walk with their camera and find shapes like circles, squares, diamonds or rectangles.

Just like an exercise to strengthen your eye muscles, this assignment is like removing blinders from a horse so they can see beyond what is just in front of them. Students are enthralled by the geometric shapes they have passed by, often without noticing.

As with light, geometric shapes can influence our mood and affect the way we see and feel, usually subtly.

People attending a church service in an elaborate, ornate cathedral with tall ceilings and stained-glass windows say they feel closer to God.

The aware photographer sees things others pass by and don’t or cannot see. Some photographers, like some artists, see light and shape wherever they are. It’s as though they cannot help seeing shapes any more than some breeds of dogs can keep from herding cattle or sheep.

Wry, visually witty photographer Elliot Erwitt tells of returning to his New York City office and sharing with colleagues how he had been out photographing the arrow on the side of the FedEx truck.

“What arrow?” they asked. “There wasn’t an arrow on the sides of those trucks.”

His image proved them wrong.

When teaching about composition, one of my favorite sayings is the stage you build is in the viewfinder while waiting for the performance to begin. Being a documentary photographer who hungers for storytelling moments, foregrounds and backgrounds are shapes—pieces of that stage. While I am far more interested in the performance than the stage, I am reminded to be more aware of both.

If you are feeling energetic and want to exercise your seeing, take a walk with your camera on a photo scavenger hunt for geometric shapes. You likely will encounter shapes you did not see before.

David LaBelle is an internationally known photographer, teacher, author and lecturer. He has worked for newspapers and magazines across the U.S. and taught at three universities. For more information, visit

A Love of Rocks

Monday, March 25th, 2019

Knowing the rules is just as important as knowing the rocks when rock hounding. For example, with only a couple of exceptions, rock and fossil collecting is strictly prohibited at national parks and national monuments. Always check with federal, state and local agencies before collecting on those lands. Also, get permission before accessing private property.
Photo by Curtis Condon

There is at least a pebble of rockhound in all of us. Who hasn’t picked up an agate, a piece of quartz, or some other colorful or oddly shaped rock as a keepsake?

Most of us are happenstance rockhounds. We pick up rocks we discover along trails or streams while doing something else, such as camping, hiking or swimming. We may not even know the names of the rocks that find their way into our pocket for the trip home.

It’s sort of like bringing the outdoors indoors, one memento at a time.

Uncle Bob was a serious rockhound—a regular Yukon Cornelius, the prospector in the animated Christmas classic, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”

Out of nowhere once, Uncle Bob spotted a fresh rockfall, slammed on the brakes and scrambled atop the pile with his rock hammer. When he came up empty-handed, you could almost read the disappointment on his face: “Nothin’ .”

The West is a haven for rockhounds of all stripes. Beautiful, interesting and sometimes valuable gems and minerals can be found throughout the region.

North Idaho is home of the rare star garnet. Eastern Oregon is famous for its fossils and thunder eggs. Nevada has some of the finest opals. Gold and silver are found in every state, from Alaska to California.

The wonderful thing about rockhounding is you can do it almost anywhere. Even serious enthusiasts need only a few simple tools and a good field guide.

For more information about rocks you can find in your area, contact a local rockhounding club or the Bureau of Land Management. They also can inform you of any requirements or restrictions to be aware of when rock hunting.

Three Fishing Basics We Sometimes Forget

  • Time of day. It can have a big impact on fishing success. Early morning and just before dusk are optimal times.
  • Bait selection and retrieve rate. Match one with the other, and make sure the bait you’re using is the prey of the day for the species of fish you are after. It should also match the location and time of year you are fishing.
  • Where fish congregate. Fish tend to congregate near food and security. For example, rainbow trout prefer the edges of riffles, upstream from deep pools. The riffles are a source of food and oxygen, and provide rocks and other cover where fish can rest out of the current. Pools provide refuge during the heat of the day or when trout feel threatened.

How to Get the Wet Out
After a soggy day of hiking, stuff each hiking boot with newspapers to absorb moisture. Replace the newspapers when they start to get soaked.
To prevent cracking, avoid drying leather boots too fast, such as in the sun, in front of a heater vent or by using a blow dryer on high heat.

What’s Special About April

  • National Kite Month
  • Keep America Beautiful Month

Got a Tip or a Whopper?
Send us your favorite outdoor tip, photo or story. If selected for publication, we will send you $25 for one-time use. Email your submission to gro.etilarurnull@ofni.

Many of Curtis Condon’s fondest memories involve outdoor adventures with friends and family, whether fishing with old school buddies, backpacking in the mountains of the Northwest with his sons, or bird watching along the coast with his wife. He feels fortunate having the opportunity to write about the outdoors and other subjects for more than 30 years.

All Aboard the Tooth Taxi

Monday, March 25th, 2019

The Tooth Taxi on the road in Eastern Oregon.

Mobile clinic provides free dental care to uninsured children

Amber Fowler remembers the teenage girl who wouldn’t smile and would hide her mouth behind her hands when she spoke.

“Being a teen is hard, and if you’re not confident it’s even worse,” says Amber, executive director of the Dental Foundation of Oregon. “When she got her teeth fixed, she started smiling again.”

The girl got her smile back thanks to the Tooth Taxi—a mobile clinic that delivers free dental care to Oregon’s neediest children. The Dental Foundation’s “rock star bus” is a 38-foot tricked-out motor home with a full-time dentist and two assistants who provide dental care and oral health education to low-income and uninsured children.

Created through a partnership with the Oregon Education Association Choice Trust, Moda Health and the Dental Foundation of Oregon, the Tooth Taxi is funded by foundations, corporations and individual donations.

The Centers for Disease Control found that in 2015-2016, about 43 percent of children ages 2 to 19 had cavities—down from 50 percent four years earlier. For children living below the federal poverty line, rates showed no decrease. While 52 percent of poor kids had cavities in 2015-2016, 34 percent of children from higher-income families had cavities.

Tooth Taxi Program Manager Carrie Peterson says she sees these facts reflected in children nearly every day. She worked as a dental assistant for 16 years and volunteered with the Tooth Taxi before becoming its program manager.

In 10 years, the Tooth Taxi has treated more than 20,000 children and traveled 76,000 miles across Oregon’s 100,000 square miles. Since it took to the road in 2008, the Tooth Taxi has visited more than 400 schools and community sites and donated $7.2 million in dental services.

“We’ve been to every county in the state,” Amber says.

The taxi spends a week at each school, providing dental cleanings, sealants, X-rays, fillings, extractions and minor oral surgery to dozens of children, many of whom have never been to the dentist.

“We go to their school—a place that’s familiar and comfortable,” says Carrie. “The bus is colorful, and we have prizes and stickers and TVs on the ceilings.”

The taxi team is often accompanied by dentistry students from Oregon Health and Science University, volunteer dentists, hygienists, dental assistants and volunteers from schools the taxi serves.

In classrooms, the team leads lessons on the importance of oral health. According to Mayo Clinic researchers, oral health can be an indicator of whole-body health. The mouth is full of bacteria, but the body’s natural defenses—combined with daily brushing and flossing—keep the bacteria in balance. Without proper oral hygiene, bacteria can reach levels that lead to tooth decay and gum disease, which can contribute to cardiovascular disease and other ailments.

Each school is given a stack of colorful children’s books on oral health, which teachers can use to reinforce what the youngsters have learned. Each child also receives a toothbrush, toothpaste and floss.

For the Tooth Taxi team, this practical approach is the key to changing routines and improving lives.

Children from low-income families in rural areas are especially vulnerable because they often can’t afford treatment and have limited access to care.

“There are not as many providers, and for those on assistance, they often have to go to the next town for a provider that will accept their health plan,” Carrie says. “Many people don’t have the transportation to get to the next town.”

Even everyday habits such as brushing can be hampered without the money to buy toothpaste.

“It’s so important to visit the rural areas,” Amber says, noting that 20 percent of Oregon’s population lives in rural or hard-to-reach communities.

Carrie remembers one case where a 10-year-old boy couldn’t eat because chewing hurt too much.

“He told us he couldn’t eat salad,” she says, “and I thought that might be the best meal he would eat all day.”

The team repaired the boy’s teeth and restored his ability to eat.

“For us, it’s a simple thing,” Carrie says. “For him, it changed his life.”

Dresses for African Girls

Monday, February 25th, 2019

Readers help turn retirement into a charitable cause

After more than 40 years of working in the food and pharmacy industries, Ron and Bobbi Thomson retired in 2013. Eager to find something they could pour their time and energy into, the Redmond, Oregon, natives decided to take an annual trip dedicated to a worthy cause.

It wasn’t long before Bobbi found a charitable cause that has completely derailed the couple’s retirement plans in a wonderful way.

“I was looking for something to do in my retirement and I heard about making dresses for needy girls in Africa on the TV,” Bobbi says. “I thought to myself, ‘I can make dresses out of pillow cases!’”

Bobbi, who spent the 12 years leading to her retirement working as a pharmacy technician, searched the internet and discovered Little Dresses for Africa online. The nonprofit organization is dedicated to providing relief for impoverished children in Africa and anywhere extreme poverty persists.

The organization offers easy-to-follow instructions on its website for making simple-patterned dresses out of pillowcases. Pillowcases are used because of their variety of colors, pre-sewn hems and side seams and their general availability.

The organization collects and distributes the homemade dresses to girls and young women living in Africa and other impoverished regions of the world.

These small tokens of compassion are just part of the organization’s numerous relief efforts, which include providing clean water, routine medical services and other supplies.

“My heart has always gone out to the poorest of the poor,” Bobbi says. “When I heard about Little Dresses for Africa, I just thought it was a wonderful idea. I could see a little girl putting on a dress that reached her ankles. I could see them growing up in the dresses and the dresses eventually turning into shirts. It’s something simple they can use for years, and I knew how to sew. We’ve been doing it ever since.”

In 2015, the Thomsons decided to make the charity an important part of their lives. They converted an apartment attached to their home into a sewing workshop and pledged to make 2,015 dresses in commemoration of the year.

Needing raw materials to achieve their lofty goal, the couple placed an ad in Ruralite magazine, asking readers to donate pillowcases, fabric, string and other sewing materials.

“The day the magazine hit my mailbox, we had people showing up in our driveway, donating box after box of supplies,” Bobbi says. “They just kept coming. We were getting 15 to 25 boxes a day. It just mushroomed, and I was shocked by how many generous people there were.”

Thanks to the overwhelming support they received, the Thomsons exceeded their 2015 goal. Since then, they have dedicated their lives to supporting Little Dresses for Africa full time.

“After we made that commitment in 2015, it just took off from there,” says Ron, who helps Bobbi with every aspect of their charity work and sews some of the dresses. “Since then, it’s become something we are both very passionate about. It’s fulfilling to help others, and there are a lot of people who benefit from good causes like these.”

The Thomsons have continued to manufacture dresses from their home, setting higher production goals each year.

To meet their self-imposed demands, they moved Bobbi’s workshop from the apartment to a decommissioned two-bedroom manufactured home in 2017. Her small workshop was transformed into much larger sewing factory with a manufacturing line. They produce 24 to 40 dresses a day and work upward of 80 hours a week.

Where many might find running such an operation a daunting task, the former small business owners are no strangers to the logistical challenges of organizing, packing and shipping their weekly deliveries to Little Dresses for Africa. They have exceeded their production goals each year.

“When I started making the pillowcase dresses, I really just wanted to help people and make their day just a little better,” Bobbi says. “Inside each box we ship out, there are 12 dresses. I like to imagine 12 smiles of little girls who might never own a dress if it wasn’t for organizations like this.”

In 2018, the Thomsons asked Ruralite for assistance again, this time asking for colorful T-shirts to ship with each dress. Magazine readers answered the call, and the Thompsons expect to produce more than 3,000 dresses with the materials donated in 2019.

“I really want to thank Ruralite for giving me my pay-it-forward avenue,” Bobbi says. “There is a lot of need in the world, but it’s amazing how many people are willing to help. All you have to do is ask.”