Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas Now Complete

 I mentioned the other day that we saw four of our five grandkids on Christmas Eve. We felt like something was missing, though, not being able to see our oldest granddaughter. We had her for six years before any of the others came along, even though we rarely got to see her. She was in town, though and, Sunday, my stepson took us out to dinner, along with his lovely and charming wife, our lovely and charming granddaughter and her boyfriend. We thoroughly enjoyed it. (And just for the record, my wife is good-looking, too, especially considering that she's old enough to be married to me.)

 Our granddaughter is studying nursing, while working as a nurse's assistant at a big hospital near the university. She has considered going on to be a doctor, but hasn't decided yet, since it's a lot of money and time. Her boyfriend, whom she knew of here, but really met up there, seems very nice and normal. He even deer hunts and has her eating venison (hey, he's GOT to be okay). He's got his Bachelors in business, and was offered a full scholarship to get his Masters, so is going for it. Both seem like well-balanced kids, neither silly or stuffy. I hope they do well, but I wouldn't care if they both worked in a factory, as long as they treat each other well and are happy.

The little get-together seemed to erase that "something missing" feeling that my wife and I had been having, and we had to agree that our Christmas was, indeeed, a good one. © 2014

Friday, December 26, 2014

Benefitting From The Illogical

I mentioned here in the past, the day that I spent duck hunting along the Ohio River many years ago. It was snowing, the wind was blowing and it was well below freezing. We got no ducks for the table, but I got some food for thought.

Several times that day, coal trains rumbled downstream, between us and the hill, taking coal to points south. Often at the same time, towboats churned upstream pushing coal barges, full almost to overflowing, with coal for points north. It seemed so illogical, when there must surely have been some way for the places to the south to have burned southern coal, while the places to the north burned northern coal. Such lack of forethought surely ended up costing the companies in the short run, and the consumers in the long. The only benefit that I could see was that the railroads and their workers, and the towboat companies and their workers were provided work by the seeming foolishness. Thinking a little deeper, I knew that timing, dependable delivery, bid price and good or bad will between the parties involved probably caused the situation, but it still seemed horribly wasteful.

During the last couple weeks, I and a few other drivers have made multiple trips from the Mid-Ohio Valley to southern West Virginia to pick up broken concrete from a demolition job. Then we hauled it to a landfill in eastern Kentucky, turned around and came home to the valley. You’d think that they’d get a company somewhere along the route to do the hauling, as it would surely be cheaper. I guess our bosses just have an exceptionally good relationship with the demolition folks and they use us anytime they have work in the region.

Monday, we’re going from here to central West Virginia to pick up DIRT. Then we’re going to haul it to central Ohio, unload it and come home. Same scenario, it would be cheaper for them to use someone local. But hey; who am I to complain? It might be a week of short hours without this oddball job. I’ll take the bigger paycheck, thank you. © 2014

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My Christmas

I got off work at lunch-time Wednesday, after half of us waited all morning to see if we’d get a delivery. My wife had a few things that she wanted to pick up at the store, so I hauled her there and waited in the truck with my computer. That evening, we had our Christmas visit with “the kids,” my stepson and daughter-in-law. She’d fixed a very nice supper and my stepson and my wife did some baby-sitting for a couple babies, so their mother’s could be freed up to visit more easily. We managed to see four of our five grandkids there. They opened their gifts from us while we were there. None of them are blood relatives to me, so it’s easy to love them all equally.

We had a really good time seeing them all, but left sort of early to get back to the dog and the house. We hate to leave the house for very long at a time, since a young fellow tried to rattle his way in our front door the other day, WHILE my wife was talking to him through that door. The anger in her voice finally registered with him and he left. He couldn’t see how close to death he was, as the solid wood door didn’t let him see the loaded, cocked 12 gauge in my wife’s hands. I got home about three minutes later. I WISH that I’d gotten there before he left, then again, maybe it was best that I didn’t, if you get my drift.

Today, we slept in a little. My wife remarked that our frugality wasn’t much fun and that we should at least get each other something small to open next year. I don’t mind getting no gifts, but I wondered how she’d really react to our mutual idea. I guess I now know. Live and learn. Later, we drove around and found that the Chinese restaurants were open, but only one national chain restaurant serving American food was open. They had only a buffet today, which proved to be VERY limited and of low quality. If we eat out again next year, it’ll be Chinese.

We were hoping to get a call from our stepson, telling us that our other granddaughter was at their house and for us to come over. However, she works at a hospital, plus is in the process of moving, so she apparently didn’t show up. Maybe we’ll see her yet, before the weekend is over.  We don’t see our own families on the holidays anymore. My sister sort of ruined it on my side, and her sister-in-law on my wife’s, so, we’re leaning to entertain ourselves more. I don’t care for it being that way, but it’s gotten simpler than the alternative. It’s a shame that “adults” have to be so jealous that they ruin the dynamics of a family.

I DO miss sitting down, saying grace, and everyone eating at the same time and in the same room, but that doesn’t seem to be the way of it anymore. We had a good enough time at the kids, though, to make up for any shortcomings. Besides, family isn’t about blood, it’s about who loves you, and Christmas is supposed to be about Jesus, so we can deal with the rest.

Overall, I’d say that we had a pleasant Christmas. I hope you did, too. © 2014

A Good Message For Christmas

Crystal Mary sent this in an email:

Today's Bible Scripture: John 17
Text: "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world." John 17:18.
Have you ever wondered, "When a person becomes a Christian, why doesn’t God just take them directly on to heaven?" The answer is that God has an assignment for each of us; you and I were made for a MISSION.

What is that MISSION? Just as Jesus was leaving to go back to heaven, he left clear instructions for each of us. “Jesus said, In the same way that You gave Me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world.” And “As the Father sent Me, I am sending you” John 17:18 says "As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world."

The Father gave the Son a mission to complete while He was in the world. Now -that He is in heaven, He isn’t doing that mission anymore. He passed it on to us. That mission is to tell all the people -who don’t yet know Him- about the great love of God. You see in Heaven, there won’t be any non-believers, so He has put each of His Children on Active Service duty while here on Earth to win the non-believers into His Heavenly Kingdom. It is up to us, brothers and sisters to keep winning the lost for Christ.

I once heard this story, many of you have heard it, but it is so appropriate for today.
“A man fell into a pit and couldn’t get himself out.”
• A subjective person came along and said, "I feel for you down there."
• An objective person walked by and said, "It’s logical that someone would fall down there."
• A Pharisee said, "Only bad people fall into pits."
• A mathematician calculated how deep the pit was. A news reporter wanted the exclusive story on the pit.
• An IRS agent asked if he was paying taxes on the pit. A self-pitying person said,
• "You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen my pit."
• A judgmental person said, "You deserve your pit."
• A Christian Scientist observed, "The pit is just in your mind."
• A psychologist noted, "Your mother and father are to blame for your being in that pit."
• A self-esteem therapist said, "Believe in yourself and you can get out of that pit."
• An optimist said, "Things could be worse." A pessimist claimed, "Things will get worse."
• "Jesus, seeing the man, took him by the hand and lifted him out of the pit."

Which of these people are you? Honestly? Let me ask you, Christian, are you serving? How many have you told about Jesus in the past week, month or even year? Are you in active service? God has kept you, so you can serve Him and work on leading the lost to His Kingdom. You are in God's army. God bless you. Let us pray..

Heavenly Father, Guide and direct us today. You, God are our commander, we are your soldiers. We long to go forth in battle to win the lost and dying for you. Dear Lord, Give us the courage and the direction to do just that. We are following You, Father, every step of the way. Lord, help us to keep our eyes on the cross, and not to lose sight of your purpose for us. May we do our part to win others to You.
In Jesus name, I pray. Amen

Sunday, December 21, 2014

It’s Beginning To Feel A Lot Like Christmas!

No, this is not a feel-good piece designed to brighten your mood; it’s just another one of my famous grumps. I started commenting on it to my wife well before Thanksgiving, and she to me. More people were on the streets and in the stores. They were acting more harried and hurried and seemed more distracted than normal. It was obvious that the shopping season shad started early this year.

Sometimes, I wish I could just stay home through November and December. Now, though, I have a job where I’m out in the traffic anywhere from eight to 12 hours a day. I thought people were crazy before I started driving truck again; now I KNOW they are. Besides all the changes in attitudes, morals and priorities over the years, the holiday season has compounded the effect the last month or more.

For one thing, you have more drivers out that rarely drive and are out of practice. They are often retired folks who stay home a lot, but venture out more during the Christmas season to shop for the grandkids and such. They aren’t used to the changed traffic patterns and drive carefully, so as to make allowances for it. They drive slow, but still unpredictably (as opposed to kids, who drive FAST and unpredictably). Then you have the folks from the back counties who come here for more selection in places to shop, but aren’t used to the volume of traffic on our city streets. They sometimes have a deer-in-the-headlights look on their face. All tend to hamper traffic flow as they sort things out in their heads as to where they’re going and how to get there.

The “average” driver is more predictable, but develops a decidedly mean edge this time of year. It was just the opposite of when I was a kid. Back then, people seemed a little nicer between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Today, with at least two generations trained to think only of themselves, the pressure and desire to get what they want, or to get it for others, seems to turn them into monsters. They’ll risk both your life and their own in traffic to get one car-length ahead in the lanes. They’ll cut you off, drive WAY over the speed limit, give you the horn (and the bird) for daring to turn across their lane to  enter a parking lot, and wander into your lane as they text for the third time in four minutes.

In the stores, they’ll turn directly in front of you and stop, walk side-by-side with their friends and their shopping carts, let their kids run wild, and knock old people over (literally) in their rush to get down the aisles. They’ll also get nearly (and sometimes actually) physical in contesting the right to the last remaining package of something. A couple days ago, a woman old enough to know better literally tried to wrest the last coat of a certain size and style from my wife’s grip. My wife had been holding it under her arm before the woman ever came on the scene! Even the husband gave my wife a dirty look for not surrendering it. My wife hadn’t had a new winter coat for years and her current one was starting to dry-rot, so it’s not like she didn’t need it.

Today, though, something happened that absolutely flabbergasted me. My wife looked stressed as she walked to the truck, after looking in a discount store for a small toy for a little boy we met recently. His mother doesn’t have much to spare for Christmas this year, so we thought we’d get one gift apiece for her baby, her little boy and her.

Unseen by me, my wife had taken a hard fall when she stepped off the curb outside the store. Lying in the traffic lane of the parking lot, she was in shock for a few seconds and then couldn’t seem to move when she tried. Shoppers were rushing by as she lay there and mumbled “Help me!” But not a soul helped her. In her confusion, she never thought of calling me on her cell phone. Finally, she managed to get up and walk to the truck. I couldn’t believe people would be so uncaring in what could be considered small town West Virginia. I’m SO disappointed in my fellow citizens; I thought better of them than that.

For those who will ask (and bless you for that), my wife seems to be fine, though I think she’ll be really sore tomorrow. © 2014

Traveling To Coal Country

The few excursions I’d ever begun into West Virginia’s coal country had been from the eastern end and were many years ago. At that time, the further the rough, crooked roads wound into coal country, the steeper the mountains, the narrower the valleys, the yellower the streams and the more economically depressed the area looked. Every time, I ended up turning around and going back to more pristine landscapes. I was in the mountains seeking peace and beauty, after all.

More recently, as some of you know, I’ve taken a couple jaunts into coal country from a different angle. Our little convoy of dump trucks took four-lane highways all the way from Parkersburg to Logan, then, mostly two-lane to Hanover, in Wyoming County. We loaded there and then took Rt. 52 all the way to Huntington, where we crossed the river to Ashland, Kentucky on four-lane and unloaded. Then we took the four-lane east to Charleston and north to Parkersburg.

I saw no piles of over-burden or red-dog in the areas that I traveled, nor any yellow streams. Whether it was all due to clean-up in the intervening years, or whether things were never allowed to get so far out of hand in that area, I really don’t know. However, I was impressed by the streams I saw; they all made me wish that it was summer and I had a fishing rod in hand. The mountains were all covered with what appeared to be second growth hardwood, yet I also saw some beautiful huge logs making their way to market on passing semi’s. It struck me funny at first, but in twelve hours of driving, much of it in coal country, I only smelled burning coal two times. Everyone down that way seems to heat with wood. I suppose that the coal comes at a cost, but wood can be had for the cutting.

It’s obvious that the area still is, or recently was, economically depressed. You see closed down businesses and empty houses everywhere. Interestingly enough, though, you also see businesses right next door that appear to be thriving and new homes being built adjacent to the empty ones. Something that I noticed, too, was mansions being built right beside shanties and run-down mobile homes. I suspect the available land is so limited in the narrow valleys that there is no opportunity for moving to “better neighborhoods,” so the rich and the poor rub elbows on a daily basis (since shopping and entertainment opportunities are very limited).

I used to hear of the floods in coal country and wonder why people built in such places. I realize now, that there are no benches around the hills (mountains?) down there, as there are here in the Ohio Valley, so you have only the narrow mountain ridges and the narrow mountain valleys. Since the roads parallel the streams in the valleys, it’s natural that the settlements formed there. Besides, most of the mountain tops are owned by coal companies, timber companies or the government.

One thing that confused me at first was the high number of motels in the area—far more than would be required for local use and casual tourists. Then, I realized that the Guyandotte River would make for excellent rafting, kayaking and canoeing, even though I saw no signs for guide services (none would be needed, probably). The state has also made a big deal of the Hatfield-McCoy Feud and has a driving “trail,” with facilities of one sort or another at strategic points along the way. I don’t approve of dwelling on such a negative thing about our state, but anything for a tourist buck, I guess. 

After this hauling job is over with, I may never see coal country again, as my wife says that there’s nothing to “do” down there (in HER book), but I’m glad that I had the chance to see it again; it’s given me a more positive perspective on the part of the state that turned me off so many years ago.

Incidentally, the Hatfield-McCoy Feud wasn’t really about either a woman or a pig, but about political power, and timber and coal rights. Still, if you have an interest in history or rafting, and don’t mind seeing a dilapidated building from your room in a newish motel, you might enjoy a visit to the area. © 2014

May God Bless ‘Em!

Some of my readers will remember that I requested prayer a few times as I looked for work. You may also recall that those prayers were answered in a way so as to make the Lord’s intentions very obvious. I’ve been on my job now for five months and still like both the job and the two brothers who are the owners.

They threw us a Christmas party on the 13th at the local bowling alley. The food was plenteous and good, the oration was of reasonable length and they had Santa Claus for the children and grandchildren in attendance (I’ll bite my tongue a bit there). Afterwards, there was two hours of free bowling for those who wanted it. We did have to walk forward when our name was called and our mileage for the year given, where we got three handshakes and a new cap. Overall, it was a pleasant time. I left when the bowling started, since my bashful wife was home alone.

Friday at work, our paychecks weren’t in the usual place, so we had to go into the office to get them. There we got a couple more handshakes, a “Merry Christmas,” and a second envelope. They also told us to get a fruit basket and ham on our way out. The basket was an old-fashioned half-bushel basket filled with a mix of oranges, apples and grapefruit, with a company calendar stuck in one side and a bag of Hershey’s kisses lying on top. The ham was probably about 10 pounds. When I got to my pickup and looked in the second envelope, there was a green bill which was the equivalent of 20% of my weekly take-home.

I was impressed. It’s nice to know that not every employer is a Scrooge. I’ve worked several places over the years, but none have been as generous, not even the multi-million-dollar factory where I used to work. It helps that both brothers are Christian, but they’ve also learned the lesson that showing your employees some heart-felt appreciation builds loyalty. Still, I think they’d do the same even if it didn’t. Job satisfaction isn’t 100% about the money; I made more money at the factory, but I didn’t like the job. I’ve been there five months now, and between the work itself, and my bosses, I still like my job. I suspect that I always will.

Though his personal flaws are the more obvious of the two brothers, the older brother sings in a gospel group. That was part of the reason that I applied there in the first place. We ALL have feet of clay, but at least he was trying to spread the Word.

When I thank the Lord for my job, I also usually ask him to help me do well at it and to bless my bosses with good health and good business (and not just for my own sake). As long as they strive to do His will, I’m sure that He will. © 2014

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

I Drove All Day And All I Got Was One Measely Picture! (w/pic)

Click photo to enlarge.

Monday, Some coworkers and I drove from Parkersburg, West Virginia, all the way to Hanover, West Virginia, picked up a load, took it to Ashland, Kentucky and unloaded, then went home. It took all day and put excactly 500 miles on my truck. My only chance to snap a photo was when we were stopped by Asplundh personnel pretending to work.

I thought it was an intersting old building that stood across the hollow from the highway. It was originally a small building of square hewn logs. Sometime later (much later, I suspect) an upstairs was added, using small, round logs (poles). I'm guessing the original building is from the 1800's. while the addition was added between 1920 and 1950. I wonder if they didn't use small poles for three reasons. First, there may not have been any large logs available locally to make squared timbers, so they used second-growth poles. Second, there may not have been anyone available with the skill to hew timbers. Third, the small poles would be much easier to lift to the higher level.

You'll notice that they cantilevered the front gable end, and I believe the back gable, also. Thus, the upstairs is larger than the downstairs. I think the building would be just barely salavageable at this point, but not fot long. More's the pity. © 2014

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Going To Commencement

My wife and I attended my stepson’s college graduation Friday evening. He’s 44, but a long way from being the oldest graduate there, though there were plenty of “kids” there, too. It’s a shame his father died when he was 11 years old and never got to see him grow up. I know he’d be proud of him for the fellow he’s become. I know that it wasn’t easy balancing school, work and family responsibilities, but he did it. I hope it allows him to get the job that he wants now.

I was somewhat amused at the knowledge I gained during the short time that I was within those hallowed halls of learning. Reading the program was a logical way to break the boredom while waiting for the program to start and suffering through the self-congratulatory speech of the “honored guest.” Through name recognition (and later visual observation) I learned the following:

My neighbor’s ex-wife just became a nurse. I regret almost any divorce, but I suspect he was mean even when he was sober.

The grandson of one of our late “great” local crooked liberal politicians graduated.

The daughter of one of my former coworkers graduated.

A relative of one of my current coworkers graduated.

The rude, slovenly, unshaved guy at Walmart, who never washes his hands after going to the bathroom, got a degree in Criminal Justice. I much as I hate to see him become a cop, it COULD have been worse; he COULD have gone into medicine!

Considering what I learned, I guess a little schooling is good for ALL of us! ;-) © 2014

Sunday, December 7, 2014

We COULD Have Been Toast!

Smokers tend to aggravate me. Most of them (but not all) just throw their cigarette butts down wherever they find themselves. When smoking was legal in stores and restaurants, you’d see the butts all over the floor, even if ashtrays were provided. I’ve worked places where washtubs with sand in the bottom were used for outside smokers, just so they couldn’t say the containers were too small to use easily. Still, most didn’t even bother to throw them in the general direction of the huge ashtrays, but just tossed them down in whatever direction they were facing. I suppose they had the typical modern American attitude that someone else would clean up after them. Still, I’ve never seen anyone act that way in their own home, so there has to be a deliberately anti-social, belligerent twist to their personalities. Some will say that the habit is so ingrained that they don’t even think. I don’t buy that for most, but with a few, I do.

One case in point is the woman who, with her husband, bought my old homeplace. You may have met people who so severely lacked intelligence that you pitied them. This poor woman is one of those people. I could give you examples of why I say that, but simply telling such true tales would make me sound cruel. Sadly, on top of her severe lack of intelligence (and any common sense what-so-ever), her husband is now bedfast, her grown children take advantage of her generosity, both monetarily and with her time, plus, she has decided that she doesn’t want to spend her old age alone, on a hilltop in the country, taking care of her husband. She wants to move to town (and I can’t blame her), but he doesn’t, so she lives a frustrating life. With all this going on, it’s rare that I get a payment on time anymore, which causes US problems with paying our own bills.

Unfortunately, she also smokes. Besides the negative effects on her health, it obviously stretches her funds even further to pay for her habit. Still, none of that is technically my business. What IS my business, is that the morning after the night that she brought the payment, I found her cigarette butt lying on the leaves that had blown around our front porch since the last raking. (With thousands of acres of forest on the windward side of the house, there’s no way to keep the area leaf free.) Luckily, this was after a few days of rain. The problem is, she would have probably thrown the butt the same place if we’d been in the middle of an autumn drought (and we’ve had them).

Cigarette butts won’t ALWAYS set leaves afire, but they do so often enough to be dangerous, and all it takes is a sunny day or two to dry out the leaves. Considering that she came after dark, if the butt had started a fire later, the porch may well have been engulfed before we ever knew it, and we have no insurance. Had some leaves smoldered until after we went to bed and THEN burst into flames, we might never have seen the morning. The problem is, there’s no need to say anything to her, as I’d be wasting my breath.

So, now I’VE got a new concern, if only once a month. (The evidence is in the lower left of the photo below.) © 2014


Monday, December 1, 2014

Rainy Days And Shanties (w/pic)

They barely had enough work to keep me in the saddle today, but one of my deliveries was to a place near Center Point, West Virginia. There’s a compressor station being built there on McElroy Creek, just off Rt # 23 on Riggins Run Road. Such technology doesn’t impress me, but the drive there did. It was raining all day, sometimes fairly hard, but sometimes barely sprinkling.

All along the rural roads leading to my destination were farms and little country homes, some lived in and some abandoned. What caught my attention the most, though, were all the little sheds and shanties that were part of the “dependencies” of the old homesteads. Most were built of rough lumber from the local sawmill back in the day when mills were more common than now. A few were built of corrugated tin. Some were locked up, some had doors standing open and others were so deteriorated that the roofs were lying nearly on the ground. Through some of the open doors I could see old farm tools, auto parts, rusted machinery and masses of rusted and dusty items that defied identification from a moving truck.

How I wished that I could snoop in all those old buildings! Of course I wouldn’t even know who to ask most places, since the most interesting ones were usually abandoned. I have a fetish for old tools and farm items. Some of the tools that I love most to use around my shop and yard have come from older relatives, antique shops, abandoned sheds and junk piles. Such things have personalities, and stories, that modern tools lack. The quality is often better, too. However, even those things too far gone to be used are interesting to look at and speculate as to their age and use.

In my youth, many rainy days were spent at my grandparents’ places, snooping around the outbuildings, learning about the past and asking questions when I got really stumped. It’s amazing the things I know about today, because of that hobby, which many people my age have no clue about. I’ve never harnessed a horse in my life, for instance, yet I know all the parts of the harness, their purpose and how to get it on the horse—all from studying old junk and asking questions.

One of my favorite spots was the tool shed up the hollow behind the barn of my paternal grandparents. My granddad had put a sawmill up there during the war, and though he never roofed the mill, at least he built a small building, perhaps 12 feet by 20, where he could put stuff out of the weather and even hole-up, himself, if the rain got too heavy. Many of my teenage hikes, hunts and horseback rides mysteriously swung by the old shed. Perhaps I should have closed it in and made it my hermitage; there were four springs and a running stream, all within 150 yards of the place. Closed in properly (or otherwise), it would have heated easily with a woodstove. I found myself thinking of the old loafing spot often today, as the rain hit the windshield. I reckon some days are custom made for memories. © 2014

Very poor photo of the old tool shed up the hollow, taken in 1973.