Captain of my own craft and other late-summer musings…

Resting and waiting for the day to begin--the days of summer winding down!
Resting and waiting for the day to begin–the days of summer winding down!

Up early, the coffee is going, the morning is dawning, and the plan is to uncover the pontoon and start it up for the first time in over two weeks. The weather forecast is calling for warmer temperatures in the 70s—before next week’s string of HOT temperatures near 90!

I suppose I could devote the majority of this post to the weird weather patterns we’ve experienced around here lately, but suffice it to say that I credit the cooler, autumn-like weather these past few days and nights to a Canadian front that seems to have enjoyed hanging around. Would I rather have 90s? No, never! I’ll gladly don the sweatshirt and windbreaker during these lovely days and throw an extra blanket on the bed at night. So today, before the scheduled rain arrives overnight, I am going to be the captain of my own craft…play on the water!

After all, there won’t be too many more days to do so this summer, with our time here rapidly winding down. Although the official closing date is Sunday, September 13, the boat is scheduled to be picked up by the marina guys on the Thursday prior to that (two weeks from yesterday). And, aside from all of the relaxation that comes with plying the waters of this magical lake, there is the need to begin some basic cleaning and emptying of the boat of items that will not be needed any more—extra life jackets, tubing tow line, tools, etc.

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Notice those poles sticking up to which the boat is attached? Those are the infamous auger poles that provide so much fun on closing weekend!

And what happens after our boat is gone? Well, that’s when the real “fun” of closing up begins. There are four 7-foot steel auger poles with the mooring lines attached to each that must be taken out. The process seems awfully simple, yet they cannot just be pulled out. Instead, they must be screwed out of the lake bed, something that certainly provides one (me!) a good cardio and upper body workout for the time it takes to get the stubborn things removed. The mooring lines, after they’ve been removed, will hang in the cottage to dry completely over the winter. The poles will be stored under the pier parts that will be stacked on the landing beside the lake down below the cottage.

The dismantling of the pier will take place on Saturday, September 12, and it’s not a bad job at all, thanks to my son and his friend who will come up for the day to provide the critical labor, along with my crucial supervision and advisory position! After that is finished, we’ll spend the rest of the day watching college football and having a few “bracers” on the cottage porch. My small TV and its HD antenna will be accessible, despite the remainder of the cottage being pretty well closed up and ready for the winter.

By this time, the wife will be comfortably home and back to “civilian” life, and I’ll merely have to attend to the typical odds and ends that are a part of closing weekend. I never really look forward to closing the place, mainly, because to do it correctly, I need to get started a couple of weeks in advance. And who wants to get motivated to do that?

Well, that’s exactly what I did yesterday, pulling all of the outside solar lights, removing their batteries, cleaning them, and putting them in the boxes and bags where they’ll be easily located next spring. Not an arduous job, just time consuming. So today’s agenda calls for all things pontoon and time out on the lake.

Now, as I write these closing thoughts (pardon the pun!), the morning sun is lighting up our little corner of the lake, promising that fine day the weather folks have called for. At this glorious time of the year, let this Friday be a good one! See you on the water…

Back to school and memories of my own beginning…

IMG_0818Back from the lake cottage for a few days this week, I’ve been busy catching up on various domestic duties and chores. The lawn was mowed two days ago, was fertilized yesterday, and my office/writing room desk and book shelves and cabinets have been thoroughly “weeded out” and dusted. I’ve even found some time to plan out my next steps of getting back into a serious daily writing routine in the weeks ahead, after “Lake Season” ends on September 14, that is.

On an early morning jaunt to the bank this morning, not far from the Northern Illinois University campus, I couldn’t help but notice the number of college-age students seemingly everywhere. And after I stopped by for a quick visit to Wal-Mart, my suspicions were confirmed: It’s time for students to move in to begin classes for another school year!

In most of the young people I observed this morning, there seemed to be a happy glide in their stride—pep in their step—as they scoured the shelves for various items needed to get their new digs set up and in working order. There’s always something about the beginning of a new year that makes one feel pretty good. Oh, that the same spirited feelings could last a whole school year long!

Witnessing this annual student ritual, I set the Wayback Machine (Thanks, Mr. Peabody!) and shot back to late-August of 1968 where I was entering the world of college for the first time at Kent State.

allynMom and Dad had driven me from our home in Illinois and had pretty much gotten me all squared away in my dorm room, with two other roommates. And then it was off to the bookstore for the humbling experience of buying books at such exorbitant prices, a ritual that I never will forget.

I still can picture my dad, his pipe clenched between his teeth, helping me lug the large shopping bags laden with all of the required textbooks for freshmen classes. I still have the big, heavy dictionary—Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language: College Edition—on the corner of my desk where I write this now. It’s rather startling to realize how many miles the thing has travelled along with me: All of my years  at Kent (5); my classrooms all the years I taught (35); and years now in retirement (8).duboisstore04

As I recall, that move-in day so long ago was both exciting and scary. Yes, I was thrilled to finally be getting started on the next level of my life, pretty far from home though it was. To meet people who became friends was an important part of it, just as much as earning a degree eventually would be.

Experiences—good and not so good—would also factor into my life at KSU which were all beginning on that warm day in ’68. The day was scary in that my parents would be pulling away and driving home to Illinois, leaving me to trust myself to make good decisions and do the right thing when it mattered. I would basically be able to do whatever I—myself—chose to do, when I wanted to. I wasn’t sure I could operate under such a state of constant temptation, and that frightened me.

In retrospect, things turned out fine, but there were moments along the way where I was anything but trustworthy and doing the right thing. Call it all part of the growing up at that particular time of my life. I suppose there’s a blog post or two about some of those less-than-trustworthy moments at dear old KSU sometime down the road.

And today, watching these young folks going about their various tasks to begin their own quests to become the fine, mature, and productive citizens they’ll become later on, I couldn’t help but smile and be glad that it’s them—not me—going through all of this all over again. Once was enough!

Now, it was time to get back to those “catching-up” chores…IMG_0817

It’s getting late…

Samnangerfjorden a late summer evening. Seen f...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s getting late. Summer is fleeting. The slant of the sun—morning and late afternoon—seems to be at different angles now. Fewer and fewer residents are up here at the lake during the week, vacations having run out. Nights are cooler, calling for sweatshirts more often. The dark comes much sooner in the evening—and it’s dark, almost immediately!

But the real indicator that lake season is in its homestretch for another summer is our grandsons were here these last four days before they have to start school on the 14th. And the last two summers, they were barely up here to spend much time with us at all, their busy lives busier than ever with so much other stuff besides Grandma and Poppy.

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Matt and Grandma working on ice cream cones.
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Jack with another spoonful of chocolate goodness!

Even so, what a wonderful four days it was, having them both without Mom and Dad! Whether it was splashing and rough-housing around in the lake for hours or challenging Grandma and Poppy to crucial games of Aggravation or Apples to Apples, or enjoying a summer evening visit to Frosty Boy for ice cream, it is what summer, with those we love, should always be.

There was even time chiseled out of our busy days for “down time”—reading or doing “nothing” quietly. And it’s amazing how they both seemed willing—almost eager—to open up to Grandma and Poppy about the upcoming school year: teachers, activities, friends. Often’s the case that getting any kind of information out of either one of them is as tough as extracting the Kremlin’s secrets.

Capping off our time together was a day spent at the Henry Ford Museum and Greenfield Village over in Dearborn, Michigan, a two-and-a-half hour journey from the cottage. It was something that Grandma and I had been planning for most of the summer, and it all came together on one very gorgeous summer’s imagesday.

Originally, we’d planned to make the trip over on Monday, but watching the weather forecast call for storms for most of that day made our decision to move the trip to Tuesday mostly a no-brainer. As it turned out, the skies were the bluest blue, full of fluffy clouds, gliding along way up there on lovely, gentle breezes. Temperatures eased into the low-80s, without much humidity whatsoever. How could we not have the wonderful time we did!

I had visited Greenfield Village once before, back in 1968 when a senior in high school. I always remembered how impressed I had been at the time with the Thomas Edison workshops there, and I made sure I re-visited that part of the Village. I think I was able to convey my excitement about such exhibits to my two grandsons, even though they were more enthused with the OscaUnknownr Meyer Weinermobile on display in the Henry Ford Museum!

Upstairs at Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Laborat...
Upstairs at Thomas Edison’s Menlo Park Laboratory (removed to Greenfield Village) Note the organ against the back wall. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Throughout the course of the day, we rode in an authentic Model-T, and later climbed aboard the Greenfield Village train, pulled by steam engine fueled by good old coal.

We paid a visit to the Wright Brothers’ Bicycle Shop, where they did most of the work on their famous Flyer, and also stopped by their house (with the neat porch that wraps around the front). This was even more special since I recently finished reading David McCullough’s book about the Wrights.

Before we realized it, the day had given way to late afternoon and approaching closing time. Weary from a day of walking, the boys and I were content to find a bench and wait for Grandma to finish her assault on the Village Gift Store.

Finally, once she re-joined us, two large shopping bags laden with who-knows-what, all of us were ready for the not-too-far trek to the parking lot to begin our drive back to the cottage, with a stop somewhere in between for dinner, of course.

Getting back just after 9:30, we found it quite easy to call it a day—a very fine day, indeed—and there was nary a problem for any of us to fall asleep. Turning off the cottage lights and closing up, I realized that Carolyn would be taking them home in the morning, and it would be just me—alone—here all over again.

As I write this now, I cannot help but keep returning to that wonderful day the four of us shared yesterday. No cares, no worries, no frowns! Just Grandma, Poppy, and two wonderful little boys who will one day be grown up and off on other things important in their lives besides spending time with us. Realizing this, I’m saddened at the thought. Am I getting old? Scary thoughts abound. At any rate, I suppose we’d better enjoy these moments while we can. And so it’s these times I cherish and will always hold dear. Thank you, Jack and Matt and Grandma…

Rain on the roof & cottage life…

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The “ancient one” Still standing after all these years!

Well, here we are. Once again, I’m going to break away from my summer hiatus and post this while I have a fairly decent Internet connection.

Mid-July is here, and the first really hot, sticky weather is scheduled to pay us a visit. Can’t complain, though, since I’ve been donning a sweatshirt most mornings and afternoons around here since Opening Weekend in late May. Plus, the nights have been those we consider “good sleeping” ones.

It rained all night, and there’s nothing as soothing as the steady rain on the cottage roof, knowing that all windows and porch blinds are secured and the futon is covered with Visqueen. The summer rain is another magical reason for spending time in this ancient structure. When there’s no driving wind coming across the lake from the southwest, the all-night rains are relaxing and comforting. Such was last night’s.

Novel Progress…

I have been very busy up here in my self-imposed “exile” doing much thinking about how I’m going to rescue my novel but haven’t made the strides I’d hoped to by this point. Perhaps it’s not meant to be, but I won’t give up on it. It stays on my mind, even when I sit down to attempt to write something else in the meantime. Must be a subliminal message in there trying to tell me something. We shall see.

Summer Reading…

Even if the writing isn’t moving swimmingly along, my summer reading is! Within the past weeks I’ve read Fierce Patriot, the story of the many-sided life of William Tecumseh Sherman; The Boys in the Boat, a wonderful true story of determination and victory against all odds; Dr. Sleep, Stephen King’s sequel to his classic The Shining; David McCullough’s newest, The Wright Brothers. Next up in the reading department is a revisit to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, a book I read a million years ago and forgot just how terrific it is. I’ll follow that with her “latest” offering, Go Set a Watchman.

President George W. Bush awards the Presidenti...
President George W. Bush awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to author Harper Lee during a ceremony Monday, Nov. 5, 2007, in the East Room. “To Kill a Mockingbird has influenced the character of our country for the better. It’s been a gift to the entire world. As a model of good writing and humane sensibility, this book will be read and studied forever,” said the President about Harper Lee’s work. White House photo by Eric Draper (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s nice to know that when the writing–or the inspiration for writing–is lacking or going nowhere, I have those friends waiting on my shelf here in the cottage and I can lose myself within their pages.

By my next post, perhaps I’ll have some good things to say about my efforts to accomplish some writing and make some inroads into baling my novel out of the tarn in which it currently languishes! I’m thinking that the only way to do so will be to take the premise that is there and start over with a fresh re-write and finally put my mind at ease. Glad my income isn’t dependent upon producing a book on any sort of schedule!

Now, back to practical things around here. My son’s family arrives this evening for the weekend, so I need to do some basic cottage tidying-up and make the bed in the back bedroom upstairs. With the warm weather predicted, it’s sure to be a couple of days of playing in the lake.

I’ll go home Sunday afternoon for a dentist appointment on Monday morning, take care of yard work, and then make a two-day trip to Ohio to see my mom. By week’s end, I’ll be back up here in “exile,” back to the task of making my novel something decent.

National Register of Historic Places listings ...
National Register of Historic Places listings in Ottawa County, Ohio (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here’s hoping your weekend and days ahead are all good. Until next time…

Out of “exile”–for the moment…

jollyYetI know I’ve said that I’m taking the summer months “off” from tending to my blog, but over the course of the past several weeks I have had a few “life moments” that I simply feel inclined to write about.

At the top of that list is I “officially” was inducted into the Medicare Club one week ago on my birthday, and as I write this from my self-imposed “exile” up here at our summer cottage in Michigan, I’m happy to report that they haven’t come to haul me out to the funny farm due to elderly ramblings or other strange carryings-on. (They could have done that so many times previously!) Instead, all of the company that was here over the weekend for our annual NASCAR Race Weekend had to leave and return to their own lives and niches in the world.

And though I enjoy spending time alone, where I can read and write unfettered by interruptions and other such distractions, I must admit that right now I’m feeling rather lonely and wish I had some of the folks who were here this past weekend to prop me up and make me feel as though it’s OK to be this age. Turning 65 sort of does that I’m finding out.

After all, my birthdays used to be spent playing baseball for most of the day, running and chasing fly balls and batting and running the bases and all that was good about being a young kid who had a birthday in June. I could no more run like that again, even in my dreams, and so I just smile at the memories of all those summers past when the future was out there waiting for me to figure out how to get there.

And, even though I can no longer race around the bases on sweaty, sun-drenched afternoons of pickup games on homemade fields in Indiana, or run down that long drive off the bat of a power hitter, I’d like to believe that I’m still the same person I was way back then.

And now that I’m a year older (and wiser?), I’m beginning to give some thought to that thing called mortality. How many years do I have left has never been a question I100_6021 dwelled too much upon, because it always seemed so “out there” and something I’d never have to deal with for a long, long time—until now!

It’s the little things that really come into play, too. Walking the garbage down to the dumpster each day becomes an excursion of appreciation of all the beauty surrounding my life up here. Filling the bird feeder and watching the various avian species swoop and dive in for their feedings and then take off for places unknown is a daily delight. Chatting with the hummingbirds as they hum and buzz around the feeders I religiously keep cleaned and filled is another ritual of cottage life that I’ve truly grown to appreciate.

Perhaps I’m not quite ready for the pipe and slippers realm just yet, but I’m finding myself becoming more and more tuned in to those things I’d never paid attention to in the past. I suppose none of this is a bad thing. At least, I’d like to think not. Whatever, life in the Medicare Club can’t be all bad!

Well, for now, I’d best go check out those hummingbirds and make sure the lake’s still out there

Purple-throated Carib hummingbird (Eulampis ju...
Purple-throated Carib hummingbird (Eulampis jugularis) perched and feeding from a bird feeder. Batalie Beach, Dominica. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

behaving as it should…

My summer exile…

100_5993As we begin to edge our way into late May, that means that things have cycled back around to another cottage “lake season” up in Michigan. Thus, I have spent the past two weeks completely ignoring any regular writing, blogging, or commenting on Facebook, instead, rounding up “stuff” to be hauled up to the cottage on Friday, May 22. (As I write this, that is just two days from now!)

Our intrepid crew put our pier in last Sunday, and the old structure looks as though it will make it through another summer. Our pontoon will be delivered on Saturday, and I can’t wait to get it moored in its spot alongside the pier and then take it out for its out-of-hibernation cruise around the lake. The weather is supposed to be “iffy” (which is usually par for the course) so we shall keep our fingers crossed for some decent “move-in” temperatures without any rain.

I have my folders and my writing box of notes, rough drafts, and other miscellaneous notes to take along for the summer, and the MacBook Pro will be packed up Thursday night.

Which brings me to my main point of this post. I have given much thought to what I hope to accomplish this summer in terms of a regular writing routine, and I have come to the conclusion that the only way I’m going to accomplish that is to step away from social media and my blogs, Down Many Roads and All Things White Sox.

I have become stale and less-than-enthusiastic on most days when trying to come up with blog topics and to write how I feel about things in general. Quite frankly, I really have nothing much to say these days—at least what anyone out there really is interested in reading.

As a result of this epiphany, I am going on a self-imposed hiatus, an exile of sorts, from my blog posting. I know that when I do resume sometime down the road, I will be refreshed, re-charged, and re-invigorated to write some things that are fun and interesting. When that might be, I have no idea. All that I know right now is that my focus will be on knocking the cobwebs from my long-overdue novel-in-progress and re-awakening my friend Scrivener in doing so!

Now, as the daunting task of packing everything for another lake season opening in just two days from now beckons me to get back to work, I leave you kind readers with these words: Blessed are they, who have nothing to say, and can’t be persuaded to say it!jollyYet

Have a wonderful summer…

May 4 and the things I could have written…

May 4…Missed it once more!

And this was going to be the year that I would write about my life experiences at Kent State University forty-five years ago in May of 1970, when I was a sophomore wandering about in pursuit of a degree of some sort. But it’s May 5, and that anniversary day has come and gone.

Yep, every year seems to come and go like that, without me having written about what I felt about that time period—not just that day when the students were shot—but the whole chunk of days and weeks—before and after—the infamous event there on a beautiful, sunshine-filled weekend. And the older I get, and the farther removed I am from it all, the harder it is to reconcile all that transpired during that period of my young life.

However, had I been so inclined to do as so many others did yesterday, I could have written about my anger at things that were happening on campus and in the community of Kent during that spring. For instance, the unfamiliar long-hairs, with their hardened, bitter faces and disheveled dress, who made it difficult for those such as me, not in “the movement,” to go about the business of playing student.

Even for a campus the size of Kent’s, it was fairly easy to recognize other students as we came and went during the course of a school year. Suddenly, though, in the spring of 1970, there was a whole host of new “students” on the scene, seemingly serious and intent on making their radical points known. They were part of a group—Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)—that was more interested in upheaval and anarchy than being “students” is how I thought of them. (Still do, for that matter!)

I could have written about the Friday night, May 1, when downtown Kent was trashed by rioters and agitators, all in the name of peace! This was an ugly, ugly scene, and I’m glad that I chose to stay at the fraternity house. At that point, the city was out of control.

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Burned ROTC Building Photo: ohio.com

I could have written about Saturday night, May 2, when the ROTC building was burned, and those responsible cutting the fire hoses and preventing the firemen from doing their jobs.

I could have written about the bomb threat that cancelled the final exam I was scheduled to take that Monday, May 4. At the time, I wasn’t all that upset, figuring it would give me some much-needed extra time to better prepare for the thing. After all, I was very much in need of getting some better grades this time around to help raise me from the abyss of Probation.

I could have written about riding the bus back to my apartment a few blocks from campus and then, shortly after plopping down on the old saggy couch to study, taking advantage of the bomb scare reprieve, hearing a string of sirens racing past on the street outside, back toward the university. Although I wasn’t aware of what actually had happened, I had a feeling that things had finally come to a head, after a weekend of building tension and violence.

Curious, and no longer compelled to study, I walked the few blocks over to our fraternity house. On the way, I was confronted by two national guardsmen in a jeep (martial law, you know!) and was told that I needed to get off the streets. I indicated that I would be doing so very soon and continued on to the house.

I could have written about the confusion and complete shock that was surrounding everything and everyone at our fraternity. Many of the brothers had been on the scene, up near Taylor Hall, where the tragic event had taken place, and were fighting back tears now. As best as I could, I picked up bits and pieces of what exactly happened, but, like everything else about the event, no set of details seemed to match up. Someone would say one thing, someone else another. The only thing that was certain was at least four students had been killed and many others injured.

I could have written about what happened next: the university closing down, as though someone had thrown a big master switch, and we all had to get out! NOW!

Imagine, if you can, trying to make phone calls to family, in a time long before social media, smart phones, and text messaging. Fortunately, I was able to get to my apartment and packed what I could to take home to LaGrange, Illinois. What was to become of student life at KSU as we had known it, no one had any idea!

I could have written about how that summer unwound and how we all were able to complete our coursework from home. I could have written about my feeling cheated because of the actions of those who had a totally different agenda than I.

I could have written about how life goes on—and it did…and does—and things sometimes turn out for the better. If nothing else, I could have written that all actions have consequences, and that sad weekend at Kent State, forty-five years ago, didn’t have to turn out the way it did.

Perspective_of_Ohio_National_Guard_at_Kent_State
(Photo: commons.wikimedia.org)

But…I missed May 4…

Elkins, WV & pizza in the Canaan Valley…

(This is the second part of my posting about our recent ten-day trip to North Carolina, West Virginia, and Ohio. The previous post stopped with our arrival at our hotel in Beckley, WV.)

 

400px-Tamarack_West_Virginia
Tamarack, West Virginia (Wikipedia)

Waking to a dismal dark morning of rain, we checked out of our hotel in Beckley and made our way the short distance to Tamarack, located in a service area of the West Virginia Turnpike, so Carolyn could browse all of the arts and crafts shops in the uniquely circular building with a colorful red peaked roof. Everything on display and/or for sale inside is West Virginia made: Wood carvings, glass, pottery, metal work, jewelry, books, and other specialty items.

After a while, our Tamarack tour completed, we scurried out into a downpour and set off once again and were headed up US-19 toward Elkins, about two-and-a-half hours away. We were fortunate as we clicked off the miles that the rain abated frequently, allowing us to take in the rolling scenery passing by.

By mid-afternoon we entered Elkins and called my cousin Roger, who was to meet us and lead ELKINS SEAL-rgbus back to his home. By this time, the rain had stopped completely, and we enjoyed the clear view of the surrounding mountains and life alongside the Tygart Valley River.

From Roger, recently retired from the West Virginia Department of Natural Resources, we would learn a massive amount about the land and beauty of the entire area. For example, considered the gateway to the Monongahela National Forest, Elkins has long been a destination for sightseers and outdoor adventure enthusiasts alike, and we encountered many such folks the two days we spent in the area. It was also very easy to understand why Roger loved spending thirty-six years working here, being one of those outdoor enthusiasts himself! He has never known a river he wouldn’t love to fish, or a hill or woods he wouldn’t enjoy hunting for grouse!

We spent the remainder of the first day there with Roger and Jeannie getting caught up with family news and pleasant chit-chat about this, that, or the other thing, happily off the road.

The Blackwater River in its upper course in Ca...
The Blackwater River in its upper course in Canaan Valley Resort State Park (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Wednesday found us loading into Roger’s SUV for a drive up to Canaan Valley and Blackwater Falls State Park.

We quickly learned that the correct pronunciation is Canain rather than the familiar Biblical pronunciation. At any rate, the area is like a bowl, tucked into the mountains, and it is a popular tourist attraction, especially for hikers and bikers.

Roger pointed out all of the wetlands that are a great part of the area, and the start of the Blackwater River that runs through the valley and gushes noisily over the Blackwater Falls nearby.

Siren's Cafe-Wonderful pizza!
Sirianni’s Cafe…Davis, WV–Wonderful pizza!

After a nice tour of the falls and valley area, it was time for lunch, and we weren’t disappointed in Sirianni’s, located in the tiny burg of Davis. Famous for its pizza and various pasta dishes, the place had atmosphere—as well as delicious pizza!

Being from the Chicago area, we are familiar with quality pizza, but this was definitely worth writing about. The thin crust, which I prefer, was crisp and tasty, and the sausage, green peppers, onions, mushrooms, and tomato sauce were delicious. In short, it didn’t take the four of us very long to devour the large pie before we headed back to the car and back to Elkins.

As it turned out, that day was the perfect one for our excursion up to Canaan Valley as the rain stayed away. It returned through the night, however, and we had it along with us on our two-and-a-half hour drive to Athens, Ohio, the next morning once we bid farewell to Roger and Jeannie.

We both look back on our little trip, away from home for ten days, with good feelings about each place we stopped and visited and explored the countryside. Thanks to all who shared their homes and surroundings with us. It was a fantastic journey!

English: Monongahela National Forest entrance ...
English: Monongahela National Forest entrance gate along Old US 33 east of Elkins, West Virginia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spring travels and microfilm searches…

AldenI write this, nestled in the microfilm section for local newspapers, in the lower level of the Alden Library here on the beautiful campus of Ohio University. I’m all alone, except for my wife, who is somewhere on the other side of the room, reeling rolls of microfilm of issues from the late 1900s, searching for obituaries of long-dead relatives.

I have been busily trying to get a decent connection for Internet access, but being an outsider without the proper OU ID card, I’ve not been able to do so, although I have connected to the GUEST WI-FI, but that still isn’t allowing me to “get out” and access anything on the Internet. That’s OK, but what scared me was the error message I kept getting regarding my Scrivener license. After several attempts to “fix” the issue, I had to force quit the program and figured I would take care of things once I returned to our hotel room later today, where normal access wouldn’t be a problem.

And then I had a brain storm! I wondered what would happen if I quit the access I had to the WI-FI (which was doing me no good anyway) and then tried to launch my Scrivener files: Blog posts and novel WIP (Birchwood’s Secret). Once I quit WI-Fi and then launched my Scrivener blog project, everything worked normally. And so I’m able to write this now, while Carolyn digs into the past and spins microfilm merrily along, in the comfortable surroundings. It’s quiet and very conducive for getting this put together.

Now, why are we in the lower-level of the Alden Library at Ohio University? A couple of years ago, we visited this very area to do research and locate old cemeteries where my wife’s grandfather’s brothers and various cousins and aunts and uncles were laid to rest long ago. And  though that first visit proved rewarding, it still left my wife missing many pieces of genealogical information for that part of her family history. There were a few old, out-of-the-way cemeteries we’d not been able to locate on our first visit to Athens County. Thus, we decided we’d need to return in the future to see if she could close all of the loose ends and gaps of missing ancestral data.

And that’s why I write this from Ohio University. She searches; I write. I look back over our trip thus far and realize that it’s been a good one so far. We left our home in northern Illinois just about this time one week ago, getting a later start in the morning because we both were battling colds and flu-like symptoms.

Our first port of call was her brother’s in Waynesville, North Carolina, where we planned to spend the weekend before heading on east to meet one of my “genealogical” cousins Carolyn had “found” in her Ancestry.com efforts.

Official seal of Waynesville, North Carolina
Official seal of Waynesville, North Carolina (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Spring had just arrived in that part of the mountains, and the next day was full of beautiful colors of the dogwoods, flowering crab trees, and a whole cavalcade of others. The warmth of the sun made for a pleasant day spent out on their large wrap-around deck. It was a great day to recover from our long journey the day before, after arriving right around midnight. Sunday was more of the same, with plenty of reading outside and sneaking a peek at the Masters golf tournament in late afternoon.

Monday found us on the road through the rain, up and down over steep mountains, on I-40, en route to Statesville. After communicating with Carolyn, my cousin had found a nice restaurant in a town that would be a half-way point for us to rendezvous, have lunch, and get to know one another. Statesville was the perfect place, and the four of us had a delightful time chatting, eating, and carrying on as though we’d known each other for a long time.

By and by, we bid them farewell and soon were headed north on I-77 with Beckley, West Virginia, as our destination for the remainder of the day. And I was looking forward to getting back there and staying in the same hotel where I had a couple of Octobers previously for the Rocket Boys’ Festival.

The beautiful countryside was made even more so as we’d managed to leave the rain behind and now had the afternoon sun to make all things bright and colorful. Our plan now was to have a restful evening before continuing on into a part of West Virginia neither of us had ever been before: Elkins–A town where my first cousin, Roger and his wife Jeannie, live.  We planned to visit some very beautiful spots in the area, including Blackwater Falls State Park. But now, it was time to call it a day, get some sleep, and get up early and on the road for the next part of our adventure the next day.images-1

Election Day, Town history, and the Lions…

Voting Booths

This past Tuesday I had the opportunity to serve as a county election judge here in our tiny town out near DeKalb, Illinois. Beginning at 5:15 a.m., when we have to set up the voting booths and prepare the precinct tables and stations prior to poll opening at 6:00 a.m., it’s the start of an extremely long day, with plenty of “lulls in the action,” and it can wear one down as time seems to crawl at a snail’s pace all day, until the polls close at 7 p.m.

Our little burg is divided into three different precincts, which means that there are four election judges for each, so I did get to meet eleven other folks I’d not known before. Being relatively new to this particular area, having moved out here following my retirement in 2007, I’m still getting to know people and places and the history of the region. And because there is ample time for conversation and chit-chat through the long day, I found out a lot of answers to questions I’ve been mulling over for quite some time. For example, the trains that run through town (the tracks being a couple hundred yards from where I’m writing this) are not permitted to sound their horns, and I’ve wondered why and never really received a solid answer.

Not until the other day, that is, when one of the other elections judges, a native and longtime resident here, explained that it had to do with the town’s school being constantly interrupted by the blaring of train engine horns. The town and the Union Pacific had quite a battle before coming to an agreement that the horns would not be sounded if proper safety lane guards on the roads approaching the crossings were installed, preventing vehicles from skirting the gates in their down positions. It works, although there are occasions when some engineer forgets the ordinance and blows the engine’s horn!

Lions Clubs International
Lions Clubs International (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Our voting location was in the town’s community center, home of the local Lions Club. I was somewhat taken aback when I overheard a few of the other election judges querying what exactly the Lions Club is. After they joked back and forth for a time that it was probably just another social club for the purpose of drinking, I cut in and explained to them that the Lions Club is one of a community’s greatest allies. To back up what I said, I pulled out my trusty iPhone and went to the Lions Club’s Web page and read the following to them:

“Our 46,000 clubs and 1.35 million members make us the world’s largest service club organization. We’re also one of the most effective. Our members do whatever is needed to help their local communities. Everywhere we work, we make friends. With children who need eyeglasses, with seniors who don’t have enough to eat and with people we may never meet.”

I didn’t really have to say more, and I rather enjoyed correcting their misconceptions about a wonderful and vital organization. I am not a member, but I know several people who are, and I appreciate all that they do. Thank you, Lions!