Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The Humble Mattock – Can Ya Dig It?

If I had severely limited storage, and had to limit the tools I use to work in soil to an equally severe degree, I would start with a long-handled round point shovel and a heavy-duty pick/mattock combination. If I could have a third tool, I’d choose a pick and change the mattock to a so-called axe/mattock. I’ll explain why a bit later.

Many people don’t know it, but round point shovels are a fairly recent innovation compared to the pick, mattock and square point shovel. The three latter have been around, in some version, for thousands of years; the round point shovel has probably existed for less than 200. Before then, all initial digging was done with a mattock, and the rubble was scooped up with a square point shovel and pitched or carried to wherever it was being moved. In rocky ground, the pick replaced the mattock. In lighter soils, a smaller, narrower bladed shovel called a “spade” could sometimes be used.

One reason that I prefer an axe/mattock is that the axe blade can be used to mark out the area to be dug up by chopping down through the sod. Just as important is that it can be used to more easily cut any roots that crop up than the mattock blade. I will say that unlike a Pulaski, which is an axe first and a mattock second, an axe/mattock is a mattock first and an axe second. As a result, the axe part is adequate for digging, but not for serious axe-work.

 Now comes the task for which many folks would never think a mattock could be useful—building demolition. By slipping the mattock blade between pieces of wood that are nailed or spiked together and prying SIDEWAYS on the handle, it gives more separating pressure than even many crowbars. If the blade is kept reasonably sharp, you can actually strike into a tight joint to start the separation. I think the use of a mattock in demolition is especially helpful if you’re trying to save the materials for re-use. You probably WILL want to keep both blades ground a little sharper and thinner if you intend to use it mostly for demolition. ALSO, for demolition, be sure that you use only mattocks that have pick-type handles, NOT the thinner axe-style handles.

One final thought—if you keep a few tools in your vehicle in case of SHTF circumstances, a mattock MIGHT draw less attention if you needed to do a little low-budget requisition. It might also come in handy for “digging in” should the need arise, though I’d carry a round point shovel, too. © 2013

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Bully Boys (And Girls)

We hear a lot about bullying these days, but it’s nothing new. I think maybe the fact that kids spend half their time on Facebook and such places makes the verbal part more pervasive but, say what they will, words aren’t the same as getting the crap beat out of you. It’s always been a negative side of life and always will be; it doesn’t go away just because we get older. We just call it by different names, since it changes form. Adults know it as back-stabbing, gossip, racism, harassment, and a slew of other names. Sadly, it even serves some legitimate purpose some would argue, for it sets up the “pecking order” in society that determines who rules and who is ruled. Probably every species of animal shows the same behavior, so we can’t argue that it’s a natural phenomenon only with man.

I’m ashamed to say that I was part of the problem during some of my younger years. I occasionally got roughed up by guys bigger or rougher than me and I occasionally did the same to a few of those “below” me. It’s sort of like the cartoon where the boss snaps at his employee, the employee goes home and snaps at his wife, she snaps at the kids, the kids yell at the dog and the dog chases the cat. Sometime after my hormones started kicking in, I not only grew a bit more, but my attitude started changing. I was disinclined to put up with any guff from others, but I also quit passing it on. In fact, I started standing up for the underdog. Strangely, I never had to fight any of my previous “betters;” they seemed to sense that it was no longer wise to give me any guff and backed off. That was probably for the best, as I still couldn’t fight that well; I was just stubborn and wouldn’t back down. No doubt my “attitude” (since I didn’t START any trouble) probably saved me quite a few butt-kickings.

I think the “zero-tolerance” way that schools deal with bullying these days is unwise in THREE ways. First, zero-tolerance means no allowance for extenuating circumstances, NEVER a good thing.

Second, by constantly coddling the victim and not teaching them strategies to help deal with bullies, we leave them unprepared to face adulthood, where the bullying changes form and is often even more pervasive. Much damage has been done over the years by bullying, and in NO WAY am I condoning it, but raising a generation of whiners and snivelers hasn’t accomplished anything either, except to add to our society’s attitude of victimhood.

The third way we are dealing with bullying wrongly is to not search out the reason that a person becomes a bully in the first place. I doubt if I’d left my teens yet, before I started to figure out that most bullies had trouble at home. Some were beat around by their parents, or older siblings. Some were from broken homes and didn’t know how to deal with the emotional issues of a situation that was not of their own making. Some were going hungry, and were ill-clothed and ill-housed. Many felt completely unloved. How could a kid growing up like that help but act out their frustrations?

There’s actually a fourth way that we’re dealing wrong with bullying, and that was to take God out of the classroom. Granted such things should be taught in the home, but they often aren’t. A faith in God can help a “victim” deal with unfairness, or even give them courage to stand up for themselves. By the same token, if kids learn that God loves everybody, EVEN THEM, a few will be less inclined to act out their problems toward others.

I don’t know about you, but I get sick of hearing about bullying on the news. It is a VERY REAL problem, but it takes common sense and a little religion to solve that problem. Neither one seems to be an acceptable option for those in “leadership” positions that are supposedly struggling with the matter. © 2013

Sunday, July 28, 2013

My Hatchet Collection (most of it, anyway)

Top left is a hewing hatchet, also called a side-hatchet or broad-hatchet.
The second one on left is a full hatchet with nail claws.
Third is a half-hatchet with nail claws.
Fourth is a full hatchet with a nail slot and pole.
Fifth is an old Boy Scout axe (from my grandfather's barn, I think). It feels good in even my large hands.

Top right is a checker-pole hatchet with a 19" handle. It probably started out as a 20", since this was one of my granddad's rig-building hatchets.
second is also one of Granddad's rig-building, checker-pole hatchets, but with a new 14" handle. You can't find 20's around here anymore, and I've never yet made one from scratch.
Third is the True-Temper pole hatchet I've had since I was a kid. Dad gave it to me used, even then (50 years ago).
Fourth is another regular pole hatchet.
Fifth is a regular pole hatchet, also.

Left 2&3, plus right 4&;5, I bought in Ohio's Amish country in times past. Left one, I bought locally at a now-defunct hardware store many years ago. Left 3 looks so much like a tomahawk, I think it would look good sticking in some hunter's belt. The head for left 4 was given to me by the old man that used to live across the road from me. ALL of the hatchets on the right side have nail slots. SOMEWHERE, I've got another Boy Scout hatchet with a straight handle that the old man across the road put in it many years ago. I guess I'm "over-hatcheted," but when I see a good OLD one cheap, I just can't resist!


Saturday, July 27, 2013

Granddad’s Banjo

I don’t remember my granddad ever playing the instrument, but I always remember seeing it in out-of-the-way places at his house. It didn’t have all its strings and hadn’t been used in years, but it was always there. I don’t remember my dad ever mentioning his father playing it, but some of his older sisters remember Granddad strumming it a bit when they were just little. A combination of arthritis and getting his hands banged and bruised in the rig-building business probably caused him to give up on playing earlier than he would have otherwise.

In his younger days, my grandfather, Lyss (short for Ulysses), his sister Gussie (short for Augusta) and their brother, Jess used to play for a lot of dances in the area. Of course, Granddad played his banjo, Gussie played the piano, and Jess played the fiddle. (Photos of the banjo, Lyss, and Gussie are at the foot of the article. I have no photo of Jess.) It was probably at one such dance that Gussie met the young banjo-picker who would eventually be her husband. Sadly, he turned out to be worthless and abandoned her even before she came down with tuberculosis. She succumbed to that dreaded disease in her twenties. I doubt if Granddad met my grandma at a dance. Being a prim and proper daughter of a United Brethren preacher, she probably didn’t believe in such things.

After my grandparents died, my sister inherited the banjo, since she played the piano and cello, but she never used it, except maybe about the time that she also experimented with smoking a pipe. She left it (and the pipe) at our old home place when she got married and moved out. Eventually, I asked if I could have it and she agreed. From what I could see, it was an inexpensive model from about 1900. It spent several years in my attic, until I fished it out a few years ago and spent about $100 getting it repaired, thinking I might try learning to pick, but I never did.

As I sat at my desk today, thinking about what I could sell next to raise a few bucks for gas and groceries, the old banjo came to mind. Somehow, though, selling it to someone who’d just hang it on the wall as an antique seemed a little wrong. I’d rather give it to someone who would use it. I was trying to recall the name of a former co-worker that plays bluegrass banjo, when I remembered that my stepson plays a little bit of guitar. On a hunch, I gave him a call. It turns out he’d love to have it. He didn’t tell me so, but I know that his interest has nothing to do with the banjo’s history, or its age. It has to do with the fact that HIS father used to play the banjo a bit. It’s speculated that his uncle stole his dad’s banjo when his father passed away young, so he doesn’t have that instrument, but the price on this one is right. I’m glad to give it to someone who will actually try to use it. It’s even better that it sort of stays in the family.

It’s been about 80 years since the instrument has made any music. If he gets any good, I’m going to ask for a concert! © 2013

Granddad's Banjo

Lyss at 20


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Ol’ Possum Knocker

I mentioned in a recent post that I’d named my walking staff “Ol’ Possum Knocker.” I’ve got a short story about that. I used to do a little trapping in my youth and make no apologies for it; I’d still be doing it if I hadn’t made a bad “social decision.” When you catch critters, it follows that you have to also dispatch critters; that’s the most distasteful part of the job. Gunshots scare people and draw attention, so a good whack on the head is the preferred method for most animals. As a result, I carried a box-elder branch about an inch-and-a-quarter at the large end, with the bark removed in the “handle” area, and a leather thong looped through a hole to make it less likely for me to drop it. It was only about three feet long, so skunks could present some interesting situations. I dubbed the stick my “possum knocker,” an ironic name, since you don’t actually hit possums, but break their necks, instead.

Now, for a few months during that time, I allowed a fellow to move in with me who was supposed to be a good Christian guy, and who was losing his apartment. Of course, some of the “good Christians” that I attended church with immediately assumed that I had something in common with a three-dollar bill, but that was their problem, not mine. While staying at my place, the guy got custody of his two little boys, so things got a bit crowded at times. (I can only imagine the horror stories THAT caused!) The guy turned out to be a hopeless womanizer, so he wasn’t such a fine Christian after all. Still, I loaned him my truck on occasion to make connections with his ex about the boys and such.

On one such trip, he was stopped by a cop for some reason. Looking in the window, the cop noticed my possum knocker and a 25 foot coil of rope hanging from the gun rack in the rear window and asked what they were for. The guy nervously explained that the truck was borrowed and that I used the same truck to check my traps as I did to haul hay for the cattle. He said the cop SEEMED to buy the story, but he wasn’t completely certain. The fellow must not have done anything to get stopped, because he didn’t get a ticket; maybe the cop just saw the contents of the gun rack and felt the need to ask. I told him that he should have told the cop that he was a member of the redneck mafia and that he was going to an appointment, but he didn’t think that was such a good idea. © 2013

Wild Greens Again!

My wife wanted to go to the Craft 2000 yesterday afternoon, so I took her, figuring I’d take a gander around the edges of the strip mall property and see if I could find any wild greens. I took my walkin’ stick that I made a while back (which I’ve dubbed “Ol’ Possum Knocker”) and my big, black bumbershoot, since storm clouds were in the distance. That left my hands a bit full, so I threaded my Walmart “foraging bag” on my belt at my right hip.

The area I was searching gets mowed on a semi-regular basis, but there’s a drainage ditch along one side that rarely gets any grooming. That edge was my target. I found a couple dock plants that were recovering from getting mowed and had a few tender leaves. I was glad to find a few very small lambs-quarter plants. One fairly large pursley plant made a decent contribution to the bag. A couple poke plants had coarse outer leaves the mower didn’t get, and a tiny sprig of new growth sporting an even tinier spike of flower buds. I picked them both.

Then, I hit the jackpot! I’d noticed a lot of milkweed s along the back of the lot, but they were too far gone to use. However, near the left corner where the ditch entered a woody section, a small group of milkweeds had apparently been mowed off early this year and had resprouted to about half their normal height. They were at that perfect stage where the flower buds were formed, but hadn’t started to color yet. I use the buds and any leaf less than about five inches long and, within two steps, I gathered enough greens to finish the mess. For those who’ve never eaten them, I think milkweed tastes like asparagus, except better. They don’t cook down as bad as most greens, either. I made it back to the truck just before the storm hit.

When we got home, I looked through them to discard any bugs or bug-eaten leaves. I rinsed them well and then boiled them lightly for ten minutes. A dash of salt and a thick pat of butter and they were ready! I’d originally thought I’d have enough for the following evening, too, but after cooking down a bit, they amounted to about a serving-and-a-half. I offered some to my wife, but she’s too high-falutin to eat weeds anymore, so, I ate them all! © 2013

Safety note – Use your noggin when you collect on properties other than your own. Avoid any areas likely to have had herbicide or chemical fertilizer used on them.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

A Funny Little Dog

I suppose most owners of little dogs dote on them; we certainly do on ours. And for our efforts, Coco does a good job of keeping us amused. She loves running down the hall to fetch her toys when we throw them, until she tires of the game and just lies down and looks at us, as if to say “is that all you can think to do?” Sometimes, she takes a plush toy and “grooms” it like it’s her pup, licking it and nib-nib-nibbling along their “skin” like a mother dog getting rid of knits on her youngster. If I lie down on the floor, by instinct, she lies against my stomach or back, ALWAYS with her head toward my feet. I’m sure she doesn’t realize that it’s her wolf-pack genes causing her to face the opposite way to watch for unseen “danger” in our TV room.

Most dogs will eat almost any kind of people food, but not ours. She’s strictly a meat eater; no dog food for HER, thank you! In fact, she’s so spoiled that her only acceptable meal has become a Burger King double cheeseburger with two slices of cheese; nothing else will do. If we go to town without her, and come back without her cheeseburger, she spends the evening glaring at my wife. She WILL eat some of the little treats that she’s used to, but rarely will she eat anything else, even a cheeseburger my wife fixes for her. However, she won’t eat any of it until I go to put her out after dark. Then, she tries to make me wait on her, while she eats PART of her burger. It’s like she thinks she needs some strength for the journey. It’s just a game she’s dreamed up, of course, but I’m not sure why. (I’ve already mentioned in another post that she wants CARRIED to the door when she goes out.) The OTHER time she will eat is when I massage my wife’s arm, to ease the swelling from her Lymphedema. She’ll stand and bark at us and eat her burger. I realize that the barking is jealousy, but the eating, I’m not so sure about, unless she’s hoping to get attention from it. Anything that isn’t finished by the time I go to bed MIGHT get finished in the night, or it may not.

She has a strange little thing she often does when she’s thirsty, too. While she’ll sometimes walk right over and have at it, more often she’ll walk part way there and lie down. In another minute or so, she’ll walk the rest of the way and lie down beside the bowl. After another minute or two, she’ll stand up, turn to face the bowl and start drinking. It’s like she thinks that she has to sneak up on it, or something!

Like most dogs, she’s interested in bugs. When we had an ant invasion this spring, she couldn’t resist following each one with her nose nearly touching it. Occasionally, she’d try to eat one, but they must have bit her tongue, so she’d shake her head and keeping wallowing her tongue around until she could get them spit out.

Sometimes, when she wants something, she’ll sit in front of my wife and stare at her. Sometimes, she’ll whine, but often, she’ll just sit and stare, like Eddy on the old “Frazier” shows. At times, it’s a reminder that we haven’t gotten her a cheeseburger yet, other times, it means that she wants some sort of treat, and usually she has a particular kind in mind. And she always wants TWO treats, not one. Sometimes, she doesn’t even choose to eat them, she just wants them there to save for later. Other times when she stares, it’s her way of telling my wife that she wants her box of toys dumped so she can sort through them better, OR that my wife should come and get ME to take her out. I may be in the same room, but since she apparently knows who the boss is, she goes straight to the top. Smart dog!

She doesn’t like being left at home and, unlike our last dog, loves to go for a ride. Whereas the last one would try to hide her head, this wants to stick hers out the window. Not being used to people being around all the time, she thinks she should bark at anyone walking or jogging along the road. If they’re weed-whacking or mowing the yard, though, she stays quiet. I guess she figures that anyone working is okay, but loafers need a good dressing down. We’ve also noticed that she barks at certain houses, whether there are any dogs or people present or not. We soon figured out that those houses usually have dogs and, by barking, she can get THEM to start barking. She apparently remembers the locations from previous times we passed and dogs were present – the little trouble-maker!

There’s more I could tell you, but I’ve probably bored you enough already. She’s a little character, but she makes us smile. © 2013

Saturday, July 20, 2013


Harry was born up some holler, or out some ridge, in an adjoining county. I know that because that particular county isn’t known for its flat land. Like most kids then, he was a farm boy. When he reached adulthood, I believe he did a stint in the army. That would have been about the time of the Korean War. After that, he drove school bus, owned a small dairy farm, was a politically appointed bureaucrat at a surprisingly high level (for a country boy), ran some other businesses for a few years and then took some time out to run the campaigns of some state politicians. Along the way, he married, had a couple kids, got divorced and remarried. His body was in constant motion, but his mouth was super-sonic. If Harry was around, you heard him.

Harry was many things over the years, but above all, he was a REPUBLICAN (not surprising, since his county of birth was then known as a Republican hotbed). He was no “Rockefeller Republican” either, a term coined in “honor” of Nelson Rockefeller in the 60’s, before the term “RINO” came into being. No sir, he was an Abraham Lincoln/Teddy Roosevelt/Dwight Eisenhower/Ronald Reagan-type Republican. You might even say that he was a Republican’s Republican. And, he would make that clear within minutes of meeting him, if he judged that you were a political brother. His conversation style was that of a local historian, political commentator, gossip, story-teller and hyper-active stand-up comic all rolled into one. He talked so fast that he nearly ran out of breathe and laughed joyously at his own jokes. If anyone could be called a “colorful character,” it was Harry. And his language was a bit colorful, too, despite him being a regular church-goer.

I first met Harry when he learned that I sold firewood to his neighbor. I sold him an occasional load of wood after that, but mostly, he liked to come over to the sawmill and buy all the slabs he could haul on his pickup for $5. Like most folks, Harry appreciated a good deal. If I wasn’t in the middle of doing something else, I’d even help him load up, not to get rid of him faster, but for the entertainment. He was ALWAYS interesting, and some of his tales seemed more than a little on the tall side. One day after a particularly “interesting’ story, I looked him in the eye and asked, “Harry, has anyone ever told you that you’re just plumb full of sh_t?” In utter silence, a look of disbelief and deep hurt came over his face and stayed for a couple seconds, then, he laughed like a hyena and proceeded to tell a taller tale than he’d just finished.

I quit running the sawmill when I went to work at the factory, so it got to where I saw little of Harry. Eventually, I heard that he’d died. Sometime later, his quiet, sweet little widow came to our church for a couple years. We enjoyed her company for her own sake, but we also shared stories of Harry. Once, when I commented on what a quiet person she was, she quipped that it was a result of not getting a word in edgewise for 35 years! Eventually, she moved in with her stepson, in another state. We traded cards for a while, but eventually they quit coming, so I figured she either passed away herself, or was no longer able to respond. And so, I lost my last connection with Harry.

Harry would be ashamed if he could see what the leadership has done to the party of Lincoln. I’m no longer a member myself, having left the party when they thought RINO John McCain was a worthy presidential candidate. The change in this country might even leave poor Harry speechless, but not for long, I’d wager. I’ve always liked colorful characters; they make life interesting. Sometimes, I miss ol’ Harry; there was no-one else quite like him, THAT’S for sure! May he rest in peace. © 2013

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Bits And Pieces

I finally mowed the yard yesterday. The road ditch was still a bit sloppy and was full of deer tracks. Apparently they’ve been watering there the past week or two, since the ditch has a couple places where pools form in rainy weather. I saw where the hairy #^$%*&@s have eaten off my potato plant again. I put some concrete re-enforcement wire around it, but they either turned their heads sideways to get to it, or found the gap in the back where the wire lacked a few inches of meeting. That’s the second time, so I have serious doubts about how many potatoes the plant will produce, when it has to keep replacing leaves.

I think our resident mocking-bird has added a tree-frog call to its repertoire. I Guess I’ll be hearing that sound day and night now. That reminded me of years ago when one at the farm learned my whistle for the horse and kept the poor four-footed fellow in a state of confusion. He kept hearing me, but couldn’t see me!

Also, we went up to my brother-in-laws for an evening cookout in honor of his birthday. His family likes him, but they usually avoid him, since they can’t stomach his wife. She’s from “the wrong side of the river” and has the domineering, know-it-all, superior attitude that so many folks from across the state line seem to have. She wasn’t too bad, yesterday, though, and we all had a nice visit.

I don’t mean to insinuate that EVERYBODY over there is like my brother-in-law’s wife; there ARE a lot of nice folks over there, too. One came to mind recently. A guy from the far, northwest corner of that state was in the service with my dad during the big war, and he and Dad became buddies. We met up with him and some of his family in the early seventies when we went to pick my sister up at a summer camp where she was counselor. I think it was the very early 80’s when he and his wife and a couple kids dropped by the farm while they were on vacation. The land drops one inch in one mile where he’s from. He told of coming out our winding valley road at 15 MPH with both hands on the wheel, amazed to see other folks breezing around the bends with one hand on the wheel and the other arm hanging out the car window. He said he’d never driven in the “mountains” before. He was headed for the worst of the mountains in West Virginia, and we didn’t have the heart to tell him that he was hardly in the foothills yet. It was when they had some horrible storms up that way recently that I thought of him. Like Dad, though, he may have passed years ago.

Last night, I took the dog out to take a wiz and she dropped in a section of drive-way where the thin veneer of pea gravel is punctuated by small tufts of grass. As a small yellow river wound its way downhill, a granddaddy long-legs jumped from his grassy home and ran for his life. I think the dog wondered why I was laughing.

Technically, we’re having a heat wave in my neck-of-the woods. My wife and I are thankful for the air-conditioning in our truck and home. I just hope we don’t have a big power-outage like last year!

We had a relative visit tonight who has to always be the center of attention and the final authority on all matters. It was interesting to listen to her “remember” things that happened before she was born. Some people amaze me. © 2013

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Remembering Richard

No, Richard isn’t dead (I don’t suppose), I just haven’t seen him for many years. I first met him when he was a stock boy at the grocery store where my mom worked. He had a quiet wit and a quick smile. He was a few years older than me, and not long after he hit adulthood, he started working out of his folk’s one-stall garage doing auto repair. His mom was a housewife, who supposedly had some emotional issues, and his dad worked some kind of union trade—millwright, I think. The folks started having Richard do most of their work, as did I, once I got my first car at age 19.

We got to be friends of a sort and, since he liked to hunt, that was often the topic of conversation. The difference is that he did his hunting with a flintlock, while dressed as a 1700’s era longhunter. He was a member of a local re-enactment group called “Crockett’s Battalion,” if my memory serves me right, so his accouterments were as period correct as he knew how to make them. Only his wire-rimmed eyeglasses were out of sync with his longhunter’s outfit, as period correct “spectacles” weren’t available back in the 1970’s. He hunted on our farm some, but generally preferred our wooded property on Tick Ridge, so he could visit Woodman’s Cave, just off the main hollow. It was there he told of making a bad shot on a squirrel. After he pulled the trigger, the pan flash was delayed, probably from damp powder. Even before the smoke cleared, he heard a squirrel giving him a hot round of woodland cussing. Then, he noticed the poor creature’s tail slowly falling downward in a back-and-forth motion, similar to how a feather sometimes falls from a passing bird. He felt really bad about shooting the little animal’s tail off, for they use them partly to maintain their balance, but by the time he reloaded and put fresh powder in the pan, the squirrel had said his piece and retreated to a high fork to watch him where a shot was impossible.

Richard was also the guy I mentioned a while back when I told of giving a fellow some cornmeal I’d ground from purple ears. In the glow of the late-night florescent light, the cooked cornmeal looked grayish tan. However, when he took it out of the fridge to fry it the next morning, it looked lavender in the sunlight. He said there was just something that goes against a feller’s grain about eating anything lavender at sunrise.

Richard was one of those guys who was built narrow in the hip and wide at the shoulder, so I doubt if he would have been anyone to mess with. From tinkering a bit in the garage with him, and from him pitching in at the sawmill on a couple heavy lifts, when he stopped by, I knew those bulging muscles held some power. He surprised his own self once with his strength. As we were sitting in his folk’s kitchen having a cup of tea one day, he told of picking an engine block up from the floor of the garage and putting it on his work bench. He said it was a pretty heavy lift and he looked up the weight of the block later that day to discover that it was listed as just over 400 pounds. He laughed and said, “If I’d known that to begin with, I’d never have able to get it off the floor!”

I’d visited many a time over the years with him and his folks and thought of them as friends. Their little beagle usually sat between my knees at the kitchen table, to get his head scratched, as I sat there sipping tea, talking or sharing a meal with them. For the record, Richard sometimes ate with us at the farm when he stopped by, also. I quit socializing with them, though, the day the little beagle came out the door when I knocked and tried to bite me. I had no choice but to kick at the dog in self-defense. I didn’t connect, but it DID keep the little fellow at bay. I was sort of shocked at the dog’s reaction, but then Richard’s mom came charging out the door, angrily yelling that I never had liked the dog, grabbed it up and went back inside. Richard and I conducted whatever business I was there for that day and I left. After that, I only stopped if I drove down the alley and Richard was already in the garage. I eventually found another place to get my car worked on. I always figured that his mom was off her medication that day and the dog picked up something from her mood. I’ll never know, though, and it doesn’t matter after all these years, anyway.

Despite being nearly bald from having huge red patches on his head of some common skin disease, along with the same type of patches on his arms. He finally found a nice girl who loved him and treated him right. He eventually landed a great job as a welder, but in a town several hours away. He married the girl and they moved. I saw him about five years after that and he had a full head of hair and only the tiniest red spot on one arm. I’ve always heard that those skin diseases are often made worse by stress, and I had to wonder if moving away from his mom may have been what allowed his condition to go into remission. I haven’t seen him since, his folks both passed many years ago, so he has little reason to be back in town. Sometimes, I wonder how he is and what all has happened in his life, but I guess that’s just one more thing I’ll never know. © 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

100% Chance Of Weather

That’s about all you can bet on. This week has been fairly warm, but not to the point of being a heat wave. Every late afternoon, or evening, we’ve been having a storm. Usually, only about an hour of rain came with it, though we did have a whole night of rain earlier in the week. Today, though, was supposed to be sunny and clear, and the next two days the same. I’d wanted to do a couple things outside this evening, before the Sabbath came at sundown. Plus, I’d hoped to mow the yard again on Sunday. This morning, the weather people were still predicting three good days.

However, when I took the dog out at 6AM, the breeze was gusting from the east. Most of our weather comes from the west, so that made the wind a “backing wind” in the vernacular of some old-timers. Backing winds usually bring bad weather, so I knew something was up. Sure enough, about 12 hours later, the darkening sky produced a storm, and it’s still raining an hour-and-a-half later.

Strangely enough, when I listened to the evening weather, our three days of good weather had completely disappeared, replaced by a full week of continued rainy days. I really have to wonder why we spend millions of dollars every year in this country trying to predict the weather, when any farm kid from two centuries ago could do better. © 2013

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Trying To Get On At Wally World (Again)

About five years ago, Wally World was the next-to-last place in town where I tried to apply. Most of you will understand why, though I have nothing against most of the people who work there. At the time, they had computer terminals in the store specifically for job-seekers. Since people would probably steal any mouse they put on them, they used the ball that you roll, instead. It didn’t work worth a hoot. In fact, it didn’t work worth a half-a-hoot. After spending half-an-hour doing what should have taken five minutes, I threw in the towel, figuring that I probably had another hour of technological hell ahead of me.

Today, I thought I’d try it again (yes, things are getting that desperate). The machines are much smaller now, but they work no better. You’d think that a multi-billion dollar international company could have machines that work, but they don’t. I had made some slight progress when I came to the part where you enter a user name and a password. Guess what? I chose an invalid password! Now, the only way that password could have been invalid, was for them to still have my password from my UNCOMPLETED attempt five years ago. OR, someone else with my name may have applied and got into their system. Since I have no idea what password I used five years ago, and had no way of knowing if someone else with my name was in their system, I once again abandoned the idea of working for the morons.

It’s probably for the best. Twelve years of union membership, 10 of which was as a shop steward, and 40 years of self-employment make me disinclined to take much crap, and I hear that they give you a lot. I sort of believe that things happen for a reason, so I will never again apply at Wally World. I just hope that things don’t get so desperate that I end up applying at a telemarketing place again. THAT would be scary! © 2013

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My “Cane Collection”

I have an old wooden churn from my dad’s family that I’d always wanted to put by the front door for umbrellas and such. Unfortunately, my wife’s taste doesn’t match mine, or we could have furnished our home with family heirlooms and saved some serious money. So, the churn has sat in my bedroom with some canes in it for many years, while the umbrellas get lost between monsoons.

Being unemployed, I’ve been selling off a few things now and then and decided that the old churn might as well be one of those things. In fact, that’s part of what caused me to refinish my great-granddad’s cane recently, since it was one of the canes in the churn. I haven’t gotten around to selling the churn yet, but I HAVE refurbished four old canes, plus finished a cane and a walking stick that I’d started years ago.

In the photo below, the cane in the foreground belonged to my dad’s mother. I don’t recognize the fine grained wood; it LOOKS like some sort of “jungle-wood,” and rings have been burned around it a few places to make it resemble bamboo. Grandma has been gone since ’69, and she may have inherited it from someone else, so it’s got a few years on it. Above that is a cane that belonged to my grandma’s sister, my Great-Aunt Marie. She had it for as long as I can remember, so that makes it old as the hills. It was made by her brother, Charlie, from a maple sprout, I think, with the main root being the “handle.” Above that is my great-grandfather’s cane that I made a post on recently.

Above that one is a hickory withe cane from the wash-house at my paternal grandparents. My granddad’s mother lived in that building sometimes, so it may have been hers, but I have no way of knowing. At first, I thought it was a dark finish on the wood. Then, I realized that the bark was still on the cane. Luckily, the stripper I’d put on didn’t loosen it, perhaps because I quickly wiped it off once I realized what I had. I’d originally assumed that it was a homemade cane. Then, I noticed what appeared to be sanding marks going AROUND the cane in such a way as to make me think it had been touched to a belt-sander. The average craftsman in those days didn’t have a belt-sander, but woodworking companies would have. That makes me think it was factory made.

Second from the top is a cane made from the root and stalk of a young dogwood. It had been entwined by a honey-suckle vine which made a groove and even caused a sprout to graft itself to the main stalk. Interestingly enough, the sprout continued on above the graft with small limbs and leaves. I left the stub to show the unusual event. You can see it in the close-up below the main photograph.

At the top of the photo, you can see a light-weight walking stick with the same sort of vine-embossed twist as the cane. Unlike the cane, I’d let the staff dry and had scraped the bark off. Traces of inner bark still remain. Like all the others, it got a 50/50 coat of rubbing alcohol/boiled linseed oil.

I’ll try to sell the two top ones that I’ve made, as well as the hickory one, since I can’t be sure of its history. Any cane-tips are new, but I won’t put any on Grandma’s and Aunt Marie’s since I won’t be using them. If anyone is in the market for a cane or a wooden churn, let me know! J © 2013


Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Spinach From The Can Had To Do

This evening, I ate something that I hadn't had in 40 years - cooked spinach. Back then, I hated it, now - I can tolerate it. I eat it whenever I can in salads, but not cooked. Lately, though, the weather and my mowing schedule has kept me from getting any wild greens, so I thought I'd try the tame variety. Even with a big pat of butter and a pinch of salt, they were basically tasteless - and SLIMY! I much prefer wild greens, both for flavor and texture. However, I still have a half-can to eat, and I won't waste them. So, I'll probably have the rest of them in a day or two. I guess I should still eat them when I can't get the real thing, it beats having another handful of cookies!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Divorce Parties And Such

Many, many moons ago, I lived in town with the first wife. It wasn’t a very good neighborhood. We were in a little enclave between the blacks, the hookers and the druggies. I had a little sympathy for the hookers, but not the other two. If anyone wants to call me racist or judgmental for that comment, go for it. One day as I was sweeping the walk in front of my apartment (yes, you read that right), a young woman drove by blowing her horn, smiling, hollering and waving. Being the country bumpkin that I am, I waved back automatically. Then I noticed the writing on her car that said “just divorced,” and the strings of beer cans dragging behind the rear bumper.

My first reaction was mild amusement (and a little sympathy, since I was beginning to learn what a bad marriage could be like). Next, it struck me as being sort of low class to carry on so over that particular subject. Then came sadness, that her life had been so miserable, and that the lives of others may have been equally so. I wondered how many lives that not just the bad marriage, but also the divorce would affect—the spouse who may (or may not) have been given an even break, any kids that may have been involved, and parents who may have dreamed of happiness for their married children. Even friends and siblings are affected by a divorce. All those thoughts came to me as the girl drove the half-block to the corner and turned out of sight.

That memory came back to me a while back when my stepson told me of doing a “divorce party” in his karaoke and D.J. business. The party was being thrown by one recently divorced woman who invited all of her divorced friends. I think he said that there were a couple dozen or so. There was drinking, I’m sure, though he doesn’t drink, thank goodness. They had him play all the “cheating songs” they could think of, and anything else that seemed relevant. They had no use for their ex’es, but acted perfectly fine towards him. Once again, it was amusing at first thought, and then seemed sort of low-class. I had some sympathy for them, having been through a divorce myself in the intervening years. Still, I had to wonder how many would spend the next lonely evening getting friendly with some guy who was supposedly “available.” Once again the ending emotion was a certain sadness for the whole bunch.

You see, there can be multiple “losers” in a divorce, but there are NEVER any “winners,” and those who think they are, merely fool themselves. The best thing is to act more wisely and chose more wisely before getting married in the first place (especially the second time around). The only thing anyone can do in a divorce is to be a survivor. © 2013

Friday, July 5, 2013

A Messed-Up Fourth And Some Other Stuff

We’d planned on going to the 50th Mountain State Art & Craft Fair in Ripley, West Virginia, yesterday, as is our custom on the Fourth. I was there the first year they had it, to celebrate our beautiful state’s centennial, and have missed no more than 5-6 of them since. I still have (for now) the yellow plastic centennial dollar my folks got me then. We didn’t go last year because of being in the middle of a heat-wave and our electric being out due to a horrible wind storm in the region. Both the dog and my wife would have been endangered from the heat, and we would have had no cool home to recover in.

Unfortunately, our air-conditioner went on the fritz in the wee hours of the Fourth this year, and my wife didn’t want to leave the dog home without it. We would have had to get there when they opened at nine to be home before the heat peaked. Plus, a storm was predicted in the late afternoon. SO, we stayed home and got a relative to fix the AC. The money that would have paid our way to the fair went to him, since he has to live, too. We thought about going today and suffering the financial consequences, and I was up at six to shower, but the wife decided not to go. She hadn’t slept well, and storms were predicted for any hour of the day. Maybe NEXT year!

I saw on Facebook later today where one of my relatives was airing her dirty laundry for about a thousand strangers to see, hoping to get some pity, I suppose. She didn’t get any from me; she’s an evil, lying sort of person anyway. Sometimes, you just reap what you sow. I warned another relative about her, but she’s pretty convincing, so my warning will probably go unheeded.

I dropped off three applications/resume combinations today. It turns out one of the jobs was filled since Wednesday, when I picked up those applications. Life ain’t easy for a semi-elderly blubber-butt. We went to the Chinese Emporium then to pick up a few things. The wife shopped while I sat in the restaurant and used their wifi. I could see the exit for the store from where I was seated and saw many an example of why folks should think long and hard before getting a tattoo. Markings on a young, firm body may not look so bad, but just wait until that body isn’t so firm and the skin starts to wrinkle and sag. Yuck!

We came home and watched a Gaither DVD while the day slowly cooled. Later, I took the dog for a “patrol of the perimeter,” so she could stretch her legs and pee, and I could check on things in the yard. She smelled a lot of interesting things and tried her best to roll in something she smelled, but I couldn’t see. I didn’t let her. My two tomatoes in my little Jerusalem artichoke patch need staked, or they’re going to get overshadowed. I straightened the wire around one of my grapes that I’d bumped when mowing the other day.

We sat on the porch a few minutes then and listened to the birds chirping in the nearby woods. The smell of burning wood wafted around the end of the house, as it does nearly every night when the neighbor lights his “campfire.” Tonight, the smell of roasting hot-dogs was definitely in the mix. Soon the dog tired of our porch time and wanted to go inside, so we did.

An absolute downpour hit last night just before they were to set off the fireworks at our local city park, so they’re supposed to try it again tonight. We’ll hear them clear out here in the country if they do. I heard the carnival was charging $15 and $20 for entry this year. That sort of rules out poor families. Things ain’t like they used to be when $5 would get a family in for both rides and a drink. I’m getting too old, I guess. © 2013

Thursday, July 4, 2013

More This, That And The Other

I got the lawn mowed, plus some extra mowing done Tuesday. There went my greens again! I hadn’t picked some that looked greatly like dandelion, but the teeth on the leaves were opposite, rather than staggered and the ends of the leaves were a bit more pointed. I THOUGHT that they were chicory, but wouldn’t take the chance. I let a few bloom and sure enough, they were chicory, so I’ll pick a few leaves the next time I get the opportunity.

As we went to the front door afterward, my wife remarked that she was glad that I got mowed, as it had been starting to look a bit snaky. I told that I hadn’t seen any in the yard yet this year. However, as I opened the door, there was a little milk-snake lying on our very threshold. I swished it off the porch with a broom. I’m sure my wife will never let me live THAT down.

A couple days ago, as we were returning from town, we saw a turkey hen near the side of the road, and what looked like a couple leaves blowing along the edge of the pavement. As we got closer, we saw that they weren’t leaves at all, and that she had about eight tiny poults with her. I slowed as I went closer, and a car coming from the other way did the same, but not as quickly. That startled the poults and some started back across the road as both cars came to a stop. The poults went back and forth a while before finally going back up the hill from whence they came. The whole time, the hen kept her eye on them and paced back and forth between them and the other car, which was much closer than us. Once they were safe, she joined them in their retreat into the woods. It amused me what a diligent crossing guard she was.

I just put the dog out at 3AM and heard a hoot-owl in the hollow. I was afraid I wouldn’t hear them anymore after getting the place timbered a couple years ago. I THOUGHT that I’d heard them in the distance a couple times recently, but tonight they were close enough to be certain. Thank you, Lord; it’s a good sound. It’s 4AM, so I’d better get back to bed! © 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

This, That And The Other

I read a piece in Fur-Fish-Game that the WVDNR, or somebody, wanted to know of any whippoorwill sightings (or “hearings”). I let them know that we have a pair nest around here every year, including THIS year. I hadn’t heard them for a couple weeks, but they could have just been drowned out by the tree frogs. A couple evenings ago, I heard them again as I stepped out the front door with the dog, but I apparently spooked them and they shut up.

As for tree frogs, they seem to have peaked in their calling, but every rainy night, they rev up again. A sizable number seem to live between the nearest neighbor (100 yards) and us, in the head of a small wooded hollow. From the variation in the calls, I’d say there are three different species in that small area.

As hunting season fades some in their minds, the deer are getting tamer again. When I took the pooch out once last night, the two does, bedded only 75 feet away, just laid there and chewed their cuds. As pretty as they can be to look at, sometimes it’s easy to think of them as 100 pound rats. They ate the lush, green tops off my single hill of potatoes and what grape vines grew above the 36” hardware cloth protecting them.

During the day, this year’s nearest nesting of crows is in full cry as the youngsters continue to beg for food, even though mom and pop are trying to teach them to forage on their own.

I’ve been seeing a fair number of lightning bugs this week. I remember seeing the creek bottoms and our hill-top pasture filled with them, when I was a kid. The cicadas haven’t fired up yet, not the locusts. I have to wonder when the latter will hit, since this is supposed to be the year for them.

I got my unemployment funds today. I draw about one-fourth enough to live on, so life ain’t easy these days, but we’re getting by for now. I don’t how people with kids are making it.

When we went to Wally-World this afternoon, a guy was backing out of the very space I was hoping to get, so I waited. However, when he realized that I wanted it, he pulled back in. He wasn’t talking on a phone or looking at a receipt or anything; he was just sitting there. I finally went on, drove around the back of the place, and came back just as he started to drive off. I sort hope that he looked in his mirror and saw me pull in right behind him. I guess guys like him are why I tend to like dogs better than people. © 2013