Friday, July 16, 2010

No Good Deed.....

No Good Deed…….

The old saying that states that “no good deed goes unpunished” has been around for a long time. My father first introduced it to me when I was very young. He was a helpful man. Seems like he was always trying to do things for people that needed one thing or another. And there was always something. But he insisted that the only way to get along in this world is by helping folks when they needed it. If someone needed to get a cow to the auction barn or chase down the hogs that found a break in the pen or get their old truck out of the mud, Mr. Clint was their man. He was quick to volunteer and never asked for any compensation for his kindness. But more than once I saw how his good deeds turned on him for his efforts. He was well familiar with the “no good deed goes unpunished” philosophy but still, he never hesitated to lend a hand. Like the time he was helping a perfect stranger when their old ‘55 Chevy pick up was hopelessly stuck in the mud. It was loaded down with firewood and was sunk deep into the Louisiana grey muck. Of course Dad was right in the middle of it trying to help. I watched as he used all the resources available, which was not much, to get some kind of traction to the rear tires so the truck could be coaxed out of it’s trap, which seemed to be trying to suck it even deeper into the muddy mess. He was making good progress, had managed to stabilize the truck with an antique jack and blocks of wood, so it would not sink any deeper. But as he attempted to dig the mud from under one of the wheels so he could place a board under it in order to get the needed traction to pull out, the old jack gave way and the entire weight of the truck and it’s load of firewood came smashing down on him, trapping his hand under the tire. It was obvious that he had to be in some serious pain, but amazingly enough he remained calm and told me exactly what to do. I did as he instructed and in a few minutes his hand was free. He never slowed down or complained. He just went back to work until the truck and the man were safely on their way. His hand was swollen and turned different shades of blue and red, but amazingly enough was not broken.
So it was on this day in the Land of Beautiful Horses, Cappadocia, Turkey that I got a reminder about how true the old saying can be. Joy and I were having a wonderful day exploring all the beautiful and historical gifts that this land has to offer. We were up at 3:45 in the morning to join Sancho, our Spanish balloon pilot, and 16 other lucky people for a once in a lifetime hot air balloon ride over the amazing landscape that draws thousands of visitors each year. We met the crew at the hangar and were at the launch site setting up by 5am. The paying passengers showed up a few minutes later in a small van, had tea and cookies, and watched in awe as the 350,000 cubic foot balloon came to life. And by 5:45, all were on board along with Joy and I waving goodbye to the crew as the earth slowly dropped away. The launch area sits in a valley surrounded by fairy chimneys, strange and beautiful vertical rock formations that were created over thousands of years of sculpting by the wind and rain in this high desert region. They stand as silent sentinels guarding the secrets of this sacred land that has been inhabited by humans for over 8,000 years. Some 2,000 years ago, Christianity was born and nourished here where the people literally carved out homes and churches in the soft tuffa rocks that were created by dying volcanoes. These dwellings kept them safe from Persians and others who aimed to do them harm and crush their religion. And now, as the sun began to spread it’s soft light onto the rocks on the far side of the valley, our very own ancient magic carpet, in the form of a not so modern hot air balloon, slowly drifted over and among the rocks below. Sancho is probably the best balloon pilot flying here in Cappadocia. And there are a lot of them. On any given day there are between 40 and 60 balloons taking as many as 1,000 passengers a day for their magical history tour. But Sancho loves to fly and is there to give folks their money’s worth. Some of the balloons will take off and go high and stay there the entire flight. That’s the easy thing to do, but very boring after just a few minutes. With Sancho, the difference is like watching a movie, and being in the movie. We began to drift toward the first set of rock towers. Sancho read the unpredictable winds in the valley perfectly. By adjusting the altitude of the balloon slightly up or down, he found the right river of wind to take us down among the giant rocks. We glided effortlessly past the towers, often looking up to see the tops. We could almost reach out and touch the many cave houses embedded in the rock canyon walls. We brushed the very tops of ancient grape vines on the canyon floor that were loaded with small green fruit, which Sancho was quick to point out, would later be made into wine or champagne. It was amazing. I enjoyed watching the other passengers and Joy as they expressed their reactions in different ways. A young couple from Peru rode quietly, but smiling and holding each other lovingly. A family from France, a man, his wife and two small children, were talking quietly among themselves as they took turns pointing out what they were seeing. A small group of people from Spain were getting the grand tour from Sancho, since they could understand each other. And a group of Japanese tourists that were so excited and taking so many photos that I thought their Fuji’s and Sony’s were going to explode any second.
As we watched in awe while the scenes continuously changed, I noticed a well worn trail cutting through the narrow canyon that was the beginning of Rose Valley. From my bird’s eye view I could see clearly how the trail snaked it’s way around the fairy chimneys, through small vegetable gardens and fruit trees, and finally spilling into the larger valley. I followed the trail back up the canyon and saw where there was a small road leading to the head of the trail. The road took a few turns but eventually came out to the main highway near the Kaya Campground. I took a mental picture, trying to record the map in my mind and mentioned to Joy that we should come back and hike this trail.
Sancho apparently was more interested in visiting with his Spanish friends than flying. He got my attention and motioned for me to take over the controls. I climbed over the tall partition that separated the pilot from the passengers and Sancho climbed out and joined his new friends. After all, Spain had just won the World Cup the night before and there was apparently much to talk about. For those of you who do not keep up with such, the World Cup is the Olympics of football, or soccer as we call it in the U.S. It’s a really big deal. So for the next half hour, Sancho got to celebrate Spain’s victory and I got to fly the very big balloon. In the interest of time and space, I will save those details for another time. In short, I found a suitable landing place and the crew was there waiting to literally catch the giant balloon and set it on the trailer before we deflated.
Following the traditional after flight ceremony with a champagne toast, the happy passengers got on their bus and went on there way to discover more of Cappadocia by some other means. Now they would go visit some of the things they had surveyed from the air. For Joy and I it meant back to the apartment, fix breakfast, download some pics to the computer, and take the all important nap. Got to have the nap. Besides, it’s summer here and too danged hot for anything else. We agreed to stay in until later and then set about trying to find and then explore the little trail we had seen from the air. At a little after 5pm we found ourselves pulling off the main road at the Kaya Campground. I recalled the little mental map in my head that would show the way to the trailhead. We followed the stone wall around the campground on the little dirt road and took the first right hand fork. The road became much more narrow and bumpy and started a marked descent down into the canyon. A left turn and the road became steeper as I down shifted to first gear to keep the little Suzuki Jeep at a slow pace. I could tell Joy was getting a little nervous as the road got steeper and more bumpy She even asked, “are we going to be able to make it back up this road”. Just like a woman, worrying about future details right in the middle of having present fun. Of course I assured her that it would not be a problem. And, also of course, I later got a chance to eat those words, raw and unseasoned. We made it to the bottom and pulled right up to the trailhead and parked, ready and anxious to now explore the canyon we had seen from the air earlier in the day. I had my back pack with all the essentials, water, energy bars, camera, flashlight and long sleeve shirts. We were ready. As we stepped onto the trail, we met a young couple just coming off the trail, each pushing a mountain bike. We exchanged greetings and I asked about the trail. They said it was good, a little rough in spots, and long, explaining they had to walk or carry the bikes in some areas. They looked pretty tired so I offered them water. They had plenty. As we talked I was thinking about where they had to go from here. They had probably rented the bikes in Goerme, which was at least two miles away. That in itself was not bad, but then I remembered the little road. They had to go up on those bikes what we just come down in the jeep. How nice it would be just to take them up the hill and they could ride on into town from there. Would surely save them a lot of grief and sweat and I would get to do my good deed for the day. And I was sure they would be really grateful that I came to the rescue. Did I just say “good deed”? Well you know what comes next.
Anne and Anders are from Denmark and are just what you would expect. Young healthy, blonde, and very likable. So I went ahead and ask if they would like a lift to the top. Anders was all for it, but I could see that Anne was a little hesitant. After all, they had only met me three minutes earlier. But when Anders reminded her that his front tire was flat, she reluctantly agreed. The little jeep only has two front seats and a soft top. I opened the tailgate and put the two bikes inside but could not close the tailgate. No problem, we’ll just leave it open, the handle bars of one of the bikes was keeping it partially closed. Since there was not room for all of us, I suggested to Joy she stay behind and just relax for the five minutes it would take for me to get up the road and back. She agreed. Anders got in the passenger seat and Anne crawled in and sat on his lap. There was not much room and they were pretty cramped, but they didn’t seem to mind. Getting to the top of that steep, dusty, winding road would be worth a little discomfort for a few minutes. I jumped in the drivers seat, waved to Joy and reassured her I would be right back. Then we started up the hill. I guess I pretty much over estimated the power of the little jeep and way under estimated the wickedness of that dirty, dusty, little hill. The jeep began to struggle almost immediately. We made it around the first curve and shifted to first gear to give it all the power we could muster. The road was not only steep, but was full of washouts that were deep making me maneuver this way and that, trying to stay in the middle. To make matters worse, the road was covered in a layer of dust at least 3 or 4 inches thick, making traction even more difficult. Around the next curve and the road became even more steep. I could tell Anne was nervous the way she was gripping the hand hold on the dash with one hand and Anders with the other. But I was determined to help these kids out so on we went. The little jeep was struggling hard now to the point of stalling. We had made it up a fair distance, but had about the same amount yet to climb. And then the jeep just gave up. The engine died. Oh crap! And this thing has a bad habit of not starting after running a while. I slammed on the brake and tried to crank the engine. Nothing. The jeep started to slide backwards down the hill. I pulled up the emergency brake, but the steepness of the hill and the layer of dust created a sled effect and we were on our way down! Backwards! And fast! I tried to keep it straight but the washouts were having their way with the little jeep and we were now just along for the ride with no control. I tried to remain calm, Anders was being cool, and Anne, well she was freaking out. Not screaming or real loud, but some rapid fire questions all directed at me as to what I was going to do. The best response I could utter out of my gritted teeth as we continued to slide down the hill was, “hold on real tight”! One of the tires caught a wash out and drove the jeep toward the side of road where there was build up of dirt. The tires on the left side slammed into the mound causing the jeep to tip to the right, way right. The left front wheel left the ground as we finally came to a stop. Thank God! Well, for stopping anyway. But now the left front tire was in mid air and the jeep was leaning to the right, rocking gently back and forth, just on the edge of tipping over. Now Anne, bless her heart, was pretty much demanding an answer to her familiar and now very urgent question, “what do we do now?” In the calmest voice I could manage, I advised them to do nothing, do not even breathe. Each small movement made the jeep teeter totter in mid air. It was leaning so far to the right, it was impossible to attempt escape from their side. I felt like a tip over was imminent. In the coolest, calmest, Indiana Jones voice I could muster, I instructed them to brace against the right side of the jeep and keep their hands inside! We were at such a steep angle, I was afraid when it did tip over, it would not just fall on it’s side but actually trigger a roll all the way down the hill. It was not a pretty image in my head. Here I was, in Turkey, waiting, not so patiently to fly the very big balloons, and the whole adventure was about to end right here on this dirty dusty little road and just because I wanted to help these folks out. Now I was on the verge of causing them extreme bodily harm or even death. The old proverb rang out in my head loud and clear. What seemed like minutes, I’m sure was only a few seconds. The jeep continued to sway like a leaf in a gentle wind, final destination unknown. I tried to think of options while Anne, now on the verge of tears, continued to asked that nagging question….Anders was trying his best to reassure her. We could wait for help. Nope. That could be a long wait..and too late. I was having to hold on to my side of the jeep to keep my weight from drifting to the right. I asked Anne if she could slowly, very slowly, climb to my side of the jeep, hoping to take some of the leveraged weight from the right side. I managed to open my door as she made the long trip from Anders lap to mine, moving in slow motion to check what effect her movements would have on the balance of the jeep. So far, so good. I instructed her to crawl over me and to the outside of the jeep, but at the same time keeping as much of her weight on the left side of the jeep as possible. Once she got out, I asked Anders to do the same. I figured at least if I could get them out of the vehicle, if it rolled, they would be safe. Anders made the trip just as slowly and deliberately as Anne. With his weight moving now to my side of the jeep, it began a slow movement back to level. Once he was safely outside, I crawled out the door as all three of us kept as much weight on the jeep as we could manage. The little jeep responded by righting itself to the point that all four wheels were now touching solid ground. Well at least, in a mound of dirt and not thin air. We tried to push the jeep back onto the road, but it was no use. The left back tire was wedged. We assessed that I could now get back in and try to drive it out. The back tire just spun in place. Better late I guess than never, I remembered the jeep did have four wheel drive. Duh….if I had thought of that before I started up the hill, we would not be in this mess!…and if a frog had wings..he wouldn’t bump his butt when he jumped! But now with the four wheel drive engaged the little jeep dislodged itself and came to rest back in the middle of the road and pointed straight up the dirty little hill. We all took a collective sigh of relief. With the confidence of the four wheel drive engaged I suggested we all get back in a continue on up the hill. Anne, with wisdom way beyond her years, would have none of it. She was perfectly happy to walk up that dirty little hill, thank you very much. I think she figured she had had enough “help” from me for one day. Anders and I got back in the jeep and slowly crawled up the hill, with Anne keeping a safe distance behind. Shortly we had the worst of it behind us and Anders convinced Anne to get back in for the rest of the trip to the highway. We arrived at the Kaya Campground where we stopped and all got out. We started to unload the bikes, when I suggested that I just go ahead and take them on into town. It was at least another mile, but mostly down hill. With her most polite, and appreciative voice, Anne quickly declined, not giving Anders a chance to vote.
I told them I was so very sorry for scaring them that way. And I admitted that I was so sorry for scaring me that way. But we agreed that it turned out to be quite an adventure. Anne said she would probably even write about it in her dairy, but was not quite sure she would relay the story to her mother. And I mentioned to them I was pretty sure that the adventure would end up in my blog. I was very proud of them. In the face of very real danger, they remained very calm and helpful. I left them on the side of road, no worse for actual physical wear and tear, but I’m sure there will be at the least some emotional scarring.
I made my way back down the hill where Joy was waiting. As I drove I recalled the many times my Dad had gone out of his way to help someone, sometimes in a small way, and sometimes at critical times in their lives. Even though very often he found himself being “punished” for his good deeds, he never stopped offering and never stopped doing… to in some small way try and do the right thing and get along in this ole world by occasionally helping others. And I suppose I will continue to try my best to do the same.
P.S. Joy was waiting patiently at the trail head but did ask if I had any trouble making it up that dirty little hill. “Nope. Just had to put it in four wheel drive”, I replied.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010


Since we had a day off from flying I got to sleep a little bit later but was wide awake by 6 am. I lay there for a while trying to decide what to do with my day and after going over the options I settled on a nice long hike up in the hills behind my house here in Avanos, Turkey. I cooked some eggs, put them between a couple of pieces of toast and pretended it was an Egg McMuffin. You know you are in bad shape when you fantasize about McDonald’s food. By the time I got myself squared away it was almost 8 o’clock. I put a bottle of water in my pack and headed out the door.
I had every intention of spending the morning alone and enjoying the solitude that the hills had to offer. As fortune would have it, that would not be the case. She was waiting for me just around the corner. I really did not expect to ever see her again, since we had only spent a few casual hours together a couple of weeks ago. She lives just up the street on the way to the trail that leads up into the hills. At the time, I figured it was a one time deal. We had met on the street and even though we could not speak the same language, we just seemed to hit it off. She was quite friendly and I was needing some company. Not as pretty as some of the others I’d seen, but her frolicking personality more than made up for any cosmetic deficiency. I was glad I ran into her again , because I knew my day would be better for it. I’m not sure why she took a liking to me. Just one of those things I guess that you just can’t explain. But I think it was about the time that I started rubbing her belly that she pretty much fell in love with me. Since our language is so different, I just call her Camille. She is also real fond of me scratching her behind her ears. If you haven’t guessed by now, Camille is a short haired white dog with some black spots that without hesitation was once again volunteering to keep me company. And for the next four hours she did just that.
About the language thing. It’s true. I don’t speak dog and she doesn’t speak human. But I had to laugh way out loud when it finally dawned on me why Camille was not responding at all to any of the normal human to canine communication. She did not acknowledge “come here, or come see, or sic em”, or anything else I had to say. How silly of me, this is a Turkish dog and certainly, like all her human contacts except for me, does not have a clue what I am saying in English. But unlike the Turkish humans, Camille is much more accepting and forgiving of my communication skills.
Camille is real good company. In the four hours we spent together on this day, she never left my sight. Sometimes in her excitement to explore or chase a desert lizard or sniff out a hole in the ground she would get a little ahead of me. But never too far and I could not help but notice that even though she was really enjoying her romp, she kept a close eye on me. If I stopped to rest, she immediately returned to my side. If I sat down, she sat down. When I started walking again, she was off and running, checking out anything and everything that may lie in store ahead. I was glad she decided to come along.
Its was hot. The hottest day so far since I have been here. The dirt road we were following offered little protection from the sun. Every now and then we would come across a small tree or bush that cast just enough shade for me an Camille to share. The difference in temperature in the shade and in the sun is amazing. I’m sure it is at least 10 degrees or more cooler in the shade. This is what they call high desert and very similar to conditions in Idaho and Utah. The elevation at Avanos is around 3200 feet. It is a very dry climate with very low humidity. (Not missing that in Louisiana). The temperature was hitting the high eighties but the “feel” was more like the high nineties. It is so dry that you don’t notice the sweat because it evaporates almost immediately. Your clothes stay dry, but you are still loosing water. It is very dangerous and requires taking in lots of water.
The little road was a steady climb and I figured out later with my GPS that we gained 1000 feet in elevation on the hike. The view of the valley below was staggering. After walking a while, I could no longer hear the sounds of the town below. The landscape became a canvass an upon it lay the most magnificent creation. The valley stretched out for miles and because of the distance, became frozen. There was no movement that I could detect, although I knew the little town was as busy now as when I left it earlier in the day. The people were still at the market, the cars and the motorbikes were still breaking the speed limit and ignoring traffic signs. But I could not see any of that. I saw a picture, a portrait of a landscape formed millions of years ago and shaped by the life and death of three nearby volcanoes. And over the many years the portrait became more alive and disturbed by each civilization that came and went. But now at this moment, it just was what it was. A thousand years from now, it will be something different and will have taken on a new dimension to some poor soul lucky enough to be looking down on it as I was at this moment in time. I closed my eyes and tried to imagine what it might have looked like 10,000 years ago, right before humans first came to this area. The only similarity would be the sound of the wind. I know wind itself really makes no sound. It has to interact with something else to make it’s music. And at this moment I only heard the sounds created by the wind caressing what little that lay in it’s path. The tall grass on the rolling meadow makes a quiet rustling sound as the wind goes around and through it like a flowing river. The short grass and rocks ignore the intrusion and make no sound at all. The pine needles act like reeds in a musical instrument and play a melody that is much more distinct. It is a lonely sound, but at the same time creates a peacefulness deep within anyone lucky enough to hear it.
I knew I had made a mistake by not packing any food to carry along. I was reminded of that fact quiet vividly by the rumblings in my gut. I had resigned myself to the fact that once again I had not been real smart. It also brought to mind a way too familiar quotation from my old hippie buddy, Jim. He is very quick when the occasion arises, to tell me that “if you’re gonna be stupid, you gotta be tuff”. Point taken. Again.
As we approached a small grove of trees along the road, Camille suddenly left the road and ventured into the trees. I decided to follow, if for no other reason, because of the promise of some shade. But it was not just any ole trees. It was apple trees. Little green apples so heavy on the limbs, they appeared they would break at any moment. I was immediately concerned. If the limbs broke, the tree might die, or at least ruin the little apples. So the right thing for me to do was pretty obvious. I needed to relieve those limbs of some of it’s heavy burden. So I had apples for lunch. Like I said, they were small but just three of them helped me forget the stupid feeling and put a stop to the rumbling in my stomach. Camille and I rested under the trees and became quite content sitting there, just the two of us. But I knew we had to keep moving because the day was not gonna get any cooler. And we were only about halfway through the hike. So we moved on. I was starting to get a little sore and tired. But Camille just kept on scouting the trail ahead and investigating anything that caught her eye or nose. About an hour later we came to another stand of small trees. This time pears. Little tiny pears. But the sweetest I have ever tasted. Surely the owner of these lovely trees would not miss just a few of these delicious morsels.
We enjoyed the rest of our walk. Into the fourth hour I was getting pretty sore and was quietly hoping someone would come along and give me a ride. But that is one of the nice things about walking in these hills. You pretty much have them all to yourself. As we got closer to town, Camille seemed to get anxious. I guess she knew our time together was about to end. I’m sure that time did not mean quite as much to her as to me. Although being alone is sometimes very cleansing and rejuvenating, time spent with a friend with no questions or no expectations can do wonders for the soul.
Camille led the way off the little road and onto the narrow foot path that meandered through the rocks and down the hill until we finally made it to the edge of the little town of Avanos. We walked right past her house and on down the cobblestone street. It was another hundred yards of winding narrow road to my house. I figured she would just stop at her place and call it a day and maybe give the ever present chickens some grief, before finding a shady place to rest after her adventure. But she didn’t. She led me right to my door. She stayed just long enough for a quick belly rub and then turned and headed back up the hilly little street. I watched as she rounded the corner, hesitated , turned and looked back. Not sure what Camille was thinking. But it was pretty clear what was swirling through my mind….and for just this once, I wish she could understand human English. But on second thought, she is probably much better off not getting involved in human emotion. I hope she sees fit to be my companion on yet another adventure, on another day.