Thursday, March 30, 2017

It’s Like A Different Place Entirely

My wife and I were talking the other day how much our neck of the woods has changed since we were kids. There are a couple four-lanes that weren’t there back then. The mom and pop joints are all gone, replaced by chain stores, gas stations and fast food joints, and the “tourist babins” of old have given way to chain motels.

Out our valley, The 27 small dairy farms of my dad’s day had turned to fewer than a half-dozen when I was just little and zero now. The 10 beef cattle farms of my youth have currently dwindled to two, and NO-ONE in the area actually makes their living from farming anymore. In fact, they can only afford to farm because they work elsewhere full-time. Cornfields, never common in this narrow valley are now a thing of the past.

The folks who used to fish the length of the creek and ask to do so at the farm houses must have all died. There are a few folks who fish under the interstate bridge still, but they never ask the man who owns the land. Any former cornfields are now hayfields, and most former pastures and hayfields are growing brush or small timber.

We used to know our country neighbors for miles around. We met them at Grange, Farm Bureau meetings, the mom and pop groceries, P.T.A. meetings and school programs. These days, the Grange is gone here, the Farm Bureau is a shadow of what it was, the small groceries are gone (as I said earlier) and the neighborhood schools are no more. Heck, two of our neighbor men were dead a year before we even found out about it.

My great aunt used to say “time changes things.” My wife’s grandmother used to remark that she felt like she was living in a strange world. I understand now just how they felt. © 2017

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Dowsing, Leveling And Brain Hacking

Several years ago, I attempted dowsing (also called water-witching) for the first time, in order to locate a water line. I used a couple pieces of coat-hanger and it seemed to work. Strangely, I also found something else running roughly parallel to the water line, about six feet away. Having some doubts as to the source of that sort of ability, I stopped and prayed to God to either help me be positive which was the water line, OR, if he didn’t like me doing such things to let me know. The wires went “dead” and never swayed again!

Today, 20-some years later, I decided to try it again. Two white oaks in my lawn, about 50 feet apart have been hit by lightning in past years. The old belief is that many trees struck by lightning are sitting atop veins of water. Since I live on a dry ridge, I was curious as to whether a vein of water might run between the two oaks. Using two heavy copper wires cut from the ground wire of an old telephone pole, I readied myself, BUT I prayed first. The wires never moved as I traversed the area between the oaks, nor even as I stood by the trees. I then tested the method by going up near the house where I KNEW my water-line ran and there was no sign there, either. So now, I have to wonder, was the Lord speaking on the matter, or was there simply no vein to find? I tend to think the former.

After THAT little experiment, I took my little $2 Chinamart torpedo level down and stuck it on my mill frame. I was surprised that showed the frame to be roughly 1-3/4 inches low on one front corner (no point checking the back yet). I would have guessed that it was much closer to level, but it’s on sloping ground, with nothing to gauge by, so I’ll blame my lack of natural skill on that!

A lot of folks these days don’t realize that our modern levels were once called “spirit levels,” because the liquid in the vials were filled with “spirits” (alcohol). Before those tools came along, a simple plumb-bob (weight on a string), and a square, plumbed and leveled every building of prominence, including all the great cathedrals of Europe. Of course, plumb-bobs don’t work on windy days.

I’m seeing on TV now that the hearts of some techies are all aflutter, because it appears that people will soon be able to have chips placed in their brains allowing them to link their computer with their brain. Now I ask you, doesn’t simple common sense tell you that your brain can then be hacked and taken over by outside forces? Big Brother will LOVE the idea. Why do you think “medical” chip implants were part of the Obamacare plan? “Brain chips” would be even better for a tyrannical government. Most people are such idiots, though, that it seems to me that brain chips are completely unneeded. © 2017

Monday, March 27, 2017

Another Bit Of History Biting The Dust


I’ve seen the building before, but never knew what it was, only that it was old. You can be sure that ANY building that has the cone-shaped corner pieces was from the horse and buggy era, as the feature was to guide the steel tire away from the building, so the hub wouldn’t hang-up on the corner and tear the wheel (or suspension) apart, or jerk the carriage to a stop.

It’s currently standing by the alley behind the Napoli’s and McHappy’s buildings on Seventh Street in Parkersburg, West Virginia. I don’t know how much longer it will remain standing. I saw a post on the Early Parkersburg site today that it was going to be torn down to make room for the new Sheetz gas station on that block. What I didn’t know was that it was once the carriage house for the Stephenson plantation house across and above Seventh Street about 125 yards away. That would have put it in view of the front door of the mansion, which struck me a little odd, but I guess it would let the owners keep an eye on things. In a perfect world it would either be saved where it is, or moved to an area on the lot where the mansion still stands. Alas, it is NOT a perfect world. I drove down this evening and took a photo, for what reason I don’t know—to share with you, I guess.

The plantation home, named Oakland, was built in 1840 by Judge James M. Stephenson. I suspect the carriage house was built at a later date, as the brick of the carriage house doesn’t match that of the mansion. The carriage house is of no special architectural interest that would demand its preservation, but could you imagine the stories that it could tell, if its walls could talk? © 2017

Here is a link concerning the mansion, for those interested.


Sunday, March 26, 2017

Catch-Up For The Week

Tuesday, we went to the Social Security Office and filed for my wife’s SS, not on HER work, but on mine as a disabled person. Things looked good to go!

Thursday, we spent three-and-a-half hours at the county Senior Citizen’s office, only to learn that they couldn’t do out taxes after all. Apparently, they aren’t allowed to do mortgage income, so we took the papers over to my stepson to do the task. We’d hoped to avoid bothering him with them this year, since he’s working a different job, but I told him that he was now stuck for life. I used to be self-employed and prided myself on doing my own taxes (and those of my parents), but they “simplified” them so much that they became completely inunderstandable to me.

Saturday, we got a letter from the main Social Security Office saying that my wife didn’t qualify for SS due to insufficient income. That means they didn’t even read the form before rejecting it. I’ll fight it. We also got groceries for us and Mom on Saturday.

Today (Sunday), I managed to get my little chainsaw mill frame roughly stabilized and leveled before the rain ran me in. It still has to be shimmed further to get it perfectly level, but that involves patience, not hard work. Lastly, I’ll drive 4-6 stakes around it to keep it from shifting, and then I’ll be ready to finish creosoting the wood and bolt on hardware.

Not exactly a good week, but it could have been worse. Hope yours was better.

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

After Dark Porch Sit

I tinkered outside for about 45 minutes before dark this evening. I got three blocks seated as supports for my mill frame, but didn’t get the fourth corner done. Oh well, something to do another day, I guess. By that time, I knew the Mighty Dachshund would need to drain, so I went inside and leashed her up and brought her out, along with my flashlight. I let her pee in our graveled driveway, but took her to the north edge of the lawn to dump, and it was too dark to step there without a flashlight. She didn’t need to do anything, though, and just stood there and sniffed the slight breeze.

Returning to the porch, I took my seat in the swing and made her lie on the welcome mat, since it would be warmer than the concrete. At this point, I can still see through the woods and watch headlights coming on the highway, the lights from the neighbor’s house about a quarter mile away, and even the lights from the airport, about five miles away on another hilltop. In another two or three weeks, I suspect that ability will be gone for several months, as the trees leaf out and block my view. As it is, I can see headlights drop into the saddleback out the ridge and disappear for a few seconds before reappearing on this side and continuing past our home. Even the pooch notices when one car doesn’t reappear, meaning that it turned into the housing development which has an access road entering the country road in the saddleback (“low-gap” in country parlance).

Gradually, I see an airplane’s lights coming from the direction of the airport. The pooch sees them, too, and watches them with interest. Eventually, it gets in hearing distance and it becomes obvious to me that it’s a small single engine plane. The pooch continues to watch as it passes fairly near the house and then onward in a southwest direction.

A couple farms over, two coyotes can be heard, the first I’ve heard here for two years. I hope the farmer gets them before they raise more. The Mighty Dachshund would get nervous if the sound was closer, but she seems to feel safe at the obvious distance. They soon grow silent, but only a few minutes later, a bass-voiced hound on the farm on the other side of us starts complaining about trespassers and my little dog seems concerned.

As always, I can hear the traffic on the four-lane a mile or two west of here. Rain is supposed to be on the way, though, so it’s a little louder than normal. It’s in the 50’s this evening; I don’t know why the skeeters aren’t bothering us, but I’m thankful. As the swing starts to remind my backside that it’s made of unpadded wood, I decide that we porch-sitters have been here long enough. The lamp inside lights up the nine small panes of stained glass, salvaged from an old home being demolished, that I incorporated into my front door when I built it 37 years ago. As the door opens, the soft yellow light floods out into the darkness, making the inside seem warm and welcoming. The pooch looks up at me as I unleash her, seemingly content with my decision to come inside. There’s always another day, but if not, so be it; this has been a good one. © 2017

Monday, March 20, 2017

Paper Brain, First Dandelions, A Porch Sit And A Gripe (w/pic)

Click image to enlarge.

Back when I was self-employed, I used a little notebook to make lists of thinks that I needed to accomplish the next day. After I’d written down everything that I could think of, I’d go back through and prioritize them. Additions and reprioritizing would sometimes occur as time went on. As I went through that day, I’d mark off each task as it was accomplished. Now that I’m a senile old geezer, I’ve learned that its time to relearn that habit, except that many days, I do nothing, so one list might last for a week. I use the same miniature notebook to record things that I might wish to keep a record of, also. As you can see from the beginning date on mine, one of the little volumes lasts a while; it’s still only 2/3 full.

Beside it is another notebook in which I mark my medications as I take them. The right to left downward stroke stands for my morning pills. The left to right downward stroke stands for my afternoon water pill. The horizontal line stands for my vitamins and mineral supplements, when I remember to take them. The vertical line stands for my night-time pills. As you can see, I don’t always remember every pill. I used to joke about old folks and their pills; now I make asterisks in a book to try to remember mine.

At Chinamart the other day, it was obvious that my first picking of wild greens may occur soon, since a nearby bank is getting rather fuzzy with green growth. Today, as I drove by the former Bob Evan’s Restaurant near Route 50, I saw a huge bank covered with dandelion blooms. The bees should be happy, if there ARE any.

Early this evening, after locating a couple 4” blocks to support the back corners of my mill frame and cutting off a piece of pipe to use in repairing my old office chair, I parked myself in the porch swing for a while. I won’t give you my usual description of the scene, but suffice it to say that it was a pleasant few minutes.

We watched MASH this evening, as usual. We don’t watch it because it’s so great, but because everything else on at that time is worse. They have the worst jerk in the camp reading his Bible at times so in today’s first episode, Hawk-Eye made the comment that he wouldn’t want a room without a Bible. In a recent show, they had a nurse showing prejudice towards Koreans by referring to them as “gooks.” I found it very telling that they made the woman from Alabama, instead of Alan Alda’s home state of Maine. Yankees are NEVER prejudiced, you realize. Oh well, he may choose to live in Maine, but everyone with any sense realizes that he’s STILL a Hollywood suck_ss liberal a-hole. © 2017

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Trivial Saturday Stuff

The missus and I splurged for the first time in ages and ate lunch out today. The food was good, but I wasn’t impressed by the speck of lettuce on the outside of my tea glass, or the one on my knife. Since I knew I wouldn’t be using the knife and it was the OUTSIDE of the glass, I didn’t bother saying anything. The problem is twofold, first, the restaurants are forced to use the crappy detergent sold by the dish-washing machine company, or their warranty is voided and second, the kids in the kitchen overload the washer to where some of the silverware and dishes don’t get washed properly anyway. Don’t even THINK that the kids actually LOOK to see if things are clean.

Afterward, we went to Chinamart to get some of our groceries. We have to use a different brand of water these days, as they’ve quit carrying our brand, but I went online and learned that a different chain in Ohio may have it. My wife and I were both raised with well water and both have some stomach problems. If we try to use some brands, our stomachs soon start giving us trouble. Drinking tap water, with all its chlorine, fluoride and Lord knows what else, is akin to slow suicide for us. In case there’s any moron out there who insists that all water is the same, keep your mouth shut; just because you’re a moron doesn’t mean that you have to prove it.

We all know that most people are goofy these days. As we left Chinamart, I saw a young woman with her butt cheeks hanging far below her shorts which, in turn, barely showed below her winter coat.

Once at home, I tried using the internet again. My computer goes into sit and spin mode after a few minutes anymore, making the internet almost unusable for me. I just cleaned, defragged and dumped the cookies and such, so I know it’s none of those things causing the problem. The guru says he has some similar problems with a different provider and says that at least some of the problem is Google looking for hacks and other illegal activity. My computer does fine with internal tasks like using Word and sorting files, so I know it’s not my computer. Despite the fact that my provider just jacked up their prices again, I believe the problem is that usage of my local line is more than the provider’s equipment can handle. I’m thinking about going to Dish TV, but I’m sure I won’t save any money, as they make up the packages in such a way that you have to get the most expensive combo to get anything worth watching, while paying for about 150 channels that aren’t even of interest to me.

I’m playing musical chairs with my computer. I use an old oak chair until my backside hurts, then use a worn-out swivel chair until my spine and neck hurt, then reverse, reverse, reverse. I think I’ve finally decided how to fix my old chair without paying for welding, so I’d best get to it. Between poor service and bad chairs, I’m about to give up on the internet. SO, it’s Saturday evening and there ain’t a cotton pickin’ thing on TV that interests the both of us. Such is life. © 2017

Friday, March 17, 2017

Saw Chain Dipper (w/pic)

I was tempted to entitle this post “home-made chain hoist,” but that seemed a bit TOO ornery. Even with the current title, a few of you are probably reading this merely out of curiosity. I mentioned a few days ago that I was going to degrease my saw chains before filing them, and then re-oil them afterward. I needed some way to dip them without getting my fingers in the stuff, and a coat hanger seemed just SO gauche, so I came up with this little tool. It’s simply a screw hook threaded into a file handle. I made two of them, one for outside and one for inside, since I may have winter and summer work stations. I have less than $2 each in them, so my fastidiousness didn’t cost me too much. I took a break from my usual “tight wire act” lifestyle today, so I didn’t really have anything to thrill you with, so I posted this just to let you know that I’m still among the living. I’m hoping to have a real bombshell tomorrow; maybe I can find some irregularities on Trump’s cable bill! You’ll just have to wait and see; please remember to continue breathing as you wait.

Click image to enlarge.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Steady By Jerks, Like A Toad A-Walkin’

That used to be my elderly neighbor’s reply when I’d ask him how things were going. I always smiled at hearing the expression. Now I know what he means. It’s no fun when your health, the weather and your budget all conspire to keep you from accomplishing anything.

I can’t handle the cold like I did when I was young, and especially the wind. Nor can I handle the heat, like I used to do when I’d tell my wife not to tell me how hot it was until my workday was over, for fear I’d melt. The bursitis in my hips won’t let me climb or even walk that well, and my heart rate and breathing go up so easily that I have to take a breather after splitting every piece of firewood. Imagine how long it takes me to fill the wood rack from which I occasionally sell a face-cord of firewood!

And then there’s my budget – sometimes, I have to collect the small list of materials for a project over several weeks, or even months. One coming project will only take about $30 worth of parts, but it will probably take me a month to get everything together. Oh well, it’s teaching me better management skills!

Still, I take pleasure in moving forward, even if it is at a snail’s pace. In the last week or so, I’ve got my can lids ready for use, moved some concrete stepping stones in position near the porch, Put up a for-sale sign for my firewood, moved some dirt down by my truck-tire “garden,” painted creosote on the bottom of my mill frame (and moved and retarped it), and bought end caps and sealant for a yet unpurchased length of gutter, which will serve as a “dip tank” for wooden bats and bean-poles. Little things, all, but progress none-the-less.

Incidentally, for several years at the farm, we had a huge toad which we nicknamed “Hoiman” (Herman) that hung around the patio outside the kitchen door. Only ONE time, I was privileged to see him walk, instead of hop. Interestingly enough, his gait was as smooth flowing water, with nary a jerk! © 2017

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Brothers Of The Bottle

When I was a kid, it wasn’t uncommon for men to remain bachelors or widowers as they went through life, nor was it considered unusual for widows not to remarry or even for women to remain single, becoming the old maids some folks used to joke about. These days, it seems rare that anyone remains unattached for life, maybe because fornication and even sexual perversion are not only tolerated, but openly encouraged. That gives single folks a heap more options than they had in the old days. I prefer the old days.

Just here on Tick Ridge, I can recall six old bachelors and one old maid, all living within about half mile of one another when I was a kid. Coming east on Tick Ridge Road, the first old bachelor (Widower? Divorced guy?) lived just off the road about 75 yards in a little two room shanty with no running water and an outhouse. Like a lot of semi-recluses, he had a reputation for enjoying beer. I remember Dad and I cutting up sawmill edgings and slabs about 16 inches long and filling the 15 foot long bed of our truck until the tall heap pile of wood would barely stay inside the two-foot sideboards. Then, we’d haul it out to bachelor number one and throw it off into a big pile directly before his front door. At the side of his shanty was a similarly shaped pile of quart beer bottles coming up to the window sill.

The Second old bachelor lived back the same two-track farm road, nearly a quarter of a mile further, in an old one room log cabin with a porch on opposite sides and a cellar underneath. Like the first, he had a cistern and an outhouse. He was a divorced fellow who was on the lam from his ex-wife’s lawyer, so he could avoid pay alimony and maybe child support. He was an avid gardener who grew all his own fruits and vegetables, plus made tool handles and did a little blacksmithing to pick up some spending money. He didn’t own the little farm that he lived on, or the cattle in the pasture; he just lived there rent-free, or may even was given a few dollars a month to keep an eye on the place for the barber in town who owned it. Like the first bachelor, this guy liked his beer, too, but he was much neater than the first. Instead of letting the bottles pile up around the cabin, he dumped them over the pasture fence, down over the hill out of sight and into the back of our woodland.

Bachelors three and four were father and son, both divorced and living in a strange little five room house, further out the main road, that looked like a 1940’s gas station more than a house, though it wasn’t and never had been. Both men picked up work as they could and spent it all on groceries and beer, their only expense, except just enough electric for lights and a refrigerator. Their dogs shared the house with them, so both men were sort of fuzzy around the edges. They pulled their water from a cistern, peed in the yard and took a dump, when the need arose, in an outhouse that had seen far better days. After the older man died and the younger one hit 55 years of age, he got a job with the school board, so he could get in enough time to draw a little Social Security when he hit 65. The neighborhood joke was that folks thought you had to tire before you could RE-tire. He never lost his love for beer, but in the last few years of his life, a woman in a white Cadillac picked him up every Friday evening and brought him back every Monday morning. For some strange reason, he always smelled like a rose on Fridays and took a change of clothes in a paper bag when he left. The bottle dump at that place was a couple hundred yards over the hill, though they might pile up by the back porch until there was enough for a wheel-barrow load.

The old maid and bachelor number five actually lived together, not because they were “living in sin” (Now THERE’S a phrase you don’t hear anymore!), but because they were sister and brother living in their old home place. They lived the next place after the home just mentioned. Neither one of them drank in the beginning, but they were friends of a sort with the other five bachelors who did, so the bachelors would sometimes stop by and visit. Bachelors two and four, visited especially often, as they seemed somewhat interested in the unwashed old maid. There was no need of the old gal going unwashed, but she had dozens of cats and seemed to have developed their distaste for getting wet. Like the other homes mentioned, they had a cistern and an outhouse.

Bachelor number six lived a short distance further out the county road in what was either a skinny two room shack or an old trailer with boards nailed over it. He, too, had a cistern and an outhouse. I was in the shanty once as a kid and saw my first picture of a nude woman there. It wasn’t from a magazine, but a photo of a good-looking naked woman sitting on a boulder the size of a small house, somewhere out in the woods. It was tucked into the corner of a mirror sitting on dresser in his front room. I took a good look when his back was turned and decided that he must have gotten around some when he was younger. He never let bottles build up around the place so, since he didn’t have a car, I suspect he threw them over the fence into the neighbor’s woods.

When the bachelors 1 through 4 and 6 would visit one another, beer was always on the menu. Little by little, beer was brought into the home of the brother and sister as well, since the fifth bachelor eventually developed a taste for it. I never heard that the old maid touched the stuff. Bachelor number one was the oldest and the first to go, then bachelor number six, followed by number four. Bachelor number two eventually drank enough beer that he married the old maid and, knowing that three is a crowd, the brother eventually got an apartment in town where he died a few years later after a drunken tumble down a flight of stairs. Bachelor two, married for many years by that time, finally succumbed to old age as did bachelor number four. The old maid lived for many more years, making enemies and causing trouble in the neighborhood in her old age. But she, too, finally left this life.

Of course, not all old bachelors and old maids are of such “colorful” character, but all (except maybe the old maid) were actually missed after they passed by those who found them both entertaining and interesting, due to the stories they told. Some of those stories were even true. A few of you may have noticed a common trait among these folks besides beer—all had cisterns. That’s because, unfortunately,  no well drilled or dug on Tick Ridge ever produced water, even though there are springs lower down on the hillsides or in the hollows. And now you know something that you didn’t! © 2017

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Another Tiny Step In The Right Direction

The missus went to the Chinamart on the far side of town to pick up a few things today. We took the Mighty Dachshund, so I stayed at the truck with her. After sharing a beef stick with her. I put her on the long leash and let her sniff around in the grass at the edge of the Lowe’s lot next door, while I sat on the tailgate. Eventually, she wanted to travel further, so I got off my duff and walked her around a little. While doing so, I noticed a nice rosette of yellow-dock in the rough area outside the mowed area. When I put the little hound back in the truck, I got my shovel from the truck bed and dug it up.

On arriving home, I set the dock plant in the center of the old tire where I have some poke planted in a ring around the edge. I figure that the dock will show up first every year and give me some greens. Then, it will be an “understory” plant once the poke starts growing. Maybe it will give me some seed to expand my “greens garden” eventually. One thing about it, most folks won’t bother to steal greens if times get tough. © 2017

Thursday, March 2, 2017

Predawn Wednesday Porch Sit

Predawn might be a bit misleading; it was actually five o’clock this morning when I took the Mighty Dachshund out to drain. Despite having slipped on my L.L. Bean camp mocs, I stayed on the porch and let her go to the end of the leash to drain in the rain. It was only sprinkling in reality, but she’s like a cat and is offended by falling rain (and baths), so she did as she often does at such times and went under the bumper of the truck to drain in the dry. In foul weather, I often stay on the edge of the porch and let her handle the weather on her own. If I quit mowing the lawn during the warm months, there would probably be a thin jungle of grass and weeds around the porch from the effects of all the liquid fertilizer that’s been drained there.

After finishing her drain, the pooch jumped back up on the porch and gave a good shake, just in case a few drops of rain fell on her between the edge of the porch and the cover of the bumper. I turned off the flashlight, since the street light, 200 feet away along the country road, gave us just enough light to navigate the dark porch. My dad had the street light installed after someone stole an entire truck load of lumber one dark stormy night 50 years ago when the old sawmill was still here. My wife feels it’s worth the extra $15 every other month for the security it provides, so I continue to keep it.

When we got to the door of the house, I told the pooch to “get on the rug” (welcome mat), while I sat down in the porch swing. The rain hadn’t come in much on the porch, but the cool concrete had a sheen to where it had pulled moisture from the warmer moist air. I figured the pooch would not only be warmer on the mat, but would stay dry as well. It wasn’t especially warm for a guy in his skivvies and no T-shirt sitting there in the swing on the last night of February (first morning of March, actually), but it was bearable, even with the breeze that I was actually thankful for, since I knew it would keep away the mosquitoes.

The street light gave just enough illumination that we could see if any critter invaded the lawn. I kept an eye out for coyotes, bobcats and mountain lions, along with strange dogs. Not having a firearm with me, I would duck quickly inside with the dog, if such a creature showed up. Were it a coyote or a mountain lion, I’d probably return with a gun, but without the dog. Bobcats and dogs are okay with me so I’d leave them alone.

The night of rain had everything thoroughly soaked, so the bottom of the tree limbs and the tops of most other things glistened like diamonds in the darkness from the reflections of the street light. As the rain picked up, I could see shiny little eruptions in the water puddles of the driveway where the raindrops hit. The rain kept building until it was a downpour, but the breeze wasn’t quite strong enough, nor from the right direction to allow the rain to reach us, so we watched and listened to the wind and the falling rain. Even in the darkness, I could see the Mighty Dachshund’s sides quiver as she breathed in a staccato rhythm to scent whatever the breeze brought to her nostrils.

Eventually, she looked over her shoulder at me and stood up, her signal that it was time for her to go check on the missus. We shared a cookie before she resumed her sentry duty by my wife’s bed and I returned upstairs to mine. It was still raining when we repeated the drill later in the daylight. © 2017