A cold front arrived overnight, chasing the oppressive heat and humidity from our skies. Once again able to breathe I found the siren song of the back roads irresistible.
The cold front also ushered in overcast skies and a little much needed rain. While we have not yet returned to the drought conditions which have become the norm in the past few years we are at a rain deficit for the year.
Farmers have already put up hay once this year and are hoping for at least one more crop and possibly two to see them through the tough winter months which always arrive too soon. Making hay while the sun shines is a matter of survival for Appalachian farmers.This was all too evident as I followed Swallow Hollow Road.
In years past farmers have been forced to sell off livestock they were unable to feed as drought drove hay production down and feed prices up. The abundance of livestock on the market forced prices down.
A generation ago this was a thriving farm as evidenced by the once grand farmhouse and many out buildings which now stand abandoned and decaying.
Farms were once handed down from generation to generation but dwindling profits and rising operating costs force the younger generation to the cities where wages are higher. With age the older folks can no longer keep up with the hard work needed to make the farms prosperous and as they pass on the home places are abandoned and quickly reclaimed by Mother Nature.
As the farms are abandoned and the population shifts from the rural to the urban areas the once bustling general stores also fall victim to the march of time.
Driving the back roads I often marvel at the toughness and determination it must have taken for the early settlers to come here and tame the rugged mountain terrain. Looking at these scenes through my viewfinder I realize that was only a temporary thing.
I haven’t spent as much time out roaming the mountains as I’d like the past few days thanks to the oppressive heat and humidity. However, I have managed a couple of short forays and these are some of the images I’ve captured this weekend.
I’ve mentioned the population explosion in the goose flock nearby and the shot above is one that Frankie got from the passenger side window as we drove to town yesterday. There are at least three time that number divided between 2 small ponds within a mile of our home.
The summer haze is dissipating because the humidity is beginning to let up. Cloud shadows are once again visible dancing across the fields.
Earlier in the year I got quite a few frames of a piebald doe feeding in our yard. The genetic mutation causing the white markings on the flanks is just uncommon enough for local lore to hold that seeing one is a good omen. As I pulled into my parking space this afternoon I spotted a new piebald grazing on some low hanging branches just behind the house. Apparently that house cat in the right of the frame thinks she’s a lion.
This is where I really miss my long lens. It wasn’t until I downloaded the images to my laptop and began cleaning them up that I realized that this is not only nit the same deer, it’s actually a very rare piebald buck!
I can’t wait to show these shots to my brother in law, Fish Hook!
I also managed to catch this critter feeding on the lavender Frankie has growing under the kitchen window…….
……and one of the first blooms on her Knockout Rose after transplanting into the flower bed.
Okay, maybe it wasn’t exactly dark when I pried my eyes open to drive Frankie to work this morning but it was early. The oppressive heat and humidity of the past week have kept me in the house more than usual because it triggers my asthma. As a result I’m not out burning off energy and this has led to a return of my insomnia. If this weather pattern doesn’t change soon I may have to go back to physical therapy. I just hate paying those sadists to yell at me for over doing the exercise routines.
Trying to function after 2 or 3 hours sleep, and before the coffee kicks in, has never been my strong suit but there are rewards to being out and about at the crack of dawn.
As usual, the geese were crossing the road to “their” pond forcing me to stop and wait for them to meander across the pavement. One of these mornings I’ll be awake enough to take a long shot as they cross. There must be at least 50 birds in the flock.
Waiting for the geese produced another reward; the first Indigo Bunting I’ve seen this year! I’m really missing my long lens but it’s still in the shop for warranty repair so this was shot with the 18-55MM lens.
Muggy weather or not, I’m getting that old wander lust again but I’m trying to hold out until my lens comes back. How much longer I can resist the urge to go exploring remains to be seen. At least Godzilla has dual air conditioning units so I can always shoot from the driver’s side window. Now all I have to do is talk Frankie into letting me blow some gas money……….
That was a term I became very familiar during my years of exposure to the Canoe & Seagull Club, also known as the United States Navy. I managed to avoid becoming a Squid (civilian term for sailors also known as Swab Jockeys, Rust Pickers, Anchor Clankers and various other terms I cannot repeat) by enlisting in the United States Air Force as soon as my draft notice arrived in the mailbox. However, growing up a Navy brat (both Mom and Dad were sailors, Dad a lifer) and later working for the Navy as a Civil Service employee you can’t help but pick up a few things. One I picked up was that word, actually an acronym standing for Bend Over Here It Comes Again!
This term was nearly always employed when one of those khaki clad idiots (officers) wandered near and caught the non-khaki idiots (enlisted men) lollygagging or goofing off in civilianspeak. I picked up a lot of other words, many at a very young age, but cannot repeat most of those, either. I’m still leery of Mom and getting my mouth washed out with one of those bars of US Navy issue soap that “followed my dad home from the base” every time I threw the old one away.
I took a look at the local weather radar a few minutes ago and the second thing that came to my mind was BOHICA! The first thing was an obscene reference to what the radar image is doing to my plans to mow the lawn. I haven’t mowed since we got back home from vacation, thanks to a similar weather situation every day since we returned. It has now been exactly 2 weeks since I last toured the grounds on the Dandelion Destroyer, spreading our proprietary formula lawn fertilizer which has it’s own acronym, DOGS. I tell people that stands for Direct Organic Gardening System but it actually refers to a special product that is the direct result of owning the best fed Labrador retriever in the county. That dog eats better than most of the people in the county!
The grass has been deeper before but is rapidly approaching record breaking status. It could have been worse. The last time I failed to mow for two solid weeks we almost lost Sam when he took off after some sort of critter and disappeared from sight in the foliage. I guess having him with us on vacation accounts for the unusually slow growth this time but we still have the greenest lawn on Pine Ridge.
Anyway, if anyone happens to have a few goats they would like to trade for a garden tractor I’ll sweeten the deal with a nearly new Toro self propelled mulching mower and a Shindaiwa weed whacker if you’ll agree to deliver the goats. Any interested parties should not delay in contacting me or you’ll also need to bring a metal detector to find the lawn equipment.
Now I’m off to mount the pontoons on my truck, get Sam into his snorkel and mask and shut this thing down before it gets fried by a lightning strike. I guess this will be another one of those old school evenings when I spend my time with a book. I sure am glad Dr. Seuss put a lot of pictures in his books or I’d have a terrible time following the plot in some of them!
NOTE TO THE READER: As some of you may already know, I’ve been a blogger on Windows Live Spaces for the past year and a half. Recent “improvements” have made that forum practically useless and I’m not the only one who has decided to look elsewhere for a new home. Luckily, one Live Spaces feature, Windows Live Writer, has not been tampered with….yet….and I still have backup copies of most of my blogs. This is a Godsend for me because I can always recycle one of my older pieces when writer’s block sets in……as it has today. This is a compilation of 2 blogs originally posted in April 2009.
I have been meaning to write this for some time. Working with some recent photos got me thinking about it again and, well, here goes.
On Halloween evening, 2005 I was on the front porch smoking a cigarette when our Labrador Retriever, Sam, spotted a deer in the back yard. Naturally he took off after it; it was after, all in, his yard. It was my bad luck that his chain was laying in the worst possible place on the porch deck. When the chain went taut it swept my feet out from under me and all 200 lbs. landed upside down, on the steps and the outside corner of the bottom step fractured my bottom 5 vertebrae.
After 8 months of physical therapy, wearing a &#%@&#! waist to chin back brace, I had surgery followed by 9 more months of PT and a larger brace. The fusions didn’t heal properly and that’s why I’m disabled. The doctor wants to go back in, remove the hardware from this fusion and another procedure I had on my cervical spine 3 years earlier and install new hardware to fuse the entire spine. That will be a whole other gunfight and I won’t go into it here.
People who hear about my accident always ask the same thing; "Did you shoot that dog?" I always give the same answer; “Of course not; he was just being a dog.” For all I know, he could have been protecting me from that strange animal.
I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that he would gladly lay down his life for me and never intentionally hurt me. I’m privileged to know Sam and couldn’t imagine life without him. My wife, Frankie, is without a doubt my best friend but Sam is my best buddy.
P.S. After knocking me down Sam jumped on my chest and started licking my face. It didn’t help the back any but it was the thought that counts.
I wrote a blog a while back about our Labrador Retriever, Sam, and it has recently gotten more attention. Those who read the first blog know of Sam having accidentally caused the accident that broke my back and resulted in my current disability. You also know how much he has come to mean to me. Well, there’s more to the story.
Sam was born in May 2004 in a cow shed on a farm in Poplar Camp, a little mountain community near here. My nephew was friends with the owner’s son and knew that one of his dogs had a littler of pups. When we moved here we promised our daughter Laura that she could get a dog. This was partly to ease the pain of leaving all of her friends and the only home she had ever known and partly because my family has always had dogs, both as companions and also for home defense. Anyone with criminal intent will tell you that the last thing they want to encounter is a large dog.
As soon as the pups were ready to wean my nephew took Laura to the farm to pick out her new pup.Within a couple days of bringing him home Sam became quite ill. He had near constant diarrhea and vomiting and was very weak and listless. I was scared to death that the little guy wasn’t going to live and Laura’s heart would be broken once again. My wife and I were willing to do whatever it took to save him.
We found a vet in the phone book and took him straight in. After what seemed to me a very brief exam we were given a medication and a syringe to administer it with 4 times daily. The diagnosis was worms. He rallied a little that night but was much worse the next morning. I tried calling the vet but got a recording saying they were only open 3 days a week. That was when my new neighbor told me about an old country vet he had known his entire life. He called the office and when he didn’t get an answer he called Doc Jesse at home. He said he needed a favor and asked him to take a look at a little girl’s sick puppy. Within 10 minutes we were in the doctor’s kitchen and Sam was in his hands.
He took us out to the garage where he kept some of his older medical equipment and stored extra drugs and supplies. Within a few minutes he had mixed up a pasty concoction and told me to just dip my pinky in and let Sam lick it off every 4 hours and to bring him by the office the next afternoon when he would be back from his farm calls. That night I slept in a chair in the living room with Sam in a towel lined box beside the chair. I set my watch alarm and every 4 hours held him in my lap while he licked the medication off my finger. I guess I was groggy and forgot to set the alarm after one treatment because I woke with a start, checked the time and found it had been more than 5 hours since I last fed him. Then I looked in the box and he was gone!
I didn’t have to look very long. He heard me get up and came barreling down the hall with that little tail going a mile a minute. I kept treating him during the day while working my way through online help wanted ads and he got better as the day went on. When we got to Doc Jesse’s office he gave me another batch of medicine and told me I could stop feeding it to him when he sank those little milk teeth into my pinky. I thought he was joking but soon found out how sharp those little teeth were.
Over the next several months Sam grew like a weed and it wasn’t long before his head was bigger than the entire pup had been when he first came home with Laura. He also tried to eat everything in sight and actually succeeded in devouring all but a few small pieces of the remote for our satellite dish the day after it was installed….batteries and all. That little caper cost me $59 for a new remote and I found reminders of the event in his “deposits” in the yard for the next couple of days. A blue or red button, a sliver of gray plastic. We never did see the batteries but they must have been Energizers because he kept going and going.
When he was about 6 months old he already weighed nearly 50 pounds and it was all solid muscle. We had the broken tie out chains to prove it. For a while Laura and I had a near daily battle with Frankie who kept saying she was going to get rid of that damned dog when he chewed the end of her new coffee table, ate one of her shoes, yanked the leash out of her hands when she was walking too slow for his liking. It got to the point that I had trouble controlling him when he decided to take off after something and I’m 10 inches taller and nearly 100 lbs heavier than Frankie.
One afternoon we went somewhere and took him with us. On the way home he just had to stand in Frankie’s lap with the front half of his body out the window, ears flapping in the breeze and drool going everywhere. We stopped to talk to my nephew who was mowing his lawn and he couldn’t get over how big Sam was. That’s when he dropped the bomb. The entire litter had been infested with an intestinal parasite and Sam was the sole survivor.
Sam was the runt of the litter and both my nephew and his friend tried to talk Laura into taking one of the other, more active pups but she said she just knew that he was the one for her. He wouldn’t be alive if she hadn’t picked him and our lives would be a lot emptier without him. I’m convinced that God’s hand was involved in that selection.
He’ll be 5 years old next month and he’s mellowed a lot with age but every once in a while that wild little ball of fur puts in an appearance, Just as the smoke starts coming out of Frankie’s ears I remind her that she had wanted to get rid of him. This never fails to bring a smile to her lips. Sam may be Laura’s dog and my best buddy but most of all, he’s Mama’s baby.
June 22, 2010
Sam is still my constant companion and loves accompanying me on my photo excursions through the back roads and forgotten places deep in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. I don’t know which of us enjoys exploring more but I do know that doing it together makes the journeys and the discoveries even more special.
He turned 6 last month and recently learned that Labs can swim while he was on vacation with us back home in Virginia Beach. Watching him romp on the beach, learning how to negotiate the waves and just enjoying life in general brought back memories of that wild little ball of fur who used to drive Frankie out of her mind every chance he got.
I guess in some respects Sam will always be a pup but that’s okay because there’s still a lot of boy left in me. Both the pup and the boy are wild and run amok from time to time but that’s okay, as well. It just strengthens the bond between us and reminds us how much fun it is just being alive.
The next to the last day of vacation and I was forced to take a rest by the three H’s (heat, haze and humidity) and a very sore back and legs after wandering through a large museum on each of the past two days. My old butt was just worn slam out!
I decided to spend the day sorting and editing some of the 1500+ frames I’d shot thus far while in Virginia Beach but soon grew restless and headed out to see what was blooming in Mom’s garden.
I’ve been told, repeatedly, what each variety is but I am horticulturally challenged and likely will be for life. I just know what pleases my eye through the viewfinder and will be content to let it go at that.
Mom does have a touch when it comes to posies.
It was about this time that a familiar voice spoke to me.
COME ON, DADDY;
WE’RE GOING TO THE BEACH!
RUN, JOHN, RUN!
SAMMY WANTS TO SWIM!!!
John is Laura’s boyfriend and Sam was wearing him out! This was also Sam’s first trip to the beach in warm weather and he had just learned that Labs can swim. I concentrated on the scenery while Sam ran John ragged.
The gulls seemed to be riding the golden beams of sunlight as much as the onshore breeze.
This is the fence line between the US Navy base at Little Creek and the civilian beach. My uncle owned a good bit of the beach running on this side of the fence and this is where I, and a great many other Chic’s Beach teens, came of age. The rip rap boulders placed along the fence line are known as The Rocks.
Besides learning how to surf, illegally, on the Navy side of the fence where the shore break is always much better, many of us spent long hours sitting on those rocks.
Whether pondering the mysteries of life, indulging in a little illegal intoxicants, experiencing first love or just watching the sunset The Rocks was an integral part of our youth and the mere mention of the name will always bring a smile and faraway look to any of us.
As I watched a few couples, both young and not so young, stroll hand in hand towards The Rocks to watch the sun set once more I had a pleasant bout of déjà vu.
As a lone gull patrolled the water’s edge in my view finder I was once more back in the days of my youth. This is what draws me back to the beach no matter how far I roam. Can you feel The Rocks calling to you to come sit a spell with the rest of us?
This post is dedicated to Jeanne Holland Newton who requested a few shots of this special place while I was back home with my family, visiting Mom. Her request set me to thinking about just how much this section of surf and sand means to me and I realized that I’m not the only one who loves this special place. Thanks Jeanne!
We’re still on vacation and getting a Wi-Fi signal is a challenge. While I have one I’ll give y’all a peek at what I’ve been up to:
In the northwestern corner of Virginia Beach is a community fronting the Chesapeake Bay officially known as Chesapeake Beach. To locals it’s Chic’s Beach, named after the snack bar and bath house operated by Audrey “Chic” Ledington that once stood on the beach. Happily, I discovered at the annual civic league picnic Saturday that I still qualify as a local, having grown up on that stretch of sand, live oak and party animals. I even have the T-shirt to prove it!
Chic’s is as much a state of mind as it is a geographic location. It’s really tough to describe but the camera will help. Here’s a taste of my old stomping grounds:
Junior market, the only place I know of where the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” sign is for decorative purposes only. Everyone who has ever spent any time in Chic’s Beach has bought beer, ice, cigarettes, rolling papers, etc. in this store while barefoot and/or shirtless at some point in time……..and that includes more than a few females. Folks in Chic’s Beach are famous for wearing their bathing suits 10 months out of the year and standard footwear, when worn, is a pair of flip flops. Add a T-shirt and you are in formal attire.
No, that’s not Godzilla parked out front. That’s one of his baby brothers, a Ford Explorer.
Bay Bridge Lane is named after the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel which consists of three pairs of bridges and two tunnels spanning the 20 mile mouth of the Chesapeake Bay between Virginia Beach and Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Crossing the CBBT is described as going to sea in your car.
The southern terminus of the CBBT viewed from the west. While we also call this end Chic’s Beach the actual beach he owned is just east of the bridge.
The ever present “GU-11, unmanned aerial vehicle” is also the logo for the CBBT. We always know we’re getting close to home when we start seeing the blue and white road signs with the soaring gull on them pointing the way to the CBBT.
Mom and Frankie on Chic’s Beach proper with the CBBT in the background. Frankie is giving me that “Point that camera at me and I’ll clobber you!” look.
She changed her mind. If you’ll notice her right hand you’ll see that I am not the only shutterbug in the family these days.
We lucked out and got to the beach just after a storm blew through. The large buildings in the distance are condominiums at the mouth of the Lynnhaven River, famous nationwide for it’s oysters.
The wooden building in the middle distance was once Chic’s Snack Bar and Bath House. It’s now Alexander’s on the Bay, a rather high end restaurant currently undergo major repairs after being practically demolished by a nor’easter last winter.
To give you an idea of the power of that storm, the same weather system dumped nearly 2 feet of snow on us, 325 miles inland.
Well, boys and girls, there you have it; there is no pot of gold at the end of a rainbow, only a coal collier and from the amount of hull showing it’s empty. At any time you can expect to find up to 2 dozen coal colliers riding at anchor in Lynnhaven Roads, waiting to take on a load at Lambert’s Point in Norfolk which borders Virginia Beach on the northwest.
This is what I came for this evening; sunset!
Well, it wasn’t all I came for. Man, does that feel good!
Surf casting is very popular around the bridge pilings. Spot, croaker, puppy drum and flounder are plentiful……..and they’re also delicious fried!
Mom and Frankie headed off into the sunset. You’ll note Frankie has gone native and shed her shoes.
AHHHHHHHHHH! Can you hear the surf and smell that salt air?
I lived on Lauderdale for several years when I was still a single hellion. As a matter of fact, my friends and I were so proficient at raising hell and having a good time that the local cops knew most of us by name. They also told us that as long as we were all in one place, usually the beach behind my house, and nobody was bleeding they would leave us alone because they knew where to find us didn’t have to chase us all over the neighborhood.
My backyard when I lived here was the beach and the Chesapeake Bay. Directly across the street my neighbor’s backyard was Chubb Lake. If you look very carefully you can just make out the barbed wire topped perimeter fence of the Naval Amphibious Base at Little Creek cutting through the middle of the lake. When I was a kid, and a Navy dependant, my friends and I used to wade across the lake to go to the 25¢movies at the base theater. The water was never more than thigh deep and we could actually step over the fence. That’s security for ya! By the time we walked the 10 or 12 blocks to the theater our cut off jeans were usually dry and all we had to do was put our shoes and shirts on and they’d let us in. Of course we had them off when we walked out of the theater after the movie ended.
One of the houses fronting Chubb Lake. Can you imagine kicking back on that deck and enjoying the view?
In an effort to share some of my past work with a wider audience I’ll be re-posting some of my older blogs from my Windows Live Spaces page. This one is from earlier in the week.
After a busy morning getting things ready for our upcoming vacation (4 DAYS AND COUNTING!!) I managed to sneak away for some photography.
Today’s random wandering took me out Grayson Pike……….
……along Cripple Creek Road……….
………….out past the old furnace……………….
………………on along CC Camp Road……………..
……………through Cedar Grove…………..
……………….and Sharon Springs………………
………………..finally over Pineview Road……………..
……………into the valley near Rural Retreat Lake…………
………and then back home again.
I hope you enjoyed the ride.
I mean that both literally and figuratively. Last night my blogging home for the past 15 months went live with a much touted upgrade that has a majority of its users confused and angry, me among them.
That fiasco and a bout of insomnia soon had me busy searching for a better forum for my photography and led to the creation of this site. I have some learning to do but I’m pleased with the results thus far.
So much for the figurative dawning of a new day and on to the literal. Upon opening the door this morning on the way to drive my wife to work I was greeted by a rosy glow in the east. I carry my camera with me everywhere I go and was fortunate enough to capture a foggy Appalachian sunrise.
As the fog burns off the stock pond just down the road the fog of fatigue is settling over my mind. As my eyes are growing heavy so I’ll keep this post short. I hope you’ve enjoyed the sunrise as much as I did.
After a day of the “three H’s” (hot,hazy and humid, our usual late summer weather) which produced an afternoon of pop up thunderstorms, the skies cleared and temperatures fell to a comfortable level just in time for Laura’s high school commencement ceremony.
The fog forming in the low-lying areas even stayed just behind the ridge until the festivities were over.
Frankie giving Laura Roses from her aunt Pat.
Right where I’d expect to find her; Laura was front row, center.
Getting the all important sheep skin. Frankie got this shot with a point and shoot Kodak Easy Share. I was a little miffed because I was sitting right beside her with $800 worth of camera and zoom lens in my hands and I couldn’t get a decent shot!
A rare occurrence….. the three of us in the same frame. I’m usually on the other side of the view finder. My first thought when I saw this was “Man, am I getting old!”
Laura and John. The white strands in Laura’s hair are the result of the Silly String battle that broke out as the caps went airborne when the last diploma was handed out. Between the wildly dancing and screaming graduates, flying caps, dozens of jets of Silly String and what I think may have even been several shoes and a couple of flying diplomas I don’t think I could have captured the chaos with a video camera! I fired off at least three dozen frames in burst mode and they all came out looking like a polka-dotted snow storm.
Anyway, there you have it. Our little girl is now of legal age, a high school graduate and a fine young woman. Next up for her is college in the fall to pursue her teaching certificate. I can’t begin to tell you how proud we are of her!