Friday, September 30, 2011

The Beaver Pond

June 14, 2011 the sluice pipe under the road had been opened so that the water was fast emptying from the beaver pond.  A blog about that can be found here:
Bucky and Eager managed to stem the flow again, and by July 11th the pond was nearly back to its former level.  As my neighbor had planted the field between my land and the pond to corn which had grown to about two feet tall at that time, I could no longer get to the pond for the summer.  September 29th my grandson and I rode our ATV back through my woods and as we approached the corn field we noted a few of the outside rounds had been cut and trucked away for our neighbor’s cattle feed for this coming winter.  We immediately entered the field, drove around the perimeter until we came to the road crossing the pond.  We got only a short look at the pond as they were yet cutting the corn and we could not sit on the roadway they needed for traveling to and fro.
Today, September 30th, we drove back to find this mound of mud and sticks covering the end of the sluice pipe.
Shortly after our arrival, who should pop up from the depths but Mrs. Eager Beaver.
She then began circling a branch she had obviously cut from a shrub on shore.
Soon, after apparently deciding the two strange creatures watching her were acceptable company, began nibbling on her prize foodstuff.
After chowing down for a few minutes she swam over toward us for a final gaze before submerging to enter her bank den through an underwater entrance.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Introduction To Motorcycles

While I was working nights I met a fellow sailor named Don Hillhouse.  Don was from Clearwater, Florida, near Tampa, and was the very proud owner of a 1956 Triumph 650 twin cylinder motorcycle.  He had been riding since a young lad, and as I recall had a road license since he was 14.  He was 19 by the time I met him so had five years road experience by then.  He invited me to go for a ride on the back of his bike one day, and often after that.  This photo is a 1956 Triumph, but not Don's.  His looked almost exactly like this. 
We thought nothing of riding the 60 miles or so to Mobile, Alabama just for a cup of coffee and enjoying the ride. At least twice that summer we rode together to his home, a distance of about 525 miles each way.  One time on the way back to Pensacola it was a really hot Sunday afternoon and two or three times the bike engine got so hot it would set up and stop.  After it cooled it would start right back up and run another 50 or 75 miles.  I have owned and ridden some sort of a two-wheeled vehicle almost ever since.  This photo is myself at age 18 at the time I rode with Don a lot.
I bought my first car also about that time.  It was a 1947 Chevy sedan.  I had owned it less than a month when I was sitting in it at a drive-in restaurant one Sunday afternoon.  As I sat there talking to a young waitress (they roller-skated to our vehicles) I spotted my old friend Smitty passing by in his ‘47 Mercury convertible.  In my haste to follow him I backed from my parking spot, and right into a 1955 pink and white Ford convertible owned by a fellow sailor named Steve Vigh.  I creamed the left front corner of his almost new car, and he was not happy about it at all.  I promised to pay for the damage which I faithfully did after he had it repaired by the local Ford dealer.  I had to sell my car to get the money to pay for the damage to his, so my Chevy didn’t last too long with me.  This is a '47 Chevy, but not mine.  Mine was black.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Car Accident

I spent ten days in an Army hospital in Pell City, Alabama as the result of a car accident.  The Army then put me back on leave for ten days with orders to report to The Naval Hospital, Corry Field, Pensacola, Florida.  I had no desire to go on leave with my right (dominant) arm in a complete cast so I caught a bus back to Pensacola.
When I arrived at Corry Field, on a Friday evening, I attempted to check in there, but the Officer Of The Day (OOD) would not accept me.  I was told I had to go to the hospital, there was no hospital on Corry, so I had to report to the hospital at the Naval Air Station Pensacola, Florida, some four miles away.  I caught a Navy bus to that station, where I caught a separate on-station bus to the hospital.  The hospital determined my Army orders told me to report to Corry Field so insisted I return there.  I then reversed my route back to the OOD at Corry Field.  He yet did not want to accept me, but I insisted that I was signed aboard, thus terminating my leave.  I then informed the OOD I would be in my rack (bed) across the street in the enlisted men’s barracks.
On Monday morning I went to the personnel office to straighten things out.  They weren’t quite sure what to do with me either.  My right arm had been broken in three places, my right hand in three more places, and my middle finger on that hand was also broken.  My arm was in a cast in a Zee shape.  I obviously couldn’t work on aircraft so there was no sense in sending me back to the Structures Shop.  I was given a set of Navy orders to the Naval Hospital at the Naval Air Station, Pensacola.  Upon my arrival there I was told there was nothing they could do for me until the cast came off some four and a half weeks in the future.  They told me to go back to Corry Field.  For the next month and a half no one cared where I was.  Normally all personnel are mustered at least once a day, but for that purpose I was accounted for in the hospital while physically I was not there.
Finally came the day my cast was cut off.  My arm remained in the same position it had been cast in.  I couldn’t move it.  It was decided I had to place my arm in a hot whirlpool bath so every day I caught the bus to the hospital, endured the whirlpool, and caught the bus back to Corry again.  This went on for several weeks.  I had regained some use of the hand and arm again, so I asked for official transfer back to Corry again which was granted.  No longer attached to the hospital I took it upon myself to go to my former shop Chief Petty Officer and asked to go back to work.  He could tell I was not really fit, and told me so.  He recommended I be placed on some sort of light duty, and so it was that I found my way to a desk job.
Four of us worked at the same pair of desks actually.  A First Class Petty Officer surnamed Barton, myself a Third Class, and two Airmen named Gordon Stancell and Paul Hamm.  We worked nights from 4 pm (1600) until midnight (2400).  Our job was to issue aircraft to pilots learning night flying.  We kept status reports on all aircraft on the base as to their state of flight readiness and physical location at all times.  We then assigned ready aircraft to the pilots and pilot trainees.  When they returned we collected paperwork on them, sent malfunctions to the various maintenance shops, and kept their status ready for the next wave.  I worked in that capacity until I left Corry Field in September of 1957, now age 19 with two years in the Navy.  However in August of 1957, I passed the Navy-wide exam for AM Second Class Petty Officer, and was selected for advancement in November of that year.

Monday, September 26, 2011

NAAS Corry Field, Penscola, Florida

With making Airman (AN) back in April my pay went from $85.80 to $99.37 monthly.  Boy was I ever raking in the loot by the time I arrived at Corry Field on July 8, 1956.  I was overjoyed that I was on a real Naval Station as a part of the real Navy as opposed to just being a trainee.  Both, Bob McGowan and Dave Smith were also here with me so I was not completely without past friends.
It was a good thing because my seabag with all of my clothing I was not wearing at the time was lost in transit by railroad from my parent’s farm in northern New York to Pensacola.  I borrowed a set of dungarees from Bob to wear for the first few days I was there.  Because we were required to stencil our names above the pocket of our dungaree shirts our Petty Officers were confused with two McGowans there each day.  As Bob only had two sets, we each had to wash our clothes each evening to have clean ones for the next day.  After a week or so my seabag finally caught up to me.

Upon my arrival I was placed in the Line Division.  As such I, and maybe fifty or more others, were responsible for hour by hour servicing of the station aircraft.  I don’t know the number, but I might guess there were maybe 200 SNJ trainer aircraft located here.  We did all fueling, checking such things as oil and oxygen levels, much the same as taking care of an automobile in a service station, as well as keeping windshields and the aircraft clean.  We worked out of a steel Quonset hut that was nearly unbearably hot in the Florida summer sun.  A swamp cooler was used, but it only mitigated the heat, not suppressed it.  A swamp cooler is a sprinkler type garden hose laid lengthwise of the top of the hut.  When the water was allowed to trickle down the building it did cool it some.
I only held that position for a matter of a month or so until I was transferred to the Structures Shop, where we actually worked on the aircraft.  This is what I had been trained for.  This was the real Navy.  I was finally working on airplanes.  This is the hangar I worked in.

With one year in the Navy, and six months as an AN, I took a Navy-wide test for advancement to Petty Officer Third Class in early August.  I passed it and was selected to that position effective November 16, 1956.  This caused my pay to jump to $122.30 a month.  This isn’t much by today’s standards, and it wasn’t much then either, but any way you want to look at it my pay had advanced from $78 to $122 in a little over a year.  That’s a 56 % increase.  It was more than welcome, I worked for it, and I deserved at least that.
As a Third Class Petty Officer I was expected to lead in a small way, so I was placed in charge of a four-man maintenance crew to work on the structural parts of the aircraft which included all surfaces movable or not, all hydraulics, tires, and other miscellaneous parts and pieces.  All went well until the spring of 1957.  This is an aerial view of Corry Field taken in July 1956.
I’m no longer sure of dates, but I think it was in April when four of us decided to take leave at the same time.  The other three were from Pennsylvania.  One sailor owned a car which he was driving.  I was to be a spare driver, while the other two rode in the rear seat.  The owner of the car fell asleep at the wheel and we overturned several times down an embankment.  I awoke in an Army Hospital located at Pell City, Alabama.  After ten days or so I was released.  That’s another tale.  This last photo is of an SNJ3 flying over Corry Field.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Life At NATTC Memphis

We went to classes eight hours every day, more or less, and often studied in the evenings, yet we found time occasionally to look for mischief to get into.  Somewhere Smitty heard of this wonderful beach down in Mississippi where we could swim, loll in the sun, and possibly meet some members of the opposite gender.  It was called Sardis Dam, and that’s about all we knew of it.
It happened that on a nice Sunday afternoon several of us piled into Smitty’s ’47 Merc Coupe convertible to make the trek south to see what it was all about.  We rode for an hour or so until we reached this Sardis place we had learned of.  When we ultimately found the beach area it was completely devoid of humanity.  Nevertheless we donned swimming trunks and went into the water.  It was so muddy you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face.  We didn’t last long there, and understood why no one else was there either.  After hamburgers in a local diner, where we saw few other people, we climbed back in the car and returned to Memphis vowing never to return to Sardis Dam.  So far that vow has not been broken.
There was another Friday evening when Bob McGowan and I caught a bus from Millington into Memphis to take in a movie.  I don’t recall the movie any more, but I do remember buying some wine later, and taking it into an alley for a quick sample.  Back in the alley we met an older colored man who also was partaking of a little wine.  One thing led to another, and a couple of bottles later I don’t remember too much until I woke the following morning with a terrible hangover.  After waking Bob we found a place for an early breakfast before returning to the base.  Thank heaven, although our companion was gone, we still had our wallets and what money still remained.
I finished school there in mid-June, took some leave, and completed my orders by checking in at the Naval Auxiliary Air Field (NAAS) Corry Field, located just outside Pensacola, Florida on July 8, 1956, eleven days short of my eighteenth birthday.
I had taken a Navy-wide test in February, passed, and was selected for the advanced rating of Airman, versus my Apprentice status previously.  When I graduated from school as a Structural Mechanic Airman, my rating was AMAN.  While on leave my mother informed me she didn’t think I was quite a man yet, but I was getting closer.  Finally I was on a Naval Station for actual duty, not in some sort of training status as I had been for nearly a year.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Deer Stands and Turkeys

In addition to the stands I showed you in a previous post, these are located on my property, but not placed there by myself.  My nephew Tim has three sons, Brian, Pat, and Benny.  They live just past my daughter who is next door to me.  Now they are in their early twenties, but I’ve lived next to them all of their lives, and they treat my property as if it were their own, as I likewise do Tim’s.  I think Brian may have placed this stand in my little wooded area, but I’m not sure, nor does it matter.  Any of them may use it on occasion, and I’m welcome to also.  First come first serve.
While driving through the woods, near to the deer stand, I spotted this woodpecker restaurant.  Like Maxwell House It’s good to the last drop.  First it was a part of the forest.  Then it died and decayed.  It then became a home and food for little critters.  Now it is a smorgasbord for birds.  Soon it will fall and rot forming humus, as growth for future forestation.
This photo is a different angle of the same tree.  It is taken from the left side of the first one.
This is a bottom view of yet another deer stand on my property, but I believe belongs to Pat.  This is a commercially produced model.  The steel mesh part is for his feet, while the other part is a seat.  It overlooks a part of my woods as well as some of my neighbor’s corn meadow.
This is the same stand as in the previous photo.  The snap is taken from the neighboring cornfield.  The attaching chains are readily visible as they surround the tree trunk.
By observing my poor photography closely, between twenty and twenty-five turkeys can be seen.  There were two hens, each with ten or a dozen poults, all mixed together.  They were in a meadow close to a road, but I knew if I got any closer they would disappear almost instantaneously, so I took a long range shot of them just before they melted into the brush.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Equinoxes and Equiluxes

Most folks are aware there are equinoxes, that is the time of the year when day and night are nearly equal in length.  However most of us are in error to some degree.  An equinox is a point in time when the tilt of the earth on its axis is neither away from nor toward the sun.  It happens twice a year, not exactly, but close to March 20/21 (Vernal Equinox) and September 22/23 (Autumnal Equinox).  These are not entire days, but only an exact point in time.  This morning, September 23, 2011, the Autumnal Equinox was at 5:04 EDT.
However the days when day and night are closest to being equal, when sunrise and sunset are closest to being twelve hours apart, are called Equiluxes.  Thus an Equiluxe is an entire day as opposed to the instant of the Equinox.  This depends upon where you happen to be.  At 35 degrees (South and North Carolina border) and at 40 degrees North (bottom of Pennsylvania) Latitude the Equiluxe will be Monday, September 26th when sunrise and sunset will both be at 5:51 EDT.  At 45 degrees North Latitude, along the northern border of New York State, Sunday September 25th the day is twelve hours and two minutes long, while Monday, September 26 is eleven hours fifty-eight minutes long.  Take your pick.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

NATTC Memphis, Tennessee

So it was that I arrived at the Memphis Naval Air Technical Training Center on a bleak February 6, 1956.  I now was a salty old sailor, or so I thought, at age 17 and nearly 7 months, that had survived the trials and tribulations of boot camp, as well as completed “A” School at Norman, Oklahoma.  For those not familiar with the location the Memphis Base is actually very close to Millington, Tennessee, and as I recall closer to 25 miles from Memphis.  Both Bob McGowan and Dave Smith that I have mentioned in earlier blogs were here with me at this school, as well as others I had met along the way.
We all spent about 4 ½ months in “A” School learning the trade of being an Aircraft Structural Mechanical as it was practiced at the time.  Very little of our time was spent in actually working a real airplane.  Most of it was in classrooms where elaborate mockups of various aircraft systems were present.  We were taught the maintenance and upkeep of aircraft hydraulic systems used to operate the movable flight surfaces such as ailerons, trim tabs, elevators, rudders, and other such parts.  Further we learned about sheet metal work with all of the various hardware which included bolts, screws, rivets, etc.
While in this school we had Cinderella Liberty every night.  There was no homework so many afternoons as we completed classes for the day we would don our civilian clothes (which we were allowed to maintain on base) and go off the base to get a taste on non-military life.  Often we hung out at a small diner in Millington, but on occasion we afforded the gas and Smitty would drive us into Memphis, for a few hours.  Other evenings we never left the base.  What was called a gedunk was available.  It was essentially a small diner where simple fast foods could be bought.  Some of us would often go there and study even though we were not required to.  We still had to pass exams on a regular basis.  If we didn’t we were subject to termination from school to be sent to the fleet with little training which was not conducive to good working conditions at a new duty station.  It was while sitting there in the gedunk that I first heard a recording on the jukebox from a new artist.  It wasn’t Country and Western, nor was it what was known as popular music, but something new and different.  I recall telling others at the table that the song would be a hit, and so would the new artist named Elvis Presley with his song “Heartbreak Hotel.”
One day while we were marching from one classroom to another a terrible thing happened.  A sailor had climbed high on a water tower and was threatening to jump.  As our class had to pass directly under him we were halted a short distance away.  Sure enough, he jumped.  I remember yet the sound of that poor individual hitting the ground and I flinch as I recall it.  I am happy that I never had problems so bad I thought that was a viable way out.

The Wily Hunter

Way back when critters that walked upright on two legs discovered they could eat their fellow critters, and in fact some of them were rather tasty, they began to develop methods of stalking and slaying those that tasted best.  Often the hunter had way less skills than the hunted in this endeavor.  The hunted was often fleeter of foot, had better eyesight and hearing, and could use their nose to a much greater degree than those silly two-footed creatures.
However the uprights had one superior feature and that was a higher brain development.  Making use of that one advantage the uprights began using forms of deceit in their pursuit of eating material.  Often this meant some sort of hiding and hoping the prey would accidentally wander within range of the uprights killing tool.  This form of deceit has  been practiced until modern times, and no matter how effective or non-effective it may be, is still used today.  Here in the north country its most usual form is in what is called a deer blind, or stand.
Here is an example although hard to see well in this photo.  This stand is braced up against a smaller tree well within a forested area.  A relative of mine sits dutifully in it for hours at a time during the open season on deer.

Here is another similar stand along the edge of that same wooded area.  This one overlooks a meadow abutting the woods.  I can actually see this one from my kitchen window, and have often observed a hunter sitting in, or on, it.
This one is hidden among the trees along the edge of that same forested area.  From it one can see into the meadow, and also it has a fairly good observation of a commonly used deer trail a short distance away in the woods.
All three of these stands have one thing in common above all other aspects.  To the best of my knowledge no one has ever taken a deer from any of them.  I’m not sure who’s fooling who here?

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

A Short Trip

Under a serene New York sky some of the first leaves to start turning colors this fall are on this young maple.  They are on a hedgerow next to a field of mature corn.  Yes, that’s the field of corn that stands between my property and my access to my neighbor’s beaver pond area.
And the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye (from the musical Oklahoma, the song is Oh What A Beautiful Morning).  Apparently the eye of an elephant is somewhere about ten feet above the ground.  Of course, it may depend upon the particular elephant, and whether it was born in India or Africa..
Next I stumbled upon this structure on a dead birch tree.  I can’t be sure, but I believe this is the roof for a woods gnome to live under (at least when it rains).  It’s hard to tell with my photography skills, or lack of same, but it is about four inches in diameter.
These small berries are on the top of a bush about five feet in height.  I’ve no idea what their real name is, but as a child I learned to call them snake berries, so to me that is what they are.  To anyone else, I don’t know.
I know what these are.  They’re milk weeds.  When a child growing up on a dairy farm my brothers and I picked these and they became our cows on our play farms.  We lined them all up in our pretend barn, and tended them for hours at a time.  We also picked them during WWII and saved them for the military.  As I recall it was 1944 and their insides were used in life preservers, but I may be wrong.
A little later in my journey I found these turning leaves.  They are on some sort of a small shrub that soon will be barren of their presence as our winter comes calling.  I hope you enjoyed our fanciful trip around the eight acres or so where we traveled.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

The Last Rose of Summer

I noted today this single rose remaining on my wife's rose bush in our front yard.  The rose bush has bloomed all season, but only this one bloom remains as summer draws to a close for another year.  It seems to give meaning to the following lyrics by Celtic Woman.

"The Last Rose Of Summer"

'Tis the last rose of summer left blooming alone
All her lovely companions are faded and gone
No flower of her kindred, no rosebud is nigh
To reflect back her blushes and give sigh for sigh

I'll not leave thee, thou lone one, to pine on the stem
Since the lovely are sleeping, go sleep thou with them
Thus kindly I scatter thy leaves o'er the bed
Where thy mates of the garden lie scentless and dead

So soon may I follow when friendships decay
And from love's shining circle the gems drop away
When true hearts lie withered and fond ones are flown
Oh who would inhabit this bleak world alone?
This bleak world alone

NATTC "P" School Norman, Oklahoma

In the 1950s there were twelve ratings in the aviation field of the U S Navy.  They were Air Controlman, Photographer’s Mate, Parachute Rigger, Storekeeper, Electronicsman, Ordnanceman, Boatswain’s Mate, Electrician’s Mate, Electronic’s Technician, Structural Mechanic, Aerographer’s Mate, and Machinist’s Mate.  The Familiarization Course at NATTC Norman, Oklahoma (called “P” School) taught future aviation workers what they could expect in the various ratings.  The entire course was only about five weeks in length so not much time was spent on any one rating, and that varied from rating to rating.
I reported for duty at Norman December 10, 1955, spent the remainder of that month working in the bakery and began school after the first of January.  I left there February 6, 1956 after having been on the base a little less than two months.  I remember little of the curriculum there, but I do recall that in structural mechanics training we were given a six inch square of aluminum, a form, a small mallet, and told to make an ash tray.  I cut and pounded that chunk of metal until it looked reasonably like a round ash tray, but no one would have ever called it good, much less great.  Because two of my brothers, Bob and Dell, had preceded me down this path, and both chose to be structural mechanics, I too chose that way to go, and so it was that on February 6, 1956 a large group of my P School class was placed on a big Navy grey bus and we were hauled off to NATTC Memphis, Tennessee where I would be enrolled in Aviation Structural Mechanic School.  This was designated an “A” level school.

Monday, September 19, 2011

NATTC Norman, Oklahoma

During the 1950s on North Water Street in Ogdensburg, New York there existed a fine establishment named “The Hub.”  In former days it had been a private residence, but its better days were in its past.  The Hub was by that time a beer joint that barely survived, and surely did not turn away paying customers for any reason, much less that they might not be of a legal age to partake of alcoholic beverages.  So it was that at age 15 I was escorted to the place by a slightly older friend, and was allowed to purchase my first beer.
By the time I arrived in Oklahoma at age 17 ½ I had been drinking beer for a couple of years, and considered myself, if not an aficionado, at least a knowledgeable user of same.
While in bootcamp we recruits were not allowed off the base for any reason, much less to participate in the drinking of alcohol in any form.  So now I was in “Fam” School at the Naval Air Technical Training Center (NATTC) Norman, Oklahoma where we were allowed “Cinderella Liberty,” or the ability to leave the base from Friday afternoon at the end of the school day until midnight Sunday.  Although I was only at that base for a couple of months, I spent several weekends in Oklahoma City reacquainting myself with the pleasures of the usage of alcoholic beverages.  I had met a fellow sailor by the name of David Smith who owned a 1947 Mercury Coupe convertible.  He and I and several others would all pile into the car and drive to Okie City on weekends.  One must recall that Oklahoma was a dry state where alcoholic beverages were against the law, but let me assure you they were for sale almost anywhere.  Our favorite place was to rent a room at the Hotel Black.  At some time toward morning there might be as many as twenty or more sailors sleeping off their drunkenness in that room.
When taking the elevator to our room one could push an unmarked button on the elevator wall.  This would cause the elevator to stop between the fourth and fifth floors.  Then a small door would open in the side of the elevator and a voice would ask what your pleasure was.  Upon proffering a $5 bill through the portal, a ½ pint of liquor of your choice would return.  By this time I had quit drinking beer for the most part, so this was quite a handy feature on the way up to our room.
We were only allowed through the base gate in full-dress uniform which was our Navy Blues at that time of the year.  We immediately went to a locker club in Norman, a few blocks from the gate, and changed into civilian clothing.  I recall on one occasion I awoke in my own bunk, on the base, on a Sunday morning, dressed in my civilian clothes.  I, to this day, do not know how I got there, but I had to devise a way to get back out through the gate in civilian clothes, get to the locker club, switch back to my uniform and re-enter the gate.  Smitty, and his car came in handy once more.  I climbed into the trunk of his car, and uneventfully passed out through the gate, accomplished my mission, and returned to spend the day attempting to sober up again.  My $86 a month only lasted half of the month.  After that I was broke until that old eagle came around again at the end of the month.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Bootcamp Over

From September 6th through November 19th seemed like an eternity, but it was finally over and done with, and I was considered regular Navy now, and not some insignificant boot trainee any longer.  I was advanced in rating from High School Airman Recruit (HSAR) to High School Airman Apprentice.(HSAA).  That meant I had joined as a High School graduate, and as such I had been promised a Navy School of some sort.  All Navy personnel were forbidden to hitchhike, and I was required to buy a ticket on some sort of commercial transportation to my home of record, or next duty station.  However if I had a written promise of privately owned vehicle (POV) transportation I was allowed to opt out of this.  A friend of mine, named Bob McGowan, whose parents were coming to graduation and taking their son home, offered to give me a ride that far for free.  They were going to McCoysville, PA which was about half way to my northern New York home.  I accepted that ride, and hitchhiked the remainder of the way.  For those who might wonder, I had earned $78 monthly, or somewhere around $200 for my ten weeks of training such as it was.
After ten days of vacation (Leave) at my parent’s farm, I bought and used a train ticket to Oklahoma City.  From there I proceeded by local bus the twenty five or so miles to Norman, OK where my next duty station was located.  There I was attached to Naval Aviation Technical Training Center (NATTC) Norman.  This was that schooling I was promised upon entering the Navy.  Basically this was a familiarization (Fam) school.  Here the students learned the most basic aspects of most Naval Aviation ratings so that they might decide which they held an interest in, and at the same time it allowed evaluation of the students, to insure they were capable of further training.  As it happened I arrived there about mid December.  They started a new class there each week except the last two weeks of the year for a total of 50 classes per year.  Thus I had to wait for the first class of January of 1956.  While awaiting for the approximately two weeks we future students were assigned various tasks much like Service Week in Bootcamp.  Once again I was lucky enough not to be assigned to scullery duty.  I was assigned to two weeks in the bakery.  As luck would have it, my friend Bob McGowan was there with me.  This was nearly Heaven.  I never ate so well in my life as I did during that two week stint.  Rolls, buns, bread, pies, cakes, and on and on, all right fresh steaming hot from the ovens.  I was in absolutely no hurry to have that finish and start school, but ultimately that did happen.  My pay had advanced from $78 to $85.80 a month with my advancement in rating from recruit to apprentice.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

More Bootcamp

So it was that I was emulating Beetle Bailey (who had come into existence in September 1950) as I progressed through bootcamp.  Soon it was “Service Week.”  This was a one week period during which all normal training was suspended while the entire Company was farmed out to complete various work details of every description.  A majority of our men were selected for the dubious distinction of working in the scullery, that wonderfully hot, wet, smelly, steamy, sodden, grotto where all the mess utensils were cleaned.  This included eating trays, silverware, pots, pans, and all of the various needs of providing meals to thousands of hungry men three times a day.
That was not to be for me.  I, for whatever reason, was selected to be the office cleaner for the Captain of the entire Bainbridge Basic Training Command.  When I learned of this I supposed it was because I had volunteered for Color Guard, and then was evicted from that sanctuary.  It had to be an onerous task to work around an officer somewhere up near God in status.  In actuality I had to arise at four each morning, proceed to the office, clean it THOROUGHLY, and be done and out of there before the Captain’s arrival around 0800.  The remainder of the day was mine.
All went well for the first four days, but on Friday I finished my cleaning duties, and I was oh so sleepy, so I sat on a sofa in a corner and fell fast asleep.  I awoke with the Base Captain leaning over me urging me to arise.  As I came out of my fog, I realized I was in the worst trouble anyone had ever been in, in the entire Navy, in all time.  Captain Howe ordered me into his inner office (where I thought I’d never emerge from), and as soon as I had entered he told me to sit down.  I did as ordered, and for the next half hour he asked me all sorts of questions about my Bootcamp experience, including, Naval training, military drill, my personal feelings toward the Navy, and my boyhood background, etc.  I supposed this had something to do with how long I was going to spend in the Navy Brig, but at the end of the interrogation, he shook my hand, said, “That is all.  Have a good Naval Career.”
I finished my Bootcamp experience soon after that, and took the good Captain’s advice.  I went on to a fifteen year career that I can’t say I ever enjoyed, but, on the other hand, it more or less treated me well always.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

More Bootcamp

It didn’t take me too long to decide I didn’t particularly care for toting a rifle around all of the time.  We had not been there very long before they asked for volunteers for the Color Guard.  Those were the recruits out front of each group with flags, and some had sabers.  Although I had already learned never to volunteer for anything, I took a chance on this as it had the advantage of not carrying a rifle which I turned back in to the armory.
Each morning when my Company went out on the drill field for marching practice, I fell out of ranks and proceeded to the drill hall instead.
Upon arrival there I, as well as dozens of others selected, took a saber from a wall rack.  We were then taught the fundamentals of being a Color Guard.  However, about the second day, I was behind on my laundry so instead of practicing I slid out through a side door and went back to our barracks and on to the laundry room.  As I was not too fond of military drill I did the same day after day.  Then I discovered they actually expected us to go out there in front of all those people and know what we were supposed to do.  I had no idea what Color Guard did.  One day as I was walking in the front door, another sailor near me fell down and split the crotch of his pants out.  He was immediately thrown out of Color Guard.  Light bulbs went off all over the place as I witnessed that.  The next morning the same thing happened to me.  I was thrown out of Color Guard also.  When I told my Company Commander what had happened, he decided as I knew nothing about drilling with the Company I was just to remain in the barracks every morning during practice and catch up on my laundry.  I remained in that status for the rest of boot camp.

Monday, September 12, 2011


I went for a drive on my ATV this afternoon back through my own fields to see what I could see.  If nothing else, the fresh air and getting out into nature is good for a body.  I hadn’t gone all that far until I discovered this small group of cattails.  They have grown in a bit of a wet area near an old gravel pit which contains water most of the year.
Continuing along my way I stopped by the Hemlock tree I have photographed before and placed on these pages.  The small cones are readily discernible at this time of year.
As I left the tree I proceeded along a trail that I often use, but today it was different.  It is usually only a couple of tracks through the grass and weeds, but my son-in-law-Ben, got carried away and mowed it yesterday.  For better, or for worse, it makes the surrounding weeds and brush standout more than they did prior.
This is another mown path that traverses the back fence of my horse pasture.  Some of the willows and pines that abound in the area can be seen in this photo.  The two closer shrub looking growths are willows, while most of the background are pines.
This fifth photo is just another path through the fields my grandson Alex and I often follow on our quest for adventure.
I again spied this old weathered tree that has been dead for several years and lies forlornly in the brush alongside a trail.  The gentle curve of its trunk makes me think a bit of some sort of natural art.  Mother nature works in strange ways.
As I rounded a bend there in all their glory were a couple of trees bountifully loaded with apples.  As they are slowly plucked by the wind in the branches, the deer will have dessert with their regular fodder.  What a beautiful deep blue sky forms the background for our delicious deer feed.
Just beyond the apple tree I topped a very small rise and could once again see my home from the rear.  My pickup slide-in camper is in clear view using the house as a windbreak in inclement weather.  Over to the right is my son-in-law Ben and daughter Donna’s home.  A few more yards and my afternoon sojourn was completed.  Did you enjoy the ride as I did?
Hold the presses.  Just in…a photo from my wife’s sister Karen Murray.  This is Bashful and Bambi, taken a couple of miles from my place, out back of their home.  Now is there anything cuter than these two?  I don’t think so.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Boot Camp

It was September 6, 1955 and I was off from the City of Ogdensburg, New York to the metropolis of Syracuse to be sworn into the United States Navy.  I was all of 17 years, 1 month, and 18 days old.  Most of those today that are that age have a year or two of high school remaining, but I had graduated at age 15 more than a year prior, and was prepared to get on with life.
At Syracuse I signed some papers, had a cursory physical examination, held up my hand and swore to be a good military man, and they packed me and some fifty others into a bus and we headed off to Bainbridge, Maryland for the great adventure of basic military training.  It was called “Boot Camp” because all trainees wore leggings, or boots.  I really think this was so they could readily tell we recruits from the regular Navy folks.
On the way to Maryland we made no stops.  One other newly signed up recruit had to urinate.  He asked the bus driver when we were going to stop and was informed we weren’t to stop for any reason.  Why I’ll never know, but this guy then asked me what I’d do so I told him I guessed I’d urinate on the floor of the bus if the driver didn’t want to stop.  So, he did.  When we arrived at Bainbridge, the bus driver tried to show his authority by determining who had soiled his bus, but no one knew anything, so after a while he gave up on that.
We were allowed a few hours sleep before we were all given full physical exams, hair cuts, and issued proper Navy clothing, as well as a big white canvas seabag to carry our entire wardrobe around in.  Our civilian clothes were mailed back to our permanent homes.  I, and 55 other recruits, was then assigned to Company 447, 16th Battalion, 1st Regiment which commenced actual training on the 16th of September 1955.
From the moment we arrived we never walked around by ourselves outside our barracks.  We were always in formation, and marched everywhere we went.  We were issued a rifle for some reason, and were taught the fundamentals of caring for it in case someday we wanted one to take care of us.  Everywhere we marched we carried that rifle.  Oh what fun.
I got off on the right foot by noting six of our new Company Members had longer hair than the rest of the crew.  I asked one of them how come and he informed me he was an RPT.  It seems the six were not up to military standards education wise so went to what was called Recruit Preparatory Training for several weeks so they would qualify for the Navy.  Thus their hair had grown back for that length of time.  I wondered if anyone would notice a seventh longer haired recruit, so I walked away form the haircut line.  Several days later some fellow recruit who must have been a bit disgruntled ratted me out, so I was given my haircut after all the rest and wound up with shorter hair.  I really didn’t care, I just wanted to see what would happen.
That was my start in the Navy.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Camper

There came a day when the old man was reminiscing about hunting days of old.  The slightly crisper weather of September, as compared to the warmer days of summer, had brought a spate of thoughts of another deer hunting season approaching.  A new year’s edition of his Sportsman’s hunting license had arrived in the mail signaling at least one more period of chasing the wily whitetail was nigh.  He leaned toward never actually killing another deer, but yet the thrill of the days of yore when camping with his old comrades paraded through the mazes of his thought processes he could no more make them recede than he could stop breathing.
So it was that early in September he once more loaded his camper on the back of his trusty pickup truck with the idea that he needed to make sure all would be ready when the time came for it to be put to use.  He told himself, and others, that it was so he could clean the area beneath it, mowing and trimming a summer’s worth of grass, weeds, and growth, but he knew deep inside that was not the reason.  He prepared because it was what he had always done, and for no other real reason.
All of the old original hunting partners were gone now, but yet he hung on to the memories of all of them.  Old Bob had been dead now for over 35 years, but it was still easy to recall the many times he had threw the dishrag out with the dishwater.  Each time he would dutifully say, “Damn it I did it again,” as he trudged outside to recover the errant rag one more time.
Bert had been gone since 1994, but how could the old man not remember all of those seasons from 1954 until then that they had hunted from the same camp year after year.  Forty years of trudging those hills.  In all of those years each had slain one of the deer they so often had sought.  Neither was a good hunter, but they enjoyed the chase just as well as those who were.
Dell, Ron, Bob, Jon, Fred, and Lawrence all had hunted from the same camp too, but all were gone to another place.  Bobby, Ronnie, and Wendell had shared many a meal as well as many an adventure from their camp.  There were others who had come and gone.  Larry and Liz, Paul, Leslie, and many others had hunted from nearby camps too.
Memories were all that was left, that and an old camper that had to be loaded.  Just because.

Sunday, September 4, 2011


My brother explained to me a long time ago how he was slowly bringing a neighbor’s farm to his own farm.  It took a while but he ultimately made me see how when he bought hay from a neighbor and fed it to his own cattle he became the beneficiary of the nutrients from the neighbor’s farm as the manure was spread on my brother’s farm as fertilizer.  Ever so slowly those nutrients were being transferred from the neighbor’s farm to his own.
I know of a man in Colorado that raises hay for a living and trucks the product to New Mexico.  He is doing the same thing my brother explained to me, but a longer distance is involved.  Colorado nutrients are being hauled ever so slowly to New Mexico.
Out of nowhere tonight it dawned on me that some migratory birds support this same nutrient distribution system.  Ducks and Geese are prime examples of this phenomenon.  They live in the more northern areas all summer where they raise young.  The entire family of waterfowl live and eat where they nest in summer.  When it comes time to migrate the flying creatures remove some of the nutrients they have been eating to places in between their summer homes and their winter abode.  Here and there they defecate leaving some deposits of northern nutrients.  Once they have reached their destination a portion of them are slain and devoured by residents of the southern states.  In this case the waterfowl itself becomes the nutrients transported to a new place.
As I mused on this it struck me that an even larger transportation of nutrient moving is taking place on a continuous basis.  Oranges go from Florida to Maine.  Potatoes travel from Maine to California and strawberries are returned from there to New York.  There is really no end to this distribution as bananas move from South America to the United States and Spanish olives also travel in the same manner.
When one really thinks about it, humans are like a vast ant colony in the way they ever so slowly move things around on this planet.

Friday, September 2, 2011


A couple of coons have decided they like our bird feeder contents, and have been raiding them on a regularly nightly basis.  Our neighbor takes offense at the little thieving rascals not only eating the feed, but often wrecking the feeders in the process.  He set this live trap and captured this one.  It will be taken to an area away from people where it won't be so apt to get into trouble, and turned loose again.  For those not so fortunate to live in the country, this is what one looks like up close and sleepy.