Friday, July 29, 2016


Insulbrick covered many of the homes in western Pennsylvania homes. Many of the board covered homes were built without insulation. Homeowners chose to use this tar impregnated fiber paper to seal cracks and to add a layer of insulation to their houses. The tarpaper was coated with brown, gray, or the most favorite color red minerals. The minerals were applied in patterns of brick or cut stone. Insulbrick came in rolls like tar paper roofing and was nailed to the house.
I can remember the house my mom and dad bought had the brown Insulbrick paper covering it. The house was little more than a cottage that my father and his father expanded over the years to accommodate our families’ needs. The house of our neighbors’ was covered in the gray cut-stone pattern.
Other buildings I remember were the ones my grandfather Edson Thomas Beck helped to build. My grandfather’s home was covered in the brown Insulbrick, while my aunt and uncle Strawderman’s house was covered in the red brick mineral paper.
The last two Insulbrick covered buildings I will remember and will share are churches. One was located just at the edge of the coal mining town of Melcroft, Pennsylvania. It was located along Route 711 on the right driving from Indian Head. It was a two story Pentecostal church that had theater seats. My grandfather preached there often.
The other was another Pentecostal church that he built and preached in on Route 31 driving from Jones Mills to Somerset. It still stands near the summit, but is now covered in boards and was a pizza joint the last I knew.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Heavens Declare

More and more I am in awe of the sunrises and sunsets, the hues of the skies, and the varied shapes and types of clouds. Last evening, the entire western sky was aglow as if there was a raging forest fire just below the horizon. There didn’t seem to be a cloud to reflect the golden flush that lit the western heavens. It had almost a burnished bronze appearance. I don’t know whether it is just me, growing older and noticing it more, but I definitely feel that God is saying I am still in control. I am making the world extra beautiful in its last days. Enjoy it before I remake the heavens and the world.
So many times, the clouds have gained the shapes as if designed by the hands of an artist. Some are fluffy and full, while others are feathery and light. Just a few days ago, the clouds were converted to an ominous gray, with bluish tinges. They came, bearing lightning, and rain. The winds stirred their shapes and hustled them along.
Yesterday and today, the color of the sky has a skim milk blue hue; pale almost to the point of no color at all. Yesterday, it changed to a soft blue, until it was warmed by the sunset. The heat charred it, changing it. The color slowly darkened to a violet at dusk then to the darkness of night as the sun continues its journey to the other side of the Earth.
Before I stumbled into bed, I looked up into the darkness overhead. The stars and moon were hiding in an overcast sky. Like the glaze on a donut, the clouds spread themselves across the firmament in a thin layer. Where the glaze was thinnest, a tiny pinprick of light from a star escaped and made itself known. I could hardly wait to see what the morning has brought.
Oversleeping, I missed a chance to see the sun rise, but a rain shower has come through, bringing a thick blanket of clouds. The sun is trying to burn a hole in it and begin a new day.
Psalm 19: 1 The heavens declare the glory of God; and the firmament sheweth his handywork.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Brotherly Fights

When my brother Ken and I were younger, we used to fight like two cats with their tails tied together and tossed over a clothesline. We had a few fist-to- cuffs before we grew up and became buddies. There were four years between my birth and his and four years between his birth and our sister Kathy. We boys always shared a bedroom which often was an irritation the caused a flare up between us, like a match struck on the side of a match box.

Of the fights in our bedroom, they were usually settled by pillow fights. Now, you may be thinking about the light poly fiber filled ones of today. No, these were the ones filled with feathers. Again, someone is going to think, light puffy feathers, what kind of weapon is that, but what I am talking about are the feather filled pillows that have been passed down through the family, where the fluffiness has broken down and all that is left is a hardened brick. When swung, they could knock a person off their feet and could possible give a concussion.

Two battles that I can remember, my brother was knocked into a metal trash can, butt first and he wasn’t able to extricate himself. That ended the battle when we both started laughing and the offense that instigated the skirmish was forgotten. The second that I can recall, my brother made a direct hit on me and I was knocked against the plasterboard wall and a hole magically appeared the size and shape of my buttocks. Again the skirmish was abandoned, but not because of laughter. It was out of fear. Fear of what our mom would say and fear of what our dad would do when he saw the gaping crater.

There were other battles, but not so many outside. My brother was more agile and would often  run away dodging my wrath. I was faster and could run him down, if I could deduce which way his next maneuver would be. So, we would often tire out, before any real confrontation took place.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Another Reunion

I am planning on attending the Nedrow-Ferguson reunion to be held August 21, 2016 at the Donegal Community Center. I have only attended one other gathering before. It has always because of some other pressing matter. I have made it a priority this year. In going through some photos from my mom and dad, I found quite a few pictures without names and I am hoping that others can put names with faces.
When I die, I don’t want to leave and pass on unnamed photos. Too often they are placed into the hands of a person who isn’t careful about history and they get tossed away. The unnamed images have no meaning and thus no ties to their family. If there is a name attached, the person may either feel a connection to or may take the time to see that the photographs find their way back to some genealogically interested person with the family. The photos may be reunited and added to the archives and history of family names.

My sister, Kathy Basinger and I have become the archival members, holding onto photos, ledgers, and memorabilia for the family. We recently sorted through the photos that have been given and are trying to pass them on to some of our various and different cousins because the pictures we have of their mothers, fathers, brothers and sisters mean more to them than for us. There is no reason to hoard them away in some closet, when they nave meaning to others. One cousin had a house fire and all of his photos were destroyed. He was glad to regain some of those memories.
I took copies of photos to the last reunion for the Rugg family. Some of them were passed along as gifts. I forgot to take along a magnifying glass. It was almost amusing to see the older men and women, myself included, squinting and trying to recognize people in the photographs. I have already placed a magnifier in with the photos for the Nedrow-Ferguson reunion.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Definitely Feeling Older

What I used to do in a day with the family took two days for me to do and I am feeling tired. I decided to take a day trip that our family used to do and stretch it into two days. When our children were also younger, we would get up early, stop at McDonald’s in Somerset for breakfast on the road, and drive the nearly two and a half hour drive to Bellville, Pennsylvania.
Every Wednesday they have a farmer’s market, stock auction, and large flea market in town with collectible vendors from as far away as Bedford and local Amish farmers, selling produce, straw hats, and hand sewn articles. Some vendors have older rifles, shotguns, and knives, while others sell imported dollar store items. It is a mélange of old and new, often sold side by side.
Then we would return home, allowing for an hour layover ay Canoe State Park. This gave us a chance for a meal from the Amish meats and cheeses and for our kids to run and let off steam for the drive home. We’d get home and everyone was ready for a nap. Bedtime was often still hours away.
With my daughter, Anna and her husband James we decided to stay at a bed and breakfast near Bellville. On the way up, we stopped at Raystown Lake to do a boat ride tour. It was a nice distraction and a way to see the green hills of Pennsylvania.
We stayed overnight at the B & B then into Bellville for some shopping. I got some produce and baked goods, as well as a small shovel to deal with the ashes from my wood burner. The trip back seemed longer than the trip when I was a younger man and I am definitely feeling tired, but I am glad to be home.
I am sorry that I am posting later today. I took a mini-vacation and just got home.

Monday, July 18, 2016

I am sharing a story that I wrote about a perfect crime. I hope that you like it.

The Changes

The couple walked into a bank near the downtown section of the city. Sam leaned down to say, “Gimme a bag, Dana.” Dana pulled a cloth bag from a larger one she carried. Each moved to stand in front of a teller. Sam pulled a revolver and placed it on the counter, saying, “Hand over the money. Empty the bills from the drawers. This is a robbery.”
Quickly rifling through the bills, they made sure there were no dye packs, then stowed the cash, filling their empty sacks. Turning, the couple exited the bank. Casually, they strolled away, mingling with the lunchtime crowd on the street. 

The police swarmed the bank. After surveying the bank’s video recordings, they began an intense search for the couple: a tall white male dressed in jeans, blue hoodie, and a ball cap pulled over his eyes and a white female wearing shiny black spandex pants, a gray hoodie, and a pulled down ball cap. The descriptions of these robbers matched several other local heists.
The officer immediately sent out an APB and began a search of the immediate area, joining a throng of other policemen. 

An hour later, a couple checked out of a nearby hotel. It was only three blocks from the bank. A very tall woman and her slender boyfriend walked to the bus station. Their path led past the bank where police activity still swirled.
The tall woman approached one of the policemen. Sitting her suitcase on the sidewalk beside her, she asked, “What’s happening, officer?”
“Bank robbery, ma’am,” was his curt reply. “Move along, now.”
“Goodness!” she replied.
Dana, her slender male friend, picked up the heavy suitcase and said, “We need to go, Samantha or we’ll miss our bus.

Friday, July 15, 2016

In Training

On Wednesday, I wrote on my BlogSpot about spending the day with my Granddaughter Hannah Yoder. We had a day out running errands and shopping. I think other than driving by the Connellsville Hospital where her daddy works, she enjoyed stopping near the train tracks and watching as two trains rolling by. The disappointment for me and her was there was no caboose at the end of the cars.
I have had a fascination for trains ever since I was young. In our beds at night, my brother and I could hear faraway train whistles when the rest of the world was still and quiet. The sound would waft through open windows accompanied by the summer breeze.
My next encounter with the railroad was in first grade. As a field trip, our class rode the school bus to the train station in Connellsville, Pennsylvania. The locomotive was huge, black, and waiting for us to climb aboard the coaches that were coupled behind. It was just a short trip through mountains to Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania, but it made a lasting impression. At the end of the trip, we were herded back onto the bus for the return trip to our classroom in Normalville, Pennsylvania.
Since then, I’ve collected model trains .027, HO, and N gauge, building model structures to match the size of the trains. They are still stored in my attic. I also have several books showing the different locomotives, but I am partial to the locomotives that were used during the Civil War for both the North and the South. A nephew sketched a locomotive belching smoke. I have it framed and hanging in the living room of my house.
Last year, a friend and I travelled to Elkins, West Virginia and ride the Salamander to the ghost town of Spruce. It was only a slight disappointment that the locomotive was a blue and gold diesel work engine and then when we arrived at Spruce, there were no buildings, only plaques describing the homes and businesses that once occupied the sites, but I did ride the train.
All of these memories were stirred by the time I spent with my granddaughter watching the train wheels clack and clank rolling by us. I hope the day will be an enjoyable memory for her as well.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

A Day with Grandpa

Yesterday was another day sitting for my Granddaughter Hannah Yoder. Where this little dynamo gets her ideas and energy, I am not sure, but I want some. I know that I have a creative mind that has gotten me into and out of a lot of scrapes, but this child got a double dose. My kids inherited that from me and my wife Cindy.
When Amanda and Anna were young, they would constantly sing. If they were required to answer a question, it just became another verse in their song without breaking the tune. Hannah does the same time. If she’s quiet, she has allowed her mind to concentrate into doing something that she’s not supposed to do. Grandpa has to be on the alert.
Yesterday, I had several errands to run and had my youthful escort with me, her singing competing with the talk radio channel until I turned the radio off, that I could listen to anytime. My first stop was the drive through at the bank. As I pulled in, the voice from the back reminded, “Do they have lollipops?” It had been so long for me to have a child in the car, I didn’t know, but they did.
The second stop was the phone store. She asked the whole way there, “Are we there yet?” She ate he lollipop while I was there, then came the whirlwind shopping spree through the Dollar Tree. She got a pair of flip-flops, sticker book, and crayons, while I bought some boring baggies, storage boxes, and something to drink.
As we drove along, she said, “I see a train. It’s moving.” The next stop was down at the train yard in Connellsville, Pennsylvania and we were blessed to see two trains moving, but I was disappointed there was no caboose. As they rolled away, we drove away and her observant eyes saw, “There’s where my daddy works.” So we drove by Connellsville hospital. She wanted to go inside to visit him, but it was time to head for home. Grandpa needed a nap.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Lest We Forget

Yesterday was the annual Rugg reunion. I am quickly becoming one of the old codgers of the group. It is through my grandmother Rebecca Rugg Miner that I am connected to that clan. It is a time of reconnecting with others that I don’t get to see on a regular basis. This year, we had more children walking, running, and yes, even toddling around than we have had in a long time. I can’t keep up with all of the names and have trouble remembering the names of cousins twice removed, let alone these little ones.
It is mostly a pot luck affair with so much food. Just sampling many of the dishes left me with a full stomach. There has always been a wide selection of main dishes, salads, and an even wider assortment of desserts. This is another year we have met in the Resh’s Park in Indian Head, Pennsylvania.
Those of who have aged to the point of slowing down used to play several innings of softball, but we have aged and our replacements haven’t aged enough to want to play. They are still too youthful.
Each year, we have become more self-sustaining by having a white elephant auction. Anything and everything might be hidden inside of the wrapped bags and paper. Good natured bidding will often obtain the item at a slightly inflated price.
This year, we shared photographs of many of our ancestors. They stirred memories in us oldsters and allowed the younger people to see the founders of our clan. One of the highest bids came to buy several copies of some of the older deceased Rugg relatives. They were in a large frame with a few empty slots for any other photo finds. Many of the older ones were sepia colored and some were black and white.
There were games for kids with water balloons of course and prizes.
I just thought, we must be really getting old. No one brought or threw horseshoes this year. Next year, I believe I will wrap a cane for the white elephant sale.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Another Slipped Cog

Yesterday, I was trying to finish another story for my new book after being awakened by a telephone call at six a.m. when I had at least thirty minutes more of sleep planned. Of course it was a friend I hadn’t talked to in years. He needed a shoulder to cry on. His girlfriend had been stealing from him and was spending the money on drugs. He was heartbroken. His voice filled with sadness. How could I hang up when he needed someone to listen?
He did most of the talking and I only made a few generic comments of “Sorry to hear” and “Wow that has to be hard for you.” My day was a jumble after the phone call. You know, the best laid plans of mice and men.
My blood sugar was up which upset me. I try to eat healthy and had a peach for my evening snack and it kicks my blood sugar up forty points. Last night I ate a beef stick. I wonder what it will be today.
Back to my narrative, I worked most of the morning to pull together the ending of the story, then to reread and polish off rough edges. Editing my own work seems tedious. I already know the ending.
I was hurrying because I was to go to the Foothills writers meeting in Latrobe, Pennsylvania. I decided to quit and grab a shower when my phone rang. It was another friend who doesn’t have a car and occasionally needs someone as a chauffeur. He had a doctor’s appointment for one o’clock and could I drive him. He saw the doc earlier. There was a small patch on his skin that was diagnosed as skin cancer. The appointment today was to have it removed. He had no other way, so I became the designated driver and my appointment at the meeting went the way of the Dodo bird.
With all of the change in my plans yesterday, I forgot to post on my blog. I am trying to rectify that this morning. I apologize to anyone who was disappointed.

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Phone Problems

When I was a child, the telephone my parents had, was an old black, boxy thing that hung on the wall between the kitchen and the hallway. It had a mouthpiece attached to the black box. The earpiece was at the end of a wire that had to be held to listen and a crank at the side to rouse the switchboard operator. We were on a party line and had to listen to the number of rings to see if the call was for our family. A phone problem then was if someone else on the line forgot to hang up. If they forgot, the line was useless unless I wanted to eavesdrop on what was happening at their house.
Now, came the challenge. If we wanted to use the phone, we had to yell, whistle, or make some other loud sound to catch the attention of the other persons on the line and get them to hang up so the phone was useable.
Today, phone problems can be multiple. Because they are so small and portable, they can be misplaced or lost. Most times by dialing on another phone, it can be retrieved, unless… it is on vibrate or silent, then it becomes a nightmare to find.
Another problem happens because it isn’t a landline. Many areas have limited or no reception, here in southwestern Pennsylvania. That can be so frustrating. Sometimes it can happen in your own home and have to move to another room to call.
The battery consumption can create another pain for the cell phone user. Why sometimes it can be used all day with little or seemingly no drain on the battery and the next, it seems as if there is a ghost sucking the energy out of it and the level shrinks right before your eyes.
In the past these little conveniences have been fragile, breaking if dropped, not working if wet, or unreliable because of butt dialing. All would never happen if they were hanging on the wall at home.
Has anyone else been embarrassed when your cell phone’s ring tone goes off at an inopportune time? Mine has. Popeye the Sailorman is not the most welcome sound in the middle of a church service. It seems to take innumerable seconds to fish it from a pocket and shut it off.
Now, I come to my present problem. The phone is freezing and I can’t get it past the initial “turn on” phase. My cell phone is useless and not any more useful than a rock or a stick. If it was a tin can, I could find some string and make a phone, albeit not a great example and not good for long distance calls. I will be visiting the phone store later today and allow them to troubleshoot. My phone is over two years old and I expect them to try to get me to purchase a new phone and a renewal of the contract. It is time to put on my armor and sharpen my sword to do battle.

Monday, July 4, 2016

No Respect

Rodney Dangerfield used the line, “I don’t get no respect.” It is unfortunately sad but true, that today some people have no respect for cemeteries, memorials, and the Stars and Stripes of the American flag. I saw a photo of the Vietnam Memorial where it had been defaced with spray paint of a graffiti pervert. I’ve seen photos of cemeteries where warped people have driven through them, damaging the grounds and the headstones of loved ones who have passed on. Almost daily, I see and hear of reports where the American flag is trod upon or burned.

What is wrong with these people? They may not like America, but that is no reason to try to destroy a country that allows you to voice dissent. That is no reason to desecrate the resting place of people who have worked hard all of their lives to provide a system where even the indigent has a chance to live above the world’s poverty level. There is no reason to deface a memorial of brave men and women who fought in a war that their government said they must. You may not agree there was a just cause for the fighting, but these heroes fought because they were asked to do so.
America has asked her citizens to fight for freedom since its inception. The wars have claimed many lives and that in itself is sad, but the fact that some people ignore and denigrate those lives which were lost are the lowest type of people and have no right to the claim to be Americans. Rights are not earned by being responsible. They are guaranteed by the Constitution of the United States. Unfortunately, our rights are being ignored and eroded every day.
Today, we celebrate our day of independence and the birth of our nation. Be proud of the fact that we are free and we still have rights.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Thoughts of my Dad

Sometimes things that I do will bring back memories of my dad, Edson Carl Beck. It’s not usually anything big, just small actions, movements, or things that I do. Yesterday as I stacked firewood, I thought of the way my dad could split wood with a double bitted ax. Time after time he would swing it high overhead and hit the same spot of the upturned section of log. It was my dad’s persistence and consistency that impressed me, not that I am that consistent, but it was the memory of him swinging the ax.
The memories may come in the way I move my hands. Mine have never been as work hardened as his, large calloused ones, but if I move something hot from the stove or the microwave and the handle is hot, it reminds me of how he would hold those hot things with seemingly asbestos fingers. If he did indeed feel something hot, he would swing his arm at his side and flick his hand. If he mashed a finger, he would do the same thing.
My dad was honest as anyone I ever knew. He would often walk back into the store if the cashier over paid his change. Once he returned a bag of groceries to the store when he found a bag filled with supplies beside his red and white Ford station wagon. The owner of the groceries sat the bag on the ground to read a flyer dad had in the side window of the upcoming Buckwheat Festival in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania.
Dad didn’t tell anyone in our family “I love you,” but it was there. The consistency of working everyday to provide for us was the way he showed his love: food, clothing, a house. I do differ from my father in that while I provided all of the same things, I did say I love you and still do to this day.
When I left my father after a visit, I always said, “Dad, I love you” most of the time he would just smile and nod his head so I knew that he had heard me. I still tear at the memory of him saying I love you back, not too long before he died. It was another special thought of my dad.