Sunday, October 26, 2014


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 25, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Way Things Were (w/pics)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Should Old Acquaintance Be Forgot?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 18, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Blundering Onto History (w/pic)

Click photo to enlarge.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Speaking Of Pots

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

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

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

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Brunch At The Dump, And Other Ruminations

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Looking For A New Barber

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

mural of historic structures in Harrisville

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 3, 2014

Poly And Cotton

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

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

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

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

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

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

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