Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Bit Of History, Natural And Otherwise


At the dig where I’ve been getting loads of mostly red clay, I’ve noticed a lack of sedimentary layers in the soil like I’m accustomed to seeing when the land is ripped up. There, things seem pretty well homogenous, with occasional pockets of soil being more sandy or loamy, or of a different color. The stone in the hillside seemed jumbled, also, rather than layered like I usually see. Things began to make sense when the track-hoe brought up a big grindstone.

The grindstone appeared to be about forty inches across and five inches thick. It looked as if it was completed, including the square hole through the center. It surely must have had a flaw on the other side, or it wouldn’t have been left there. It was scarred rather badly by the track-hoe, but I was still tempted to ask if they were going to save it and ask for it if they weren’t. But I had no idea how I’d get it home, so I didn’t ask. It eventually disappeared, either to someone’s home or as fill under a yet-to-be-built warehouse. Later, a second one about 30 inches across and eight inches thick was found. It, too, was scarred badly by its removal with the machine. It was much less finished, but the square hole through the center was perfect. It’s currently sitting on a ridge of “topsoil” at the lower edge of the dig. You see, we were apparently digging through a site that had already been dug through years before, when the area had many grindstone quarries.

One of the drivers was told by a local that the quarry operators hadn’t only dug through the area some hundred years or so ago, but had blasted, as well. I guess that would explain the lack of layers in the soil. The grindstone industry was mostly brought to a close by the increased use of sanding belts and man-made abrasives, like aluminum oxide.

At a second site 250 yards or so away the layers remain in the soil. There a layer of blue shale appeared, looking almost turquoise in hue. Also appearing was a foot-thick layer of iron ore, followed by a six-inch seam of low-grade coal. All now serve as fill for the coming warehouse.

At the first site, an oil well sits beside a power-pole and is pumped occasionally by a “nodding donkey” with an electric motor, rather than a gas engine, as in back-road locations. Also, the red clay there appears to be the type used for the hard red bricks of the old days, back when bricks were made properly, rather than being extruded junk, like they make now.

It seems to me the Lord has blessed us with much usable material in this area. It’s a shame we don’t make better use of it. © 2014

09-27-14 – Riding Shotgun – The River


a misty river morning seen through a dirty windshield

Maybe because I was raised on a hill a long way from water, I’ve always had a fascination with it. I love being by little rills, creeks, rivers and lakes. I’m sure I’d love the ocean, too, though I’ve only seen it once. I would NOT, however, choose to live too close to such things (except the rill). Maybe that comes from looking down from my hilltop home to see the whole valley covered with water.
One nice thing about working the dirt job lately, is getting a close and frequent view of the Ohio River. A lot of folks seem to think that the river was named for the state. Actually, it was the other way around. Some folks also believe that it’s owned by the state of Ohio, but it isn’t, though, and there lies a bit of irony.

The boundary with Ohio was settled when this neck of the woods was still part of Virginia. Many years ago, the western line of West Virginia was being re-discussed, and the state of Ohio coyly suggested that West Virginia was more than welcome to keep the river itself, and they would simply continue to claim whatever land lay beyond the low water mark of a certain year. The real reason was that they figured that West Virginia would have to bear the cost of any bridges spanning the river. With all the locks and dams that have been added over the years, the river is now higher and wider, so Ohio now owns about 20% of the river’s surface.

The last couple of years, West Virginia has been exploring the option of drilling for oil under the river. Immediately, the state of Ohio raised a howl that they were entitled to part of the money, if oil was found. A lot of folks, knowing the story about Ohio’s previous lack of interest in the river, were disgusted at Ohio’s behavior, but the governor of West Virginia graciously offered them 20%, their percentage of ownership in the current river. (I'm sure their governor wouldn't be that generous with us!) I’m sure that isn’t enough to satisfy those in Ohio government, but I haven’t heard of any plans to fight the percentage. Of course, I haven’t heard of them offering to put up 20% of the drilling costs, either.

With my current schedule, I get to see most sunrises on the river, which is interesting. Some mornings dawn as clear as crystal. Others are so foggy that you’d think it was the Thames, not the Ohio, with the fog filling the whole valley. Occasionally, that fog lasts until nearly 10 o’clock before the view of the river is complete. The other day, it was clear until nearly nine o’clock, and THEN a fog set in, drawing a opaque curtain closed at the shoreline. It has something to do with the temperature of the water and the temperature and moisture content of the air, so you’d think it would be somewhat predictable. However, the breeze can bring in moister or drier air in minutes and the water temperature can either rise or fall quicker than you might think, as northern water drains southward.

Some days, the fog lies only inches deep on the river, reminding me of the fuzzy angora sweater of a girl that I dated in high school. (I don’t remember her sweater being anywhere near as flat as the water, though!) One morning, I spotted beggar ticks sticking to the watery fabric, only to gradually realize that it was a gaggle of Canada geese floating on the current.

A decent-sized river is impressive somehow. It gives one an insight into power and peace, and time and timelessness. It can evoke feelings that even get put to music. I wonder how many songs are linked to streams. I can think of several. One that always comes to MY mind is “Ol Man River,” as sung by William Warfield in “Showboat.”

I enjoy watching the barge traffic as the big boats move materials up and down the river at very much a “wholesale” level. Huge tugboats move multiple loaded barges at a time. I’m rather impressed, though, by a much smaller tug that moves single barges to and from various docking points in roughly a two mile stretch of river. It seems too small for the job, but it labors away and gets the work done. Like most things in life, perseverance is the key, I guess.

I’d like to wet a line in the water sometime, but my days are too busy to allow it anymore. My life, like the river, keeps rolling onward, and nothing has the power to stop it. That’s why I try to grasp whatever little pleasures I can as I get swept along, since I won’t be passing by this way again. © 2014

A Short Porch Sit

It was 9:30 before I stayed up this morning. I’d arisen twice in the night to the relief of myself and the dog. When I came out of the bathroom this time, she was lying on her back, where she’d been rolling, and was watching me. That’s one of her ways of telling me that it’s time to go out again. Putting on her leash (and my jeans) I take her out to relieve her herself. Planning to sit in the swing a bit this sunny morning, I take her to the truck and dry her off with a paper towel, so she won’t soak in her dribble as she watches the world with me.

The swing feels cold but comfortable to my bare back. The dog lies down tolerantly. She really wasn’t planning on staying outside, though she’s all for it when it’s HER idea. The sun is bright and the sky only partly cloudy. I didn’t know what to expect today after the bright pinkness of the sunrise yesterday.

The barrage of acorns continues here. My home is surrounded by white oaks. I had to cut one this year that was growing into our stained glass bedroom window. The biggest oak, on the far side of the house, has expanded its reach over the years and now drops acorns on this side. I hear them hit, come bouncing down the slope until they hit the little four-foot section of flatter roof that combines with our three-foot overhang to give us a porch on this side. Then, they give one final bounce before landing in the lawn several feet below. The Mighty Dachshund watches them land, finding it mildly entertaining.

I must cut the big oak this winter, as much as I’ll hate to. It provides a lot of shade for our house, but it’s limbs keep growing into the house roof and scuffing the shingles when the wind blows. One even made a hole, which must soon be repaired. It also has a limb that begun battling the chimney. When I was younger, I kept the limbs trimmed out of the way. That hasn’t been an potion for a couple years now. The chimney needs to come down, but so does the oak.

For one thing, when I built the screened in porch on that side, I stopped digging the hole for one post when I reached a huge root about 18 inches down. That means if the oak ever goes over, the porch might, too. The tree has good lean away from the house, and we catch any wind going, here on this hilltop, so removal seems wise.

My mind turns back to the scene at hand, when a little group of chickadees start hunting for bugs in one of the oaks on this side of the house. I imagine that it takes a lot of bugs for something with such a fast metabolism. Other birds call from the woods below us, as they, too, hunt for their daily food. Blue-jays seem to predominate, but I hear some crows in the distance, too.

I love the fall, with all of its scents and sounds and scenery. It was better when I worked outdoors, of course, because I was totally immersed in it then. Now, I have to just grab what moments of it that I can. The colors are beginning to get pretty.

I remember the snowy appearance on the autumn leaves going into the mine yesterday. It almost looked like frost was on the hardwoods and pines alike, but it was only whitish dust from the limestone road. I remember the days when the road behind my maternal grandparent’s house was gravel and the “snow” on the trees there was reddish, from the red clay of the road.

Sitting here, I see all the brush and briars I’d like to cut from the edge of the woods and wonder if I’ll ever get to it, considering the hours that I work these days. I guess I won’t worry about it; Heaven won’t be any brighter for me leaving behind a neater lawn edge.

 The Mighty Dachshund gets up, walks to the door and stands there. She has made her wishes known and I obey, like the loyal servant that I am. Time to begin the day! © 2014

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Quiet Sunday


After letting the Mighty Dachshund pee, I turned her on her back in the grass and trimmed her toe-nails. She acted like she was being murdered, but at a much lower decibel level than elsewhere. The grass seems to have a calming effect on her. While she was little, I suspect someone trimmed her nails to the quick and hurt her, thus causing the difficulty we have now.

I sat in the swing a while with her at my feet. A few farms to the south, I heard the mournful lowing of cows and calves separated for weaning. Another farm to the north never experiences such sounds, for the owners there wean “by the moon,’ and it seems to work.

The woods were quiet for several minutes, but then some crows moved in, with their raucous chatter about whatever crows have to talk about. Maybe they’re discussing which oaks have the best acorns; there’s a bumper crop this year. When the wind blows the tree limbs, our roof sounds like a hail storm is starting. At windless times, it’s more like the withering fire of a small military skirmish.

Across the road on a diagonal, and through a corner of woods, I saw the white pickup pull into the little family plot where the driver’s aunt, uncle and grandparents are buried. It was soon evident that he was doing a little mowing and trimming. Since I heard voices, I assumed that he had a helper.

It wasn’t yet time for the rush-to-church crowd, so the traffic was light. I’m sorry to say that I don’t miss the morning rush to get ready. I always thought they should hold church in the afternoon, after everyone has filled their bellies and aren’t sitting there wishing the preacher would shut-up so they could go eat. You know, it always intrigued me how so many Christians would belittle anyone who worked on Sunday, yet so many would go out to eat that day.

About an hour later, we took the dog to McDonalds and got us and her some late breakfast. The burritos were rather puny; they must have been made by some little girl, or a manager. If you want decent-sized portions, try to get food made by a guy or overweight girl, THEY know how to eat! Managers, though, try to make things as cheaply as possible, while little girls are always dieting, and assume that you are, too.

My computer needed charged, so I left it at home today when we went the Chinese Emporium. I took my Bible instead. I hadn’t been reading it enough, even before I got my job. I simply don’t have time for anything anymore, it seems. Since it was the 21st day of the month, I read the 21st Psalm and the 21st Chapter of Proverbs. It’s a habit that I picked up after doing some reading over at Perpetual Proverbs. After some reading and thought, I napped a little until my wife called and told me to come up to the door and get her.

We’d planned to go for a ride later, but I had a headache and my wife’s shopping had tired her out, so we stayed home and rested instead. Tomorrow, it’s back to work, so that means early to bed tonight. It’s raining as I type this, so maybe I’ll be lucky and get a day’s break from the dirt job. Then again, the dozer man may just skim off the mud on the haul road and put us to work anyway. Either way, I’ll be getting paid, so I won’t complain.

I hope you all have a good week; I plan to! © 2014

Saturday, September 20, 2014


Thoreau gave that advice in Walden in the year 1854. Every generation since has had a few folks that strove to do just that, at least in some parts of their life, and a few in every part. With a worthless currency, higher taxes, and ever more intrusiveness by the government, more folks are starting to take that advice to heart.

Just today, I bumped into a former co-worker who is near retirement age, working full time, and thinking about taking on a second job to make it easier to meet her expenses. She’s not an extravagant person and has a little home, yet she’s having a rough time. She’s beginning to consider selling her home and the few acres that it sits on, to buy a camper and put it on a few acres across the road. Listing the address of a friend or relative as her own, she could “camp” there year around with no utilities and no house tax. I believe she said that she knew of others doing it. Who could blame her?

A fellow blogger already spends half the year living on a 19 foot sailboat with his wife. He’s currently building a 12 footer with which to do the same thing. He mentions living on the boat year around as an option, if things keep getting worse. Some folks are already doing it.

On a smaller scale, a friend recently got rid of his cell phone. He felt no need to always be accessible to everyone at every moment and now uses only his land-line, which he already had anyway. He’s money ahead and has a quieter life. Good call, I’d say.

Why be a slave to Wall Street and all your “stuff?” What can you do without to simplify your life and save money? Maybe it’s time to look at the matter again. © 2014

A Waste Of Good Dirt

The very first week that I was driving dump truck, I spent a couple days hauling dirt from a church parking lot and dumping it along what I’ve called (in some of my posts) the “Little Cannonball” River. My employers own a campground along said river and were filling in some rough areas to make them higher and more useable for building at some later time. Farm boy that I am, I knew it was good soil the moment that I got close enough to smell it. There’s something heart-warming in laying open that first furrow in the spring and to smell the source of all physical life on earth. That’s what the smell of that soil reminded me of—spring plowing.

That section of town was once the plantation of an old judge from way back. The old plantation house is still standing, and still lived in by descendants of that judge. My wife once helped her aunt clean the old house and says there’s a 360 degree mural of the plantation in the front hallway that shows, among other things, the slaves out working in the fields. Despite being a slave-holder, the old man stayed with the Union during the Uncivil War. It probably wasn’t long after freeing his slaves that the old man started parting with some of the property around the edges of the plantation.

My folks could remember when it was still a farm of sorts. Circuses and county fairs were held in one of the large fields. I have a couple old photos of a fair that I suspect were taken there, though I have no way to know for sure. The rich ground there was a sandy loam, deposited centuries ago by flooding of the Ohio River. Little by little, the rich soil was covered up by houses and streets and businesses. Eventually, most of the auto dealers in town were located in the area and some folks referred to that section of town as “Auto City.”

 Among the buildings there was the church which was making a slight addition to their building, and a change to their parking lot. Over the years, just enough slag, gravel, pipes and concrete had been strewn on the surface and under, that it couldn’t be used as top soil without some effort to separate it, and that wasn’t financially feasible. And so, I hauled the dirt to another place where buildings and parking lots may someday cover it again. At least for a while, there will be some deer and geese using the soil as it was intended. Some of both were in the area as I dumped the dirt there.

And so it is again where I’ve been working this week. I’m taking red clay soil from a hill and covering a large, rich field of sandy loam, complete with a healthy crop of soybeans growing on it. All this is for more warehouses to make a rich man even richer. Once that soil is covered with six to eight feet of rocky clay, it’s unlikely the rich soil will ever again see the light of day.

There’s something inherently insane about using the very best farmland for building cities and factories. In hilly country, the homes often end up being built on the hillsides, with the factories and businesses on the flat land. Since no place is left to grow food, it then has to be brought in from out-of-area, at a much higher cost. Insane isn’t strong enough, I think. Maybe “immoral” is more like it. © 2014

09-20-14 – Riding Shotgun – Playin’ In The Dirt

Good weather kept me at the dirt job all week. For some reason, I kept remembering the toy army green dump truck that I had as a child. I spent a lot of time hauling dirt from the pile in the back yard where Dad was digging a basement under the house. In real life, it the dirt job I’m on gets to be a bit of a grind, since the haul is less than two miles. We’re still at the same dig, and will remain so, but the dump site has moved about 400 yards closer. The shortest route is now on a back road, rather than the four-lane we were using.

Unfortunately, it takes us past a company that appears to handle materials for the nearby metals plant. I say unfortunately, because they get in black dust, white dust and red dust and then transfer it to their warehouse, perhaps alter it slightly, and then haul it to the metals plants. I don’t know if the black dust is coal or coke, or something else, but it gets on everything in the area. A street sweeper runs constantly on the road there trying to keep down the mess, but it seems a losing battle. Most of the trucks that haul it were given up on long ago as far as cleanliness, and are a dull black from one end to the other. The area buildings, grounds and equipment are likewise. My wife sees ugliness nearly everywhere she looks these days, but if all that ugliness were put into some form of creature, that area would be its dingle-berried rear orifice. I guess it provides work for some folks though, and the truck traffic for such a small place is phenomenal.

I suspected the red dust might be literally rust (iron ore) for the ferromanganese that the metals plant produces, the black dust might be coal and the white dust lime, used in smelting. Yet, when I search “MAR dust” (what one of the truckers called the red dust) it was mentioned as part of a polymer process. Plus, when I search the name of the company, it comes up as a plastics plant in a nearby town (an office only, I suspect). Still, the stuff gets hauled to the metals plant, black stuff gets hauled back and gets dumped on barges, and life stays busy there in “Ugly Town.” I ended up going back to the longer route, partly to avoid the rough road through Ugly Town, and partly to avoid the blackness of the place.

I AM impressed by a couple young fellows that are working the job. The kid that runs the track hoe (that’s “steam shovel” to old-timers like me) doesn’t look a day over 18, though I’m sure he is. He knows his job and loads the trucks well, plus he runs the dozer when needed. It wouldn’t surprise me if he had his CDL, too. The other young man (who seems to ramrod the dig and the first fill) has probably never seen 30, but he has his CDL Class A, and his heavy equipment operator’s certificate, and does fine at both. He also raises 400 acres of soybeans on nearby property (leased, I assume). Not many young folks today seem to have the drive these two young fellows do.

Friday, a scale man (state trooper equivalent) was hanging around the area, so four of the six drivers headed for the hills. Only I and one fellow who’d just arrived kept hauling. I spoke to the hoe operator and told him to be sure and keep us legal weight and I’d keep hauling. However, when it became apparent that the other guys weren’t coming back, they closed the job for the day. As the hoe operator and I talked, he mentioned that the other trucks were rather junky and probably wouldn’t pass inspection if stopped. Plus, he said that a lot of guys don’t like dirt jobs, and look for any excuse to get out of them. I told him that it wasn’t something that I enjoy that much, but SOMEBODY has to do it. He grinned and told me that’s what his dad says.

I got three stone deliveries from the dispatcher that afternoon, and it seemed like a vacation. Each round-trip from the mine to the delivery point at the county seat, one county “inland” from the river, took about an-hour-and-a-half. Compared to the rush of dirt-hauling, it was both literally and figuratively a drive in the country. It was a good ending to a spine pounding week. © 2014

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Guess I Didn’t Need To Worry


The photo above is of some notes I made when I was working at the first telemarketing place. I started working there in January of 2009 and started blogging that November. I was afraid that I’d run out of things to write about. Over a few weeks, I made notes as things occurred to me between calls. The notes make a stack about a half-inch thick when pressed tightly together. Most sheets are used front and back. I would have had more, but the company quit allowing us to have such things at our desk. I soon learned that I’m enough of a blabber-mouth, and we live in such a crazy world, that I’ll never run short of opinions. I’ve also got my family history and life experiences to write about.

After toting the notes around in my computer case for about three years, I decided I’d never need them, so here they are in a pile. Many subjects have been dealt with already by chance, but I may look through them anyway, just in case I come cross some brilliant idea I’d forgotten about. © 2014

It’s Almost Here!

Autumn has been my favorite time of year ever since I can remember. It may be spring for some folks, but I’ll take fall. I suppose, besides the relief it offers from the summer heat, it’s partly the harvest and time of plenty thing experienced by those of us who grew up on the farm. Add the scents, sights and sounds of the season, a slice of pumpkin pie and a day in the squirrel woods, and what’s not for a country boy to love? Just another week and it will be official!

I turned my bedroom fan off in the night for the first time in months. The night was cool, and when I took the pooch out to pee at 3am, there was a spike buck lying in the front yard, within fifty feet of the house. The preseason scouters must already be making their presence known in the woods for him to change his pattern already. My guess is that he was one of the fawns raised in our yard last year and figured he was safe here. I’ve never seen a big buck do that; I guess they learn not to trust ANYONE. I had the dog drain her tank between the porch and the truck, so she wouldn’t see the little buck and raise the alarm at the “trespasser.”

I took her out again at 7, still careful to hold her back, so I could check for snakes on the porch before letting her proceed. We have both stepped over one hugging the house as we made the step down to the porch, and not seen it until I turned to close the door. So far, they’ve only been garter snakes and blacksnakes, but I look first these days, in case the next one is a copperhead. (My wife thought she’d found a baby copperhead on the porch the other day when we came back from the store, but it was a little milk snake, instead.)

As the pooch and I looked around us, there was a heavy fog, so the light was provided by a glowing wall of mist to the east, not directly by the sun. Across the lawn were scattered thousands of little sheets of white, showing where the “tube spiders” had made their funnels, now full of dew. As we passed the porch post, she insisted on stopping to sniff, so I knew a dog or a fox (Yes, I’ve seen them on our porch.) had hiked his leg on the post, even before I saw the small spot of remaining dampness at the post’s base.

After relieving herself, she didn’t want to head back to the house, as she did when the heat was oppressive. She locked her legs to resist my pull on the leash and stood braced toward the east, nose twitching and nostrils flaring, as she mined the air for scent. Even when she finally gave in to the pressure of the leash, she pulled back in order to check scents on the ground. It must have been a busy night around the house last night.

I sat in the porch swing for a few minutes before taking her inside. Normally, she wants to go inside to rejoin my wife but, this morning, she was happy to stay outside to listen and sniff. A few crows to the west were creating more noise than seemed necessary with their morning chat. Otherwise, it seemed quiet, with the barking dogs of the night now silent, and the chattering of spring’s nesting birds long gone. My wife always says that the quietness of autumn tells her that the earth is getting ready for its long nap. Besides the crows, the only other sound coming through the fog was the dripping of dew from the trees. With my eyes closed, I would have thought it was raining.

While the coolness had kept the mosquitoes at bay, it also finally started to make its effect known to my shirtless torso. As I arose from the swing, the Mighty Dachshund headed for the door, now ready to once again lie by the bed of her mistress. © 2014

Saturday, September 13, 2014

09-13-14 – Riding Shotgun – Sometimes I’m Stuck-Up

The way that I use the term “stuck-up” today is totally different than you might expect. You see, Thursday I had my work truck stuck in the mud while it was pointed uphill at a fairly steep angle. I had a delivery two counties “inland” from the river, but they didn’t say which of two locations it was to be delivered to. So, I stopped at the closest one, climbed the short but steep drive to the site, saw that no-one was there, and started backing down the slope to turn around at the bottom and proceed to the other site.

Unfortunately, while trying to get near the off side (To you non-horsemen, that means the passenger side.) of the driveway, I took my eyes off the mirror for a moment. STUPID MOVE! When I looked back, the back duals were hanging over the edge, and only the inside dual of the front duals were still on the stone drive. When I tried to move forward, (uphill) the tire spun slightly and down I went. I put the axle in the lock position (think positive traction), and put the rear axle in gear also. (If I’m saying this wrong, you truckers correct me!) There was still no forward movement, but the truck sank a little deeper into the mud.

Just behind the rear axle was a ditch, and beyond that, asphalt pavement. In a moment of brilliance, I decide to put it in reverse and see if I could get enough speed up in the three feet or so between the tires and the asphalt to get to the pavement and “hop” the truck up on solid footing. Of course, all you experienced truckers are already laughing, but hey, it’s not like I had much to lose. The truck shot back alright, for about 18 inches. By then, I was only another 18 inches from the asphalt, but it was level with the center of the rear dual. I knew better than to spin the tires anymore. I guess loaded buckets don’t hop any better than concrete trucks.

Knowing that the company had another truck or two in the area, I got on the company radio and asked about a pull. One veteran drive responded that he was on his way. I then called the office on my phone and told them I was hung, but that the other driver was coming to see if he could help. In five minutes, he was there. With a smile, he congratulated me on the fine job I’d done of getting hung. He said that he wouldn’t bother hooking to me because he knew the outcome. He suggested that we get the customer to send a guy over to fire up the track-hoe that was on-site and see if it could pull me out. He, too, was there in about five minutes.

Even then, it took about a half-hour’s work to pull, push and pull again to get me on the pavement. The customer ended up with a much-needed wider driveway entrance, with the addition of about 15 tons of my 22 ton load. I had to dump that much to lighten the truck to where the hoe could move it. The remaining seven tons went to the top of the driveway, where they’d originally wanted the whole batch. The veteran driver laughed as we left and said, “You have days like this!”

I was thankful that at least the boss didn’t have to shell out $900 for a tow truck! © 2014

Friday, September 12, 2014

09-12-14 - Riding Shotgun - Hauling Dirt

They’ve been working on my regular truck at work, the last couple days, but I’ve been driving another just like it. One of the bosses asked if I preferred one over the other. Since both are eight years old and have about 300,000 miles on them, I commented “No, only the rattles and squeaks are different.” He was amused (I hope).

Dispatch went really quick today, and I was on site for the hauling job, just across the river, in about 15 minutes. I, and five other trucks from various companies, were hauling red clay from a hillside, to a slightly boggy field about two miles up the road. There, a couple bulldozers and a piece of knobby, steel-tired compacting equipment spread the dirt in thin layers and packed it like concrete. When they’re done filling the area, they’re going to build three big warehouses to join the seven that are already on the site. It sounds like I’ll be working there for up to three months on dry days. (You DO NOT mess with red clay in the rain!)

There are no little plastic privies on either site and no place, like a gas station, along the short route to use the restroom, so the area bushes are getting a lot of business. That wouldn’t be so bad, but there were six office-types walking around the dig for a while today, talking and pointing, so privacy was at a premium. Considering that we’re there from 7am to 4pm, and may be there for a quite a spell, it doesn’t seem too much to expect. When I asked one of the bosses if he could put a bug in their ear, he promised to do so, saying that it wasn’t even legal under those circumstances to operate without one.

We haul from 25 to 27 loads per man each every day we work that job, so that figures about 20 minutes a round. That keeps you hopping, I tell you! The first day we did it, the veteran driver that was working with me threw a fit about having to do it so, since then, he’s been hauling “hot rocks” (asphalt), which I’ve never done and really don’t want to. He seems happier, though, so it must agree with him. The fast pace DOES sort of grind on you, so rainy days, when I’ll be hauling regular deliveries, will seem like a vacation by comparison. An independent trucker has stepped into the veterans place. The guy bought his truck last week and already has an agreement with my employer, for as long as this job lasts. He seems like a nice guy.

It seems no matter where I go, there’s always a couple guys ratchet-jawing on the CB. One of them is always whining or griping about his job and the other is always sympathetic. I guess that would make him an “enabler!” Today’s pair happened to be especially foul-mouthed, dropping f-bombs and taking the Lord’s name in vain with nearly every sentence. Only when I heard them mention counting loads did I realize that they were the two oldest guys working the same job that I was! That was after turning my CB off for most off the day, so I wouldn’t have to listen to the filth.

I was told that I get my regular truck back Monday, and just when the rattles and squeaks of this one were starting to sound familiar! © 2014

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Trimming The Bucket List

My wife and I have been trying to get rid of “stuff” for several years now. Things we once thought that we needed to do things that we once planned to do don’t appear to be so necessary anymore. We probably won’t have the health or live long enough to do many of the things we wanted. We won’t have the money to do others, plus, between Obamacare and Obama’s speeding up of an already crashing economy, I may have to work until my dying day just to survive. I’d originally planned to retire at 62, but that looks impossible now.

Some of my things I’ve sold, some I’ve given away to folks who could actually use them, or were at least interested in them, while some things that had only sentimental value could only be thrown away. For instance, I’d once planned to record all my old 78 records onto flash drives or CD’s, but I don’t know when I’ll ever have the time. As a result, I promised my old Brunswick hand-crank phonograph to my daughter-in-law months ago. I just got the first box of records to her last weekend. I need to take anther box to her before I can actually get in to the phonograph to move it. That will be a little more available floor space for me and a little less for her. I jokingly told her that I’d decided that the way to get rid of my junk was to give it to her.

I wonder, though, will I ever really get a forge set up and use my grandfather’s old anvil and the hammers and tongs that I’ve collected over the years? At age 59, it seems unlikely, but I still can’t make myself trash the idea just yet. Will the old-time woodworking tools that I got mostly from family ever be put to serious use if I can’t retire at 62 and start my little hobby wood-working business? If I have to work until age 80 to pay for Obama’s “hope and change,” it seems nigh impossible. I’d like to see these things go to someone who’d actually use them, but that means that I have to part with them while I’m still mentally with it. It’s the same way with my guns. I’d rather give them to someone who needs them than sell them, but will I ever need them again? I haven’t hunted for five years, but it’s like I’d be giving away a part of myself. Besides, what if they’re needed to kill A-rabs someday? (That’s a distinct possibility with everything that’s going on in the world.)

I bumped into a former coworker in a fast-food joint the other day, as she got food for the two granddaughters with her. She, too, is cutting back on the length of her bucket list (and her current activities), not just due to age, but also due to worsening rheumatoid arthritis. I guess if it ain’t one thing it’s another.

Looking back, I know that I’d have been a lot further down my list if I’d been the hermit that I’d once considered becoming. Too soon old and too late smart, as the Pennsylvania Dutch say! LOL I hope you get all the items checked off your bucket list except one. We all still need something to shoot for. © 2014

Jogger Rage

One particularly lovely old street in my town was first built up between 1900 and 1910. Many of the old houses still remain, as due quite a few of the old oak trees that were planted then. It’s a nice neighborhood with a wide street and wide sidewalks on both sides, set behind the oaks. Many people from the neighborhood, and some from elsewhere, walk there of an evening to enjoy the quiet dignity of the area.

Unfortunately, the joggers have discovered the area, too. They aren’t content to jog on the sidewalks like ladies and gentlemen, though. They consider themselves “athletes,” though many really aren’t, and have decided that designation grants them the privilege of running in the street itself. So, if you choose to drive down that street, you now have to watch out for people running willy-nilly both with and against the traffic, some at the edge of the lane, some in the middle of it, and some right down the center of the street. They don’t want to budge, either; they want the CARS to move over for THEM. Unfortunately, our state and city laws, meant to protect pedestrians by giving them right-of-way, are being perverted to allow them to get by with such rude and dangerous behavior.

One of my wife’s uncles used to live on the street, so we sometimes drive through, just to remind her of the good old days. When she was a kid, they had family get-togethers there. Her and her brothers and sisters played there with their cousins. She learned to ride a bike there. Times have changed the neighborhood some, though, and it has certainly changed the class of people who use the area.
Yesterday evening, we were driving the street in the opposite direction from normal, just for a change of perspective, and I saw a jogger in the distance. He had just started around a parked car and was coming towards me in my lane. Between us, there were no more parked cars at all. I was driving slowly already, so there was no need to slow down, but I did move toward center slightly, to allow plenty of room to clear the parked car when I got there. I noticed, though, that the jogger made no effort to move into the 8-10 foot wide parking lane that sat empty. He jogged straight ahead. At that rate, I’d clear him by about 18 inches, but why he didn’t have sense enough to move over a little, I didn’t know.

THEN, he started waving me toward the center of the street, obviously demanding that I get out of his way. Being a bit on the stubborn side, I figured that I’d already moved over once, I wasn’t going to hit him unless someone changed course, and there was no reason that he couldn’t move into the unused parking lane a bit. Though no-one was coming, the driver’s side of my vehicle was already at the exact center of the street, and moving over would have put me into the oncoming lane, so I held straight. When he figured out that I wasn’t going to obey him, he appeared to start screaming obscenities and giving me the one-finger wave. He stopped and continued to do so after I passed. Then, perhaps because I was going so slowly to begin with, he turned and started jogging my way as I drove on. I figured that maybe he was trying to get my license number, which didn’t matter to me, so I didn’t bother speeding up any, though he would never have gained on us anyway.

My wife was concerned that he was hoping that I’d jump out and confront him so he could give a thumping. He was over six feet tall and thin, but very muscular, and in his 20’s or 30’s, so he probably could have done a number on me. I’m 59, grossly overweight, terribly out of condition, plus, though I’ve had to defend myself a few times in my youth, I was never known for my fighting ability. That’s one reason that I got a concealed carry permit—I’m getting older and people are getting crazier. To placate my wife, I sped up a little and was soon off the street. He’d stopped following after about a block anyway. Now she no longer wants to go down that street.

I actually thought about reporting the incident to the cops, but the way things are today, they might have tried blaming me for his insane behavior. He may pull that stunt on the wrong guy sometime and end up with skid marks on his six-pack. Of course, the law will probably blame only the driver if he does. © 2014

09-05-14 – Riding Shotgun - Visiting "The Pit"

The scent from “America’s Leading Spray Deodorant” is slightly noticeable in my closed up cab as I drive to the mine. It reminds me of the story my wife tells from her childhood. Her mother bore the children but she then, basically, handed them over to my wife to raise, since she was the oldest daughter in a family of seven kids. Even in a horrible childhood, there are usually a few times of joy, and one of those was the two weeks every year that her father took the whole family on vacation. Her father told them all to use deodorant because he “didn’t want no stinkin’ bodies holed up in the car with the rest of the family.” So, after they all got their morning baths, my wife lined up all her brothers and sisters, arms in the air, and gave them all a good shot of deodorant in each armpit. Since it felt cold, there was usually a little shrieking and giggling going on. That memory is why she bought the can of deodorant for me (that she uses occasionally herself). Back then, she said they made a “family size” that looked as big as a small fire extinguisher. No more, though.

It’s a hot day as I drop into what I call “the pit.” As I bounce down the access road, I notice that I’m the only truck in the pit—a real rarity at this normally busy place. About halfway down, a box turtle starts boldly across the hot, dusty road, coming from the lower side. That means that he’s already crossed the tall earthen “limestone” berm put there to keep trucks from going over the hill. He has to make it across the road without meeting the same fate as the infamous chicken, then cross a smaller berm and the road ditch, before he can continue uphill. I stop fifty feet away, so as not to disturb him, and let him make his way to the upper berm before continuing downward. I back into the pile of the size of limestone the order calls for, put the truck in neutral and pull the button for the spring brakes.

Though hot in the pit, there’s a good breeze, so I put my window down, so I can hear the loader when it arrives, and close my eyes to give them a rest. After a few seconds, I seem to hear gently falling water; it lends an unexpected peaceful sound to the industrial/otherworldly appearing place. When I reopen my eyes a minute later, I notice that the source of that peaceful sound isn’t water at all, but the main elevated conveyer, the only one currently running. It’s spewing limestone straight from the mine into a huge pile, perhaps 5-6 stories tall. From my location about 150 yards away, the sound of stone hitting stone sounds like a tiny waterfall, or a babbling brook, despite the fact that the noise comes from stones big enough to crack a man’s skull from the 20 foot height from which they fall to the top of the pile.

Before closing my eyes again to imagine a tiny waterfall, I notice a crow walking around the baking floor of the pit. Tiny puffs of dust arise with each awkward step (crows are better hoppers than walkers). His beak is held wide open, meaning that he’s miserably hot. Why would he choose to stroll here in this miniature Death Valley on such a day? When I open my eyes a couple minutes later, he’s gone. The loader comes and I flash two fingers twice, meaning that I want 22 tons. He nods and proceeds to load my truck. After only three scoops of the big loader, he beeps his horn, meaning that I’m loaded. I tell him thanks over the CB, careful to use his name, and head to the access road to begin my climb out of the pit and to the scale house at the top of the hill, where I get weighed and start my delivery. © 2014

Saturday, September 6, 2014


I remember the holidays when I was a kid. We never did big, extravagant things, since we were poorer than I realized at the time. However, we had a good time, usually after working at least half a day (Though, sometimes, we worked ALL day and just celebrated that evening). You see, on the farm, there’s ALWAYS something that needs done, 365 days a year, especially if you heat with wood or have livestock. Besides, anyone who’s ever been self-employed knows that any day taken off is income lost. If you’re SPENDING money to celebrate, then the loss is double. So—we worked. The only exceptions were Christmas and any holiday that happened to fall on a Sunday.

Things changed some in the 60’s, when my paternal grandparents and one paternal aunt died. They REALLY changed in the 80’s, when my father passed away. He was, apparently, the glue that held my immediate family together. Things gradually went downhill, with my wife, mother and sister caring less and less for one another’s company. Similar things were happening in my wife’s family after her own father died. In the 90’s, my paternal grandparents and my beloved great-aunt passed away. In 2010, my mother-in-law passed away. By now, all my wife’s many aunts and uncles are gone, and only three of my eleven such relatives (plus my mother) remain, two of those out-of state, so things are very different from the old days.

My wife won’t go to my sister’s or mom’s places, but she will invite them here (since they behave better on her turf), and they’ll come, so a couple times a year, I get to experience some semblance to a holiday, especially if “the kids” (my step-son and his wife) come too. Of course, if any of our five grandkids show up, that’s even better. But, such get-togethers only happen a couple times a year, if then. I realize that everyone goes through at least some of this as they get older, but that doesn’t make me long for the old days any less.

We don’t get paid holidays starting out on my new job, and only one is added per year of service until there are 12 of them. I understand their thinking, since the bosses are self-employed. They probably feel that they’re being generous and, since it’s a small company, they basically are. Unfortunately, that makes it pretty unlikely that I’ll ever get all of them. To tell you the truth, with the exception of Christmas, Easter and Thanksgiving, I’d rather work the other holidays, rather than lose the pay. Otherwise, it sort of feels like we’re being punished the week after a holiday for not working it, though we have no choice. I really don’t blame my employers, though, because once you’re self-employed, you never look at holidays quite the same way. Besides, it’s not like we have anyone to get together with, or can afford to do anything interesting.

I hope your holidays are paid, and that you enjoy them immensely. There’s no need for ALL of us to be grumpy or melancholy! © 2014