Monday, March 31, 2014


In what may send my Northern readers running in madness, these pictures are of snowy Mercer County.  You will never quite understand my mellow joy in seeing it, walking in it, and falling in it.  My trip was intended to embrace the white stuff and in that regard I was successful.   

This picture is from Mark and Holly's side porch area looking over at Doug's and the corn field.  My truck resides up North to provide wheels when I visit and/or move back, which is probably dumb.  It is now 18 years old and just turned 100,000 miles.  Bet I can get another. 

Isn't that pretty?  Whites grays and hazy.  I can assure you there is none of that in Florida. 

Mark and Holly have a wonderful home with a great view from their screened-in porch which is visible to the right in this picture.  

I accompanied the Wombie on his daily rounds to check the water in Seaton and Joy.  These were taken on the outskirts of Seaton. 

Spots on the camera lens?

I wonder if animals get tired of being cold and walking through snow?

Nothing spectacular here today.  Only interesting if you haven't been around it for years.  Join us later for more posts from the trip up, but I can't guarantee that you won't see more snow. 

Friday, March 28, 2014

Flashback Friday

2014 is the 10th anniversary of my Summer of Dreams.  This was the summer I had off due to Early retirement from the Mary Davis Home and a series of trips I took that first summer on my bike.  
For the next few months Flashback Friday will focus on both of those events.  

And a gentle warning to my readers: "Time flies."

This was the motel I stopped on Day One of my trip to South Dakota on August 26, 2004.  This was in Winner after a good 12 hour ride.  What makes this especially interesting is that around this time I noticed the rear tire and saw that the tire was about bald.  Remember when taking a cross-country trip:  check the tires.     Grab the phone book and see that there is a Kawasaki shop in Winner, but after a call you find out they don't service motorcycles.  Expand your search.  Discover closest Kawi shop in Rapid City.  It is around 260 miles away.  Can I make it?  Panic starts to ferment in my head.

Either way, I am glad to be resting and start looking around for a place to eat.  I notice a restaurant across the street and have a great meal and a couple beers to ease the stresses of the travel.  A nice waitress and a couple real-life Indians and their girlfriends/wives in the place.  Winner is very much in Indian territory.  I chose my route to include Pine Ridge Reservation, the place of the Wounded Knee massacre.  Great roads, very little traffic,  nice scenery, and the homes indicative of Indian poverty, I can't wait till I travel this road again.  

Later that day, as the sun is setting and ready to go to bed, I took this picture of a fairly low point in the trip:  bad rear tire, and now rain.  Would I be stuck in rain the next morning?  Would I be stranded along the way, with no way to get a tire fixed in what is BFE, South Dakota?  These questions weigh heavily as I turn in for the day. 
As luck would have it, the new day dawned with just smattering rain the next day; nothing to prevent my progress. Yeah!  And I made it into Rapid City to get my tire fixed without mishap.  I guess it was one of those times when it proved the old adage that most things you worry about never happen.  Stay tuned, then for a summer-long revisit to my world in 2004.   

But at this moment when I took the picture, I was a thousand miles away from the only thing I'd known, work and Chambers Street, G-Burg.  The feeling of isolation, freedom, fear of the unknown, the need to figure it all out on your own, the challenge of riding a motorcycle itself can be daunting enough, let alone everything else.  It was something I had not felt before, and yet, I did it again this past summer.  "Never pass up the opportunity to travel…" said Dr. Richards from college a long time ago.  Well, I travelled 7000 miles from that bike that summer.  It was a summer to remember.  

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Seaton At Night

I enjoy the experimentation of taking night pictures.  I have had some moderate success with the St. Pete skyline and over at the Gulfport Pier.  So why not Seaton?  

I woke up early and climbed into a cold truck to drive the 10 miles South to capture a sleeping village, with very little change since I was a wee one running around as a kid there.  About a couple miles out i decided to try a "skyline" picture.  What I didn't count on was the crippling cold.   My tripod, which is essential for night shots, has a series of latches along the legs that you loosen and then snap shut to lock the legs in place.  As luck would have it, one of those latches snapped off due to the cold, thus rendering the tripod virtually useless.  Because of this the picture above, and below, sadly, are blurred.  Because I had to hold the camera rather than stabilize it with the tripod, the results are failed.    

Only slightly better than the first one, this picture is blurred.  The structure to the right are grain bins at the old Bertelson place.

Once in town I attached the camera to a fairly stable tripod (it now worked but was only a couple feet high) and had some better luck for all the trouble I went to this early morning.  Above, the old post office and a shed along main street.   

Further to the left on main street downtown is the restaurant, which was closed this week for vacation.

This strange blurred picture was the park area from in front of the bank.

Again, from in front of the bank looking north.

This is the old weigh house at the grain elevator my Dad had when we were growing up. I'd love to go inside and see and smell it again.  It is owned by the Carsons now and someday I may have an opportunity.  I wonder is the "November 6" calendar page my Dad tore out when the Wombie and I were born is still stapled above the front window?

This is a curve around the block where our house was in the East End.  It is down from the Seaton house.  Beyond the drift straight ahead was the old chicken coop we neighborhood kids used as a club house when we were kids.  What ever is that light to the right is, I have no idea; there isn't anything there.  Reflection from something?  Guess it will remain a mystery until I return and check it out.

This was the second turn in the block back when Dad would tie all of our sleds together and then take us for a ride with the truck.  If I remember correctly he would take it easy on the first curve at Rader's house so we (and he) could get a feel of the conditions, then he's rev it up more on this curve.  He wanted to give us a bit of a rush by getting up enough speed to make us swerve into virgin drifts on the side of the road.  And of course the tail sled always had a bit more swerve than the first two.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Icicle Cold

Second day trip around the Mercer County area.   

Of course, nothing here will astound anyone in the North.  This is what you guys have been seeing for the past five months, but for a winter-starved visitor from Florida, it was like catnip.  To those who have lived it this winter, my apologies for dredging up more white stuff, but for anyone in the South climes who have never seen it, like Norah, its a sight to behold.

I fear this is all for today, constitutions being the way they are for the sagging souls in Illinois.  The icicles were spied in Aledo between a couple buildings not far from the old Legends saloon.  As a side note, the snow was rather deep and as I was navigating the area to take these pictures, I fell down when I stepped on something slanted.  I'm sure it was funny to the 2 witnesses in the car, those who remained inside to keep warm.  But I got my shots.  

The other pictures were at the pump house on the east side of Seaton.  I have no idea what critter made the tracks but the first ones were larger than the skittering small ones underneath.    

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  Did you know that there are no snakes in New Zealand?  I knew I liked that place.

2.  My March Madness bracket is much like past years.  Decimated.  I don't follow basketball, pro or college, and it shows, but I still like to see how my guesswork does.

3.  Speaking of games of chance, my Illinois Millionaire Raffle ticket bombed out as well.  I'm feeling really lucky about Halloween, however. 

4.  Welcome to the South, Sutors.

5.  Not to get all X-Filey on you, but I saw this from a parking lot in St. Pete on Friday.  Any guesses as to what it is or how it was made?

It was a perfect circle with no entry or exit trails.  Tim suggested a sky writer.  I immediately thought of an alien ship using its cloaking devise.  OK, I guess I got all X-Filey on you.*

* I've never seen a single episode of X-Files.    

Monday, March 24, 2014

First Week

Back Home.  Are there any better words?  Well, yes, probably many, but given my set of circumstances this week, this is the best for me at the moment.  Landed back in Illinois in Mid-February, to see snow, weather, friends and family.

This is my first glimpse of snow in years.  At a rest stop somewhere in Illinois I took this picture.  Looks like this was a spot for dogs to do their thing.  But it sure looked good to me.

Having arrived in G-Burg, I went over to Pat's for the first couple nights.  I took this the first day back as I was touring the countryside out by Wataga to just soak it in.  Walked out into the field to get write this for anyone back in Florida paying attention.

After a couple days at Pat's I headed over to Mark and Holly's and joined them on their weekly trip to Beer Bellies.  That's Jason Claussen on the left, the Wombie in the middle, and, of course, yours truly.  Directly between me and Mark clear in the back playing the machine was Holly.  I am a bit taken back by the proliferation of real, honest to goodness betting parlor type machines everywhere.  They really pay off, too.  I guess I was unaware that Illinois had eased betting restrictions.  The Wombie said the Country Club is also installing some.  Gee, I leave the state and the place gets fun.  

In the picture above the three stooges here, is a panorama of Beer Bellies.  The fellow leaning back is a fellow named Dave Olson, a Mercer County treasure.  Sitting next to him facing us is Danny Lee, a gentleman of equal wit and kindness.

Mark and Holly don't have Wi-Fi so my place to get caught up was McDonald's.  I was sitting with my head buried in the machine when I noticed an employee come out and take a picture.  When I turned around I saw why.  Beautiful, isn't it?  

Friday, March 21, 2014

Flashback Friday

The memories get a little foggy when the sources of information are no longer around and you rely on things you think you know.  That is a tortured way of saying I don't recall the story of this picture.  I do remember some of Marj's relatives from Adair.  Adair is south of Bushnell and east of Macomb.  They had this neat farm and this old old car.  Phil is just a year and a half years old and the twins are no more than maybe 6 months old.  

As for the car, I have no idea what it is; it is more horseless carriage than car.  It appears to be licensed so I think it was probably in running condition perhaps for parades.  I have no idea who the people were or what happened to the car but it wasn't a place we went to often.  Perhaps the Wombie will have more info. 

This is a similar pose taken in Quincy at Marj's parents house.  We are older than the picture above, with Phil in the middle and the twins being held captive by the folks.  In the background is a nice Ford or Mercury.  Quincy was always a fun trip with fun grandparents ready to sweep us into nice and loving hugs.   Back in those days Quincy was a virtual playground of things to do for fun.  They had a type of overhead tram system and we'd take rides in it.  

Old postcards of the Sky Ride in Quincy.

Also they had a minor league team called the Quincy Gems and we'd go to their games.  One time we had lots of autographs from their players on a scorecard.  Sure wish we had that old thing; it would have been fun to see whose autographs we got and whether or not any of them ever made it.  

The last time I was in Quincy was around 2000 or 2001 to see Dr. William Glasser, the founder and inventor of the counseling technique Reality Therapy which the Mary Davis Home used on our clients.  He was in town to do a kind of auditorium give-and- take. 

Before the meeting, though, I made sure I had time to visit the two houses my grandparents lived in while there.  One was on Sycamore Street and the other was right next to the high school.  My grandfather used to hide in the garage of that house and throw firecrackers at kids walking to school, if he thought they were going too slow.  

The houses now look different, of course, as one would expect.  I tried putting on my 12 year old eyes and mind to picture them as I remembered, but it was too long ago and my mind doesn't think that way anymore.  Quincy was a long trip back then.  No decent or fast way to get there, it sure seemed like a long trip for us kids.  I'm sure I mentioned it before but my grandmother would fix custard bowls for us for the trip back when we were kids.  Who does that stuff anymore.  Maybe Doritos nowadays, but back then it was a grandmother's way of making a trip more enjoyable for us.   My grandmother from Quincy was the first person who died in our family.  We were just kids and that was a long time ago.  She still lives in my memory.  And I can still smell those custard bowls. 

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Trip Up

I hitched a ride with JC who was down from G-Burg visiting her daughters in January.  JC is a former co-worker at Blick and has an old car so we ahem known each over a while.  She appreciated the company and help driving so we took off around 10:30 from St. Petersburg for a 2 day trip up to the wintry cold Illinois.  At my age I don't get real excited over things anymore, but this was a lot of fun and I generally kept it from people up there.  An added bonus was JC's willingness to navigate the big cities.    

This is Joey.  Joey is a 13 year old Chihuahua JC adopted when its previous owner dropped it off at the vet's requesting they put it down since they no longer could care for it.  It was my lap partner for the first few hours through Atlanta.  I don't like little skittish yappers, but as little skittish yappers it was a little skittish yapper.

Like most little yappers, this one seems to have anxiety issues when not with their owners.  Needy, constantly shaking, and hardly dog-like, Joey does have redeeming features: what appears to be an oversized disproportionate male member and it doesn't bark a lot.

This was an interesting front somewhere in Georgia.  

At a rest stop I noticed the "Dog Walk" sign directing them over to a yellow sign which read...

…something having to do with poisonous snakes.  Yikes!  "Hey Joey, let's take a walk, big boy."

This old abandoned building was once the home of Queen's in Clarksville, Tennessee.  It was just across the lot from where I stayed at the Super 8 for the night.  Queen's holds a great deal of sentimental memories for myself and the family.  Perhaps none more than for Brendan.  

We stopped here one time while staying at nearby Days Inn for one of our trips to see Brendan while he was stationed here with the Screaming Eagles.  It was a restaurant with a nice deck out front.  We all went there one summer night and were wined an dined by the Asian couple who owned it.  The food was excellent, the service top-notch and the owners certainly did everything they could to make for a memorable evening.  

Upstairs was a billiards room and more seating downstairs.  Brendan and his Army buddies would later come here and drop tons of money and stay all night.  It became their hangout and a nice bond developed between the the owners and the Army guys.  On subsequent trips down we were saddened by a "Closed" sign.  Wherever they are, I hope the guys who ran it are doing well, they know a lot about hospitality.  They set a standard for hosting that has rarely been reached since.  

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Gulfport Car Show

On a somewhat cool and rainy Saturday recently in Gulfport, local old car owners gathered for a show.  I caught it late in the day as the awards were being announced, but even on a nasty day there were a few interesting cars to gave upon.  Most were in very nice condition, others not so much.

The first one of note was this 1965 Imperial.  I happen to like Imperials and have owned one in the past and would like another someday, but no this one.  Firstly, it was repainted an ungodly and even for their standards an un-Chrysler pink that was most certainly not one offer in 1965, particularly for the high-cost Imperials.

This is a nice 1965 Plymouth Barracuda.  It looks to be almost stock (my favorite type of old car) except for the mag wheel treatment.

This is a great looking '63 Mercury Comet convertible. 

El Camino's never thrilled me so I skipped right by that car/truck and focused on a nice looking 1960 AMC Custom.  

A Ford Galaxie and Packard with matching yellow paint, and both convertible were a nice draw. 

A fantastic 68 GTO convertible.  This was the year almost all makers started using the hidden headlight, but it wouldn't survive but a few years before they all became exposed again.

A nice looking 1968 Dodge Coronet.  I wonder if that is a stock paint job or gussied up custom job by a previous owner.

Finally I want o talk about that pink Imperial again.  In 1963 Chrysler put a pentagram on all their products on the lower right hand side.  Miss Frump has one.  Technically, Chrysler called it the fratzog.  Look, if you are going to paint a nice old car, mask it, take off the chrome pieces and for God's sake, don't paint over the fratzog! 

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Tuesday Tidbits

1.  Last Sunday (March 9th) Richard Barton from Burgess spent the day at Shawshank.  His wife, Andrea, had given him a plane ticket to see some friends in Bradenton for his birthday for the weekend.  Always fun to be around Richard who has never known a pregnant pause.  We started with cigars and beer in the garage and ended in the porch, still drinking, and talking about everything.  An IHOP breakfast in the early morning, and off to the airport at 6:00 am.  Thanks Andrea for putting Shawshank on the itinerary, and thanks Richard for making the day so much fun.   

2.   Tax time is no fun, but TurboTax makes it a little easier.

3.  I applied to be an usher at the Tampa Bay Ray's baseball games.  Alas, I was not selected.  Guess I'll have to pay to watch the games like everyone else.  From now on, I'm going to be a high school graduate (and maybe not even that), and no more, on my applications. 

4.  Summer is returning to Florida.  Now we have hot days and cool nights.  Soon it will be hot all the time.

5.  Went to check out a little Pointer at the dog pound.  It turned out to be a yapper.  One of these days I'm going to pull the trigger on something not allowed at Shawshank, then we'll see what happens.

6.  One of the things Pat and I did when I stayed at her place last month was to have hot chocolate in her Keurig.  And a nice big fat marshmallow.  Guess who got one last week?  I wonder how that will taste when I'm dripping from sweat in the porch in June? 

7.  Contract expired with Verizon so upgraded to new iPhone and reduced my bill by $30.00.  I wonder how that happened? 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Danny Boy


Before Anthony Kearns starts his rendition of Danny Boy he has a short preamble about Ireland being a "rich and rare land, a fresh and fair land, and a dear and rare land, this land of mine." Ah, what is more natural than Danny Boy and Ireland?  It is like vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup - and perfect harmony of taste and sound.   

Today is St. Patricks Day, another one of those must-drink days that starts with anticipation, and likely ending hugging what we used to refer to back in the MDH days, as the "pink pagoda."  That was the color of the staff bathroom stool and sink.  

All across the world, in pubs big and small, amid clanking glassware filled with ale,  the Irish, the perceived Irish, and those wanting to be will probably at some point hear the national song of love and loss.  

There are few specific memories of St. Pats Day for me.  About all that comes to mind is to get my Illinois Millionionaire Raffle they sell up to today with about 4 new millionaires the next morning.  Another is of my old friend, Mike Johnson, who found me sitting on a barstool in downtown G-Burg a couple days before St. Pats Day and we had a few and even bought one of those green charity shamrocks where you sign you name and they post them on a wall.  

Mike wouldn't make it to St. Pat's Day that year.  He died on the road in Chicago suddenly and unexpectedly.  One doesn't get a chance to have many great friends in life, he was one of mine for a while.  I went in to the bar a few days after and got his shamrock and have it still.    


So Danny Boy is sung by all the greats and by all the schools and has that endlessly perfect combination of sadness and lilting lyrics that evokes longing for those who we have lost.  After all the gaiety of a nights drinking with old and new friends it is the song that is sung last, as a kind of hymn to the state of the human condition - we all say goodbye and we all miss those who leave.  

Oh, Danny Boy, the pipes the pipes are calling
From glen to glen, and down the mountain side,
The summer's gone, and all the roses falling,
It's you, it's you must go and I must bide.

But come ye back when summer's in the meadow,
Or when the valley's hushed and white with snow,
And I'll be here in sunshine or in shadow, 
Oh Danny Boy, oh Danny Boy I love you so.

But when ye come, and all the flowers are dying,
If I am dead, as dead I well may be,
Ye'll come and find the place where I am lying,
And kneel and say an Ave there for me;

And I shall hear, though soft you tread above me,
And all my grave will warmer, sweeter be,
For you will bend and tell me that you love me,
And I shall sleep in peace until you come to me!


This year marks the 101st anniversary of its creation and what is remarkable is that it was not written by an Irishman.  It was penned by Englishman Fred Weatherly who was a prolific songwriter and attorney.  He had never been to Ireland and was of the stodgy upper crust variety.  So how could it be that this tune would immediately take off for the Irish?  In a year soldiers would be saying goodbye forever and trundle off to Europe to partake in World War I, and the Irish immigration to America would commence and form a kind of dual "sadness" that affected all of England and Ireland.   


So today I will be thinking of Mike and of other personal goodbyes and farewells: of Uncle Ed, the folks, MDH, Illinois and BFE; of Missy and my life's summer.  

And then I'll open a cold one, smile at my good fortune for having had these great things, and wait to see if I won the Millionaire raffle.    

Friday, March 14, 2014

Flashback Friday

This is a picture of one of the Blythe twins laying a kiss on neighbor Barb Seaton.  I wish I could tell you which one, but either I have long forgotten or I simply didn't feel the electricity of the moment. Staged?  Probably.  But both seem to be willing participants.  Regardless, PDA ain't something' this twin does.

That big old house in the back is the old McPheeter's place.   A couple of families lived there while we were growing up, but it was always a bit creepy (as were the families), and eventually was torn down to make room for Ila Mae Keilman's new house.  In fact that whole lot was about empty except for the McKelvie's, Rader's, and then our new house we built.  Now, besides the one I just mentioned, there are the Hall's, Buster Board's place,  and the Rowland home.  The trees you see in the back ground are all gone and the whole block is developed.   

I'm certain Marj told us not to go over to that big spooky house, even when there were people living there.  I can remember a girl who lived there who was quite a bit older than the Wombie and I and she seemed a bit on the weird side.  Her last name seemed to fit with their weirdness, too.  They weren't there long and then the place was empty again, and soon, it was gone forever.

Where we lived was referred to as the East End.  If there was ever anything resembling "new development" in Seaton it was here.   Evelyn and Newton Fry lived at the end of the block in a small older place.  I ran away from home once and that's as far as I got.  I got an old stick of some sort, and tied a bandanna on the end with whatever I thought was important to have, and like some hobo walked the 100 yards down to their place and asked if I could stay.  Evelyn plied me with cookies and milk and soon, Marj arrived to fetch me home.  

The East End was a pretty neat place to grow up.  There were plenty of Seaton and Kingry kids to keep us company.  The Seatons had a barn at their place with a horse and we'd go over and take rides or just lounge in the place.  Haven't been on a horse since.  The barn is still there, too.  They also had a small shed in their back yard and we played "Olly Oxen Free" or some type of variation.  During the summers we would camp out, and once in a while we'd set up a lemonade stand. 

The large lot that was next to our place and Arminta's became an all purpose field hosting baseball and football games.  We only needed three to play baseball: pitcher, catcher and outfielder.   For our football games sometimes we'd field full teams with kids from all over town and a few imports from Aledo.  

Drive through the East End now and you'll find a mix of newer homes (newer meaning 40 years old) and the older ones that were here before they developed the block.  Its getting harder to remember when that old McPheeter's place was still there and all those old trees were standing vigil.  Its also getting harder to remember when I could steal a kiss.