I kinda wish I'd been here to see what went down. It's a fresh sign.
The laundromat if you will. But it's evidently not just for washing clothing.
The Management has had just about enough of this kind of thing.
I kinda wish I'd been here to see what went down. It's a fresh sign.
The Would-Be Farm has had a wet 2021 summer. The grass grows like weeds. The weeds grow even faster. But the flowers have been pretty glorious, honestly.
Last year, my long-suffering sister agreed to start some of my eccentric seed choices. In March, when gardeners in the North Country begin to stare longingly at anything green in hopes that it might be alive, grow-table real estate is valuable. It was a generous offer.
So I sent packets of ground cherry seeds, monarda seeds, borage seeds with my hope.
The ground cherries refused en mass to start, and the borage, once started, too closely resembled a weed and in June was twice accidentally whacked and gave in to entropy without fuss.
But monarda –– monarda was the standout: each seed sprouted and refused to be cowed by last summer's drought.
Back in April in that first plague year, under the grow-lights, my sister sister looked at the monarda starts with suspicion. "Are these," she asked me dubiously, "bee-balm?"
Me, consulting the inter webs: Um, yes.
No wonder these seeds had sprouted: the stuff had taken over a whole corner of her flower-garden. I could have as much as I like yanked out of her garden. For crying out loud.
Sure enough. Those wee four-leafed starters from last year turned into thigh-high big bursts of vivid color: clear red, pink, deep fuschia. The scent is a bit like oregano, strong and –– allegedly –– unappealing to some of the hungry natives of the Would-Be.
I don't know if deer and rabbits and porcupine and woodchucks and all will continue to avoid the plantings. It's all one big experiment. I've put tasty fruit trees in the midst of all that color, hiding them among the strong scent and bright color until they are tall enough to avoid the predators themselves.
Meanwhile, call them bee balm or Monarda, them what you will, the flowerbeds are hugely popular with the pollinators
We'll see if they take over the orchard. We'll see if they protect fruit trees. Knock wood, we'll see.
At the Would-Be Farm, the summertime nights are short but punctuated –– irregularly and ungrammatically punctuated –– by wild animals. My dreams are interrupted by the exclamation marks of heavy-footed porcupines, chittering raccoons, and the noisiest of mice stomping around the wide porch of the cabin.
A light sleeper, I become the Defender of the Castle, flinging off the covers and springing into action during these nighttime ellipses.
Mice are incorrigible. The original honey-badgers, they do not care, noisily scrabbling around for the possibly imaginary crumb of food at the bottom of the toolbox on the porch.
Despite my shouting and rattling of their hiding place, they go back to rustling and loudly chewing –– through anything –– until temptation is removed from their reach.
Giving my drowsing spouse the usual warning, ("Sorry babe, I am going to make noise."), I leaped up and hustled over to the door.
I threw open the door, and launched into the lecture I have prepared for the raccoons –– it starts "You need to think about the consequences of your actions!" and goes on, angry dadwise, in a crescendo that often includes the phrase, "Is this a good use of your time and energy? Really?" and so on –– when I saw my intruder.
Mr. Linton heard something like: "You need to think a–– It's a f@#ing BEAR!"
I slammed the door, flicked the deadbolt, and hurled myself back into bed, my heart pounding. Mr. Linton settled the covers over us both and said, "Well, that's one way to get your heart going."
PS: this was a relatively small bear, probably 150 lbs worth of youngster spending its first summer without Mom's supervision.
Though it resembled a burly dog, its movement was unmistakably bearish –– that flat-footed gait setting its curvaceous badonkabonk a-jiggling.
The previous morning, this fool bear (or one just like it) had been chased out of the back of the neighbors' car, whither it had been tempted by a broken window and a wealth of fast-foot packaging. Like dogs, bears must love having toddlers around.
A bit of research reveals that black bears –– who were alive in the time of dire wolves and sabertooth tigers and American cave lions –– usually take the prudent course of running away to fight another day rather than standing toe-to-toe with aggression.
The strategy probably served them well, because black bears are still roaming while most other megafauna are fossils. Of course polar bears and brown bears also survived the last Ice Age, and they are not shrinking violets, so it's a theory for why black bears tend to run away when you make noise at them.
Not to say that black bear are not dangerous. One or so people are killed in North America each year by wild black bear. If not the cardiac shock of finding one on the porch of a morning.
Most Important Reference: –– How to avoid being attacked by a bear:
For a couple of months when I was in fifth grade, one of the neighboring horses escaped its field. Even then, the neatly fenced landscape of small dairy farms was sliding away from cultivation. It was possible for a large hoofed mammal like a runaway horse to make itself scarce amidst the uncut brush. It set my imagination on fire.
* To break the rational universe, yes, the happiest of all combinations in the English language would be the impossible pairing of "free" + "ponies."
But don't be a fool, man, the space-time continuum can't bear the strain...
Lucky reader, we have NOT world enough or time. But as my skipper recently remarked, "You can take the girl away from the horses, but you can't take the horse out of the girl.
We were heading down to the river to do some paddling and fishing, four of us convoying our kayaks along a remote stretch of private dirt road when, like a big blue bird of happiness finally coming home to roost, abracadabra! A pony!
As someone in a dream, I fed my prize a nibble of apple and rubbed her ears. I whipped up a serviceable halter from the bow line of my sister's kayak and dropped it over the pony's head and commenced the long walk to the Would-Be Farm.
My fishing companions had a variety of reactions. The retired state cop, visibly relieved at someone taking action, drove off saying he'd phone in the missing pony.
My sister echoed my exclamations of "A PONY!" and took photos.
My sweet spouse suggested that I didn't need to move the animal anywhere. He left the second half of the sentence, "let alone bring it home" unspoken.
Do I need mention that it began to rain? Or that, once at the Would-Be Farm, the pony ate a snack of grits, drank a bucket of water, took a vigorous roll on the newly cut grass, and trotted off in the direction of the wild back half of the Farm.
The first rule of farming? Right after "If you have livestock, you'll have dead stock," is "Fences first."
There is no comfortable spot to stow a beast of burden at present at the Farm. I found a longer bit of line and made a more secure halter, and when the pony trotted back –– and toward the road –– I recaptured her.
Making sure she was familiar to the limits of being tied (she had showed a great deal of sensibility and calm on our long walk), I anchored her to a handy tree and ate a belated lunch.
The consequences of my actions tossed her sweet head and snorted impatiently. She got a hoof over the line and stood balanced on three until I put down my lunch and rescued her.
She snorted and backed with zero dignity into the tenting platform so that she could rub her butt against the edge of the deck.
She took a bite of the evergreen and theatrically rejected it, tossing her thick mane and blowing flecks of green around. She was bored, bored, bored!
It entertaining program, but not a sustainable one.
I laid the options out to my favorite skipper: "One of us will have to drive up the road and ask a neighbor with a corral if we can put the pony there. The other will have to stay and hold the pony's lead." Into the considering silence, I added, "Which one do you want least?"
He elected to hold the pony. The man surprises me. I gave him a pointer or two –– he generally dislikes the whole family of Equus –– and dashed off.
Luckily, there's a messy farmstead up the way with a handful of cattle and horses, plus chickens, and as it turned out, eight sheepdogs. Beware the dogs indeed. Standing on the running board, I asked the woman who emerged from the scrum of dogs, "Hey, have you by chance lost a pony?"
She was standing a couple of yards away from the fence inside which a variety of horses and ponies and cows were calmly eating hay. She gestured over her shoulder and said, "Honestly, I don't know. These are my husband's horses."
I thought: and THERE is a successful marriage.
I told her about my wild pony, and she said, "Hmmm, my father-in-law lost a pony last summer." (The youthful horse-crazy kid in me silently fist-pumped at this additional proof that wild pony herds are possible).
Then she said she'd better come take a picture and text it in case it was one of her father-in-law's.
Yes. It was one of the father-in-law's bunch of horses, she told me. Name of Daisy. "She's a wanderer," my neighbor said, "Though usually she stays on the other side of the river. It's a long way to walk."
We chatted a bit, and then my neighbor led Daisy away. "I'll bring the rope back," she said.
I sighed and then said to Mr. Linton, "So, you remember that time we went fishing and I caught a wild pony?"
The triumph of love over barricades and differences: it's such a good story. Especially combined with the romance of the North American Frontier...
But so rare. So rarely true.
I'm not the only one who thought that great-great-something gram was a Native American. I was told so, and the folks who told me believed it. Plus, in that one photo of her at umpteenty-seven, she was tiny, and dark, and those high cheekbones...
But DNA doesn't lie. And a paper trail (or the electronic ghost of paper), which would reveal the story as it happened at the time, also fails to show an indigenous connection among my forebears.
That little old lady in the photo? I can trace her parentage three generations back and they all document as garden-variety English settlers who farmed that corner of Appalachia. Some lived in Cherokee, NC, so there's that, but alas, no Indian princess for me.
*Yes, this title is a shout-out to the genealogy shows (one in the UK, one here in the US) of the same name.
My Grampa Navy -–– called for his career –– had two brothers who died young. One was a handsome rogue, killed, as the story goes, in a bar brawl over somebody else's wife.
The other brother was a hero, a fighter-pilot who died during WWII when his plane crashed over the Everglades.
I have no reason to doubt that Grampa Navy told the truth, or that Mumsie and her sister remembered the family histories any differently than they were told, but it's the nature of stories to evolve.
The name of Grampa Navy's grandmother, Hepsie Vaughter, as case in point. So researching the genealogy, I took both brothers' stories with a grain of salt.
Focusing on Uncle Buck, the nice brother (how very East of Eden that seems), I searched for his fighter pilot records on Ancestry, the National Personnel Records Service, the National Archives, Folds5, casualty lists, et cetera, all to no avail.
Of course I only knew that he was likely born in Tennessee or Georgia, sometime around 1910. That his name was really George. I knew his parents' names and those of his brothers. But George Wheeler is a common name.
So I went to the basics: the census. Grampa Navy was born near Copperhill, Tennessee. His father was born in Ducktown, Tennessee and worked the Burra Burra Mine as an acid man. (Dang!)
My sister and Mumsie stopped by Copperhill to visit kin on their way south in the 1980's.
Sarah said the place was dire: the hill of copper laid open by mining, the land as barren and dead as the surface of the moon, effluent pumping through those hollers, cars abandoned in weedy front yards.
Decades later, the whole area was transformed for the Olympic Games, the river channeled and remodeled into a kayaking and canoe course, and the mine terraformed back into something human-scaled.
All of which explains why Grampa Navy and his family moved to Miami. I only knew it happened when he was fairly young, and sure enough, there they are.
The little family of five sprawling across two pages of the US Census of 1930 1930: Dad a construction worker, Mom at home, George –– Uncle Buck! –– a truck driver at 20, son Ed (teen Grampa Navy!) a 17-year-old theatre usher, and 13-year-old future no-goodnik Dennis not employed.
With these birthdates and places of birth for both Grampa Navy's brothers, Ancestry.com. led me to Uncle Buck's 1934 marriage to Ina Pearl. Otherwise known as Aunt Betty, for which we can't blame her. In Mumsie's version, anyhow, she was Betty by nature, Betty by name.
And there the trail went cold for me. The mystery of Uncle Buck's death remained unsolved (or at least undocumented) for years. In a 1938 city directory, he's selling insurance, living in what later became Little Havana.
In the 1940 census, he and Betty are still in Miami. He's a tire service man, and they have Betty's 10-year-old niece Nina, plus a boarder, Orban Strickland, living with them. Looking at the handwriting, I speculate whether Orban is related to neighbor Hokes Stickland, a neighbor.
The censuses (I pause here to look up how to correctly spell more than one census. Censuses it is, but censusses is also acceptable, as is a plural census) from after 1940 have not yet been made public, so I needed to seek elsewhere for intel.
Opinion among my elders varied, but they thought Uncle Buck's plane went down in 1944.
I kept poking at the question and –– thank you Dawn N for the assist –– Newspapers.com eventually turned up the goods.
A later article in the Miami News corrected the location of the plane crash to Melbourne Florida rather than Melbourne Australia. It's an understandable mistake, especially as the crash occurred during the height of the Guadalcanal Campaign in the Solomon Islands on the other side of the world. Plus, it was a Miami paper, so Melbourne might have seemed veritable Antipodes.
I'm satisfied. I'll call Uncle Buck, a Naval airman, a war hero. I don't know his rank yet, but I don't believe he was at the wheel. Melbourne, Florida, by the way, is located north of Miami on the east coast of Florida, not very close to the Everglades, but it's at least the same state as the family legend. It might even count as the Bermuda Triangle.
There's so much left untold from the paper record. It's interesting to note that Hokes Strickland, his former neighbor, is among the pallbearers. I consider Aunt Betty, so cheerful in these sepia toned images with her young husband, widowed at 34. The good news is that after the war, she married again and is carried away by the tides of time.
Memorial Day Update May 2021
Thanks to alert reader, Ken H., I got hold of the official Navy accident report.
A training flight out of the Banana River Naval base (we race our sailboat on that section of the river each December!) crashed on landing after the failure of an engine. Five survivors, seven fatalities. The survivors paddled to shore in an inflatable lifeboat.
As I read it, G.R. Wheeler, Uncle Buck, was not the pilot. He's listed as an "AS," an aviation equipment specialist, acting as "NFO" a naval flight officer on the plane. An NFO, as the inter webs inform, was often a specialist in a weapons or sensor system. A tragic accident, but still, as Guy, the nice guy at accident-report.com said, they gave their all, which makes them heroes.
Oh glory! Back in 2019, my sweet mother-in-law Pat and I spent a delightful weekend planting jonquil bulbs.
*Little known fact: Squirrels cherish lofty landscape architecture ambitions. Unsupported by taste or formal learning, but marked by passion and energy.
And then the waiting begins. A winter passes. The first spring arrives, and the bulbs do their job, transforming stored potential energy into cheer.
Any chunky little bit of starch can tide a body through a season. No judgement. We've all been there. Anyhow, the real test of the bulb comes after a full year.
Has the little bulb put down roots? Have the squirrels decided to remodel the bed of flowers?
So this spring? Hurrah.
The bulbs have mostly flourished, putting up multiple stalks and lovely flowers.
In the nature of gardening nature, however, I find myself perusing those colorful catalogues for just a feeeeew more.
Like everybody's Uncle Ernie, I bring you... a slide show.
By our unscientific counting, we are guessing that we have more bobcat and fewer coyote snaps than usual. Only the one bear, but honestly, who needs more than the one? Plus, my personal weakness: a nice-looking free-range peep.
As a green lass, I also read A.E. Housman's The Loveliest of Trees.
It's got the virtue of being short to balance against its general gloom and the inherent math problem of "threescore and ten."
For those of us who don't calculate in base score, "threescore and ten" means 70, the average span of human life.
His point is that 50 springs is not enough, no matter how you slice it. Preach it, brother.
I've over-ordered spring plantings, I've pack-ratted a mound of supplies, and as soon as I manage my second vaccination shot, we are heading to the Would-Be Farm.
Because it's April. Already!
Every few years, somebody casts off a perfectly nice dock, heads out onto the bounding main, and breaks the record for exceptional adventuring.
Among ocean-goers, minimalism makes the record: go small, go solo, go alternately powered. For instance, the Norwegian-American fellas who rowed from Manhattan to the Scilly islands in 1896, and then, just 'cause, they continued rowing their 18-foot clinker-built oak open skiff to Le Havre, France. (George Harbo and Frank Samuelson were Jersey clamming buddies, and their 55-day record stands still for two guys rowing.)
The 13.5-foot long Tinkerbelle sailed across the Atlantic in the mid-1960's (78 days of salty solitary, chronicled in a book entitled, helpfully, Tinkerbelle, the Story of the Smallest Boat Ever to Cross the Atlantic Nonstop.)
Then there's Father's Day, a boat only 5'4" long, which made the crossing from Newfoundland to Falmouth in 1993. The boat has an uncanny resemblance –– to my way of looking –– to a large Igloo® cooler. That sailor famously was nearly unable to walk after his 105-day crouch.
It's my nature to draw parallels. A good metaphor makes me unaccountably joyful, much like cash found in the street.
So when Jeff reverse jack-in-the-boxes into his 2.4 Meter, I think, "Does it look as if he is sailing his own boot?"
Giving the boat a titanic boost off the dock, I wonder, "Is that what Paul Bunyan would look like if he traded Babe for Courageous?"
I almost think we saw models at the New York Yacht Club that dwarf the 2.4.
But as we say of one-design racing, if all your friends are racing turtles, race a turtle. Or in this case, race an HO-scale turtle.
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