Way, way back in the latter part of the last century I was a wild child, confirmed bachelor and hard core party animal burning the candle at both ends ……… with a blow torch.
October 6. 1986 was the occasion of my my youngest brother’s annual birthday pig pickin’, all day and all night keg party and gathering of the heathens. Naturally I showed up ready to rock. When I walked in the door the first thing I saw was a hot little blonde sitting at the kitchen table. Something just clicked between the two of us and we’ve been together ever since!
Since that fateful night we’ve been through a lot of good times and some very bad times but I wouldn’t change a thing. She is my soul mate and the love of my life!
Today Frankie (aka THE BOSS) and I celebrate our
150th 23rd wedding anniversary. Finding photos of the two of us together is tough because I’m usually behind the camera and she’s normally camera shy but I think these two will fit the bill.
Summer 1987 on the Yorktown Battlefield, Virginia. Good Lord were we ever young!
May 2010 Gorge Wythe High School – Wytheville, Virginia – Laura’s high school graduation. Laura is our pride and joy.
When we first met everyone said it would never last. HAH! Fat lot they knew.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY, BABY DUCK!
I was all set to shoot the super moon last night, camera sensor and all lenses cleaned, tripod out of the truck and a close eye on the eastern horizon.
However, Mother Nature decided to throw me a curve and provide some overcast for the big event.
Using my longest lens I managed to capture a few frames but they’re nowhere near as good as I had hoped for.
Oh well, we’ll have another super moon in 2029. I hope I still remember how to use the camera when I’m 74 years old.
As is the case with so many older buildings in the vicinity this one has been left abandoned and deteriorating but this one may be getting a reprieve.
Today I drove by on my meandering path to pick THE BOSS up from work and I noticed that all the overgrown shrubbery as well as a several “trash trees” (really nothing more than overgrown weeds) had been cut down.
Most of the old siding has been stripped away to expose the original clapboards and there are other signs of recent work performed. If the building was to be demolished it would be a pile of rubble by now.
I really like to see these old buildings brought back to life. The tales those old walls could tell……
After a nasty crash Friday evening I finally have my laptop functioning properly once again. I wiped the hard drive and did a clean install of Windows Vista Home Premium using the re-install DVD that came with the computer.
While waiting for all the updates and patches to download and install I spent some time at the bedroom window waiting for a cardinal to appear. My patience was soon rewarded.
I came out of this entire mess far better than some of my more spectacular crashes of years past. The portable hard drives the girls gave me for Christmas 2009 to store my photos on came with a very handy utility that puts a pop up message on my desk top reminding me to back up my files. All I have to do is connect the USB cable, click okay and the backup is done while I continue to wander cyber space, kill space aliens or do whatever it is I do when left without adult supervision. If the cable could attach itself this would be totally idiot proof!
In the past I had the auto update set to run Sunday morning but this past week decided to change the setting to run Friday evening while I’m busy yelling at the talking heads on the nightly “news”. Man, was that a good decision!
This week’s back up finished at 6:44. The crash occurred at approximately 9:30. As I had already done the day’s photo editing and written and published a blog for the day all that was lost was my web surfing history and my saved game progress from an hour or so of “Redneck Rampage”! Yes, I know it’s an oldie and it has to run in compatibility mode but sometimes a guy just needs a good first person shooter to keep the voices in his head happy.
As I said, I wiped the hard drive and did a clean install of Windows Vista and Microsoft Office. My re-install disks are 2 years old and did not include any of the service packs and “important” updates Microshaft has dumped on us in the meantime. I meant to disable the automatic install feature in Windows Update but once it started running I was a little leery of interfering so I let it go….and go….and go…. it took 46 hours and that was using a brand new DSL modem and letting the system run constantly!
At least I got a quick dose of Face Book now and then to stay in touch with the outside world now and then. By the outside world I mean out there in Cyber Space, not outside of my house. By court order I’m not allowed to touch any of the dirt bags miserable bastards pieces of s*** a**holes neighbors after that unfortunate slinging gravel across the street with the Dandelion Destroyer….every time I saw them outdoors episode. On the plus side we had the best trimmed lawn on this end of the street before the sheriff took the keys to my lawn mower. Little does he know that keys are for people who don’t know how to hotwire and engine!
Now I sit here with a fully functional laptop, Windows Live Essentials 2011 and even Internet Explorer 8! The latter is still too damn slow for me and I’ll stick with Google Chrome for my web surfing. As for the former, there are a few features in it (Messenger, Live Mail, Family Controls, etc.) that I’m going to uninstall but this thing does work and it’s even a little faster.
I still have to restore the backed up files but I have files to restore this time. I also have all the photos I’ve shot in the past 2 years, nearly 40,000 of them, as well as all the Mp3 files I’ve “found on the web”. I think that rates a WOO-HOO!
LEARN FROM MY EXPERIENCE FOLKS;
BACK UP THEM FILES!
YA NEVER KNOW…….
Oh, and I didn’t really use my riding mower as an improvised gravel chunkin’ machine gun to terrorize the neighborhood jerks who seem to take great satisfaction in doing everything they can think of to piss me off……..or did I?
WOO-HOO, I’m back online at maximum speed and I am happy about that! Now all I have to do is catch up on the 300 or so blog updates I haven’t been able to read over the weekend due to modem malfunctions. At this point I would like to thank Mrs. Francisco, my fifth grade teacher, who made us learn speed reading whether we wanted to or not! Even though I wasn’t very happy about it back then I am now.
Buddy is home again, after a “sleepover at the vet clinic” last night. I don’t think he has discovered his missing parts yet, poor guy. It may be my imagination but I’d swear his voice has risen a couple of octaves. He’s a little puzzled by our refusal to play Buddy Ball …. throw the ball, he chases it down, you try to get the ball away from him, repeat …. but the post surgical instructions say no vigorous exercise until the sutures come out in 10 to 14 days. It’s just as well because he’s having a terrible time keeping his eyes open.
Buddy will need all the rest he can get in the coming days. He absolutely loves snow and it looks like he’s gonna have plenty to romp in if the National Weather Guessing, Star Gazing and Palm Reading Service get’s this one right:
Winter Storm Warning 331 PM EST TUE JAN 25 2011 …HEAVY SNOWFALL WEDNESDAY INTO WEDNESDAY NIGHT…. A STRONG LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM WILL TRACK FROM THE CENTRAL GULFCOAST INTO EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA ON WEDNESDAY MORNING AND AFTERNOON. SIGNIFICANT COLD AIR ALOFT COMBINED WITH SIGNIFICANT MOISTURE FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO WILL RESULT IN HEAVY SNOW AS WELL AS PERIODS OF SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN BEGINNING EARLY WEDNESDAY MORNING AND LASTING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING. …WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 4 AM WEDNESDAY TO MIDNIGHT EST WEDNESDAY NIGHT… THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BLACKSBURG HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW, SLEET AND AREAS OF FREEZING RAIN WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 4 AM WEDNESDAY TO MIDNIGHT EST WEDNESDAY NIGHT. THE WINTER STORM WATCH HAS BEEN UPGRADED TO A WARNING. * HAZARD TYPES…PROLONGED HEAVY WET SNOW IS EXPECTED. * ACCUMULATIONS…4 TO 8 INCHES OF SNOW ARE EXPECTED. *
* TIMING…RAIN OR A LIGHT WINTRY MIX WILL CHANGE TO SNOW BY MID DAY WEDNESDAY AND CONTINUE INTO WEDNESDAY EVENING. * IMPACTS…DANGEROUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS DUE TO SNOW COVERED ROADS ARE EXPECTED. DOWNED TREES AND POWER LINES ARE POSSIBLE DUE TO THE HEAVY WET SNOW. * WINDS…NORTHWEST WINDS WITH SPEEDS INCREASING TO 10 TO 15 MPH AND GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH ARE EXPECTED WEDNESDAY EVENING. * TEMPERATURES…FORECAST TO BE IN THE LOWER 30S WEDNESDAY WILL DROP INTO THE 20S WEDNESDAY NIGHT. *Taking past performance on the forecasters’ part into consideration this translates to either no snow at all or 4 to 8 feet!
Winter Storm Warning
331 PM EST TUE JAN 25 2011
…HEAVY SNOWFALL WEDNESDAY INTO WEDNESDAY NIGHT….
A STRONG LOW PRESSURE SYSTEM WILL TRACK FROM THE CENTRAL GULFCOAST INTO EASTERN NORTH CAROLINA ON WEDNESDAY MORNING AND AFTERNOON. SIGNIFICANT COLD AIR ALOFT COMBINED WITH SIGNIFICANT MOISTURE FROM THE GULF OF MEXICO WILL RESULT IN HEAVY SNOW AS WELL AS PERIODS OF SLEET AND FREEZING RAIN BEGINNING EARLY WEDNESDAY MORNING AND LASTING THROUGH WEDNESDAY EVENING.
…WINTER STORM WARNING IN EFFECT FROM 4 AM WEDNESDAY TO MIDNIGHT EST WEDNESDAY NIGHT…
THE NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE IN BLACKSBURG HAS ISSUED A WINTER STORM WARNING FOR HEAVY SNOW, SLEET AND AREAS OF FREEZING RAIN WHICH IS IN EFFECT FROM 4 AM WEDNESDAY TO MIDNIGHT EST WEDNESDAY NIGHT. THE WINTER STORM WATCH HAS BEEN UPGRADED TO A WARNING.
* HAZARD TYPES…PROLONGED HEAVY WET SNOW IS EXPECTED.
* ACCUMULATIONS…4 TO 8 INCHES OF SNOW ARE EXPECTED. *
* TIMING…RAIN OR A LIGHT WINTRY MIX WILL CHANGE TO SNOW BY MID DAY WEDNESDAY AND CONTINUE INTO WEDNESDAY EVENING.
* IMPACTS…DANGEROUS TRAVEL CONDITIONS DUE TO SNOW COVERED ROADS ARE EXPECTED. DOWNED TREES AND POWER LINES ARE POSSIBLE DUE TO THE HEAVY WET SNOW.
* WINDS…NORTHWEST WINDS WITH SPEEDS INCREASING TO 10 TO 15 MPH AND GUSTS UP TO 30 MPH ARE EXPECTED WEDNESDAY EVENING.
* TEMPERATURES…FORECAST TO BE IN THE LOWER 30S WEDNESDAY WILL DROP INTO THE 20S WEDNESDAY NIGHT.
*Taking past performance on the forecasters’ part into consideration this translates to either no snow at all or 4 to 8 feet!
Today Laura is getting a lesson in the downside of having her own vehicle. When she got her driver’s license 2 years ago we gave her the Jeep her mother had been using. While she has paid for such things as registration renewal, county sticker, fuel, etc. we’ve kept the Jeep in my name for insurance purposes. She’s covered under my family plan which means much lower rates than if she had her own insurance.
She and her mother took great pleasure in applying this decal on the liftgate window. I didn’t mind all that much because this happened just after my accident, and the incredibly stiff suspension, made it impossible for me to ride in it, much less drive it.
When Laura got the Jeep she added these decals and I have a feeling she’ll be wearing the same expression when she calls home during her break tonight. I just got a call from the garage. The $56 quote for safety inspection, oil and filter change and fluid top off has just gone up another $80 thanks to almost worn out front brake pads.
I shall not gloat. Godzilla is due for inspection in March and I already know of one minor suspension part that needs replacing. I’m praying that’s all it needs. This is the absolute worst part of learning to live with my physical limitations; paying someone else to maintain my vehicle. After 16 years as a master automotive tech knowing what is wrong and not being able to just crawl under there and fix it just grates on my nerves!
At least we have an honest, dependable and reasonably priced mechanic. We took our old minivan to a different shop once and their shop manager tried to convince me that it needed nearly $6,000 in repairs before they could release it to us because it “wasn’t safe to operate.” I very nearly got arrested over that…….and, NO, he didn’t get the $6,000 either! He was lucky to leave his office alive. Frankie had to use all her persuasive powers to keep me from beating him to death with his own clipboard……..because she wanted to do it!
Still waiting for the new modem to arrive so I’m extremely limited to how much I can upload before the worn out piece of junk I’m currently using craps out again. I have discovered that blowing about half a can of air through the vents cools it down enough for me to stay online for as much as 20 minutes before it gets so hot it shuts down again. I think this time rather than following the tech support weasel’s advice to just toss the old one in the trash I’ll keep it. Since the average life span of the cheap junk our ISP provides is about 6 months it’s anyone guess when I’ll need spare parts. Maybe next time I can build my own modem (or even a Borg drone) while waiting for a replacement to arrive.
Buddy is in the pet hospital today so the house is unnaturally quiet. No, he’s not ill or injured, he’s getting neutered……poor guy. While I understand the need for such a thing it doesn’t make it any easier for me, as a man, to contemplate. I can’t help wondering if the pitch of his voice will change……or if eat all my shoes for leaving him in that place and letting them remove what are apparently his favorite toys.
My shutter button finger hasn’t been idle while the modem slowly melts down. This is the first Nuthatch I’ve seen this year and I managed to get a few frames shooting through the bedroom window again. I just hope I haven’t included too many images with this post to publish before the modem quits again. We shall see…….
These little guys have a unique way of feeding. They start at the top of a tree trunk and walk down, head first, pecking at tasty morsels hidden in the bark.
That is, they feed upside down when foraging for food.
When they’re getting their fill on the feeders they’ll eat upside down, backwards, sideways or any which way they can! The weather guessers are calling for more winter weather in the next few days so I should be able to get some good shots of the feathered gluttons as they put away as much free food as possible ahead of the weather.
Okay, now to see if I can get this published before the modem quits again. I’ll be around to visit all of you and respond to any comments you’ve left as soon as I get my new equipment. In the meantime y’all play nice. Don’t make me stop this car!
Our trip to town this morning was made under gray skies but the temperatures were relatively mild. An occasional rain shower and buds on the trees brought a taste of things to come with Spring just a couple of months away.
The trees bearing these buds are just across the street from the little cabin I blogged about earlier.
We’ve yet to learn any more about it’s history but I did get a few more shots of it today in between the showers.
Though the crude curtains in the windows give the illusion that someone has made the effort to preserve this old building the gaping door and rubbish piled inside attest to it’s neglect.
I can’t help but wonder what boots crossed this threshold and what stories lie buried within these mud chinked log walls.
Frankie came up with a great idea today. On her next day off we’re going to pay a visit to the County Historical Society and see what we can discover about this cabin. It’s located behind some restored Civil War era buildings which we will research as well.
I have a feeling that this will lead to a few blogs dealing with the history of the town, the county and the region. Frankie and I are both history buffs and she’s a budding photographer so I may even be able to get her interested in a blog of her own. We shall see …….
Cloudy skies, fog most of the day, washed out light….not the best for shooting but I’m not complaining because that fog is the result of warmer temperatures. The ice and snow around my parking space is nearly all melted away making the likelihood of my falling on my butt a little more remote.
Just a few random shots ……….and thoughts……. today from the trip to town to pick up THE BOSS this afternoon.
“I’m tellin’ ya, Maude that pond was right here yesterday! I even way pointed it on my GPS so I could find my way back!”
“These goose suits were a brilliant idea, Simon! They don’t have a clue it was us that turned the pond into a giant ice cube! Your freeze ray works great!”
You’re right……it is leaning but it’s also still in use.
Not just an old farm building. This one contains a modern pumping station for the town water supply. Even though I doubt this was ever more than a humble shed I love that the town tries to preserve as much history as possible. Too many places don’t.
Continuing from the last post, Frankie and I met at my youngest brother’s birthday brawl and have been together ever since. Two years later we were married and 4 years after that we were blessed with our own little bundle of joy. Actually, we both had kids from previous marriages who were living with our ex-spouses which was a good thing because we were still partying like there was no tomorrow. We hadn’t planned on having any more kids and were content to wind up our nephews and nieces and send them home for their parents to deal with.
All that changed when nearly losing Frankie to medical problems from all that partying scared us straight. Much to our friends’ amazement we quit drinking. God said “Good job, here’s a gift!” Our friends thought this was just hilarious. They delighted in telling us that raising a baby at our age would keep us young. There were times when I thought keeping up with that little bundle of energy was going to kill me! Then there were the surprises like the one in the shot above. At the time, Laura had one tooth. One VERY SHARP tooth! In that photo said tooth is buried in my nose and she’s giggling like a maniac. I, on the other hand was screaming for Frankie to pry her loose but Frankie was too busy laughing like a maniac. Like mother, like daughter I guess.
As I said, we both had kids from previous marriages. That’s my daughter Brenda with Laura on her lap. Laura thought it was most excellent to finally get a baby sister at the ripe old age of 18. Shortly after this photo was taken Brenda got married and started a family of her own, calling me from Kentucky the following year to announce the birth of my grandson. I tried telling her I was too young to be a grandfather but she was just like her mother, my ex, and wouldn’t listen to a thing I said!
The next thing I knew, Brenda was really not listening and presented me with my second grandson. As you can tell from her expression, Laura was more than a little jealous because her mama was paying attention to another child and she was no longer the baby of the family. Luckily, Brenda and her family live in Kentucky so there aren’t many photos of Laura with steam coming out of her ears.
Occasionally, all of my siblings manage to congregate at Mom & Dad’s house and, on rare occasions, the first fights stop long enough for all of us sit down for a photo, (left to right) My middle sister, Linda. My oldest sister (who would have been a pony if Santa Claus hadn’t screwed up) Sharon aka Crazy Horse. Dad with my youngest sister, Stormy and her son Patrick in front. Mom with my brother Robert aka Dutch next to her and youngest brother David next to him. That’s me down front, looking to see if the escape route is clear because I have Laura on my lap and need to get her out of range before the fists and beer cans start flying again. I no longer drank beer by this time so usually picked up something heavy instead of a beer can.
Since Frankie and I owned firearms we were determined to teach Laura how to use them. I didn’t care if she never fired another shot as long as she lived but I wanted her to understand how firearms worked and what they could do so that she would never be tempted to play with one. When she was 8 I bought her an air rifle and started her out shooting BBs at plastic sups. She took to it like a duck to water. In this photo we’re on vacation here in Southwest, Virginia. Four years later we moved here. The boy on the right is Linda’s son, Christopher. There wasn’t a soda can, cup, cardboard box or plastic bottle in the county that didn’t get perforated by those two that summer.
As I said, Laura’s love of firearms took off from day one. When she was 10 I bought her a .22 caliber rifle and she was a natural sharpshooter from the first shot. In high school she joined the US Army Junior Reserve Officer’s Training Corps (JROTC) and signed up for the 3 position rifle team. That year she was the first freshman in battalion history to shoot 240 points out of a possible 300. She went on to co-captain the team, compete at the JROTC National Championships at Camp Perry, Ohio twice and eventually rose to the rank of Cadet Colonel and commanded the battalion during her senior year. She’s on the left, front row, in the photo above, taken at her last nationals. Her boyfriend, John, is standing behind her.
This past June Laura graduated from high school and, soon after that, moved into her own apartment in town. She’s a freshman in college now and wants to pursue a career in education. I can’t tell you what a relief it is to know my little girl wants to be a teacher and not a soldier!
She sure is the spitting image of her mama at the same age, isn’t she?
I left a few gaps in this narrative. My 14 year military career is best left in the foot locker where it belongs. Maybe one of these days………..My first marriage is a nightmare I’ve spent nearly 35 years working to forget and that’s best left that way as well.
We still go back home to visit Mom a couple of times a year. I’m the oldest of my siblings and, now that Dad has passed on, I’ve become the de facto head of the family. Each time we get home my brothers and sisters take turns calling me aside to tell me “Mom needs to do this or that but she won’t listen to me. If you tell her it’s a good idea she’ll do it.” Mom is almost 87 years old and still sharp as a tack. If there is a decision to be made and she wants my advice, she’ll ask for it.
My younger siblings are also on their very best behavior when I’m around because they realize that I haven’t mellowed with age. They also realize that I no longer fight fair and will seriously injure any of them who gets on my bad side before they get a chance to injure me. At my age those lumps, bumps, scrapes and bruises from fighting with my hands just take too damned long to heal so I’m liable to pick up something heavy and brain one of them. I often wonder how many scraps hey get into out behind the garage where I can’t hear or see them when I’m home.
As I said, Brenda is just as hard headed as her mother. Despite my protests that I was too young to be a grandfather, she just kept ignoring me. Everett “Junebug” on the left and Dustin “Dusty” in the middle. The little one on the right is my grand daughter Faith. I call her Monkey Butt but if anyone else does she’ll hand ‘em a knuckle sammich!
Man, I can’t wait until one of them makes Brenda a grandparent!
From the most humble one room cabin……….
……to a more substantial homestead………
……..to what must have been a substantial farm house………
……..once abandoned the march of time and ravages of nature take their toll with amazing speed. What stories these walls could tell!
As I gaze out the window a line from a Led Zeppelin tune keeps running through what’s left of my mind:
“If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break,
If it keeps on rainin’, levee’s goin’ to break,
When The Levee Breaks I’ll have no place to stay.”
If you look closely you’ll see our darling daughter’s smiling face in this frame. The quality of the shot could be much better but please bear in mind that it was shot through two windshields (windscreens to those of you of the Brit persuasion) and a downpour. Adding to the challenge was the necessity of trying to trip the shutter between the sweeps of 2 sets of windshield wipers.
The smile on that face is the result of Momma and Daddy agreeing to add her sat TV/ Internet/ landline phone service to our account. This means she’ll have all of the above installed and functional next Thursday. Since she has no established credit history it would take much longer and cost far more to put it in her name because of security deposits and installation fees. Frankie and I are established customers so all that has been waived. We’re more than happy we could help with the red tape.
Besides, we really like to see that smile!
On our journey to town today I finally remembered to get a shot of what I think is an old root cellar on 4th Street. If there’s anything stored in there I hope it’s in water tight containers because I’m sure it’s floating by now. There is no door!
The branch (pronounced brainch in these parts) at the bottom of our street isn’t out of it’s banks…..yet….. but it is rising. We’ve been under flash flood watches and warnings for the best part of the past two days and they remain in effect until tomorrow. Being on high ground I won’t start worrying about flooding until I see ol’ Fish Hook (my brother in law) paddling past in an inner tube. All this rain is due to the remnants of Tropical Depression 5 (TD5) and another storm front behind it that is moving in from the Midwest.
Speaking of branches, Burd Town lost a 20 footer last night and it is lying out in our front yard. If the rain ever stops THE BOSS and I will have to break out the Sawzall™,cut it free and then into manageable pieces and haul it up to the tree line.
NOTE: No burds or feeders were damaged in this incident. Sawzall™ is the brand name of a reciprocating saw produced by the Milwaukee Electric Tool Company. These saws are also produced by several other companies and sawzall has become the generic name for this type of tool among tradesmen, no matter who makes it.
One thing all this rain is good for is the green stuff. After Halloween Frankie set Laura’s Jack-O- lantern in this then empty flower bed until we could dispose of it. Apparently a few seeds fell out because this pumpkin plant sprung up a few weeks ago and is now growing like crazy. It has a blossom on it but I doubt it will have a chance to produce a very large fruit before the killing frost arrives. On the other hand, you never know……….. Those seeds survived the #%&@!!! ton and a half of snow we had last winter.
We shall see.
I haven’t posted anything recently because we have been busy helping our youngest daughter leave the nest. She is moving into her first apartment prior to the start of the fall semester of her freshman year in college. This, ostensibly, in order to have a quiet place to study.
I remember my college days and all I can say is she better not! My parents were 1200 miles away when I was raising hell, chasing coeds and supporting at least 2 breweries all by myself……I mean when I was diligently pursuing my bachelor’s degree but she’s only a couple of miles down the road.
After a few hours each day of lifting and bending more than my wrecked back can stand, in oppressive heat and humidity, I haven’t been able to get out with Sam and the camera. Actually, just getting out of bed has been a major accomplishment most days.
All that is behind me now…….I think.
Laura returned from her vacation trip with John late last night. Yes, while her mother and I were slaving away, Frankie braving the depths of THE HOVEL (Laura’s room) to pack and me fighting my way through furniture assembly instructions only partially translated from the original Swahili, Pidgin Chinese or Martian (I’m still not sure which), Laura was frolicking in the surf and sand of sunny Florida. Well, only partially sunny, I am told, but still better than the near record breaking steamy heat we’ve “enjoyed” here in the Mountain Empire for the past week.
Anyway, John helped me assemble the remaining pieces of furniture today and it appears the move is complete….at least as far as my role in the exercise is concerned. The remaining items can be easily lifted and crammed into the back of Laura’s Jeep.
Now I can get back to roaming the countryside with my trusty sidekick, co-pilot and navigator, Sam the Wonder Dog. Naturally, the TV weather guesser announced this evening that the frog strangling downpour we received this afternoon is but a sample of things to come. We are supposed to have intermittent downpours for the next two or three days with as much as four inches of rain. That’s okay……I’ll probably be posting a lot of waterfowl shots…..or maybe fish. We shall see.
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.
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.
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!