Monday, September 30, 2013

Me, My, Mine

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The computer has titles like "MY documents," MY pictures" and "MY computer." Even the internet provider has "MY services." Would you say that we live in an ego-centric society?
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Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sometimes, The Walls DO Talk!

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We’ve all heard the old expression about how “if the walls could talk, the stories they’d tell.” Well, when an old house gets remodeled, a few things may become apparent that weren’t known before. A case in point was the old farm house where I was raised. The first story concerning the farm was that it was originally covered with beautiful, huge pine trees. In my part of the Ohio Valley, the original climax forest was often a mix of white pine and white oak, with a spattering of other species sprinkled throughout. Two types of southern yellow pine (Virginia and shortleaf) were also present in places where the Indians had once burned to make grazing for deer, elk and the now extinct woods buffalo. An occasional pitch pine or other variety was sometimes found, as well. Seeing as it was a hill farm, in my mind’s eye, I’d always pictured big flat-topped white pines growing on our land before it was cleared, with a few ancient white oaks mixed in, especially in the hollows. Another story concerning the place was that the old house had been started the last year of the Uncivil War and finished the following year. The accuracy of those stories would eventually come to light.

After my father passed away in 1984, my mother had her son-in-law install city water in the old home and had the two front downstairs rooms remodeled. The folks had done without running water for nearly 20 years after the old well silted in and they’d been forced to haul water from the spring at the family’s other farmhouse in the valley and from my maternal grandparents spring, a mile up the road. The city water was a great convenience to my mother as she approached old age. (She moved to town about 2006.) Part of that remodeling involved tearing the old plaster and lath from the walls, shimming everything square and plumb and installing drywall. In what had once been the family sitting room (as opposed to the parlor, which was saved mostly for company), a place was encountered where something must have fallen against the wall and had broken two short pieces of lath near a window. Rather than remove the two small pieces of lath, they simply stuffed a wad of newspaper in the cavity to hold the plaster until it dried. On that piece of paper was an interview with a Mr. Grant, stating that his son was considering running for president. Grant was elected in 1868, and would surely have known before that year whether he was going to run or not. I figure that dated the plaster work to 1866 or 1867, so that pretty-well authenticated the old story about the age of the home.

A few years later, my mother received a small inheritance from her father and chose to use it to replace the decrepit rear ell of the old house. My wife and I helped her tear down the rear ell to save money that would have been spent on demolition, thus freeing more money for the rebuild. That was when I learned that all the framing was yellow pine, NOT white pine, as I had suspected. It seemed to be about an even mix of Virginia and Shortleaf Pines, which I deduced by looking at the bark. Since an old drawing shows most of this area as still being woods in 1871, I’d guess that the house was built with timber taken from the farm as it was cleared. So much for white pines and white oaks! Yellow pine was often considered an indicator of poor soil, so the farm may not have been considered a prize in its early days. It may also have meant that the hilltop flats were part of the areas burned off by the Indians in the distant past.

Another thing I noticed was that there was absolutely no bark-beetle activity under those pieces of bark which still clung to the corners of a few beams. That meant the timber had been cut AFTER the first heavy frost of the year, which would have killed off that year’s beetles. Remember that the house was supposed to have been started one year and finished the next? Well, it was pretty unlikely they would have done much plastering after frost, for fear of their plaster freezing before it dried. So it WAS, no doubt, started one year and finished the next. A couple places Where the post and beam connections had failed, showed that yellow pine, regardless of how perfectly the mortises and tennons were cut, was not adequate for use in sizes as small as 4x6 inches. That leads me to think that the carpenter was used to working with oak, which MIGHT have worked, even at that small size.

A very elderly cousin had insisted one time that she could remember when the back was built on the house. That would have made it during the First World War or so, and I knew better; but why argue with your elders? When I tore down one wall of the ell, I found that the main floor beam on that side was a hand-hewn piece of chestnut, not sawn oak like all the other main floor beams in the house. What that told me was that my granddad had some of his rig-builders repair that part of the house when he bought it many years ago. They were accustomed to hewing out the base timbers they needed, rather than buying sawn timbers. I never told my cousin that she was merely remembering a repair; she might not have believed it anyway.

In the kitchen, the back room of the ell, the plaster showed some smoke staining beneath the wall-paper, which had been added many years later. When we ripped down the ceiling, so did the ceiling joists and the bottom of floorboards for the attic room. In that same room, a thimble for a stove pipe entered the chimney. The chimney was actually for the fireplace in the dining room on the other side of the wall (such an arrangement would be illegal today). The smoke stains on the ceiling joist were heaviest over the area near the thimble. Also, several square nails had been driven into the sides of the ceiling joists in that area, and even the tang from a broken file. My guess is that they got the kitchen walls plastered before cold weather and lived in that one room the first winter. The nails over the stove area would have been to hang their pots and pans on.

One other thing I learned at that time didn’t come from the house itself, but from a photo-copied page of some book or pamphlet. It told that a water-powered sawmill had been added to the gristmill already existent at the entrance of the next stream up Waddington Creek from the old house, about 15 years before the house was built. No doubt, the lumber for my boyhood home had been sawn only about a half-mile away and within sight of the back door. If you pay attention, and live long enough, you can learn a few things. © 2013
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Thursday, September 26, 2013

Thursday Thoughts

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I got a letter from my doctor a couple days ago. He says he’s no longer going to make rounds at the hospital anymore, but let their hospitaler take care of his patients, instead. I’m sure the hospital is pushing for more control (and therefore more money), but it will probably also let my doctor make more money with less bother. Of course, It’s really all just to “better serve his patients,” according to his letter. An interesting note – I can’t find any online reference to hospitalers, except for knights of old and Dungeons and Dragons, even though I’ve been hearing of them for five years. I even tried different spellings!
I got the lawn mowed Tuesday. The miniature fox-tail and fall-grass were so lush that the job looked clumpy, even though the grass felt perfectly dry when I mowed it. While mowing, I noticed that the confounded deer had climbed up against my rail fence to break down a couple of my Jerusalem artichokes and eat the leaves off the stalks. I hope those plants already have their tubers made for the year. I wish my wife would eat venison. We could thin the destructive devils and save grocery money, as well. Incidentally, the grammar check on my computer says I should have said that I MOVED my grass, rather than MOWED it. Are computer programs set up by complete idiots?

I need to cut a dead white oak in my front yard. I’ll make it into both logs and firewood. I’ll sell the firewood and saw the logs. I don’t have much more to do on my chainsaw sawmill base, so I’ll soon be able to put the metal on it and try it out. My first batch of lumber will go to build a small tool shed; probably 8x12.
I did a little scouting while my wife was window-shopping yesterday and found a place where I can dig some poke roots to start me a patch.

I heard yesterday that the IRS can only withhold your refund as a penalty for not having Obamacare, not come after you for the money. Currently, I don’t even have enough income to live on; I certainly won’t be getting any insurance. I guess I need to plan it so I have to pay a little income tax, rather than get any back. Maybe that dream I once had will come true! I once joked that I wanted to leave nothing behind when I croaked except an empty wallet and a letter to the IRS that starts out, “About that money I owe you…”
I got a letter from the sheriff in the mail today saying that the people whose mortgage I hold (from selling my old homeplace) are about to lose their house to a tax sale over a measly $283. Some people are SO irresponsible! They should know that you pay your bills first and THEN go buy lottery tickets! I’ll have to give them a phone call, I guess, and get them on the stick.

Another stink-bug just flew in the window as I typed the last paragraph. They seem to be pests everywhere around here this year. Watch out for them, they can give you a nasty chemical burn if you happen to pinch them inside an elbow or shirt collar.
We tried Burger King’s new “Satisfries” today. We were completely UN-satisfried. They seemed under-cooked and soggy. Maybe they just rushed them. I’ll give them another try before I swear them off for life, but I’m not going to hold my breath. Very few “new and improved” things are actually improved at all. It’s probably just a way to save on fry oil.

A lady from Pakistan wanted me to friend her on Facebook the other day. She shared some Christian friends that I already have, so I “friended” her. It turns out that she and her husband have a ministry there in Pakistan, so I’m sure she was planning to hit me up for funding. I wish I could help, but there’s no way to check on the legitimacy of the ministry, and I have no extra money anyway, being currently unemployed, so I let her know the latter very quickly. I can pray for her and her family and their ministry. That doesn’t cost anything!
Well, time to go outside and tinker a bit. Hope you folks have a pleasant day. © 2013
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Monday, September 23, 2013

Old Medicine Tins

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Well, I guess constipation COULD give you a head-ache! (Click image to enlarge.)

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Body By Fisher (a LONG time ago)

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This heavy little piece of metal is only about an inch by an inch-and-a-quarter. I can't be sure, but I suspect that it's all that remains of the eight-passenger Buick that belonged to my paternal grandparents. I found it up our main hollow where my granddad first set up our original sawmill, while Dad was still overseas during WWII. Granddad had bought the car new, to transport his wife and five kids, plus an occasional aunt or grandparent. He may have also used it sometimes to carry him and his tools to nearby well-sites in the oilfields, where he was a rig-building contractor, though he usually went by train.

I remember reading a letter he sent home where he was addressing the problem of a bad radiator on his farm truck that was used to deliver milk and get supplies. He told Grandma to have one of the relatives who lived with them to take the radiator off the Buick and put it on the truck. (This may have been early in the war.) Dad told me that when granddad set up the mill, he used a Buick straight-eight to power it. It didn't have much lugging power, so he made a big wooden flywheel like the band-wheel on an oil-rig, to try to even out the power flow, but it apparently didn't work too well.

The mill was long moved to a different site, and the remnants of the rotting wooden flywheel were laying on the ground between some young sycamore trees in the pasture, when I found this in the 1970's. It was attached to a rotted piece of wood and had a layer of rust between itself and the wood, showing that it had once been mounted over a piece of sheet metal. The straight-eight came out in 1931, I believe, and they probably still used wooden body framing then, so I'm thinking this was probably off the old family car. Some things, I can only guess about.

Here's the old tool shed they built for the mill. The little metal plate was found just behind it, where you see the young sycamores. This was one of several of my favorite spots on the farm. This photo was probably taken in the 70's or 80's. An older cousin has a house there now.

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Saturday, September 21, 2013

Marital Problems

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A young couple a few doors down is going through some problems, and since they never read my blog that I know of, I think it’s safe for me to spout off a bit.

Let’s be honest, if we’re married, we’ve had ‘em (or will). The first thing couples usually start fighting about is money. In fact most first divorces are over money. Besides having different priorities with money, a couple often simply doesn’t have enough to go around when they’re first married. I was married once before many years ago. We divorced over money. I was completely nonchalant about it (though I was a very hard worker) and she was completely obsessed (but was a hard worker, too). It was kind of hard to make those two extremes meet in the middle.

My second wife and I are much more versatile; we can fuss about ANYTHING! Still, for the first few years of our marriage, most of our fights were over her son. She was an over-protective and overly controlling widow when I married her, and I understand much of what made her that way. Surprisingly to some, it was usually ME trying to get HER to ease up on the kid! I told her on more than one occasion that if she DIDN’T ease up on him, that he would eventually walk out the door and never look back. And that’s basically what he’s done. I can’t exactly blame him, but he’s cheating himself now, just like she cheated him then.

It should come as no surprise then that fighting over STEPCHILDREN is the cause of most SECOND divorces. Most folks are overly protective of their own children and overly critical of the spouse’s kids. Another surprisingly common, though seldom mentioned situation, though, is where one spouse wants the other to love and support and take responsibility for his or her children, but thinks the spouse should then have no say in the raising of those kids. That’s not only unfair, but unrealistic.

Simply living under the same roof makes those children that spouse’s business. If that spouse learns to love that child as his or her own, being separated from any decision-making about the child is doubly unfair. And certainly, if a spouse helps to financially support a child, they should automatically have some say in that child’s welfare.

What most parents refuse to consider, is that they took a vow before God to love and honor their spouse and stay together for life. The only exceptions that God allows for divorce is adultery, and having an unsaved spouse who doesn’t want you. Understand: you are not married to your children! Yes, you should love them and take good care of them, but God designed them to grow up and move out. Don’t wreck your marriage fussing over control issues or everyone will suffer, including the children.


Most people, even Christians, refuse to accept this, But God comes first, your SPOUSE comes next, and your children come THIRD. Everything else just has to be sifted out by circumstances. If you’re currently having any such problems right now, please give it a lot of thought and a WHOLE LOT OF PRAYER. © 2013
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Friday, September 20, 2013

Everything They Needed

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A couple days ago, I was walking out back of the Chinese Emporium on the south edge of town, while my wife walked inside. I think I’ve explained before that while she enjoys window-shopping, many times, she just goes for the exercise. The trouble she has with her feet makes it easier if she has a cart to lean on. I chose to get my exercise outside, weather permitting, while she patrols the aisles inside.

At the end of the country lane where I walked that day, were a couple small trees about 30 feet tall. From a distance, I thought they were a white oak and a hickory. Being a warmer day than I had originally thought, I decided to stand a few minutes in their shade to cool off. Getting closer, I was a bit intrigued to see that the first was, indeed,  in the white oak family, but the second was in the red oak family, rather than being a hickory. The red oak leaves weren’t immediately recognizable to me, in part due to a lot of insect damage, but mainly due to the fact that the leaves were much wider, and the lobes much shorter than I was accustomed to seeing on a red oak. Despite having a more scaly bark than I was used to seeing on a red oak, I finally decided that it was a Northern Red Oak that just happened to have a strangely-shaped leaf. The tree appeared old and stunted, completely unlike the forest giants of that species that I have cut on occasions past.

Turning my attention to the white oak, I was trying to remember where I’d last seen that particular type of leaf. Then I remembered the large Swamp White Oak that stood on the brink of the ridge above my grandparent’s house in the valley below. It was 200 yards and 150 vertical feet from any swamp, but it was a fine specimen of its species. Both of the trees I was looking at should have been perfectly at home where they were, the land was low and averaged a bit moist, but they were on the edge of a drain for the area, and the pasture nearby seemed rich enough, soil-wise.

I really couldn’t see any reason for their stunted appearance, but their condition was obvious with their rougher than average bark, short stature and dead limbs interspersed with live ones. The Swamp White Oak showed a bit of weathered wood on one side of the trunk; maybe lightning had added to its troubles at some point. It also had a fair amount of epicormic sprouting, usually caused either from being suddenly exposed to more sunlight than which it was accustomed, or as an effort to add leaves to help it survive stress. I don’t believe the problem was the former.

After living much of my life in the woods, I’ve learned that trees (and maybe ALL things) have some traits in common with man. Some grow upright, and some are twisted. Some grow tall, and some stay relatively short. Some grow to have wide trunks, while others stay thin. Some live to be very old, but some die young. And some flourish under terribly bad growing conditions while others fail under even with the very best of habitats.

Both trees should have flourished in their location, but neither did. Some people are the same way, and there’s no understanding them either. © 2013
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My "Pocket Shovel"

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Yep, there's a "shovel" inside that black "heavy duty" nylon sheath. Well, it's more of an over-sized garden trowel, but it will serve MY purposes perfectly. Like the current military issue entrenching tool, it folds in two places. Unlike the GI issued model, it's only 18' tall, not 23', but that's okay. It WAS, after all, concealabilty that I was seeking most, and this fits in the hip pocket of my jeans, AND it fits perfectly in an inside  pocket of the the military shoulder-bag that I sometimes carry when outdoors. I'm sorry to say that it was made in Communist China, but so was every other model I looked at, and the others were not as easily hidden on your person. Plus, some were much more than the $11 that I paid for this one. I had to order it online from the Chinese Emporium, here's the item page if anyone is interested:

http://www.walmart.com/ip/Micro-Tri-Folding-Shovel/10957689
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Thursday, September 19, 2013

Clueless

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I think folks who grow up on farms are pretty aware of what goes on around them. They have to be; there’s too many ways to get hurt on a farm if you don’t pay attention. Plus, there are so many ways for your pets and livestock to get hurt and your equipment damaged. Besides, there’s so much to see and hear there, what normal person WOULDN’T want to keep their eyes and ears open? Of course if you fish or hunt, that awareness is taken to a whole new level. You watch for shadows in the water, try to read the current to predict how a bait or fly might drift, and watch for the little circles that tell you when a fish is nibbling your bait. You listen for the sound of walking deer or foraging squirrels or turkeys. And, you watch for the flip of a deer’s ear or tail, or for the same actions of the much smaller squirrels. Still, even city kids used to be at least somewhat aware of their surroundings. They were taught to watch and listen for traffic, they knew the sound of the ice cream truck, or the factory whistle that signaled that their dad would soon be home for work. Not so, today’s kids.

The other day, my wife and I were tooling along on a back road near the river when we overtook a young woman of about 20 years of age on a bicycle. She was pedaling along wearing ears-buds, no doubt listening to whatever music moved or motivated her. No–one was coming from the other direction, so I pulled into the far lane to give her plenty of room as I passed. She looked a bit scared as I went by and swerved off the road slightly. In my rearview mirror, I could see that she just as quickly swerved back onto the pavement and right into the path of the car behind us. Only good reflexes on the part of the other driver kept the girl from ending up as just another grease-spot on the pavement. Watching as best I could in the mirror, I saw no evidence that she ever considered taking out her ear-buds so that she could hear the traffic around her.

Later that same evening, we watched a teenage boy pick his way through three lanes of heavy traffic while still trying to keep an eye on his cell phone. He saw that the three lanes of traffic going our way were too heavy to cross yet, so he stood there in the suicide lane (turn lane) in the center of the street texting, as he waited for a space to open up, so he could amble between the cars.

Understand, these are not unusual happenings; I see such things every day. For instance, I wish I had a dollar for every time I’ve seen some young person (and even some grey-headed folks) jogging down the sidewalk wearing their earbuds, who would never even glance to see if any cars are coming before they dashed out into a cross-street. I could probably pay my next month’s utility bills! I’ve witnessed several dangerously close encounters with that scenario.

I realize that most parents today absolutely do not teach their kids ANYTHING, but after a certain age, that’s no excuse. We’re all responsible for our own safety. If we refuse to accept that responsibility, some of us will leave this life prematurely; it happens every day. © 2013
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Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Getting Home

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Living in hill country has both advantages and disadvantages, like living anywhere I guess. One nice thing, in the summer-time, is the cool forest canopy above your head in many places as you traverse the winding roads that lead toward home. Those same trees that make up the welcome summer canopy have blooms or buds in spring that let you know winter is finally over. In fall, they turn colors from light yellow to burgundy, telling you that the heat of summer is past, but warning you of the winter to come. The trees are a large part of why I like life in the country.

Through no fault of their own, though, the trees that I love so dearly can also become obstacles to my getting to town or returning home. A bad wind-storm (Remember when they called them that?), lightning or a heavy snow can lay those trees across the roadways, blocking them to safe passage. I HAVE run over a small tree or two in my time, but I don’t normally advise it. The situation worsens if I’m at work and my wife and dog are home with no electric. My wife’s body doesn’t regulate its temperature properly, so the times when she needs air-conditioning or a working furnace are particularly worrisome. At those times, I’ll do whatever it takes to get home as soon as possible after work (not a problem at the moment, since I’m still unemployed).

As a result, I used to always keep an axe, a chainsaw (with gas, oil and wrench), and a small pruning saw in the truck year ‘round. A 20 foot length of log-chain rounded out my equipment. The pruning saw was for small limbs that were unavoidable and would scratch the paint. The axe was for slightly larger work. The chainsaw, obviously, was for trees that were beyond my enthusiasm with an axe. I’ve chopped through some big stuff in my time, but usually only to get a chainsaw unstuck. (I used to work in timber, after all!) I had places to hook a chain on either end of my truck, so the log chain came in handy a few times when I had to pull the logs I’d bucked out of the road. I often carried a cant-hook, too, so that was another option. Wedges and a heavy hammer helped to reduce the likelihood of a stuck saw scenario.

Trees aren’t the only thing that can keep you from getting home, though. I’ve driven through 12 inches of snow on more than one occasion to get home to my wife and dog. That was without tire-chains. After floundering through 20 inches of snow to get TO town one time when our juice was off in freezing weather, I invested in a set. Even four-wheel drive will only get you so far without decent traction. When I got this truck, I got two sets of chains for it, so I can have them on every tire if I ever need them. I haven’t yet used them in the seven years I’ve had them, but they stay in the truck year ‘round. You never know when you could get forced off the road into the mud, either.

Along with chains, I carry my spare tire under the hard, lockable tonneau, rather than under the truck. Have you ever tried to get a spare from under a truck when it’s a rear tire that’s flat and the road berm has a hump in it? I also carry a round-point shovel and a garden rake year ‘round and an aluminum grain scoop in winter for snow. I’ve used them all at one time or another. And also, be sure you know how to change a flat ON THE CAR YOU’RE DRIVING; they vary some in jack placement.

I also carry a small toolbox full of tools, a large flashlight with rechargeable battery, an extra truck battery, a jump-starter box (basically another battery) and a set of jumper cables. Since the truck is fairly new still, I don’t carry anti-freeze mix and oil, but I should. The extra battery and such is mostly for other folks, but they’re there if I need them. Incidentally, I also keep a Woodsman’s Pal and a billhook or fascine knife in the truck also. As you can see, I plan on getting home, one way or another! © 2013
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Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Slight Prepping Progress

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I finally found my knife box in the basement and put my “knife collection” back where it belonged. That freed up the large ammo box I had been keeping them in temporarily, so I can now use it to put some emergencies items in the truck. I gathered up several things like matches, a magnifying glass, four-way spigot wrench, multi-tool, pen-knife, etc. and put in it, but there’s a lot more stuff I need to add. I think it will fit behind the rear seat okay. I also ordered a folding shovel from the Chinese Emporium, of all places, to serve as my “stealth foraging shovel.” There should be room for it, my pistol and a goodly bunch of roots in a three-compartment military shoulder bag I have. Some places, I’d hesitate to take the pistol, so I’ll have to depend on my cane as a weapon if need be, I guess.
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Sunday, September 15, 2013

Aggravated

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It’s nothing new; I get aggravated a lot. My blog name should indicate that. My wife wanted to go to the Chinese Emporium again today, so I’m sitting in the parking lot typing this. In fairness to my wife, her visits aren’t strictly because of being a shopaholic. She tries to walk for her health’s sake, but the weather doesn’t always co-operate. Also, she has a lot of foot problems and arthritis these days. As a result, she does better if she has a shopping cart to hang onto. Thus, she does a lot of her walking at the Chinese Emporium. Some days, she buys nothing at all, though other days she buys too much. Of course none of that is aggravating since it’s always good to keep the little woman happy.

My aggravation actually started last night when I looked online and found that Dunham’s Sports, one of which is located nearby, apparently doesn’t stock the little tri-fold camping shovels like I used to have. The Chinese Emporium has several that I can order and pick up at the store, but that usually means that they don’t stock it. So, today I decided to go in and see.

I made it all the way back to the sporting goods section without the roof falling in, so I figured that might be a good sign. Unfortunately, there was no camping shovel of ANY kind to be found. I realize that “camping” isn’t what it used to be, but to have no shovel at all in the camping section seemed foolish. After all, not EVERYONE “camps” in parks on gravel pads with a restroom a stone’s throw away. Furthermore, there ain’t no port-a-johns in the wilderness, and this cowboy ain’t about to go packin’ out poop! It seems to me there must SURELY still be some market for camping shovels.

On the way out (I don’t linger long in such places), I thought I’d check the lawn and garden area, just in case they might stock them there. Nope, but they DO have some cute little miniature shovels, probably made in Pennsylvania by Mexican labor. I’ve already got two of those, though, that I put together myself before the Ames/True-Temper’s plant here closed and sent most of the work to China (with a small amount going to the Pennsylvania plant that I just alluded to).

As one last act of interest, I saw some Fiskar tools and went over to look. They had a nice selection of what APPEARED to be quality tools, but they all had plastic handles and EVERY LAST ONE was made in China! Now I’m old enough to remember when Fiskar tools were still made in Finland and were made of only the highest quality Finnish steel, PLUS had honest-to-goodness WOODEN handles. THAT was disappointing, though I’d noticed that they’d been gradually switching production to China. Apparently ALL their production is there now, at least everything THAT store carries.

At home, I have an American-made army-issue entrenching shovel, dated 1945, that’s seen a lot of use. It has a longer handle than I want, but I guess it will have to do for my foraging work for now. © 2013
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Update On My "Wee Bimble"

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Just for the record, I checked a lot of places online and all say that Jeusalem artichoke has HAIRY stems. Therefore, the clump of weeds that I had high hopes for yesterday are simply asters that LOOK like Jerusalem artichokes. Drat!
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Saturday, September 14, 2013

A Wee Bimble Around A Waste Spot

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My wife went window-shopping again today. I found a patch of shade a few feet up a slightly overgrown access road to a power substation and settled in for a bit of eye rest. Not being far from the edge of the parking lot at the local mall, sleep was out of the question, but that was okay. Every couple minutes or so, I’d hear a car slow down, so I’d open my eyes to see them gawking at me as if to determine if I was alive or dead. Finally, after easing by three times, the security guard actually stopped his vehicle, got out, and started walking toward my truck. I said hello in a cheery and polite way and he said he was just checking to see if I was okay. I assured him that I was just waiting for my wife to call me and tell me to pick her up at the door. He laughed and wished me well, then went on his way. I suppose folks are concerned about heart attacks and drug over-doses these days, but it was clear that if I’d honestly wanted to nap in my truck, I would have needed to hide somewhere.

After picking up my wife and delivering her to the Chinese Emporium next door (aka “Wally-World), I found a parking spot under a small ornamental pear tree near a triangular waste area between those two beacons of Oriental prosperity. Putting on a camo cap and getting Ol’ Possum Knocker out of the back of the truck, I set off to walk the perimeter of triangle in search of wild edibles. The first leg was along the edge of the parking lot and I seemed to draw more attention than I cared for. (Note to self – use Great Granddad’s cane next time, it’ll draw less attention than a man-sized walking stick. Most city-slickers have probably never seen such a thing.) There were a few cattails along that leg of the triangle, but I wouldn’t trust the sludge they were growing in, as far as digging roots. The heads should be safe to eat when at the right stage, though. It’s been a long time since I’ve had any but, with butter, they reminded me of a cross between corn-on-the-cob and asparagus. The point of the triangle was actually truncated a bit, and along that edge was a nice stand of cattails, guarded by impenetrable poison-ivy standing about three feet tall. They’re safe from any efforts on my part!

About halfway along the second leg of the triangle, I came across a small stand of what appears to be native Jerusalem artichokes. They obviously weren’t wingstem, but they COULD have been asters. They seemed to check out as ‘chokes when I looked online a few minutes later, but I wouldn’t know for sure without checking for tubers. I noticed that they didn’t appear to be hairy-stemmed like the tame variety I planted this year, so maybe I can look online a little more to see what I can learn. I wish now that I hadn’t given away that little folding camper’s shovel a few years ago. It would be perfect for “stealth foraging.”

The third leg of the triangle was the railroad tracks along the river. NOTHING is safe to eat along a railroad, due to wholesale spraying. However, I did find a railroad spike lying along the edge of the ballast and cabbaged it for possible knife-making. A little rise near that leg of the triangle makes me think there may have been a home there at one time, since I remember daffodils blooming there this spring. A huge maple there indicates the high ground was natural and not the result of grading in the last few decades. I’ve seen homeless guys and teenagers sitting in its shade in during the summer, though not at the same time. If there WAS an old home there at one time, it should be a good location for a guy with a metal detector.

The whole circuit was no more than a half-mile, so I was soon at the truck again. I wouldn’t call the experience extremely productive, but enough so that I’ll put notes and a drawing in my foraging notebook. Maybe I can check the weeds for tubers after frost, and watch the cattails for heads next spring.

Incidentally, I read on another blog that there’s a little piece of edible material at the bottom of a thistle bloom. I guess that shouldn’t be surprising, when you consider that true artichokes are a type of thistle. I tried one and found it very small and rather tasteless, but hey, if you’re hungry, I’m sure it would be welcome. You better figure on wearing gloves when you pick them, though.

Another day—another lesson about God’s creation. © 2013
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Thursday, September 12, 2013

Nothing Important

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A soft maple in my side yard is already turning color and shedding leaves. My Jerusalem artichokes are blooming and my lonely hill of potatoes is fading fast. I’m seeing through the woods easier than a month ago, so that means fall’s a-comin’.

Today, at their request, I re-applied and sat through an interview at the company where I don’t want to work. 12 hour shifts would be horribly hard on a 58-year-old blubber-butt. I’m hoping the woman who interviewed me will have sense enough not to hire me, but I shudder to say that the interview seemed to go very well. I’m even going to be a gentleman and send her a “thank you” card for the interview, though I may be cutting my own throat by doing so.

The other evening, my wife and I were watching one of those “reality shows” about Amish kids making their escape. We cracked up when one valley-girl type “Amish” girl professed to have no idea what butter milk was. Yeah, that’s reality alright!

I don’t know about you, but I have more respect for Putin these days than for Obama, and Putin should be shot. Sorta gives you a clue where Obama stands with me, I guess.

It’s much cooler here tonight, after a couple small thunderstorms today. They SAY it’s supposed to stay this way a while. I hope they’re right.

We’ve been trying to sell a few things in our local buy-sell-trade paper, but so far, we’ve just been getting folks that are so “unserious” that they shouldn’t even waste their own time by calling, let alone ours. I guess it’s just a form of entertainment for them.

I saw where they recalled a couple anti-gun state senators in Colorado. We need recall here in West Virginia; so far, it’s only for cities here, and maybe only for those which have chosen to have it.

Gotta go, but I’m sure you’ll be waiting with bated breath for my next exciting installment. © 2013
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Monday, September 9, 2013

DOUBLE-HEADER – Toilet Paper Goes To Pot AND Buying Foreign Crap!

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I thought that might catch your attention. Now that you’re here, I want to gripe about toilet paper first. It sure beat corncobs and last year’s mail-order catalogs when it first came out. Unfortunately, once it got to be popular, the suits at the paper companies started looking for ways to make it cheaper and increase the bottom line. The near uselessness of such products have been the butt of many jokes as the quality continues to go down the drain.

A few years ago, Charmin came out with a type of toilet paper that had Vitamin E and aloe in it. It became hugely popular with those who have hemorrhoids or other sensitivity problems that they wish to put behind them. A couple times, they actually made slight changes that improved the product. However, no perfect product can be left alone. Research and development departments have to make changes just for the sake of convincing the big wigs that they’re doing something. Corporate heads have to make sure that in the end, a higher and higher rate of return passes through to the stock-holder. So, Charmin’s once-excellent product is approaching near uselessness again. Apparently, what extra profit they can’t tweak by reducing quality, they decided to get by decreasing quantity. The last package of their product contains rolls that measure about a half-inch shorter than last week’s supply. I reckon they figure that we don’t have eyes back there, so we won’t notice. Considering how crappy their product is becoming, I guess it’s only fitting where it ends up.

My wife is a bit of an impulse shopper, so anytime something says “new,” it’s liable to end up in her cart. And so it was with an item for the dog that she recently got. It was shaped like a squirrel and looked like one of those things molded from ground rawhide. There was an American flag displayed prominently on the front of the package, and even through her slight cataract, she could see the letters “USA,” so she figured it was safe. When she got it home and I looked at it, the “RUFFWOOD” squirrel by “SMARTPAW” said “materials made in USA.” I knew THAT couldn’t be good, so I looked a little further. Elsewhere, it said that the WOOD FIBER and SYNTHEIC materials in it came from the USA and it was made to replace the sticks that dogs so love. Okay, I now knew that we had a squirrel-shaped piece of chipboard made from American wood fibers and an unspecified synthetic material, NOT a doggy chew. I guess it must have been for playing catch or something. After a little more scrutinizing of the package, I found a line of tiny print ALMOST at the bottom of the printed info that said “Made in China.” After all the poor dogs and cats that have died from eating Chinese pet treats and pet food, we weren’t about to let her play with it. We DID give it to her a few seconds to see her reaction. She looked at us in what appeared to be utter amazement, as if she was wondering if we’d completely lost our marbles.

I just happened to check the “Simply Orange” orange juice in the fridge and it said “produced for Simply Orange Juice Company, Apopka, FL. That sounded suspicious. I went online and found out that they either use straight USA juice or MIX IT with juice from Brazil. You can find out which by looking at the line below the “use by” date. They probably don’t want to bring attention to the fact that SOME of their juice is foreign. REMEMBER FOLKS – if it’s REALLY made in the United States, they normally say so directly. Simply Orange wasn’t telling a lie; they were just trying to avoid the whole issue.

Here’s something different, but related. I looked on the bottom of lean ground beef my wife brought home and in tiny print on the bottom of the package, it said “natural flavors added.” That probably means that it was shot full of salt brine. However, with aspartame now being renamed “Amino Sweet,” and called a “natural” sweetener, only the Lord and the meat packer really know what’s in there! © 2013
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Sunday, September 8, 2013

Another Day, Another Walmart

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Hanging out at Walmart is a form of entertainment for those who are really poor, or really bored I guess. Since we’re a bit of both, now that I’m not working, my wife wants to go there quite often anymore. As for me, I don’t bore too easily; I could sit on a stump and watch two pissants fight and be entertained. Still, I have to make allowances for those less eclectic in their interests, so here I sit. It was a little too hot to stay in the truck, so I brought my laptop into the restaurant located inside the front door. I discovered on the drive here that the air-conditioner needs recharged in my truck. It’s out of warranty by two years and 60,000 miles, so it’s time for it to start falling apart I reckon.

A guy was supposed to call about meeting me here to buy the last of my coins. Unfortunately, my phone is at home on my desk from where he called before and I forgot to put it back in my jeans. Better luck next time, I guess. I’m not sure he would have showed up anyway. He struck me as a lonely soul just wanting someone to talk to. It’s a good thing the Lord doesn’t let us see into the future, or a lot of folks would end their days early. Getting old is for the birds, getting old with no-one around who cares about you—doubly so.

Speaking of old, I can’t stand rap. It ain’t music in my book; it’s rude, crude, lewd attitude with a beat. If you listen to the words, it’s soon obvious that anyone who’s into mainstream rap is nothing but a low-life, pathological piece of trash. That being said, I was sitting in the truck the other day, waiting for my wife to get done window-shopping in the craft store, when a car pulled by me and into the space in front of me. The rap was almost rattling my windows as he sat there, so I got out to ask him if he could turn it down a little, and was shocked that it was a white-headed old man that was playing the racket. Perhaps my disgust was reflected in my voice, for his answer was “no, I CAN”T.” A few minutes later, a lawn service guy started mowing the patch of grass beside us, so I moved half-way across the parking lot to keep from getting doubly deafened. Wouldn’t you know that the old codger started driving by my new location and cranking his radio (stereo?) up as he passed. He may not have had the right music for his age, but he certainly had the right attitude for his music! I guess we all handling aging differently.

Speaking of silly old men, another interesting scene transpired in that same location about five years ago. A little red MG or Triumph convertible whisked into a slot in the next row and two grey-headed old geezers started trying to slide their legs rearward and their butts upward to exit the car without opening the doors. Their awkwardness, and obvious stiffness, made it nearly impossible for me to remain quiet, but I stifled my laughter and kept watching. The driver was a string-bean, and the passenger was a bit heavy, giving a Laurel and Hardy appearance to the comedy. I don’t believe I ever saw two people take as long to extricate themselves from an automobile. A few minutes later, they returned and repeated the process in reverse. THAT took even longer. Whether the doors didn’t work, or whether they were trying to relive a time that they could blithely slip in and out of a convertible, I don’t know, but it sure made for a fun time for me!

LATER – On the trip home, it was 90 degrees in the north end of town; half-a-mile into the country it had dropped to 86. I forgot to check what it was when we got home, but I have seen it as much as 11 degrees cooler out here in the boonies. Incidentally, Mr. Lonely hadn’t called about the coins; I hope he had some Sunday company. © 2013
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Sell - Keep - Sell

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That's what I'm going to do with the three penknives below that I took from my desk drawer while cleaning it out recently. The Top one was my great grandfather's. From bolster to tip, it's about 2-1/2 inches with an overall length of about 5-3/4 inches. You can judge the size of the others by that. It says "A.W. WADSWORTH & SON GERMANY" on the blade. He died in 1927, and the knife shows some use, so it's been around a while.

The one below was his, too. It started as a mystery to me, as both blades were nearly as thin on the spine as the edge. They DID gradually thicken as they went back toward the bolster, but there were no square shoulders on the spine, either; it was rounded all the way back on both blades. The blades were exceedingly rusty, I'm guessing from being carried in sweaty pants pockets. The large blade had the letters "ROBE" followed by a rusted-out spot, and some script below that which appeared to be Skur" followed by the same rust spot. I tried various name combinations online beginning with those letters, but nothing came up. I was positive the blades hadn't worn that way, but couldn't think at first why they would be made that way. Eventually, I remembered that he supposedly had a green thumb, and at his death, was living with my granddad, who had an orchard. I decided that it was probably made for bud grafting. Modern bud-grafting knives have a very different blade, but SOME have a second "Bark-lifting" blade. Mystery solved; it was an old-style blade designed to serve both purposes. I felt like a regular Sherlock Holmes!

A 24-hour soak in pure vinegar removed the rust, but left the blades stained the same as if they'd been soaking in logwood crystals (not surprisingly). The solid brass handle slabs had originally had a golden-colored metal-flake lacquer on them, but the vinegar removed that, too. You'll notice that the bolsters are simply cast as part of the slabs. Since I've thought of attempting to graft again (the deer got my first efforts years ago), I think I'll keep this knife. I WILL polish the blades a bit, though.

The bottom knife belonged to my granddad, the son of the other knife owner. I suspect it was his "Sunday-go-to-meetin' knife," but I'm not sure. It's called a "congress-style" knife, I believe, and was made by Boker. It's as solid as a rock, but I simply don't need it. So, I guess I'll advertise it and the top one in the local "buy-sell-trade" paper and see if anyone will pay anything decent for them. Let me know if any of YOU folks are interested. © 2013

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Saturday, September 7, 2013

Odd Thoughts From An Odd Duck

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No, I’m not proposing that we attack Syria with half-filled bottles of Kool-Aid or anything, I just mean that I’m posting some random thoughts from yours truly (and some folks DO think I’m a trifle odd). I originally had “fellow” in the title but changed it to “duck,” so no-one would hold my words against some innocent secret society.

In my semi-theoretical quest for wild edibles, today I took a slow cruise around the perimeter of the Walmart/Lowes parking lot in a nearby city behind enemy lines (the state line). It appears to be an utter wasteland. A highway lines the front, a golf course lines another side, a vast field of golden rod lines the back, and a field of GMO corn lines the last side. Being in enemy territory, I’d have to be pretty desperate to forage here anyway. There was a small section of lowland forest in the golden rod where one might take advantage of the edge habitat to trap some wild critters. My short stint as a trapper many years ago taught me that not every place that appears barren is actually so. Still, there’s nothing quick and easy here.

I rarely come here anyway, preferring to spend my money locally, but my wife came here looking for a few decent tomatoes, since our local Walmart stocks mostly inedible crap. We’ve noticed that Walmart sends their good stuff here, and their crap to West Virginia, though the price is the same both places. West Virginia has ALWAYS been sh_t on by most folks, so I guess we’re used to it, but it’s still aggravating. Personally, I’d find a local source or do without, rather than drive up here and reward them with our business. She has to spend her own money if she wants them, if that shows you how I feel about the matter.

Forced frugality has had some interesting consequences. My wife IS finally getting the slightest idea that what you spend for burgers and fries is no longer available for milk and bread later. I guess I let her be too spoiled for too long. She absolutely HATES to cook anymore, which is sort of ironic since she’s a GREAT cook. We eat more microwave meals than is good but, still, she HAS been cooking a LITTLE more since our most recent round of poverty has occurred. Using up what you have before buying more has become more important. The other day, I smelled something sort of familiar, yet different, cooking for lunch. It turned out that she had some pepperoni and spaghetti sauce, but no crust or mozzarella. So, she used some parmesan cheese and crescent rolls from a can. It made for rather rich little mini pizzas with that sweet crust. They were okay, but she said she wouldn’t do it again!

I notice that I’ve rediscovered peanut-butter and crackers for snacks, plus butter sandwiches—two of my staples when I was a kid. I remember going back to the apartment from the farm one day many years ago, when I lived in town, and being a bit hungry. So, I sat down in front of the TV with a stack of saltines and a jar of peanut-butter and ate the whole stack before I realized that my glass of milk was still sitting on the kitchen table. I must either have been really hungry or it was a fascinating TV show is all I can figure! That same time period, I was at Kroger’s after work one day, picking up a pound of bologna and a loaf of bread, while the welfare queen in front of me had one cart full of meat and one of junk food, with a third full of mixed items. It sort of made me wonder why I was working.

We got all the bills paid up yesterday, and aren’t behind on anything, so we’re doing better than a lot of folks. The little woman fixed BLT’s for supper tonight—simple fare, but fine by me. The only thing that might have made them even better would have been to add a fried egg, but I wasn’t stupid enough to say anything to her!

My stepson and his new bride are having a “bash” tonight in place of a wedding reception. They sort of ran off with his kid and hers and got married in Florida, so no-one was there to have a reception WITH. They’re good kids; I hope they have long and happy lives together. I think they BOTH got a good catch this time around. (I know HE did anyway, and his mom is certain SHE did as well! Actually, she’s as pleased with the match as I am.) My wife and I aren’t “bash people,” so we aren’t going, but I hope they have a good time with their friends.

Saw another old man riding in a shiny new convertible today. I have to wonder why they still make convertibles since the seat-belt laws have come along. A roll-over in a convertible now is a death sentence. Before, you MIGHT have been thrown free.

I didn’t get anything accomplished today, but it was a pleasant day none-the-less. Old folks keep passing on, but young folks keep getting married, babies keep being born, and the earth keeps right on spinning. Grump as I may, the world is still a beautiful place and God is always good. Hope your day is good, too. © 2013
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Foraging Notebook

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Some hunters keep notebooks. So do some prospectors and trappers. Let's face it, the human mind can use a little reminding sometimes, especially as we get older. That's why I decided to start a forager's notebook. As you can see, I'm starting in the front with illustrations of areas that I'm sometimes around that have wild foods and such available, numbering them as I go. Not only will this remind me of places to look for food, but also transplants, when I want to add to my personal "garden." (We won't get into legalities here.) I used Google earth to have an image in front of me to make sketching easier but, obviously, you wouldn't have to.

Starting in the back, I'm putting one type of plant on each page and working forward, LETTERING each page. I'll only add plants as I actually find them. The numbers and letters will allow me to cross-reference. I can't keep them alphabetical, though, without using a loose-leaf binder, and I didn't want to do that. I got my wires crossed and used numbers for the plants at first, but I'll change that to strictly letters, so the plant ID and the page they're on correspond. Just thought I'd throw the idea out there in case anyone's interested. Click the image to enlarge it. (I haven't labeled the illustration yet, to protect MY privacy and the landowners.)



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A Little Outside Time

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While letting the dog sniff and drain at 5AM yesterday, I noticed Orion had lazily arisen in the eastern sky. I had to check the computer when I went back inside to be sure it was him. I’ve never been much of one to keep track of the constellations, but am more the type that just stares at the night sky as a whole with a sense of wonderment. I can’t see a lot of sky at my house—basically just up and east. I’m too hemmed in on the other three sides by my precious trees. On the hill where I was raised, you could take a few steps away from the house and see most of the sky from horizon to horizon. I miss that sometimes. I always looked for Ursa Major and Ursa Minor back then. With a tree-line only 30 feet from my house on the north side, I only see those old bruins in the dead of winter, after even the white oaks have shed most of their leaves.

It was cool that visit outside. The cicadas had gotten chilly enough that they’d quit their monotonous singing, and the crickets had slowed considerably. I used to be able to tell the temperature by the crickets, but that’s one more thing that’s slipped my mind from disuse. I thought I heard an owl in the far distance. If it was, it was the first time in 3-4 months. I haven’t heard any whippoorwills for quite a while, either; maybe they only sing when they’re raising their young. Waiting on the pooch, I remembered the days at the farm, when I would have taken my wiz in the darkness along with the dog. At this house, there’s always the danger of someone turning around in the driveway while I’m in midstream. Best to play it safe!

I took her out again at 8:30, since she showed signs of needing to answer nature’s call again. I didn’t hear any crickets then, but a couple neighbor’s dogs were yapping and two roosters were crowing in the distance, but from opposite directions. A pair of tufted-titmice near the back of the house was carrying on like a couple fussy old married folks. The pooch stood and listened to them for a couple minutes, before returning to her sniffing and marking routine. Somewhere in the distance, some cattle were bawling at a place where there aren’t supposed to be any cattle. I reckon someone has some “cow-punching” and fence-fixing to do.

It was 7PM before I really paid much attention to my surroundings again during an outing. That visit outside was to tinker a bit, though. I never have finished my sawmill base, so I thought I’d go drive a few spikes. I’m out of shape and out of practice, so between that, sweat on my glasses, the fading light and working bent-over, I was occasionally missing the heads of the 16’s I was driving in the soft pine and leaving those tell-tale crescents so indicative of an amateur. (You construction-types just keep your trap shut!) I recalled the times nearly four decades ago when the ornery old gentleman across the road came over when I’d had a long, tiring day of building on my house. Trying to stifle a grin, he’d ask “What’s this click-click-thump – click-click-thump that I keep hearing?” I always told him that I was just trying to see if I “scare” nails into the wood by hitting real close to them.


It sounded for all the world like a bear squalling back in the woods while I was out that time. I finally decided it might be a neighbor in that direction having problems with his electric saw binding in the cut. While I don’t want to think of anyone getting hurt by a kick-back, I’d also hate to think of a bear being that uncomfortable, too. After driving spikes a few minutes, I noticed that I’d scraped the thin old skin on my hammer hand on something and was bleeding on my work. I took that (and the mosquito that kept buzzing in my ear) as a sign, put my tools away, went inside and washed my hands, then settled down with the wife and the dog to watch the idiot box for a little while. Hope your day was more exciting! © 2013
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Monday, September 2, 2013

The “Right-To-Work”

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Tomorrow, I’m basically being forced, by our state unemployment office, to apply for a job that usually runs 12-hour shifts, and often forces their workers to work more than 40 hours a week. That’s not so bad if you’re young. Many of the younger folks want and NEED the extra hours. However, it’s not so great if you’re like me—severely overweight and approaching 60 years old. Even eight hours of standing on concrete is too much for me to handle these days. My weight is my own fault; my age is something that I have no control over. If I don’t apply, I could lose my disgustingly inadequate unemployment benefits.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve worked all my life and wish to continue working, but I feel that I should have the right to decline at least SOME jobs that I know will further wreck my health. Unemployment is an INSURANCE that I and my employers have paid into, but the government acts like it’s some sort of welfare. Now, this is in a state that doesn’t have any “right-to-work” laws, and where unions still have at least a tiny bit of influence. IMAGINE what things would be like if such laws would pass in a state like this!

Proponents of such legislation like to point to the fact that states that have right-to-work have a lower rate of unemployment. I have to wonder if those same states might not have lower unemployment anyway. Plus, I’m curious just how many of those jobs are like the one that I’m being forced to apply for—low pay and forced long hours.

A lot of folks feel that it’s alright to let workers work in union shops without being union members. At one time, I may have felt likewise, since I was once rather anti-union. However, having been in a union for twelve years, when I worked at the factory, I’ve learned a few things along the way. The first is that any company that HAS a union, probably DESERVED a union, or they wouldn’t have gotten one. Union organizers have little luck with employees who think they are payed decently and treated well. Corrupt unions (and let’s face it, they’re ALL corrupt) are only made necessary by corrupt companies.

 Not everyone realizes, either, that right-to-work laws always force the union to represent the non-union workers, the same as if they were dues-paying members. No moral person, and certainly no Christian, can honestly think that is a proper situation, since the non-member gives neither moral nor financial support to the union, and would work as a scab if there was a strike. In fact, I believe that such laws could very easily lead to violence in the workplace.

Hundreds of men, women AND EVEN CHILDREN have literally DIED to bring us eight hour days and 40 hour weeks. They were murdered by government troops, company goons and armed guards. We are gradually giving those things up in the name of job security.  If you want to know more about the cost paid by our forefathers for decent workplaces, read the book “When Miners Marched.”

Also, the politicians and big corporations of this country have encouraged illegal immigration into this country for the very same reason that the large California farmers of John Steinbeck’s era deliberately encouraged Okies to move to California for non-existent jobs—TO DRIVE DOWN WAGES! If you support “right-to-work” legislation, you’re helping the millionaire class to further destroy the ability of the working class to support their families.

Slavery is slowly returning to this continent the way it is; it doesn’t need YOUR help! Please speak out AGIANST “right-to-work” legislation. © 2013
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