Sunday, September 30, 2012

I’d Still Be Doing It…

…If I could (driving truck that is). I grew up on the farm driving the 2-1/2 ton flatbed that we used to haul logs, cattle, firewood and hay. Thus it wasn’t hard to get a job driving a route truck for Red Rose (Eshelman) a couple years after I was married the first time. They’d been bought out by Carnation by that time, though, and changes were underway in the company. It was interesting to me to deliver cattle and horse feed to farmers as far as two counties away, often up narrow country roads that I would never have seen otherwise. I also delivered feed and pet food and other items to little country stores and a few small-town stores in the surrounding counties. Despite the fact that a few deliveries involved carrying hundred pound sacks of chicken feed uphill to the chicken houses of little old widow ladies, I enjoyed the work. I probably would have stayed there if the company hadn’t demoted the manager with 30 years of experience and brought in some big-city kid with a college degree, no farm experience, and a know-it-all attitude to take his place.

Then, I went to work for a company that sold wood stoves and metal fireplaces, installed chimney caps and gas fireplaces, and cleaned chimneys. The best part, though, was the fact that I often delivered such items as far away as a hundred miles in my home state and over in “enemy territory,” across the big river. I would have stayed there a while, except the owner had promised himself that he’d be a millionaire by the time he was 40, and had hit 39 without making it yet. Therefore, he sold his business and headed to Myrtle Beach to spend that year selling real estate. That was back in ’79. I never heard if he made the deadline or was emotionally crushed by failure.

Learning not to put my trust in the stability of others, I worked on my own and with my dad for a few years. Then, my sister’s husband stumbled onto a job driving a mail truck back and forth to Pittsburgh. The problem was, it was a twelve hour day with a four hour unpaid lay-over in the middle of the day. He really didn’t want to commit to 70 hour weeks straight endwise, so he asked the lady who owned the company that had the contract if he could share the job with me, week on and week off. She agreed, I agreed, he agreed, so that job just sort of fell into my lap. The pay wasn’t high, but it was more than enough for me to make it two weeks on, while still having a week between to work with dad on the farm. My ex-wife would have thought that was dandy, had we still been together, but she’d already bailed out to look for greener bank accounts.

I’d leave town about four in the afternoon, drive a timed route to Pittsburg at about 50 MPH, unload at the airport freight terminal and then wait four hours to load up, go to a bulk mail facility nearby and head back home. Once back in town, I had to unload again, take the truck to the company lot and then repeat the process again in twelve hours. I spent my four hours going to a nearby mall, getting supper and/or napping in the truck. If I went more than a few miles, I’d put a little diesel in the tank with my own money. I sometimes jogged down to the main airport and back for exercise. I learned that I could fall asleep with jets taking off only 300 feet away. It was strange waking up to dead silence and then having my audio senses kick in after a few seconds! I learned that another driver with the same contractor was going down the river at the same time as I, so we started running together to keep one another company on the CB. Three things that I’ll always remember from those days are the look on the face of the woman in thescale-house when I hit the scale at 35 MPH, The big, tall black guy who stood under a huge sign saying not to throw parcels - as he threw parcels, and the look on the face of a guy walking along a straight stretch as my CB buddy and I whizzed by with no lights at two in the morning on a dazzling moonlit night. (It was easier to see the deer (and pedestrians) that way as long as there weren’t any cops around!)

Alas, my brother-in-law drove faster (thus using more fuel), ran around a lot and never put any fuel in the truck. Worse yet, the boss-lady’s father-in-law got laid off and needed a job. So, illegally, she let us go and hired him. That was strictly against the law, and we could have cost her every contract she had, but we didn’t. I went back to work on the farm full-time for a few years, but I’d be hauling mail still, if I had my druthers. © 2012

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Toad And Hoiman

A small-to-average size toad has made his appearance on our porch a few times lately. We had one around the iris bed a couple years ago; I don’t know if it’s the same one or not. I first saw him a couple weeks ago, sitting hard against the house by the hinge side of the door, when I went to take the dog out after dark. Actually, our little dachshund saw him first since she was ahead. I noticed her straining to look at something on that side without committing herself to stepping down from the doorway. Leaning out, I saw the object of her interest. I think it was her first time to see one.

As we stepped out, I tried to regulate the leash so she could sniff him, but not make a grab for him. Everything is a new toy to her, after all. After a couple initial sniffs, she decided to inform the neighborhood of his existence, so I called to my wife for her to see the dangerous game our fearless guard dog had cornered. After a few barks, I started telling her to hush (the dog, not my wife) and she began to settle down. Finally, she tried to make a grab for it (actually just a feign, I think) and the toad spun to face her like he was saying “bring it on, girl!” After a few more sniffs, I took the pooch off the porch to water the lawn. When we returned, he was still there and she sniffed at him a few more times.

We’ve seen him on the porch in various spots since then. It’s about a 12 inch jump up there, unless he uses our fancy cement-block step to do it in two smaller leaps. I’m surprised that he makes that journey, since he doesn’t know until he’s there whether danger awaits him or not. Being mentally lazy, I guess, we’ve taken to just calling him “Toad.” “He” could actually be a “toadette;” I’ve never bothered to learn if you can tell the difference by looking. Toad must be eating well, as he left a sort of organic calling card by the step.

Having him around has reminded me of another of his species that used to hang around the concrete patio outside the back door of the farm home where I was raised. That patio was originally a garage floor until the garage got to leaning toward Fisher’s. Rather than rebuild the garage, the folks decided to use the old floor for a patio. An old-fashioned green metal outdoor light, salvaged from Dad’s boyhood home, was mounted high on the wall above the back door, and there it remained until the back end of the house was demolished and rebuilt a few years after my father died. That light stayed on each night until the last family member was safe and secure within our country home. While it was on, the light attracted bugs of every description. Those bugs eventually attracted an average size toad, which had learned where life was good.

Once he got to be a regular, my sister and I named him “Hoiman,” faking the accent of one of New York City’s boroughs where “er” sounds are pronounced “oi” more often than not. I think Mom and Dad always called him “Herman,” not giving in to the silliness of their semi-adult children. He lived there on the patio during the night-time hours of several years and grew to be pretty good sized.

He had a fast tongue! Passing bugs, whether flying or pedestrian, seemed to magically disappear if they strayed too close to Hoiman. All you could see was a slight flinch of his head. One memorable exception was the evening that he leaned closer and closer to a huge passing night-crawler. After the flinch, he righted himself with about two inches of the big worm sticking out each side of his mouth. A little working of his jaws and those ends disappeared, too. He provided entertainment for us and our farm dogs, and we all tried to watch out for him.

Hoiman quit showing up during a prolonged drought one summer. We wondered if he might have succumbed to the heat, or maybe just headed to the hollow behind the farmhouse, seeking moisture. The sad answer came one day when I found a dusty, elongated toad-shaped piece of leather in the driveway where the front wheel of the car usually sat. Hoiman had apparently scrunched his heinie under the tire of the car one early morning, looking for shade and coolness. His hide already tight against the tire tread, there was no escape when the tire rolled backwards. I won’t go into details, but what remained would have been an uncut toad skin with nothing inside it. The dust and the hot sun turned his skin into rawhide in a single day and got rid of any remaining evidence.

I certainly hope that Toad doesn’t meet the same fate. © 2012

Saturday, September 22, 2012

My Thoughts On Muslims

About fourteen-hundred years ago, a sincere seeker discovered “Christians” kneeling before icons and praying to the people that they represented. He left his search among them in disgust, to search alone. Sadly, his sincerity slowly turned into a lust for power and a lust for women (and children). As a result, he founded a religion that deliberately puts itself at war with all the rest of mankind and abuses women and children. People have often tried to excuse muslim murder by pointing to “Christian” holy wars of the past. The difference is that Christians murder when they DON’T follow the teachings of Jesus, while muslims commit murder when they DO follow the teachings of Mohammed.

Recently, I made an off-the-cuff comment directed at Mohammed’s modern followers. Unfortunately, it is a weakness of the written word, that there is neither an inflection of the voice to be heard, nor a facial expression to be seen, when trying to communicate with others. That weakness is most obvious when it is strangers, not kith and kin, with whom you seek to exchange ideas, for they know nothing of your attitudes, your temperament or your background. Those who choose to go through life in constant fear of offending someone, then, had best learn to be an excellent wordsmith or else leave their pen in the drawer, so to speak. Many do just that with the written word. (I’ve never met a person yet who can follow that same method with their mouth, however.)

With those short-comings of the written word, in combination with my own sometimes blunt, always imperfect character, it’s perfectly understandable that a good and decent gentleman from Germany took exception to that remark about expediting a few million muslims along on their way to their virgin-crowded paradise. Not knowing me personally, he had no way of knowing that I was only half-serious, with the other half being dark humor. Perhaps he’s one of those folks who are against dark humor, not even considering it humor, then again, maybe not. He probably is sensitive to any talk of genocide due to the country he’s from. I’m sure it won’t console him any to know that Hitler’s 13 million murders pale in comparison to the 30 million ordered by Stalin, or the 50 million perpetrated by Mao. So, especially to anyone repulsed by the dark-humor side of my remark, I understand that hastening the arrival of a male population bent on dying as martyrs may not be funny. I don’t apologize, but I understand.

That leaves the fact that I was only HALF in jest, and that may be the hardest for some to understand. Having read some of the Koran, I can say that it is a book filled with half-truths. That makes it very dangerous to a people with nearly no education and a mindset straight out of the seventh century. The true half of what is said in the Koran convinces those people that the other half must be true also. And so, it is okay to treat your women worse than your camels. It is okay to lie to and cheat anyone not of your religion and IT IS A GOOD THING to murder anyone who doesn’t accept your religion. Therefore, islam has been responsible for the genocide of millions over the centuries, including this one. The muslims (being mostly arab in the part of the world to which I was referring), have some legitimate grievances against the West, but not to the point of murdering innocent civilians indiscriminately. Unfortunately, nearly every man, woman and child in that part of the world believes just the opposite.

That brings us to how to deal with such an ignorant, backward society that has access to modern weaponry. During the Viet Nam War, a neighbor of mine was an Army sniper. He said that when a night patrol of Americans went out and came under enemy fire, they returned fire until that firing stopped and then went on. As a result, they came under enemy fire nearly every time they went out. However, if a Korean patrol from the U.N. came under fire, they returned fire until it stopped also. THEN, they went to the nearest village and killed every man, woman, child, chicken, dog or any other living thing. Only fire and death remained when they left. After a few times, the Koreans could travel at night in complete safety.

The obvious lesson in dealing with primitive, violent societies is that you must swat each fly with a sledge-hammer until they realize that annihilation is the cost of continued warfare. Very few people want their whole society to be martyred if they realize that they’re still going to lose the war. Until we start dealing with muslims the same way, terrorism will only escalate, because they think they’re winning. In fact, until then, they ARE winning!

Do I have the slightest shred of respect for muslims? Absolutely not. Does this mean that I HATE the muslims? Absolutely not; I merely know what is required to put a stop to their murdering. In fact, I feel sorry for them. I believe that many, especially the women and children, lead miserable lives. Plus, being a Christian, I have a definite opinion of where they will spend eternity. I wouldn’t wish the latter on ANYONE, even though I believe in its inevitability for all non-believers. © 2012

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

That Special Scent

Firewood used to play a huge part in my life. A woodstove in the dining room provided much of the heat for our home as I was growing up. It was fed largely with slabs and edgings from our sawmill, cut-offs and unsplitable chunks from our firewood sales, and the occasional log end. Both sets of grandparents burned those same cast-offs in their coal grates through the day to make their coal go further and to help keep the chimney cleaner. Firewood heated my own home until several years ago, when I traded way too much money in utility bills for less complaining from my wife.

I think it was during the 1930’s that my granddad started selling firewood to help make ends meet. Having been in multiple businesses over the years, and having been born and raised in the same town where he lived, he knew a lot of the old, established families of the area and soon had a list of “upper crust” customers. My dad, then a boy, accompanied him on many of his deliveries. I grew up doing the same thing with my own father, as he continued the practice of squeezing the most profit possible out of the trees that he cut for lumber. Many of our customers were the same ones that my grandfather had sold to, or their children.

Back then, we sold by what was called locally a “cord rick.” These days, it’s called a “face cord” and is a stack of wood eight feet wide and four feet high, by whatever depth the sticks of firewood are long. At the time that Dad had to quit selling wood due to heart trouble, I believe he was getting $35 for a face cord of two-foot-long mixed hardwoods. Four “face feet” of that would be edgings for kindling. As much as half of the remainder might be slabs, the rest would be round and split pieces. An occasional piece of dry pine might find its way in also. If someone wanted all round and split hardwoods, he charged an extra $10. If they wanted all one species (usually hickory), he charged an additional $10.

We sold firewood all year, since Dad never promised anyone seasoned wood. He couldn’t see the sense in handling it twice for no extra money and told the buyers that if they wanted dry wood that they should buy it at least six months ahead. Most folks just burned it in a fireplace for atmosphere anyway. Many is the time that I came home from school to climb in the truck and help Dad deliver from one to three face cords of firewood. Sometimes, we’d have supper first; other times we’d just grab a snack and take off. Much of our wood had to be stacked in a garage, basement or backyard. Sometimes, we’d have to carry it a good ways by hand; other places we could make the work easier with a large, custom made wheel-barrow. Dad charged extra for stacking, the price dependent on the difficulty. Some evenings, we’d be lucky and the buyer would just have us toss it off in a pile.

Autumn evenings were my favorite times to deliver wood. The weather usually meant a flannel shirt, which protected my arms from the wood better anyway. The evenings would be cool and pleasant, even though we hadn’t started our own wood-burning for the year. We always depended on little gas space-heaters to take the chill off until the woodstove’s heat would be needed 24-7. After we made our deliveries, we’d climb back into the old GMC 2-1/2 ton truck to head home. It always rode rougher once it was empty, so we felt every bump in the road. Riding along in the gloam, I knew that my favorite time of year had arrived for sure, when the smell of wood smoke came drifting in the truck window for the first time that year. For some reason, that first fire was usually lit by some purist and the sweet, mellow scent of hickory permeated the air. Somehow, I always felt those moments were special, even though I was just a kid. Before leaving “civilization,” we’d usually stop at the little store at the edge of town and have a bottle of pop and a candy bar and shoot the breeze with the proprietor. If Dad had been paid by check, the store owner would cash it for him if he could. Then we’d head home for supper, or a hot cup of tea, a pleasant tiredness in our bones.

I still enjoy being out during evenings in the fall, and I still always notice the first smell of wood smoke in town. Most folks today don’t know the difference between hickory and hackberry, and oak is the predominant scent (always was, actually). Still, once in a great while, I’ll get lucky and catch the sweet, mellow scent of hickory smoke wafting through the darkening scenery. Then the bitter-sweet memories of my youth come flooding back. © 2012

Monday, September 17, 2012

Remember These?

Those of you over 50 years old probably know what the items are in the photo above. When I was a kid, a row of poles went up the valley below our house. Near the top of those poles were cross-arms about six feet long. Along the top of those cross-arms were wooden spindles about the size of a large corncob, The bottom 2/5’s or so of those spindles were shaped like a cylinder and fit into holes drilled in the cross-arms. A wire nail held each spindle from working out of the hole. The middle 1/5th of the spindle started oversized at the bottom, forming a shoulder at the top of the cylindrical bottom section, and tapered in as it went upward until it was about the same size as the cylinder below, or a tad smaller. The top 2/5’s was threaded from there to the tip. A large glass insulator with a threaded hole in the bottom then threaded down onto the spindle. To that insulator, a copper wire (probably eight or 10 gauge) was fastened with a short section of similar wire. Over those wires, the conversations of the neighborhood (and sometimes the world) flowed from one telephone to another.

It was probably in the mid-60’s when our regional telephone company, Chesapeake & Potomac Telephone Company, switched to plastic-covered cables on the same poles as the power company (then Monongahela Power Company). If I remember, They just cut the poles off at ground level like they were falling timber. They’d already snipped off the copper wires and removed them. They then cleaned up the poles and cross-arms and hauled them away. However, if the landowner wanted them, they’d leave them for him to clean up. A lot of pole barns and fences were built back then using poles from the old telephone lines. A few are still standing.

Most fellows just used the poles, while throwing the insulators in groundhog holes and burning the cross-arms. My dad wasn’t so wasteful. He used the cross-arms for posts for electric fence and the insulators to hold the barbed wire. Good quality 12 gauge fence wire was getting expensive at the time (and quality was declining) and Dad, like most farmers, were beginning to experiment with the cheaper 16 or 14 gauge Belgian wire. He got a bit too frugal, though, when he used the short lengths of copper wire remaining on the insulators to fasten the galvanized steel barbed wire to the insulators.

Within a few months, our new fence began falling apart! From a distance, Dad just thought that the cheap price of the Belgian wire was coming back to haunt him. He was doubly disgusted to discover the problem was entirely his own fault. He’d completely forgotten that he’d been taught in school that two different metals, when touching and wet, can set up an electrical current that will corrode one or both metals. With rain every so often, and dew nearly every morning, there was no shortage of water. Making the wire “hot” no doubt made the corrosion worse. He replaced the wire, fastening it to the insulators with short lengths of the Belgian wire. It lasted for many years the second time around.

For those who don’t remember the old cross-armed telephone poles, I’ve put a picture below that shows one fairly clearly. Click on it to enlarge it. The photo was taken about a hundred yards from my grandparents home (sitting high and dry) during the 1937 Flood. © 2012

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Thoughts On Preparedness – EMP’s

“What are EMP’s?” you may ask. The letters stand for “electromagnetic pulse.” Here ( is a Wikipedia explanation. Stated simply, they are massive waves of electrical energy in the air capable of destroying almost anything electrical within whatever the range of that size disturbance may be. Some affected areas may be only a few miles, while some could be hundreds or even thousands of miles.

In 1859 and several times since (, severe solar flares damaged many telegraph systems, even setting fire to some of the telegraph offices. Local radio-active explosions, deliberately set by terrorists, could shut down a city. One huge nuclear bomb set off 300 miles above the center of the United States could effectively shut down every electrical item in the whole country. Major solar flares come about every 11 years; the next cycle is due to hit next year (2013). Muslim terrorists have already vowed to either get us with a big e-bomb, or several well-placed smaller ones. Did you need something else to worry about?

Older tube-style electronics seemed more resistant to damage from EMP’s. If you have any that work, hang onto them. Older ignition systems in vehicles and machinery are also more resistant to EMP damage, as are diesel engines. I first became aware of EMP’s and diesel engine’s slight resistance to damage when I did some tractor trading last year and discovered that A-rabs were buying up all the older diesel tractors that they could get their hands on and shipping them to the Middle East. You have to wonder why! (Or DO you?)

Disconnecting the battery makes engines safer from EMP’s. Storing them in all-metal buildings, complete with metal floors keeps them far safer (think Faraday cage). Small items like walkie-talkies, phones and radios can have the batteries removed and be wrapped in aluminum foil. I’m thinking that electric power tools, chainsaws and so on might be safely stored in steel tool cabinets. The guru told me that such things need grounded, I believe. This is something we all should start thinking about. We may not be able to protect everything, but we might want to try protecting critical items. Remember though, there may be no working phone lines, radio stations, fuel or replacement batteries. That may affect what you stock up on and what you choose to protect. Do your homework.

Just remember, God is still in control, but preparedness isn’t immoral as long as it doesn’t become your new religion. © 2012

P.S. I suggest that readers check out the comments on this (and all) posts.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Muslim “Righteousness”

The muslims are always acting pious about western decadence and talking about the whorish appearance of our women. I have to wonder, then, why the bulk of white women kidnapped for sex slaves end up in muslim countries, where they are raped, beaten and eventually murdered. They then say that they are against prostitution, yet they can legally have “one hour wives.” I suspect that money is paid to some rag-headed pimp for that momentary marriage.

They also profess to be against homosexuality, yet a man who once lived there told me that homosexual behavior is tolerated in their young men. They ARE eventually expected to marry and “fly right” after a certain age, though. Entering into a homosexual relationship once being married is tantamount to suicide.

And then we have the sodomizing of our homosexual ambassador to Libya by muslim protestors. It would seem that there was no shortage of faithful muslims who found the sight of a dead white man’s backside quite alluring. That’s something that can’t be faked; un-aroused guys simply don’t “rise to the occasion.” Yessirrie, Islam – the religion of peace and love,…………..and “righteousness.” © 2012

Even A LITTLE Preparedness Helps

My regular readers know that we had a long power outage in my region this summer. They’ve seen me gripe and belly-ache and whine about my problems on my blog until they probably grew tired of it. Thankfully, I don’t believe that any of them stopped coming by for that reason, so for those of you who survived my rants and raves – thank you.

That being said, I look on every situation as being a learning opportunity, so I’ve tried to see what wisdom that I can gather from the experience. The first thing is that I WILL have some sort of generator by next summer. What I haven’t decided is whether to make it a natural gas model that kicks on the second the grid goes dark, an unpowered model to be run by my diesel tractor, or a small propane-powered one that is easily portable. Time will tell. I’ve also realized that there’s no need to have a deep-freeze (been thinking of buying one) unless you have a generator to run it. I also need to get my wood stove made operable again by rebuilding the chimney. The generator and the wood stove would solve the bulk of the problems we had. Even without enough juice to run the air-conditioner, enough fans would have made that heat-wave bearable, I think. That would have saved us the unexpected expense of living in a motel for a few days.

We did have a couple things going for us, though. The first was that I had three small plastic fruit jars of change saved up. For several months, I took the change from my pocket every Friday night and put it in one of the small jars in which I sometimes buy fruit at the grocery store. I think they’re metric and hold just a tad more than a pint, but I’m not sure. There was no effort made to save “silver” (HA!) rather than copper (HA again!). Still, even after paying Wally World’s machine 9% to sort it (I was in a hurry for cash.), they netted $210 for the three, or $70 each. Since the outage came between paychecks, and I was running close already, that $210 came in handy. I’m just now getting to where I can start refilling those jars, and will do so (and more).

The other thing was that we had about three weeks worth of food in the cupboard. Every fall, we stock up on edibles that can be stored for some time, in case we get snowed in for a while. Even if the grid goes down, we’ll still have some heat in one room from a gas heater and the gas stove-top on which to cook our meals. Every summer, we sort through our stuff and give some of it to food pantries and replace it with new. Occasionally, we dip into the stock ourselves. Also, if we personally know of anyone having it close, we can help them through a pinch any time of year. This spring, something told me not to part with any of the food just yet, so when we returned home to a ridded-out refrigerator after the power outage, we used pretty heavily on those food stocks until we could start getting our fridge restocked. I learned that I need to find more stuff my wife will eat easily. Her pickiness makes such times more difficult. Still, she does pretty well, all things considered, as long as I don’t try to get her to eat any more Ramon noodles.

So, it wasn’t fun, but we survived, and we learned a few things. If the next catastrophe doesn’t hit too soon, we should be better prepared for it. © 2012

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Killing Trees

Few people want to actually “kill” trees. Even those who cut timber count on some of them to sprout back to make new trees. About the only folks I know who want to actually kill trees are farmers clearing cropland or investors putting in golf courses. Even then, most want to save a few for appearance’s sake. And so it is with many homebuilders these days, whether that home is being built, or contracted out, either by the owner or a speculator. Most folks prefer having at least a few trees around. In fact, real estate agencies have learned that your home is worth an additional $400 for each mature tree in the lawn.

The problem is that most people seek to preserve trees without knowing anything about them. As a result, they dig ditches right through major roots, thus cutting off nutrient flow to the tree and physically destabilizing it. The next major windstorm coming from that side of the tree may then take the tree over. They also bulldoze the top few inches of soil to “landscape” the lawn, cutting and mangling the tiny feeder roots that gather water and nutrients for the tree. Trees, like animals, eventually die without adequate food and water. The actual death of the tree is often several years down the road, though. First, the very apex of the tree may die—not surprising, since it’s the part farthest from the ground. Then, individual branches start dying. They’re usually scattered around the tree, and are simply evidence of the tree trying to prune itself to bring the top in proportion to what the remaining roots can support. Sometimes the tree survives, usually as a lesser specimen than it once was. More often, the tree remains in a weakened condition and succumbs to some eventual drought, late freeze or insect infestation. Since these tree deaths are often several years after the initial damage, no connection is made by the home-owner, especially if he/she purchased the home already completed.

What can be done? Well, that depends on your priorities. If you want a thick sod everywhere, cut the trees and bulldoze to your heart’s content. Grass doesn’t grow well under most trees anyway. However, if you want trees, be a little more tolerant of slight irregularities in the surface of the lawn. That way, you won’t be so tempted to shave off the high spots and kill feeder roots. If you have more irregularities than you feel that you just can live with, you still have a couple options. Both involve filling the low places with topsoil, NOT knocking down the high spots. The first is to use a farm tractor with a front-end loader and a rear blade to move the new soil and smooth it. Do NOT use a skid-steer piece of equipment as it will compact the soil too much. The second method is the oldest, the best, and the most expensive (if you’re paying someone else to do it)—hand labor with wheel barrows and shovels. Yes, such things are still done, but only rarely.

Things to consider about trees are the added value to your home, the value to wildlife, shade for your lawn, and the fact that one full-size tree has the cooling effect for your home site of four large whole-house air-conditioners. To illustrate the latter point, the guru went to what used to be called Concord College, here in West Virginia. Its campus was then covered with beautiful old oak trees. A few years later, some different folks were running the place and they committed wholesale slaughter against the oaks, wiping them from the campus. The barren-looking campus of sod, concrete and masonry then cost FOUR TIMES as much to air-condition. He rightly felt that they got what they deserved. You’d probably feel the same if you knew the whole story.

Remember this, since one thing leads almost invariably to another, you’ve probably lost your trees the moment a bulldozer first touches your property. © 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Corn And Beans

The corn that the farmers got in early around here did okay, fodder-wise. It looks to me like the ears aren't as large as usual as I look at them from the highway, though. I hope they're filled out okay after that droughty weather we had this summer. That fodder has now mostly turned color.

Rainy weather hit just after the first few fields were planted though and some folks didn't get the rest of their corn planted until at least a month and a half after the first batch. Then the drought hit. Those late fields are still vibrant green. I hope they make okay.

Some guys opted for soybeans instead of planting late corn. Those fields are nearly all brown now, and will soon be ready to harvest.

When I was a kid, I remember hearing a couple old sayings about corn. The first was that it should be planted when the oak leaves were the size of a squirrel's ear. The second was that it should be knee-high by the Fourth of July. I noticed this past Fourth that the LATE corn WAS knee-high on the Fourth. The EARLY corn, though, was about SEVEN FEET high!

Monday, September 3, 2012

Our Labor Day

Since I still had a few dollars left from my little windfall of selling some coins, I’d promised that I’d take my wife to lunch on Labor Day. She chose the Applebee’s a few miles up the river and over in enemy territory. The thought was that it was somewhere we haven’t been much and that maybe the cooks there weren’t so much in love with their salt shakers as the ones in our town. However, even though we ordered different things, it was obvious that salt was the main course and that the other ingredients were merely there for seasoning purposes. I know better than to send things back, so we ate our meals of salt and hoped that they would fill our empty stomachs without giving us salt poisoning. I guess Applebee’s is off our limited number of places to eat on special occasions now. I don’t know if my blood pressure is up or not, but my ankles are twice as big around as they were this morning, my face is red and my hair is standing on end.

Afterward, my wife looked through a large craft supply business, but it’s not as much fun when there’s no money to be spared. I sat in the truck and tried to sleep off my salt lunch as she tried to walk off hers. We then went to Wally-World where she picked up a few things we’d forgotten yesterday and I went online to check my blog and read a few others. She was happy to bump into one of her brothers while there. (He’d spent the day working, since he had nobody to be with, and had stopped to get something for supper.) Then, we went home to pick up the pooch and go for a ride in the country.

We started off the ride by getting milkshakes for us and a cheeseburger for the dog. She got some of my milkshake, too. I’d deliberately ordered vanilla so she could have a little, since they say chocolate isn’t good for dogs. Then, we headed down the old two-lane road toward the state capitol. It was a four-hour drive when I was a kid. The four-lane has cut that in half. It was fun remembering the relatives we used to visit along that road in our youth and recall our traveling companions of the time. It was also a little sad, since most of those folks are gone now, either dead, moved away or emotionally distant.

At the first tall hill (either the tallest or second tallest in the county), just about the county line, we bailed off the main road and took a long and winding road out a ridge and into a valley. I used to drive that road when I delivered feed for Red Rose 35 years ago or so. There are more houses now than there used to be. The neat old two-story log cabin is gone, though, replaced by a modern one-story home. The little place where the little old lady had me carry the feed into the chicken house is still there, though the old folks have probably been dead for 20 years. An excited hen once landed on my head there, but didn’t care for a roost that moved, so quickly left. Luckily, she didn’t leave anything in my hair to remember her by.

By the time we got to the county seat of the neighboring county, at the other end of the road, our little dog was getting whiny, so I figured she needed to relieve herself. Leaving town, I took the crooked old road up the hill, instead of the interstate-like new road, and stopped at the little church on the hilltop. The pooch peed for quite a spell, and I found a quarter in the slag of the lot during that time. She made a semi-solid fertilizer deposit under one of their hickory trees, though, so I figured that it was a fair trade. Our return home was uneventful and we got there about a half-hour before the day’s rain stated. Hope you had a good day.© 2012

Sunday, September 2, 2012

November, 1946


This photo is of the home that I remember as being where my maternal grandparents lived. It was just about a mile up the road from where I was raised. They moved there from a neighboring county in November of 1946. Luckily, they took a photo of their new home. My mother had just started her senior year in high school and had to transfer. I don’t think she was too thrilled about leaving her classmates.

The well-built American four-square looked out over the valley of a fair-sized creek. The cellar house by the dining room door had served a previous home on the site, and had probably been outside the kitchen door at that time. You can see two of the three windows of the window-seat in the dining room. The chicken house can be seen behind the cellar, up the hill a ways. Just behind the left fork of the walnut tree in the foreground, you can see one corner of the two-seater outhouse that I used as a child. Granddad eventually turned the pantry into an inside bathroom in his and grandma’s old age. The walnut tree is long gone, as is the one in the yard, but it has been replaced by a descendant. They had a coal grate in the dining room, but you’ll notice that they burned wood, too, from the pile at the front of the cellar.

The building in the foreground was a wooden-floored garage and workshop. Just behind it was a drive-through equipment shed with a corn crib along the left wall. The downstairs of the barn was the milking parlor, complete with a surge-milker. A tiny milk-house is out of sight behind the corn crib. The upstairs of the barn was for hay, of course. The open door at the right end of the barn was to the horse stall. “Bob and Kate” had been replaced by a Ferguson 30 by the time I came along. You can’t tell it, but the barn wall just behind the loose piece of tin on the corn crib roof was actually a large rolling door where the hay wagon could be driven in and unloaded with the big hay fork that rolled along a track in the roof-peak. The wooden fence at the right end of the barn was to the pig-pen, where granddad raised a couple pigs for slaughter every year.

The spring that supplied the home with water was high on the hillside out of sight to the left, but the pipe that brought it down the hill ended just across the little run that ran (unseen in the picture) to the left of the garage. A small foot-bridge (also unseen) crossed the stream between the garage and crib. The barn was supplied with running water by another spring just across the run and up the hill about 150 feet.

You can tell at the lower left that the road was dirt (supposedly gravel) at the time. I can just barely remember when it was paved, though Mom insists that I can’t. (I was two at the time.) Behind the pines above the house is an old cemetery with at least one Civil War veteran buried there. My grandparents reside there now, along with a lot of their neighbors.

There were a lot of good times there; I miss those days. © 2012

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Saving Coins And Selling Silver

I probably started collecting coins when I was about 10 years old. Being a typical farm kid, I didn’t have money to buy coins, so I just went through my change every day and saved anything that I didn’t already have. I also watched for coins in better condition than the ones that I had. The folks would let me go through their change, too, and keep anything that was missing from my collection. My interest was encouraged a bit more when a family moved into the farm across the road and I found that they had a son my age who was also interested in collecting coins. (Of course, we both had other interests as well.) His dad was a high-rolling businessman, so Donnie had a much better coin collection than I. That was okay, though, even as a kid, jealousy wasn’t one of my usual sins, though I had plenty of others.

One of the businesses that Donnie’s dad owned was located downtown, about half a block from the courthouse, and within a block of four different banks. So, on occasion, we’d gather up a few dollars, go to the banks and buy rolls of coins, then go through them on a table in the back room of “Mr. M’s” business. That was about 1966 and it was surprising the coins that were still in circulation. It wasn’t uncommon to find coins from the 20’s, or even the teens. We even found a couple pennies from 1910, plus one Indian head penny. The first coin of any exact date and mint belonged to the person who found it, the next one of that date and mint went to the other person if he wanted it. It seemed to be a fair system. The coins that we found in circulation weren’t valuable, yet we had rather complete collections for a couple kids.

As we got older and developed different interests, our coin collections took a definite back seat in our lives. By the time I married the first time, my collecting was limited to saving wheat pennies and silver coins (as opposed to “clad” coinage). During the ensuing years, the collection sat in its metal box, except for once quite a few years ago when I was in a pinch, and sold some silver coins for triple face value. When my granddaughter came along, I figured that I’d eventually give my collection to her. Unfortunately, she grew up without even knowing her grandma and I and I have no idea if she would even be interested in them or not. Along the way, I’ve inherited two more granddaughters and may eventually inherit another, plus a grandson. None of them are blood, of course, but then neither was the first one. Still, there’s no fair way to divide such a small collection, so I’ve decided to sell most of the silver and keep the rest for now. I will probably sell it piece by piece on eBay eventually. I need to learn how to use eBay anyway.

I was certain that I could get more on eBay, but since I was between paychecks, I thought a few quick bucks would be nice. Putting a few dollars in an old cold-cream jar (an antique in its own right), I took the sample to a local dealer and was shocked to find that he offered me nearly full retail for it (21 x face value). Wholesale (which I expected him to pay) is supposed to be 11 x face value at this time. At that rate, I might as well sell him the rest of it, rather than to try selling any silver on eBay. Then again, with the world in the shape it’s in, maybe I should put it somewhere safe and just sit on it a while longer. © 2012