Monday, January 31, 2011


It’s all about the survival of the species.  Alex and I, in our travels throughout the immediate area, chanced upon a gray, papier-mâché like formation a bit larger than a softball, but more football shaped.  Alex asked me if I knew what that thing was?  When I answered that it was a paper wasp’s nest, he wanted to know what that was all about.
I answered something to the effect that the residents were a wasp, more or less like a hornet.  They built and used these structures as a home.  Then I began to wonder more about them.  As this was their home, were they in it?  The nest seemed partially disintegrated.  If they were in it, could they survive the extreme cold of our area?  Did they store winter food like honey bees?  If they were not in the nest, then where were they?  Did they migrate like birds?
In fact, about twenty to thirty mature wasps live in a nest.  They are divided as workers, queens, and males.  The nest contains many cells in which a queen deposits a single fertilized egg in each.  The sterile workers assist in the building of the nest, as well as the care and feeding of the grub-like larvae that are hatched.  The young pass through several stages before becoming an adult.
As fall approaches the queens stop laying eggs, and the colony goes into decline.  Mated offspring of the queen seek shelter elsewhere, often hibernating beneath siding on houses or other sheltered areas, to await the following spring when they go off to build their own nests.
When you get down to the nitty-gritty all they do is continue their species.  Following that line of thought, that’s also all that humans do.  The rest is just details.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

The Calendar

Twenty-seven hundred years ago the calendar had ten months, March, April, May, June, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December.  Those last six were what we think of as the numbers five through ten.  Apparently they couldn’t think up any more names for them.  Some of the months had as many as forty days. 
According to Plutarch (46-127 AD), not to be confused with Pluto the friend of Mickey Mouse, Pompilius, who died in 673 BC, decided the calendar was all screwed up so he set out to rearrange things.
Old man Pompilius’ calendar started the year with January, a month he thought up and named after the Roman God Janus.  Janus was noted as the keeper of the gates, and Pompelius felt Janus could transition from the old year to the new as a part of his job.
Pompelius still felt that some months were too long so he also developed another month he named February, and stuck it in after his first month.  February was named for purification, a rite to prepare for spring which was soon coming.
March, named for the God, Mars, remained as before, as did April, possibly named for Aphrodite, the Greek Goddess of Love and Beauty, and associated with the Roman Goddess Venus.
May was named for the Goddess of Spring.
June was named for Juno the Goddess of marriage.
The rest of the months remained the numbers, Quintilis, Sextilis, September, October, November, and December.  Nobody seemed to care they weren’t actually those numbered months since the addition of the new first two months.
Everything went along fine with this setup until Julius Caesar came along.  He lived from 100 BC through 44 BC.  Old Julius decided he was too important for folks to forget about him after he died so he decided to name a month after himself to remind everyone he’d been there and done that.  He grabbed the first of those no-name months, Quintilis, and changed its name to July in honor of himself.
Augustus Caesar was the adopted heir of Julius, and as such followed Julius as Emperor.  He was around from 63 BC until 14 AD.  While he was emperor he figured out that if Julius could grab a month and call it his, then so too could he, so he took Sextilis and changed its name to August, and so today, 2000 years later, we have the named months as we know them.
The Photo?  Oh, that's old stone-face Numa Pompelius.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Norfolk To Jacksonville

In May of 1960 I was transferred from the Naval Air Station at Breezy Point on the Naval Base at Norfolk, Virginia to NAS Cecil Field, Jacksonville, Florida.  I had bought a 1953 Ford sedan the previous year, and I loved that car.  For you mechanically minded guys, this was the last year of Ford’s flatheads.  Fords the next year had the newly developed overhead valve engines.
Before leaving Norfolk I made arrangements to have my 8’ X 35’ mobilehome towed to Jacksonville and stored to await our arrival.  My wife and I then came to Northern New York to visit our parents.  A few days later we left New York headed for our new destination in Florida.  The first day we got to central Virginia before stopping for the night in a motel.
We awoke the next morning, jumped in the car, and drove cornerways down over a four inch curb to the street.  The car’s engine fan went through the radiator!  Believe it or not I actually located a man that would work on the car even though it was a Sunday morning.  He located a used fan and radiator and installed both at quite a reasonable fee, while we ate a leisurely brunch, and we were once more on our way.  That night we spent in a motel in Jacksonville, Florida.
The next morning we awoke to a beautiful day, that is until leaving the motel we drove cornerways down over a four inch curb to hear once again the same sound as the previous morning.  Absolutely, the fan went through the radiator again.  As luck would have it I spotted a garage that worked on radiators a block or so up the street.  When I told the mechanic the fan had came loose from the engine and ruined the radiator the day before, he started checking further.  It seemed the front engine rubber mounts had disintegrated causing the engine to shift allowing the fan to strike the radiator.  The fan had been destroyed by contact with the radiator rather than coming loose like the man in Virginia had surmised.
For the second time in two days we were repaired and under way again.  Our radiator was repaired, a different used fan, and new front engine mounts.  I went to the local office of the national mobilehome mover that was storing our home awaiting our arrival.  They had never heard of us, much less were storing our home.  A call to Norfolk discovered our home was being stored there.  Two more nights in a motel while our home was towed to Florida, but at least that gave us time to locate Cecil Field and Cox’s Trailer Court in the vicinity, so when our home arrived it had a place to stop.

Friday, January 28, 2011

We Always Got By

It had to be in 1960, ’61, or’62 because I bought the 1953 Ford in Norfolk, Virginia in 1959, and took it to Florida in the first part of 1960.  Then I traded it off before our first child was born in late 1962.  It was a hard-luck trip from the get-go.  Our journey from Jacksonville to New York was okay by me, but my wife was none to happy with me.  When I’m traveling I hate to stop for anything but a quick trip to the bathroom while someone else is pumping the fuel tank full.  I drove straight through in 27 hours with never a stop to eat.  Interstate Highways were unknown at that time.
While in northern New York on leave we decided to go to Maine to visit my brother Dell and family.  Before we had gotten 25 miles the differential in the car began making horrible noises so we returned to my parents.  My brother Lawrence asked why we had returned, and upon explaining he told us to take his car to Maine, which we did.  When we returned to New York our Ford seemed okay for some reason so we headed back to Florida with it.
Not too far into Pennsylvania the differential got really bad so I pulled into a gas station that looked like it might have a mechanic to work on it.  The station owner had a junk Ford similar to mine out back of his station.  He spent all night removing the complete back axle assembly from his car, and installing it in mine while we slept in a motel nearby.  I paid the man $100 for the complete job, and we once more started on our way.
Money kept dwindling as we progressed on our trip.  Finally we were in southern Georgia, possibly 30 miles from home when I decided I could not make it without more gas.  I had just one dollar to my name.  I stopped in a gas station and asked for the dollars worth of gas.  While it was slowly pumping the man checked my car’s oil and told me it was two quarts low.  I opted for one quart of oil @ fifty cents, and the other fifty cents worth of gas.  We got around two gallons of gas, and it was enough to get us home.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Hemlock Tree

Near the year 1200 the seed fell to the ground among the hardwoods, sprouted, and began to emerge from the ground as a small green sprout.  A young Mohawk smiled as he passed by and noted the small green growth rising from the forest floor.  Four hundred years later the white men arrived from the direction of the rising sun in their tall boats, alit on the western shore of the big water and settled in to stay.
Another two hundred years passed before the first of the white men came to settle where the 100 foot tall green conifer yet stood.  Then, before 1820, Samuel Qua arrived and began to clear the forest away to plant crops in its stead.  Sam’s daughter Hannah married Moses Fisk, and by 1860 they were living in the home that Sam built.  The lone tree still remained where Sam had left it when he stripped the woods from his acreage.  In 1894 a young Irishman named Joseph Walsh purchased the land from the aging Moses and Hannah.  He rested many a day under the boughs of the evergreen tree which yet stood along side his field.  Stones removed from the fields had been piled in a row making a fencerow where the tree stood.  In 1934 Joe died and left the land, including the tree to his sister, but she never lived there.  Two years later she sold the land to Byron Havens and his wife Anna.  They remained in charge of the land for ten years before passing its care on to Bob and Arvilla Turner in 1946.  Lawrence and Patricia Lawton purchased the land in 1972 and resold it to his brother Leo and Nora Lawton in 1976.  They have lived on the land until the present, and yet that evergreen stands in mute existence, a testimony to the fact some things change very slowly in our world.
The Mohawks and whites alike used to make medicinal teas from the Hemlock bark as well as soothing ointments for the healing of burns and sores.  Tannin, an extract from the bark, was used in the tanning of animal hides for the making of clothing.  The old Hemlock tree is now some 800 years old, and a lot of life has passed by it while it has stood.  Where once the local land was covered with forest, much of it Hemlock, today only an occasional one stands.  This particular one is only a couple of hundred feet back of my house. 

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Sentimental Journey

Gonna take a Sentimental Journey,
Gonna set my heart at ease.
Gonna make a Sentimental Journey,
to renew old memories.

Got my bags, got my reservations,
Spent each dime I could afford.
Like a child in wild anticipation,
I Long to hear that, "All aboard!"

Seven...that's the time we leave at seven.
I'll be waitin' up at heaven,
Countin' every mile of railroad
track, that takes me back.

Never thought my heart could be so yearny.
Why did I decide to roam?
Gotta take that Sentimental Journey,
Sentimental Journey home.
Sentimental Journey.

Music by Les Brown, lyrics by Bud Green, originally sung by Doris Day.  Recorded in November 1944, it was released in early 1945.  In late March 1945 it hit the Billboard Charts, topped out at #1, and remained in the top 100 for 23 weeks, over five months.

This was perfect timing for the end of World War II in Europe, and it became almost a theme song for the troops returning home from that war theater.

I turned 7 years old that summer, and I remember that song very well.  The voice of Doris Day was like an angel in the spring time.  Sultry!

However, I also recall another version of that song done very eloquently.  In those days, in our little one-room schoolhouse we had a small Christmas skit every year.  Although it was sort of about the Christmas Story, actually many children treated it more like a small talent show.  I remember that in December 1945 at our annual show a young gentleman named Neil LaBrake sang that song as a part of the show.  His voice rang out loud and clear, and I can hear it yet somewhere in the reaches of old memories.  Neil is exactly four days my elder.  He was a close neighbor then as we each lived in our parents’ homes, and today, sixty-five years later, he is yet a close neighbor as we live in our own homes less than a mile apart as the crow flies.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Chilly Weather

Yesterday, Monday, January 24, 2010, the day started out with the temperature somewhere less than 30 degrees below zero Fahrenheit.  Possibly there may be a few Eskimos somewhere that would enjoy that, but I doubt it seriously.  It never got above zero during the remainder of the day.  The good part of a day when the digits get that low is that it is extremely unlikely to snow, and if it does it will be more like a frozen fog than actual snow.  I’m not sure of Mother Nature’s snow making process, but extreme cold weather does not seem to be a requirement.
Therefore it was rather a surprise to wake this morning with a new layer of snow on the ground, and more falling as the hours passed.  The temperature had risen during the night.  Not to say it was balmy, but it had returned to the plus side of zero.  Our high today was under twenty degrees, but the forecast is for closer to thirty tomorrow.  In the meantime our son stopped by with his Jeep to plow out the six inches or so that was on the ground so far in case more decided to drop.  After completion of the job he visited for a few minutes while he sipped a cup of coffee which is always on and hot in our home.  I went outside and snapped a few photos of “The Bumblebee” so folks from more southern climes can see what a plow looks like.
In the first photo there is a rose bush near the back end of the Jeep with about six inches or so of snow visible around it.  The snow bank in the background is about three feet tall.  The second photo shows the Jeep sitting in the very same place, but from a different angle.  That, of course, is our home, with the rear of  my daughter’s home peeking out behind the jeep.


At one time I worked in a small repair shop.  There came a day when the boss was at lunch, I was tending to a customer, and our other repairman was working on something or other.  An automobile horn began to blow outside.  I paid little attention to it.  As small amounts of time passed the horn became ever more insistent.  I ignored it.
The boss returned from lunch and asked why the car horn was tooting.  I told him I didn’t know as I was busy so he went outside to determine the cause of the noise.  He returned carrying a piece of equipment that the person wanted worked on.
Later in the day when things were a little less hectic he mentioned that I should have gone outside to find out why the car horn was blowing.  I once more told him I was busy, and even if I wasn’t I saw no need to go outside to bring work in.  If a customer wanted work done our usual policy was for them to bring it inside and leave it until we could get to it.  We then notified the customer when the repair was effected.  The boss then told me that it was a crippled lady that had brought the item, and she was unable to get out of the car, so it was a special occasion.
We then had a lively discussion as to the right and wrong of the situation.  The boss felt that we should make exceptions for those with special problems.  I maintained that our policy was for a customer to drag it in, and drag it out, and that no one should send a crippled person to do something they were incapable of doing.  I argued that an appliance sales would not wheel several washing machines out to a car in the parking lot so a crippled person could select from their wares.  A barber would not go out to an automobile to cut someone’s hair.  A taxi operator would not carry the person in and out of their home to his vehicle.  Why then would we be expected to do any different?
I always understood his reasoning, but I also always maintained we should keep the same policy for everybody.  I realize one should help the less fortunate as much as possible, but we were being taken advantage of in this manner.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dell's Truck

It was probably 1968, or maybe ’69, when Dell decided if he only had a truck, hunting would be better.  He could build a larger pen in the back that would give the beagles a little more room than my Jeep did when we were transporting them on hunting trips.  If we both drove to a hunting site, and either got stuck in the mud as we occasionally did, we could always tow the other one out.
He couldn’t find a truck that was in his price range, so he finally bought an old Studebaker station wagon.  For a while that sort of served the purpose, but it just wasn’t a truck, and that’s what a hunting man ought to have.  We were discussing this one day, and I chidingly mentioned to him that we could always turn his wagon into a truck by merely cutting the top off.  For some odd reason he thought that a very good idea so the planning began.
Obviously we had to cut the top off immediately behind the front seat.  We then cut down each side just back of the doors.  We continued by cutting just above the chrome line on each side back to the tail lights.  It was our intention to take the top window from the rear and move it up to the back of the front seat, but we never got that far.  We removed the tailgate and rear seats, and what remained sufficed as a truck.  We never did get a back end installed in the cab.  It remained open as long as he owned it.
Sometimes when hunting was slow I’d suggest we drive to a different spot.  If possible I’d arrange it so he was following me.  Then I’d drive through every mud hole I could find, with my Jeep in four-wheel-drive, in an attempt to get him stuck.  Often it would work and Dell would have to wade into the mud with the end of a chain to hook to the front of his Studebaker so I could pull him out.  Then, right after I had helped him, he would have the nerve to suggest I’d done that on purpose.  Such gratitude!
The photo is not the actual vehicle, but is representative of it.

This Morning

I did not take this photo.  I do not know who did, but it was taken locally this morning.  It was 32 below zero at the time.  Enough said.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Heading Home

Maybe a half mile north of the village of Lisbon, New York, Flack, Chapel, and Dezell Roads all intersect.  A few hundred feet from that intersection a small creek passes through under the Dezell Road on its journey to Sucker Brook.  Obviously that is in somewhat of a valley.  In actuality from the road intersection it is reasonably flat for most of that distance, and then it dips sharply to the creek, and rises nearly as sharply on the other side.
It was one of those cold clear nights with a full moon.  The air seemed hollow somehow, and sound was traveling vast distances.  In other words a beautiful night for a snowmobile ride.  My brother-in-law Wendell and I left our home on the Dezell Road, he on his faithful Johnson, and I on my pretty SnoJet, both 440 CC engine size, and big fast machines for the mid-1970s.
We rode with a large group, enjoyed ourselves immensely, and somewhere near midnight headed for home.  We passed through a part of Lisbon village, headed for the road intersection previously mentioned.  As we turned the right hand corner onto the Dezell Road, probably at about 50 to 60 MPH, as usual we cut ‘em loose as we headed the mile and a half or so to home.  I was on the left, in the passing zone as I called it, while Wendy remained on his own side of the road.
I would guess we may have been hitting 85 or 90 as we broke over the crest of the hill heading down to the creek.  On such a cold night two-cycle engines will really sing as they wind out to outrageous rpms.  The tandem engines were all you could hear.
As we broke over the crest of the hill, possibly 100 feet away were the headlights of a car coming at us.  To the occupants of that car we must have appeared as another car with our headlights side by side.  They must have had thoughts of imminent death as we split apart, one going to either side of their car.  We never slowed as we continued on our high speed journey, although today I’ve no idea which of us may have made it home a few feet ahead of the other that time. 

Friday, January 21, 2011

Are We All Nuts?

When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose.
Two sisters, both young single mothers, lured two men into a situation where the men were robbed at gunpoint, yet not harmed.  Those victims were hardly blameless.  Charges could have been directed at them, but weren’t.
The three men perpetrating the actual strong-arm-robbery of $11were given relatively short prison sentences, served them, and returned to society.  Whether bad, good, or indifferent, that’s how our society works.
Whatever happened to those two women though?  One might guess they were sentenced to a period of probation, or possibly a very limited time in jail as accessories to the crime.  Their part was limited, and didn’t involve any actual contact with weapons.  Would you believe they were each awarded two life in prison sentences?  What kind of justice is that?  How on earth can the girls who had a limited part in a robbery get a double life sentence, when the actual weapons-carrying perpetrators received only a short prison sentence?
Sixteen years later those girls were yet in prison, long after the gun-carrying-robbers were back on the streets.  The governor of Mississippi, Haley Barbour, found it in his heart to suspend their sentences.  However, there were strings attached.  One sister needed a kidney transplant, and they were freed only if the other sister gave her a kidney.
How many things can you find wrong with that situation?  First they possibly should have never spent a day in jail?  Second, they should have been freed at least 15 ½ years earlier.  Third, a suspension of sentence was not the correct procedure.  A full pardon would have been more proper.  Fourth, a gift of a body part should not be any part of a consideration involved with one’s freedom.  That is a form of a sale of body parts, and highly illegal in our society, as it should be.  Fifth, how stupid can that governor be to insist one sister must give a kidney to her sister, when it was not determined if it was even medically possible?  Sixth, in effect the sentences now became remarkably different.  One sister merely was released from prison.  The other was forced to give one of her kidneys for the same release.
When you’ve got nothing, you’ve got nothing to lose, except your freedom.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Mud Pies

There are several variations as to where the Jeep got its name.  I know not which is correct, but I do know I’ve had an affinity for the small four-wheel-drive vehicles ever since I owned my first one in 1967.  My brother Dell, through a brother transfer, had came to the Meridian, Mississippi Naval Air Station, where I had been located for several months.  When he arrived he had several beagles, as well as several kids, along as baggage.
Dell loved to hunt rabbits with the aid of the small hounds, and during the fall and winter of 1967-’68 we went together nearly every Saturday and Sunday morning.  At the time hunting was not only allowed on base, it was encouraged.  There was a Sportsmen’s Club on base, and game (mostly birds) was propagated for hunting purposes.  We were the only dyed-in-the-wool honest-to-goodness rabbit hunters, although fairly often others (Bartosik, where are you?) would accompany us for a morning’s hunt.
In order to enable us to reach places we otherwise could not have, I bought a 1948 CJ-2A Jeep.  Even that far into the deep south it sometimes got a little cold so I bought plywood and boxed in the former open Jeep body.  A friend of mine that worked in the parachute loft was able to requisition some heavy canvas, and made me a set of doors for it sewing them on Navy heavy duty machines.
Dell and I found a mutual attraction to playing in the mud with that thing.  I bought tire chains for all four wheels and hung them on the exterior of the wooden sides.  On occasion we would spot a waterhole of unknown depth.  I would look over at Dell riding along side of me, he would nod assent, and into the water we would fly, cascades of water spraying to the sides like a landing craft at Omaha Beach.  Sometimes we made it through to the other side, often not.
Dell carried several chain dog leashes in his pockets so he could capture the dogs and leash them when we were ready to quit hunting.  If we got stuck in the middle of a mud hole, he would bail out into the mud, sometimes up to his waist.  First he would attach a dog leash to both sides of one end of a tire chain.  Then he would drape the chain over the top of a wheel.  I would put the Jeep in gear and ever so slowly allow the wheels to turn.  Dell would use the leashes to slowly pull the chain around the wheel, and then as I stopped the wheel he would fasten the chain.  After all four were installed in this manner, there never was a time I was unable to extricate the Jeep.
Today there are clubs with members driving all sorts of monster trucks engaging in this sport, but we were doing it when it wasn’t even thought of yet.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Building A Trailer

In 1964 three civil rights workers, one of which resided in Meridian, were murdered in Philadelphia, Mississippi.  In 1966 my Navy duty station became Meridian Naval Air Station, about forty miles from the crime scene.  During the next year my brother Dell became stationed with me.  For about three years we remained stationed together at NAS Meridian, Mississippi.
Sometime during that three year period Dell decided he wanted to build a trailer to tow behind his car.  Dell was always building on something.  Anyway he talked to a colored man about buying a wheel and axle assembly off of a junk car as a base for his new project.  He stopped by my home on a Saturday morning and asked if I would accompany him to get the wheels and axle.  Dell stated he wasn’t too trustworthy of the fellow he was dealing with.  I carried my loaded double-barrel shotgun with me, and laid it on the floor, as I climbed into the rear seat of his car.  He drove to one rickety place and picked up the seller of the automobile parts who climbed into the front seat with Dell.  We then drove to another place where the man guided him.
Dell asked which car he was to remove the parts from, and the man told him to take his pick.  There must have been at least twenty-five junk automobiles there.  After looking over four or five Dell selected one, and asked the fellow how he was supposed to get at the front wheels and axle.  The man let out a holler and four or five more men came out of a really ramshackle building.  It hardly classified as a home, but they all lived in it.  They lined up on one side of the car, and turned it up on its side with manpower.  Using acetylene torches from the trunk of the car, Dell cut out what he wanted.  The men then helped load the parts into the trunk of the car.
Dell then started to pay the fellow the agreed upon twenty dollars, but there began a great argument as to who owned the car in the first place.  These men began a real battle amongst themselves.  I mean to tell you people were getting hurt, all over a twenty dollar bill.  Then a slatternly colored lady came out of the dilapidated shack, and began screaming at all of them to stop.  One of them ran over to the shack, pried a porch roof pole loose, and struck her with it solid enough to knock her to the ground.
I had never left the rear seat of the car in all of this time.  Dell leaned back against the car to see who was going to win the battle and collect the money.  When the man knocked the woman down, I’d seen enough and stepped from the car with my shotgun.  This was way out of hand for this amount of money.  One of them hollered out, “He got a gun.”  Almost instantly Dell and I were alone with the groggy woman who was picking herself up from the ground, as the men all ran off into a nearby woods.
Dell gave her the money.  We refused to give her an immediate ride to a nearby liquor store, so she started walking in that direction, as we left the place.
I don’t remember that Dell ever did build that trailer, but at least he had the beginnings of one if he ever wanted to.

Going South

We were both on leave, I after just leaving an overseas duty station, while he had recently departed Brunswick, Maine.  We were headed in the same direction, at the same time, so we followed each other.  It was late November, or very early December 1966, and Dell and I were both headed to west central Alabama where we would split, he and his family continuing south to Pensacola, while I turned west for Meridian, Mississippi.  I had recently purchased a 1965 Chevy Belair four-door sedan, and was reasonably sure it would take me anywhere I might want to go.  I led most of the way from northern New York down into northern Alabama.
I don’t remember our entire itinerary, but I do recall we were on US 43 traveling down the western side of the state.  Although you might not think of Alabama as mountainous, that part of it does have some fairly steep hills.  We had stopped overnight somewhere or other, and this was the afternoon of the second day.  Dell, in general, was always a slower driver than I, so as I was leading he sometimes was a bit reluctant to keep up with me.  That is until we were on a downhill stretch of road and he passed me.  I could hardly believe it was him going by, but it was.  Yup, there was Dawn, her pretty little head stuck out the window waving to us as they went by.  I wouldn’t tell anyone how old she was today, but she was six then.  He continued to lead from then until we reached Eutaw, Alabama, which was our prearranged point that we would go in different directions to our separate duty stations.
As we split apart on separate highways we waved to each other, and that was it.  I don’t remember exactly how long it was, but a few weeks later our family drove down to Pensacola for an overnight visit.  While visiting I happened to mention how untypical it was of him to pass me, while I was speeding, on our way down through Alabama.  He told me he had no choice.  His rather older 1958 Ford station wagon apparently had poor brakes the entire trip, and he didn’t dare use them too frequently on those downhill roads so he just let it go.  He still didn’t know where he would get the money to repair them.
During the following week I bought a 1964 Chevy wagon, and invited him up for the weekend.  When he and the family arrived I told him to take his choice of my two vehicles.  He insisted he couldn’t afford either, and I insisted neither had to cost him a penny he wasn’t ready to part with.  His family drove that 1965 Chevy car for several years, and ultimately every penny of the agreed upon price was paid me.  Neither of the above photos are actual, but are rather representative.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


It was such a nice day today.  The thermometer rose to about 36 degrees, and maybe half of the 6” or so of snow we had melted away.  Because we had plowed about half of the front lawn previously it turned mostly green today.  It makes me think of spring even though I know it isn’t.  Snow, ice, and sleet were all listed as possibilities, but we got little of any of it.  It did barely rain once for only a very few minutes.
About noon, when the temperature stretched above freezing, I went for an ATV ride, but all for naught as I saw nothing of note.  After visiting with my older brother, Lawrence in later afternoon, I went for yet another ride thinking maybe deer might appear not too long before dark, but again that was a poor idea as I saw nothing again.  The best I could do was spot some turkey tracks.  At least that says the large flock I spotted a week or so ago must still be in the area.
Tonight and tomorrow the temperature is forecast to be milder than one might expect, but tomorrow night, Wednesday, it’s back to reality with below zero expected.  At least we’re on the downhill side of January, and in about two weeks we’ll be closer to spring than fall.  Life has its little rewards.
My brother Lawrence, who turned 82 last September, told me today he seems to get tired quicker than he used to.  He said he likes to take naps now.  I replied that I like to take naps too, and do nearly every day.  I see no problem with that.  He buys fire wood by the truckload of logs.  He then chainsaws it into 16” lengths, splits it on a hydraulic splitter, and piles it.  He works away at this 4 or 5 days a week, nearly year round, making maybe 200 face cords of fire wood yearly.  It makes me tired to even think about it, and he’s 9 years older than I.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Great Grandfather

Without trying to be too boring is it okay to recall that by early 1639 Thomas Lawton immigrated to the New World Colony of Portsmouth, later to be a part of Rhode Island.  Now comes the boring, but necessary to a genealogist, part.  Thomas had a son Daniel, who had a son Benjamin, who had a son Benjamin, who had a son Oliver, all while yet living in Rhode Island.  However in 1789 Oliver and his wife Ann struck out across the forested wilderness stopping when they got to an area that would one day be known as Fairfield, Herkimer County, New York.
Among other children Oliver and Ann had a son named Benjamin, born in 1790, who traveled to New York with his parents.  In 1807 Ben and Mary had a son, also named Benjamin.  A few years later Ben and Mary moved northward to help settle Jefferson County.  Their children, including Benjamin jr., traveled north with their parents.  In 1833 Ben jr. and his wife Betsey had a son named Joseph.
Why do I care about all of this?  Because Joseph was my grandfather Will’s father.  This of course means that all of the above were my ancestors.  Joseph married a fine young lady named Jane Wilson on her 21st birthday in 1856 when he was 23.  The married couple had eleven children between then and 1877 all of which lived to adulthood except one.
Joseph apparently had many talents as at times he was a farmer, a storekeeper, a furniture and casket maker, an undertaker, and a carpenter.  At one time he owned a complete business block in downtown Philadelphia, New York.  As the 58 year old Joseph died in1891, 47 years before my birth, I never knew him, but he must have been a fascinating man.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dean And I And The Coon

I began attending Union High School in Lisbon, New York in September 1950.  I entered the 9th grade, a freshman, at 12 years of age.  Shortly thereafter, I met Dean James Cox, who was a year behind me in school, but very nearly the same age as I.  For the next five years we spent a lot of time together, especially on Sunday afternoons.
Nearly every Sunday afternoon I would ride my Schwinn the two miles or so to his home, and we would spend the afternoon attempting to find out how many different sorts of mischief two precocious teens can get into.  Had we kept a diary, it could have been used for a how-to book in ways to make parents turn prematurely gray haired.
During the 1800s a part of living had developed in the northern reaches of our great country whereby lots of rural folks made maple sugar each spring to supplement their income.  A short description of this might be, drain sap from a maple tree, cook sap until it turns into syrup, save same.  In order to facilitate this endeavor a foundry had designed, and produced a large iron kettle with which to cook the sap.  It was suspended over an outdoor wood-burning fire to create the heat necessary for boiling.  By the 1900s newer, faster, better methods of reducing the sap to syrup had been developed, and the large kettles main use had disappeared.  Many of them were then used as water holders for livestock drinking purposes as the dairy industry developed.  By the 1950s even this use had been superceded, and many of the old iron kettles were left to rust into oblivion.  Such was the case with one found at Dean’s parent’s farm/greenhouse operation.
One fine summer Sunday afternoon Dean and I spotted a raccoon ambling about their farm near to a wooded area.  For whatever reason an old animal live trap was stored in an outbuilding.  Those two facts supported the germ of an idea that the coon would make a good pet.  We baited the trap with corn, and left it near to where we had spotted the coon, to retreat to the barn where we could watch it.  As if scripted in Hollywood, within minutes we had us a coon in the trap.  Carefully we moved his abode up near the buildings where the old abandoned syrup kettle happened to reside.  We decided that might make a suitable home for our pet.
Unceremoniously we dumped Mr. Coon into the kettle and immediately placed an old iron grate over the top, weighted down by a couple of big boulders conveniently found nearby.  We dropped in some corn, it seemed he liked that, and also poured some water into a pan within his comfortable home.  Then, as he was excited, we left him alone while we found other good things to do.  Possibly a half hour later we returned to find he still didn’t like us.  Dean then went off and returned with a fence post maul.  As he approached the kettle the coon started to fuss so Dean struck the kettle with the maul.  It sounded about like an old time gong.  (Can you imagine being inside that thing?)  All afternoon this procedure continued.  We’d go near the kettle, the coon would rush at us, one of us would ring the gong, Mr. Coon would go into orbit, and then settle back down shaking his head.
Late in the afternoon, Dean’s father asked what we were doing.  When we told him we were taming a coon, he made us turn it loose, but as we removed the grate, Dean just had to give him one last parting shot of the gong.  Within four seconds or so Mr. Coon was back in the woods again.  I’ve no idea how he explained to the other coons in the woods what he’d done for the afternoon.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Through Field And Meadow

The first photo is oriented about the way you usually see a map with the top being about north.  The mostly white expanse is the beaver pond with the original house to right of center.  That’s a set of deer tracks meandering past the house, in a southwesterly direction, and entering the roadway the photo was taken from.  Did you note the cattails that appear to be right at the end of the pipe?
In the second photo those same tracks appear in the bottom left corner, go down over the bank, and continue in a southwesterly direction going away.  The sluice pipe going under the roadway may orient you a bit more.  The deer left the pond near the western end of the dam.  As I took these photos I wondered if a deer cannot tell the difference between ice and land when covered with snow?  It seemed to have taken the path of least resistance, across the unobstructed ice, but would it have chosen the same route if the snow was not there?

On my return trip, just behind our horse pasture, I spotted these two trees in the third photo, a pine on the left, and a spruce on the right.  I marveled that they had grown to this size in only a few years.  I bought this land a little less than 35 years ago.  At that time this was a hay meadow.  I baled hay from it for several years.  When I no longer kept cattle I let it return to a more wild state, but I did brush hog it maybe about 15 years ago.  These trees have grown up since then.  They have seeded themselves, and evergreens are usually the first trees in mother nature’s grand scheme of reforestation.  Long after my demise they will give way to the deciduous species.
This is another long-needle-pine, growing very near the pair of trees in the former photo.  It too has grown unattended, showing how tenacious a tree can be when trying to establish a foothold in our earth.
Photo five shows yet another healthy pine with several more in the background.  All have self-seeded as my hay meadow gradually returns to a natural state, after a couple of hundred years of mankind’s manipulation.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

In A Timely Manner

As to length of the day, January 1 doesn’t mean much of anything.
Let’s start with the equator.  Although not exactly, every day is 12 hours long throughout the year.  By the time you go north halfway to the pole, or 45 degrees North Latitude, and that’s where I live, things have changed somewhat.  Here the length of day varies with the passing of the seasons.  If the day’s length changes here, but not at the equator, then logic tells us it must change by varying, but lesser, amounts between the two points.  Just to establish another reference point lets use the North and South Carolina border, which is about 35 degrees north of the equator.

At the time of the Vernal Equinox, about March 21st, the length of the day is equal everywhere.  By June 21st which is the Summer Solstice the longest day of the year has appeared north of the equator.  Here it will be about 15 hours and 37 minutes long, but down there in the Carolina country it will only be 14 hours and 31 minutes long.
At the time of the Autumnal Equinox, about September 21, everything has about equaled out again all over the earth.
About December 21st, or the Winter Solstice, here halfway to the north pole our day has diminished to 8 hours and 46 minutes long.  Those dear Carolinians yet have a 9 hour and 48 minute day, or an hour more of daylight than we northerners.
This all works out very well.  When its cold up here in the northern climes we have nice long nights to cuddle and/or sleep.  In the south when it’s the long hot days of summer they have less daylight hot hours to contend with than we of the cooler temperatures.  Somehow it seems to me we northerners have the best of this situation with the longer warm days of summer, and the longer colder nights of winter.
Today, here in northern New York, our day was about the same length as Thanksgiving Day, or 20 minutes longer than it was Christmas Day.  In about three weeks it will be the midpoint of winter, and all downhill into spring.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Bayou Buggy

I repeat that I bought a second-hand 1995 Kawasaki Bayou ATV yesterday.  It seems to be in great condition, and I expect to be able to once again make small journeys through woods and fields to Grandmother’s house.  Today I decided to test it some.  It started right up as expected, shifted into first gear and then second, and off I went on an excursion to the beaver pond.
There was a wind coming from the north which I was facing all of the way back there, but I rejoiced that it would be at my back for the return trip.  The beaver pond is completely frozen over, snow covered, and appears little different than the surrounding land.  I looked that over for about 10 seconds, turned around, and with my back to the wind finally began my return to my nice warm home.
As I left my neighbor’s land, passing through a gap in our old fence line, and reentered my own woods, I made a decision.  There are two ways to get back to my house.  The first was to backtrack the way I had came, while the second led through the woods, over a frozen creek, through a different part of the meadow, and thence home.
As my newly acquired ATV has brand new oversize rubber that look like little farm tractor tires, I had great confidence they would go through any amount of snow I might encounter.  So, like Robert Frost’s two roads diverging in a yellow wood, I chose the least traveled.  All was well and good for a couple of hundred feet until I came to the frozen creek.  It’s about a foot deep and twenty feet wide.  Somewhere out in the middle of it, it wasn’t near as frozen as I had surmised.  Yes, the ATV and I found ourselves with the two wheels on the left side still on the ice while the right side wheels were in the very muddy bottom of the creek.  This is a very embarrassing situation.  There is no traction on those two wheels up on the ice, while the other two kept digging deeper and deeper into the soft oozing mud.  If I didn’t stop attempting to free it, sooner or later this thing was going to be up on its side.

I walked the ¼ mile to my home.  My wife called one of my nephews who lives a couple of hundred feet away to come and aid my situation.  He did not understand I was at my house so went directly back into my woods until he found my poor stuck ATV.  He hooked his ATV to mine and ignominiously towed mine the entire way back to my yard.  After thanking him I started my Bayou Babe, and drove it into my barn.  It isn’t as clean as in the photos now.  Somehow it got muddy.  So went my first excursion on my latest mode of travel.

Mail Again

As I watched Meg walk the length of the driveway today, once more going to get the mail from the rural mailbox, again I marveled at her attire on a 19 degree temperature day.  I’m not too sure the girl has good sense at times.
I watched from a southwest facing window as she trudged the 100’ or so each direction.  As I snapped the photo I realized there was much detail in the background.  For those of you familiar with this area, or for that matter those who are not, I will describe what you are seeing.
In the foreground, that is Meg in her jammies.  At least she has boots on.  That’s the family car directly behind her.  Meg uses it for college travel back and forth when it is in session.
At the left top is my nephew Bernard’s home.  His father, my brother Lawrence, bought the small farm including the home in 1957, I believe, and tranferred it to his son in the late 70s.  I spent my wedding night upstairs in that home in December 1958.
To the right of the home is Lawton Electric.  It was started by Lawrence in the 1960s.  The main business deals with the repair of electric motors, although it has had various other functions from time to time as well.
Parked in front of the building is a shop-owned Ford 8N farm tractor with loader that is used for all sorts of heavy lifting, snow plowing, and anything else necessary.
The pickup behind the tractor belongs to the lone employee that is not family.  All of the other, family, employees, walk to work from surrounding homes.
The large blue object is a waste metal container.  The station wagon is an apparent customer just pulling in.
In the background is the Flackville Cemetery where much of my family spends their eternal days.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Birds And A Bayou

Blue jays are scrappy birds driving away most other kinds until they've first had their fill.  This one has a choice sunflower seed clutched in his beak which he carried to the nearby lilac bush before cracking it open and devouring the contents.  That left the tray open for some of the smaller varieties.
A sparrow, a cardinal, and a dove then appeared.  All seemed a bit apprehensive of the jay yet in the nearby lilac, but I've noted in the past that the cardinal will drive off the jays if it is so inclined.  On a nice day like today with temperatures in the teens it is but a matter of time until all will get their fill anyway, it's a matter of in what order.
Actually the dove up on the porch feeder is a bit unusual because by choice they will usually eat from the ground.  They usually appear as a group, first stopping in the nearby swing tree, and then dropping down to the ground one at a time.  At times as many as 35-40 may be there at once.

Then later in the afternoon I saw an advertisement on Craigslist for an ATV I felt was in my price range.  It was in Watertown, about 60 miles from where I live, but I called the owner, got a location, and told him I was headed his direction.  An hour and a half later my son Carl and I found him and the ATV.  After looking it over I decided it would do for Alex and I to make our evening beaver pond runs, so I bought it.  The one I bought two or three weeks ago was a pile of undependable junk.  I will keep it until warmer weather, hopefully repair it somewhat, and see if anyone else can find some use for it.  Hopefully this one will be a better ride.


For more than twenty years I've used the same cup for my coffee which I drink copious amounts of from the time I arise about ten each morning until I retire about two the next morning.
A few days ago I was playing with my sons miniature pincher dog and in some manner I knocked my cup to the floor, whereupon it landed on its top and broke a chunk out of it.
Moving on to Ebay I found one that appeared to be identical to my lost love, and so I asked my daughter to order it.  She did, and it arrived today.  Being a wonderful child, my granddaughter delivered it to my home, after first securing it from her family's rural mailbox.
I couldn't help but suck in my breath as I stared in bewilderment as Meg ran the length of our driveway and back, and then on over to our home across the driveway with the new cup.  The temperature was 19 degrees as she wandered around in her shorty pajamas, through the snow and frigid air.  She attempted to keep me from taking this photo, but I was not to be denied.
My original old faithful cup can be noted sitting on the end of the table as I strum my guitar in the previous article.  The one that arrived today is a replica, made in Japan, not England as was my original.  I've written to the source of this new one to see if it is possible they have one like my original.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Starting Over

Not caring to go into detail in this media, suffice it to say I thought it sagacious to discontinue my former blog.  Nearly all material that was ever published on that blog is yet available within my home computer.  I have it saved and am working on producing it in a yearly book form.
This blog will begin more or less in the same style as the former blog.  I hope that there will be good folks that will enjoy my sometimes rambling.  Much of it is for those who are mostly younger than I about events that transpired, sometimes in the distant past, to people that many of the readers will recognize as ancestors, or related to those.
Up there in the right hand top corner you will notice a music symbol and the word “Beginnings.”  (That means it’s a beginning for me as I have never previously sang in public, nor do I believe it is a particularly wise thing for me to do.)  Clicking on either, with your volume on (but not too high) will bring forth from your very own computer the melodious tones of myself with one verse of an old Hank Williams song entitled, “I Can’t Help It,” that I recorded this week.  The photo was taken December 20, 2008.  The guitar is a 1957 Gibson ES-125 Electric Spanish, originally purchased at Calipari’s Music Store in Potsdam, NY by my uncle John Suhockey, in 1957.  The store burned in August 1980.  My brother Ron bought the guitar from Uncle John, and in turn I bought it from Ron shortly before his death May 26, 1984.
I wish to give credit where credit is due.  The lady named Donna Lawton Royce, is my youngest daughter, and I am extremely proud to make that statement.  She is the unseen brains behind the inner workings of this site.  She designed it, set it up, and does all sorts of things to it, that I am unable to do for myself.  She never gets tired of me asking her to change a color slightly, or move some small detail a fraction of an inch.  Thank you kindly, daughter.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Snake Hunting

Give or take a year it was about the fall of 1972, or maybe ‘73.  Several of us had gotten together for a morning of rabbit chasin’.  I remember my brother Bob was along, also my brother-in-law Wendy, and two or three others.  Oh yes, my brother Fred was there too.
There are two sizes of beagles.  The larger are known as 15”, while the smaller are 13”, denoting their height.  I kept several of the latter.  After all the guys were gathered at my place, I turned the dogs loose from the pen.  This always got them excited as they realized a hunt was in store whenever that happened.  The next few minutes were taken up watching the fool dogs as they sniffed everything in sight, including each other, even though they had all been in the same pen.
After the newness wore off I started my ancient 1946 Jeep, we all climbed in it, or on it, and off to the woods we headed with hounds strung out behind.  After several minutes of traveling we reached our destination.  We broke out some coffee from thermos jugs as we stood around in the chilly early morning air awaiting our hounds to open up announcing they were hot on the trail of a moving-on bunny.
I don’t really recall how we did with our hunting on that given day, but I don’t think we were ever skunked, so we must have got at least one or two.  Finally it was time to say, “Enough for one day,” and gathering the dogs in we began to walk toward the Jeep.  By this time the sun had risen high enough in the morning sky to warm the day somewhat from its earlier crispness.  As we walked Fred spotted a snake crawling under a rock.
For lack of anything better to do, he latched onto the rock half frozen into the ground.  It was possibly a foot in diameter or so.  Fred was quite a powerful man and with seeming ease he rolled the rock up out of its hole in the ground to reveal a writhing mass of garter snakes all wrapped up in a moving ball.  There had to be at least 25 or 30 of them all in a hole under that rock.  They were apparently nested there for the winter season.  After the rock was moved, and the sun warmed them a bit, they began to crawl loose from the bundle.  They crawled off in various directions to whatever their fate may have been after having their nest disturbed.
I had seen this same sort of thing once before.  When I was a teenager, I was plowing a meadow one fall, and plowed a ball of snakes to the surface.  They too had been under a rock.  In slow motion they had all crawled back under a freshly plowed furrow, apparently to survive the winter there.