Thursday, June 30, 2011

Party Line

I was a youngster, but can remember, as far back as the early WWII period which of course was the first half of the 1940s decade.  Undoubtedly there are others who can stake a claim to far earlier memories than that, but I can only tell you what I recall.  Our telephone at the time looked like the one in this photograph.  It stood on a shelf about three feet from the floor between our living and dining rooms.  While using it, which my mother dearly loved to do, she sat on a nearby chair in the dining room.
There were four family phones on our party line, but only two party rings could be heard, our own, and one of our closest neighbors the Mayne’s.  If our own ring was heard, my mother of course picked the speaker part off of its hook which opened the phone line to the calling party.  Gladys Mayne also heard our phone ring, so in order to keep up with the neighborhood news she would also pick up her receiver and listen to the conversation between mother and the calling person.  It follows that my mother never passed up an opportunity to listen in on Gladys and her friends.  Common manners said you only listened, but once in a great while possibly mother or Gladys might join the conversation if it was a mutual friend.  It was easy to explain that mother thought it was her ring rather than Gladys’.
Beneath the phone shelf, mounted to the wall was a black metal box about 6” wide and 8” high.  It had a small crank protruding from its side.  If mother wanted to place a call she picked the receiver from its hook, listened to determine if anyone else was using the phone, if not she turned the little crank a few revolutions, and waited for the operator to say, “Number please?”  She then told the operator the number she wished to call and the operator made a manual connection between the two phones.  If perchance any of the other three parties were on the line, then of course she had to listen in to know when they were done with their conversation.
As we had no electric power, hence no TV, and only used the battery powered radio sparingly due to expensive batteries, the party line was mother’s sole entertainment source.  It was in the next decade before our family obtained that great advertising nightmare device, the television.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Water, Water, Everywhere

The village of Russell can be located in the town of Russell in St. Lawrence County way up there in northern New York.  Heading south from the village for a couple of miles will bring you to Whippoorwill Corners where if you were so inclined you could turn east on county route 17 and head toward the village of Degrasse which is five or six miles distant.  However no more than a half mile from the Corners on the north side of the road there is a marked State area where one can freely camp.  This area has a small brook running right through it named aptly Plum Brook.  I say that because it is a brook, not because I ever saw any plums in the area.  This first photo is a view downstream of the brook as it appears from near the camping area.  Small rapids appear here and there causing that sound that is so soothing to the ear.  I’ve camped there in the past and I had no trouble sleeping with the never-ending music of the water passing by.

The second photo is a view of the same brook, but upstream from very near the same place as the first photo.  The scenic value is wonderful and a tonic everyone should experience from time to time.  It is not uncommon to see wildlife at this wayside stop, including, but not limited to, deer.

Leaving that place (which isn’t easy for campers) and continuing east toward Degrasse one can locate the Silver Hill Road heading south to nowhere.  This third photo is taken right from the roadway at the first small bridge you come to.  Do you spot that boulder in the stream toward the right side of the photo?  I happened to catch the largest Brook Trout I’ve ever seen right in the eddy behind it last year.  Right between the camera and the rock my bobber can be spotted while my grandson’s is over nearer the left shore as we try again, but with no luck this time.  However, our fishing partner, and brother-in-law Ron, did manage to catch a fair sized Brookie here which he tossed back to grow some more.

Continuing along the Silver Hill Road past Cook Road and the McCarthy Road soon you will come to this breathtaking spot as shown in photo four.  The brook passes right under the road, but this is to the upstream side a 100’ or so from the road.  This is Brook Trout fishing water at its best, and a summer day in the Adirondacks is never a day wasted.  The stream comes cascading down over rocks, through sylvan glades, under forest causing dappled sunlight on its floor.
From the lower right hand corner of photo four the brook tumbles next over this small set of rapids, quickly dropping four feet or so to a new level.  I got a nice bite here Sunday, June 26th, but it got my hard working worm, and I got nothing.  Swim on oh great piscatorial wonder, maybe we’ll meet again another day?
These is a little fished brook of pure mountain waters winding its way down to the Degrasse River which flows to the mighty St. Lawrence River, and on to the Atlantic Ocean.  We fished the various spots on it for some four hours, and never encountered another fisherman in our travels, or maybe that should be travails.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Joe Bonaparte

Corsica is an island in the northern Mediterranean, and furthermore is the birthplace of Napoleon Bonaparte whom I will assume most readers will have heard of this gentleman.  However, it is also the birthplace of Joseph Bonaparte in 1768, the not-quite-so-well-known elder brother of Napoleon.  So, “What did Joseph ever do?” might be a fair question.
Joseph, a bit of a rogue, married and sired three daughters by 1802.  He also fathered two more children with another lady, not his wife, by 1808.  In 1806 Joseph’s brother Napoleon installed him as the military commander of Naples, and shortly thereafter made him King of Naples.  This lasted for two years at which time Napoleon gave that title to their sister’s husband while Joseph was entitled King of Spain.  Joseph tenuously held that position until 1813 at which time he abdicated the throne he never really held.  Taking the Spanish Crown Jewels with him, he next showed up in Switzerland before moving on to America from 1817 through 1832.  Here he became the father of two more daughters with his mistress Annette Savage.  He lived in New York City and Philadelphia before settling in Bordentown, New Jersey, located between the two former cities.
Along the way he acquired a fair amount of land in northern New York surrounding a large lake in Lewis County.  Joseph named the lake Diana after the goddess of the hunt, but it was known thereafter as Lake Bonaparte (mentioned in the previous post) as it is today.  He first built a rather modest home at a place called Natural Bridge some 20 miles west of the Lake, so named because the Indian River disappears underground at that point for a hundred yards or so leaving the natural bridge over its flow.
Using his Natural Bridge home as a base Joseph set about building a much more luxurious building on the lake shore.  This he named “The Hermitage.”  His and Annette’s eldest daughter had died, but the second daughter, Caroline, ultimately married  Zebulon Benton.  Benton was born and raised in a wee village named Oxbow, on a bend in the Oswegatchie River resembling the yoke used for oxen, only a few miles from Natural Bridge, even though eventually in a different county.
Joseph Bonaparte grew tired of living in the woods of northern New York and built a new home for Annette and himself back in New Jersey.  He left her there and returned to Italy where he died.  Annette ultimately married and moved to New York City.  Zebulon Benton went bankrupt, mostly squandering his wife’s legacy, in an attempt to smelt iron ore around Lake Bonaparte.  Caroline lived out her days as a teacher in northern New York. 

Saturday, June 25, 2011

The Onion Van

As happens in life we all grow older as time passes.  In my family that also often means that our hearts will succumb to the ravages of time before we are of a normal retirement age.  My brother Bob, while yet in his early fifties, was forced into an early retirement for this reason.
Although I had a heart attack when I was 41 I had been fortunate enough through surgery to be able to return to the work force again, and was a general repairman for a servicing mobilehome dealer.  In this business the repair work necessarily took place at the home site so I spent a good part of my time traveling from place to place around the northern parts of New York.  Having spent a year of my life unable to do much of anything after suffering the heart attack, I knew what Bob was going through day after day with nothing to do of consequence.  So it was my habit to pick him up on some occasions when it appeared I would be spending much of my day traveling along the highways and byways.
On one such occasion I had to travel to a lakeside area in the Adirondacks.  It seemed like a ride that Bob might enjoy, and I liked the company while driving as well.  So it was that we rode together to my designated home needing repair along side the beautiful Lake Bonaparte (named after Joseph, brother of Napoleon).  The home owner was working, but I had permission to enter the home to complete the necessary repairs, and so it was that Bob was free to wander the surrounding area among the woods and lakeshore to whatever degree he had the strength to do.
Possibly as much as a couple of hours passed as I effected whatever repair work the homeowner had requested.  Upon completion of  my tasks I finally returned to my work van to go on to the next stop of the day.  As I entered my van it smelled like I had entered a giant onion.  The air was pungent to say the least.  Bob sat within the van, non-concerned as to this overpowering odor.  My first words were, “What is that awful smell in here?”
He nonchalantly replied, “I’ve been picking leeks.”
I suggested it smelled more like he had taken a leak, but he assured me it was merely a plant and he had picked a bunch in the nearby woods to take home.  I was not familiar with them at the time, but they are apparently related to the common onion as they smell nearly identical.  Since then a neighbor made some soup from some and brought a sample to my family, and I must report that it was very good, but the particular day that Bob placed them in my work van I was not so sure about their goodness.  In fact the odor could be detected for many days thereafter.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Sunday Rock

Somewhere between those who felt they were civilized, and those who were considered less so, there had to be a dividing line of some sort.  Otherwise how could one have told what status they held in the wilderness.  Sometimes there was little difference between the factions, but still, since the beginnings of civilization the world has been divided in some sort of class distinctions so this was little different.
When the Revolutionary War was over the State of New York had tremendous wartime debts to contend with.  It was decided to confiscate all land of former Loyalists (British sympathizers) and sell it to the highest bidder.  Thus in the latter half of the 1780s decade pioneers began to settle in central New York on this newly available acreage.  Yet it was a slow process as there were vast tracts of land to fill, and not that many pioneers to fill them.  The trend of settlement continued with those who went north along the western side of the Adirondack Mountains into the fertile valley of the St. Lawrence River which divided these lands from Canada to the north and west.  Thus the Valley was settled long before the mountainous interior of northern New York.  There, only the hardiest of individuals attempted to make a living via trapping fur-bearing animals or in the lumber industry.
Those in the St. Lawrence River Valley soon decided they were much more civilized than the riff raff of the mountains, and this is where the division of classes began.  On the northern outskirts of what is now the village of South Colton there is a BFR.  In nice terms this is a big foolish rock.  It was here that the line was established separating the heathens from those civilized folks in the Valley.  The heathens were those from everywhere and nowhere that sparsely populated the mountains no matter what their race, creed, or color.  Soon it was known as heathen rock denoting its status as the dividing point.  In later years the term heathen was somehow determined to be a harsh term, so its title is now the Sunday Rock, but the meaning is still the same.
Recently it has been named to the National Registry of Landmarks.  Previous to that it had been listed in the State Registry of Historic Sites.  It is now the only rock designated as a National Landmark.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rare Deer Photos

Saturday afternoon, June 11, 2010.  I was driving slowly around my local area to see what I could see.  I was in my farmer neighbor’s corn stubble field untouched since last fall.  As I approached my own land, which is the woods part, suddenly a deer stood up from her bed.  Noticing how suddenly gaunt she was as compared to a pregnant belly a couple of days earlier, I knew she had recently given birth.  She certainly was not in any distress by my presence as can be noted by her merely standing still with tail dropped.
In the second photo you can tell she has walked a few steps, but still not showing any alarm, just walking away slowly.
In the third photo a small udder can be detected by careful examination proving the recent birth of a fawn or fawns.

In the fourth photo she has raised her tail, but not in the classic flag alarm manner.  It seems more of a half mast effort.  Also if alarmed her head would be held high as she searched for danger.

In the fifth photo she had done something I have never seen before.  She squatted down on her haunches.  I thought she looked like a kangaroo in that position, although I’ve never actually saw one of those either.  She remained like that for at least a full minute while I snapped several photos.  She is looking into the trees on my land, but there is precious little there to hold her interest.

After a minute or so she once more stood up with her tail straight out behind her.  All of this time I had no idea what was going on.
Then raising her tail a bit higher she trotted off to explore some other area while I moseyed on up to where she had committed this strange act.  I found a rather large wet area where she had obviously urinated.  Having watched deer all of my adult life I had never witnessed this on any prior occasion.  I would have never guessed a deer would squat to pee if I had not witnessed and photographed her in the act.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


Last Thursday, June 9, 2011, while at the beaver pond on my farmer neighbor’s land, I espied Bucky Beaver doing his thing, namely adding a bit of building material to the blockage of the sluice pipe under the road.  This blockage has caused the water level to rise somewhere around a foot on the north side of the roadway.  Bucky’s plan of a higher water level also caused the pond to enlarge as it overflowed its banks.  All well and good as far as Bucky was concerned, but this plan was not acceptable by Mr. Farmer.  He didn’t believe Bucky needed the extra room as it was being subtracted from his crop field.
Monday, June 13th, when I arrived at the pond on my almost daily journey I discovered a waterhole.  That hole in the water, with the surrounding water circulating in a counter-clockwise direction, is located at the end of the sluice pipe where Bucky had his blockage.  Some act of man or nature apparently caused Bucky’s hard construction work to disappear.  This caused a sudden water flow from the north side of the road to the south side.
This is a view of the same water hole, or vortex, from a slightly different angle.  Hundreds of gallons of water are disappearing down that hole every minute.
The discharge end of the sluice pipe on the south side of the road appears like this.  The water flow is quite spectacular to see.  That green dashed line on the side of the pipe that is now approximately 4” underwater, was about 8” above the waterline the day before yesterday.  The green line is very close to the identical height of the dam just out of sight in this photo, which means the water is flowing through the pipe faster than it can flow over the dam causing the level to rise.
In this view the original dam is over to the left side where the water is flowing over the top of it hiding the actual dam.
This is one last view of the 8” diameter hole in the water caused by the rapid drainage of the north side of the pond.  It remains to be seen what Bucky’s response to this catastrophe will be?  To be continued, someday.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Bert's Navy

Lloyd Burton Lawton (Bert)
July 13, 1927—June 11, 1994

Bert may have died 17 years ago today, but he is far from forgotten in the annals of time.  Hardly a day passes that I don’t think about him.  When Bert started farming in 1949, on  a five year leased farm, I, as an 11-year-old, went to “work” for him and Gina his wife.  At the time Bert was operating a dairy farm as well as working at the GLF (Grange League Federation) Feed and Farm Supply store in Heuvelton, NY.  Later the GLF became the Agway store.
On this day I want to tell a little of what I know of Bert’s career in the United States Navy.  I obviously was not there so I know but a small part of what his life was like during those hard dreary days served during the period of WW II.  I do remember him coming home from his job in Watertown, NY one bright summer day in 1944.  I was six years old then, while Bert had just turned seventeen.  Our mother was working in the garden.  She spent many hours in summer repetitiously weeding those tender plants to supply our family with vegetables all through the winter.  As Bert climbed off of his Whizzer motorbike it seemed odd that he was home in midweek.  He walked to the garden, with me tagging along behind, so he could tell mother the news that he had joined the Navy.  I thought it a great idea and didn’t understand why our mother began crying.  I had never seen her cry, much less at good news like Bert was going to work for the Navy on ships and stuff.  Today I think mother looked at things differently than I as her first-born headed off to war.
Soon he was gone, not to return home again for more than two years.  At least some of that period was spent aboard a United States Navy ship named the USS Bennion (DD-662), a Navy Destroyer.  The ship fought as a part of the Pacific Fleet through the “Island Campaign” war in the Pacific.
For those family members who may have an interest, I have a booklet titled “The Story of the Bennion DD 662.”  It relates the story of the Bennion’s tales of battle during those harrowing, horrendous days of sea power battles during the second world war.  On page 109 can be found, among a list of the ship’s crew,
Lawton, Lloyd B. F1c (EM).
It means that he was a Fireman first class working as an Electrician’s Mate.
Any family member that so desires may borrow the book to read, copy, or both.  Yes, that photo is the Bennion.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

June Pond Life

On June 1st I was wandering around and happened upon this deer.  She was not alarmed at my presence allowing me to approach quite closely while seemingly posing for this portrait.  She is standing in corn stubble from last year.
This painted turtle arose from the water as I arrived at the pond on June 6th.  You can note that he is yet wet which lasted only a minute or two in the sun that day.  They like to bask in the sun from time to time.  This is the time of year they lay their eggs, buried in the earth a few inches deep where they hatch unattended.  The babies will rise from the ground and head for the nearby water as soon as they are hatched.  I’ve seen several places where they have buried eggs recently.  The green spots on its back are some sort of algae from the water.
Also on the 6th I bumped into this fine rabbit.  Like the above deer it didn’t seem particularly bothered by my appear4ing in its domain.  Until I moved closer it continued to sit munching plants contented as could be.
Lazily swimming along Bucky Beaver was eyeing me quite closely to see what my intentions were.  As I made no move to harm it, it continued to swim lazy circles for a couple of minutes before deciding I wasn’t worth bothering with.
Then he ducked his head and disappeared into a gentle swirl of water making me wonder if he had been there at all.  However the camera said he was.
Although I wasn’t too close, and my camera leaves much to be desired in any sort of telephoto work, there are three deer in this photo that I spotted after leaving the pond that day.  There are the two closer ones, and another way over to the right and further away.
I know I should get a life, but anyway I watched these two bullfrogs for probably fifteen minutes or more.  The one way over to the right would grunt out his harrumphs over and over several times before pausing to hear results from any interested female.  Once in a while the one on the left, which was smaller, and presumably younger, would also try his luck, but upon his first youthly groan the larger one would attack him.  There was no bloodshed, just a hurried movement in some direction from the smaller one.  The larger one was winning the contest in that it could advertise, but the smaller one could not.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Goat

This is something I wrote about a decade ago.

            The goat was chasing the dinosaur all over the farm, and the sun kept rising and setting right in the middle of the day.  There was this odd hazy feeling all the while, and the goat was not sure whether he was really a goat or not.  Sometimes things got sort of out of focus, and he lost his power to remember where he was and what he was doing.
            There was this man and woman and a little boy that lived in the house.  Then the man disappeared, and there was a whole lot of crying and carrying on for a while.  The goat didn’t care because someone kept feeding him, and as long as he wasn’t tied up he could fend for himself anyway.  After a while things got sort of back to normal and they quit that crying and screaming all of the time.  Occasionally you might see a tear running down a cheek when the boy or his mother thought they were alone, but other than that things was okay again, but the man never showed up again.
            After two winters went by a different man showed up.  He didn’t look at all like the man that used to be here.  This new guy had as much hair on his face as the goat did.  The first guy was always clean-shaven and walked around with this little leather bag when he got in the tin box and drove away.  The new guy began to show up more and more often.  He didn’t pay any attention to the goat at all, like the other guy had.  The first guy used to pet the goat and rub his ears which the goat liked immensely.
            The goat had a big area to roam, and he could find lots of neat stuff to do so as not to get too bored.  Sometimes he would run and kick up his heels in pure enjoyment.  Other times he might just lie down for hours at a time and chew his cud.  He liked to do that.  It was such a comfortable feeling.  Once in a while, if he felt mischievous, he might run up over the top of the tin box.  If he launched himself just right he could hit the top without ever touching that shelf on the back end.  One more short little bounce onto the front part, another onto the ground, and he could start all over again.  Another favorite playtime was to go over to the back part of the lot, where the trees were, and butt them into submission.  After he got done with them every one of them would stand at attention, like the good little soldiers he pretended they were.
            The new man had moved into the house now.  There had been a big party one day with dozens of other folks around.  There had been music playing, and the people were all holding each other and moving around the floor to the beat of the music.  There were flowers everywhere, and everybody seemed to be having a good time.  Except the little boy, of course.  He had seen the boy over in the trees crying two different times that day.  But everyone else was having fun.
            One day the new man fenced off a small section over in the woods and planted some stuff in it.  The goat heard him tell this other man that came once in a while that he had planted a stash, whatever that was.  The stuff grew all that summer into large plants with big leaves.  The goat wondered what it was like but couldn’t find out because of the fence.
            When it was getting nearly time for the white stuff to fall from the sky, there came along one night a big windstorm.  The wind shrieked around the corners of the house, nearly all night long.  Sometime in the middle of the night a tree came crashing down with a big whooshing sound.  The goat lay in the lee of the house watching and waiting to see what would happen next.  Before first light, he got up on his feet and went to inspect his property.  The tree that had fallen in the night had fell partly on the fence built by the hairy man.
            As the fence was laying flat, the goat could see no reason he shouldn’t go in and inspect this stuff that had been growing there all summer.  He sniffed it all over, and found it to have a strange odor that he had never smelled before.  As he walked among it, he decided to take just a taste to find if it was edible.  It wasn’t all that good, but still it had a nice tang so he tried a little more.  Well, it sort of grew on him, so he chomped away for a few minutes until he had satisfied his hunger, and then went up and lay by the house again for a snooze.
            He awoke chasing that dinosaur with the purple spots.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Queen Anne China Cabinet

While in the service of our great country I met many thousands of fellow servicemen, but only a few were ever close enough to be considered really friends.  One of those I met in 1960.  I have lost contact with the fellow serviceman over the ensuing years, but I am fortunate to yet call his wife a dear friend.  We shall know her simply as Ellie.
In a recent letter she told me a bit of her growing up years that I never knew, and I think it is a story that others will enjoy also.
Her father was a struggling young artist in the late depression years prior to World War II.  To add to his meager income from his art work he crafted and sold jigsaw puzzles.  As well as this undertaking, he also fashioned marionettes and produced shows such as Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves, and Aladdin.  He must have been an inspiration to all those he came in contact with during those lean years.  Times improved through the war years, but still life was no bed of roses with a family to feed.
During 1949 a complete restorative program was begun for the White House in Washington, D. C.  President Truman had remarked to his wife that the building creaked and groaned during the night, and seemed to stand more by force of habit than structural integrity.  The first stage of the remodeling project was to completely disassemble the entire inside of the building leaving only the shell standing.  Some of the interior parts, not considered essential to reconstruction, were sold to the general public.  At this point Ellie’s dad procured three interior doors removed from the White House.  What an extraordinary feat.  One day he appeared at his home with the three large doors in the trunk of his aging 1936 Ford car.  He needed help entering his own driveway because there was a dip and the back of the car hung low from the additional weight.
Ever the artist, he tore the doors apart after stripping them of countless coatings of paint.  He now had a supply of the most beautiful, and historical, cherry wood in the nation, over 150 years old, and loving hands had brought it to a patina of exceptional color.  After considerable concentrated thought, he decided that the special wood should become a china cabinet.
Within his mind he visualized what it should look like, and proceeded to lay out the various parts on the precious wood available.  He had just so much wood, and not an inch more.  Each section of the Queen Anne cabinet was selected for its grain pattern so the parts would flow together as a unit when completed.  Maybe he had never worked with wood before, but the artist knew what was needed to make his project what he had foreseen.  The feet were fashioned in a rounded fashion, as they were in the original Queen Anne time period.  Each piece was lovingly fitted until a work of art was fashioned, merely from wood, rather than on canvas.
Can you think of a more precious piece in existence today than that one-of-a-kind Queen Anne china cabinet fashioned by the artist from the prized wood removed from the White House?  Ellie, you should be extraordinarily proud of your father’s work.