From a photograph by Solomon D. Butcher of four daughters of rancher Joseph M. Chrisman, at their sod house in Custer County, Nebraska. From left to right, Harriet, Elizabeth, Lucie, and Ruth. Photographed in 1886.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

My Symphony

A life of harmony




To live content with small means; to seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion; to be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich; to listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart; to study hard; to think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never; in a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common -- this is my symphony.

--William Henry Channing (1810-1884)

Today is my 57th birthday. Last night, I came across the words I've quoted above. They seem a good set of principles for my next 57 years (in addition to the Ten Commandments, of course.). The one I'm going to have perpetual trouble with is "hurry never."

The Cream Separator

A big advance in farm technology

The Cream Separator. — Another great change which has come into Nebraska farming, in the past twenty years, has been brought about largely by the cream separator, by which the milk fresh from the cows is separated into cream and skimmed milk, the cream going to butter factories, while the milk is fed upon the farm. Dairy farming, which was almost unknown in the early years of Nebraska settlement, is thus becoming one of the chief industries of Nebraska farming.

Source: History and Stories of Nebraska: With Maps and Illustrations by Addison Erwin Sheldon. Published by University Pub. Co., 1915

Many older people who grew up in the country remember the cream separator. At our house, it sat on a table in the corner of the back porch. I vaguely remember an old black separator, and I have a clearer memory of a later, smaller separator with an electric motor.

At the top of the separator was a big metal bowl that had a gridwork of holes in the bottom of it. A round, paper filter was fastened over the grid to strain out foreign matter as the milk drained. Then the filtered milk went into a centrifuge that spun the cream (butter fat) to the center and the "skimmed" milk to the outside. The two liquids were then dispensed through separate spouts.

Every time the separator was used, it had to be taken apart and washed. At our house, that was always once a day, and often twice a day. The milk from the morning milking was nearly always separated, and the whirr of the separator's motor woke me, many mornings. The milk from the evening milking might be strained and left whole, or it might be separated.

The separator had about a dozen stainless steel parts.I particularly hated washing the disks, a set of nested cones. I suppose there were 12 or 15 of them. Each disk had a little hole in its side, and a giant safety pin was slid through the holes to keep the stack of disks in order while washing.

We usually had just one or two milk cows, so my mother had a small cream can that held just a couple of gallons. We took the cream to the Rose Store to sell. When the Rose Store got out of the cream business, my mother did, too. She wasn't making enough profit to mess with taking the cream to Bassett, roughly 35 miles away.

Until I read the quote at the top of this post, I'd never thought of the cream separator as a high-tech machine. The cream separator was not considered a great marvel at our house. It was just an appliance. But, like many of the great technologies we enjoy today, I can imagine that it seemed miraculous when it was first invented.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Ranching in the Early 1900s

A look at cattle ranches of America's Great Plains, 100 years ago



The following paragraphs are quoted from the textbook, World Geographies: Second Book (p. 112-115) by Ralph S. Tarr and Frank M. McMurry, published in New York by the MacMillan Company in 1922.

MEANING AND EXTENT OF THE GREAT PLAINS

Passing westward from the fertile valley of the Red River of the North, one finds the farmhouses decreasing in number and the country becoming more and more arid until finally, in western North Dakota, there is very little farming without irrigation. At the same time, the plains gradually rise higher and higher, until, near the base of the Rocky Mountains, an elevation of fully a mile above the sea is reached. This arid plateau, extending from Canada to southwestern Texas is commonly known as the Great Plains...

...[M]ost of the arid region of the Great Plains is unsuited to farming. For this reason, there are comparatively few large cities, as you can see on the map. The entire western third of North and South Dakota, Nebraska, and Kansas, as well as the Great Plains farther west, are given over mainly to ranching.

This industry is carried on in much the same way throughout all parts of the arid West. In western North Dakota, for instance, there is little water except in the widely separated streams, and there are very few trees except along the stream banks. Since the ranchman must have both water and wood, he locates his house, sheds, and stockades, or corrals, within easy reach of these two things. If there is no neighbor within several miles it is all the better, for his cattle are then more certain to find abundant grass.

WHY FEW FENCES

Few fences are built, partly because most of the region is owned by the government, not by ranchmen. Very often they own only the land near the water; but this gives them control of the surrounding land, for it is of no use to anyone else if his cattle cannot reach the water. Another reason why fences are not common is that it is necessary for the cattle to roam far and wide in their search for food. The bunch grass upon which they feed is so scattered that they must walk a long distance each day to find enough to eat.

A single ranchman may own from ten to twenty thousand head of cattle, and yet they may all be allowed to wander upon public land, called "the range". Usually they keep within a distance of thirty miles of the ranch-house; but sometimes they stray one or two hundred miles away.

Twice a year there is a general collection, or round-up, of cattle,-- the first round-up occurring in May or June, and the other early in the fall. One object of the first is to brand the calves that have been born during the winter.

Since there are few fences, cattle belonging to ranches which are even a hundred miles apart become mixed during the winter; and those in a large herd may belong to a score of different ranchmen. Each cattle owner has a certain mark, or brand, in the form of a letter, a cross, a horseshoe, etc., which is burnt into the side of every calf.

A round-up, which lasts several weeks, is planned by a number of ranchmen together. A squad of perhaps twenty cowboys with a wagon and provisions, a large number of riding horses, or "ponies," and a cook, go in one direction; and other wagons, with similar "outfits," set out in other directions. Before separating in the morning, the members of a squad agree upon a certain camping place for the night, and they then scour the country to bring the cattle together, riding perhaps sixty or eighty miles during the day.

Each ranchman knows his own cattle by the brand they bear; and since the calves follow their mothers, there is no difficulty in telling what brand shall be placed on them. After branding the calves, each ranchman drives his cattle homeward to fend during the summer within a few dozen miles of their owner's house.

SECOND ROUND-UP AND WHAT FOLLOWS

The second large round-up is similar to the first, except that its object is to bring together the steers, or male cattle, and ship them away to market; it is therefore called the beef round-up. A ranchman who owns twenty thousand cattle may sell nearly half that number in a season. As the steers are collected, they are loaded upon trains and shipped to distant cities to be slaughtered.

Very often the cattle have found so little water and such poor pasturage, that they have failed to fatten properly, and must be fed for a time before being slaughtered. This may be done upon the irrigated fields near the rivers in the ranch country; or the cattle may be sent for this purpose to the farms farther east, as in Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Nebraska.

LIFE OF THE RANCHMAN

The lives of ranchmen and cowboys are interesting and often exciting, most of each day being spent in the saddle. They are so far separated from other people that they must depend upon themselves far more than most people do. For instance, a ranchman must build his house, kill his beef and dress it, put up his ice, raise his vegetables, do his blacksmithing, find his fuel, and even keep school for his children if they are to receive an education. He affords a good example of the pioneer life which was so common in early days.

This passage is quoted from the textbook, World Geographies: Second Book (p. 112-115) by Ralph S. Tarr and Frank M. McMurry, published in New York by the MacMillan Company in 1922.

Signs of Fall in Christian County

Harvest of gold




One of the neighbors was harvesting a cornfield yesterday. Two massive combines were stopped in the field with their hoppers full when I paused on the road to photograph them.

After I took the picture, I decided to extend my pause for a few more moments. Two huge tractors towing grain wagons were returning to the field after emptying their loads of corn. They needed about 2/3 of the roadway, so I waited for them to pull into the field before I motored onward.

It was nice to see the corn kernels glistening in the sunshine like heaps of gold. In this part of the county, we had enough summer rain that our corn did well. Now, we've had a couple of months with no rain at all, and the corn should be drying out nicely on the stalk. The farmer will get a better price for low-moisture corn if he's selling it now. Or, if he's holding the corn in his own bins for a while, he won't have to run his grain dryers as long.

Autumn is manifesting itself in other ways as well. I noticed this week that a few leaves are falling from the trees when the wind blows. The Christian Way Farm has opened for the season.

And a big tobacco barn on the Pembroke Road (Highway 41) burned down today. Even though it appears to have been a metal barn, the report on the Kentucky New Era website says it was a total loss. A season's work and income went up in smoke for some farmer, and he lost his barn as well. Sadly enough, a few barns burn every fall. That's one of the hazards of fire-curing tobacco.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Peeling Boiled Eggs

Helpful hint for adventurous cooks


Oh, the amazing stuff that arrives via e-mail.

Tonight, Cynthia sent a tip about peeling boiled eggs. The way to do it,  according to time-management expert Tim Ferris, is:

- Add a teaspoon of baking soda to the cooking water.
- Cool the eggs in ice water.
- Crack and remove a bit of the eggshell at each end of an egg.
- Blow through the hole in the small end and the egg will pop through the hole in the large end.

You say you doubt it?  This website shows Tim Ferris demonstrating his egg-blowing technique and gives step by step instructions.

It reminds me of that experiment in grade-school science class where the hard-boiled egg was sucked into the soda bottle.  In both cases, air pressure moves the egg.  The amazing part is the malleability of a boiled egg.

(Updated this after I thought a little about why the egg decides to move out of its shell.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Helen's Place at Kirkmansville, KY

A visit to a unique country store and restaurant


A few weeks ago, I was invited to lunch at Helen's Place, to help celebrate the 82nd birthday of my neighbor. Miss Margie.

I was a little surprised when I learned that this restaurant is located in Kirkmansville, KY. Kirkmansville is a tiny village in the extreme northwestern corner of Todd County. It sets at the intersection of Highways 171 and 107, which are not major highways. (Nor are they wide or straight highways!)

Miss Ardell, Margie's friend since childhood and the inspiration behind this expedition, drove us over to Kirkmansville in her Buick. Margie's daughter Sandra and I rode in the back seat.

We took Pilot Rock Road (Highway 507) to Allegre and turned north on 171. The roads wound around the hills, through the trees, and over the creeks. Usually, I would have enjoyed the scenery, but I felt a little carsick. I'm not used to the back seat.

We pulled into the parking lot at Helen's Place a few minutes before noon, entered the little building, and looked for a place to sit. The main room was full of tables and chairs, but Helen invited us to sit in the back room.

A waitress brought our iced tea, and we went through the line to get our food. The meal was served as a buffet, and the food was very good. I can honestly say it was home-style cooking. I don't remember the entire menu, but I filled my plate with:

BBQ ribs
Chicken and dumplings
Creamed potatoes
White beans
Macaroni salad
Homemade rolls
Johnnycake

My companions decided to have dessert. While they were getting their pie, I took some pictures of the back room and enjoyed the exhibit of old-time photos from Kirkmansville's past. (The white bands across the photos below are the unavoidable reflections of the overhead florescent lights.)




The back room has tables on one side of the aisle and chairs on the other side. On Friday nights, local musicians meet here to jam and to entertain. At the front of the room, a microphone and speakers stand ready. Plaques over the mantle honor two beloved musicians who performed regularly in the past: Frank Phipps and Donnie McGehee.

(To place this music-making in its proper perspective, one must know that thumbpicking originated in this precise area of Kentucky. Merle Travis is from Muhlenberg County, just a few miles north, as is Eddie Pennington. Odell Martin, also a thumbpicker, was from the little town of Allegre, six miles south of Helen's Place. The Everly Brothers learned thumbpicking from their father, a Muhlenberg County native and an accomplished musician.)


But back to Helen's Place and our visit there. While we were enjoying our meal and conversation, the tables in the other room had filled with diners. Many of the customers were men who had come in from the fields. I suppose they find it easier (and more fun!) to come to Helen's for a hot meal than to pack a lunch.

Helen came back to talk to us again before we left. She said that she was honored that we'd come there for a birthday celebration. We complimented her on the delicious meal, and she insisted that it was "just plain country cookin'."

Miss Ardell asked how many people were employed there. Helen explained that she has a staff of five, counting herself. They work together preparing the food, without any firm rules about who's going to make what. Usually, they fix two main dishes as well as a variety of side dishes.

When we went to the front room of the store to pay, I spotted a box of college-rule spiral-bound notebooks on the shelves. I bought a few for Isaac; I had tried unsuccessfully to find them at WalMart the night before. My meal was surprisingly inexpensive. As I recall, it was less than $7.00, including the tea.

Someone at Kirkmansville paints rocks and sells them at Helen's Place. Sandra bought one for Margie that had a fawn painted on it. When we started home a few minutes later, we saw a doe and a little spotted fawn along the road, just outside of Kirkmansville.

After we went around the first few curves, Sandra suggested that we stay on Highway 171 at Allegre and go home by Butler Road, instead of turning onto Pilot Rock Road. It was still a winding road back to Allegre, but after that, the road was somewhat less crooked. I was glad.

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Related:
"Seen at Kirkmansville, KY" -- Prairie Bluestem
"Great Road Name Lost" -- Prairie Bluestem
History of Kirkmansville -- Todd County, KY, Family History

Monday, September 22, 2008

J. K. Frick, Architect

Architect and builder of the Christian County (KY) courthouse





J. K. Frick, architect and builder of the Christian County courthouse in Hopkinsville, KY, had chutzpah. His name and title are displayed center front -- at the top of the arch above the main entrance.

A more typical placement of the architect's name would have been a stone set into the wall of the building, perhaps on a corner or at the side of the entrance. A motto about government or good citizenship might have been placed over the front door.

The book Hopkinsville & Christian County Historical Sites, published by the Kentucky Heritage Commission in 1982, says that the architect, J. K. Frick, was from Evansville, Indiana. He was surely Joseph K. Frick of Evansville, whose biography appears in the 1873 reference book, Evansville and Its Men of Mark.

Joseph K. Frick was born in Switzerland in 1823. His father was an architect and builder, and he wanted to his son to carry on the art. Young Joseph was sent to Munich, Bavaria, to study. He showed an aptitude for mechanical drawing at his two year apprenticeship in a drawing school.

Frick's father then placed Joseph in a Jesuit convent as an apprentice, but Joseph ran away after a year when he was expected to shave a portion of his head in the tradition of the order. Thereafter, he studied for eight years in the Alia Brarra Neli Belli Arti d' Architectura in Milan, Italy.

After a narrow escape from being shot in the streets as an insurgent in the Italian Revolution of 1847, Frick returned to Switzerland. In 1853, Joseph Frick, his brother Peter Frick, and nephews Kilian Frick and John Frick came to America. They lived in Chicago before moving to Evansville, Indiana, in 1857. Soon after the move, Joseph Frick was elected County Surveyor.

By 1860, the Fricks were drawn into the turmoil of America's Civil War. Killian Frick became a civil engineer for General Sherman and came home to die in 1864. John Frick became a captain in the 11th Indiana Volunteers and died from complications of a leg injury and amputation. Jacob Frick (another nephew?) died in the battle of Vicksburg as a soldier in the 11th Indiana Volunteers.

Joseph K. Frick's story concludes with the following description of his character and statement of his accomplishments:
[Joseph K. Frick] cared for his relatives from the time of their leaving Switzerland until they were dead. It took all his means for years to get them a practical education ; and, as he was not married, he gave up much of his time in attending to their wants while in the army. He often visited them, providing them with money, clothing, and other things, which showed the noble generosity of his nature.

Mr. Frick is recognized as one of the most scientific architects in this section; and many large and elegant public and private structures attest the force of his mechanical genius.

Source: Evansville and Its Men of Mark, by Edward White and Robert Dale Owen. Published by Historical Publishing Company, 1873, and digitized by Google in 2008.
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More posts about the Christian County Courthouse and downtown Hopkinsville:
Christian County Courthouse
Alhambra Theater in Hopkinsville, KY
Morning in Downtown Hopkinsville
Seen on Main Street
Prejudice and Segregation
Poll Worker's Day

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Wise Words about the Banking Crisis

Wisdom from an Irish poet and patriot


Capitalism is not the free world.
Capitalism is a term devised by Marxists to describe what they thought were the worst aspects of our freedom.
We should never let any corporation or bank or computer company pose as the embodiment of our freedom.
Crises for large corporations are not crises for the free world.
Our freedom will endure and grow as long as we continue to elect our governments, to uphold Christian values, to promote small businesses, to permit citizens to own their own property and their own lives, to raise our children with dignity, to be polite to each other in the streets, to contribute directly to each other with charitable hearts, and to care about each other as a community.
As long as these fundamentals are a part of our culture, the fate of soulless corporatist entities is not going to matter...

   -- From "what me worry?" by James Healy, The Heelers Diaries, Wednesday, Sept. 17, 2008.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Dumpster Diving

Salvage operation



A young woman was parked at the dumpster behind the mall in Hopkinsville a few days ago. She was reaching through the open doors of the bin and digging industriously. I didn't see her take anything out, but obviously she thought there was a good chance of finding something useful.

If I were ever to try dumpster diving, I guess I'd look for a dumpster like this one. I'm sure the mall stores sometimes discard salvagable items, and most of the trash would be dry so it shouldn't smell too bad.

Some people check the dumpsters at grocery stores for food. I consider that to be hard-core dumpster diving. I prefer that my food come from inside the store. On occasion, I might buy a package of marked-down beef if it still looks good. I don't really want to get any closer than that to salvaged food.

My own trash salvaging has been limited to picking up lumber piled on the curb for the garbage truck. This was very humiliating to my children. They were afraid that their friends would drive by and see their nutty mother throwing plywood scraps into the back of the truck. In deference to their sensitivities, I passed up a lot of perfectly good lumber.

Nowadays, I don't have the kids along to restrain me, but I drive a little car instead of a little truck. It doesn't work very well for hauling, so I'm still passing up lots of useful pieces of lumber. I wouldn't have time to make anything with it, anyway, but it always pains me to see it headed for the landfill.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Hurricane Ike in Christian County, KY

Edge of a hurricane at Hopkinsville, KY


At Hopkinsville, KY, we were supposed to be a bit outside of Ike's path, according to a weather map I saw on Saturday night. That map underestimated the situation. Satellite photos, taken as Ike passed over the region Sunday morning, show a wide band of hurricane-influenced weather.

We had some very strong wind here. The Kentucky New Era reports wind gusts up to 64 mph.

I slept late rather than going to church Sunday morning, because I had to work until midnight on Sunday night. It wasn't very restful sleep. I woke again and again to the wind's howl as it ripped through the trees. About 10:00 a.m., every other sound in the house halted abruptly, signaling a power failure. I was sorry that I hadn't at least made a pot of coffee.

When Dennis got home from church, he said that the streets in Hopkinsville and the roads on the way home were full of tree limbs, small and large. He wasn't surprised about the power outage because he had stopped to talk to our neighbor down the road, who had a large tree lying across electric lines in his front yard.

When I left for work, the electricity was still out, but the worst of the wind had passed. Several other employees had stories of trees down and power out. One lady said that Madisonville, a town about 35 miles north of Hopkinsville, looked like a tornado had gone through it.

The electricity was back on when I got home late that night. A lot of branches, most of them already dead, are scattered around the yard. None of them fell on anything important. All of our trees managed to hang on and stay in the ground. The wind ripped out the hinges of one door on the old bathroom vanity which is still sitting on the carport. Now I'll have to fix it before anyone will want it from Freecycle.

We were fortunate that we didn't suffer any severe damage. Our worst complaint is that, with all that wind, we didn't get one drop of rain!

Kentucky New Era report of the wind storm
National Weather Service report from Paducah

Alhambra Theater in Hopkinsville, Ky

Historic theater, then and now





Hopkinsville's historic Alhambra Theater has recently been renovated. Most of the changes were made in the lobby, as I understand it. The restrooms were enlarged, so the ticket window had to be eliminated. It was a case of modern needs overruling perfect preservation.

In the Christian County Courthouse, I photographed an old photograph (image below) that shows the Alhambra about 50 years ago. I would guess that this photo is from about 1960. (Note the air conditioner in the second story window.)

The Christian County courthouse stands next door to the Alhambra. It's the building that is visible to the left of the theater in the image at the top of this post.

In the old photo, a crowd of people are waiting to enter the courthouse for some reason. The Alhambra theater, as it was then, is shown in the background. The man in military uniform was probably a soldier from Fort Campbell.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Radio Days

A revolutionary invention



Imagine America at the end of World War I. Brief notices of important events were still sent by telegraph, the fastest communication that existed.

People read newspapers and magazines to learn details about happenings in the world beyond their hometowns. In small towns, the news was often out-of-date before the publications arrived. For that matter, much of the news was old even when it was written.

A decade later, a surge of interest, development, and investment in commercial radio had transformed the nation.

Election results were broadcast by radio for the first time ever in 1920 (by KDKA in Pittsburg.) Owners of radio sets heard the news first. They didn't have to wait for printing presses to grind out an extra and newsboys to run it through the streets.

With that broadcast, radio gained a new measure of respectability. Its potential was examined and found promising; it was recognized as more than a curious hobby.

By 1927, radio frequencies were so crowded that Congress set up a regulatory agency, the Federal Radio Commission, to issue broadcast licenses.

The 1930 census inquired whether the household owned a radio set. Many people did. The wealthy purchased a commercial model, and the poor built their own crystal sets or vacuum tube radios using the plans published in hobby magazines.

Americans tuned in regularly for the news, farm reports, and weather reports, and for other favorite programs -- music, drama, quiz shows, humor, and more. The radio often became the family gathering place, assuming a role that the piano or the phonograph had previously enjoyed.

Franklin D. Roosevelt used radio to bring his "Fireside Chats" into American living rooms, starting in 1933. He employed the cutting edge of technology to speak directly to the people in an unprecedented way.

From that era, here are two interesting quotes:

I live in a strictly rural community, and people here speak of “The Radio” in the large sense, with an over-meaning. When they say “The Radio” they don’t mean a cabinet, an electrical phenomenon, or a man in a studio, they refer to a pervading and somewhat godlike presence which has come into their lives and homes.

—E. B. White, 1933

God Hears Prayer

If radio's slim fingers can pluck a melody
From night -- and toss it over a continent or sea;
If the petalled white notes of a violin
Are blown across the mountains or the city's din;
If songs, like crimson roses, are culled from thin blue air --
Why should mortals wonder if God hears prayer?

-Ethel Romig Fuller (from the 1937 anthology, 1000 Quotable Poems)

Related post: I Grew Up in Radio Land

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Bad Morning Blues

Memorable coffee spills


Yesterday morning, the alarm rang, and I struggled out of my bed, slapped the clock until it shut up, and staggered to the kitchen with my eyes half-shut.

Dennis had left the coffee plugged in for me, so I got a cup, set it on the counter, and poured some coffee in it. That is, I intended for the coffee to go in the cup. Unfortunately, the cup was upside down, so I actually poured some coffee over the cup.

I cleaned up the spill with a few paper towels, turned the cup over, and tried again with my eyes open.

Some years ago, I had a memorable bad morning of this sort. I came out to the kitchen and discovered that I'd forgotten to fix my coffee the night before. I cleaned out the old coffee grounds, washed the pot, filled the coffee basket with new coffee, and turned on the coffee maker. Then I went to take a shower.

When I came back to the kitchen, I found I'd forgotten one important step in the coffee-making process -- setting the coffee pot in its proper place on the coffee maker. The coffee had come out of the maker and flowed wherever gravity took it. I had a huge mess to clean up -- and I still didn't have a cup of coffee. Now that was a bad morning.

I do hate having a mess to clean up, first thing in the morning.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

DOS Games

Vintage computer games




Isaac was intrigued when he came across these early computer games at a local thrift shop. All are still in their original boxes with their instruction books. They run from diskettes.

These games pre-date Windows, so most people no longer have a computer with the operating system (DOS) to run them. Keely's boyfriend, Taurus, is taking Windows 95 off an old computer from our house and restoring it to its original DOS. It should run these games just fine, so Isaac bought the games at the bargain price of $1.00 each.

The old computer that Taurus is restoring has a 115 MB hard drive, as I recall. With Windows installed, it had around 93 MB free space.  Yes, I do mean MB.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Cheapest Watch I've Ever Owned

My romance with Timex is over for now.



I've owned a series of Timex Indiglo water-resistant (WR) watches. I like the way the watch face lights up (the Indiglo feature), and I like a watch that survives an occasional shower or a little dishwater (the WR feature).

My first watch of the series was great. It withstood a lot of dousing, and it ran for several years. I probably could have revived it with a new battery, but (in my experience) water-resistant watches often leak after their case is opened, so I didn't bother.

I bought a second Timex Indiglo WR watch that was very similar to the first one. A few weeks after I got it, it developed a few tiny water droplets inside its crystal. The watch stayed wet inside for most of the next two years, but it kept good time.

A Timex that wouldn't tick



I was glad when the second Timex finally quit running last month. Finally, I had an excuse to buy a new watch. I purchased a third Timex Indiglo WR watch, expecting to be very pleased with it.

Instead, I'm disappointed. Water appeared under the watch crystal after two weeks of wear. Right after that, the watch quit running. I'm going to look up the receipt and send it back to Timex. (That's on my to-do list, right under completing the bathroom paint job, moving everything back in there, and restoring some order to the rest of the house.)

An M.Z.Berger Watch



Meanwhile, I needed a watch. I went to Wal-Mart yesterday and bought a cheap, water-resistant watch with easy-to-read numbers on the dial.

The box said "White Stag", but the watch face has no name on it. The name M.Z.Berger is incised on the back of the watch in tiny letters. When I looked up M.Z.Berger, I was surprised.

We're the owners of such classic American brands as Gruen®, Elgin®, Waltham®, and Sharp®, in addition to licensing some of the most recognizable brands and character licenses today, including Nickelodeon®, CareBears®, Bratz®, Hello Kitty®, NASCAR® , ©Disney. (Source: M.Z.Berger & Company: Watch Collection)


I hope it will be a trusty little soldier of a watch, though I'll miss the Indiglo.
The watchband has the word "China" on the first link. I'm not sure if that applies to the entire watch or just the band. (Probably the entire watch!)

The watch has a three-year warranty, but if it quits before then, I won't bother sending it in. M.Z.Berger wants $5.95 for shipping and handling, and the watch cost only $11.88.

It's the cheapest watch I've ever owned. It's an amazing bit of technology for such a small price.

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Update 9/20/08

Oops. At work last night, I tore up the M.Z. Berger's Chinese watchband beyond repair. When I got home, I took the band off the dead Timex and put it on the Berger. Otherwise, the little watch is doing just fine.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Hurricane Ike

Still waiting for Hurricane Keely



"Hurricane Ike"
Isaac is experiencing the dubious honor of sharing his name with a hurricane -- Hurricane Ike. Our family nickname for Isaac has been "Ike" for most of his life. His dad started calling him that when he was just a baby.

Isaac's reaction to the storm's name is mixed. He thinks it is kind of cool, but he hopes the storm doesn't do too much damage. He doesn't want Hurricane Ike to be a storm that lives in infamy; he'd rather see it fizzle out at sea.

I had a hurricane named for me this summer -- Hurricane Genevieve. I didn't even know about it until a few minutes ago. It must not have amounted to much. My husband Dennis had a hurricane several years ago. Our daughter Keely has not yet had a hurricane named either for her first name or her middle name, Elizabeth.

The first named hurricane that I remember is Hurricane Carla of 1961. It certainly wasn't the first hurricane within my lifetime, but it was memorable to me because I knew Carla Hixson, a neighbor girl who belonged to our 4-H club.

I was a child of Nebraska, hundreds of miles from the ocean. I heard about Hurricane Carla on the radio and read about it in the newspaper and Life magazine. I knew about bad blizzards, but killer storms of torrential rain and screaming winds were (and still are) outside my experience.

In September 2005, not long after the immensely destructive Hurricane Katrina, Hurricane Rita hit the Gulf Coast. Isaac and I spent the weekend at a medieval reenactment in southern Tennessee. On Friday night, it rained so hard that we stayed in a motel instead of setting up our tent. On Saturday night, we camped, and I went to bed fairly early. To drown out the conversation and other noise outside our tent, I turned on my little radio and put in my earbuds.

Throughout a night of intermittent sleep, I listened to a Mississippi radio station broadcasting reports of flooded roads, downed trees, and fallen power lines. The locations of emergency shelters were announced frequently, and safety precautions were urged.

It was rather surreal to hear a minute-by-minute hurricane report from a tent in a medieval(-ish) encampment. I felt like I was fiddling while Rome burned.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Wrong Verb

Sad situation


From a news story about Hurricane Gustav:
Before [Melissa Lee] left, she heard neighbors chopping down trees with chain saws, trying to ensure the tall pines that surrounded their homes wouldn't come crashing down.

Source: "Coast empties as Gustav nears: Evacuation hits 1.9 million in Louisiana alone" by Stacey Plaisance and Becky Bohrer, Associated Press, published in The Courier Journal, Monday, September 1, 2008.

Chopping down trees with chain saws, eh?  Usually, people start a chain saw's motor and cut down the trees. If they are determined to chop down the trees, they get an ax.

Maybe it's written the way people talk in Louisiana.  I know we say some funny things here -- such as "carrying the kids to school."  If that phrase ever appeared in a news story, it would definitely look strange.

My fuss about chopping vs. cutting is much ado about nothing. It is very sad that people were cutting down their trees to keep them from falling in the storm. That's what really matters.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Casper at Two

Kitty birthday





We don't know the exact date of Casper's birth, but it was about this time of the year. He and his siblings were orphaned when they were about a month old. When we got him a few weeks later, he was a thin little kitten. He wasn't old enough to chew and swallow Kitten Chow, but he had been eating enough of it to stay alive.

We found an internet recipe for Kitty Joy Juice (kitten milk replacer) and he thrived on it. I should mix him up a batch for his birthday. I'm sure he would still remember it. He gets excited every time I open a packet of plain gelatin -- one of the ingredients.

We've had Casper for nearly two years now. He's always been hard to photograph because of his white coat. Furthermore, he doesn't like to look at the camera because he knows it might flash. He agreed to pose for this birthday portrait only if he could pretend to ignore me.

Casper is -- and always has been -- an ornery cat. He's likely to nip a friendly outreached hand. He loves to spring from a hiding place to attack, all in good fun, of course. He doesn't understand why people get irate about bleeding a little. I think he has a little extra meanness in his genes to make up for his white coat which offers little natural camouflage.

On the other hand, when he's feeling mellow, he's a purr-cat with no claws or teeth at all. Like the little girl with the curl, when he's good, he's very, very good, and when he's bad, he's horrid.

Some earlier posts about Casper:
Casper Cat
Not a Still Life
Casper's Adventure
Making Friends:
Picture of Innocence (Ha!)
Casper The Climber
Cat Meets Cicadas
Casper Likes Autumn
Search this blog for "Casper"
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CONTENTMENT: Keep your heart free from hate, your mind from worry, live simply, expect little, give much, sing often, pray always, forget self, think of others and their feelings, fill your heart with love, scatter sunshine. These are the tried links in the golden chain of contentment.
(Author unknown)

IT IS STILL BEST to be honest and truthful; to make the most of what we have; to be happy with simple pleasure; and to be cheerful and have courage when things go wrong.
(Laura Ingalls Wilder, 1867-1957)

Thanks for reading.