Sunday, December 30, 2012

A Charming Chap

About a week ago, I was driving up through nearby Salzburg on a rainy evening to get some gas at the edge of town. I choose to get my gas at BP stations, since the last I heard, they still carried American-made gasoline. The rain was fairly heavy, but still being just before Christmas, drivers were hurried, harried and careless. As a result, I ended up doing 25mph through the residential area, instead of the posted 35mph allowed, since people kept pulling out in front of me.

I’d no more than eased down to that speed when I thought that I heard a horn behind me. Looking in the mirror, I noticed the fellow behind me blinking his lights every few seconds. I figured it was just some impatient kid and thought no more of it. A half-mile or so up the road, I came to the edge of town and pulled as close the center-line as I dared to wait on the oncoming traffic so I could make my turn. I expected the impatient driver to go whizzing around on my right side, but he seemed to have disappeared. A couple cars that had been behind him did take the chance to pass.

As I walked toward the back of the truck to the gas pump, a little silver car with a grey-haired driver about my own age pulled in not far behind me, though not exactly by the pump. He was turning the air blue with comments about my pedigree and my driving, and when I looked at the headlights, I recognized the pattern as being the car that had been behind me blinking his lights. At first, I tried responding logically to his comments, but he wanted none of that. Finally, I got so disgusted that I did something I hadn’t done in nearly 40 years. I called him out! Now he looked to be in better shape than I, and I never could fight worth a hoot, so had he accepted my challenge, I may well have gotten my clock cleaned. Interestingly enough, he chose to stay in his car and cuss.

As I turned and picked up the pump handle, my wife realized that something was up and stepped out of the truck, only to be verbally abused by the fellow. That really torqued me. As tempting as it was to walk over and punch the guy through his open car window, I realized that I’d probably go to jail for “defending my wife’s honor.” So, I told my wife that he was just trash and not to waste her time worrying about him. At that point, he flew her the bird. The other folks pumping gas were already watching the situation and laughing. They laughed even louder at what followed.

My wife got the stern look on her face of the sister who basically raised her six younger brothers and sisters and did the sliding of crossed forefingers that that meant “shame, shame” in the old school-yard of years ago. The guy got a funny look on his face and drove off without saying another word. The surrounding customers saw it all and laughed even harder.

As we discussed him later, we figured that he’d probably been drinking. We also figured that many years ago, he had a grandmother, mother or older sister who sometimes kept him in line by using the old reminder of his brattish behavior. Or maybe it was just the laughter that did it. © 2012

Saturday, December 29, 2012


Over the years, folks have often asked why there are so many different denominations. The simple answer is: sin. Those who read the Bible know that there was sin within the church itself from its very earliest days. The overwhelming sin of the 16th century Catholic Church brought on the Protestant Reformation. The Protestants, being just as human as the Catholics (and therefore just as sinful), soon started pointing fingers at one another, finding sin in everyone but the guy in the mirror. Today, division has gone so far that not only is there a large handful of differing sects among Catholics themselves, but over 30,000 Protestant denominations as well.

It’s an interesting quirk of human nature that Jesus speaks of the church, yet we turn it into many. Most Bible scholars understand that in reality there is still only one church; unfortunately, many Christians still want to insist that only their branch is the real McCoy. As a result, a ridiculous number of sermons on Sunday mornings are concerned with defending the “rightness” of the denomination rather than proclaiming the righteousness of God. Still, some strange beliefs by certain sects, or their political or financial arrangements, guarantee that ecumenicalism will never work without accepting the attitude that “anything goes.” Few serious churches can swallow that, either.

And so, the followers of Jesus struggle onward, well intentioned, but unnecessarily divided due to their belief that everyone must think alike. Few realize that by requiring perfect understanding of the scriptures (which they think they have), they turn their religion into a works doctrine, the antithesis of what the scriptures teach us. Still, in spite of self-righteousness, Christianity has found enough true righteousness along the way that it has changed the face of the globe over the centuries, and more importantly, has changed the hearts and minds of millions of people. © 2012

OSHA Strikes Again!

My wife has some oil lamps for use during power outages. She insists on burning the type of lamp oil in them that comes in little bottles at the local Chinese Emporium. I recently got a kerosene lantern for outside use, planning to use regular kerosene (and I will). However, I also need something to buy and store the fuel in—preferably something from which I can fill the lantern. They used to make little one and two gallon metal cans with large fill holes, but small spouts, made specifically for use with kerosene lamps and lanterns. They were very convenient.

Enter OSHA. Seeking to eliminate the “danger” of the simple, efficient, old-fashioned cans, they have come up with a new, improved “safety can” for use with kerosene. Now there’s nothing wrong with the mandated blue color. In fact, that’s a good idea, along with red cans for gas and yellow ones for diesel. The problem is that the kerosene must come out of the same hole of the can where it is filled. That hole is huge compared to the fill holes in lamps and lanterns. Some will say to use funnels, but that joke is fully understood only by those of us old enough to have used the old-time cans with their properly-sized spouts.

OSHA’s answer was to put a long, narrow, side-mounted funnel right on the can that looks a lot like the nose-cone (aka “dog p_cker”) on a jet airplane. In doing so, they have created an expensive piece of equipment that’s about as useless as certain female appendages on a boar hog. I WILL find a practical solution, but I’m sure it will be considered unsafe and will probably even be illegal. Leave it to the bureaucrats to completely mess up something simple. © 2012

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

The House Where I Was Raised

This was taken the year before I was born. I believe it's my aunt seated to the right and my sister on the stoop.

The old Federal Revival farmhouse was apparently begun after the first autumn frost of 1865 (no borers under the bark on the pine framing) and finished sometime in 1866, or so the story goes. A crumpled piece of newspaper placed in the wall between the lower left front window and the corner of the house (to allow plastering over a broken lathe) contained an interview with a certain Mr. Grant. He stated that his son was considering running for president in the next general election. I guess that dates it before 1868, at least. Since the story went that the farm was once covered with huge pine trees, the lumber for the house was probably sawn from logs cut there on the farm. There was a water-powered sawmill along Waddington Creek in the valley below, so the lumber was probably sawn there.

The two windows on the lower left of the front of the house were in the former sitting room. We used it as a living/family room. The two windows on the lower right were in my parent’s bedroom. It had been the bedroom of Dad’s folks from about 1915 to 1929. Dad was born there one horribly miserable January day in 1925. My great-grandfather worked all that day keeping the fire going in the three downstairs fireplaces. The mantle on the old fireplace in that room was a little fancier than the others in the house, for it had been built to be the home’s parlor.

The front door opened into the tiniest of foyers, with a door both to the right and left, a flight of stairs on the left leading upstairs (eleven steps, 180 degree right turn, then four more steps) and a hallway on the right passing through to the back porch. The latter was a good arrangement for hot weather, for the front door faced west and caught the prevailing breeze, thus allowing the air to flow out the back door onto the back porch. A window on the stair landing allowed air to travel up there and vent the upstairs to some degree, as well.

The two windows on the upper right were in my sister’s room. It had originally been two little rooms, but Dad had torn out the wall between them and that made her a nice big bedroom. That also gave her a window on the back side of the house meaning that she had cross-ventilation. I used to envy her a bit on that matter until I rushed upstairs one day to put down the windows during a thunderstorm and saw a large blue ball of static electricity travel from a screen in one of the front windows, across her bed and out the screen in the back window. After that, I decided that she was welcome to keep her cross ventilation.

The window in the upstairs center was in the hall and, in warm weather, was usually open so air could travel to the window on the stair landing at the back of the house and vent the upstairs. The two windows on the upper left were in my room, though I can still remember when I slept in the folks’ bedroom. (THAT must have been cozy for them, since I was a light sleeper as a child!) It had a closet on each side of the blocked-off fireplace on the left wall. If you looked upward in the front one, you could see through a crack in the closet ceiling and see daylight through a crack in a piece of siding in the gable. The room was heated with an old gas space heater, but many a time in my youth, I could see my breath in my bedroom. Thank goodness for quits, comforters and army blankets!

One neat thing about my room was that it had a door into the attic of the back ell of the house. If the folks were in bed, and I couldn’t sleep, I could take the flashlight from my nightstand and sneak into the attic to snoop through the old things stored there. If I felt especially daring, I could go down the tiny spiral stairway into the dining room below. The stairs were so steep that they seemed more like a twisted ladder, and the turn was so quick that I’m certain that I spotted the back of my own head in front of me a few times. Once downstairs, I could sneak a snack out of the fridge, or answer nature’s call in the thunder mug in the one-time pantry (by then a bathroom) off the right side of the kitchen. Sometimes though, boredom was no problem and if I opened the attic door, it was just to better hear the rain on the tin roof.

The old house still stands after nearly a century and a half, though I don’t own it anymore. The attic has been removed in a remodel, and the tin roof has been replaced with modern shingles, but the memories still linger on. © 2012

Sunday, December 23, 2012


My long-time readers will notice some themes here that have surfaced in previous posts. I was once again brought to this subject after reading a chapter called “The Old Homeplace,” in the eleventh edition of the Foxfire Book.

It was like an electric shock to hear the words that Mr. O’Hara spoke to Scarlett concerning land in Gone With the Wind: “Land is the only thing in the world worth working for, worth fighting for, worth dying for—because it's the only thing that lasts." (Or something close to that.)

I was fifteen years old and sitting in the last remaining art deco movie theater in town (later torn down to make a parking lot) when those words were burned into my memory. “Here’s someone who understands” I thought, knowing it probably would have been the author of the original book, Margaret Mitchell. I was at that age where the little thoughts of childhood were expanding into larger thoughts, beliefs and passions of adulthood, and I knew that my heart would always be drawn to the land. Some things are just meant to be.

I never gave such things a thought when I was younger. The family farm where I was raised was only a couple miles from town. Including the part that my absentee aunt owned, there were 135 acres there. Across the road lived Dad’s sister and her husband with probably another 60-80 acres. Walking across one neighbor’s place took me to a 15 acre strip of hillside that ended against my maternal grandfather’s place of 60-80 acres and across the road, the farm of Dad’s sister and her husband, again probably 60-80 acres. It was about a mile from our driveway to my grandfather’s driveway and I often walked it or rode it on my bike, usually with a fishing rod or gun in hand. A mile’s hike further through the hills would have put me on the 180 acres we had on Tick Ridge, though I never hiked it. I did ride it a few times on horseback, but usually I drove there (once I was 16). Waddington Creek, with its twists, turns, pools and riffles marked the center of my “stomping grounds.”

We had gentlemen’s agreements that we could hunt, fish, hike and ride horses on the properties of our relatives and a few neighbors, and they could do the same with us, so I never lacked for access to the outdoors. In my youth, I remember foolishly thinking that it would always be so, with the land passed down to me, my cousins and amicable neighbor’s kids. I also remember thinking how grand it would be if I were a millionaire and could buy them all out. Lust for “things” starts early, I guess.

When young, most of the vitamins, minerals and protein that made my body grow came from that land. We raised beef cattle and grew large gardens. My aunt, who lived on the other edge of the farm with my paternal grandparents still milked two cows, so we had all the fresh milk, cream and butter that we needed. My maternal grandparents, up the road, raised chickens and two hogs a year, so we had fresh eggs, chicken and pork. Everybody raised gardens, and everybody canned and shared their bounty with one another. My dad and I farmed, cut timber and sawed logs, like he and his father before him. Later, Dad and I grew Christmas trees. I felt that I was part of the land and that it was part of me. I was the fourth generation to work that land, for even my great-grandfather had spent his last few years helping Granddad on the farm.

Alas, things don’t always go the way they were “meant to be.” All but a few acres of my relatives’ land is now out of the family. I foolishly didn’t see that the girl that I dated at 15 was the one that I should marry. So, many girlfriends and two wives later, I live on the farthest 98 acres of property up on Tick Ridge.

A part of me died the day I left the woods and went to work at the factory. Bitterness took hold of me, due to it not being myself that caused most of the need to leave the woods. Chronic depression joined that bitterness and, for many years, I really didn’t care whether I lived or died. The Lord at last pulled me out of that, but it was a new battle when I saw the handwriting on the wall and realized that the factory where I worked was eventually going to close down, no matter what they said otherwise. I was in a worse financial situation than when I was making half as much, and selling my old homeplace was the only solution other than divorce. THAT nearly killed me. I felt like I’d disgraced both myself and the ancestors who’d worked the land before me. There are worse things than divorce.

Of course, it wasn’t like I had anyone to pass it onto that wouldn’t have seen it as just a financial asset, rather than as a sacred trust. These days, though, having spent so much of my time in the valley at large, I pretty much feel like I’m home as I leave the city limits and start driving out the Waddington Valley. Even after all these years, the feelings are still strong.

It’s ten years since the sale of the farm, and I’m about to lose the job I’ve held for the last four years. It didn’t pay enough to even cover the bills, but luckily, I had some outside income that made up the difference. That, too, is dwindling. At least I have no debt at this point in my life; maybe I can hold onto the property that I have left. If not, I’ll survive that, too. I put a lot more faith in the Lord than I used to. Besides, I don’t have that many more years on this old earth. Soon enough, I’ll REALLY be home, and with some of the friends and family of my youth. © 2011

Need A Light?

For a while now, I’ve wanted to buy an American-made kerosene lantern for power outages, but the last company to make them recently got greedy and started outsourcing them. Since they were made in the same country (I suspect), I got a Dietz at the local hardware store so as to keep what money I could in the area. I’ve got a couple old ones in the basement that I plan on refurbishing and getting some extra globes and wicks for also.

Having my lantern, I wanted to stock up on wooden matches, so I got a couple boxes of 300-count “Diamond” brand “strike anywhere” matches at the same store. They were made in America, but they were absolutely pathetic compared to the old “Ohio Blue-Tips” that I used to get. The latter are no longer available, and Diamond appears to be the last company in the country selling wooden matches in anything over 32-count boxes. I guess I have no choice but to buy the worthless things. They may do for a lantern, but I know they’re going to fall short on wood stoves and campfires. I might as well use a little more care in tinder selection and use a flint and steel on fires. At least they’re “green,” according to their propaganda on the box.

I may have figured out the problem, though. Despite being green, on the cellophane that covers the match boxes was this warning: “CALIFORNIA PROPOSITION 65 WARNING: Combustion of this manufactured product results in the emissions of carbon monoxide, soot and other combustion by-products which are known by the State of California to cause cancer, birth defects, or reproductive harm.” I bet those morons in La-La Land have been smokin’ ‘em! I reckon we better get ready for match control! © 2012

Saturday, December 22, 2012

A Little About Roy

I first met Roy in junior high; “middle school,” they call it other places. He was obviously retarded, but not so bad that he couldn’t get through school with extra help and understanding from his teachers. Unfortunately, his disability caused him to be the victim of a certain amount of harassment from those boys who wrongly thought that they were somehow smarter, more manly or funnier. Even then, they knew better than to go too far, since Roy was well muscled and strong as an ox. He couldn’t box, but he COULD nearly tie them in a knot and bounce then their heads off the floor a few times. I always tried to treat him well, since I figured his disability and apparent poverty gave enough him trouble to bear.

It turned out that my mom knew him, too. We stopped by the backyard shop of a local luthier one evening to get some strings for my sister’s cello, and he was in the yard when we got there. He ran inside on seeing my mom. Inside the shop, the walls were covered with violins, guitars, mandolins, balalaikas and other stringed instruments in various stages of construction and repair. Though not a musician, I was a lover of music, and felt like I was on holy ground and privileged to be in the presence of the old man. I was even more amazed as I came to realize that the old man was blind. As we walked back to the car, we noticed Roy peeking around the corner of the house from behind a bush. Neither of us said anything, since we thought it was obvious that he didn’t want to make contact.

In the car, Mom explained that Roy probably avoided us because he might have thought that he was going to get in trouble. You see, Mom worked at a grocery store in that neighborhood, and the old man (his grandfather) and his wife shopped there. Sometimes, they’d send Roy by himself to get an item or two. At those times, the store owner often had to shoo him away from the trashy magazines that shouldn’t have been there in the first place. Once or twice, they were sure that he’d stolen one and tried to catch him with the evidence, but he was too fast for the owner. I suppose the curiosity and urges of a retarded boy going through puberty are little different than those of any other boy that age.

I don’t know why he was being raised by his grandparents. I know that a few parents of retarded children aren’t up to the task of raising them, and let the stress cause them to get divorced and/or abandon the children with the grandparents. Maybe that was the case with Roy, or maybe his mother was dead; I don’t know. I DO know that Roy struggled, but made it through high school with low but honest grades, not the phony, feel-good ratings they too often give kids these days. Not long afterward, I noticed that the little luthier shop had completely disappeared. I don’t know if the old man had died, or had simply retired.

Roy has spent his life working in the back rooms of fast-food joints, doing whatever he has to do to get a paycheck. He’s never been in trouble with the law, as far as I know. He’s never gotten any tattoos, or tried drugs as far as I’ve heard, either. I suspect his grandfather would be proud of him. I sometimes see him standing on a sidewalk, waiting for a bus. He always looks a little disheveled, but clean. It’s tempting to feel sorry for him, and sometimes I do, but frankly, he’s a better man than most men that I know. © 2012

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Uncle Chuck’s House – 1959

It was one of those vague childhood memories. We seem to have crossed a low spot or a run in getting there. There was a porch on the front of the house and the dining room and kitchen were inside the door. Across the room, a door went out to a back porch, and almost at the edge of the porch was a grape arbor, hanging full of ripe grapes. My folks and my maternal grandparents were there, along with my grandma’s sister, Dovie, and her son, Jack, probably about 10-12 years old. For some reason, though, I couldn’t remember whose house it was.

I do remember that Jack had a BB gun and was shooting grapes for practice, unknown to the adults sitting on the front porch. He let me take a few shots, too. I accidentally spilled the beans when I told my dad that I’d hit one. Aunt Dovie overheard me and made Jack stop his “target shooting.” That’s all I really remember about the day.

Over the years, I‘ve told my mom about the memory a few times and she always said that it would have  been Uncle Chuck’s place. He was Grandma’s brother, and I always remember him living in a little village a few miles away from where the country home was located. He and his wife apparently moved to town when they got older. Mom didn’t have any pictures of the place, but she did have a picture of us all in front of Uncle Chuck’s new barn, clear up on the hilltop. It was dated “1959,” when I would have been four years old.

When I was visiting Mom recently, I was looking through some pictures that she had borrowed from her sister. One showed a farmhouse that looked strangely familiar. Even the country-style “garage” down near the road seemed to be buried somewhere in my memory. When I showed it to Mom, she said “That’s Uncle Chuck’s place.” It wasn’t exactly like I remembered it, but it was the place. The photo is below. © 2012

Click to enlarge.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Soak The Rich, Kill The Babies, Grab The Guns And Save The Whales

I’d actually planned to do a piece on the insanity plea before the tragedy in Connecticut. Guess I still am partly. Unfortunately, I got peeved at some liberal idiots, so this all may be a bit rambling and raucous.

First off, I’m a firm believer in the death penalty, but NEVER when the conviction depends on circumstantial evidence. That said, the latest mass murderer did us all a favor by offing himself. It saved millions in legal expenses for the government and what remains of his family, not to mention renewed public arguments over death penalties and insanity defenses. Not so, gun control, unfortunately. The guy broke about a half-dozen laws to do what he did, yet gun control advocates immediately started raising a fuss for stronger laws. I wonder just what additional law they think would have stopped him? Nation-wide, we have well over 40,000 gun laws on the books already; just how many more do we need?

Had the shooter lived, we WOULD have heard about insanity pleas. Does it really matter if a guy’s nuts? If he’s that out of it, should we really spend millions of dollars over the course of his life to keep him in a zoo for crazies and perverts? Even if he “regains his sanity,” we don’t dare turn him loose again. It was when reading The Minds of Billy Millikan that I learned you can be found innocent by reason of insanity in Ohio (or maybe it’s unfit to try). Then, if you are determined by the proper folks to have regained your sanity at some point in the future, you can be retried and convicted for something you did while you were supposedly insane. (Whatever happened to double jeopardy?) Those kinds of laws prove that law-makers are insane in their own right. You’re either innocent or you’re not. If you aren’t, then insanity doesn’t matter. Dispose of the problem and let the Lord sort their souls.

A couple days ago, a local hippie white chick (who professes to be Christian and plays the bongos semi-professionally around here) spouted off on Facebook about those evil Republicans and needing to tax the rich more. (My own complaint with the evil Republicans is that they act too much like the evil Democrats anymore; that’s why I left them.) I mentioned to the woman that taking away the incentive for rich folks to manage their money does away with the likelihood of them continuing to invest money in jobs. Her sage reply was “that dog don’t hunt.” Not knowing how to respond to such deep, well-reasoned thoughts as that, I didn’t reply further.

Of course, when the shootings occurred in Connecticut, she immediately blamed guns and the NRA. Some supposedly adult fellow who professes to be a veteran and uses Spiderman as his identifying icon joined in until I spelled out a few simple truths. Things got a little quieter then, but I’m sure their minds were unchanged.

It’s obvious that the woman and her friends are liberal do-gooders. I can’t vouch for all of HER personal views, but I’ve noticed that many of the folks who want to tax the rich and grab the guns, also want to further abortion, but save the whales. Except for saving the whales, none of those causes can “stand on their own two feet.” When combined with killing babies, even saving the whales is suspect due to the company that the movement keeps. All together, they show the irony and hypocrisy of liberal thinking.

Perhaps, they may someday find themselves living in a perfect world where there is no violence (since all the guns have been taken), there are no more poor people (because the rich were forced to give up all their money), there are no children (since they’ve all been aborted), but whales are plentiful (because Greenpeace managed to sabotage all the whaling ships). Of course, they won’t find themselves living in that world for long, since they will all be dying off from the “managed medicine” of Obamacare. Oh well, I guess they can dream.

Intolerant devil’s spawn that I am, I unfriended the bongo player. © 2012

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Stockyard Memories

Better take a bathroom break before you start this one; I was a bit of a windbag today!

I wasn’t very old the first time I went to the stockyards, maybe not even school-age yet. The old wooden building was tucked there between the river and the side street that paralleled it and the double railroad track. Just a few yards away, a major street (still narrow by today’s standards) went under the tracks and over the river. Neither the narrow streets, nor the narrow old bridge built in 1907 were designed to handle the traffic that arrived every Saturday. The stop light at that end of the bridge, placed to let folks out of the side street, was often as much a hindrance as a help on those days. The smell of truck exhaust and cow manure permeated the air, as did the sound of bawling cattle and men’s voices, venting the nervousness of the cattle, the frustrations of the farmers unloading their stock, and the wheeling and dealing of the pinhookers on the docks, as they sometimes tried to buy the cattle before they were even unloaded.
After the sale started, the cattle would be brought into the ring by lot, sometimes a single animal, and sometimes several at a time. The auctioneer would usually be making favorable comments on the animals, pointing out good traits and conveniently ignoring bad ones. His chant would get the bidding started as his voice became a loud, hard-to-follow string of blather to those not accustomed to the sound. Those familiar with it had no trouble following the proceedings, of course, as men raised their hands, nodded their heads or just raised a finger to the auctioneer as a sign that they were placing a bid at the level the auctioneer had mentioned. The increases got smaller as the resistance to price got more obvious, until at last you heard the “Going once, going twice, SOLD!” that ended each transaction. Sometimes, bidding could last a couple minutes; other times, it might last only thirty seconds or never even get off the ground. The latter rarely happened as long as the animal was healthy enough to stand on its feet, though.

The arena seating was built a bit steep, so as provide the best view of stock to the bidders. It was a strange and wonderful place to a country kid, watching both the action in the ring and the interaction of the people in the stands. However, I remember the board seats of those old wooden stands getting a little hard on my tender parts after a while. Therefore, I was sort of glad to hit the road after my dad had watched Harry (his former brother-in-law) call the sale for a while. (Harry had been married to my floozy aunt years earlier and he and Dad were still on good terms, but that’s a story in my yet unpublished book.)
We did okay on selling at the yards as long as the old wooden stockyards were there. The old place was a fire-trap, though, and burned to the ground during my teens. The story was that a couple kids had been seen playing with fireworks in the area, and of course, the old wooden building also contained sawdust and hay. A new concrete and steel building was built suspiciously soon across town by the interstate on land owned by one of the partners, and the sale went on with a new auctioneer. We took a few head there, but got about a hundred dollars less per head than we would have expected at the old yard. When we took a few to the old stockyards upriver at Maryville, Ohio, we got as good or better than we expected. Harry called the sale up there by then, so Dad felt he would look out for our interests, so we started selling in Ohio after that.

A few years later, Harry quit calling at Marysville and we thought we’d try the new yards again. This time we stayed and watched the action. At weigh-in, the guy running the scale was one of the partners, and a fellow farmer from one of the early families in the area that Dad knew well. He commented that he liked my steer and would bid one him. We thought that was nice of him. When the time came, the bidding was moving right along on my steer until the partner bid. That was the last bid, and it was at least a hundred dollars less than the animal should have brought. The scenario was repeated on the animals that Dad brought, but it was a couple other fellows that made the closing bid. We were a bit suspicious.
After talking to a couple neighbors who always made a day of it when they went to sale, we got the story. The partners and a few buyers who counted on filling their semi’s with cattle for the Midwest feedlots were in cahoots. They’d let the locals start the bidding, but would then come in with a bid themselves. The locals, used to being outbid by these buyers, would often stop bidding. The other “big boys” would also refrain from bidding and let that guy get the animal. They took turn about, though, so each could get his truck full. Needless to say, we never went back to that sale, and we lost our respect for the partner. Dad thought it was especially ratty to do that to a young fellow like I was at the time. I guess I’d feel the same way if someone I knew did something similar to one of my granddaughters.

By coincidence, we didn’t stay in the cattle business much longer, but when we had to sell at auction, we went back to Marysville, since the cramped loading area and the distance from the interstate made it inconvenient for the semi guys.
I was thinking about the yards and talking with my mom and one of my cousins recently, and we counted at least eight stockyards that used to be within a couple hours’ drive of here. The local one, the last one open, is now closed. However, I hear that one did reopen about an hour south of here. Still, some local folks travel as far as Sugar Creek, Ohio, a good two-hours away, to sell their animals. Most folks now try to make person-to-person sales to save the trouble. I guess that’s better in many ways, except when it’s done because of a lack of other options.

I’m sure economic factors played a role in the disappearance of the local stockyards, but I heard that it was government regulations and the high cost of liability insurance that drove most of them out. Why doesn’t that surprise me? © 2012

Saturday, December 8, 2012


In my country grade school, five-buckle-arctics were sort of a rite-of-passage for those whose families could afford them. Really poor kids had no boots at all for mud and snow and trudged around in thin worn-out shoes. Those slightly better off had green “gum boots.” The rest of us had five-buckle-arctics.

For those who don’t know, they were made of a black rubber with a sort of quasi-fabric lining, and slipped over your regular footwear, usually assumed to be work boots, and came up to about three inches below the bottom of your knee. Instead of zippers or laces, they were fastened in the front with a set of adjustable metal buckles. There were two-buckle-artics to go over low shoes, usually purchased by city-slickers with farm roots and by some practical women. There were also four-buckle-artics for kids, city-slickers and some women and girls. The goal of every country boy of my day, though, was to get his own pair of five-buckles. That was the equivalent of moving from short pants to long pants in their grandfather’s day.

You see, MEN wore five-buckles! Farmers, construction workers, utility workers, mailmen and anyone else who spent the day outdoors in cold weather probably did it in five-buckles. Back then, they were made in America and the rubber would last for five years if you didn’t wear them out first. Most outdoor folks were lucky to get more than one winter from them, though, since they wore them nearly every day in bad weather. My farmer/logger father lived in his for about five months a year, plus during rainy weather anytime.

Like everything else, good arctics seem to have gone the way of the dinosaurs. They got more plastic-like and less rubbery, and now start cracking before the first winter is over. They aren’t as tall either, when you can even find them. I don’t know if guys wear pacs these days because they can’t find good arctics, or if arctics have simply been replaced by pacs. Either way, the effect is the same. I like pacs, myself, but they aren’t as tall as the old five-buckles, and you can’t tuck your pants-legs inside them and cinch the top buckle to keep snow out. Plus, if you were going somewhere more formal, you could put arctics on over your dress shoes and just take them off when you arrived, already dressed for whatever the occasion might be. I’ve seen a row of five-buckles sitting in the entry of a country church or a funeral home many a time.

I think I’ll see if I can still find a good AMERICAN MADE pair. I’m sure they’ll be online if I find any. I’ll let you know if I have any luck. © 2012

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ya Can’t Prevent “STUPID,”

but you can deal with it after the fact. While trying to do four different things at the same time last night, I managed to leave my keys in my truck and the ignition in the “on” position for the night. I’ve done stupider things, but not many. For some strange reason, my truck wouldn’t start this morning when I wanted to leave for work. My jumper cables are lost somewhere in the basement. Besides, my wife would never let me jump from her car anyway. The portable battery jumper I bought years ago is dead, and I’ve been trying unsuccessfully for a week or more to find a charger cord for it. I was stuck! Now, my wife could have taken me to work in her tin can, but I’d just have the same problem to deal with when I came home, so I decided to take the bull by the horns and get it over with.

First, I called off; with only two months of work left, who cares if they get peeved at me? Then I asked my wife to take me to town (in her tin can) to get a battery. The battery in the truck is less than a year old and perfectly fine (or would be if it had a charge), but there was a method to my madness. First, I had her take me to the closest repair garage that sells Interstate batteries and got the one that had the most cranking amps. Then, I went to the auto parts place across the street and got the best jumper cables that they had, a portable battery jumper for my wife’s little car, and a bigger one for my truck. They didn’t have charger cord for my old jumper, or a carry strap for batteries, so I went to our town’s NAPA store. They had a carry strap, but no charger cord. Despite being at Radio Shack twice and not being able to get waited on, plus going online to look AND calling them to ask, the guy at NAPA said that R.S. DID have the cord that I needed, even if they weren’t bright enough to know it. He then told me where to look in the store to find it myself. I didn’t want to take the time to go back, though, so I’ll hit Radio Shack again some other day.

After I went home, I used the new battery to jump my truck and get it running. Then I put the cables back in the box and put the box behind the rear seat. I then put the battery in the covered and locked truckbed until I could top off the charge. (Yes, I know where my regular battery charger is.) I put the carry strap for the battery beside the extra battery in the back of the truck. I put the two portable jumpers in the house until later in the week when I can top off THEIR charge, since the guy said they don’t come fully charged.

SO, hopefully, I won’t pull that stupid trick again. HOWEVER, if I or anyone else should need a jump, I will now have two ways to do it. Also, if my wife is out and gets a dead battery, she’ll be able to deal with it. PLUS, I now have an extra battery that can be used to power a twelve volt fan during the next power-outage in hot weather (like we had last summer). If it turns out that Radio Shack really DOESN’T have the charger cable for the old jumper, I’ll see if the one for my NEW jumper will handle the job. Plus, I asked the guru to help me look online. I may do some really dumb things at times, but at least I try to learn from my experience! © 2012

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Sold The Weed-Whacker

Civilized folks call them string-trimmers; rednecks like me call them “weed-whackers.” Since I’ve used both terms now, you have no excuse for not knowing what I’m talking about. The machine was the smallest handle-bar style trimmer made by one of the major brands. I originally bought it to use in the Christmas tree fields, so it would have been at least fifteen years old.

Since I sold the farm, though, it just stood under my deck most of the year. By the time I’d decide to use it, it would be so difficult to start that sometimes it was easier to use a scythe and be done with it. Still, once I or the equipment dealer got it running, it was a real dynamo. That’s why I sold it to the neighbor boy. Actually, the “boy” is probably over 40, but that’s still a kid to me, these days. He’s an industrious soul and is always cleaning around his place, so figured it would do him more good than it was doing me. Besides, I doubt if he even owns a scythe. He seemed tickled at the $50 price.

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve learned that many smaller jobs are quicker done by hand, if you have the skill and the right tools. I’ve also learned the wisdom of breaking big jobs into smaller ones. These days, if I can’t run over it with my mower, or get to it with a scythe, I’m just going to let it grow. I’m not sure if I’m getting wiser in my old age, or just getting lazy.

Basically, I believe that power tools are for those lacking skill, or for jobs just a little bigger than you want to tackle by hand. I’ve got both types of tools, so I’m not trying to sound elitist. Not so the old Scandinavians; they used to say that any sort of saw was for those who didn’t know how to use an axe! © 2012