Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Rainy Day Thoughts

It’s raining here today, but that beats the trace of snow that was on the ground when I got up this morning. I had my studded tires put on yesterday, in anticipation of such weather. The tires don’t have a lot of wear left in them, so I’d hoped to put it off until the new year, but no such luck. They should get me through until April 15 anyway, when our state law requires that they be off. If they have any wear left in them by that time, I may just pull the studs and finish wearing them out. I’ve got an unused set still in storage, but if I can put off using them until next winter, so much the better.

There was a good crowd in the waiting room of the tire place, due to other folks preparing for bad weather also. It gave me a chance to engage in a little people-watching as I finished up the third volume of the Foxfire series. One woman had one of those phone thingies projecting forward from her ear and seemed to be talking to herself if seen from the left side. She was talking entirely too loudly and about things that I, for one, didn’t need to hear. It amazes me how many people have absolutely no sense about what should be discussed in public these days.

A young male customer came in and addressed the women in the office as “girls” in a pseudo-friendly sort of way. The women were old enough to be his grandmothers and I would have been delighted if one of them had slapped him up along the side of the head and told him to respect his elders. Of course, I know all too well that they couldn’t respond that way, even had they wanted to. He later tried to force his way into the conversation that I was having with one of the workers there, but we just ignored him. I suppose I should have been kinder, maybe he really IS trying to be friendly and has no idea how to go about it. Like most people his age, he probably didn’t have the benefit of a good raising.

As I always do when I’m there, I searched the cracks in the concrete lot for wheel weights to cast into muzzle-loader balls. I must have gotten nearly a pound this time. That would be 38 balls, according to a chart I saw. Of course, when they’re melted, some of that will be dross and some will be steel clips that will have to be skimmed out. They used to give the weights away to people who cast bullets and sinkers, but then the price of lead went up and the business owner got greedy. So, these days, they’re supposed to save all the old wheel weights, so he can sell them. They don’t bother picking dropped ones out of the cracks, though, so a few remain for “gleaners” like me. Considering that Obama is closing down the last lead smelter in the country due to “environmental concerns” (yeah, right) the rest of you who cast bullets or sinkers might want to get all the scrap lead you can WHILE you can. You know the REAL reason behind it all.

My wife just called from inside the store that I’m sitting outside of and said that she got the last small turkey and that there are no turkey breasts left. She said we almost had duck for Thanksgiving. I told her that would have been fine. We had gotten a big one, but our plans changed, so we’re saving the big one for Christmas now. If she’s in the food section, I’d better wind this up. If I forget to tell you later, I hope you have an enjoyable and thankful Thanksgiving. © 2013

Thursday, November 21, 2013


I got home from job-hunting and wife-hauling too late to do anything constructive yesterday, So, I took the dog on a little walk and did a little porch-sitting with her. After taking her back inside, I returned outdoors and gathered up a few branches from where I cut up the dead oak in the front yard. I then drug them to the other side of the lawn and tossed them onto what I plan on eventually being a bed for a hugelkultur experiment. That done, I walked around the left side of the house and sat down on the cut stones that hold a small fill beside the basement door. The stones came from the old cellar house of my paternal grandparents. I like to use things that hold memories when I can.

The clouds in the west were a beautiful golden color as sundown approached. After resting and remembering for a few minutes, I got up and moved a few things out of the way, where I need to fall three small oaks in the back yard. The largest of the three is growing a limb into the little stained-glass window in the apex of the cathedral ceiling in the upstairs bedroom. In my younger days, I’d have tied a ladder to the tree and gone up and cut the offending limb. Since it leans toward the back deck a bit, I’ve decided to bring the limb to me, since I can no longer climb that far on a ladder as to go to it. Once it’s down, two other small oaks might as well come down too, leaving those remaining less crowded.

When I built the back bedroom and deck, I envisioned my wife and me watching spring and autumn sunsets with a glass of wine in hand. Twelve years of afternoons at the factory squelched that plan. Times and people change, and we now spend sundowns on the road, or closed up in our house. We no longer drink wine, either, she - because it bothers her stomach, me - because I can’t really afford it anymore anyway.

Sitting down on the cut stones again, I watched the last sliver of sun slip beneath the oak-limbed horizon. It was just warm enough that I could enjoy sitting there watching the daylight pass into night. After a few minutes I could hear, and barely see, a squirrel coming towards me through the woods. At a certain point, he started up a now leafless oak, I suspected to work his way to a nest three trees over. And so he did, in his convoluted squirrel fashion. Against the last dim light of the yellow sky, I watched him enter the big ball of leaves that’s currently his home. I was surprised that he seemed to have his entrance on the west side, where most of our weather comes from around here. But then I heard leaves rustling, so he probably “closed the door” behind him.

The sky was yellow again this morning when I took the dog out for her first drain of the new day. Like the night before, it was one of those skies that seemed to forebode rain in the near future. (I think it’s predicted for tonight and tomorrow). In the forest edge, which is always just a few steps from our wood-side cabin, I could hear the chickadees conversing as they began their breakfast of weed seeds and bark-sheltered bugs. Again, the dog and I did a little porch-sitting after her deed was done. Sitting together at the porch edge, we watched the sun peek over the pines on the eastern horizon and begin to relight the heavens. We are so blessed. © 2013

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Mixed (or mixed up) Thoughts

My wife and I have been making more of an effort to pinch pennies lately, as we continue to enjoy the “expanding economy” and current personal unemployment under the president of hope (deferred) and change (for the worse). For one thing, my wife has had to give up her favorite thing in life—dining out, and we’ve regretfully curtailed our frequent drives in the country. We’ve decided that our charity of choice is now ourselves, and give only a token amount to help others. We hate that, but what can you do under such circumstances? We try to eat cheaper foods but, of course, that tends to add a lot of starch to our meals. We continue to spoil our dog with a double cheeseburger (plain) from Burger King on days when we’re in town. I used to tell them to hold the bun. These days, I get the bun and use it to make a bologna sandwich later. You’d be surprised how the residual flavor of the “flame broiled” burger in the bun perks up the flavor of the sandwich. Little things make a difference!

 I started to check into getting a little help through our state’s DHHR, but soon figured out that they want WAY too much information for what will probably turn out to be no help at all. Let’s face it, just because you’ve spent your entire life paying taxes to take care of other people, doesn’t mean the system will help YOU when times get tough. If things get tougher, I guess we could always check with the local food pantry. Private charities seem to be less intrusive than the government. I’ve lived my whole life without any help from the government; I guess I’ll continue to do so, until Obamacare can kill me off with the rest of the slaves who are getting too old to contribute to the welfare state. I wonder if I’ll still be alive to see the socialists in this country run out of other people’s money? I think it’s getting close.

With the extra time on my hands from not working, I AM finally sorting through some of my stuff and selling things that I no longer want, if they have even the slightest value. Things that I don’t choose to sell or keep are either given to relatives, neighbors or the Salvation Army. A few things are so worthless as to be simply thrown away. I think I’ve mentioned before that I inherited a lot of junk from relatives over the years. I have no desire to leave such a mess for my wife, my stepson or my daughter-in-law to have to dispose of when I’m gone. One thing I’m parting with is my fishing stuff. A few pieces of tackle I’m selling, but some things I’m giving to my “grandson” by my stepson’s recent marriage. If I ever fish again, it will probably amount to drowning worms with a hook, short line and a willow branch. In my old age, I’ve learned that simple is best. The only gun hanging on my wall these days is an old muzzle-loading Thompson Center Renegade that I had drilled out to a .54 smoothbore, so it will take either shot or round ball. I won’t be starting any insurrections at my age, and it will handle anything in the hunting line.

I tried my best to get some extra cash to take my wife out for her birthday. I had several small things listed for sale, but nothing came through in time except for one thing a neighbor got and he paid by check (after the bank closed on Saturday)! So, I decided to put it on the credit card and took her anyway. Just after we ate, I got a message that her son and daughter-in-law wanted to take us to lunch. Too late! The next day, some of the money came through. It’s not just the LACK of money that can be a pain, some days it’s the TIMING that makes things difficult. Of course, having been self-employed much of my life, I’m all too familiar with a feast and famine cash flow.

I mentioned a few posts back about cutting up a dead tree in my yard into firewood. Despite the fact that living expenses have sky-rocketed over the years, I can still only get the same price out of the wood that I got 30 years ago. Oh well, it gives me a little gas money.

For years, here in my part of West Virginia, we’ve had coyotes, a few mountain lions (which the state refuses to admit to) and an occasional bear passing through. It’s not like when I was a kid, and you felt safe taking a nap if the squirrel hunting got a little slow. I wouldn’t DARE let myself fall asleep in the woods these days! In fact, I don’t go out of the yard anymore without a weapon of some kind. The neighbor told me the other day that once, last year, he was sitting on his front porch and watched a mountain lion walk right through the center of our yard. Still, I believe that it’s safer here than in town!

I just checked with my mom about parting with a little rocking chair that was her father’s when he was a kid. I may give it to my youngest granddaughter while she’s still little enough to use it. If she and I were blood, that would make it her great-great grandfather’s. It will have to stay in her dad and stepmom’s house, so I’ll have to check with my daughter-in-law and see if she has room for it. That will be one more thing out of my bedroom!

I will say one thing, except for the poverty, I’m sort of enjoying the time available with unemployment! © 2013

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Setting My Gravestone

I’ve been carrying my gravestone around in the bed of my pickup for a year, so it seemed like time to free-up the space. I won’t go into the reasons why it was still there, let’s just say that it wasn’t all my doing. I’m glad I got it when I did, though, as there would be no money to get it now that I’m not working. I have a small insurance policy that will cover the bare essentials, but I figure that the cost of the stone is now something that my wife, or whoever, will have for other things. Besides, I could get it when there was no rush and be sure that I got what I wanted. The color of the stone and the script matches my folk’s monument, which I wanted.

There was one empty plot between my mother’s yet unused plot and my granddad’s half-brother. Mom checked with that side of the family several years ago, and they don’t plan on using it, so they had no problems with me claiming it. My parents and grandparents have low stand-up monuments, but they’re doubles. Since my wife will be buried next to her beloved first husband in a big cemetery in town, I only need a single. I decided to go with a small flat stone. Not only was it cheaper, but it also lets the caretaker simply mow over it, rather than giving him another stone to trim around.

I told my wife to just torch me and scatter my ashes beside my folks. No visitation and no ceremony, either, unless she wanted to have a little graveside thing. To tell you the truth, I would have preferred to have a regular service, but the prices keep going up, and I get disgusted at funeral directors getting rich from people’s grief. Making a living is one thing; getting rich is another. Besides, my wife wouldn’t hear of us getting pre-paid plans back when we could have afforded them. Go figure. I sort of hoped my wife would go with me today, as it would have saved gas going back to get her when I headed for town, but she wanted no part of it.

The steep drive-way up the hill to the little church, where we went when I was a kid, was so overgrown that I had to watch not to let the brush scratch the paint on the truck. They have only a handful of elderly folks going there these days, so they can’t really do any maintenance. I backed the truck under the low-hanging limbs of hemlocks that were knee-high when I was a kid. Exiting my truck, I strapped on my pistol, since I was out-of-sight and the graveyard is on the edge of hundreds of acres of forestland. I make it a practice to never to go into “the wild” unarmed.

I couldn’t let the tonneau go clear up due to the limbs, but I got it up enough to open the tailgate. Pulling the monument to the edge, I got my fingers under it, picked it up, turned and started walking toward my future home (well, for my ashes anyway). Even a small piece of solid stone is heavy, so this blubbery old man had to stop twice and rest in the 200 foot distance. To do so, I set the stone gently atop a monument and parked my derriere on another. I managed to find members of my own family who I thought might be more forgiving of my seeming disrespect.

Once there, I placed the stone very precisely, sat down again for a longer rest, and then returned to the truck for my axe and shovel. Using the axe, I carefully cut the sod around the monument, so it would drop into a perfectly-sized hole. I then used the shovel to dig down the thickness of the stone. After smoothing up the bottom of the hole, I slid the stone into it, stepped on it a few times to settle it and PRESTO—a perfect fit! I then used the shovel to cut a line about two inches from the stone all the way around, but without removing any sod. Then I stepped on the sliver of sod all the way around to tighten the grip of the dirt on the stone. Most folks could walk by and never know that it had just been installed.

I took a few minutes to savor the autumn day and remember the days of yore when the nearly forgotten little church at the northwest end of the cemetery had hardly a seat to spare. Looking around, I found some more relatives and some neighbors long gone. I also found the grandfather of a man that I used to go to church with elsewhere. I didn’t know that he’d served in Company H of the 3rd West Virginia Volunteer Cavalry during the great Uncivil War. I do now.

Some folks get edgy around cemeteries. I suspect that has more to do with the fear of their own mortality than it does with ghosts and goblins. I’ve always found cemeteries to be peaceful, interesting places. You can learn a lot of history in a graveyard. I actually hated to leave, but I guess I’ll be there permanently soon enough. Then I’ll have eternity to visit with the other residents of the place (well, SOME of them at least). © 2013

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Omens, Hauntings, Ghosts And Ghouls

The other day, I received an interesting message from a Facebook friend.

“About 2 weeks ago I woke, as I often do in the wee hrs if I go to bed too early, and glanced at the window to see if dawn was breaking. There seemed to be a strange light outside my window. With the uphill slant of the land, our water tank and my daughter’s camper...there should have been nothing casting a light at that window. I looked at the time and it was 1:32 a.m., far from daylight. When I looked back, the window was dark! A few nights later I woke for no reason, and while trying to figure out what woke me, it sounded like someone pounded on our front door. Three knocks evenly spaced and at the same volume. My dog heard it and started barking. I woke my husband, who checked around outside with a weapon and light, but couldn't find anything or anyone. He came back to bed and as we were talking about it, we heard pounding again, only it sounded like it was about half way out the drive. Again three times in the same pattern just not as loud.

“A few days later, I was home alone and I heard a lot of noise toward the back of the trailer and thought our tomcats were fighting. Since my hearing isn't good, I couldn't tell exactly what it was or where it was coming from, so I opened the door to look out and two buzzards flew from the top of my trailer to the edge of the yard. They circled just over the top of the trees there, but soon flew away. That same weekend one of my husband’s uncles passed away. The uncle had disowned all his family but one brother, so I had never met this man.

“We’ve had our trailer in this location for 13yrs, and buzzards have never come closer than to soar over our field, and much higher than treetop....Would love to hear your thoughts.”

I’d touched on some of my thoughts on the supernatural in a post a year or two ago, but many have probably never seen it. However, I don’t believe I recounted a couple experiences of my own.

The first was during broad daylight, when I was probably 18-20 years old, and still living with the folks. I was on the far side of the hollow in the back pasture, which Dad had nick-named “Maternity Flats,” due to so many of our cows going there to calve. It was summer, and the buzzing sound of various insects in the field and trees around me was very noticeable. As I stood there surveying the scenery, I noticed that the buzzing kept getting louder and louder. Since I kept bees at the time, I started watching for a swarm, in case one was available to be captured. The buzzing kept getting louder and louder, but nothing could be seen in any direction, including straight up.

Finally the noise became almost deafening and, afraid that I might be in a potentially dangerous spot, I trotted across the shallow draw that made up much of that field and didn’t stop until I was a couple hundred feet away. The buzzing was far less noticeable there, and it gradually subsided to zero, without ever sounding as if it was moving. After a few minutes, I slowly retraced my steps, looking for a swarm of bees hanging on a branch, or some other explanation for what I’d just experienced. I found nothing. I had a 12 gauge in my hands, and was too stupid at that age to be scared of much, but I tell you, I was a bit nervous to be around a huge swarm of invisible bees! To this day, I think there was no NATURAL explanation.

Some people have said that they have heard supernatural voices. I don’t doubt them, for so have I. The last three were the “still, small voice” of God, bring messages that I didn’t exactly want to hear. The first one was as far from God as you can get. Not long after becoming a Christian, I was laying in bed still awake, while my new wife lay sleeping beside me. Deciding to put the time to good use, I decided to pray silently to the Lord. There were a lot of adjustments to be made with a new wife, stepson and an upcoming move from her home to mine, PLUS the lifestyle change of trying to be a good Christian. As a result, it was a bit of a long prayer, but suddenly, overtop my own internal voice came the words “I don’t need you, God!”

It wasn’t my voice, and it literally interrupted me; there was no lull in my prayer where the words were inserted. The voice sounded evil and as if it was synthesized—not natural. To say that I was shaken up would be an understatement. My next sentence was, “I don’t know who that was, Lord, but he sure wasn’t speaking for ME! I apparently need you more than I ever dreamed!” My prayer continued uninterrupted, and I’ve never heard the voice again. Some folks would insist that I dreamed it, but I truly was NOT asleep. Knowledgeable believers will understand.

I believe that there may be people who can conjure up the dead. Unlike some people, I believe that Saul actually spoke to Samuel after Samuel’s death, when Saul had consulted a medium. One reason that I believe so is because Samuel gave Saul the dickens for his sin of consulting the medium in the first place and foretold his ruin. The Bible makes it clear that we are to leave such consultations strictly alone.

As for my friend’s experience, who is to say? Maybe it was some less than obvious co-incidence, or maybe it was some message from a higher (or lower) power. But, since she’s a Christian, she’s safe from any such “messengers,” regardless of the source.

So, do I believe in ghosts? Absolutely not. There are no biblical indications that Almighty God loses track of people and lets their spirits go wandering through the world willy-nilly. I DO believe in angels and demons. However, I believe the only folks who are in danger from the demons are those who are unsaved and those saved individuals who insist on dabbling in the occult. Remember, “Greater is He who is in you, than he who is in the world.” © 2013