Thursday, February 26, 2004

Holy water and a wooden boat

Tonight was one of those magic nights. The electronic surf was perfect and washed up an online conversation to be marked in my memory. We talked about what it was that made us what we are today.

For my part, I spoke of holy water, the river that I grew up next to, a river worthy of both love and respect. Powerful water, the Mississippi. Where I lived, not so deep, but wide and fast. Anyone that has spent time with her claims her. But, she is a wonder and wild and will never really be owned by anyone. Navigated, yes, but not contained. She is not a tame river at all.

Time with "my river" was mostly spent in the safety of an old flat bottomed wooden house boat that my father named "Sunny". I always believed that he named her after the song of that name. Maybe instead, it was a wish for a certain forecast painted in golden letters and surrounded by rounded 70's vintage flowers that show up from time to time now, mostly on VW bugs.

The particulars of my boat on the river were that a barge maker named Fred Kahkie crafted her in 1945. She was powered by a straight eight Grey Marine engine that I can still hear rumble in my memory. Slow, she was slow but powerful enough to navigate the Mississippi against the current and in full flood.

Like so much that our parents give us, I did not realize that spending time in the safety of that hand crafted wooden boat on one of the great rivers of the world was something that few people experience. The family got older, "Sunny" was sold, and I have not stood on the shores of "my river" in almost 15 years. I remember. I hope that my "Sunny" is still navigating powerful waters with a Captain at the wheel that loves her as my father did.

The Law of Unintended Consequences is Alive and Well

And parked in my back yard

Around here we have work which goes on full time, year round, then there are "projects" special little slices of hell that happen in addition to "work" and always result in something wonderful but the journey to wonderful is all uphill, mostly in a torrential downpour.

This uphill journey in the rain was my fault entirely.  The fella was spending too much time on the couch watching reruns of "The Andy Griffith Show.  Not like him at all.  I suggested a hobby.  Out of my mouth came the words "You have always liked trains, haven't you?"  What was I thinking?  I was picturing a HO scale train set in the basement utility room.  I could help make dear little trees and houses and... I should have thought this one through before speaking, because I know that the fella never does anything small.  Never.  Dear little trees, HA!

Within a month, there was a 12-ton Switcher Engine being rebuilt in the shop and I was spending most evenings in the woods running a bobcat while the fella worked the backhoe, building a path for his train-set.  Less than a year later we had cleared, graded, laid stone, ties and rail through two thirds of a mile of woods.  We restored the original switcher locomotive, built a hopper car, picked up three more homeless locos in need of attention, and rebuilt a passenger coach. Wonderful.  Just not exactly what I was thinking when I suggested the fella needed a hobby.

Moral of this story?  If you think that your fella is spending too much time watching T.V., let semi-conscious couch potatoes lie because if you suggest that he do something to keep himself busy, you might just get what you asked for and he will take you with him on the ride.

Wednesday, February 25, 2004


Ohio winters are all gray mackerel clouds and damp air. But, Today! It was as if someone turned on the light.  In the last few minutes before the sun started its slide towards evening, I tossed my three kites towards the sky. They flew! My heart went with them swirling in the sun and dancing on the breeze.

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Not a thought in my head tonight

Could be the music that I am listening to be the problem, do you suppose? ::Waving both hands:: Doesn't matter. Great happy song.

OK, that is it for the day, trying to push thoughts this late in the day will just lead to weird dreams. 

Anyway I have to write about tiny switcher trains for a different forum. Yep, know that I will have to explain that one sometime.

Monday, February 23, 2004

How on earth does he know that

The fella went round the corner this morning [not to be confused with round the bend which would have been one of those things that just happen as opposed to a deliberate act -- oddly the initial results were similar but of shorter duration]. The purpose of his foray was to ask the neighboring farmer if he wouldn't mind if while we were cleaning up in our back woods we cleared a deadfall that may or may not be on the other side of our line. Around here even if you are pretty sure that you aren't crossing a property line and even if what you are doing is clearing rotting deadfall you check with the neighbor man. Before you start.

Nice man the neighbor is. Farmer all of his life. He has a sun-glazed color year round and deep creases around his eyes from too many hours of studying rows of crops for whatever reasons that farmers have. This was not my point or the cause of the consternation. Farmer neighbor told the fella that he would not be surprised at all if the frost came out of the ground for good this weekend. Do not know how he knows that as he didn’t say, farmer wisdom or wishful thinking. Either which way, that news kicked the fella into a paroxysm of list creating. Rather, he barked out the list of things that must be done before we become completely awash in mud and I wrote as fast as I could. Most of the items on the lists will not be done before this weekend and it will not matter much if they are not. Still the mission of the list making was urgent action, and that does not change the climate around here, just the forecast, if you know what I mean. Still I wrote in wonderment. The Fella’s inspiration had to be the pronouncement of an imminent change of season from the ranking farmer in the neighborhood. What I wondered as I wrote was, how did the neighbor guy know? Did he know? That remains to be seen.

Sunday, February 22, 2004

Watching the calendar pages turn

I am at the age where the calendar pages flip over a great deal faster than is seemly for an object marking largish chunks of time. Anymore, time barely has opportunity to make a mark before that page is gone and I am confronted with yet another set of orderly squares representing a new twelfth part of a year.  Gone, time has just gone, whole days, weeks...

I have always been best at waiting. "Patience is a virtue," my Mother told me.  As a child, I realized that patience was the only virtue that I had any real shot at -- so I worked on developing the skill of waiting. It seems to me now that in pursuit of the virtue of patience I have invested more time in waiting than in doing anything else.  Patient waiting does have benefits, dreams.  Dreams can be embroidered while developing patience.  No one has to know.  I have dozens of dreams decorated from top to bottom.  Some of them I had time to rework three, maybe four times.  All accomplished while appearing to be patiently waiting.  Thing is, life continues at a breakneck pace no matter what you do and there is no slowing it down.  I discovered that people changed, their lives changed, while I sat there and practiced patience and embroidered dreams.

Is patience a virtue?  I wonder now.  There is nothing to be done about events marked on calendar pages long turned.  When dealing with time and people, changes can be revisited but never redone.  Perhaps in the future I will reserve the virtue of patience for long lines at the DMV and the grocery.  From now on, when dealing with people, life, and calendar pages, I believe I will be utilizing less virtuous methods.  My mother told me "patience is a virtue; good things come to those that wait."  Then she also told me "no matter what, always be a lady.

Didn't go fly a kite ...

the front field of a farm in Northwestern Ohio

The weather forecast promised 40 degrees, partly cloudy skies and a breeze of 5-10 mph.  Partial sun, check, 37 degrees (in February?  I'll take it), the breeze, when I checked at two, rated a steady reading of 11 mph.  So, loaded down with three dragon kites [2 - 50 foot and one 25], a tiny nylon airplane, four spools of kite string and two mixed breed dogs.  Oh, "Puppy" and "Cowhead, thanks for asking!  I scampered out to the front field to play.  Unfurling, laying out the kites and hooking up tethers took exactly the same amount of time as was required for the breeze to die completely and for the two dogs to discover a nest of field mice in some tall grass. 

In retrospect, combining 125 ft of brightly colored nylon spread out on a wet field, a dozen or so terrified mice, and two large excitable dogs was not one of my better ideas.  The dogs flushed the mice, the mice ran over and under the kites looking for a place to hide, the dogs followed the mice.  Instead of my vision of beautiful kites dancing in the [almost] spring air, I ended up with a bedlam of yards of wet kite covered with muddy paw prints, three freshly deceased field mice and two very dirty but very happy dogs. 

So, the adventure ended with hot baths for all parties (except the mice, dead or otherwise), and the reading of tomorrow's forecast which promises partly sunny skies and ...