Saturday, February 28, 2015

02-27-15 – Riding Shotgun – Barreling Down Memory Lane

I’ve been hauling salt this week, and seeing some old familiar places in the process. I’ve mentioned in posts past that the folks took me and my sister to the mountains for day trips and over-nighters when we were growing up. That often involved traveling east on the old Northwestern Pike as far Red House, Maryland, then heading south, back into West Virginia. Sometimes, we turned south at Clarksburg and traveled old Route 19 to points south. Occasionally, we’d even take the old Staunton Pike eastward into interior West Virginia. Along the way, we stopped at places of interest and had picnics in the road-side parks so common back then. When I was a teenager, we also traveled to Buckhannon quite often for a year, as my sister went to school there her first year of college. Lord only knows how troubled my parents lives may have been back then, but it was “the good ol’ days’ for me, though I didn’t think about it then.

We hauled salt to Mill Creek this week, a ways below Elkins. The directions that we received were extremely inaccurate, but we got there anyway. Along the route, I watched as best I could from the four-lane and compared certain points to the same spots during my youth. I have ancestors out that way, and I noticed family names on both gravestones and local businesses as I whizzed along. Needless to say, there have been a lot of changes over the years. The road-side parks are long gone, victims of disuse, vandalism and sexual deviants. The natural sites are intact, of course, and various signs still point the way to them. A lot of businesses from back then are gone now, either sitting empty or replaced by new ones. The mom and pop places have largely been replaced by restaurants, stores and gas stations owned by chains from out-of-state, further impoverishing our state.

I still remember the feeling of wind coming through the open car windows, the scents of local restaurants (and barnyards), and the scenic vistas that we encountered along the way. Then there was also the taste of sandwiches made with country ham, along with big helpings of potato salad, or a few deviled eggs, all washed down with strong, sweet iced tea (all made by Mom). As often as not, dessert was homemade cake with chocolate icing, transported in the huge, squeaky Styrofoam cooler along with everything else.

We hauled salt to Millstone this week also. The journey involved loading near St. Mary’s, then driving across Route 16, through Ellenboro, Harrisville, Smithville and Grantsville. We stopped before getting into Millstone proper, since the DOH garage was on the northern side of “town.” Two drivers were ahead of me and the driver that was running with me, so any chatter on the CB was just between the two of us. I suspect that he got tired of my comments about all the places we passed where I’d delivered for Red Rose Feed 36 years ago. There again, many of the places were still there, but many were also out of business or operated by other people. No doubt, many of the people that I dealt with then are in their graves now.

We came back by returning to Grantsville and taking Route 5 to Elizabeth and then 14 to Parkersburg. That happened to be the same route that my first wife and I sometimes used when returning from Glenville, where we’d visit her paternal grandmother. I didn’t mention that to the other driver. Along the way, I saw the little church where we once had to pull in to change a flat tire. She still has distant relatives there, proved by the sign on one of the businesses along the way. In fact, I also have cousins there that I’ve never met, for one of my family names is common up that way, and everyone in the country with that name is descended from one particular man. As we neared Elizabeth, we passed through Burning Springs. Oil from a well there lubricated the machinery drilling the well in Pennsylvania claimed to be the “first oil well in America.” So much for the accuracy of the history books.

My last run on Friday was to Spencer. The salt dealer sent me out later than they should have (2:30), considering that it was Friday and the DOH tries to close shop at 3:30 when possible. I decided to go Route 14 rather than south down the interstate and east on Route 33. I hit town just as two other drivers were leaving. I never saw them, but I spoke to them on the CB. The guy at the DOH knew I was coming, so he waited on me and, five minutes after getting there, I’d unloaded and was leaving. Knowing that it was an easier route, but would take 15 minutes longer, I still chose to go back 33 and I-77, rather than fight the crookedness of 14 all the way back. I got to the shop at 6:30 that morning and didn’t get off ‘til 6. That made sort of a long day, but started my next pay period off well.

I covered a lot of familiar ground on the way down. As a child, I often went with the folks when they visited my mom’s maternal uncle in Elizabeth. Most of the time, we’d go on to Spencer on Route 14 and visit with her maternal aunt, too. Lots of times, we’d take her parents (my grandparents), along so Grandma could visit her siblings. They lived down there a couple times when Mom was a kid, so there were a lot of memories there for them. My very first memory of life is of one of those trips, so there are a lot of memories there for me, as well. I wish I could have slowed down and enjoyed the journey a little more, but that wasn’t my purpose for being there. Still, it was nice to get my memory jogged, even if it was at a high rate of speed.

The way this old world is getting to be, those memories are growing more precious every year. I miss seeing those folks, but I guess I’ll see them soon enough since, like me, they trusted in the Lord. © 2015

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Hauling Salt And Rooms With A View (w/pics)

I’ve hauled two loads of salt to Sutton,West Virginia, this week, one to Gassaway, and another to Weston. We keep having snow just often enough to require continued salting of the highways, even though we haven’t had any serious accumulations in my area. Afraid they’ll run out of salt before they run out of winter, the various DOH garages are restocking at least some of their salt supplies. All four deliveries I’ve made have involved driving Interstate 79, so I’ve travelled it enough by now to have certain “landmarks” in my mind.

I’ve mentioned in other posts how “progress” always comes with a price. Almost anything done “for the common good” manages to destroy the livelihood or property of some individuals. A case in point is how large highways to help move the masses, destroys small towns and small businesses along the former route. Being a country boy, one thing that I’ve particularly noticed are the number of once-fine farms destroyed by interstate highways. Several are evident along I-79 (and every other major highway). I managed to get some photos of a couple farmhouses today that once had farms to go with them. Both are near Jane Lew, West Virginia.

Located in the head of a hollow that opened onto a slightly larger valley, the first one was obviously a cut above the more common brick homes of the day. Arches over the windows, rather than lintels, and gingerbread on the exterior woodwork show a level of craftsmanship missing from most country homes of the day. A small barn still stands out back, probably once holding a team of horses and a milk cow or two. The main part of the farm would have been in the valley, I believe. The one mostly filled with fills to lift the highway from the valley floor. What little may have remained of the farm is now on the other side of the four-lane, inaccessible from the house.

I remember when this road was built, decades ago, and back then, the house was obviously lived in. Now, I can’t be sure. One thing I know, the place is going to pot, and no-one will want to buy a house where strangers can look in the second-story windows as they cruise by only 75 feet from the front porch. Can you imagine looking out the window of your country home, only to see cars and trucks of all decriptions flying by with deafening results. I’m sure the government paid the farmer “fair market value” for the homestead that they ruined. That usually is computed AFTER everybody learns that a big highway is coming through, so it’s a pittance of the real value.

Click images to enlarge. 

The second home is a frame home located, once again, at the head of a small valley, but this one was up the hill a bit, above the valley floor. At least the highway is level with the downstairs instead of the upstairs. Unfortunately, you can still sit on the porch and chuck walnuts at the passing cars if you’re so inclined. Like the other place, it’s permanently cut off from any part of the farm in the valley. This house, too, is suffering neglect, whether from aging owners or renters, I don’t know.

It was a terminal blow to the old homes to lose the farms that went with them, I believe. Sometimes, it just takes a long time for them to die. © 2015

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Today And Long Ago

We needed a few things from the store today, though nothing we couldn’t live without. However, when the plow went through at 3AM, it had no seeming effect, so we wondered about the hills between us and the main road. Just before noon, we loaded up the dog and slowly drove out the ridge to the first major down-slope and gazed over the brink. We decided that the road was too bad to risk travel and decided that we’d just make do with what supplies we had on hand. Turning around, I suggested to my wife that I go home and put chains on, so we could go anyway. And so we did. We left the dog in the house, knowing that chains would allow us to return with certainty.

It had been ages since I’d put chains on a vehicle. Having four-wheel drive sort of makes them unneeded 999 times out of 1000. But, with my 4WD not kicking in like it should, I was back to a 2WD pickup, so I was glad I’d purchased chains when I first got the truck. It probably took me twice as long to mount them as it did in the past. Not only was I out of practice, I was also much older and fatter. Still, in a few minutes, I told my wife that we were ready and off we went.

It was interesting to see all the 4WD’s out on the roads. I suspect most stayed home yesterday like we did, but decided to hit the road when they saw the sun today. One thing I noticed was that we were the only folks on the road with chains. The few folks who were standing outdoors craned their necks to look as we went by, many of the younger ones probably having never seen chains on a vehicle before. The curiosity of others continued when we reached the bare four lane and the equally bare streets of town. One guy even laughed at us as we drove by his home.

As we talked about it, my wife and I decided that the last time that I’d used chains on the highway was 21 years ago. I’d just landed my job at the factory when we got snowed in for three days and the factory closed down. I kept calling, since I didn’t want to lose any work, and the day they said that they were going to run all shifts the following day, we lost our electric here on Tick Ridge. So, I put the chains on the ’79 GMC that I had at the time, we loaded a couple changes of clothes and a few supplies, took the little dachshund we had at the time and headed off for town through 21 inches of snow. At one place a pine was across the road and I got hung-up driving in the road ditch to avoid the treetop. A kind neighbor pulled us out with his tractor and we finished our trip. For the next week, we lived in a motel, while I worked my new job. We ate most of our meals at the McDonald’s next door and did laundry at a nearby laundromat. It was a rough week, but we made it.

After getting to our destination today, I paid a visit to the men’s room at the Chinese Emporium, while my wife did her shopping. As I headed back to the truck, planning to snooze a bit, I noticed a large flock of gulls in the parking lot, and sat down on a bench in the store’s side hall to watch them a few minutes. As I sat there, one of the workers that I sometimes speak to began taking apart one of the recycling boxes near me. As we chatted, I mentioned that I was using chains, in order to get to and from my home on Tick Ridge. At that, he mentioned that he was raised on the road we took when we hit the valley, so I asked his last name. When he told me, I asked if he was related to Charlie and Janet, farm folks that I once knew of the same name. He told me that they were his parents!

It’s funny how even country folks can grow up almost in the same neighborhood and not know one another. He looked to be near my age, but I don’t remember him from those days, nor did he remember me. I remembered my dad and I doing business with his folks though, and he remembered when our family sawmill was in what’s now my front yard. That was 40-some years ago. Both of his parents have been gone for a few years and my dad for over thirty, so it brought up a lot of old memories. After a brief chat and a handshake, I left him at his work and continued on to the truck.

On the way home later, my wife and I discussed the gulls, the winter of the big snow, our now antiquated method for gaining traction, and the changes in our neighborhood, just in the years that we’ve been married. Sometimes, it seems like we’re too young to be this old but, obviously, we aren’t. © 2015

Saturday, February 21, 2015


I’m not going to pretend that my situation is anything unusual right now. I suppose that half the country is suffering cabin fever along with my wife and me. I didn’t work any this week, so had no real reason to be out, except to break the monotony for my wife. Still, we managed to get out about every other day. Today was one that we didn’t, so we’re both a little bored.

If the four wheel drive was working on my truck, we might have gone out anyway, but it isn’t, and it would be stupid to risk getting hung up for no reason. We’re starting to get a little low on a couple things, though, so we may go out tomorrow, IF the state ever plows the road. They haven’t been across the ridge since this last snow started over 24 hours ago. I reckon they’re down by the edge of town, keeping all the city-slickers happy.

I have some things that I could do upstairs, on my other computer, or downstairs in the basement. However, that would entail “neglecting” my wife, and she wouldn’t look kindly on it. Over the past few years, she’s lost interest in the things that used to keep her busy, so she now considers me and her TV the providers of her entertainment. It can be a difficult and aggravating burden to bear at times, but what can I do; she’s put up with me for 32 years! Maybe we can go to the Chinese Emporium tomorrow and she can get her exercise pushing a cart around for an hour or two, while I sit in the truck and discuss politics with the dog. (NO, I’m NOT crazy, the REST of the world is crazy!)

We’re supposed to get freezing rain tonight on top of our snow, so I’m praying that our electric won’t go off. That would put us in a REAL fix. Well, guess I’ll quit neglecting my wife and go watch a little more TV with her. Baduh, baduh, baduh, that’s all folks! (I’m fine, REALLY!) © 2015

Still No “Woodwright’s Shop” For Me

I was always a fan of the Woodwright’s Shop on PBS. Roy Underhill does a good job of bringing old woodworking tools and methods to life, some of which I grew up with. His quirky humor adds yet another dimension to the show. Since my wife’s Saturday schedule involves never being home when it’s on, I used to record it and watch it later. Then PBS started moving things around to where I could never depend on recording the right thing. Then, my VHS recorder quit working. Realizing that the only time I used my TV was to watch Underhill, it didn’t make sense to replace the recorder. So, I quit watching the show. I DO have all of his books.

When they brought his shows out on DVD, I thought about collecting them but, at the time, they were charging something like $20 for a single 30 minute episode. I considered that to be ridiculous, and still do. I see they’re now available as “seasons” for $30. That’s more reasonable, but I can’t really see my way clear to afford them.

I noticed that you can view them “for free” online, so I thought I’d check it out. As it turns out, you can only view a portion of the show, then, they want you to sign up with their local PBS station. I didn’t pursue the matter, but I figured they’d demand a contribution. Even if they didn’t, I’m sure they’d hound you for money from then on. It was hard enough to get them to stop bothering me when I had to quit donating to them a few years ago. I have no intention of getting that started all over again.

So, it was nice watching you Roy but, for me, I guess you’re history. © 2015

A Chilly Reminder (pic)

We sit in our relatively warm houses and complain about the cold (or at least I do). We sometimes forget the wild creatures or even our own domestic livestock that have it much worse. Below is the sight I found outside my door when I took the pooch out a 3:30 AM. Sometime after midnight, one or more deer had been scaping through the snow, hoping to find a few stray acorns yet remaining under the white oak in the side yard. It sort of puts things in perspective; doesn't it?


Thursday, February 19, 2015

Grumping, Shivering, Doctoring And Endeavoring To Persevere

Well, my latest pay period ended this afternoon. I have a total of three hours on this pay, so it will qualify as my “waiting week” for low earnings (partial un-employment). Then, should I have another week like this, I can draw a few bucks from the state that I and my employers have paid in. If I’m still working there next year (as I expect to be), I’ll be able to draw more than the paltry amount I’d get this year. Being off work for 15 months really messed things up for me.

I don’t think it ever got above 9 degrees here today. The wind chill made it seem worse. The windward end of the house is the coldest. I never started my truck yesterday, so it had to be jumped today when we decided to make a run to town just get out of the house a while. I carry a fully charged battery in the back for such occasions. I bought it as much for the use of others as myself, but I’ve jumped my own truck as much as the rest of the folks put together. If I was rich, I’d trade the tundra in. It’s not the truck my old ’79 GMC was. BUT, the new GMC’s aren’t either.

I organized my desk a bit more today, but not much. I DID get rid of the old rolodex my wife gave me years ago, when I was self-employed. I didn’t need most of the numbers and addresses any more. For those that I did, I trimmed down the rolodex cards and put them in the little notebook I have that’s made for business cards. My wife decided to keep the rolodex herself. Now there’s slightly more room on my desk.

My cellulitis keeps improving, but it’s obvious that I’m going to run out of meds again before it’s cured. The nurse doesn’t want to give me any more antibiotics if possible, since she’s afraid they’ll mess up my stomach. She told me the doctor now has walk-in hours on Friday evenings and to come in tomorrow so HE can see me. Theoretically, cellulitis can be fatal if untreated, so that would make it a little hard for me to hold a job. Guess I’ll go see the doctor.

Even the Mighty Dachshund seems to get cabin fever, but it’s so cold that she even puts off taking a dump until she’s desperate. As soon as she drains her tank, she tries dragging me to the house. She finally needed to relieve herself bad enough about 9:30 tonight that she made time for a quick hunker and made a momentous deposit in the snow. Back inside, she decided that she wanted to share my lap robe and crept underneath. However, I kept feeling warm air around my leg, followed by a foul stench drifting out from under my lap robe, so I had to send her packing.

It’s currently zero here on Tick Ridge, and is supposed to go down 5 or 10 more degrees, with a wind-chill of -20. We’re watching TV, and I’ve been doing some things on the computer that I’ve needed to catch up on. I guess until the weather breaks, we’ll just do like the old Indian in Josey Wales and endeavor to persevere. I hope ya’ll manage to do the same. © 2015

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

A “Ready For Spring” Whine And A Prayer Request

I’m sick of winter. Besides the inconvenience of bad weather, it costs me money when I can least afford it. I only have three hours on this pay period so far, and don’t work tomorrow again. I doubt if I work Thursday, either. That’s when the pay period closes. I suspect that I won’t work Friday, either, which is the first day in the next pay period. In the meanwhile, we both need to see a dentist, a doctor and the eye doctor. I’ve now got a hospital bill and doctor bill to pay, and the dog needs caught up on her shots. Plus, we couldn’t do anything for our youngest granddaughter’s birthday for lack of funds. That’s a REAL bummer! I’ll be glad when the overtime starts again. I guess that sometimes happens in March. Then I’ll start complaining about no time and no rest. I guess I’m just one of those folks who’d complain if you shot me with a brand new gun.

On a slightly more positive note, I’ve managed to clean my desk some and sort the stuff there into “save” and “trash” piles. The trash has already been put into the circular file, and some of the save items have already been filed away upstairs. Also, I have a short article on a local rock formation that I think I’ll send to the same magazine where I sent my sawmill article. If they use it, it will be nearly two years from now, but I guess the money will come handy whenever it comes.

I haven’t been able to finish my maul, because the weather is just too cold outside. I suppose I could do it in the basement, but then I’d have a mess to clean up. Outside, the wood chips can lie there until the mower “distributes” them this spring. That’s one advantage to living at the edge of the woods; small things tend to blend in with the constantly blowing leaves until you either decide to do something about them, or they decompose.

I need to do my taxes. I can’t really afford to pay an accountant anymore and I hate to ask my stepson to do them again. He can get the online forms to print out, though, whereas I have trouble with it. Remember the good old days when the IRS mailed you the forms that you needed? Our STATE still does.

My cellulitis keeps gradually getting better, but it seems TERRIBLY gradual. I hope I don’t run out of dope a second time without it being cured. I’ sure I’ll have to go see the doctor again if I do. I’d really appreciate any prayers from fellow followers of Christ.

I reposted someone else’s post on Facebook today about Christians needing to be more positive. Wow, I definitely need to do THAT. I hope things are going well for you folks who are kind enough to read my drivel. If not, at least try not to be as grumpy as I am! ;-) © 2015

Sunday, February 15, 2015

Cinnamon Bread, Northern Invaders and Unknown Twins

Some of you know that cinnamon has some health benefits. So does honey. Mainly, though, I like them because they taste good. Wanting to satisfy my sweet tooth without eating complete junk, I’ve been putting honey on whole-grain bread as a bedtime snack occasionally. Recently, it dawned on me that adding cinnamon would give me a way to gain some health benefits, while making my snack taste even better. If I just want a small amount, I put the two flavorful additions on half a slice of bread and then fold it back on itself. It brings back memories of the cinnamon toast that my mother used to make for me when I was a kid. The advantage is that the honey is better for you than white sugar, and the slice of whole grain healthier than white bread.

I think I’ve mentioned earlier in this blog that I’ve been spotting a few gulls around town lately. Today, though, I saw a couple flocks that probably had several hundred members. I suppose they’ve come down from points north looking for open water and bare ground from which to scavenge food. I’m sure it was no coincidence that I saw both flocks in huge parking lots near fast-food joints. Critters soon learn where the food is.

Many moons ago, I took a couple edible foods courses at our local college. While there, I bumped into a guy who could have passed for my twin. They say that we all have one, but it was sort of strange to see myself walking down the hall. The thing is, he also wore jeans as I did, along with work shoes, flannel shirts and even a couple vests like I had. It was quite understandable when my new wife came home from college one day telling how she’d almost hugged the wrong man from behind as he sat at a table in the library. After all, he has longish blond hair, a beard and wire-rimmed glasses like I did, too. I can only hope that he doesn’t look like me today, or he’ll have some serious health issues.

A few years later, I got divorced, and the woman that I would eventually marry lost her husband to cancer. We didn’t yet know one another when she was shopping in a nearby grocery store and a huge pair of arms gave her a bear-hug from behind. When the arms let go and she turned around, she saw the smile on the strangers face turn into a look of utter fright. He turned and ran like a little boy as she stood there and laughed at the obvious case of mistaken identity.

Only about three years later, I had lost my truck-driving job and had hired on at a local muzzleloader shop. One day, I was out in the showroom, filling a mail order from a parts tray, when I heard the front door open. I looked up just in time to see the back view of my wife as she closed the door. The words “Hi Hon, what are you doing here?” were just ready to come out my mouth when she turned and I saw that it was the wife of a local gun dealer that I did personal business with. I was SO glad that I was slow to speak, though she would have laughed and taken it well anyway. I knew that she was the same height and weight, and had the same hair color and hair style as my wife. I just didn’t realize how exact those similarities were! © 2015

For anyone interested, below is a picture of the hippified redneck that once was me. 


Saturday, February 14, 2015

From Dining Out To Snowing Sideways (w/pic)

Several months ago, I promised my wife Valentine’s Day dinner out, so I went to bed last night knowing that I wouldn’t be lazing in bed this morning for as long as I might like. Sure thing; I got up at the crack of 8:30 to pee and my wife told me that I should go ahead and shower. Yesterday, we’d decided to go at 3 pm, between the lunch and supper crowds, so it might not be as busy. True to form, she changed her mind and decided that she wanted to be there when they opened their doors. A phone call proved that the restaurant of choice served their lunch menu until 3 and we wanted the supper menu, so she decided to go to Olive Garden instead. I was hoping she’d choose another restaurant a bit further up the street, since it has handicapped spaces right by the front door, but no dice.

Our local OG is faced onto the street, but the parking lot is in back. Thus, fair weather and foul, you have a rather long hike to get to the front door. It was cold and extremely windy just before 11, when we showed up, but they were nice enough to let us in and seat us. I forgot to order the dinner size heart-attack-on-a-plate, so ended up with the lunch size. I could have eaten more but, truthfully, it was all I needed. Both of us thought the quality was good, though the service was second-rate, due to a customer invasion of the place just after we arrived.

Afterwards, she wanted to go to the Chinese Emporium to pick up a few things that she forgot yesterday. I stayed in the truck and touched up the edge on the little scout axe that I’d bought years ago and rehafted, as well as the hewing hatchet (side-axe to you English blokes) that I bought probably over three decades ago when a local hardware store went out of business. I plan to use the hewing hatchet on the handle of the maul that I’m making. It came from the factory with a rather poor edge and needed the honing. Worse, some factory worker who didn’t understand its function put the slightest of bevels on the flat side. I can remedy that, but it will take more than a hand stoning to do it. I wondered what would happen if some politically correct busy-body saw me in my truck sharpening hatchets, but since I was parked in the back lot, apparently that didn’t happen. At least no SWAT team showed up.

My wife said that the store was packed with people trying to stock up for the bad weather predicted. The frenzy must have infected her, too, for I sent her in with $40 and she came back with $30 worth of groceries that she’d paid $100 for. We stopped and picked up a chicken sandwich for the pooch, which had been left at home for a change, and headed the old horse (tundra) for the ridge. We hadn’t been home five minutes when the first of the foul weather hit. The sunshine gave way to sideways snow and the wind howled through the trees and any cracks it could find in the house. A lot of the snow “fell” on the west side of the tree trunks.

They’re predicting a little more snow and a LOT more wind tonight. The electric has already blinked off twice, so we’re currently keeping our fingers crossed and will add a little prayer later. Hope y’all stay warm. © 2015

Today’s view from my office window.


Too Dern Cold

The digital read-out on my truck dash said that it was seven degrees when I left for work this morning. It was also seven degrees at the yard when I arrived but, in between, the thing dropped down as low as three and five at certain places.
I gave the dump-truck engine a shot of starting fluid before I started cranking it. It didn’t start on the first grind of five seconds or so, but it did on the second. After putting my lunch inside the cab, I parked my pickup and went inside the shop.

A handful of guys got runs at the regular dispatch time, but over a dozen of us didn’t. After a half-hour or longer, a couple fellows volunteered to go out and shut the idling trucks down for the rest of us. We didn’t argue with them. In the office, we could hear the dispatcher calling various customers, trying to drum up business. Three hours from starting time, they still had no runs for us and sent us home.

Being payday, it was sort of nice to get off early, but it means that I’m starting the next pay period with a short day. The weather forecast for next week shows cold and a little snow, so I’m thinking there may be more short days than long ones. Maybe next winter I can draw some low-earnings, but not this winter. I haven’t been back to work long enough.

The inlet behind the shop is frozen over, as is the river beyond. The resident Canada geese are landing on ice for now, unless they go to the big river, about a mile away. There’s been a flock of seagulls hanging around the last couple days. I never saw any around here as a kid, but they’re not uncommon now.

When I got home, we went out and washed the truck, fueled it up and went to the Chinese Emporium to pick up a few things. Then we returned home before the day started cooling down too much. It never got above 23 degrees today. I started to work on my maul a little bit, but it was just too breezy to be enjoyable. Still, I sat in the porch swing a few more minutes to enjoy the day a bit more before confining myself to the darkness of the “cave” (our home with the curtains all closed up for warmth).

We watched the first part of a two-part Civil War movie to pass some of the evening. It was pretty good, but I had to laugh when they talked about a “stone bridge” that turned out to be an abandoned bridge of cast-in-place concrete from the 30’s or 40’s. Oh well, most viewers would never catch it. I’m bad about catching anachronisms, though.

Tomorrow, I’m taking my wife out to lunch at one of her favorite restaurants. I really can’t afford it, but it’s our 32nd anniversary, so I’ll find a way to survive the rest of the week ahead. We don’t do gifts, cards or flowers anymore. She said that she’d rather I just save the money so I can take her to a nicer place to eat. Hey! Works for me!

Stay warm folks! © 2015

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Grumping, Grouching, Griping And Grousing

Yeah, I’m in one of those moods. I only got in a half-day at work today, and less than three hours on Monday, so it will be another short pay tomorrow. I’ve only had one full pay since Christmas—not a good thing with winter bills. I never thought that the day would come when I’d look forward to overtime, but when you can’t live on the pay you get for 40 hours (or less), your perspective changes. I’ll be glad when spring comes this year, for more reasons than one!

Ten days ago, I went to the emergency room about my leg. It DID turn out to be cellulitis, but the doctor wouldn’t treat it without doing an ultra-sound on my leg, “to be sure I didn’t have deep vein thrombosis,” or whatever they call a blood-clot in the leg. I told her that I take at least one aspirin each evening, plus, I take Vitamin E every morning, and both are blood thinners. Therefore, logic tells you that it’s unlikely that a clot would ever form. She would have none of it. After all, they have to cover their keisters for liability, plus they want to rack up all the charges possible for me to pay.

 The doctor ended up giving me two antibiotic prescriptions, a shot in each hip and an antibiotic pill for that night. She also gave me a prescription for pain pills, but when I found out it was only for two days worth, I didn’t bother to fill it. The progress has been slow; perhaps because I’ve built up some immunity to their effects (from all my past illnesses and the accompanying medicines). Doctors won’t give you any more than ten days worth of prescription, when I usually require at least 14.

So, I called the pharmacy to see if they could wheedle an extension from the ER doctor and they said that never worked; they want you to see your doctor or come back to them. So, I called my doctor’s office and got their cursed answering machine. Strange, but they never run it except when they’re in the office, and then NEVER answer the phone. Their time is very valuable, after all, while yours is utterly worthless. So, I left a message for Doc’s nurse, figuring that it was a waste of time. I haven’t always got the best results from their system, but she came through for me this time and called the meds in to the pharmacy I use. She also told me to get some probiotics since I was going to be on antibiotics so long. My leg IS better, and another ten days (which I hope is what she called in) should do the trick.

I got my bill from the hospital today. The amount due is $962.36. I hate to tell them, but they’ll be lucky to get it all by the end of summer. The two glorified acetaminophen cost $18.36. The unneeded ultrasound (I wasn’t pregnant, by the way) cost $305. The “Emergency Services” cost $639. Now, I really doubt if the hospital has any more time in my treatment than my doctor would have, so, why can he do it for a $100, and they need $639?

That kind of morally reprehensible bull pucky is part of why we ended up with Obamacare. Not that the owners of the hospital would care anything about morals or mere people. And THAT, as they say, is the view from HERE! (Hopefully, I’ll be in a better mood tomorrow) © 2015

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Is There A Camper In Your Future? (w/pic)

Click image to enlarge.

The photo above is of a local private canmpground. There are several in my area, and even this time of year, quite a few folks seem to be using them. Considering how tough the times are for the poorer class, I have to wonder how many folks are living there full time. The owner of this one says that he suspects that one guy, but only one, is doing so in his campground. Since the sites don't have water or sewer, that would be illegal, so he doesn't like the idea that he may have to ask the fellow to move on, if he ever finds out for sure.

I've been reading, on the internet, about folks moving into campers for year around living to cut expenses. At one end of the spectrum, you have folks with an untowable camping trailer with a tarp over the roof, kept on a friend's property. At the other end, you have better-off folks with a motor coach who own a northern lot and a southern lot, both with a shed roof to pull the coach under and with full utility hook-ups. Winter is spent down south, summer - up north. Most camper-dwellers fall somewhere between the two extremes.

Whether a person parks on the land of a friend, or at a low-priced campground, it IS an alternative to paying ridiculous property taxes for a home full of "stuff." If the camper is in towable condition, you also have the option of moving away from dangerous weather, or dangerous social conditions. Of course, that means that you have to maintaain a vehicle capable of towing the thing. Just one more thing to think about. © 2015

Monday, February 9, 2015

Almost A Maul (pics)

At this point, I've taken four splits off the handle section and have a rough handle about two inches square. It can be rounded down with a hatchet or a draw knife, or both. (Click images to enlarge.)

It was obvious as I drove in the froe, that splitting seasoned wood of this size was beyond the capacity of granddad's froe. Using the small tree-limb maul, or froe club, I knocked it back out and put one of my late father's splitting wedges in its place. Thumping it with his eight pound sledge, the wedge had no problem splitting the piece, of course. From then on, I used the froe to score the end of the stick and start the split, then knocked it out and finished with the sledge and wedge. The froe, froe club and sledge can be seen on my "shop chair."

None of the subsequent splits would allow the use of the froe, even the last one which was only two inches across. Froes are for GREEN wood! Remember that if you try this.

Incidentally, you may notice that I cut my froe club near a fork in the tree limb, so it would have a "head" with some extra weight. © 2015

Sunday, February 8, 2015

A Step Closer (w/pics)

Last summer, I mentioned making a hickory root maul for whacking things like small fence posts and liberals. I may even have posted a photo, but I don't remember. Anyway, all I got done to it back then was the initial groove roughed out with a double-bitted axe to determine where the head would be and give a place for the splits to stop when working down the handle. "Rough" it was, too. It sat around drying out, which wasn't my plan, and today, I decided to finish the groove around the piece.

So, after raising the tonneau and taking my little 1.25 pound scout axe out of the back of the pick-up, I started hacking on an all-too-dry chunk of hickory. There's a REASON that some tasks should be done while the wood is green! Still, the little hatchet was sharpm enough to shave with, so that helped.

After about a half-an-hour of whacking, turning, looking and whacking some more, I finally got to where I have what is roughly a two inch section of round wood at the bottom of my groove around the hickory chunk. Next, I'll need to get my granddad's froe out of the basement and cut a three inch or so piece of firewood to use as a small maul and split the sides off the long section to rough out the handle. Other things needed my attention, though, so that will have to wait until another day.

The maul will be 40 inches overall, unless I decide it needs shortened, and will have a head approxiamately 12 inches long and 8 inches across. Yes, I KNOW it looks like a beaver has been chewing on it, so all you talented woodworkers can just keep your trap shut! ;-)

The first photo shows the maul, plus my fancy, 20" tall shop chair and my 12" tall work bench. They're located in my workshop, under the big white oak in the front yard. It was a nice day so, since that was where everything was, that's where I worked. Besides, working in the front yard lets my neighbors wonder what in the world the old geezer is doing now. Sometimes, I think they believe that I shouldn't be allowed to play with sharp objects. The second photo is obviously a closer view of my project. I'll try to get another photo when I use the froe to split the sides off the handle area. © 2015

Click photos to enlarge.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

A Little More About Scythes

Recently, I read that the European pikemen of old were made up mostly of farmers who straightened the shank on their scythe blades and put them on longer poles, The pikes then were used for cutting the neck muscles of enemy soldiers in hand-to-hand combat, plus the tendons of their ankles and the leg tendons of horses when fighting with cavalry. I always assumed pikes were used more for stabbing, but that was more the forte of mounted lancers, I guess.

For a bit of more practical information, here's a list of places carrying scythes, compliments of Scythe Connection. I've dealt so far with Scythe Supply and have no complaints.

Lee Valley Tools – ON
ScytheWorks – BC
Sensen Verein
Czech Republic:
Neil Dudman
New Zealand:
Eco Show
Scythes NZ

Scythe Work

I mentioned a few months ago that I sold my weed-whacker to the neighbor and went back to the scythe and sickle for what I can’t get with my riding lawnmower. The whacker never started when I wanted to use it, partly because I didn’t use very often. Besides, in my country setting, I’m not easily upset by a few strands of long grass or a stray clump of weeds. I just do like the state road and call them “naturalized areas.” My wife isn’t so liaise-faire, though, so I still have to keep a certain semblance of order about the place.

Most of my trimming is around trees, where a whacker shouldn’t be used anyway. A sickle works just fine for such areas, as would a pair of those “hand-clippers-on-a-stick” with the little wheels on them, if I had a set. There are a few slightly larger areas where a scythe is best, plus a small area that I used to brush-hog. The section that I used to brush-hog went unmowed last year, since I sold my tractor to live on while I attended trucking school last winter. Afterward, I gave my brush-hog to a distant neighbor.

Before I tackle that larger area with a scythe, though, I need to do some modification on the snaths (handles) that I have. Three are the normal American curved style, but they don’t have enough curve to allow the mower to stand upright. The one straight snath that I have doesn’t have enough LENGTH to allow the mower to stand upright. As a result, I’ve always used the typical back-breaking style of most occasional hand-mowers and rested my back as needed. The fact is, a properly fitted snath allows the mower to stand upright, so he doesn’t have to work bent over. That would allow for easier work and fewer breaks.

I think I’ll lengthen the straight one by cutting it and then fitting both pieces into a steel tube about 18 inches long. I happen to have the rails from an old stretcher that are just the right size. As for the curved ones, I believe that I can achieve the desired effect by raising the lower cob (handgrip) by fitting an extension for it to the snath, so the snath has a forked appearance. In fact, I’ve actually seen pictures of forked snaths.

I have five blades, four of the tapered European style, plus an American brush blade. One of the European style blades has a small crack in the edge, so I’ll have to grind the blade narrower to get rid of it. I’ll probably put it on the straight snath and use it around the yard for light work. The American brush blade seems best used with the chopping action so often seen practiced by amateurs, but the European blades are best swung in a large arc. More by coincidence than good management, all of the slender European blades are Schwann brand. That was my dad’s preferred brand, though all but the one that I inherited from him came from other people.

I’ve got a LOT of small jobs around here that I’d like to get done before spring. I guess if I don’t get around to remodeling my snaths, I’ll just rest my back more often for a while. Once I get at least one scythe altered, though, the next step is to learn how to peen the blades. I have both the old-fashioned anvils for that, and the modern tubular style. Few things do a job better than the old ways, so adding another skill to my repertoire won’t hurt anything. © 2015

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Salt Hauling Is Winding Down

I hauled three loads of salt this week. One load went to Buckhannon , West Virginia, another to Heaters , and the other to Gassaway. It’s always nice to see places that I haven’t seen in a few years. My late father-in-law lived at Gassaway for a little while during the first decade or so of the 20th Century. Some of my ancestors hail from the Buckhannon area, plus, my sister attended college there at West Virginia Wesleyan College  for a year, before switching to Marshall University . I was glad to see that there was a Weyerhaeuser OSB (wafer-board) plant in Heaters, so the locals would have some work.

I always remember going by the impressive Departmentof Highways building on the old road into Buckhannon. It certainly looked secure. One of my bosses thought that it had been a prison at one time, but when I searched online, all I could learn was that it was BUILT by prisoners in 1941. I looked online for a photo of it, but with no success.

I had 40.5 hours in the first four days of the pay-period. Yet they kept the three of us who are on the bottom of the ladder sitting in the dispatch room today for four more hours before sending us home for lack of work. That meant that they were paying me overtime to sit on my backside while they tried to find some work for me. They tried, God bless ‘em!

To reference the title of this post, a lot of the winter is over, so while the various DOH garages are trying to stay stocked up, they’re also trying not to be so overstocked as to have huge stores of salt remaining coming when spring arrives. So, unless we have some bad late winter snows, orders will probably be pretty low from here on out. Hey, it was good while it lasted!

Incidentally, my wife and I took advantage of my afternoon off and went over to our new insurance agent’s office today and signed a little paperwork. We got about three times the liability coverage, plus comprehensive, for about 2/3 of what we were paying Nationwide for liability alone. Liberty Mutual will be our new company. I’m sure it would get mixed reviews like any company, but my coworker had a claim with them and he said that they paid quickly. That’s usually a good sign. © 2015

Sunday, February 1, 2015

02-01-2015 – Riding Shotgun – Hauling Salt

My elder boss told me, when I interviewed, that they did a lot of salt hauling in the winter, so they could keep the men working, even though it was little more than a break-even proposition. I was sort of glad to hear that. That time has come, for I hauled some salt this week, and I was glad for the work.

A few of the guys actually hauled salt last fall as different places, mostly Department of Highways garages, stocked up for the winter. Now, we’re helping them to STAY stocked up, I would assume. I found it interesting that Monday, two of our trucks went clear to the tip of our state’s Northern Panhandle to bring salt back here to a landscaper in town who does snow removal in the winter. Thursday, I and some other drivers hauled three loads of salt from a stone yard only about 15 miles up-river, Below St. Mary’s, West Virginia, to a DOH garage an hour-and-a-half down-stream at Point Pleasant. I was running just late enough that I couldn’t get the last load delivered, so the boss just had me go to the shop (along with a couple other drivers) and told us to deliver it first thing in the morning.

I left about ten minutes before I was even supposed to be at work, so I could drive a little slower in the darkness, but I still drove as fast as I felt was safe. There were snowflakes coming down nearly the whole way and, a couple times, I was in near-white-out conditions and slowed to 40 MPH, though the speed limit was 70. Other places were bad enough that my speed varied between 45 and 65. I never did feel safe getting up to 70.

I fully expected the next couple trucks behind to pass me on the way down, but they must have caught even worse conditions than I, for they never arrived until my load was dumped, my papers signed and I was headed out the gate. The next truck was driven by a hyper, competitive fellow who always likes to be the first one on the scene. He was so flustered at being beaten by the slow-poke that he didn’t even look at me as he passed. He’s actually a pretty decent sort of fellow, he just doesn’t handle being second very graciously.

On the way back, it was obvious that I’d beaten the worst of the snow, as there was mostly just a single clear lane, going straight up the middle of my side of the interstate. (The two-lane was actually in better shape.) Four cars and a semi were off the road, the four-wheelers I’m sure for no other reason than trying to do 70 on an inch of snow. I suspect the semi that was jack-knifed in the median did so from trying to avoid a four wheeler in front of him that was losing it.

Since I was the first to get back to the salt pile, I was also first to get started on the next delivery. I was surprised to learn that it was at Gassaway, West Virginia, near the middle of the state, well over a two-hour drive away. Luckily, it’s four-lane the whole way anymore, and I made good time, despite the need for a “pit stop.” I was only about five miles from my destination when “Speedy” and his companion truck managed to pass me, as I was tooling along five miles under the speed limit. I SWEAR that I could see his mood brighten as he passed! I was sort of happy for him. Weather permitting, it’s supposed to be a rinse and repeat on Monday. © 2015