Monday, January 27, 2014

Attack Of The Blue Fuzzies (And Other Useless Information)

The truck driving school tried having class this morning (outside), but the windchill of 11 below discouraged them by 11 o’clock and they sent us home. It’s hard to believe that it was 44 degrees at 2AM this morning, yet it’s supposed to get down to four below tonight. It’s already down to eight above. Our little dog thinks a blanket is just fine tonight.

We have a basement only under the back third of our house. Due to a legitimate lack of closet space, my wife keeps a bunch of things piled against the door to the basement and used to get irritated when I wanted to go downstairs. So, I finally installed a lock that I can unlock from the outside. I saw no need to offer burglars any extra opportunity before that. Now, when I want to go to the basement, I simply walk around to the back of the house, unlock the door and enter. For the last week-and-a-half, though, the weather has been so miserable that I neither want to brave the elements nor let cold air into the furnace room. As a result, my sorting of tools and hardware items is temporarily on hold. That means more time in front of the computer and the TV. I’ve even gone back to reading some, which I’ve missed, but hadn’t had a lot of time for lately. I must admit, though, I’m getting a little tired of TV, and my backside is starting to go numb from being on the hard oak chair in front of the computer. I’ll be glad for warmer weather.

I thought I saw a pink car today (there ARE a few around town), but it turned out to be a red car covered with road salt. I bet the owner is ready for warmer weather, too.

As for the blue fuzzies, they’re EVERYWHERE! I see them on the carpet, on the dog, on my clothes, and the clothes of my wife. They cling to my books, the lamp and the furniture. I knew where the darker ones were coming from. The cheap sheets I’ve been sleeping under are getting old. The polyester threads among the cotton are getting fuzzy and shedding onto me, and then I drag them everywhere I go. We couldn’t figure out where the lighter-colored ones were coming from, though, until yesterday, when my wife wore an old zip-up sweater-like top that she got when she had her cancer surgery a few years ago. When she got out of the truck, her seat was covered with the light-blue fuzzies. A burgundy-colored version that she got at the same time, isn’t shedding though, despite having been worn more often.

She’s going to retire the sweater. I may have to do the same with the sheets. The other day, I went to the bathroom and found a blue fuzzy somewhere it wouldn’t be polite for me to discuss. © 2014

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Cabin Fever

It’s been hovering around zero at night for most of a week and not a lot warmer through the day. Our furnace finally shut off for about half an hour this afternoon—the first time since Monday. I’ve been getting my wife and dog taken out about every other day to combat cabin fever, but it’s gotten the best of them a time or two. Our little dog has come to expect a little ride every day and mopes when she doesn’t get it. She’s getting worse than my wife!

It started snowing sometime before 4AM and only stopped for about an hour this afternoon. I managed to get the dog to take her daily “doo” in the snow, so she’s good for the night, unless she gets some unexpected urge. She’ll have to drain about every three hours, though, especially now that she’s got another urinary tract infection.

The snow has started again with a vengeance, but so far, we still have less than six inches. Of course that’s still deeper than the dog. Currently, it’s 4 degrees here and the snow is coming sideways more than downward. There won’t be any taking my granddaughter out for her birthday this evening, and probably not tomorrow. At seven, she’ll be disappointed, but it will probably all be okay if the waiters bring her a cake and sing Happy Birthday, whenever we DO get her out.

Guess I’d best get off here and go back to work on my “trip” project for CDL class. Ya’ll try to stay warm (and sane)! © 2014

Friday, January 24, 2014

Cold, Permits And Pigs

It’s been a cold week here. The “school” where I’m taking my CDL classes only had regular classes on Monday. Since then, mornings have begun around zero degrees with a wind-chill under minus 10 degrees. They DID have some of the fellows there today, who are farther along than my group, doing some lot maneuvers. I don’t know if they had anyone on the road or not. I stopped in to borrow an atlas so I could do one of my projects over the weekend that would have been done this week, had there been classes. They also made a copy of my CDL learner’s permit.

From that last sentence, you can gather that I took and passed the remaining part of my written exam today (which I flunked last week). I still missed a question, but I passed. In doing my studying, I think I figured out PART of why I didn’t do better last week. There are a few parts of the brake system that are known by multiple names. Instead of standardizing their terms, they use them indiscriminately in the test, which is confusing to an old muddle-headed fellow like me. I guess an extra week of studying helped me to remember them better. I have to wonder, though, since they’re trying to standardize laws and licensing across the whole country, why are they not standardizing terms? Oh well, I passed; that’s the main thing.

Two other classmates showed up while I was at the DMV. I hope they passed, as well. Also, I learned that I could have taken my original test here in my home town, rather than clear down at the state capitol. But, for some reason, they haven’t advertised the fact, so my school didn’t know about it. I suspect they made the change when they moved into their new building last year. I’ll try to remember to tell the manager up there Monday.

We went to the Chinese Emporium this afternoon to get a birthday gift for our youngest granddaughter. While there, I needed to use the restroom, but found the floor covered with urine, and the commode spattered with juice from a guy’s snuff. I could have used the other one, had I waited. However, since I know the guy who would have had to clean up the mess (a former coworker), I did it for him and went ahead and used that one. You really can’t put tobacco juice down the side of a “spittoon” that large and put that much urine on the floor without meaning to do so. I guess it’s good that I didn’t see the guy doing it; I might have done something terribly unchristian and mopped up the mess with HIM! Some guys are such destructive pigs. © 2014

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Snow Day Thoughts

We don’t have much snow—maybe only a couple inches, but it’s still snowing and they say more is on the way. The wind is blowing and already trying to drift what little snow we do have, and it’s too cold for salt to melt the snow on the roads. The scene out my office window looks like the picture on a Christmas card and the wind makes a slight howl as it rushes past my window. The “leaves,” moving strangely at right angles to the wind in the forest edge, turn out to be tiny chickadees and nuthatches fighting the elements to find enough food to help them live another day. I noticed last evening that a wren had laid claim to the nest a flycatcher had built under the eaves last spring. He won’t use it come spring, but it gives him a safe spot on the leeward side of the house in which to spend a cold night.

I called the truck driving school this morning, about a half-hour before opening, and the manager said he hadn’t decided whether to cancel classes or not. He’d been telling everyone to use their own judgment. I told him that I lived on a high ridge and that my concern wasn’t in getting there, but in making it back to my wife and dog afterward, so I’d just stay home. That seemed fine by him. He was outside the office shoveling the porch when I called. I hope he wises up and goes home, since he’s no spring chicken.

When I was young and worked with my dad, we earned only what we could scrape up from the sawmill and firewood sales this time of year, so we worked in some pretty foul weather. I remember the deep snows of ’77, ’78 and ’79 when I was living in town with my first wife and couldn’t even make it to the farm. I’d shovel the snow from in front of the apartment into the bed of my pickup until it was heaped up, and then I’d have enough traction that the old ’68 International 2-wheel would go almost anywhere.

I’d take my wife to work, or to class, as the case may have been, then walk the end of town where I lived, peddling honey from my own bees and shoveling sidewalks to pick up a few bucks. I always told folks to pay me whatever it was worth to them for the shoveling. I quickly learned who the skinflints were. I did it as much for entertainment as money, though, so I figured my conscience was clear; they could deal with the Lord over theirs.

One of those winters, I’d just stepped into the apartment and opened the front drapes in time to see the front porch roof drop to the concrete with a boom. I’m sure the two feet of snow and the weight of the roof would have killed me had I still been outside the door.
Squirrel hunting had always been my favorite sport, but so many of the little creatures starved in their dens those three winters that it took the grey squirrel population 20 years to recover. It was more like 30 for the fox squirrels. Due to that, I basically gave up squirrel hunting.

I remember when I thought snow was a fun thing to have but, now that I’m old and grumpy, it doesn’t look nearly as pretty to me. In fact, I’m developing a certain appreciation for the color brown. Many times, “snow” feels like just another four-letter word. Oh well, I’ll have lots of time to study for retaking my air-brakes exam! © 2014

Sunday, January 19, 2014

On Teaching And Testing

Since flunking my CDL class the other day, I’ve been trying to figure out a way to blame everyone except myself, of course. I haven’t been that successful at it, especially since it was the air-brake section that I flunked. For my own safety, air brakes are something that I should know inside and out. It DID get me to thinking, though, about my beliefs concerning teaching and tests, in general.

To begin with, let me say that I don’t have much liking or respect for public school teachers as a group. In my past, I had two or three absolutely wonderful, motivational teachers. I also had two or three horrible, psychopathic teachers who belonged either in a mental institution, or behind bars. All the rest were various shades of depressingly mediocre.

College was a different story, but only because it was a private college, I believe. Those colleges that are considered as state colleges and universities seem to have about the same disgusting mix as secondary public schools from what I’ve heard. Let’s face it, some teachers could teach sex to fourteen-year-olds and make it boring.

My greatest personal beef with secondary school was with those who taught history. Every year, when I first got my textbook, I’d read it front to back, laughing at the propaganda the liberal writers inserted, but thoroughly enjoying all the rest. Then, I wouldn’t pick up the book for the rest of the year, making passable grades by simply paying attention in class. I’ve loved history since before I could read—always interested in the what’s, the why’s and the how’s of the old days. I was NOT that interested in the who’s or the when’s and, frankly, most of the time, those facts are NOT that important to understanding the onward march of time, though sometimes it’s important to know the ORDER of things.

Tests, of course, belabored the very things that mattered least in my opinion, both then and now. Dry, boring facts are the forte of dry, boring instructors, so such questions abound on most tests. Essay questions best prove whether a person understands a subject, but they require that the teacher be able to reason as well or better than the student. I suppose that explains the preponderance of “multiple guess” questions on modern tests; that and the machine-gun teaching methods of teachers who feel pushed for time, due to irrational demands by administrators and such.

The so-called “trick question” is perhaps the most disgusting thing on most tests. I believe that they are designed not to prove the understanding of those taking the test, but to feed the ego of those designing the test by making them feel more intelligent than their students. Such questions may test the reading ability of the person being tested, or their comprehension of the English language, but they do NOT test the student’s knowledge of the subject (unless that subject happens to BE English). More often, they simply test the trust the student has in the teacher to be concerned about truly teaching them the material and testing them fairly—a trust that is destroyed 99% of the time.

These things being said, I happen to like my current instructor. He really is trying his best to teach the subject to his students as simply as possible. Unfortunately, he doesn’t design the tests. But that’s okay, I’ll play their little games and still pass next time, I believe. Plus, for my sake and everyone else’s, I’ll master those air-brakes! © 2014

Friday, January 17, 2014

I Flunked My CDL!

I would have passed the CDL test at the DMV, had the test all been combined, but it was divided into three parts and you had to pass each part separately. I missed passing the last part by one point, so I have to wait a week to take it over. A few answers, I simply forgot. Some were never covered by our textbook (I don’t think). Some were on materials irrelevant to a Class A license, so shouldn’t have even been on the test. A couple were trick questions designed not to prove the “testee’s” knowledge, but to prove the tester’s sneakiness. Had I not simply forgotten a couple things, I would have passed, so I can only blame so much on other folks. I DO feel that four days isn’t adequate time to impress a complicated, unfamiliar subject on a slightly befuddled fellow like myself.

So, I wasted the two-hour drive down, the hour-and-a-half at the DMV, and the two hour drive back. I WAS able to find out that my retest can be taken at the local office, so I was happy to hear that. It’s frustrating, but I’ll do like the old Indian in Josey Wales and “endeavor to persevere.”

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

School Days

Well, I just finished my third day of classes toward getting my CDL. The people at the school seem nice enough, but the owner appears to be a little overly “frugal.” His lot is in dire need of some gravel, but I haven’t heard the subject mentioned, yet. The “equal lib” restroom is a portable toilet about 30 feet from the mobile home-style building that contains both the office and the classroom. The owner is being paid $4000 a head by the state to teach us what we need to know, yet we get neither our textbook nor a trucker’s highway safety manual. They have only “classroom copies.” The study manual that the state gives folks for free, we are allowed to take home, but we’re to turn it in when the schooling is over with. It turns out that schools are supposed to order them, while the state GIVES them to individuals. Individuals are going to use them either way, but leave it up to the government to try to make some money on the deal (and the school owner to be too tight to buy them.) ;-)

Also, Friday, We all have to drive to the state capitol to take our CDL “learner’s permit” test. We have a brand-new DMV office here in town, but NO, the state won’t let us take the test HERE. I’m sure that it’s because they want that $90 fee to stay in the capitol rather than get side-lined here. The driving part, we can do here and then take the papers they mail us to the local office to get our new license. I’m sure the reason they allow that is because NO MONEY CHANGES HANDS during that part of the process.

I had originally hoped to get my passenger endorsement, but that would take an extra week and cost me $1000, so I won’t. Considering that the school has a bus that they use for the use of those who are getting a passenger endorsements on their CDL, it would be nice if they’d drive us all down to Charleston to take our tests, but they aren’t planning on doing that. So, here we folks who aren’t currently working have to take a day off school and burn the gas to take a two-hour drive to the capitol. Some of them are car-pooling, so I guess that will help.
I did something stupid today. I locked my keys in the truck when I was on break. SO, I had to call my wife and she had to drive about 15 miles to unlock the truck with her “zapper.” She wasn’t too pleased; it was a cold day! She made good on the trip and got her hair done, though, so it worked out well for her. Plus, the car hadn’t been run for weeks and needed limbered up a bit.

I did get one good piece of news, from when we went across the river to get our DOT physicals Monday. Since my current poverty has caused me to back off on eating out and eating so much junk food, I’ve lost 12 pounds. I guess even poverty can have its good points, if it doesn’t get TOO severe! © 2013

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Sundry Sunday Musings

I was looking at the 1946 photos from the 4-H camp at Jackson’s Mill earlier and was reminded of my comments the other day about being curious as to their tragedies and triumphs in their lives. While few teenagers have solid plans for their life, most have some vague idea of how they think their lives MIGHT turn out. I remember seeing myself as eventually having a supportive wife, two sons, a daughter, earning my living working the farm and sawmill with my dad and, maybe, adding a boarding stable to the mix. I even saw myself surrounded by grandkids and me bouncing them on my knee.

I was able to work the sawmill with my dad for eight of the 11 years between my high school graduation and Dad’s untimely death from heart failure. I also ran it full-time for seven years after his passing, until I realized that it would never adequately support a wife. I’ve joked that I’ve had two bad marriages to two fine women. That statement may be truer than I want to admit, but it will soon be 31 years with the second one. I‘ve never had any children, but I have a stepson whose sundry relationships have given me five grandkids, only a couple by him. He’s got a good wife now, though, and I think this match will last. We’d stopped raising Hereford’s in place of Christmas trees before I ever got out of high school, and I’ve never gotten back to it. The stable idea never got beyond that stage. All-in-all, my life has turned out almost nothing like I thought it would.

Would I change anything if I could? Well, maybe a few things; but would I wish my father back into this insane world for him to see today’s American citizens giving away the very freedoms that he fought for, and some of his friends died for? No, I wouldn’t. Would it have been better to have remained single than marry a woman whose difficult childhood left her with traits difficult in their own right? Sometimes I think so, but then I realize that dealing with her troubles have taught me much about patience, understanding and compassion. Plus, it was her dragging me to church that got me saved when I did. (I like to think I would have come around eventually anyway, but who knows.) And, though I rarely see my grandkids, would I willingly give up those precious moments when I do? Never! Life is mostly a matter of making the best of whatever fate and our own decisions bring us. Though I’m bad about grumping, I’m also pretty good at taking my happiness where I find it, and life brings SOME good to everyone, if we let ourselves enjoy it. Am I leaving God out of the equation? No, I know better, but that’s a whole other subject.

Changing gears, today I took my wife for a ride, since I start CDL classes tomorrow, and she won’t have my charming company between the hours of 6AM and 4PM (travel time included) weekdays for the next five weeks. Passing a point on a neighboring ridge, she remarked what a beautiful building site it would make if someone would tear down the weathered little house there and the big stone gate by the road. She then asked why such an unpretentious little home had such a fine stone gate at the end of the driveway. I told her that many years ago, a local doctor had a big stable there where he raised Standardbred race horses, and the stone gate was the entrance to the stable. No doubt, someone decided to preserve that history by leaving the gate. I had to wonder if anyone living today, besides me, even knows that story.

On another subject, I have four things gathered up that I’m going to send my first cousin’s “boy” before long. One is a wooden box from Haiti that his grandfather sent me when he was in the navy. Another is the old Lufkin measuring tape that I’ve decided was used by his great grandfather in a shipyard a couple counties away during World War II. Also included is a brass belt buckle that belonged to that same great-grandfather. It has his initial on it and was originally silver plated, but all the plating wore off from decades of use. The last item is a small board, painted an ugly yellow, to which are wired nine arrowheads, which were found in the cornfields of the little farm where his grandfather lived for a few years as a kid. That grandfather had mounted them on the board and taken them to school as part of a project he was doing. I have a lot of old family photos on a USB that I want to send him, too, but I still have more photos to scan. He has a son of his own now, I believe, so maybe this little bit of history will have more meaning than it might have a few years ago.

Lastly, I’ve been going to bed early for three nights now, and getting up between 4 and 6AM, so I’ll be better prepared for being at class at 7AM of a morning. It still aggravates me that I have to get a piece of paper that says that I know how to do something that I did for several years in the past. It’s even crazier that I have to learn how to drive a tractor-trailer, just to get a job driving a straight frame or, often times, even a delivery van, but that’s what the companies require. Oh well, you either jump through the hoops or you don’t get the job. Wish me luck! © 2014

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Prince Albert In The Can

Most kids these days have probably never heard of the old trick of calling the store to see if they had Prince Albert in the can. They're probably also too sophisticated to consider it amusing when the reply to the affirmative answer was a command to let him out. In fact, most of them have probably never even heard of Prince Albert—either the man or the tobacco. Their loss, I guess.

The flat little cans have been used as wallets and bait boxes, for holding fishing kits, fire-starting kits, first-aid kits and for a host of other things. The ones in the picture were used by a man named Lyss Fleming in Volcano, West Virginia to hold a collection of screws, small bolts, nuts and rivets. Alas, anything that useful MUST be done away with. It’s some kind of law, I think.

Regardless, here are a couple pictures to bring back some memories for my fellow old geezers and geezerettes. I think the can on the left is the oldest. Ah yes, I remember them well! © 2014

Cick image to enlarge.

Friday, January 10, 2014

If It Ain’t Broke, It May STILL Need Fixed !


It bought this wheelbarrow a few years ago to replace the one my wife had when we got married. It was probably the same brand, but had cheap jungle-wood two-piece handles that didn’t hold up well to serious use. (Remember when handles for such tools were hickory or oak?) It also had a low-sided tub that let everything dump out the front if you forgot to walk hunch-backed.

This one had one-piece handles, but they may still be jungle-wood. If they’re an American species, they certainly aren’t hickory or oak. Though the tub had higher sides, it didn’t have enough back-slope, so you still had to walk hunch-backed if you didn’t want things spilling out the front. The worst problem, though, was that the tire was too small in proportion to the height of the front end of the handles. SO, when you were tooling along walking hunch-backed to begin with, if there was a bump on the ground, or if you started easing more upright in stature, the front of the handles jammed into the ground, slowing you, stopping you, or sometimes, spilling your load. Part of the problem is that the handles are too short. Longer ones would lower the angle of the frame, making it less likely to jam, while also making it less likely that you’d try running over yourself (catch your heels) when pulling the barrow behind you after emptying.

After several years of cussing and discussing the newer wheelbarrow’s short-comings, I decided to do something about it. The easiest fix seemed to be putting blocks between the axle and handles, so the front end of the handles would be farther from the ground and less likely to jam. Having raised the wheelbarrow 1-1/2 inches with my own version of a wooden lift kit, I must say that it works much better. It not only doesn’t jam into the ground during normal work, it raises the front of the tub a bit, making it less likely to spill things out the front. Of course the handles are still too short, but there’s no easy fix on them, only replacement, so I’ll wait a while before getting that industrious. After all, I’d have to make my own because you sure can’t buy anything worth taking home.

I suppose some folks might feel that my alteration would make it harder to dump the wheelbarrow, but that doesn’t seem to be a problem. You either have enough muscle to do the job or you don’t. Also, just for the record, I’m not overly tall at 5-10, so it’s not like I dwarf the thing.

The bottom line is that that like most things these days, it was probably designed by people who’d never done an honest day’s work in their lives. Therefore, it was simply designed to be produced cheaply, not to work well. Oh well, It only cost me a couple dollars in longer bolts to make it a lot better. © 2014

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Burger King Bait And Switch

I grumped when Burger King down-sized their burgers a few years ago. However, I used to be in business myself, and I know all about rising costs. I also know that some companies, rather than be straight-forward about it and raising their prices, lessen the quality or quantity of their goods or services to save money in place of upping prices. Examples of that are Burger King’s shrinking burgers and, more recently, leaving off the second piece of cheese on a double cheeseburger. Never in my life have I ordered a double-cheeseburger and received only one slice of cheese—until Burger King started down the low road. They now charge you and extra 20 cents if you request an “extra” slice of cheese on your double cheeseburger.

I have no doubt that sales are off at fast food restaurants, less because people are getting more health conscious, than due to our “improving” economy that keeps making the poor poorer and middle class non-existent. Supposedly, as a way to recapture part of the market and of course “to help people out,” they’ve expanded their dollar menu. Although we’d had lunch at home today, my wife and I had been out running errands long enough that we were getting hungry again. Since we had plans to just “piece around” this evening, rather than fix an actual supper, we decided to get a dollar sandwich apiece for us and the dog.

Inside, the girl at the counter did her job as instructed and asked if I wanted cheese on my rodeo burger, to which I replied to the affirmative. My first suspicion was raised when she didn’t call it back “rodeo burger add cheese,” but “rodeo cheeseburger.” Sure enough, after the girl gave me my cup, change and receipt, and walked off to fill the order, I looked at the receipt and found a case of old-style bait and switch, except that I hadn’t been told about it. It turns out that rodeo cheeseburgers cost $1.49, NOT a dollar plus 20 cents for the cheese.

I questioned the manager standing nearby and she said that was the correct price. I told her my “beef,” and she agreed that it wasn’t good business and offered to refund my money. I told her that wouldn’t be necessary, but that it wouldn’t happen again. She understood and told me that I wasn’t the first to rightfully complain. I asked her to pass it along that an irate customer complained about the rip-off, and she assured me that she would. I’m slightly acquainted with the young woman from doing occasional business there, and I believe that she will. The question is whether it will do any good.

One reason this country is in the mess it’s in is because we have people running the government, and many of the corporations, with no respect for honesty and honor. This little bait and switch isn’t something being done at the store level. You know very well that it was planned from the top as a way to up-sell their dollar items. That says a lot to me about the moral character of the people now running Burger King. It wasn’t the 29 cents; it was the deliberateness of the bait and switch that peeved me. And if you’re tempted to say, “Hey, it was only 29 cents,” you’re right! But multiply that 29 cents times millions of customers, and it’s no longer minor dishonesty; it’s major corruption. Maybe it’s time that I do a little comparison shopping. © 2014

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Measure Twice, Cut Once

I thought that a few of you might enjoy seeing this. I found it in a bucket of tools that were mostly my maternal grandfather's. However, there were a few pieces in there belonging to an even older elderly cousin. I THINK it belonged to my grandfather. If so, I believe it was used at the shipyard at Point Pleasant, West Virginia during WW II. If it belonged to the cousin, it would have been used by him in the oilfields around Volcano, West Virginia. It measures about 2-1/2 inches across. Below the photo are the words of the ad that I placed on Facebook.

ANTIQUE 25 FOOT BRASS PLATED LUFKIN CLOTH TAPE MEASURE FOR SALE - was used either in the shipyard at Point Pleasant, or the oil fields of Volcano, don't know which - tape is complete but extremely oily - loop is literally hanging by a thread - $10 or the highest offer above that

Dern Such Weather!

My dad used to tell about what he called “a little character” at the top of our hometown paper every day that always said the words comprising the title of this post. Rain or shine, hot or cold, his message was always the same. I was thinking that it might have been Snuffy Smith, but when I looked for an original image or quote online, there were indications that it could have been Barney Google. Regardless, I can’t find proof of either one, so I’m no wiser on the matter than before my “research.” One thing is for sure, with the weather we’ve had in the last 24 hours, this is one time that I’d second the thought.

At bedtime last night, it was 52 degrees and raining. By morning, it was in the teens and snowing a bit. My wife, myself and the dog went to town about nine, got us a McDonald’s breakfast, went to Walmart for a while and picked up a few things, gassed up and drove a loop around town. Heading back home about noon, the read-out on my dash said it was 16 degrees, then 14, then 12. At the end of our 15 minute ride home, it was trying to blink to 10, but not quite succeeding. Planning on staying home for the next 48 hours due to predictions of even lower temperatures, I first went online to catch up with Blogger, Facebook and emails. Then, after doing a little reading, making a prolonged stop in the little room (more reading), followed by taking the dog out, I went to the basement about three o’clock to do a little organizing. At 4, the electric went out.

After going upstairs to discuss the matter with my wife and the dog, I called the power company and spoke to their pretend person, who (after telling me in Spanish that if I wanted to hear the message in “Espanol,” to press a certain number) predicted the repairs would be made by 6:30. After much discussion and a five o’clock vote (with the dog abstaining), it was decided that it was better to drive around in a warm truck than sit in a rapidly cooling house. (By that time, it was 3 degrees, with a windchill of negative 11.) So, for an-hour-and-a-half, we drove slowly to and around town, with the only stop at about 6:30 for another meal at McDonald’s. By then, it was 1 degree with a windchill of negative 15.

Arriving home at 7, we were greeted by a dark neighborhood, except for those homes that had generators. Calling the power company once more, the pretend person on the other end of the line (after the Spanish blurb) told me that it would be 9 before the repair was complete. All things considered, I chose to take them up on their offer to call me when the repair was made, then we headed back to town. At 8, I got a call from another pretend person telling me that they had made some repairs that MAY have resulted in our service being restored, and asking whether we had power at the moment. Not knowing the answer to the question, I headed home to investigate. We were happy to find that power was, indeed, restored. The dog was happy, too. Unfortunately, the house had cooled enough and the weather had worsened enough, that it appears the furnace will have an uphill battle to catch up in weather that is supposed to be even worse tonight and tomorrow.

Before this even happened, the power company was warning that the added draw on power, due to the harsh weather, might cause power outages. That tells me that they knew it was coming (due to many years of not up-grading their system) and were trying to shift the blame from the greedy and incompetent management, to the electron-hungry consumers who were crazy enough to prefer not freezing to death. The only other logical scenario would sound like a conspiracy theory, so I won’t go there, since almost no-one wants to hear such things, even when they’re true. Something else came to mind, though. If the problem was fixable, wouldn’t it have been avoidable in the first place? I’ve learned that suits get very nervous when you pose such questions, so I guess I won’t call Mon Power and ask.

It’s now after 1 in the morning. I finally decided to put a blanket on my bed tonight, despite sleeping nearly year ‘round with only a sheet. (Fat guys can normally do that.) I also noticed my ears feeling funny, like I’d gotten too much wind. So, hoping to avoid an earache or head cold, I took a bandana, made a “mask” of it, similar to what outlaws and cattle drovers would use, and put it on my head “backwards” like a scarf, to cover my ears. I have no mirror up here in the bedroom, but in my mind’s eye, I see a fat Rosie-the Riveter with a beard. I hope that vision of loveliness doesn’t give me nightmares.

It’s now a negative 4 degrees with a windchill of negative 23. Dern such weather! © 2014

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Old Wood

Here are the three Famo boxes that I sold yesterday. I'd guess the wood is old growth fir or spruce. I think the boxes are neat, and hate the thought of them being destroyed, even to make musical instruments.

After finding out what the guy was going to use them for, I remembered four pieces of wood that I had in the basement. They were given to me nearly 30 years ago by the elderly co-owner of the place where I worked at the time. They were part of the lowest shelf from an old display case that he'd gotten 20-30 years earlier. He took them out so he could store things directly on the floor, out of sight under the case and have more room. He told me the cabinet was over a century old when he got it, so that probably makes the wood over 150 years old. Like the Famo boxes, it appears to be old growth fir or spruce. At 15" square and 1/2" thick, they would be perfect for making instruments. They're pictured below, but the patina makes them look darker than the wood would be if sanded.


Still Learning To Let Go

Those who’ve followed my blog for a while know how good I am at throwing myself pity parties. Like most folks, my hopes and dreams didn’t fair too well against the realities of life. Plus, being part of a small dying branch on the family tree, I don’t have much in the way of family to relate to, anymore. I felt cheated when I had to give up my self-employment, nearly 20 years ago. I felt like a failure selling the family farm to escape my debts when it became apparent that the factory where I worked then was going to close ten years ago. And, it’s been with a mixture of thankfulness and regret that I’ve parted with many old heirlooms over the years to help with expenses. Many items, while poor in value, were rich in memories, but I was the only one left who knew their stories.

Still, there’s a certain feeling of freedom in sorting out and getting rid of excess “stuff.” We are, too often, limited and constrained by our possessions. I’ve heard of people passing up once-in-a-lifetime opportunities because there would be no-one to keep an eye on their stuff while they were gone. You have to wonder about the actual value of material goods when they limit you, rather than give you more opportunities. Of course, most of us have known folks who have so much unneeded trumpery that their garage and multiple storage rentals are filled to over-flowing. I try to keep in mind Billy Graham’s quip that he has yet to see a U-Haul following a hearse to the cemetery.

And so, yesterday, I parted with three neat little wooden boxes from the 20’s or 30’s, perhaps, that once held Famo Chocolate Covered Nuts. I knew that because of the embossing on the box lids, inside and out. They later held family photos and papers and had come from the one-time store building at my grandparents, which later served as my beloved great aunt’s living quarters. I had documented and distributed all the contents, though, so regardless of how neat they were, I really had no use for them. So, I advertised them on Facebook and sold them for $20 for the three, which put some gas in my truck. Had I known that the guy was buying them only to cut them up to build musical instruments, I wouldn’t have sold them to him. I felt they deserved to be saved for their own sakes, but hey, I guess they’ll bring joy to somebody.

I sold my tractor yesterday, also. I hated to part with it for different reasons. For one thing, I’ll never again get that good of a tractor for that good of a price. Also, it may mark the end of another little dream that I had. Perhaps most of all, it’s the first time that I’ve ever been “tractorless.” My granddad got the first tractor for the farm in ‘33 or ’35, a Fordson, from what I can see in an old photo. Then came a ’53 Ford Golden Jubilee, followed by a ’57 Ferguson 40. Last, I did some trading and let the 40 go to a neighbor who could take better care of it than I, while I ended up with an excellent used Massey Ferguson 240.

Had I gotten my act together sooner and signed up for CDL training when I first lost my job 11 months ago, I could have held onto the tractor, but I was sure I’d have a job by this time, so I didn’t sign up. You might guess that when I finally decided to take that training that congress would decide not to extend my unemployment benefits. So, I sold the tractor. Now I’ll have the money to live on while I take the training and, maybe, for two or three months afterwards. It remains to be seen whether congress will revisit the extended benefits issue.

The guy who originally got the tractor for me, was also kind enough to take it to his place and check it over and try to find a buyer. It was there that I met the guy who would buy it. He seemed like a nice young man. I knew the neighbor when he was just a kid, and his help has been a real blessing for me. I’m glad that I’ve made his reacquaintance in my later years. He wouldn’t accept anything for his help and is even going to deliver it for the new owner. They don’t come much nicer than that.

As I came home from making the deal, the sun was setting toward the town end of the ridge and the sky was ablaze with all the colors of the rainbow. With reds, yellows and oranges predominating, the western horizon cast a fiery glow on the recent snow. It reminded me of all the beautiful sunsets that I’ve been blessed to witness during the many years that I worked outdoors for my living. It felt like a gift from the Lord. Not everything of value can be kept in a wooden box…….or a U-Haul. © 2014

Thursday, January 2, 2014

Maiden Stroll


I took my latest walking stick on its maiden stroll this afternoon. I’d run to the unemployment office first thing today to turn in some papers, and sign some others. My wife wasn’t feeling well, so stayed home. Considering that, I lingered in town only long enough to turn in a job application and then returned home. She was asleep, so after letting her know that I was home, I laid myself back on my own humble “pallet”(mattress on the floor) to nap some, as well. I’ve got my dad’s old iron bed frame in the basement that I keep threatening to strip and paint, but never have. I also have a waterbed frame that I could easily cut down and use, but I’ve been trying unsuccessfully to sell it. So, for well over five years now, I’ve been “sleeping on the floor,” so to speak. Our little dog likes it that way, for when my wife occasionally brings her upstairs of a morning, the little squirt can jump up on the mattress and make a nuisance of herself.

After a surprisingly long nap, I arose to see quarter-sized snowflakes falling on the skylight. I knew that wouldn’t last long though, and sure enough, they kept getting smaller until, within a couple hours, they were the size of grains of sand and blowing sideways. I’d planned on doing a bit of work outside today, but with the “humidity falling” in solid form, I decided to stay indoors. I did a little research online, sorted papers in my office and loafed in the TV room with the dog and my wife.

Taking the dog out at 4:30, I figured that I might as well get the mail before it got any colder and darker. Putting the dog back inside, I grabbed my newest walking stick from where it was standing by the porch swing and headed out the driveway to the mailbox. I’d cut it this spring from a fork I’d trimmed from one of our crepe myrtles that some “experts” said wouldn’t grow this far north. The bark was trying its best to slip so, despite that I would have preferred to have left the bark on, I went ahead and peeled the stick. All it took was finger-nails and fingers to expose the bright white wood underneath. Interestingly enough, within minutes, it began to turn a toasty brown. I put it in the back of the truck, under the tonneau, where it baked all summer. Late this fall, I took it out, smoothed it up, coated it in a 50/50 mix of linseed oil and rubbing alcohol, and put it under the tonneau again. Last week, I finally got a proper-sized black rubber cane tip for it and stood it by the swing after putting the tip on. Eventually, I plan to use it with Possum Knocker to serve like two ski poles when I venture down the log road into the holler behind my house. (That’s “hollow” for you city folks.)

As might be expected, it served its purpose well as I trekked the short 200 foot driveway and crossed the road to the mailbox. They hadn’t done anything to the road yet, so I was sorta glad to have it as I traversed the icy asphalt. Turning back, I noticed that the breeze had not allowed there to be the bare patch of pine needles under my white pines that the birds sometimes find attractive in such weather. In fact, the birds were nowhere to be seen. Neither were the deer, who had been out in droves this morning, feeding before the foul weather hit. As I retraced my steps in the snow, the eight feet between cane marks showed that I really wasn’t depending on the cane in the driveway. My duck-footed tracks indicated both my odd bone structure and my excess weight.

Getting back to the house, I stood the walking stick inside the door, so I could get a picture for those rare folks that are interested in such things. For those who notice its surroundings, the home-made door in my home-made house contains a few pieces of stained glass. They’re from the front door on a Victorian home that was being demolished in Marietta, Ohio about 35 years ago. A coworker wanted the large piece of etched glass that made up the rest of the assembly, so we were both happy.

I’m in for the night; I hope you are, too. Now, I have to think of an appropriate name for this southern friend to Possum Knocker. I’m leaning toward “Bubba.” LOL © 2014