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Weddell Seals

June 28, 2004

A package arrived the other day from Mary Purdy. Many of you know her. I can almost hear her voice on KVRH welcoming listeners to her “Morning Show.” I’d never been on the radio until she invited me to visit on her show for the first time.

That was what it was like: visiting. She had an unpretentious style. It was the kind of radio I liked. Straight talk beats all the tricks, such as background music, over-dubbing, sound effects, and jingles, plus most of the “popular” music.

Mary’s show was community-focused, and she was intelligent and interested. Still is, I imagine, and evidently so is her family …

The package contained a newly published book about Weddell seals in the Antarctic, written by the leader of a 2001 expedition that went to study them. Mary’s son Jesse was a member of the expedition, and so he appears in the book.

The book will be in the library soon, but I’m going to read it first because, one, I’m fascinated by Antarctic literature, and two, it was addressed to me.

Antarctica is such an inhospitable place that man must go to great lengths to survive there. And yet the Weddell seal rolls out of the water and lounges in a sub-zero blizzard without a care, as if sunbathing on the Riviera. The seal can swim very fast, dive to incredible depths to hunt, and survive year-round in the harshest place on earth.

So, Jesse is a professor at Southwestern University in Austin and has a long resume that includes research at places with names like National Resource Center for Cephalopods (important creatures, not least for providing us with calamari).

Mary mentioned that Jesse also had his wedding reception at my family’s house, so he seems like family now. Of course, that was decades ago when the house was the Purdys’ home. The reception took place on the patio (much of which is now inside our house) and the cookhouse, which is a neat gazebo with a stone grill, smokehouse, and chimney, and is now storage.

In all fairness, we don’t need the grill and smoking facilities right now. Years ago, my wife bought Will Thomas’ Texas barbecue after he closed the Salida Inn. I think it used to sit on the patio behind the restaurant.

It’s a real man’s barbecue, and I lost a big toenail trying to move it once. We got it here the first time using a large, powerful friend and his truck with a lift-gate. It’s now about as stationary as the cookhouse.

Mary’s letter got me thinking about that project of building over the patio. We did much of the work ourselves, and I became acutely aware of the library’s construction and do-it-yourself collections at that time.

I read all the hints columns in Fine Homebuilding and Family Handyman magazines. I looked at framing and roofing books, long after we were done, wondering if we could have done better or easier.

I’ve begun reviewing that same section, because I recently noticed some books are apparently missing and many of the best ones stay checked out.

We also try to keep a range of coverage — from simple to quite technical. Some people just want to know how far they can span a 2X8; others want to design their own trusses.

Got a home improvement, or just a home change, project? Check the library for guidance.

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