Monday, October 29, 2012

64. A Fascinating e-Book: An Eagle's Sky, My Life as a Birdman, by John Stokes

John Stokes launches his first hang glider in 1975.
In 1975 I was a college student in Memphis, Tennessee.  One of my best friends was John Stokes.  We spent about a decade together in the Boy Scouts (Troop 301 - Chickasaw Council) in a troop that camped every first weekend of every month, regardless of the weather. Add all the summer camps, 50 mile hikes and 50 mile boat trips, and other outings, I calculated we spent about a full year living in the wilderness - almost a tenth of our teen-age years!  John and I eventually became Eagle Scouts and had many adventures until we started to drift apart late in college.

One project that caught John's imagination was the new sport of hang gliding.  He built his own and as he started to try his wings, I sometimes came along to photograph the results. I was very much into photography by then and documenting this unique sight only seemed natural.  Soon the tall hills gave way to larger slopes and eventually to John jumping off of cliffs in his quest to fly with the birds. I took the two photographs shown here in 1975 as John just began to hone his flying skills.  Click on the images to enlarge.

John takes flight - 1975.
John was always interested in birds and raptors in particular, so it was no surprise to me that he later got a job with the Memphis Zoo working with the birds.  Once, John gave me the privilege of being allowed inside the giant enclosure where the Bald Eagles were kept and slowly and carefully approach one of their specimens.  In the early 1990's I saw John again at Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN where he was doing a show for the public introducing them to eagles, hawks and other birds of prey.

I shouldn't have been surprised, then, to learn that John had combined his love of eagles with his passion for gliding.  A December, 1997 article in Reader's Digest (The Bravest Eagle, by Kristin von Kreisler) tells the remarkable story of how John helped rehabilitate a young Bald Eagle that had been shot near Osceola, Arkansas, but had his wing amputated.  The eagle, now named Osceola, would never fly again until John found a way to put the disabled bird into a harness and attach him to his hang glider where the two of them soared over the hills and meadows of eastern Tennessee.  The full story of Osceola and the amazing video of his flight can be found here.  One video and then another video have appeared on YouTube.  The story appeared on Good Morning America on October 21, 1996 and the American Eagle Foundation also has the story here.

Now John has published an e-book, An Eagle's Sky, My Life as a Birdman.  It's a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the events of John's life that eventually led to his partnership with Osceola and the making of what I consider a minor modern-day legend.  Yes, yours truly is briefly mentioned in the book, but it is still worthwhile reading nonetheless. Images related to John and his book are being posted at this blog.

John Stokes, along with his wife, Dale, now works for Save Our American Raptors - South (S.O.A.R. South) rehabilitating raptors and educating the public.  To follow John's current schedule, check out his blog for S.O.A.R.-South.  I might as well include his Facebook page while I am at it: Osceola An Eagle's Sky.

It's satisfying to see John getting some recognition for the fine work he does.  Now if I can just get Reader's Digest interested in a little artwork...!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

63. Red Rock Canyon Road - 2010 - Photograph

Red Rock Canyon, Nevada
This is one photograph I took a couple of years ago at Red Rock canyon outside of Las Vegas, Nevada.  A cloud had started to shade the left side of the photo, but you can see where the park got it's name.  It was the middle of winter back in 2010 when I last there, but I hope to see it again in all it's fiery summer desert splendor soon.  Click on image to enlarge.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

62. ESAL Art Show at The Gallery Space, June 2-30, 2012

Painting the Logo , 9 x 12; oil on gessoboard, 2012
The East Suburban Artists League will present an exhibition of members’ artwork at The Gallery Space in the Monroeville Public Library June 2 - 30, 2012.  The public is invited to attend the Opening Reception at the gallery 7 - 9pm on Saturday, June 2nd where you can view the varied artwork, enjoy refreshments and meet many of the artists themselves.

Most of the artwork will be available for sale.  A portion of the proceeds will benefit the non-profit group, Friends of the Monroeville Public Library.

The East Suburban Artists League is a non-profit association of artists from communities in Allegheny and Westmoreland Counties east of Pittsburgh.  Members include adult artists of all ages who work in all types of media, styles and techniques.  They meet to foster arts and crafts and to educate, inspire and encourage artists and patrons throughout this area.  This is done by lectures, forums, panels and critiques and by League sponsored shows, displays and juried exhibitions.
ESAL meetings are held from September through May, the first Thursday of each month at 7:00 p.m. in the lower level of Christ Lutheran Church on Route 286 at Logans Ferry Road (in Northern Murrysville) and are highlighted by an informative speaker and/or arts and crafts demonstration by an area artist or expert in their artistic field.  Members are also encouraged to bring and show their own artwork to the group.  The meetings are open to the public and visitors are welcome.

Those interested in joining the East Suburban Artists League may contact ESAL’s current Membership Chairman, Bob McAfoos at 412-731-8637 or attend one of their meetings.

The Monroeville Public Library’s Gallery Space is located at 4000 Gateway Campus Boulevard, off of Mosside Boulevard, in the Gateway School Complex. During the show, the Gallery will be open Monday-Thursday, 9AM-9PM, Friday and Saturday, 9AM-5PM and closed on Sundays.  More on The Gallery Space can be found on their website:

The artwork depicted above was a painting I threw together to illustrate the postcard publicizing the exhibition.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

61. Of Stones and Metal - 2012 - Photograph

Of Stones and Metal by Bob Bickers, 2012, photograph
I was walking a trail along a stream last Sunday in Youngwood, PA (just south of Greensburg) when I noted a hatch or manhole cover in the streambed and thought this was just unusual enough to capture a photo.  Click on the image to enlarge.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

60. Duff Park Winter - 2011 - Photograph

Duff Park Winter by Bob Bickers, 2011, photograph
This photograph just won 3rd Place in Landscapes and Scenery in the 2011 Murrysville Photo Contest sponsored by the Murrysville Parks & Recreation Commission.  I will be receiving my award for this contest at a meeting of the commission on April 17, 2012.  Updates on the Murrysville Photo Contest including rules and information for the 2012 Contest can be found at and photos that have been submitted in this and prior contests can be found at .

Sunday, January 1, 2012

59. Welcoming the New Year

First Taste of Snow; photograph; 2011
The New Year promises to be a great one.  I will have a one-man show at the Gallery Space (in the Monroeville, PA public library) the month of December, 2012.  Right now I plan to exhibit local landscapes which I will be painting the rest of this year.  You can track my progress on my website, but I hope to produce at least one new painting a week this year.  We'll see how that goes.  I will continue to do photography too and post my images here.  We had some light snow the week before Halloween in 2011, although the next two months have been pretty snow-free.  It won't stay that way and I hope to be able to create many new snow paintings and photos.  First Taste of Snow was taken in Hempfield Township, Westmoreland County.