(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 11/22/2013)
Fifty years ago today, Nov. 22, 1963, I was in Chemistry class, a Junior in high school, when we were called to assembly. We filled the bleachers, and our principal told us President John Fitzgerald Kennedy had been killed.
That, we eventually would learn, was only the first of a series of assassinations of national figures.
Posted in Politics, Reminiscences
Tagged Abraham, Abraham Lincoln, George Wallace, JFK, John civil rights, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, Lincoln, Martin, Martin Luther King, MLK
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 11/15/2013)
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Bats are cool. They hibernate in winter, and in warmer months pump their leathery wings in pursuit of tons of, to me, bothersome bugs. Without bats, I’d miss out on the entertainment of the little critters flapping around the vacant lot next door, and instead spend my evening outdoor time swatting mosquitoes, masking the scent of forest with the aroma of citronella.
In one place I lived, a decade or so ago, we had a bat sharing our domicile. No sign of him during the day, but come night he’d flap around the bedroom. At first, my spouse didn’t like the idea, and wanted to catch him in a towel to take him outside.
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 11/8/2013)
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Most of the color is gone along the creek, save some chicory-like bushes with red berries, and the occasional pin oak (I think). One crimson-plated youngster, an American Chestnut, maybe, or a Chestnut Oak or even a Big Tooth Aspen, stands alone among lesser, already nude specimens.
Though I spent my childhood years wandering through the thousands of wooded acres around my parents’ home, I am only beginning to recognize the trees by their leaves. I can tell by the bark, but I never paid much attention to leaf forms, satisfying myself with being amazed merely by the diversity of shapes and shades.
A few years ago, we turned out a large portion of the wastrels in the state legislature. We The People were nearly uniformly unhappy with lawmakers who had, in the dark of night, given themselves a payraise.
Unfortunately for the majority that does not vote, we too often have government by minority rule.
In the district of my home, our representative seemed to have a different excuse for each audience. He voted for it because he couldn’t stop it, he said. Besides, judges deserved a long-overdue payraise. He deserved a raise to pay for his lawyering education which, he said – after 12 years of being, by his own admission, essentially legislatively useless – would make him more effective representative of his district.
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/25/2013)
The three-year-old took his dad and me to the zoo this week. The little guy is a chick magnet. Everywhere we went, he was so happy playing with dad, laughing and grinning, that young ladies 100 yards away were looking at him and smiling. Which caused them to look at me and smile because they knew I was with Peter, and Peter’s an obviously really cool little guy.
There’s something really great about watching a youngster discover new things, even – maybe especially – when he has no real idea what he has discovered.
First it was a ride on the Metro to Washington, then lunch outside the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History. Peter loves dinosaurs, and he knows which skull is the Triceratops and which the T. Rex. He found a Pterodactyl, which he properly identified as a bird, and oohed over the monsters behind the glass of a miniature Jurassic Park.
(First published in the Rock the Capital, 6/22/2012)
I graduated from Eighth Grade at Roosevelt Grammar School in 1961.
…we expect that all young people can learn all things, and should all go to college – or at least stick it out through high school. Hogwash!
When I was young, Eighth Grade graduation marked the limit of many students’ academic career. I was raised in rural Maine, where young people helped their families on the farm, and the school calendar was written around planting and harvest schedules, and the fall agricultural fair.
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/18/2013)
It’s nearly 7 a.m. The sun soon will come into view. Not long ago, I would sat on the back porch to read. Now I am glad the electronic paper on which I write has its own illumination.
“Seven out of 10 people will live in a city by 2050,” Meaghan Parker, writer/editor at the Woodrow Wilson Center.
A school bus passes my home, right on time. It will stop in a hundred yards or so to pick up several students and carry them to brick-walled institutions of learning. Would that it take them to a forest or a garden. I live in a county where agriculture is one of the two main industries, so a smaller percentage of our kids than, say, Baltimore’s or New York’s, think food comes from a Food Lion, but even a few are too many.
The stream beside our back porch looks and sounds cooler these days. The Forest of Brown-eyed Susans and Echinacea has withered, as have the clumps of Hostas, their tall purple bell-bearing stalks nearly completely bereft of their autumn royalty.
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/11/2013)
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One of the highlights of a week-long conference I recently attended in Chattanooga, Tenn. was a bus trip a few miles north, to the Kingston Fossil Plant, one of 11 coal-fired electricity generating plants owned by the Tennessee Valley Authority. The plant burns coal to turn water into steam to drive generators to provide electricity to about 540,000 homes.
It also was the site, in the early morning of December 22, 2008, of a massive release of coal ash into nearby rivers and a lake. Without warning – at least without warning considered by plant managers, an 84-acre pile of ash broke loose to befoul the waters below – and above – the plant. The ash mass hit the Emory River with such force the downstream flow could not immediately absorb it, so the ash, and the river it rode, flowed backward several miles, and created “ashbergs” in the watercourse.
I am returned home from a six-day conference, counting travel, in Chattanooga, Tennessee, during which I saw little of the city whilst I mingled with fellow recorders of “environmental” tales and observations. It was an informative sojourn, full of camaraderie and information, at least some of which we members of the Society of Environmental Journalists each hope will add value and color to our future musings.
But I was impressed, in what limited exposure I had, with the uncity-ness of the historic burg.
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 10/4/2013)
Well before most Pennsylvania residents were aware of a natural gas industry north of the Gulf of Mexico, it was taking root in the Commonwealth. “Fracking Pennsylvania: Flirting with Disaster,” by Walter M. Brasch, is the story of that enterprise.
The narrative begins in 2000, when Mitchell Energy, with help from the U.S. Department of Energy, finally proved that extracting natural gas from shale a mile and-a-half below the state’s surface was a practical – read profitable – undertaking.
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 9/27/2013)
“Will you walk into my parlor?” said the spider to the fly; Tis the prettiest little parlor that ever you may spy.” (from The Spider and the Fly, by Mary Howitt, 1799-1888)
This has been a bumper-year for spiders. In one corner of the lanai, there is a woven silken bug trap overseen by three very different breeds of tiny arachnids. In another place, suspended among some grass blades, a bowl web has been formed, about six inches deep, with a vase-like narrowed neck and round, closed-in, bottom.
The tiny, and sometimes not so tiny, creatures have always held me enthralled – how they can discover just the place to anchor their trap, and measure so perfectly the spacing between web strands, is the stuff, to humans, of engineering degrees, yet these little creatures just go out and do it. Continue reading
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 9/13/2013)
I was crossing Baltimore Street on my way into the Adams County Courthouse when my phone buzzed. It was my spouse calling from work. A second plane had crashed into the Twin Towers.
When she called about the first one, I thought some pilot was going to be very glad he’d died for that mistake. But two was not a mistake.
“We’re at war with someone,” I said, then hung up and made my way to the emergency communications center in the courthouse basement, where I remained the rest of the day, watching an endless loop of passenger jets slicing into the two towers in lower Manhattan, and the towers collapsing on themselves, killing, at that time, untold thousands of office workers. Continue reading
(Published in the Gettysburg Times, 8/30/2013)
My spouse has been exploring Alaska this month with a high school girlfriend. Grady the Golden and I have had to fend for ourselves. We’re doing alright, thank you, though the company of She Who Must Be Loved would not at all be a bad thing.
I had told her, during one of our evening phone calls, that I had lost a little weight while she’s gone. Not enough to make friends start tacking the ambulance company’s telephone number on the fridge, but enough I’m using holes in my belt that have been pretty much useless for, well, too long. Continue reading
I’m proud of my daughter. And of her sister, which is how the former introduced me to the latter, a young woman about to become, in those early college days, a BFF. Cat’s in South Carolina now, her “sister” in Georgia. One has this year joined her school’s administrative ranks, the other is adding certifications for Special Education students.
Teachers and parents have the most important jobs in any culture. They are the ones who pass on the lore of the tribe and teach us how to mingle with our fellow planetary inhabitants. Continue reading
Peavine bought himself a new walking stick. A dandy specimen it is, too – a really nice five-section telescoping stick with a compass on top. Each section is accented with, in his case, a bright orange ring.
He bought it, he said, because it came in orange. It also is available in black, blue, green, purple, red, gold and titanium, but as long as we’ve been hanging around together, I’ve never known Peavine to go for those flashy colors. Besides, orange is a good color in the woods because deer can’t see it. Continue reading
A hunting buddy and I, when I was stationed in California, would make an annual trip to Los Padres National Forest, allegedly in pursuit of the elusive Mule deer. At some point in the couple-hour drive down from the San Francisco area, we would pick up supplies: a couple big buckets of Kentucky Fried Chicken, a case of Shasta soda and a bottle of Roll-Aids.
Not exactly healthy living by today’s standards, though I suspect – or would like to believe – exercise offset some of the damage we did to our bodies, but we were young and immortal. Continue reading