Sunday, February 13, 2022

Joan of Shark #T

 My friend, Joan Young, a.k.a Joan of Shark, or Sharkey, left her home near Ludington, Michigan on December 1, 2021 to walk the North Country Trail in its entirety.  She has walked it before, but in bits and pieces encompassing the entire length, but this time she intends to complete it in one journey and has allotted herself a year in which to complete the trek. The NCT extends from Vermont to central North Dakota.  Look it up online. In preparation for her hike, Sharkey devoted considerable time to refurbishing a small travel trailer which she has dubbed "Sunny." She essentially rebuilt the entire vehicle from the ground up, doing virtually the entire job by herself.

Sharkey is a world's wonder.  Originally from Upstate New York, she now lives on Michigan's west coast.  But Indiana made a contribution to the woman she is today, for she took her baccalaureate degree from Taylor University at Upland, just up the road a piece.  Joan is a botanist with expanded interests into many areas scientific. She is a novelist and has published a number of mysteries. She is an avid and faithful blogger. 

You may follow Joan's NCT adventure at You will find an account of each day's adventures and the wonderful pictures she takes along the way. Joan has currently completed over 900 miles.



Saturday, January 1, 2022

Margot Comes to Call #T

You remember Margot.  Of course you do.  She was the little girl who terrified the circus animals and the townspeople.  She's the little girl who broke Grandma's treasured keepsake and tried to cover it up-- and lied about it, too. She's the one who argued with the Sunday school teacher.  Margot was a pill.

But Margot grew up, and as time will do, it has had its way with her, so to speak. She is no longer a little girl in Mary Janes and pinafores.  Neither is Margot the lovely yet snippy little thing who tore the hearts out of many admirers in her youth.  Oh, she was not cruel, deliberately breaking hearts.  It is just that the young men could not but want her and she was very picky, even persnickety.  So, it was rare that she deigned to notice the attentions of a would-be suitor.  Yet blessedly she eventually found Mr. Right and they shared their lives together a long happy time. They produced offspring, who in turned produced offspring of their own, and so on.  But only days after Margot and Evan celebrated their sixtieth anniversary Evan departed this life.  

Margot soldiers on.

Magot is not only active in her community's affairs, but she also devotes considerable time to her grandchildren and their children.  In a word, she is family oriented. Everybody loves Margot.  Yet she is as outspoken as ever.  One never wonders what Margot thinks of anything or anybody.  We have all come to accept that in her, and not only accept it, but admire it, too.  Lordy, how I wish I could be so forth-coming sometimes.  But while everyone thinks Margot is cute, and strong, and upright, if I were to respond to people or situations as she does, I would be labeled a cranky old man.

Margot celebrated her 85th birthday last week.  Some of her "girlfriends" got up a party and took her out on the town.  I guess it was something else; and since it was something else it is merely mentioned here in passing.  She dropped in on me recently in the company of her eldest daughter, Gwen.  We had a wonderful visit, rehashing old times, reliving the good old days and so on.

Over the third cup of tea I ventured to remind Margot that though we had some years on us we were both single now.

"Well," Margot said, "that's a good thing so far as I'm concerned.  That we are both single, I mean, and as for me, I intend to stay that way."

"But," said I, "I thought you and Evan had the perfect life together."

"Absolutely did," she said.  "And nobody else could ever match my Evan, and by nobody, I mean you."

"Oh, yes.  I am a nobody.  Perhaps that's why I thought we might be the perfect match."

It is the only time ever in my long acquaintance with Margot that I saw her at a loss for words, and Gwen, bless her heart, laughed out loud!

Friday, November 19, 2021

Virgil's Farm #T

 As Virgil picked up the pen with which to sign the papers the Rep for the developer said, "We'll go another mil for the five acres not included in these documents."

Virgil twirled the pen in his fingers, moved the Skoal a skotch farther back behind his lip. "With this thirty-five acres you will have the entire section but for only this five acres I'm holding.  My great great grandpa settled on this land, cleared 60 acres and lived out his life here.  My great grandpa cleared another 100 acres and lived out his life here.  Grandpa kept up the good work, opened more land, built bigger barns and lived out his life here.  My daddy finished clearing the section, worked himself into an early grave and passed it on to me.

"I've done well here, raised my family and was a faithful steward of this land.  None of my kids chose to follow in my footsteps and here I am selling out.  Selling out the sweat and dreams of four generations of God-fearing, hard working people.  Y'all don't have enough money to get this last five acres.  My home sits on this property.  I know you have big and glorious plans for turning this place into a place of commerce with a "planned community" and only the good Lord knows what all.

Now here's what I'm gonna do.  I am going to live out my days in that house whilst I watch your bulldozers 'n construction crews tearing up and paving over this paradise, putting in your strip mall and your signs will go up touting your hoity-toity development.  I don't know how much you will destroy, or as you see it, "improve" before I die, but I'ma tell you up front that even when I'm gone you won't get your greedy hands on this five acres.

I have already made arrangements and established a trust to provide for keeping the weeds down and the property mowed, so don't expect to have it condemned.  The taxes will be paid in perpetuity and the house and the equipment will sit right here, rust out and melt into the earth for all I care, but a sign and symbol forever that this place one time produced, produced, I tell you; fed people and meant something.  It will be a reminder that something precious and worthwhile was destroyed for the sake of. . . 

"For the sake of what, I dunno.  Have a good life."

Virgil scratched his signature seven times, put down the pen, arose from his chair and strolled out the door, the heels of his boots clacking loudly on the wooden floor.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

A Flashback and an Update

 I wrote the piece below three years ago.  Deja vu.  I made a similar trip today for a similar reason.  I attended the funeral of another dear friend and the trip home took me past the same scenery.  I had known Marcus since I was a teenager and asked him to serve as my best man when Frieda and I were married in 1955.  

Like my friend Howard, Marcus was born in 1932.  Like Howard, Marcus's love and service to the cause of Christ was unwavering and unquestioned. Over the course of his life he was variously a missionary, a preacher, and a teacher.  But above that he was a faithful and loving husband to Ruth and a loving and caring father to his children; and above it all he loved his Lord, Jesus the Christ.

As I drove past the little limestone house I wrote about below I was gratified to see that it has been redeemed-- someone with loving care has cleaned the yard of  overgrowth, has planted grass and landscaped nicely.  The trim has a new coat of paint, there are curtains in the windows, and there were lights on in the domicile!

Another mile and there stands School in a Soybean Field.  And it, too, has been redeemed!  It is now the home and worship center of Christ Covenant Orthodox Presbyterian Church which apparently serves its community well, for as I drove by I noted at least a dozen cars parked  in front, and this a Tuesday afternoon.

Thus here I have touched on three stories of redemption.  Marcus, whose Lord redeemed him to service; the old house which someone loved and invested in to bring back to use; and an old schoolhouse which has been rehabilitated by a congregation of worshipers.

These stories make my heart sing, for I, too, have been redeemed!

Marcus Phillippe  1932 - 2021  RIP

A Life Well-lived and A Mystery

Saturday morning I traveled to a city some fifty miles distant to attend the funeral of a very dear friend.  Although Howard was 86 years of age I cannot shake the feeling that he is gone too soon.  Good friends are all too few and they are leaving much too often these days.

I remarked to the grieving widow that Howard no doubt had more friends than anyone else I know for he worked at being a friend.  It was no surprise that friendship was a recurring theme of the memories-- that and Howard's unwavering love for Jesus and his desire that his friends would all come to know Him.

On the drive home I chose to take a route which I had driven day after day some six decades ago, for I lived in that town back then and drove twelve miles to work each day.   As I passed the little country church, three miles to go to reach the school where I had taught-- I started picturing the lay of the land as I had known it back then.  Coming up on the right and a mile before reaching the old school there would be the beautiful Bedford stone house which I had almost coveted in my youth.  What more could one want?  I thought it the epitome of design in residential structures and it was nearly new, having been built a mere half-dozen years before.   Abiding therein was a family who were patrons of the district, prosperous farmers, hard workers, who had two beautiful little flaxen-haired girls who attended our school.  Patty was in my homeroom, she as smart and capable and industrious as one might hope a sixth grade child to be.

There it is.  Same limestone house, same location.  And yet it looks so much smaller than I remembered it, possibly a thousand square feet, probably two bedrooms.  But that was not what most startled me.  The house was abandoned and clearly had been for some time.  The yard was overgrown not only with grass and weeds, but with scrub bushes. Sorry, bedraggled, and forgotten.

There on my left is the cemetery, then School in a Soybean Field apparently also deserted.  I drove on, pondering the fate of the inhabitants of the house I had once admired.  Why?  What happened? Where were those charming little girls now, little girls who would be in their sixties?  Things I'll never know.  The twists and turns that life takes are often imponderables in the broad scheme of things.

But I still wonder.

Howard Barefoot, 1932 - 2018  RIP

Monday, August 16, 2021

Conversations with Random People --29

 Perfect afternoon for a bicycle ride and I was taking full advantage of it.  Probably the longest ride I've had this year.  I happened upon a Ram truck with a trailer in tow pulled over to the curb.  Gentleman was checking the straps and ties that secured an old pickup truck weather-worn and from another automotive era.  I stopped.

"Nice set of old wheels," I remarked.

"I see you are a Ford man," the gentleman replied.

"Indeed, I had one much like that.  Mine was a '52."

"This one," he informed me, is a '46 or '47, not sure which."

In a flash and without thinking about it I said, "Forty-seven."

"You're probably right."

(You see, without bidding it to happen I was suddenly my thirteen-year old self who would have instantly known the distinctions between the two years even though I had certainly not thought about that in the past seventy years.)

So I deliberately turned my attention to the windshield.  Yep, flat one-piece.  Confirmation, for I was certain for no reason that I can pinpoint that the '46 still used the prewar two-piece windshield.

"Where did you find this one?" I asked.

"Here.  Well, locally.  Elwood, I think.  I am hauling it to Ohio for my brother."

"That's cool."

He pointed out a few features of the old truck, I told him a bit about the one I had.  He slyly drew attention to his tow vehicle, secretly hoping, I suspect, that I would admire it, and I did.

"Welp, I'd better get along," the man told me.  "Thanks for stopping and visiting with me!"

"My pleasure!  Be safe."

(And if you are wondering, yes, as soon as I got home I used the interwebby thing to look at the '46 and the '47. 

 '47, one-piece; '46, two-piece.)

My '52 nearing completion.

Saturday, August 14, 2021

Mid-America 47th Annual

 I made it to the Mid-America Threshing and Antique Tractor Show!  I look forward to this each August, make a sashay to the 4-H grounds, then it's over for another year.  For me.  There is yet one more day of festivities.

Things have been changed-up a good bit when compared to previous years, but the old machinery is still proudly presented.  As my bicycle and I arrived there was a on-grounds tractor parade in progress with announcer on PA identifying the machines and giving names of owners and operators.  I stopped and watched a few of them pass, then shot across the parade route and continued to the display of my beloved pop-and-spin engines.  Huge flaw.  I took several pictures but stupidly did so with the so-called smart phone and stupid me, I haven't yet mastered the simple task of transferring them to my blog.  Worse, all the shots I took were videos, unbeknownst to me, rather than stills.  The pictures I show here I took with the old reliable pocket Canon.

This combine was state-of-the-art when I was a young man. Today's combine could probably swallow this one up, chew it into bits and spit it out.

A major difference this year is that rather than displaying tractors in long, neat rows by make they were spread all over kingdom come with RV's interspersed here and there and kiddies playing in their "yards."  Also not only were people bringing their golf carts and zipping around, the promoters were providing carts for people who didn't bring their own.  A veritable battery powered rolling zoo to contend with.  I guess the thing has to move into the 21st century if it is to survive.

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

High School, Demerits, and Soapy Water

I do have a high school diploma and this is a tiny bit of what I endured to get it.

Deal was this: infraction of rules or annoying the Dean could result in the issuing of demerits which were prominently posted on the bulletin board in the hallway opposite the office.  Accumulation of 20 or more demerits resulted in the loss of "social privileges" and that was a big deal, because social life was severely restricted in the first place and loss of what few privileges there were available meant, well, isolation from any activity other than going to classes.  During my junior year the Dean issued me twenty-five demerits for a single and honestly my first infraction in over two years.

The Dean and the school he represented were wrong, too, but how foolish of me to try to re-argue the case seventy years after the fact.  Well, he had the strict letter of the law on his side. 

However there was an escape clause.  By putting in hours of labor on campus each hour would erase one demerit.  I worked in the kitchen scrubbing the CEILING with soapy water and scrub brush.  Picture the dripping down on my head and the water running down my arms.  And thus I worked exactly six hours thereby changing the posting in the hallway to "19 demerits" and there it stood for the balance of the school year.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021