Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sunday Ride

Sunday afternoon THE BOSS loaded me, Small Red Horse, her sister Pat and Pat’s husband, Fish Hook, up in Godzilla and we went for a ride.


THE BOSS telling me, Fish Hook and Small Red Horse to get in, buckle up, shut up and hang on. She means it, too.


Any questions?

That’s THE BOSS’s sister, Pat, on the other side, hiding from the camera. I refer to these two, a pair of cradle robbers (for you youngsters that’s what we old geezers call cougars) originally from Ivanhoe, Virginia, as The Ivanhoe Wrecking Crew. I’m younger than THE BOSS and Fish Hook is younger than Pat. Our daughter Laura was inducted into the crew while she was still a toddler and is following in the sisters’ footsteps. Her boyfriend, John, is not only from Ivanhoe, he’s also younger than she is.


It was a gorgeous day, mild with a light breeze and perfect for a ride with the windows down and the fresh air streaming in. I love the way the cloud shadows march across the landscape.


Small Red Horse taking Fish Hook for a walk at the Fries dam. Sort of reminds me of the old Dick and Jane primers; Look, Hook. See the trees? Run, Hook, run! See Buddy pee.

Fries isn’t pronounced the way you’d think; like the potatoes you get at Mickey D’s. It’s pronounced freeze as in what will happen to your hind parts if you don’t dress warmly enough when Old Man Winter sends his icy breath howling down the river valley.


At one time there was a textile mill located just past the red brick building at left, above. That building was the power house for the mill. Fish Hook and his BOSS both worked there several years ago.


These old spill gates were used to control water flow from New River into the power house which produced electrical power for the old mill. The sign reads “DANGER DAM AHEAD”. The dam is about 6 feet past the corner of the wall.


The power house dam on New River at Fries, Virginia. I’ll have to go back to get a shot of the face of the dam because construction at the old mill site made access to that area, the best place to photograph the dam, impossible.


One of the reasons for this trip was to try and locate the grave site of one of Pat and Frankie’s relatives who passed away when they were young girls. They think they may have found it but a little more research into cemeteries in the Fries area and quite possibly a return will be needed to confirm their discovery.


There is a good possibility that I will suffer extreme physical violence for posting this photo.The only things preventing my doing so are fear and common sense. As you can see, I am not overburdened with either. It was quite breezy and Pat knew full well that I would have at least one camera with me (I had two and Fish Hook had one, as well). She should have followed her sister’s example and worn a hat.


Small Red Horse taking Fish Hook for a walk in the Methodist Cemetery.


Did I mention that it was a gorgeous day? As you can see, there is good reason for these old mountains to be known as the Blue Ridge.

Well, this isn’t getting the lawn mowed so time to get off the laptop and on the Dandelion Destroyer for a tour around the estate, all the while waving with one finger at the jerk across the street. The last time I mowed he sent his wife over to accuse me of shooting a rock out of the mower, putting a hole in the siding on the house. When I pointed out that I had mowed the entire yard with the finish mower, which is a mulching mower and does not have a discharge chute, she decided it must have been the kid next door.

If the jerk has anything to say this time he just might get hit with a rock……. a hand delivered rock………

wrist rocket

…….THE BOSS won’t let me use her Wrist Rocket.

$(KGrHqJ,!hYE4 SOmuP BOQpMgnQQQ~~0_1

NOTE: this is not the real Dandelion Destroyer but a reasonable facsimile shamelessly cut and pasted from the web. I freely admit this blatant plagiarism, as well as the Wrist Rocket image, and will be available for punishment Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays from 9:00 to 11:00 AM Eastern Standard Time. Please bring your own whips and chains, wear thigh high spike heeled boots, leather bustier and feather boa……except for you, Joe. I’ve a feeling you look terrible in a boa.

Monday, August 29, 2011

After the Storm

My mom, two brothers and one sister in Virginia Beach came through Hurricane Irene in good shape. Mom had no damage to her home and has a portable generator powering her refrigerator, freezer and TV until utility crews restore power to her neighborhood. I guess I can’t joke my youngest brother about watching TV by candle light because he probably is!

Hatteras Island cut off when N.C. 12 is washed out - It never fails; people ignore evacuation orders then expect others to feel sorry for them when they become stranded.

Power slowly being restored to 569,000 in Va. – As of last night my Mom has a generator powering her refrigerator, freezer and one TV.

Virginia consumer hotline goes 24-7 for Irene complaints – After any tragedy there will always be a flock of vultures looking to prey upon the unwary.

Hurricane Irene doesn't put out Great Dismal Swamp fire – Smoke from this thing which was started by a lightning strike a couple weeks before the hurricane rolled in has been causing problems as far as 200 miles away. We’re hoping it’s under control by the middle of next month or my asthma may put our plans to visit Mom for her birthday on hold.

Virginia Beach restaurant destroyed by morning fireThis restaurant in directly behind the house across the street from mom’s house. When I talked to my brother around 8:00 last night he said utility crews restoring power after the storm were working their way towards Mom’s neighborhood and the lights were already back on in businesses 4 blocks east of her house. I wonder if something went wrong in this building when power was restored.

Ill-fated sailboat is a tourist attraction in Ocean View - Lesson learned; a sailboat is not the best choice for an escape vehicle when a hurricane is only one day from landfall.

What a contrast! The only impact Hurricane Irene had on us, here on the other side of the state, was a few stray rain drops, cloudy skies and a stiff breeze!

As I type this I have the TV on, tuned to CNN for background noise. One of the talking heads just did a piece about two more storms forming in the Atlantic. If they continue to develop one will be named Jose, which isn’t expected to pose any serious threats, and the other Katia, which may reach hurricane strength and threaten the US East Coast. We may have to deal with frigid winter weather and snow up here in the Blue Ridge Mountains but I’ll take that over hurricanes any day!

Friday, August 26, 2011

Irene Approaches

Capture 4

I spoke with my brother again this morning and he says they have Mom’s house buttoned down to ride out Hurricane Irene.

Capture 1

There is one positive aspect of this storm.The torrential rains will aid firefighters who have been battling the Great Dismal Swamp wildfire which was started by a lighting strike two weeks ago. So far it has burned over 5,500 acres. Smoke from the fire has triggered air quality alerts 200 miles away!

Capture 3

Hurricane Warning
Flood Watch
Hazardous Weather Outlook

This Afternoon: Scattered showers and thunderstorms. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 86. East wind around 11 mph. Chance of precipitation is 30%. New rainfall amounts of less than a tenth of an inch, except higher amounts possible in thunderstorms.
Tonight: Tropical storm conditions expected, with hurricane conditions possible. Scattered rain and thunderstorms, then rain likely and possibly a thunderstorm after midnight. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. Cloudy, with a low around 76. East wind 11 to 16 mph increasing to between 29 and 39 mph. Winds could gust as high as 46 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%. New rainfall amounts between three quarters and one inch possible.
Saturday: Tropical storm conditions expected, with hurricane conditions possible. Rain and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. High near 80. East wind 45 to 55 mph, with gusts as high as 65 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts in excess of 4 inches possible.
Saturday Night: Hurricane conditions expected. Rain and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. Low around 73. North wind 60 to 80 mph decreasing to between 45 and 55 mph. Winds could gust as high as 95 mph. Chance of precipitation is 100%. New rainfall amounts in excess of 4 inches possible.
Sunday: Isolated showers before noon. Mostly sunny, with a high near 87. Windy, with a west wind between 24 and 30 mph. Chance of precipitation is 20%.


The latest updates have Irene moving across the Hampton Roads (Tidewater to locals), Virginia area tomorrow afternoon as either a weak category 2 or strong category 1 hurricane.

Saffir/Simpson Hurricane Scale


Winds & Effects



74-95 mph 
(64-82 kt)

4-5 ft.


No real damage to building structures. Damage primarily to unanchored mobile homes, shrubbery, and trees. Also, some coastal flooding and minor pier damage.



96-110 mph
(83-95 kt)

6-8 ft.


Some roofing material, door, and window damage. Considerable damage to vegetation, mobile homes, etc. Flooding damages piers and small craft in unprotected moorings may break their moorings.



111-130 mph
(96-113 kt)

9-12 ft.


Some structural damage to small residences and utility buildings, with a minor amount of curtain wall failures. Mobile homes are destroyed. Flooding near the coast destroys smaller structures with larger structures damaged by floating debris. Terrain may be flooded well inland.



131-155 mph
(114-135 kt)

13-18 ft.


More extensive curtain wall failures with some complete roof structure failure on small residences. Major erosion of beach areas. Terrain may be flooded well inland.



155 mph+
(135+ kt)

18 ft. +


Complete roof failure on many residences and industrial buildings. Some complete building failures with small utility buildings blown over or away. Flooding causes major damage to lower floors of all structures near the shoreline. Massive evacuation of residential areas may be required.



Mom lives just east of Norfolk, in the extreme threat area on the map above.

Storm Surge Map

In addition to sustained hurricane force winds the area is predicted to get 8+ inches of rain with a 4 to 8 foot storm and unusually high lunar tides. I may need to borrow Fish Hook’s boat as well as his utility trailer if I get a call to bring in supplies to repair storm damage.

Now all we can do is wait and pray.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

We interrupt this program……

…..for a few words from Mother Nature.

I have more photos to post from the Civil War re-enactment in Saltville this past weekend but they’ll have to go on the back burner for a short while. Mother Nature has decided to remind us that she’s in charge and I have some preparations to make.


First my youngest brother called Tuesday afternoon worried that Joint Expeditionary Base Little Creek-Fort Story was under attack because he heard 4 loud booms which shook the house, rattled dishes in the cabinets and set all of the interior doors swinging back and forth. While we didn’t get so much as a jiggle up here in the Blue Ridge Mountains I was online when he called and, just as he was describing what had happened, a news alert about the East Coast earthquake popped up in my inbox. The epicenter was about 150 miles northwest of where he lives and, while they received no damage, it did give folks in that area a scare.


Now I’m following the weather updates as Hurricane Irene bears down on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. Mom lives in Virginia Beach, about 100 miles due north of the Outer Banks (just east of Norfolk on the map below) and tropical storm warnings for her area are already up. The weather guessers are currently forecasting that the storm will strike the Outer Banks as a category 3 storm, track north across Currituck Sound and head back out into the Atlantic Ocean after crossing Virginia Beach as a category 2 hurricane late Saturday.


The governors of Virginia and North Carolina have already declared states of emergency and mandatory evacuation of the Outer Banks were have been ordered. The US Navy and Air Force are taking this storm seriously enough that all ships in Norfolk have been ordered out to sea and aircraft from Joint Base Langley-Eustis and Naval Station Norfolk and Naval Air Station Oceana are being dispersed to air bases inland.


Mom has lived in her Virginia Beach home for 50 years and has ridden out many a tropical storm, hurricane and winter nor’easter there. As a result she refuses to leave no matter what emergency officials advise and I’m sure she’ll do the same this time.


There is an upside to the hurricane bearing down on the East Coast. The heavy rainfall it brings with it will be a huge help in getting the wildfire that has been burning in the Great Dismal Swamp for the past couple of weeks under control. Mom’s area has been under code orange, red and purple air quality alerts recently because of heavy smoke from the estimated 5,500 acres of peat bog which is smoldering on the Virginia/ North Carolina border.


My younger brothers and a sister still live in Virginia Beach but about the only thing I can count on from them is a call for help once the storm hits……if the land lines or cell towers are still in place. That sounds harsh, I know, but the three of them together have all the common sense God gave a rock and that’s being extremely generous.

This scenario puts me in an odd position. After living in Virginia Beach most of my life I became accustomed to keeping emergency gear ready to load in the car in case we had to evacuate ahead of a hurricane. While Mom was always ready to ride one out Frankie, Laura and I were always ready to “git while the gittin; was good”. Now, living 325 miles west of Virginia Beach and safe from the storm, I’m preparing to do the opposite; load the emergency gear into the truck and head for Virginia Beach once the storm passes! This is where owning a 3.5 ton, 4 wheel drive, gas guzzling monster SUV becomes a blessing.

Now to remove the winter gear from the two 32 gallon totes in the shed and replace it with items more suitable for warm weather, especially extra tarps in case Mom has any roof damage. When Frankie gets home from work I’ll get the young man next door to help load the totes into the truck and then it’s just a matter of waiting for the storm to hit.

Actually, this arrangement may work to our advantage. In the aftermath of a major storm supplies, especially building materials and emergency generators, are hard to come by because home improvement and building supply stores are quickly stripped bare as hundreds of thousands of people try to repair storm damage. There is a Lowe’s Home Improvement store 2 miles from our house and I have to drive right past it to reach the on ramp for Interstate 81. My brother in law lives just down the street from us and I’m sure he’d lend me his utility trailer. Between the trailer and the luggage rack on the roof of the truck I can probably haul enough building materials to repair any damage Mom might sustain.

In case you’re wondering, if I have to head east with a load of gear I have no intention of loading or unloading anything heavy. The last thing I need to do is aggravate my already wrecked back and legs and become another person needing medical attention in a disaster zone. Lowe’s has a crew of men available to load purchases free of charge. Frankie and I have used these guys several times over the years. Once I get to Mom’s my brothers, while not over burdened with common sense, are both large and healthy. Then there are Mom’s neighbors, 2 or whom are Navy SEALs and the man right next door is a building contractor. I think we’ll have the heavy lifting covered.

Well, this isn’t getting the totes packed so I guess I had better get to it. I’ll keep y’all posted and if I do have to go you know I’ll have pictures to post when I get back. I take my cameras everywhere!

Monday, August 22, 2011

Period Equipment

Much of the equipment used in a Civil War re-enactment is hand made. Please note that, as the watermarks tell, some of these photos are mine and others were shot by my wife, Frankie.


This blacksmith was working iron and produced some of the articles in use at this encampment.


Other items were available for purchase.


The smithy also had authentic Civil War items on display.


This is a typical tent in the encampment. The cot and guitar case obviously aren’t Civil War reproduction but just about everything else is, including the kerosene lanterns.


Another typical encampment site, Headquarters, Company E, 22nd Virginia Cavalry.


Fully functional replica artillery. These pieces were fired during the battle re-enactment…… without projectiles, of course.


This piece was brand new and fired for the first time during this encampment.


This piece is also a reproduction but it does have some history. All of the wooden pieces were made using timbers salvaged from a barn built in 1810, fifty one years before the outbreak of the Civil War.


Union infantry wearing for the most part handmade uniforms and using replica weaponry. All of the clothing and equipment pictured is privately owned by the participant. For many of these re-enactors these performances are not just a hobby, they are a lifestyle as well.

For more on the clothing and uniforms used please visit my Pine Ridge Philosopher page.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Living History

This afternoon we took a road trip down to Saltville, Virginia to see the re-enactment of a battle that occurred there during the American Civil War. My wife, Frankie, was shooting right along with me and, between the 2 of us we shot over 1600 frames. Man, do I ever have a lot of sorting and editing to do!
We had a great day and I’m bone tired so I’ll just let these photos speak for themselves.






As I said, Frankie was shooting as well; first with her point and shoot, then with one of my DSLRs after her battery died. I’ve posted some of her shots on my WordPress blog. She did a great job and you can see her shots by clicking this link.

Saturday, August 20, 2011



Yesterday the madness seized me, mostly a result of no longer being able to look out the window at the jungle my lawn had become but also because I enjoy cruising around on my lawn tractor, the Dandelion Destroyer.

Things started going south almost immediately. As I followed the self propelled finish mower around the yard, mowing the areas Ol’ Double D won’t fit into God decided to give me a zinger for something I said recently. Don’t ask me what it was because I often say things God is uncomfortable with and I just know he has a book better make that several books with my name on them and he’s keeping score.

Just as I finished cutting around the flower beds several fat raindrops scored direct hits on my head, spectacles and, worst of all, the ignition system on the mower. It wasn’t much of a rain shower but it did make me say a few more bad things as I yanked on the “E Z Start” pull cord. I swear I heard the sound of a page turning somewhere up above.

After several attempts the engine caught and I was able to finish my finish mowing. I parked the mower back where it belongs, climbed on Ol’ Double D, hit the starter and…….nothing. After several more twists of the key, a whole bunch of bad words and a well placed kick to the fender a tremendous clap of thunder sounded, scaring me so badly I actually stopped cussing! God was not happy with my behavior.  And my foot was sore as hell, too!

It was only one clap off thunder and the yard looked stupid partially mowed so after calling my brother in law, Fish Hook, and asking if he would drop his battery charger off at the house I fired up the finish mower and set forth to mow the entire yard the hard way.

On foot.

It’s a big yard.

It usually takes about 45 minutes to mow everything with Ol’ Double D. 

DD has a 48” mower deck.

The finish mower has a 16 inch deck.

It took me what felt like 2 weeks to do the same job on foot.

Did I mention that there is a pretty good slope in the backyard?

Going uphill was pure murder on my beat up back and legs even though I didn’t have to push the mower. Coming back down was terrifying as the mower did it’s best to qualify for the Indy 500 with me dragging along behind.

Why you ask, didn’t I think of cutting across the slope instead of up and down? Picture a screaming old coot trying to outrun a lawn mower that rolled over sideways.

I finally finished up, after three rest breaks. God was still messing with me, sending a quick shower my way every time I sat down. The rain would have been appreciated if it fell while I was working but N-O-O-O-O! I was getting a lesson in humility.

Just as I finished the brain dead, booze soaked, snaggle toothed, inbred poster child for retro-active birth control across the street sent his airhead wife over to tell me a rock came out of my mower and put a hole in their vinyl siding.

Then he rode off down the street on his motorcycle.

He didn’t have the guts to accuse me himself.

Leading the dimwit over to where the finish mower sat sizzling as occasional rain drops fell on the hot engine I pointed out that the machine is a mulching mower and does not have a discharge chute. Everything is cut three or four times and blown straight down into the lawn.

She said I must have done it with my big mower!

I asked if she meant the one that wouldn’t start.

She said “Oh, that’s why you used the small one to mow your entire yard. I waited until you finished because I didn’t want to interrupt while you were working.”


I blew up.

Some of the things I said weren’t even in English…..or Redneck….because I was so infuriated that even I didn’t know what was coming out of my mouth! At least I resisted the voiced in my head screaming “PUNCH HER LIGHTS OUT!”

There was no intervention by law enforcement personnel and I’m pretty sure the idjit waited until all the lights in our house were out before he came home.  I still hope, fervently, that he says something to me.

Jail ain’t so bad.

I guess God took pity on me and decided to cut me some slack.Today I went out, tore down the Double D, rewired the entire machine and IT STARTED RIGHT UP! WOO-HOO!

Now, as soon as that idjit across the street wanders out his front door I’m gonna run his ass over with the Double D screaming “NO BRAKES, NO BRAKES!” so the neighbors will be able to truthfully testify at my manslaughter trial that I tried warning him to get out of my way.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

It might not be Disney Land……

…….but we enjoyed the trip anyway.

THE BOSS had the day off so we loaded up the small red horse (Buddy) in Godzilla (our big green SUV) and we went out to see what we could see.


Godzilla is nearly 7 feet tall and weighs in at a hefty 7,100 lbs. empty. At 4’11” Frankie gets some odd looks when she climbs out from behind the wheel. Since she learned how to handle Godzilla she has discovered how much fun it is to roam the countryside in it.  It’s not only big, powerful and 4 wheel drive, it’s a lot more comfortable than her Jeep was on unpaved country roads.

That’s why she won’t let me drive it anymore.

I was okay with that today because while she drove I sat in the passenger side with a lap full of cameras and snapped away as we explored country roads neither of us had been on before.


Buddy wore himself out as he moved from one side of the back seat to the other sticking his head out the windows to see what there was to see….and smell. Poor fellow wore himself out and is crashed out on the floor at my feet as I type.


Even though the skies were overcast and an occasional raindrop hit the windshield we still managed to find things to shoot.


I know we’ll be back here soon because Frankie loves sunflowers and there were patches of them growing around every corner.


I have no idea what this plant is called but the bees sure seem to love it.




Buddy didn’t know what to make of this critter.


I like how these folks recycled an old saw blade.




As our grumbling bellies convinced us to turn towards home I added a few more places to my field notebook to explore another day. Now to mark up my maps for our next outing…….