Sunday, November 23, 2014

Feds Order Foreign Students At Small Christian College Go Elsewhere Or Get Deported (a link)


You've Been Warned (a link)

_It Don't Make Sense_: M. Tullius Cicero: You've Been Warned

Going, Going,.....(w/pic)

The old farmstead shown below is located at Mineral Wells, West Virginia (Pettyville, to be more precise) behind the Wally World. I can remember when it was actively farmed, but knew its days were limited, because it had too flat of ground to not tempt developers. It's now owned by a company that sells hills for fill-dirt and then developes the flat land that results. There's a hill behind it, so it will all be either terraced or one big flat plain eventually. I doubt if the old place stands another five years. I wish I knew the stories that that place could tell if it had a voice. © 2014

Click photo to enlarge.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

11-22-14 – Riding Shotgun – Central Station, West Virginia

The earliest record in my postcard collection of Central Station, West Virginia, is the postmark on a card from a teenage girl named “Lulu” to another girl who would later become my grandmother. The card was mailed in 1906, and the recipient married my granddad three years later. I can’t be sure without looking through the collection, but I think he mailed a few cards to her from there, when he was working in nearby oilfields as a rig-building contractor.

Since there basically WERE no roads back then, most folks went as far as possible by rail before renting a horse. Central Station was on the main line between Washington, D.C., and Parkersburg, West Virginia back then, and it seemed that every third hollow had a post office and a whistle stop train station. The government allowed the subsidized railroad to close that line 30 years ago or so, and then let the company, which owned the right-of-way, but not the land, to illegally sell the land to the state to make a bike path for yuppie tourists. Ah, “progress!”

Recently, I hauled a load of crushed limestone to a compressor station near the little town. The outlying “suburbs” had been a smattering of dilapidated farms, house and buildings with junk and trash scattered about everywhere. The age and size of the rusting vehicles and machinery indicated that there had been some prosperity there at one time, but that time was well past. Occasionally, a neat, clean, and/or more modern house showed that some folks were still getting by okay. All-in-all, it looked like many other dying West Virginia communities that the railroad and/or the big highways have discarded. I suspect that most residents live on either welfare, due to lack of work, or social security, due to old age. The more industrious young folks leave such a place to chase their dreams, thus putting another nail in the town’s coffin.

I missed the practically hidden sign for the compressor station, and took my 14.5 ton truck, with its 22 ton load, across the 15 ton bridge and into the town proper. The houses there looked much like the ones outside the main town—just closer together. Most looked as if they hadn’t had a coat of paint in over a quarter-century, if then. Still, some of them were obviously lived in, and some LESS obviously lived in. A teenage girl came out of one house as I passed through, walked a few doors down the street, and entered another house without knocking. Typical behavior in a neighborhood where everyone knows one another.

There were various business buildings still standing, but none appeared to be in use as businesses. There was a Pentecostal church and a community building, neither in great shape, but usable. A couple small business buildings appeared to be lived in, while a few houses sat vacant. Some houses were in decent shape, some not, but nearly all the houses that appeared in use had clutter around them. It looked like a little town that, having been abandoned by the world, simply gave up expecting anything from life. I say this not to offend the residents, but to express my sadness at seeing the place, since I could tell from the buildings that it had once been a prosperous enough little town, as full of hopes and dreams as the next place.

I came across Depot Street—all 200 feet or so of it. Streets aren’t long when they cross a town built in a hollow. The train depot was long gone, probably even before that line was closed by the railroad. In my mind’s eye, I could see my granddad standing there at the station a century ago, not in his work clothes, but in his suit and derby hat, his overcoat over his arm, as he waited for the train to carry him home to his family for the weekend. At the moment, I almost envied him, having seen this little town when it was full of life, with working men and businesses, and with multiple trains passing through every day. I had my camera, but I felt it disrespectful to take a picture of the town in its current condition. It would have seemed like kicking a man when he was down.

I turned my truck around, recrossed the suspect bridge, finally found my delivery site back an angled driveway within a stone’s throw of that bridge, and dumped the stone. Going past the suburbs once again, I prayed that the current oil and gas boom in the area might provide work for some of the locals, and that the community might once again where fulfilled dreams and hopes seem like real possibilities. Only time will tell if Central Station will be there in the next century. © 2014

Friday, November 21, 2014

Maine's "Two-Footer" Railroads (a link)


Highway And Home-Front (w/pics)

It’s been a mixed bag this week, as far as good and bad experiences at work. It was nice to spend Monday afternoon with the dog and my wife, but it really hurts to have that much money missing from my pay, since it cost me overtime. I can only imagine how tight things will get when we go to 40 hours or less this winter.

Despite being a “southern truck” (no block heater), my work truck has been starting even with the 16 degree mornings we’ve been having. When I think of all the diesels that don’t want to start in people’s driveways, I think that quality must be lacking in them. Interestingly enough, some of those vehicles are made by Mercedes, but the engine in my Mack is also made by them.

I saw a new pad (oil/gas well site) this week and enjoyed some of the experience. The view from “Maddie Mae,” (Yup, that’s what the oil company named it!) was as nice as any hilltop vista in the countryside, with farmland in the valley and forestland on the hills. I hadn’t driven across a low-water bridge for a while (a type of manmade ford, actually), but did the first day that I delivered there. It was made of oak timbers submerged in the stream and was none too wide for the size of trucks using it. The second day, though, they had the new concrete bridge completed.

The climb up the switch-backed gravel road was all the truck wanted to do with 21 tons on my little tri-axle, and steep enough that I put both rear axles in gear and in positive traction, though they call it something else these days. Coming down was the “hairy” part, of course, since it allowed you to see the imminent death awaiting you if you lost control. The hardest thing for most folks to learn is to quit braking and even maybe give your vehicle some “gas” if your wheels start skidding downhill. That allows the tires to regain traction; then you can start braking again SLOWLY. I learned that from watching it up-close and personal on the farm, driving farm tractors in slick weather.

Decking sections, waiting to be installed on Maddie Mae.

A closer view of the decking sections. They're probably about six inches thick, and appear to be oak, surrounded by steel. They place them as tight as floor tiles on a bed of crushed limestone.

With all of the oil and gas activity in the region, rent prices are skyrocketing. That’s good for the landlords, but bad for the working poor who aren’t making big bucks in the oilfield. Even the campgrounds, normally only in heavy use from Memorial Day through hunting season, are staying pretty full, with some workers trying to save money by going “rustic.” Unfortunately for them, I’ve heard of some lots with full hook-up going for $800 A MONTH!

My concern for the working poor, which is MOST of us these days, also includes the homeless. It really gets me to see houses and cabins going to pot, while some families live on the street, or in their cars. I realize that some people would tear up a concrete bungalow, but not everyone. Below is a nice little house going to pot not far from Pennsboro, West Virginia. It’s small, but you can tell that it was nice at one time, and could be again, if someone would catch it before things go any further.

The little house isn't easy to see as you approach it, despite being right by Rt. # 74 heading north from town.

View out my window as I pass (literally taken on the move, as I had a car behind me).

At my own home, the weather and my work hours have discouraged me from getting some corn fodder put on my compost pile. My wife had some for making wreaths, which didn’t pan out due to mold, and had put the pieces in a garbage bag on the porch. A couple days ago, she found crows on the porch sorting through the corn looking for any remaining ears. I guess I should give any corn to them; life probably ain’t easy for a crow. I suspect they’d learned elsewhere that garbage bags can contain food (since we never put trash out except in cans), saw the bag and reasoned there might be food there. Ironically, they were right! I hope they don’t start hanging out here TOO much, they can be awfully noisy.

Well, I think I hear the living room floor calling my name, so I better go. I hope you folks had an good week! © 2014

Monday, November 17, 2014

When It Snows, It Pours

I was expecting a larger paycheck last week, since I’d worked the Saturday before. The extra day must have put me into a higher withholding bracket, though, because it wasn’t that much bigger than normal. Since then, a couple of unexpected expenses came up that took the extra and more besides. Before I left work Friday, I called my wife and she told me she’d just learned that her oldest brother had died the day before. Cold winds and snow caused a lot of cancelled hauls today (though there was no accumulation), so the dispatcher sent about half of us home after trying for three-and-a-half hours to drum up some business. Looks like a short pay this week, since we may have more bad weather yet.

We’ll slide by with what funds we get, since we have no reserve and became pretty good at pinching pennies during my long stint of having no work. I used the time off today to go get my winter tires put on the truck. At least they were already paid for and in storage.
My wife isn’t going to her brother’s funeral, since funerals are really for the living and most of the living siblings have decided that they don’t like her Christianity. They’ve been giving her a hard time about it lately—trying to make themselves feel safer in their own beliefs, no doubt. I’m sure that the fact that they were raised by an abusive father, who professed to be a devout Christian, had no small influence in them adopting atheism over the years.

Her deceased brother supposedly accepted Jesus when young, before losing his right mind, the latter due either to having a nervous breakdown from the abuse (my suspicion only) or from lack of blood to the brain during a surgery for a bleeding ulcer. He died twice on that operating table, when a teenager. The bright, pleasant, artistic protector of his little sister became a mix of schizophrenic and autistic. He became ill-tempered and unpredictable, and that’s how he’s remembered by the siblings younger than my wife.

She, on the other hand, recalls the times that the two of them arose before daylight to run barefoot around the farm and through the woods on childhood adventures. She prefers to remember him during those times, and as the brother who once saved her from being gored by a mean dairy cow, though he was little bigger than her, despite being two years older. She very much regrets that he wasn’t able to lead a normal adult life, but she believes that he’s with the Lord and that she’ll see him again, when the time is right. I hope she’s right.

In the meanwhile, we’re enjoying a rare normal-length evening together with the dog and the TV. © 2014

The Truth About TAMIFLU ! (a link)


Saturday, November 15, 2014

Once When We Were Free (a link)

Mom's Scribbles: Once When We Were Free

Peeing In A Cup

!!!! WARNING !!!! – If you are a good, decent, God-fearing person, do NOT read this post under ANY circumstances!

Life ain’t easy for fat folks. First, you have all the snide remarks, disgusted looks, deliberate disrespect, lack of normal compassion from others and general prejudice to deal with. Then, you have to deal with the fact that excess weight causes a lot of inconveniences in your life. Cars, clothes and furniture are uncomfortable. Aisle ways, turnstiles, restrooms and even some tools and appliances just don’t seem “user friendly.” Life can get really aggravating when the inconvenience of being fat is made worse by the stupidity of people who think that EVERYTHING in life falls into the “one size fits all” category. One of those situations occurred recently for me.

I and another “big” guy at work were “randomly” chosen for drug and alcohol testing. Translated, I think that means that they didn’t have a load for us just then. We were given our paperwork and then went down to the testing facility behind the local mall for the “piss test.” Unfortunately, I’d been handed the papers immediately upon exiting the restroom, so I requested a wait for more ammunition. Eventually, I felt that a sufficient volume had accumulated to give it a shot.

 Now, for any of you who’ve never done the dirty deed, you must first empty all your pockets to prove that you haven’t snuck in a vial of urine from someone else, so you could hide your habit. THEN, you have to LEAVE all your stuff, including your wallet, in an unlocked box on the nurse’s counter, where OTHER victims may walk past it. I suppose they think that these inanimate objects can produce urine, but they never did request that I turn my pockets inside-out to PROVE that they were empty. Foolishly, I even took my multi-tool out of its belt pouch and put it with the other stuff as a sort of wasted bit of sarcasm.

Skinny folks have no way of knowing this, but asking a really fat person to pee in a little plastic cup isn’t much different than asking them to lick their elbow. Things can only stretch and strain so far. When you have a normal length arm, a humongous belly, and a short…..well…I won’t go there, you are working blind to say the least. Also, you can’t just hold the cup with your thumb at the top and your longest finger at the bottom, as you would expect. No, you must pinch the rim between your thumb and finger, which is a tenuous hold at best, to get every fraction of an inch of length that you can to get near the “dispenser.”

You would think that you could align the cup by feel, but experience has taught me that’s not the case. You, instead, operate by sound. Straddling the john, so you won’t get anything on the floor, you listen for the sound of liquid hitting the water in the bowl; that means you need to adjust placement of the cup. Even that sounds easy, but trust me, it isn’t. More urine ends up running down the outside of the cup than inside, so a sizeable volume is required to get enough for the sample. Since I’d recently used the john at work, I couldn’t corral enough of the golden, tattle-tale liquid the first time, AND THEY WON”T SAVE IT TO LET YOU ADD TO IT IN A LITTLE WHILE! I guess they think that it will magically change chemical composition in a half-hour’s time.

So, they offered me the option of staying there and trying again within the next three hours, or rescheduling for another day. I chose to stay. They lead me back to the lobby, but left all my personal items in the open box in the back room. They offered me a cup and suggested that I drink some water from their water cooler to build up ammo faster. A few minutes later, a nurse stuck her head out the door and asked in a panicky voice how many cups I’d drunk. When I replied that I was on my fourth, she asked that I not drink any more. Apparently, you can weaken the sample if you drink TOO much. If I’d known that, I’d have drunk TEN cups for sheer spite!

I waited not until I thought that I MIGHT have enough ammo to do the job, but until I grew DESPERATE to drain my tank! I told them then, that if they’d give me a bucket or a bedpan, I’d give them more “sample” than they’d know what to do with, but no, they gave me another little plastic cup. Most of it STILL went outside the cup, but the sheer volume overwhelmed the odds and I got a more than adequate sample. Then the nurse poured some of it into two little vials and threw the rest away! So much effort WASTED! I think they should have had to test anything up to ten gallons after all that effort!

I’ve got it figured out though. Next time, I’m going to hide that multi-tool in my sock. Then, at least I can use the folding pliers for a handle on that @%#$&^*)$# little plastic cup! In the meanwhile, I suppose no-one notices that one of my coworkers often smells as if he drank a really huge supper the night before. © 2014

Changes In The Oil Patch (w/pics)

In the old days, well sites were usually just referred to as wells, or well sites, like"Anderson #3 well." Now, they're called "pads," because they grade off a large work area and install a large wooden deck area on which to set up their rig and other equipment. The overall size of the flat area is close to that of a football field, while the deck area, put down in truckbed-sized sections, is near that of a basketball court. Yesterday, I delivered crusher run limestone to "the Grumpy Pad," named for the disney character! (Some of his fellow dwarfs are memorialized with their own pads nearby.)

Below, you'll see a rig that my granddad (in buggy) built about 1907, only a few farms over from where I now live. As you can see, they didn't level the site, they simply set some big posts and built their work platform atop them. (Click photos to enlarge them.)

The old wooden rigs were mostly 84 feet tall, though a few other sizes were also built. One of the 84-footers in shown in the circa 1926 photo below of one of Granddad's rigs in Vina, Alabama.

The photo below shows my great uncle (in straw hat) with a steel rig that was becoming common in the 1920's or '30's. I'm guessing this to be in the late '20's, but don't know the location, though I suspect it was in Texas. the legs of the derrick were simply set in concrete tom level them, but you'll notice that they still built a work deck between the legs.

Next is a recent shot of a nearly completed pad with its limestone surround and its center decking, laid on a smoothed and compacted limestone bed. The area covered by black fabric is where the actual drilling will be done.

Below is another perspective of the same pad. Can you tell I was snapping pictures through my truck windows? In the distance, you can see the "skyline" of a deep backwoods section of Tyler County, West Virginia. As you might guess, this pad is within 50 feet of the highest point on a rural ridge.

Here's another pad, started about mile from the first one, on a bench of the same ridge.

Lastly, here's a photo of a modern rig about a quarter-mile from Route # 74, in Ritchie County, West Virginia. I'm guessing that it's at least twice as tall as the old 84-footers that my granddad built, and they sit on bases hauled in on semi-trucks. No wonder they need a big pad! I hope a few of you find this interesting. (Remember to click the images, if you want to see them better.) © 2014


Friday, November 14, 2014

Neat Old House (pic)


This modest-sized stone house is located in a bend of Rt. # 18 in Tyler, West Virginia, a small community in Tyler County, West Virginia. Click Photo to enlarge.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Long & The Short Of Mail Pouch Barns (w/pics)


This is the smallest Mail Pouch barn that I know of currently. I think I've seen smaller in the past, but they've been torn down or collapsed. This one is along Rt. # 21 near Rockport, West Virginia. It appears to measure 16 x 24 feet, judging from its cement block basement, with the sign being on the short side. The fact that the word "chew" appears twice means that the sign has been repainted in the past, and the second batch of paint didn't hold up as well as the first (plus the location of the word was changed).

This is the longest Mail Pouch barn that I remember seeing. It's along Rt. # 74 near Pennsboro, West Virginia. I suspect it was built solely as a hay barn, and never had stock in it, but I have no way of klnowing. The big "marshmallows" at the left end are coverd round hay bales. I thought the contrast between the old and the new was interesting. Its leaning a bit, but could be straightened, if someone woulds put out the effort. It sits quite a ways back from the road, but I'm guessing it at about 100 feet long. Clicking the images will enlarge them. © 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

Anti-Love Laws Already On The Books

My first thought, when the “hate laws” began to appear, was that hate is a bad, but natural, human emotion. Trying to do away with hatred is saying that people don’t have the right to emotions. How long will it be before they outlaw love, I wondered. Not long, it seems.

Twenty-one cities in America have already passed laws making it illegal to feed the homeless. Recently, a 90-year-old man was arrested for doing what he felt was his moral duty by breaking such a law in his town. Our local mayor, with no prior discussion with the citizens, recently posted signs at panhandling sites around town asking people NOT to add to the drug and alcohol problem by donating to the homeless. I was glad to see one homeless veteran still panhandling with a sign that said, “Drug and alcohol free – and I have PROOF!”

I know that many panhandlers DO have drug and alcohol problems, but not ALL of them do, and they don’t deserve to be painted with the same brush. ALSO, these are OUR OWN PEOPLE that we are expected to turn our back on, after all, illegal aliens get help that our own citizens are denied!

34Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.35h For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me,36naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’37Then the righteous* will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?38When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?39When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’40i And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’ “ Matthew 25:34-40

© 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Visit To A "Stone" Yard (w/pics)

After waiting for three hours the other day on a job that ended up getting cancelled, the dispatcher told us to stop by a nearby stone yard and get certain products. The "stone" there isn't stone at all, but the greenish slag from a local manganese steel smelter. Huge pieces are worked down to about basketball size (I forgot to ask how), then put in a crusher before being screened for size and distributed to various piles by conveyor belts.

Unlike limestone, or even regular slag from iron smelting, it has no nutritional value for plants that I know of. As a result, you won't see the clover growing along driveways on which it alone is used. It's also much sharper-edged than the crushed limestone that we usually haul, so it works well to clean the crud from your truckbed!

I assumed the four-foot wide dome-shaped piece was from the bottom of a crucible, but that wouldn't explain the piece to the left that has a matching outside curve. What can I say, I know nothing about steel furnaces. Incidentally, the roof you see in the distance is that of the smelting plant, two "doors" down the road.

Some large pieces have been left whole and used as a form of fencing for the yard.

To the right side of my windshield, you can see the machine that crushes the basketball-sized pieces into smaller ones. If you look closely, you'll see the pile of pieces ready to be shoved into the machine, as well as the cab of the machine that does the loading. Some of the finished product can be seen at the left, under the end of the conveyor .

Since one or two of my followers enjoy looking at old iron, here's a shot of some of theirs. (That's not wind-blown smoke above the one to the left, it's a reflection on my side window.)

Little Kanawha River Rail (w/pic & links)


This little train sometimes blocks the tracks at one of the local stone yards. Click to enlarge photo.

Here's a video of the engine:

Here's an old article about the company:

And here is a website thery're apparently in the process of building:

Saturday, November 1, 2014

A Souvenir

From earliest times, it seems that people have sought some reminder or piece of a place or event to save for themselves or posterity. One somewhat macabre reminder of the gore of World War II resides in my basement. It is a small Japanese flag designed to be rolled up and worn around the waist of a soldier. I assume that each soldier, sailor and airman had one. It was to serve as a reminder of what the soldier was fighting for—his emperor, his homeland and his friends and family. In a pinch, it could be used as an actual flag to designate a camp or something, I suppose, but that’s only my own thinking.

Before the soldiers went off to war, many of them took their flag around to their family and village members and asked them to sign it. Many people added prayers, or wishes for a safe return, or calls to great valor. The flag that Dad brought home from the war has such writing. I wish there was some way to get the flag back to the soldier’s nearest living relative, if there are any.

This flag was found on a dead Japanese soldier, lying in a hand-dug “cave” in the Philippine Islands. Many of their troops were ensconced in such hard-to-see shelters, which is part of what made some of the fighting there so difficult. Nearly always, during “wipe-up” of each area, one or more wounded Japanese soldiers would be found alive but wounded, lying in their cave. If they could not rise and crawl out under their own power, they were shot in their bed. That sounds cruel, but many would booby-trap themselves, so that if they were moved, a grenade would kill whoever was trying to save them. That sort of fanaticism can be believed, after seeing so many suicide bombers among present-day muslims. I think they were later pulled out with a rope for burial. I assume that if an explosion ensued, they were considered buried already. Apparently, the soldier wearing this flag wasn’t booby-trapped.

The flag has what appear to be rust stains on it, but they aren’t rust stains. The iron in blood turns the stains rusty-colored after a certain amount of time. All the tiny holes in the flag seem to indicate that he died from wounds inflicted either by shrapnel, or a shotgun blast. (Shotguns WERE used by a few troops in certain situations. I imagine they would be quite handy in jungle warfare.)

Dad never harbored ill-will toward the Japanese as some did. He realized that while a few were animals, most were probably just average Joes doing what they considered their duty. I remember his telling about seeing stacks of dead Japanese soldiers on a beach awaiting burial. As he looked at the horrible waste of life, he said that he remembered thinking that each one was some mother’s son.

I think that we should return to the days when those who declared war, or ordered a charge, had to lead it. Unfortunately, there were still many wars even then, for never in history has there been a shortage of human greed or inflated egos. © 2014

The Democratic Party

I posted the words below on Facebook. I wonder if I'll get any response?

"The DEMOCRATIC PARTY wants to murder our unborn children, sodomize our sons, give away all of our freedoms, take all of our money and drive God from all public (and many private) places. Let's call it what it is - E V I L ! Are YOU a supporter? If so, what do suppose GOD thinks about it?"

Friday, October 31, 2014

A Familiar Sight And A Strange Name (w/pic)

I saw this old portable sawmill out on Chevaux De Frise Road in Ritchie County, West Virginia today. Considering that there was a sawmill in my family for half a century, it brought back a lot of memories. I don’t know if the guy is getting ready to fix it up, or getting ready to junk it. The former, I hope. The guy has a team of work horses in the field where the mill is sitting, so maybe he’s going into horse logging.

I have to wonder how a road in backwoods West Virginia got named after a device used to stop, or slow, cavalry charges back when wars were fought with horses instead of tanks. Since “chevaux” is plural for “cheval” (horse) in French, there must have been more than one—maybe some guy made a fence that looked like the military devices. Who knows? A cheval de frise sort of reminds me of a huge porcupine, but too high and wide to be jumped by a horse. Strange name for a country road! © 2014

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Green, Green (a pic)

This little farm, located between Rockport and Mineral Wells, West Virginia has the house, barn, garage and all outbuildings, has the roof and sides covered with green metal roofing. It should certainly be maintenance-free for many years, plus, it really doesn't look bad, though a little non-traditional.


Sunday, October 26, 2014


I first saw this day at 4:30 am, when I took the Mighty Dachshund out to drain her tank. It was cool, so I didn’t dally, being in my skivvies, but I heard a couple barred owls in the hollow, a dog barking in the distance and what I think was the muffled crow of the neighbor’s rooster. I’m glad he lives a couple hundred yards away. The flock owner who lives closer and on the other side seems to have a rooster that doesn’t get in such a hurry to greet the day.

I was about 8:30 when I took the pooch out again. I sat in the swing a few minutes, with her at my feet, and listened to the breeze rustle the leaves in the woods around me. I took my wife out to breakfast soon after, and then we made our weekly pilgrimage to the Wally World on the far side of town. I sat in the truck and enjoyed the sunny morning as she shopped inside. I drove around back and noticed that the “abandoned” farm there had been brush-hogged for the first time in a few years. I was hauling fill dirt from near the fence line back that ridge last week, so I suspect the guy who owns the hill also owns that farm and is getting ready to destroy the place before long. He has a construction business and an equipment rental business and also buys property, removes the hills and then sells or leases the land for business development. There’s an old barn there with an interesting look that I’d better get a photo of before it disappears. I’m learning that I should NEVER leave the house without my camera.

When we got back, we took the dog for a ride in the sunshine. That included a short side trip up a hollow so I could give my copy of “The Humanure Handbook” to the former coworker that some neighbors call “the crazy goat lady.” I won’t read it again, and she’s wanting to go “utility-less” and is looking for ways to do so. I can’t say that I blame her.

We then went to the next decent-sized town upriver and on the opposite shore, so the missus could visit THEIR Wally World to look for some particular thing that she couldn’t find at the other one. While she was inside, the pooch and I strolled around a while, and then I sat on the tailgate, while she sat in the grass at my feet and watched the cars full of people like my wife zip in and out of the lot.

When we got home, I worked on the compost pile I’m beginning down near my pretend garden. The walnuts that I thought I would have to rake out the way have now been eaten, and the hulls are laying alongside the wooden rails that make up my pile surround. I put some leaves from last year, that have been partially mulched, into the enclosure and poured some “night water” over the pile to add a little nitrogen. My wife gave me her fodder shock and I’ll soon add what remains of the irises. I seriously doubt if I can get my wife to save her vegetable scraps for me, though.

Afterwards, I went inside for a while and went online. Not long after, the Mighty Dachshund came and told me that she needed to go outside, so I redressed and took her out into the dimming sunlight. After she answered nature’s call, we sat on the porch a long while and basked in the autumn sensations. With the sun back-lighting the trees around us, they seemed to fairly glow from within, though the collection of mostly oaks were somewhat muted, compared with the maples that were mostly rained down last week.

It sounded like there were some crows in the distance having a discussion, while some blue-jays ate acorns in the trees nearby with surprisingly few vocalizations. Somewhere about 150 feet away, a woodpecker hammered on a dead limb, making it sound like the drums of restless natives. I guess maybe they WERE the drums of restless natives. A couple of chickadees and nuthatches continued to feed and chatter in the woods below me, as the sun set and darkness began to steal around us.

The singing autumn bugs are far fewer than the ones of summer, but they did their best to keep us entertained. Some were obviously crickets, a few still sounded like cicadas, I didn’t recognize the rest, unless a few might have been tree frogs who are trying desperately to hold on to summer. In the hollow, the barred owls began to call again. We used to have hoot owls (great horned owls) here, but the great beeches where they lived have all fallen to old age and the old growth timber has all been cut in this area. So now, we have barred owls. Like the chronic malcontent that I am, I miss hearing the owls of my youth. Toward the neighbor’s place, I hear what sounds like a cross between a screeching chicken and a dying rabbit. Perhaps some furry night hunter has already been successful. Neighbor dogs start barking and the Mighty Dachshund listens intently, slightly agitated.

Soon the deer that has managed to keep the truck between it and my sharp-eyed friend moves far enough toward the center of my lawn that its silhouette gets noticed. I then have a battle on my hands keeping the pooch from giving full throat with her growling and muffled barks. Finally tiring of the effort, I bid the day adieu and take the pooch back inside, where my wife lays sleeping before the TV. And now you know the all-to-long and boring story of my day. © 2014

Saturday, October 25, 2014

10-25-14 – Riding Shotgun – Driving Into The Past

The ridges here are many-leveled, many-legged affairs, so that even though we grew up at least two miles apart, my wife and I grew up on the same ridge. Though the distance is in miles and the direction is diagonal, we now live just one ridge over from where we both were raised. The valley between those ridges, I call the valley of my youth, since I spent so many of my younger days there, and on the surrounding slopes and ridges. Five of the homes in that valley belonged to my kin. Between them, and a few kind neighbors, I had hundreds of acres on which to hunt, fish, trap, ride horses, camp and hike. Though I didn’t know any of them at the time, the homes of my current wife’s parents, and that of her grandparents, lay a couple miles north of mine, on the highest part of the ridge that I lived on.

As luck would have it, my current job now lies on a diagonal from our home in the next valley. And so, this week, I was in my old stomping grounds for three days, hauling dirt from a construction site not that far from where my wife was raised, to my place of employment, where the creek in the valley of my youth joins the river in the next valley. My route was run 13 times each day for the first two days, and 14 times on the third. It ran from the junction of the two streams, up the lower end of the valley of my youth, turned up a side valley and then over the end of the ridge on which I now live, across the middle section of my home valley, up another side hollow and topped out on the main part of the next ridge, near where my wife was raised. Interestingly enough, this was all done on four-lane roads. (Times have changed MANY things here.)

Topping that first ridge and entering the valley gave me a perspective that I saw only a few times in my life, and those times were on horseback. Before me lay my home of days now gone—both the valley at large, and the house on the tip of one of the spurs of the main ridge. Peeking out from behind two huge poplars and a curved row of white pines was the old house I once called home. Built the winter following Appomattox, it was actually home to several families over the years. My grandfather bought the place around 1910, and my folks moved in the spring of 1949.The guy who bought it from me eventually wants to tear it down and build a new one. People around here have little respect for history. However, since I hold the mortgage, he can’t do so, either until the place is paid for in full, or until he builds his new one. I have to protect my equity, after all. The thought still saddens me, though. (Incidentally, the now-large pines were planted the same year that I was, another sign of my increasing antiquity.)

The valley looks far different than it did in my trail-riding days. Most old houses, barns and outbuildings are gone, replaced by new houses and buildings used by new people. Of the homes I can see when topping the hill and entering the valley, only one couple from my country grade school days still remains. Even they live in a different house, though his grandfather’s house still stands close-by and is occupied. I am reminded again that I’m the only person still living that knows that a former owner of that property met his death at the hands of a would-be suitor of his daughter. His fall through the “hay-hole” to the basement of the barn, from the hay-mow two stories up, wasn’t accidental as everyone assumed. Everyone involved is long dead, though, so the Lord straightened it all out years ago.

I don’t see the valley with my natural eyes as I drive along, though. I see it with my mind’s eye from the days of my youth. I see the old barns and houses, and the old people. I see the cattle grazing in the pastures, the secluded springs where they slaked their thirst, and the full sanctuary of the now nearly empty Methodist church that sits on the point of one of the ridge spurs across the valley. My ashes will someday fertilize the grass around the little flat engraved stone that I placed there last year near the upright ones for my parents and grandparents. (I was a Boy Scout, so I believe in being prepared.)

From my vantage point on the interstate fill, I can also see the big barn that was so noticeable on the hilltop that it was used as a line-up cue for one of the runways at the airport about five miles away. Dad built the wooden part of the structure with only hand tools and the lumber he’d sawed at our sawmill. There was no electric up there and generators on the job were nearly unheard of in 1960.

Passing over the creek that I’d fished and trapped in my younger days, the four-lane swings up the side hollow I mentioned earlier. I know when I’m pretty close the spot where it buried the site of the little home of my great half-aunt. My grandfather was born in that little house—my dad in one I mentioned on the point of the ridge. Not much further, I pass over the site of the home of a couple who went to Grange with my folks. He was a neat and clean fellow, always smelled like a rose, and supposedly thought that he was God’s gift to women. Despite his divine appointment, I never heard of him actually straying, he just liked to THINK he could (not that anyone thought he COULDN’T if he chose). Incidentally, he cleaned septic tanks for a living.

On my return trip back down the side hollow, I see before me the farm where I spent 80 hours each summer for about 20 years brush-hogging pasture for the guy who lived beside his grandfather’s house. There, too, is the now-stagnant section of creek cut off by the interstate when it severed the valley back around 1963. Always a home for turtles and muskrats, it’s finally starting to fill in a little after all these years.

Each trip through the valley brought back another memory, so each pass was a bit like a short homecoming. There was a little bitter with the sweet, of course, but that’s life. I feel blessed to have had those experiences in my past, and to have the opportunity to relive them once again, if only in my mind. © 2014

Friday, October 24, 2014

Scenes From My Day

I make no claim, except to be a camera clicker - a taker of snapshots. Some turn out half decent, but most don't. Some at least get the idea across. Here are a few. Click photos to enlarge them.

The shop as I arrive, well before dawn.

The work-site, just before dawn.

The old and the new - probably installed a century apart.
The unusual-looking pole served some purpose to the railroad
back when this was the main line between Parkersburg, WV
and Washington, D.C. If anyone knows what it is, please tell us.

A couple hundred feet behind it, the tall lamppost illuminates
the modern incarnation of the old Staunton - Parkersburg Pike.

Sometimes, all you can do is sit and wait. The railroad often uses this
spur line to switch engines to the opposite end of the train.
They pull in to the left, back one or more engines up from the right
 and couple them, uncouple the engines on the left end, and off they go.
The engine(s) that pulled it there later comes along by itself,
 awaiting new work, I assume.

A silent roadside reminder of the price that Jesus paid for our better times to come.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Way Things Were (w/pics)

There was a time that most folks knew the name of the person who sold them their groceries. At that same time, most folks traveled on two-lane roads and bought their gasoline and “road food” from the people who actually owned the store or station. I remember those days and miss them. Now, we have a world of Walmarts and interstates. Just as Walmart killed most of the few remaining mom and pop groceries, the interstate killed the gas stations, mom and pop groceries and even the small communities along the two-lane roads.

Thirty-six years ago, I had a job delivering Red Rose Feed and related supplies to individuals and small stores around the back-roads of several surrounding counties. I rather enjoyed the work, though it was hard. It was nice to drive the back-roads and see the scenery, plus meet the owners of the little stores and farms along the way. One of those stores was owned by a couple named Kerr, who had a little garage/gas station/ grocery at Rockport, W.Va. I was already vaguely familiar with the store from passing it many times in my youth as we took Route 21 to Charleston to visit an uncle and aunt who lived there.

The Kerr’s were a nice old couple who’d had the store since sometime in the 30’s, probably. I say that because the old 1939 International pickup truck that he once used for deliveries still sat in his garage in the right side of their building. It still ran and was painted bright red, with a brush if I remember correctly. I think he told me that he bought it new. The only thing wrong with it was that the bed sagged horribly from where he used to deliver coal in the truck also. (I suppose the guy with the loader didn’t care if he ruined the guy’s truckbed.) Even in 1978, it would surprise many folks just how many people lived in the country that didn’t have a vehicle. His delivery service must have been a godsend for such folks. Most were older folks, of course, but not all.

Every week or two, I’d stop at Kerr’s and leave them some chicken feed, dog and cat food and maybe a little horse and cattle feed in 25 and 50 pound bags. I’d always buy a coke from the cooler or an ice cream bar from their freezer and talk to them a few minutes. I always enjoyed talking to old folks. From my youngest days, it seemed like I had more in common with old folks than young. My mom says that I was born old. You really don’t chat with the cashier at Walmart or the gas station these days, at least not for very long.

The Kerr’s are long gone, of course, as are most of the folks who I once talked to on my route. I miss most of those folks, even though I forget many of their names by now. I miss the slower times and the better world we lived in. (And I CERTAINLY miss the health and physique that I had back then!) Oh well, a few reminders, like you see in these photos still jog my memory at times. Besides, for those of us who trust in the Lord, we’ve got a better life coming. I imagine that I’ll get reacquainted with a lot of my old customers then. © 2014

The Kerr home sat on a slight rise to the left of their business, but you could have thrown a walnut and hit the store. It was a short commute for them. You can see the building on the far side of the spruce tree. (The tree was much smaller 36 years ago!) I don't think their house, built of vertical board and batten, was ever painted, but it was trimmed in red.

Since the sign painted on the right side of the building said "Kerr's Garage," I assume that he did some mechanic work, too. That sign is very faded and can't be seen in the photo.

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