Monday, November 30, 2015

When What to My Wandering Eyes

            Yesterday, when my brother Ken and I were looking for the place for me to wait to see if I can get a buck for deer season, we were on an unused road in an overgrown area of an old farm, when we heard a small silver gray car coming along the road. From the condition on the road I’d seen I was surprised to see it maneuvering along. Rocks, water-worn channels, and ridges made me think the driver didn’t know where he was going or didn’t care what condition his low-slung vehicle was in when he finished the trail. My brother shook his head as well.

            The driver had entered on the opposite entrance of the road than we had. What I had already seen, the driver was in for more surprises than he’d already seen. Ken said that there were large waterholes and muddy tracks to drive on with high ridges in the center of the tracks. He said he didn’t know how the guy in the driver’s seat managed to get as far as he did.
            My brother has a four wheel drive pickup truck and said, “When we leave, we’ll go out the way he came in and you can see the road.”

            As the car drove by us, I could hear the shock absorbers or struts rattle. It was a wonder that they were still on the car. When we finished deciding on the spot for me to hunt, we started the drive out. What we’d already driven on was rough and pockmarked with large stones and gullies, but what awaited us was even worse. There were a lot of water puddles, but one was almost six foot in diameter and almost axle deep on the truck. The road became a set of tracks with a high center. In many areas, drag marks on the muddy, rocky center left a signature of the little car’s passing.
            The car's descent to where we were was rutted and muddy. It was slow going for Ken’s truck and jostled us from side to side, slipping into the depressions caused by water creating the channels. High spots of rocks raised their heads and had to be edged around. There was one particularly rough spot where we saw the chrome ring from a wheel, probably left behind by the silver car. Once out on the township maintained road, I could only marvel on the stamina of the car and the stupidity of the driver.

Friday, November 27, 2015


            I woke this morning with a headache and a still neck. It’s not that uncommon for me. I’ve had headaches off and on for most of my adult life. The fall that I took this past February, hitting my head, hasn’t helped either the headaches or certainly not the arthritis in my neck. The aging of the body does lend itself to increasing function failure and general wear of the parts.
            I looked out my back window this morning and the grass that looked like a dull gray mat with its frosty coating yesterday, now had a golden glow to it. The frost chased away some of the underlying green changing many of the blades to brown. As the sun crept over the eastern horizon, its orange rays brushed its fingers the lawn and turned it into a rich looking tapestry. I hurried to the front of my house to see the sunrise. It was fabulous. Striations of light, sun-tinged clouds, and small streaks of blue sky greeted me. It was like looking at a multi-layered desert for my eyes.

            Thanksgiving feast at my sister, Kathy and her husband, Doug’s home was so nice. It was a time for our family to gather, eat, share stories, and be generally thankful for the things in our lives. Turkey, ham, potatoes, both sweet and mashed, stuffing, noodles, corn, gravy and rolls graced the kitchen. It would be too hard to have all on a table, and we trooped through the kitchen, loading our plates before we sat down to eat after Doug said the blessing.
            We found some more photos and postcards and went through them after the meal, allowing the food to settle. The pictures that our dad kept from WW II were found, stuck in a closet. He never spoke much of the things that he saw in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea, and other places. He gave a short biography of his life to me to type up for him and I found that he visited Hiroshima. He wouldn’t talk about it. I assume that it was after the bomb was dropped. He did tell a few stories to us when we found the black and white photos, but of the people and very little else.
            Since I am sharing my Thanksgiving, I want to express my thankfulness to all of the veterans, whether alive or dead, inactive or active duty, no matter where they are for your service in keeping the United States free to celebrate another Thanksgiving Day.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Frosty Frosting

            Looking out my windows this morning, the grass is covered in a thick coating of frost. The light of the sun hasn’t reached it yet. It looks like a dull, fuzzy gray mat, dead and lifeless. Very soon, the fingers of the warming luminary will touch this thick carpet and make it blaze and glisten as though my yard has been strewn with millions of miniscule diamonds. The dull mat will suddenly explode into a breathtaking, eye catching, mind boggling display. So often we miss seeing the beauty around us. We forget to anticipate miracles that occur daily, because we don’t take the time to look or to listen.
            Yesterday, I was listening to the wind in the pines. It wasn’t a gentle breeze that is said to whisper in the pines, but it was stronger. It actually made the several evergreens around me sing. Their needled branches swayed and kept time with the music. I stopped to listen for a few minutes. Their voices rose and fell in intensity, coinciding with the strength of the wind.
            I can remember as a child at my grandmother Miner’s home, I would escape the hustle and noise of a large family get together, by going outside onto the front porch. It was sheltered by three tall pines and a hemlock tree. The wind always moved through their dark needles. It was a comforting sound.
            Grandma always kept old carpet runners on the green painted Adirondack loveseat to cover her plants in the cold weather. Most of the gatherings happened at Thanksgiving and Christmas, so the air outside was chilly. My oasis from the noise and confusion inside was to roll up in those carpets and listen to the chorus of evergreens singing a winter song. Snug and warm in the carpet cocoon, I would relax in a world of my own thoughts, enticed by the song of the wind and the pines.

Monday, November 23, 2015

Nothing to Sneeze At

I’m a little late posting today. I wanted to wait until my computer repairman came and did a clean out of all the insults and problems that I managed to get into and onto my computer. He just left. In preparation to his visit, I straightened up the clutter in my writing room. Today, just before the appointment, I wiped down my desk and both keyboards with a Lysol disposable wipe and sprayed the air with Citrus Lysol. I woke today with sneezing and a runny nose. I’m not sure if it is an allergy or whether it will turn out to be a full-fledged upper respiratory tract infection. If it is an infection, there is no reason for me to share it.
The spraying of the Lysol caused Willow the cat to run from room to room, afraid and agitated at the canister’s hissing sound. She also hates the sound of the vacuum and ran when I swept the carpet.
Both computers are Windows 2008 and he was able to set both desk tops as twin screens, making it easier for me to maneuver through my computers. He gave instructions how to us the malware and antivirus options more thoroughly.
My computer had been steadily running more slowly, like the sludge that builds up in a pipe limits the flow of water, any viruses, spyware, and other problems do the same to the efficiency of the computer. Things are much better now that he has worked his magic.
While he sorted things out and cleared the mess I made over the years since I last called him, we talked. It was four plus years when he last made a house call to service my computer. As programs ran, we shared things that happened over the intervening years. I retired, fell and had bleeds to my brain, the marriage of my daughter, Anna and my summer trip through Pennsylvania. He shared that his son is following his footsteps and repairing computers and that his wife likes to read. I showed him my books and gave him my business card. It was almost like getting reacquainted with an old friend, someone that I enjoyed talking with. He is so amicable and friendly, it doesn’t seem like a business transaction. Thank you, Tom.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Gray Ghosts of Pennsylvania

            I was reminded of these ghostly creatures as I drove home from my daughter Amanda’s home after eating a wonderful evening meal of roast beef, whipped potatoes, and corn.  There are several ways I could have driven, but I prefer to take the one less traveled. At night, headlights from oncoming cars, especially those new bright-white ones, play havoc with my vision.
            As I drove along a straight-away that was forested on one side and scattered homes on the other, suddenly one of those ghosts appeared in my headlights, moving at breakneck speed, barely missing the front end of my car. One second it was there and the next, it had disappeared into the darkness outside the beams of my headlights.
            My second reminder of these wraith-like creatures came last evening as I drove home after a meeting with friends, fellow writers, and a meal. I was again reminded of them by the sudden appearance and almost immediate disappearance of these woodland wraiths, twice on my journey home. Their reminders occurred at different, separate wooded areas.
            By now, you’ve probably guessed the identity of these beasts to be the Pennsylvania whitetail deer. A gentle creature in most folks eyes, but a beast that can wreak havoc with a vehicle, destroy a summer garden, or browse into oblivion the landscaping around homes. Almost silent, these herbivores wander through the forests and suburbs with equal ease.
            I do hunt, harvest, butcher, and eat their meat, actually preferring to do that that to purchase what is offered at the neighborhood stores. Their almost silent stealth-mode sometimes makes it difficult to locate them in the brown, leaf strewn woods. Their coloration camouflages them makes them difficult to see in the clutter and debris of the trees. Sleek and slender, juicy and tender, these are the gray ghosts of Pennsylvania.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Sentimental Journey

            Saturday, while I was driving from Normalville, Pennsylvania to Ohiopyle, I began to have nudges of sentimentality that edged on nostalgia. It all began as I neared the old metal truss bridge that spanned Indian Creek. It was no longer there. The new span is simply a two lane road with the bridge hidden beneath the roadway. There is no longer the feeling of crossing the stream on a bridge. It is nice, but the feeling of nostalgia began to ooze into my brain. There was a feeling of loss of something familiar; some memory of my childhood had passed.
            No longer would there be difficulties with two large trucks passing on it. There would be less of a chance that the metal overhead structure would be struck by a truck bed that was accidentally raised or by a too tall vehicle or one with a high load. The superstructure was now gone and carted away.
            I have driven this road many times, but that day everything seemed more intense and impending. I could almost feel each tree pressing close on both sides of the winding road. Oak, beech, maple, and then pines and hemlock sped past my car windows, peering in at me. The hardwood trees were mostly bare, their dark limbs were a stark reminder that winter is hovering near, just over the horizon. The evergreens darkened and deepened the mood.
            Winter has never been a season that I enjoyed. Part of it was the having to clear my drive to go to work and then be on the road with people who have no idea how to slow down and maneuver on an icy or snow covered surface. The cold was another factor. I don’t believe I was created to live in frigid weather with winds whipping around me and through my clothing.
            Last year, I tried to embrace my least favorite season and purchased a set of cross country skis, poles, and boots. I made several circuits of my yard over several days before the ice in my drive put an end to all of that. I guess it was winter’s retaliation. I slipped and fell, hitting my head. I have no recollection of the fall or most of the following five hours. My visit to the emergency room, all of the tests, scans, and x-rays are buried somewhere in my brain. What they did reveal was that I had two bleeds in my brain, a subdural and a subarachnoid. That put a stop on my skiing.
            This winter, I may venture out and try to cross country ski again, bundled and warm for sure. I do tend to be a couch potato in the cold months and could use the fresh air and exercise.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Books My Fun Between the Covers

            When I as a kid at home, if I wasn’t outside playing, I had a book in my hands reading. My mother, Sybil Beck complained because I would be reading two or three books at a time. She would fuss saying that I had a book open on the arms of the couch and the chairs. She couldn’t understand how I could do it. I tried to explain that school teaches students to do that. The teachers don’t make us read through the math book before we go on to geography or English books.
            I get the love of books from her. She liked to read and often she would read to us kids. One time in particular, I can remember that we begged for one more story. She relented and began to read about Mr. Partridge and her family. Several paragraphs in, she accidentally said Mrs. Fartridge and became flustered. She never finished that tale, but sent us to bed.
            As the disease of Alzheimer’s claimed more and more of her faculties, she complained that her vision got worse and worse. She went for eye exams and got new glasses, but to no avail. In reality, she forgot how to read. That was difficult for me to watch.
            My kids haven’t caught the bug to read, but my sister, Kathy Basinger and her daughter, Becky Ritenour have inherited that trait and love books. Because Becky is an English teacher, she doesn’t want to read books that I’ve written with her critical eye and that’s okay, my sister likes them.
            Reading books weren’t enough for me. I enjoy writing and have reams of poetry and scribbled words stacked beside my desk. I love to play with words and like to insert words that have a double meaning to tease my readers. Sometimes it will be a name of the positioning of words.
            I now have written and had published three books about a retired homicide cop with the nickname of Tommy Two Shoes, from Pittsburgh who solves mysteries. I picture him to look like the solid actor William Bendix. My editor calls the stories cozy mysteries. My last book, The Twelve Murders of Christmas does have Tommy remembering murders that he and his partner solved before he retired. All of the murders occurred between Thanksgiving and New Year’s. They are still cozy mysteries. I don’t like to put a lot of violence, blood, gore, and guts in the books. There is enough of that in the world. I just like to put easy reading mysteries for folks to enjoy.
            Saturday, November 14, 2015 I will be reading and offering my books for sale at the Latrobe Art Center from eleven a.m. until two p.m. for anyone who might be in the area and can stop in.