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Ron Reil's Home Page

Geologist, Blacksmith, Engineer, Rancher, & Fireman

Me on summit of Mt. Borah.
(Image of me on the summit of Mt. Borah, Idaho's highest peak. Click to enlarge.)

Contact me by phone: (208) 462-4028



Site Map - Links to all Blacksmithing and Other Pages on This Site

The Reil Ranch Current Weather & Web Cam Page

My "New Home and Shop Page"

Decorative Metalwork "Gallery" Page

Links to My Latest Writings



My Winter Image Gallery

Notice!

ABANA has graciously consented to host my web site. I was concerned that after now having had three flat-line heart attacks, and three other less serious heart events, my future could end at any time. I wanted to insure that the blacksmithing information I have in my many web pages would be preserved into the future for the metalworking community, and ABANA made that possible. A big thank you goes to ABANA.

I no longer operate a decorative metalworking business. So I do not take custom orders any longer. My web site and Gallery page are for interest and instructional value only.


Welcome to My Home Page!

I am pleased to welcome you to my home page. If you would like to know a little about my background please continue reading below. I have also included some of my more interesting experiences.

I have a background as a civil engineer, precious metals exploration geologist, and science teacher, among others. I am now a gentleman rancher in Garden Valley, Idaho, and work on decorative metalwork in my shop in the winter when the snow lies deep on the land. I also drive the ambulance when needed, and am a fireman in the Crouch Volunteer Fire Department as well as a fire commissioner. Retirement doesn't have to mean inactivity or playing golf.   :-)


A History - Some of my Experiences

 I have had the benefit of traveling and living in many different parts of the world. A large portion of my youth was spent on the island of Okinawa, where I fell in love with the island and its people. Some of my travel was associated with my father's career as an Air Force officer. I was later in the Navy for six years, spending four of them in the West Indies. During that period of my life I was heavily involved with SCUBA and free diving. I was a diving instructor for part of this time on the island of Grand Turk. I was also deeply involved in speleology, taking part in a joint Barbadian/Danish caving expedition to the island of Barbados, as well as doing a lot of other cave exploration with my buddy Jack.

While I was living in Barbados, a beautiful hardwood yacht sailed in from England and was put up for sale. It was the perfect boat to allow me to embark upon a dream I had been working on for the previous four years. I bought the stout little craft, Sea Dart, while still having two years remaining in the Navy. When my tour of duty in the Navy came to an end I returned to Barbados, and Sea Dart, to prepare for a world cruise. After three months of preparation I sailed Sea Dart into the setting sun to spend an extended period of time exploring some of the world, and learning about myself as well.
 


My Return to Reality

After exploring many interesting places, and meeting lots of wonderful people, I felt it was time to move on with my life. I sold Sea Dart to the now famous late writer, Tristan Jones and signed on as skipper and navigator to the much larger yacht, Banjo, which Tristan had sold to a couple in New York. They wanted me to sail them to New York from Bequia, just north of South America, a roughly 3000 mile voyage. A month later, between Culebra and Great Inagua, disaster struck twice. When we were near the boundary between the Dominican Republic and Haiti a long-boat approached us with six men, seated two by two in the boat. They had an engine and could easily outrun us. I had been warned that pirates were to be expected in these waters, so I told Jan and Jim, Banjo's new owners, to remain below while I met the long-boat. I placed a 12 gage double-barreled shotgun, loaded with buck-shot, on the cockpit seat ready for action. I had been warned that pirates from Haiti had been attacking yachts, killing all on board by cutting off their heads with cane knives, stripping the boat of everything of value, and then sinking the boat along with the bodies, so I was prepared to kill to defend Banjo.

The long-boat came slowly along side and a huge black man in the front grabbed the railing on Banjo's port side while starting to stand up. As he did so I could see the long cane knives which he and the others were holding partially concealed by their left legs. As he started to stand I raised the shotgun, aimed right between his eyes and waited for what would happen next. I had only two shots, and there were six pirates, so there was no doubt that they could take Banjo if they were willing to pay a price.

The huge man froze in a semi bent over position, staring into the bores of the two barrels of my shotgun, broke into a huge smile, then nodded his head in a knowing maner. He slowly sat back down, and during a long moment, pregnant with threat, they contemplated what to do next. I watched them closely, never taking the gun off of the leader, while moving back to the far side of the cockpit to give me more room to fire upon any one of the pirates that might decide to leap over the side, and also to prevent the leader from attempting to grab my weapon. The stand-off continued for what seemed an hour, but was perhaps only 30 seconds or so, when the pirate leader pushed off and nodded to me, still grinning a huge white toothed ear to ear grin. He allowed me to live, and I granted him the same in return.

Within a matter of hours of surviving the aborted attack by the pirates, we entered into the next cataclysmic phase of the voyage. The weather had been very unstable for several days, and finally broke to the full fury of hurricane Alice, the first of the season. Banjo weathered the storm well until the third night. At 2:30 AM a huge rogue sea lifted the 36 foot Banjo and smashed her down upside down into the trough far below. The impact ripped out our steel fresh water tanks, and caused a lot of other lesser damage, including springing the shaft log causing an inflow that was not to be stopped. Fortunately the mast remained intact, however the boat would have to be periodically bailed until the end of the voyage due to the shaft log inflow.

After the yacht slowly righted herself we had more than 8 feet of water on board when measured from the bottom of the bilge! Our engine was underwater, and the water was up to our waists in the main cabin. The three of us started into a marathon bailing session with anything that came to hand. Since the engine and batteries were underwater, the pumps were useless. By mid-morning the boat was riding high on the waves once again, and it looked as though we might live to tell the tale. Four days later we limped into Great Inagua where I finally went to bed and slept for more than 24 hours! I should add that even arriving at Gt. Inagua was not without its problems. We raised land shortly after midnight and were almost caught in the huge suction caused by the immense hurricane swell breaking across the outer reefs. There is much more to the story, but I will leave it for a narrative at some later date.

Several weeks later we sailed into Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The owners of the yacht had experienced enough sailing and decided to sell her right there and not continue on to New York. I returned home to Oregon where I entered Oregon State University's School of Engineering. I graduated as a civil/construction engineer in 1977.


Life's Adventures Continue

 Life was not to be dull after finishing school. I went to work for Morrison Knudsen Corporation in Boise, Idaho, where I advanced to the position of senior engineer. My work was mainly in tunnel construction. I spent two years as a shift engineer, building the under sea cooling water tunnels at the Seabrook Nuclear Power plant in Seabrook, New Hampshire. The three mile long, 22' diameter, undersea tunnels were the first of their type, going out over three miles offshore to intersect with 11 offshore shafts in the sea floor. I was eventually transferred back to the home office in Boise to do estimating work while awaiting transfer to another field job.

In 1982 the construction industry fell apart, and two weeks before Christmas I was laid off, along with 3,500 other engineers. I continued to work as a consulting engineer, doing various jobs along the way. Two of my favorite construction projects in Idaho were the Fish Trap Facility, just below Hell's Canyon Dam, and the Sawtooth National Fish Hatchery near Stanley, Idaho. Because of their locations I enjoyed both projects immensely. Changes in my life, a new daughter among others, led to my return to school. I enrolled in Boise State University to study geology, and obtain my secondary teaching credentials.

Geology soon took me to new adventures in the Aleutian Islands of Alaska and elsewhere, which I have included narratives about, linked below. Also, I later connected with a full time science teaching position. I taught science for 16 years, and geology at Boise State University for about 10 years. I now have a 26 year old daughter, Kimberly, and an 17 year old daughter, Natalie.

 In August 2000, I guided my brother Walt, and my daughter Kimberly, and her friend Neil, on a backpacking trip into the "Big Boulder Lakes Basin" in Idaho's high Whitecloud Peaks, where our base camp was at an elevation of 9,200 feet. This image of Kimberly and me was taken on the summit of the second highest peak, at an elevation of 11,200 feet, as are the other images. 2000 was a horrible year for forest fires, and one of them can plainly be seen topping a high ridge in the distance. This back pack trip was a very special one to me for several reasons. We had superb weather, and the smoke from the many forest fires never darkened our skies. We saw a great many mountain goats, one only 30 feet away, and on the night of August 14th we watched a spectacular meteor shower through the ever changing colors of the aurora, in one of its most beautiful displays in the last 50 years.

There is more to the story however. There are two other reasons that make this trip stand out from the rest for me. Twenty plus years ago one of Idaho's most amazing, but unknown, epics of survival had played itself out in the valleys below the peak we are sitting on in the above images. Because of my past experience in mountain rescue I had knowledge of the amazing events that had taken place far below us, and I wanted to relate the story to my daughter of the survival of the two young children, sole survivors of a plane crash, through one of Idaho's most severe winters. I also wanted to walk with my daughter Kimberly through one of the most beautiful places on the face of the Earth, a high basin that has no trails or mapped routes into it, and a place that I call "God's Cathedral." I will not name it here in order to help to preserve it from those who do not respect such places, and who, like dogs, leave their mark wherever they go. The entire trip was one of the best I have ever had the good fortune to be a part of. We accomplished far more than I could ever have hoped for.   


Other Challenges Remain

If you have read this far you probably wonder why I taught junior high for 16 years. Certainly the money was not one of them. I did so for various reasons, but the enjoyment I derived from teaching and working with kids was at the top of the list. I always said that when it was no longer fun it woud be time to quit, and when the Federal "No Child Left Behind" program came along, it was time. I am now involved in decorative metal work, and with my move to the mountains of central Idaho, and setting up my big new shop, the future looks bright. Also, I have now posted my Golden Age Forge Gallery page where I have a little of my metalwork on display, including commentary about how some of the pieces were made.

The 2003-2004 school year ended my teaching career. I retired at the end of the year for a variety of reasons, but the most compelling by far was the terrible state of education in our country, and in my school district. When test score numbers became more important than the children, it was time to leave. It was a good decision. Four days before my retirement I suffered a major heart attack, which would have forced my retirement had it not already been in progress. We purchased a heavenly beautiful ranch on which we are raising horses, two of which are shown here in our front pasture being ridden by my two daughters when the snow was only a week or two away. We have other critters too, including Daffodil, our miniature donkey. It is not an easy life we have chosen, as this image, and also this one, demonstrate, but I am fortunate in having the kind of equipment that is needed to live in a location that can receive over 200" of snow in a season. BTW, the images you have just looked at are of a normal winter, not a heavy one. 

I produced some 360 QuickTime VR panorama images of our place, taken in mid Summer, Fall, and early winter, that may be of interest to you. After it loads, click and hold the mouse button, then move your cursor left or right to make the image scroll in a full 360 in either direction. If you zoom in you can also move it up and down. The "Early Fall Panorama" pans across our home and my shop.

Summer VR Panorama

Early Fall Panorama, (shot in our lower pasture)

Winter VR Panorama


When I am not plowing or blowing snow, or working with the horses, I may be helping to fight fires as a volunteer firefighter, as shown in this image of a fire we had recently. I can now pursue my work in decorative metalworking, enjoy the spectacular fishing close by in the many mountain streams, or explore the wild country around our place by Jeep or horseback. We have a great many elk here. This image, taken across our lower pasture, shows the Spring elk calving in progress. There were a number of wolves attending the birth of the calves too. The elk were a problem because they liked to eat the hay I had stored under my shop's eves, but that problem has been solved by the construction of our new barn. The future looks bright, and I think it will still be full of adventure and new horizons.   :-)


Narrative Links

 If you would like to read more of my adventures you may do so by clicking on one of the "Narrative" links below. You may find it more convenient to save these files to disk and read them off line with your browser because some are fairly long. I will continue to add to this list as time allows.
 

Narrative #1 - Aleutians - "The Discovery"

Narrative #2 - Aleutians - "Volcano of Gold

Narrative #3 - Mountaineering - "Total Commitment"

Narrative #4 - West Indies - "Mantas"

Narrative #5 - Backpacking - "The Meteor"

Narrative #6 - Cave Diving - "Unlucky Dive #7"

Narrative #7 - Sailing - "Dangerous Anchorage"

Narrative #8 - Sea Dart - "Dart's Rescue"
(Tristan Jones/Sea Dart Page)

Narrative #9 - Tristan Jones - "The Good and The Bad"

Narrative #10 - "Week of the Buzz-Tails"

Return To Top of Page



Conclusion

 Thank you for visiting my home page. Please feel free to contact me if you have any questions or comments. You may phone me at the number listed below.


Contact me by phone: (208) 462-4028
Note: Due to spam problems I no longer post my e-mail address, but I will be happy to supply it to you over the phone.


29 Jan 2013

Golden Age Forge