Sunday, October 19, 2014

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

I was a bit of a bunghole in my younger days. I was the sort of kid that I wouldn’t seek to know better if I were to meet one as an adult. As might be expected, a lot of kids didn’t seek to know me any better back then; and who could blame them? As a result, I was often one of those “on the outside looking in” sort of characters. I gradually learned, though, that MOST folks are bungholes at heart, so there was more to it than that.

I hadn’t read Thoreau at the time, so I sort of had to figure things out on my own, but people tend to be friends with those whose company benefits them in some way. Sometimes it’s in social standing. Other times, it’s monetarily or for access to services or other things. Occasionally, it’s just because someone makes them feel good about themselves. The latter isn’t a bad thing at all, but it’s still a benefit in a way.

Craig was a city kid who had a burning interest in the outdoors, so we clicked pretty well. We spent a lot of time together through junior high and high school, hunting and fishing on my family’s land, though he and I had other friends. Still, I considered Craig my BEST friend. As he got older, though, he turned into a dope-head and our interests began to diverge. When he and his girlfriend decided to get married unexpectedly, his friend, Tony, was the only person invited. I don’t know if it had anything to do with Tony being a good photographer or not. Still, when I got married a couple years later, I asked Craig to be my best man. Two weeks before the wedding, though, I found out that I was included on the long list of guys that he thought wanted to steal his wife from him. After the wedding, I didn’t bother going around him anymore. I continued to let him hunt and camp on our property when he asked, but he gradually quit asking.

I met Tim in high school. He was an over-achiever of sorts and had more money and possessions than most kids his age, but it was because he worked for them. His dad had a good job and they lived well. We chummed around a good bit for a few years, and I noticed that he didn’t seem to keep friends very long. When he started getting friends with more money than I, and who had other property that he could hunt, we began drifting apart. I haven’t seen him now for 20 years.

Mick married into a family at the church where I used to attend. He was a hunting son-of-a-gun back when I needed a real deer-slayer to protect my Christmas trees. We never hunted together, but we talked a lot, and he ate venison all year. I never saw much of him once I sold the farm, of course, since I’d also quit attending that church. The other day, he was in the office at work and pretended that he didn’t notice me as I checked with the boss about what time to come in the following morning. It’s no skin off my nose, but I hadn’t thought of him being that sort of fellow.

Will I try to forget these fellows? No, I had a lot of good times with them, but I AM a little disappointed in them, especially Craig, and I won’t be trying to renew their acquaintance. For the most part, I believe that Thoreau was right. © 2014

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Warning To Those Who Use Their Auto Utility Plugs

Recently, the little gizmo that I plug into my dash to convert the 12 volt to 110 quit working. Closer inspection showed the end of the part that plugs into the cigarette lighter or utility plug was missing. Actually, I found the metal end piece, the threaded plastic collar, and the fuse. I did NOT find the little spring that held the pressure on the end piece and fuse. I figured that substituting a shortened spring from a ball point pen would do the trick, but while the little green light on it would come on, it wouldn’t charge my phone, so I pitched it. I think another one will cost around $20.

The other day, the end on the power feed to my hand-held CB did the same thing. That time, I found the end piece, threaded metal collar and spring, but not the fuse. A coworker gave me a fuse to use, and I installed it, but I could tell it was for something with a little more power. Finally, my old dump truck bumped down the road long enough that the fuse rolled out of wherever it was hiding and I saw it it on the floor. Afraid the other fuse might allow a surge or something to damage my radio, I removed the other guy’s fuse and re-installed the original. I then gave the other one back to the fellow the next time I saw him that day. Sure enough, my system is only four watts, his is 40! It serves my purpose, though.

My warning is this, if you use electronic items in your vehicle that plug into the dash, check the threaded collar on occasion, as the vibration apparently causes them to work lose. It cost me $20! © 2014

10-18-14 – Riding Shotgun – Gravy Days And Other Ramblings-

I had a couple “gravy” days early in the week. It’s nice to get deliveries to small towns, or some places out in the country; there’s more actual driving and less time loading and unloading. It’s especially relaxing if part (but not all) of that time is spent on a four-lane, so I can set the cruise and move my legs to different positions. That keeps me from getting so stiff from being too long “in the saddle.” Even my current main job of hauling to the dump sort of falls under that category. The first couple days, though, I delivered to small towns and such, as the flow of concrete to the dump was temporarily interrupted.

One thing I notice even on good days, though, is that fewer and fewer folks are kind to other drivers. I think many people are so self-absorbed that they don’t even realize how their manners (or lack of them) affect others. On a stretch of four-lane over in Ohio, a lot of folks seem to like cruising along in the fast lane, even if no-one is in the other lane. Most probably don’t realize that they are keeping folks from entering the highway from the opposite side and fading into the slow lane when it’s clear, or maybe they just don’t care.

Closer to home, another section of four-lane has several other highways intersecting it in very few miles. Many people shoot up the ramps and expect you to get out of their way. They forget that they’re fading onto YOUR lane, not the other way around. Often, some other bozo is tooling along in the fast lane again, and won’t LET you fade over to allow for the new arrivals. Even worse, are those who you DO get over for who then match your speed exactly and won’t let you back into the lane that you just vacated to be nice to THEM. Some are simply too stupid to realize what they’re doing. Others have an obvious attitude that you got out of their way once, so you can darn well do it again.

Even some truck drivers are getting like that anymore. That’s sort of disappointing, as they used to have better manners than the average motorist. Actually, they still do, but not by much. I think it’s the influx of young drivers that causing the problem among truckers, though you’ll find a few stinkers in every occupation. For those who don’t know, regular motorists are often referred to disparagingly by truck drivers as “four-wheelers,” due to the fact that most of them live in complete ignorance of what a pain they are to other people, even themselves.

I went to the grand metropolis of Centerville, West Virginia this week in my oilfield travels. I kept hearing of going to or through Centerville, but though I’d been out Route 18 several times lately, I’d never seen it. I thought maybe they were meaning Center Point, over on Route 23. It turns out that there’s no sign along the road, and you have to know just where to turn. After going a couple hundred yards up Klondike Run Road, you come to the little community that was probably thriving at one time.

No doubt plans were made and dreams dreamed there, but it looks pretty much like a tiny ghost town today, as only a few homes appear lived in. Even some of the fairly new-looking homes sit there with no curtains and no indication of life within. The church has a “no trespassing” sign on it and construction tools and machinery lying about like some fly-by-night builder is using it for storage. Its one gas station appears to have closed years ago, though there’s a newer gas station/quick shop not far down the main road.

 We went up Wheeler’s Run Road from there, on a piece of asphalt ribbon barely wide enough to keep our trucks on. At the end of the pavement, we dumped our stone at a well-site and came back down the hollow. Halfway down, some industrious state road worker had put up a “narrow road” sign. I figure anyone who’s been up to the end of the pavement, and is halfway back, probably already knows that; wouldn’t you think?

On a more positive note, I think I saw the smallest Mail Pouch barn I know of, and also and the longest one I remember seeing. One is near the place where I pick up the concrete. The other is a couple counties away, out in oil country. I would have gotten a photo of them already, but my camera battery was dead that day. Maybe next time! © 2014

The Anti-Christmas Is Upon Us (a link)

Medley of Worship: Opus 2014-261: The Anti-Christmas Is Upon Us

Traveling The Hard Way (a link)

Nevard Blog: Today In Bill's History

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

More on Period Gun Gauges (a link)

A Woodsrunner's Diary: More on Period Gun Gauges.

Gun Gauges (a link)

A Woodsrunner's Diary: Gun Gauges.

Blundering Onto History (w/pic)

Click photo to enlarge.

A couple times lately, I’ve delivered limestone to well sites at a place in Doddridge County, West Virginia, near the town of West Union, called Maxwell Ridge. Along the way, I passed the beautiful old home that you see pictured above. It looked to me like a hotel or boarding house as much as a home, so I posted the photo on a Facebook site on Early West Virginia and asked readers if they knew its history. I was pleasantly surprised how much I learned.

It turned out to be the Maxwell Mansion, built in the 1840’s by Lewis Maxwell, a prominent gentleman of the area. It was inherited by two of his nephews, one a southern sympathizer who owned slaves, the other, a Union sympathizer. The slave-holder supposedly treated his slaves well, and actually freed them before the start of the Uncivil War. It has now, apparently, passed out of the family.

The movie “No Drums, No Bugles” was filmed there in part. One scene has the character, played by Martin Sheen, standing on the front porch. The movie was released in the early 1970’s and was about a fictional conscientious objector who lived in a cave during the Civil War to avoid being forced into the service. Interesting timing on its release, I thought—at the height of the Vietnam protests!

The movie was vaguely inspired by a local fellow named Ashby (Earl?) Gatrell who lived in cleft in a nearby rock cliff for three months in the early 1900’s after he and his father had a falling out. His subsequent life is somewhat questionable and only partially provable. Strangely enough, certain aspects of the writer and director’s life (Clyde Ware) are likewise.

I remember going to see the movie as a teenager. It was enjoyable, but even as a kid, I noticed two anachranisms. At one point, lacking tobacco, he smoked a weed (hemp?) that gave him a real buzz. He celebrated by running naked through a meadow studded with small multiflorsa rosebushes, managing to miss them all, apparently. First, if it WAS hemp (I know of no native weed that could be smoked to that effect), the stuff they had back then wasn't very potent, as it was bred for fiber, not THC content. Secondly, multiflora rose hadn't yet been introduced to the area. Of course, NORMAL kids wouldn't have even thought about it.

All in all, I learned more than I expected by asking my simple question. © 2014

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The blessings of abundance (a link)

Mom's Scribbles: The blessings of abundance (a link)

Speaking Of Pots

This may be TMI for some of you, so read further with caution! The chamber pot is returning to my house,......sort of. Yup, the old thunder mug, the slop jar, if you prefer. I used 'em and I emptied and cleaned them some in my day and thought I was done with them. Not so, it seems.

You see, I sleep upstairs and our only bathroom is downstairs. With my water pills, I have to climb the stairs more than I did in years past. That's not so bad, but it's just enough activity to wake me up to where it takes me an hour to get back to sleep. That's not good, considering that I have to get up at four o'clock through the week. So, not wanting to spend any money, I've decided to use an old drywall bucket as my chamber pot. It will be a couple extra minutes bother in the morning, but that's better than losing 2-3 hours of sleep at night. Of course, I'll still have to come down at least ince to take the dog out.

"All things old are new again!" I don't know who said that, but it fits in with Solomon's teachings.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pots Aplenty! (pic)

This is a lovely sight for a guy that takes water pills!


Brunch At The Dump, And Other Ruminations

It was foggy at the shop the other morning, and at my loading site toward the southern end of the county, and on the drive to the dump, which is about midway toward the northern end of the county. Mt. Trashmore itself was shrouded in fog, giving it a rather other-worldly appearance. The fog held the horrible fumes near the ground, whereas they’re usually somewhat dispersed by the near-constant breeze at that height. They burned my eyes and sinuses, and seemed to slightly affect my breathing. I was very thankful that things were running smoothly and that I was out again in a few minutes.

By 10:00, I was back with a second load, and stuck in a long line, near the summit of Mt. Trashmore, on the road to the dumping face in the pit. Eating breakfast as early as I do anymore, I also tend to get hungry again earlier than I used to. The fog had cleared and the breeze was keeping the volatile-smelling fumes down to a tolerable level, so I figured “why not?” So, I pulled a small container of my wife’s homemade chili from a plastic shopping bag, and a chunk of cheddar, a stack of crackers, and a bottle of water from my cooler/lunch box.

With a plastic spoon from a package I’d purchased on one of my back-county trips, I dug into my simple but welcome brunch. Looking out the passenger window, I could see the rolling West Virginia hills as they lay one after the other into blue oblivion. It wasn’t an altogether unpleasant location, if you could ignore the still present (though weakened) fumes, the noise of idling diesel engines and the view out the DRIVER’S window. I’m the kind of fellow who can eat a sandwich while taking a break from shoveling cow manure, so it wasn’t a problem for me. My wife makes good chili, and my repast was delicious.

As I was eating, crows, Canada geese, wild turkeys, and pigeons searched the grassy fields of the “reclaimed” slopes for bugs for their own brunch, and grit for their craw.  Meanwhile, turkey vultures lazily sailed the thermals above the off-gassing mountain of clay-covered refuse, giving the scene a certain grace and peacefulness. (I wondered if they were catching a buzz up there.) The company that owns the landfill brags that they have 17,000 acres across the nation for wildlife, although they won’t let you hunt, fish, camp, hike or do bird-watching there.

I was glad that the critters were getting use from the grasslands, rather than scavenging the dump, although I’m not sure that anything they found there would be much safer than anything on the dump face. That thought had no more than crossed my mind when a short period of inactivity occurred at the dump face. Suddenly, every pigeon, crow and buzzard descended on the dump face in a frenzy of feeding on items that would gag most dogs. I couldn’t help but wonder if they weren’t ingesting some poisons along with their “food.” They’re like most of us, I suppose, willing to chance bad but easy food over good food that requires more effort. I hate it when animals act like people. I noticed the geese and turkeys kept at hunting more healthy things back in the grass. Good for them!

I had to wonder just what sort of fumes I was smelling since methane, what should be the predominate gas here, has no odor. When discussing it with the guru, he had this to say: “Most likely it is a mix of ammonia and/or hydrogen sulfide and what they call NMOCs (non-methane organic compounds) which come from decomposition of the garbage.  Too, around here, who knows what chemicals have been or are being dumped in the landfill?  The methane and NMOCs are volatile.  Ammonia and hydrogen sulfide and NMOCs smell and can be hard on the eyes. NMOCs come from trash such as household cleaning products, materials containing paints, painted materials, various adhesives like from the bottoms of trashed carpeting, tiles, etc., and other items including certain plastics, along with biological decomposition of organic objects and compounds into various gasses.” I hadn’t mentioned that sludge from drilling in Marcellus shale is mixed with sawdust and dumped there, and that the whole dump smelled like model airplane glue one morning.

There ARE pipes sticking up every 100 yards or so on the “reclaimed” areas and the shop there is heated with gas from the fill. Also, they have their own version of the eternal flame, with a standpipe near the entrance spouting flames 10-25 feet into the air. I don’t know why they don’t compress it and run their trucks with it, unless the mix is just too unpredictable. It seems such a waste not to put it to use.

Speaking of waste, I was negatively impressed by how much stuff is still going to the landfill. The amount of new and used lumber taken there is unbelievable to an ex-sawmill man like me. Also, I saw a surprising amount of metal and recyclable plastic there. With lumber prices what they are, I think there should be some sort of clearing house where wood scrap is brought and people can come in for free, or a SMALL fee and get materials for their projects and hobbies. Metal can be sold already, of course. Plastic? Well, there’s going to have to be some sort of financial incentive, negative or positive, for that to work. One thing that REALLY got me was the two cubic yards of compressed bundles of what appeared to be new, unused blanket material still on the bolt. With all the homeless folks we have in the area, and winter coming on……

With all the fumes coming up through the soil, I also wondered if lightning strikes ever set off explosions at landfills. Checking again with the guru, he said there have been a few, though nothing spectacular. Lightning caused dump fires aren’t that uncommon I guess, though.
One thing is for sure, we are a wasteful and unappreciative nation. A visit to the dump will show you that.

Incidentally, I soon finished my brunch, they fixed whatever the holdup was at the dump face, the foul fowl temporarily returned to healthier fair, and the line soon got to moving. Before long, I was back to hauling what would have made good fill somewhere, to a place where it will never be put to any use at all. Hey, it’s the American way! © 2014

For such a large operation, they keep an amazingly small face open, and are constantly hauling dirt and covering recently dumped areas. Click photo to enlarge.

Loading and shooting a Franco-German Jaeger Rifle (a link)

A Woodsrunner's Diary: Loading and shooting a Franco-German Jaeger Rifle. A close look at this rifle.

Ray Stevens Gets It Right (Again) (a link)

Ray Stevens usually says what he says with humor. This time, not so.

A Silly Invasion Idea By CBS News (a link)

Coffee with the Hermit: A Silly Invasion Idea...!

Images Of Period Knives (a link)

A Woodsrunner's Diary: Images Of Period Knives.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Looking For A New Barber

From the time that I was born, I used the same barbershop until I was in my 40’s. Then the last barber in that shop retired and I had to find a new one. He was a young guy, but did a good job, so I figured that I was set for life. Then, recently, I started working days, rather than afternoons. Suddenly, I can go to my regular barber only if I’m there when he opens at eight on Saturdays. Call me lazy, but it’s hard for me to make myself get up at six, when I’ve been getting up at four all week.

Also, the fellow had relocated to the far side of town. The last time I was there, I learned that he had gotten a divorce and already was living with his girlfriend across the state line. That sounded a little quick, unless her presence preceded the divorce. That also means that he’s making his money in this state, but probably spending it in the other one. Somehow, neither sits well with me, whether it’s any of my business or not.

I looked online at those vacuum attachments to cut hair, but they start at $80 and look like a pain in the keister, from what I can see on the videos. I could go to the mall, but I refuse to get my hair “styled”, just for the privilege of paying twice as much for a haircut. My wife says there’s an older barber in a shop that I drive by several times a week. Maybe I’ll try him. I just hope he heeds my warnings about all my moles and skin tags. I don’t like the looks of blood in my hair! © 2014

The Guru Compares A Couple Shotguns For Defense

I like my standard sized Mossberg 500 JIC 12ga shotgun.  It works, and works well and is very dependable.  At first I could hardly handle it with the hand grip it came with, so I put a full stock on it.  Now it is a great weapon for outdoors uses such as hunting or shooting clay pigeons, but just too long for easy home defense because it is difficult to maneuver in hallways and tight spaces.

Recently, since 2011, though, a newly designed shotgun has been making quite a controversial impact in the 12 gauge world.  It is the incredibly-compact Kel-Tec KSG, a "bullpup" design, pump shotgun that sports two side by side, user selectable magazine tubes, each holding seven regular 2 3/4″ shotgun shells of any type in any combination you wish to load (it will fire 3" or shorter rounds).

A bullpup design means that the action of the weapon is located behind the trigger assembly and pistol-like hand grip, unlike a standard shotgun that has all its mechanics in front of the trigger.  By locating the action behind the trigger in the rear of the weapon, overall length is significantly reduced while maintaining a legal length 18.5" barrel.  This 100% legal design makes the KSG almost half the size of other shotguns and especially ideal for home defense, automobiles, police, etc.

Magazines are loaded from behind the hand grip, where there is a switch that can be quickly thrown to choose from which tube the shells are fed.  The strong top rail is for a laser sight or quick-acquisition red/green-dot type sight, or even a pair of iron sights. 

The lower rail is best left empty since it is molded into the fore-end, and the polymer may not hold up to the stress of a vertical grip without a force-spreading billet picatinny rail adapter — the one area some feel the KSG falls short.  However I, and many others, are used to and prefer the standard cupped-hand sliding fore-end and find a vertical grip not to our liking, so I personally do not feel this is a detraction.

With over 200 rounds through it, I've personally found no design or reliability issues with the KSG.  In fact, I actually found it easier to shoot than the Mossberg, but that's me.  Functioning was flawless, and recoil was far less than I expected.  Moreover, I could even fire it from waist level — but my preference is held tightly to the shoulder and hunched over due to its small size.

For home defense, nothing beats it in my personal opinion and I have absolutely no hesitation to recommend the KSG for that purpose.  It makes the ideal, back-packable SHTF gun, and is quite fun to use at the range.  And, hey, it even looks mean and otherworldly.  A home invader would certainly think twice when he sees it, especially if equipped with a green laser designator. © 2014

10-04-14 – Riding Shotgun – Out And About (pics)

My work has taken me to several places this week, all in West Virginia. The first was Elizabeth, a little town in Wirt County that boomed at one time due to timber and oil. It’s now a sleepy little welfare town like most small towns in America. Sad. The place looks much trashier than it did when I was a kid, going there with my folks to visit my mom’s uncle and his wife. The one good historic hardware store was burned down a few years ago by a couple of local druggies to cover their theft. The elderly owner died a few weeks later, probably from the trauma of losing the family business that he’d inherited. The only building of consequence left is their court house. The rest have been lost to neglect and/or stupidity. The town got a little extra business for a year or two, when area resident Jessica Lynch was a national person of interest to the media. It’s getting a tiny bit of extra business now from an oil boom in a couple of nearby counties, but not enough to help much.

Later that day, I went to Rockport, currently a little wide spot in the road with only one gas station/grocery store. Many years ago, it, too, was a bigger place. Columbia Gas is rebuilding the compressor station there.

Two compressors of about a dozen, yet to be removed. Theyn were installed in 1947. The flywheels are 15 feet tall and supposedly weigh 15 tons each. (Click images to enlarge.)

Harrisville, in Ritchie County, was the next little town that I was in. It, too, was mostly a product of an oil boom during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. It has ebbed in business and appearance over the years, also, but at least it hasn’t yet torn down all of its old buildings. In fact, they have a mural on a retaining wall at one of the intersections of the main drag advertising five of their historic structures, plus, they have a nice little court house.

mural of historic structures in Harrisville

I was in Pennsboro and Ellenboro, two more towns in Ritchie County, later in the week. Pennsboro has an historic old stone boarding house/post office/stage-coach stop still standing, though open only by appointment. Ellenboro has the distinction of having the only McDonald’s for many miles around. Like other boom towns, they’ve suffered serious decline over the years. Fortunately, since both are along a four-lane, they are reaping some benefit from the current oil boom in the area. I suppose once all the wells are drilled that are planned, they will ease back into relative obscurity.

I DID encounter something unfortunate in Pennsboro. Laid out in the horse and buggy era, four blocks or so of a north-south route through town literally zigs or zags at each intersection. The ground there is on a slope, and the streets are very narrow. At one corner, my tag axle basically negated my steering and I had to raise it to avoid ending up on the sidewalk of the diagonal block. An oncoming semi, already half-way through the obstacle course, waited for me to get straightened out before I could proceed. I have no idea how the driver could get that thing through there, but more power to him. It seems to me that if the city wants to prosper from the new boom, they’d make themselves a little more truck-friendly.

Incidentally, I included a photo of what I call “the pit” at the limestone mine from where I was getting my loads. It’s much deeper than it appears in the photo, and appears to have been created by removing a narrow ridge where the heads of three or four small hollows nearly met. It serves as the stone yard for the mine—the place where the different-sized rock is stored and loaded on trucks. The hill the mine is under is an interesting thing. Called “Sand Hill” for the underground sands where oil was found over a century ago, there’s no sand on the surface. A few wells there are still producing oil and gas. Limestone is being mined there, and I once saw a family digging some low-grade coal from an exposed narrow seam in a cut of the four-lane. I guess I’m intrigued by strange things! © 2014

the "pit" at the mine, viewed through my dirty windshield

Friday, October 3, 2014

Poly And Cotton

For the first three weeks on the dirt job, the other guys walked around back of their truck, or pulled over next to the edge of the haul road and stood on the running board when they needed to take a wiz. I headed for the bushes. It's not that I'm overly bashful, though I do PREFER privacy when available. It's that with women's lib and all, a female is liable to show up on the job at any given moment. In this day of paranoia and political correctness, I ain't about to take a chance of being accused of indecent exposure.

To have such low morals, we have a surprisingly prudish view on the human body and its functions. In France, a guy can whip it out and water any building at leisure, and no-one thinks a thing about it. In some parts of the orient, they still squat along the road ditch and relieve themselves at their convenience. I'm NOT in favor of going quite THAT far, but a little common sense would be nice.

 I mentioned the situation to the boss, who mentioned it to the owner of where we were getting the dirt to haul, and he finally had a pretty little plastic privy installed. To prove my point, it was delivered by a woman who looked like she could have been a line-backer. Maybe her name was "Poly;" after all, the name "POLYJOHN was molded into the thing. Now I've always seen that name spelled with two "L's," but anymore, anything goes. After the installation, I referred to using the bright yellow facility as "visiting Poly."

I was apparently the third guy to use it. One fellow had dutifully used the little funnel-like plastic urinal in the corner. The other guy had done the "manly" thing and p_ssed all over the seat. Some guys have no couth (or intelligence).

The plastic privy was set up in the morning shade of a huge cottonwood that had already drawn my attention. I'd estimate it at around 70 feet tall and a little over five feet in diameter. Based on my logging and sawmill experience, I'd say it's over 150 years old. It's a bit ragged, but it looks like it's got a few more years in it. That little yellow building under the big tree became my favorite spot on the property!

Ironically, I only got to use the thing for a week before the property owner told my boss that he was done hauling dirt for now and didn't need me, and the other guy who'd been hauling with me. The truth of the matter is that he opened a different dig and needed a couple less trucks, so kept the guys from his own state and dropped us. I don't blame him for that, but why he thought he needed to lie about it, I don't know.

At least I got a picture of "Poly and Cotton" before I left!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

The Difference Between TOWboats And TUGboats

A tow boat on the US rivers is a made to push a raft of barges collectively called a "tow" by river-men.. It has two tall padded uprights up front.It can push together individual rafts with uprights to form up the tow. Then it's just push ahead. 

A tug boat is for maneuvering ships & has much more maneuverability for pulling in any direction via a hawser.. A tug may also go alongside a ship & have direct contact with padded bows with ship for pushing.Large ships are often maneuvered by two or more tugs.


Waterway living



The Little Towboat That Does


Here's a common sized towboat for this area, moving eight loaded barges upriver.

Here, and below, are a couple shots of the little fellow that shuffles barges into and out of loading position.

You'll notice that the boat seems especially dwarfed by the barge with the cover on it. Still, it gets the work done. I'm impressed!

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hickory Dickory Dock


This is the photo that I told Michael would be coming. For some reason, it reminded me of a child's nursery rhyme.

Hickory, dickory, dock,
The mouse ran up the clock.
The clock struck one,
The mouse ran down,
Hickory, dickory, dock

Perhaps the reason is that it's tall, like a grandfather clock, and has gears and pulleys in it. I have no idea what the machinery did at one time.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Bit Of History, Natural And Otherwise


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

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

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

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

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

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

09-27-14 – Riding Shotgun – The River


a misty river morning seen through a dirty windshield

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Short Porch Sit

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, September 26, 2014

Then And Now And Across The Road


The brick “ruin” in the photo above is all that remains of a popular drive-in theater that once stood on this acreage near Constitution, Ohio. It was a double-sided sign, lit from the inside, which advertised the movies showing at the theater, and their times. I remember being there at least once. Back then, there were five other drive-ins within10-12 miles, as the crow flies, plus three walk-in theaters. All of them basically succumbed to TV and cable television. The straw that broke the camel’s back for the last one though, was a bad storm a couple years ago that felled a large oak across the ticket house and flattened it like a pancake. Thankfully, two of the walk-ins have been preserved by historic groups.

This drive-in was purchased by the company that owns the area that I call “Ugly Town.” The piles of chemicals, drums and debris in the background look far worse in real life than they do in the photo.

I much prefer the view across the road (below)—the Ohio side of Vienna Island and the narrow channel which separates it from the Ohio shore. © (Click photos to enlarge them.)


Thursday, September 25, 2014

Industrial Still Life

No, don't worry, I'm not going to get all "artsy" on you!


Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Quiet Sunday


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, September 20, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

A Waste Of Good Dirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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