Monday, February 24, 2014


When we were youths we four brothers, Robert (Bob), Ronald (Ron), Delbert (Dell), and Leo (myself) found our entertainment in ways strange to today’s younger generation.  Before there was TV, and (believe it or not) even listening to the radio was only for special occasions as we had no electricity, and radio batteries were expensive and (during World War II) sometimes difficult to obtain at best, we did the best we could.
In winter we waited for the weather to cooperate with our desires.  After a thawing spell, followed by a general freezing, there might magically appear giant skating rinks awaiting our escapades.  When the first of winter appeared it was off to the attic to find every pair of hand-me-down skates available.  Each of us would pick a pair that more closely fit our feet size than any others.  Then it was a task to remove the best set of laces we could find among the unused  skates and reinstall them in the pair we had selected.
After skates selection and preparation we each selected our warmest pair of woolen socks, often with a bit of air conditioning, but yet serviceable.  Then it was time to bundle up in whatever old coats, scarves, ski pants, and such as we could find at the moment.
Out to the ice pond we headed.  Oh what a joy if the Matthews girls from next door also decided to spend an afternoon or evening in the same pursuit of entertainment as we boys.  Betty, Gail, Sarita, and Anne were almost the same ages as we four boys.  We had no specific games in mind such as hockey, or anything else.  We knew nothing of such things.  We merely skated all over the ponds, some times possibly playing tag or some other simple game.
Simpler times, simpler games, rosy cheeked children, laughter, and we all survived those times of no entertainment that children know today.

American Crow

American Crow
The American Crow is an all black bird, including the bill, legs, and feet, stretching to the 18” tall range.  Its range covers all Canada, the United States east of the Mississippi, and the entire west with the exception of the most arid areas of the south west.  When in flight its wings are nearly in constant motion, as opposed to hawks which glide for extended periods.  This photo was taken February 23, 2014 in northern New York, near the Canadian border.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

The American Flag

Leo Lawton  February 22, 2014

An old man was chastised for having an American Flag flying from his balcony on his new condominium.  When told it was against the rules of the premises to have outside decorations he refused to remove it:

This flag traveled across Normandy,

and spent some time on the Oriskany.

On Pork Chop Hill I saw it hang,

also it was in DaNang.

Don’t tell me I should take it down,

it’s seen more strife than this whole town.

I know it’s old and worn and tattered,

but it went with me and that’s what mattered.

Decoration you call it, let me tell you son,

you don’t know a patriot when you see one.

This Flag will stay here until I die,

it ain’t going to be moved, and don’t you try.

Now kindly get outside that door,

or it’ll see one more battle like it’s seen before.

I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Snowy Owl

I like to photograph birds even though I have no particular love for them.  Today I was fortunate enough to spot this Snowy Owl.  I was driving down a country road in the Heuvelton, St. Lawrence County, New York area when I saw this quite large white bird flying diagonally away from my vehicle.  Guessing what it might be, I turned the next corner in its direction and was able to maintain eye contact on it.  About a mile from my first sight of it the large bird perched atop a telephone pole.  I was able to creep up on it with my Jeep.  I began taking photos as soon as I could get within range at all to insure I got at least something, but I needn't have worried as it remained on the pole until I was within a few feet of directly under it.
Judging that the pole might be 8" in diameter at the top then the owl appears to be possibly double that, or 16" tall.  As they can grow to 28" in height that seems to be reasonable.  They can live to at least 17 years of age, and quite probably more.  An adult will have a wingspan of 4' to 5', and I guessed this one to be around that 4' mark.
They spend summer far above the Arctic Circle only migrating into New York during winter in North America.  I feel extremely fortunate to have had the opportunity of photographing this magnificient specimen.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

New York Winter

Furnace Call


Called out at 2 a.m. to repair a faulty furnace, by 4 it had been a long night.  By 6 it was even longer, but that is about when I finished the repair and started the 35 mile trip back to the garage at the company where I worked.  Did I mention it was bitter cold?  The outside temperature was somewhere below zero, and there had been a frosty spit of snow during the night.

In a hurry to see an end to this escapade I was traveling faster than conditions warranted even though that was yet less than the posted speed limit.  As I traveled along on a city bypass highway I saw in the distance a large truck in the opposite lane heading my direction.  As I approached it I could see it was a snowplow, and further that it was stopped in the opposite lane.  I slowed somewhat as I got still nearer, but not seeing any other moving vehicle I was yet moving along at maybe 40 mph.

As I neared enough to go by it suddenly a car pulled into my lane from behind the truck, its driver attempting to pass the stopped vehicle in his lane.  I couldn’t move into the truck’s lane, nor could I remain in my own, so I headed for the ditch on my side of the road.  As I entered the 3 foot high bank of snow on the side of the road the violently flying snow instantly covered my windshield.  I entered the ditch at an angle, held on to the steering wheel for all I was worth, and hoped for the best.

It seemed like forever, but in actuality was no more than a few seconds until my pickup came to a halt.  All of my body parts seemed intact and still attached.  In a heated cab I had been driving with my coat removed.  My first thought was to put it on.  Then I attempted to get out of the truck to assess where I was, and what I was going to do about it.  The door wouldn’t open easily.  It opened a few inches and stopped against hard packed snow.  I closed it and opened it again more forcefully the second time.  I gained a couple of more inches.  I tried again, and this time a hand from outside grabbed the top of the door and helped me pull the door open.

I was astounded that somehow my closest neighbor stood there in the knee-deep snow, asking if I was alright?  I assured him I was, but felt I needed to tell him what I was doing there.  I said, “I was driving along minding my own business when suddenly a car from the other direction entered my lane.  I had to go in the ditch to miss it.”

He said, “I know, I was driving that other car.”

By that time the adrenaline was slowing down.  I asked Larry for a ride to an all-night restaurant down the road a bit.  He complied, and from there I called my workplace.  I told them to call me a wrecker, but they sent a large company truck instead.  When that truck arrived the driver phoned our workplace again and proposed they call a wrecker, which in due time arrived.

The wrecker towed me to the local Ford dealer as I was driving a Ford pickup bought from them.  They took my truck in, melted snow off of it using a warm-water hose for a half hour before thoroughly inspecting it for any damage.  Free of any damage I went on my way, and took the rest of the day off from work.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Dog Man


Dog Man

Leo Lawton

Randall Calhoun was a hound man.  In that part of Mississippi, near Marion, that was a good thing to say about a man.  Most times a man was known by whether he kept dogs, what kind of dogs he kept, and how he kept them.  That was about all you needed to know about a man to know if he was worth anything or not.

Doc, as all his friends knew him, was a veterinarian.  To his credit, he would treat any animal smaller than an elephant, but his first love was those hounds he kept.  He had Treeing Walkers, Plotts, Blueticks, and crosses between them, but not just helter-skelter, these crosses were well planned in advance.  A dog man don’t just let things happen.

Especially so for the Doc.  He used his dogs to track and tree bobcats.  Once he had them up a tree with the hounds bellering at the bottom, Doc would come along and climb the tree with that cat in it.  He had this thing he made himself to catch them cats alive.  It was nothing but a piece of plastic pipe about four feet long with a loop of cable run through it.  One end of the cable had a handle threaded over it.  He’d climb up to that cat and slip the noose end of that thing over its head and pull the handle.  When he did he had a bobcat by the neck.  He’d climb down from the tree dragging that cat after him.  The dogs would worry the cat a little while Doc was getting it into a carrier.  Then he’d sell the cat to a zoo.

It cost far more to feed and care for those hounds than he got for the cats he caught, but that wasn’t a problem.  To a dog man, cost was not an object.  The fun was in the chase not the ending, or worrying about cost.  Doc often turned them hounds of his loose where he found a cat’s tracks crossing a dirt road.  He always followed them hounds on foot, until he caught a cat, or had to give up cause the hounds was wore out.  Doc never wore out.

I took one of my beagles to his clinic one day that had gone and got snake bit, and was in a pretty bad way.  He laid her down on a table as gentle as a baby lamb, gave her a shot of something, and we sat around talking for a few minutes, I guess, to see what was going to happen next.  Doc was standing there next to her table and sort of stroking the soft fur on the back of her neck.

“You’re going to be all right, little lady,” he was crooning in that drawl of his.

“Do you really think so Doc?”

“She’ll be fit as a fiddle in a few days.  Don’t you worry none about her.  I’ll do all the worrying necessary for the both of us.  Hand me that bottle of stuff right there by your elbow, will you?”

“Doc, I don’t know how to thank you sometimes,” I said.

He said, “I’ll tell you what you can do,” as he slowly nodded his head.

“Anything you say Doc, just ask and it’s yours.”  At this moment I was vulnerable.

Damn, the man had just saved my Becky Sue.  I had gone rabbit hunting this morning just at daybreak.  Mississippi might be in the deep south, but don’t you believe it can’t get cool on October mornings.  I had five of the beagles running and had managed two cotton tails and one cane cutter already when I heard a dog snuffling in a brush pile not too far from me.  It was just a minute or so later, I heard this sharp little yelp and Becky Sue came running over to me like she was asking me to make it better.  I looked and seen this faint trickle of blood on her off foreleg.  I suspected I knew what happened so I walked over to where that yelp came from.  Sure enough, there was a big old rattler laying up along side a windfall pine.  The sun had got high enough now to warm him up and get him moving for the day.  I raised my 20 gauge and sent him to meet his maker or at least parts of him.  A load of number six high brass will do a job on a diamondback.

So here I was ready to give the Doc anything I had as long as he could save Becky Sue.  It had taken me a while to round up the rest of the dogs, get them home and in their pen, and then drive to the clinic so she was panting pretty good when I got her there.

“Doc, just what is it you want from me?

“Well, you know how I’ve always told you these little beagles was totally worthless?”

“Yeah Doc, you have, but you surely can’t think she was at fault for getting bit by a rattler.  Any dog is liable to do that.  Even them mutts you run the bobcats with must get it once in a while.”

“First I want you to know they ain’t mutts.  Them is some of the finest cat dogs in all Mississippi, if not the whole southeast.”

“Okay doc, I was just funning you.”

“Secondly, I want you to remember what I told your wife a few days ago.”

“Doc, I didn’t even know you had seen my wife lately.”

“Yes, she was in with that little seal point Siamese of hers.  It’s going to have kittens and she was just making sure it was in good shape for the task.  I told her then that the Siamese was fine and if she just let the cat alone everything would be okay.  We talked a while about the cats, and what it was like raising them.  She told me sometimes it was hard letting the kittens go as she was often attached to them.  We had us a real good chat about them cats, yes sir.”

“Doc, can you get to the point?  What is it you want from me?”

“Well it’s not so much I want something from you as it is I want something from your wife.”

“Now you wait just a minute here Doc, don’t you go saying something stupid and make me wipe up this office with you.  Now I’ve always liked you, but I ain’t going to take no garbage about my wife from you nor nobody else.”

“Well what I wanted from your wife was a promise that she never get rid of them Siamese cats.”

“Well that’s a whole lot better than what you got me to thinking, I’ll tell you right now.  But what do you care whether she keeps them damn cats or not.”

“Well, just like I told her,” he said, “I just want to make sure you keep some animals on that place of your’n that ain’t totally worthless.  Now get this mutt outta here and bring me a rabbit next time you’re by.”

Monday, February 10, 2014

Exporting Our Future

America achieved greatness on the back of ingenuity.  Inventions of all types stoked a newborn country’s labor force bringing about an industrial revolution like the world had never seen.  As machinery was brought forth to replace manual labor, production levels soared.  Our nation, which had been nearly totally absorbed in agricultural processes, changed.  As machinery removed the drudgery from farming, and less farmers farmed more land, the newly found ex-farmers formed a labor force for the manufacturing revolution.  Our farmers became factory workers.  With the change to manufacturing our country found greatness on a world-wide basis, and rapidly became an industrial giant leading to a world power as great, or greater, than the world had ever known. 

Yet today our politicians have been prone to establish policies in direct opposition to this former greatness.  Do they realize that there are millions of aliens working in our country, and sending most of their wages back to their homeland while the misguided fools of a do-nothing congress talk continuously of allowing them to remain in our country.  Our future social security system is being exported to Mexico, Guatemala, and dozens of  other countries in this manner.

Does the average American citizen realize that every time they buy a Chinese manufactured product that they are in fact subsidizing Chinese labor instead of supporting their own country? 

Wake up America!  Our future is being outsourced!

Sunday, February 9, 2014

The Julie La Plant

On my previous post, March of Dimes, I mentioned an old poem that I had heard as a child.  I was never able to find a copy of it.  Now due to asking for a copy, my grandson Chris Dandro, located this copy in an obscure book.
It is my opinion this is an adaptation of the original poem by Dr.  Henry Drummond of nearly the same title, by a gentleman named Daniel T. Trombley.
Recreation     Volume VIII Number 1, January 1898
G. O. (Coquina) Editor and Manager
Ze Wreck of Ze Julie La Plant
(Old Canadian Boating Song)
‘Twas one dark naght on Lack Champlan,
an’ de win’ she blow, blow, blow,
An de crew of de wood scow, Julie Laplant,
got scare an’ run below.
For de win’ she blow a hurrycan,
by’me-by she blow some more.
Dat scow buss up on Lack Champlan,
‘bout half mile from de shore.

De Cap’n he walk on de front deck,
he walk on de hine deck too.
He call de cook up from de hole,
he also call de crew.
Dat cook she name was Rosie:
she come from Mo’real.
She was a cham’er maid, on a lum’er barge,
on dat big Lachine canal.

De Cap’n den he trow de ank,
but still dat wood scow driff;
De crew she can’t pass on dat shore,
fah ‘cause dey lose de skiff:
Fah de win’ she blow from Eass, Nort, Wess,
And de Sout win’ she blow too.
An Rosie say “Oh Cap’n dear,
what ever shall we do?”

An’ still dat win’ she blow, blow, blow,
an’ de wave roll high an’ fass,
An’ de Cap’n he teck poor Rosie,
an’ he lash her to de mass.
Den de Cap’n he put on a laff presev,
an’ he jump into de lack:
An’ he say: “Good bye my Rosie dear,
I go down for your sack.”

Nex’ morn’ ver’ early,
‘bout half pass two-tree-four,
De Cap’n, de cook, an’ de wood scow,
all lay corpse on dat shore;
For de win’ she blow lack a hurrycan,
by’me-by she blow some more.
Dat scow buss up on Lack Champlan,
‘bout half mile from de shore.

Now all Lack Champlan sailor man,
teck warnin’ by dis song:
Go marry a nace li’l French gal,
an live on a nace li’l farm:
Den de win’ may blow lack a hurrycan,
an’ s’pose she blow some more:
You don’t get drown in Lack Champlan,
so long you stay on de shore.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

March of Dimes

President Franklin D. Roosevelt formed the March of Dimes in January 1938 (the same year I was born) as a foil against Infantile Paralysis, or Polio, a condition for which he had been diagnosed.  Cards with slots for dimes were passed out in schools.  We children would go door to door almost ready to buy, beg, borrow, or steal enough dimes to fill our cards for a rapid return to our teacher.  Apparently, in time those dimes helped as a vaccine was developed to combat the disease, and a complete cure was ultimately found.

In the meantime, during the 1940s, before the days of TV and other modern forms of entertainment, once a year there would be a local talent show for the benefit of the March of Dimes.  It was held in our local Ogdensburg, New York city hall auditorium.  As a youth, one of my fondest memories was attending the yearly March of Dimes Talent Show, and especially so when my older brother Delbert played his harmonica as a guest performer.  I would always offer up at least one of my dimes to hear him play “Turkey in the Straw,” “The Wreck of the Old 97,” “Redwing,” or maybe “Listen to the Mockingbird.”

Meanwhile there was another performer, perhaps a Mr. Jolly Bergeron, who year after year offered an oral presentation of a poem about Lake Champlain.  It was spoken in a broken French dialect, and ever a huge hit with the entertainment starved audience.  The words, “The vind she blows one hurricane, and the vind she blows some more,” are forever, right or wrong, stuck in my head.  Some fifty years later, in 2004, I made an attempt to locate the words of the poem.  I’ve forgotten the name of a gentleman from eastern New York who, upon my requesting it, offered a poem titled “The Wreck of the Julie Plante,” by Dr. Henry Drummond as essentially being what I recalled from so far in the past.  Somehow though, it never seemed quite right.  I recalled the poem as relating to Lake Champlain, not some place I’d never heard of, somewhere in French-speaking Quebec, Canada.

With always more information appearing somewhere on the web, today I searched a bit more with the result that I now understand that a man named Daniel T. Trombley adapted the original “Julie Plante” version to a newer one featuring Lake Champlain.  I have learned that Mr. Trombley, or Trombly, placed his version in a booklet titled “Poems of Batiste: Whoa Bill.”  He may have titled his version as, “The Wreck of the Julie La Plant.”

If, by chance, anyone should read this that has a copy available, I would very much like to have a copy of it.