ONE WHEEL, TWO WHEELS, THREE WHEELS – Marilyn Armstrong

Cee’s B&W Photo Challenge: With 1, 2, or 3 Wheels
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Plymouth Prowler
Bicycle
Photo: Garry Armstrong
Pizza cutting wheel
Steam engine wheels

Cee's Black-White

LEARNING SOMETHING NEW EVERY DAY – Marilyn Armstrong

I thought because I asked someone and got the wrong answer, that you can’t bury a body on private land. As it turns out, it depends on the state in which you live.

Laws vary by state AND also by county. I’m betting Boston is a no-no as is any well-populated suburban area, but out here where we are embarrassed to admit we “only have 4 and a half acres” because everyone else has a much bigger area, you can not only be buried yourself but can start your own private family cemetery.

I suppose this assumes you are planning to stay on that property. I did know a lovely home in upstate New York that had been a rectory. A minister was buried in the backyard and there was a huge apple tree over him.

Small Bobcat excavator

So for the “broke but needing a place to put the body” people of whom, given the insane prices of “real” funerals, this is one more advantage to country life.

Price? The cost of one canvas shroud — I’m pretty sure that’s affordable for most people —  which I assume is a big bag in whatever color suits your eternal mood. Drawstring optional.

Of course, you can’t just stick the body in the bag. You also need a hole in which to bury it. For this, you need a bobcat or maybe a small John Deere. The cost of renting a bobcat? I’m afraid the price wasn’t posted on the site, but our local lumberyard rents them. And you can get ready in advance since this is great equipment for any small to medium-size farm or landscaping venture.

Breaking the ice on our frozen driveway. Local volunteer!

They are frequently used in cemeteries to dig graves. Easier on the back than the whole shovel thing. But you need a hydraulic license, so it might be cheaper to hire a guy who already knows how to use the equipment.


Free shipping and eco-friendly. I think you can get them with wheels so you can roll the body into the hole. Shrouds are used as an alternative to clothing and are suitable for transportation, burial or cremation. The shroud with handles can be used on its own and is lift weight tested to 300 lbs. A sewn-in pouch allows a rigid board to be inserted under the shroud to provide support for the body if desired. Instructions on shrouding the body are available here. Sizes: Large 112” L x 73” W – Extra Large  118” L x 78” W – Please allow 3-5 days for shipping or contact us for overnight delivery.

It can push like a tractor, pull or lift pretty heavy material. It is lighter and far more maneuverable than a tractor front loader. Typically used in light to medium construction as well as landscaping. Think building a swimming pool or a septic system. Or, for that matter, the basement of a house or the extension to an existing house.

You can put various fronts on it, so it’s also great for pushing snow (much better than a garden tractor) and it hauls well. I’ve always wanted a tractor or bobcat. I don’t need one. I just want one.

The only reason I didn’t get one when we moved here was the price. A good tractor costs a bit more than I could justify. Anyway, I’m pretty sure nobody trusted me with my own tractor.

WHERE IS STEVE McQUEEN WHEN I REALLY NEED HIM? – Garry Armstrong

It must be payback. Karma, hubris – or both.

For more than 30 years, I drove a succession of fully loaded convertibles with Steve McQueen in my brain. Once, I was racing to a story in the dead of night when a State Trooper pulled me over. He asked the traditional question. He smiled when I told him I was heading to a fire. After being cautioned to drive responsibly, I sped on to the scene. Steve McQueen was with me.

Nothing fazed me. Not Boston crazies or New York cabbies. Oh, hubris!

My convertible days are behind me. Thanks to retirement, an income adjusted to social security, “wonderful” pensions and too many tickets from my Steve McQueen days, I drive like a normal guy, more or less. You’d think I’d paid my dues, atoned for my sins.

Not hardly, Pilgrim.

I’ll admit I still drive too fast, even if I’m doing the speed limit. That’s because I wasn’t born in the Valley and I don’t have Valley in my blood, so to speak. You see, in the Valley, driving is a leisurely business. Very leisurely. Twenty miles an hour is fast for a lot of our local people and not only in school areas. We are talking normal stretches of road with no special considerations or construction.

Not a racing car exactly!

I’m convinced there’s a legion of slow drivers waiting for me to pull out onto the street. I’ve been targeted. Wherever I go, they are waiting. It’s particularly frustrating when I’m heading to an appointment. These days, it’s usually a doctor appointment for my wife or me. We usually allow extra time for possible traffic jams, construction, weather delays, and accidents.

The X-Factor is the slow driver. (Drum-roll.)

They usually appear just as we are pushing up to the speed limit and think we’ll be able to make good time. We’ll get to our destination and have time to relax. I’m beginning to think about playing some music for the drive.

That’s when they show up. In the blink of an eye, they appear. The dreaded slow drivers. A whole conga line of slow drivers. No way to maneuver around them because our local roads are two lanes. One in each direction and narrow to boot. I can feel the anger and frustration beginning to boil up inside me.

If I’m driving alone, I allow the profanities full volume. If my wife is with me, I mumble, tighten my wrists and think evil, vile things. The slow drivers sense this and slow down even more. It is torture. What would Steve McQueen do?

Photo credit: RolexMagazine.com
Photo credit: RolexMagazine.com

Sanity and common sense kick in only because I know we can’t afford accidents with me as the culprit. That makes it more infuriating. They slow down, even more, sensing my plight. Could it be worse? Never ask that question because the answer is always yes!

It gets personal when I realize nature is calling. Home isn’t that far away but it could be an embarrassment if I don’t get there in time. The drivers drive even slower.

I whisper a prayer, forgiveness for my wild days on the road. I turn onto the road home. I can do this. I can make it. Traffic slows to a halt. What would Steve McQueen do?

Gritting my teeth, I see two cars ahead of me. They are staring at the road. They are texting. They are not old but rather part of the legion of slow drivers targeting me. All seems lost as I swing and sway to delay disaster, traffic begins to move again.

Slowly.

Minutes that seem like hours go by until I reach home. I pull down our long driveway. I race into the house with personal shame just narrowly averted. I calm down before returning to the car to collect my things.

I look up at the street. There’s no traffic. The slow drivers have disappeared. Is it a conspiracy?

What would Steve McQueen do?

WHICH WAY? – Marilyn Armstrong

SonOfABeach’s Which Way Photographs

Which way to go on a bright, hot, murky summer’s day? I think we’re going to hit the grocery store, but not until late in the day. It is simply too hot and muggy to be outside right now.

Main Street

WHERE’S THE BUS STOP? Marilyn Armstrong

This is the kind of normal question that anyone might ask in any town anywhere. Except if you ask it here, the responder will look at you quizzically. Because honest Abraham of Civil War fame, we don’t have any public transportation in this town.

If you need to go somewhere, you have a choice.

You can walk. You can hop on your bike, assuming it isn’t the middle of winter with roads full of snow and ice and you’re still young enough to do it. You can saddle up your horse (or hitch up the buggy) … or jump in whatever vehicle you own.

That’s it. I’m told that way back before we were living anywhere, they used to have a bus. I would certainly not object to having a mini-bus so old folks — like me — could get into town without having a driver. So far, no go, but I live in hope.

No Uber. No Lyft. No taxi. Nothing unless you drive. There are train tracks, but the trains don’t stop here and anyway, they are all freight trains, not for passengers.

We have tracks, but lack trains

Most people don’t take their horses to town, but it has happened. It makes the horses nervous, though and carrying back the groceries can be a bit clumsy. So mostly, it’s feet, trucks, and cars. We’re about 3-1/2 miles out of the village and we are definitely past hoofing it.

This is casket truck. Everyone needs a traveling casket, right?
Or maybe something smaller?

Public transportation isn’t part of the rural lifestyle. At some point, the trains did stop here. I only know it because we have a converted train station that’s now a real estate office. But once upon a time, it was an actual passenger station.

Does a school bus count?
School bus, in town. I think you need to be attending a local school to get a lift!

Photo: Garry Armstrong

CAR-MA AND COPS – Marilyn Armstrong

It was a lovely crisp Saturday morning. I was heading north out of New York to visit Garry in Boston. I don’t remember which car I was driving. Probably my turquoise VW Rabbit, my personal pocket rocket.

I am not a slow driver, though I try to be a careful one. If I see a wide open road and I figure I’m not going to get a ticket, I’ve been known to put the pedal to the metal, perhaps a tad faster than the legal limit. Which is why I was surprised, as I drove along in the left lane of the limited access highway, to be passed on the right and cut off — leaving just millimeters to spare — by a vehicle going so fast he nearly sucked the doors off my car.

Icy rocks

I was a bit shaken, especially since he had no reason to cut me off at all. The road was empty. He had plenty of room, so he was just being an asshole. I hadn’t even seen him coming.

“Go tiger,” I murmured, looking at my speedometer. I was going a smidge over 80 MPH, so how fast was he going? He passed me as if I were standing still.

“People like him,” I muttered, “Give all of us a bad name.”

I continued on my way, made merrier by the music on my radio … until I saw flashing lights ahead. I slowed. Then I slowed more until I was crawling along.

Blue lights were flashing everywhere. This was no normal speeding ticket stop. It was not one or two police cars. There must have been a hundred or more squad cars, motorcycles, and a couple of vans.

It was a cop convention!

On the road to Skowhegan
Open road

My speeder had plunged into the heart of a law enforcement convoy!

The fellow, a young man of unimpressive demeanor, was standing on the shoulder of the road, hands in the air looking terrified. Officers stood near him. They had bagged a good one and were clearly having fun as only a convention of cops can.

On the way to Chestnut Hill

I was happy.

Justice, so rarely served, was coming to one who thoroughly deserved it. I doubted he would ever speed again. I couldn’t tell if he had wet his pants, but I could hope.

I gave a thumbs up to the cops standing around writing as many tickets as they could think of.  I still wonder how many he got. In returns, a number of cops gave a thumbs up.

I was laughing the entire rest of the trip to Boston.

DIRECTIONAL – Marilyn Armstrong

RDP Friday: DIRECTIONAL

It’s the “clicker” in the car when you need to make a turn. If you don’t turn it on, you get a ticket. If you do, everyone crowds you in to prevent you from doing anything. I swear there are a million drivers out there who see things like directionals as a challenge to their ability to block you from any movement. It’s an actual technique in Boston. If you let your car wander a bit — just enough to avoid a ticket for dangerous driving, but sufficient to befuddle the drivers behind you, you can stop at least two lanes and sometimes three lanes of traffic.

Before there were electronic “clickers, there were hand signals. These worked pretty well, except in the middle of the winter or in the pouring rain when sticking your arm out the window will make your left arm icy, wet, or both. It was also hard on your clothing.

Car hand signals for those rare moments when your directional indicators are not inclined to blink. Hardly anyone uses them, but I have found as a passenger, leaning halfway out the window and pointing furiously at the right lane so the guy behind us just can’t possibly say he didn’t see the signal — EVEN if he was on the phone or trying to find the station that plays punk rock. It ALWAYS works. I think just seeing this old lady hanging out the window and pointing and waving her arms is a real attention-grabber. In theory, you can use a hand signal along with your electronic signals, but usually, when a hand is sticking out of the window, the driving is drying her or his fingernails. Probably not a signal.

Of course, it can also mean having a direction in life — a goal, as it were. There was a time when I had future-oriented goals. Now I have survival goals. Like: how saggy is the deck? Do I need to start a fund-raising drive now or might it not crumble until after we no longer need it?

I’m pretty sure these days, the only creatures that would miss it are the few birds that haven’t been chased away by the squirrels — and of course, the squirrels.

As an example of how pointless goals really are – even short term goals -last night, I stood up to do something. Except between standing and doing whatever I was supposed to do, I forgot.

So I stood there, determined to not sit down until I remembered why I stood up. This took a few minutes, but eventually, I realized I was looking for a container for storing CD cards for my cameras. It’s my “spare” container in which I keep the cards I have removed from the reader. It’s easy enough to forget to take the card out of the reader only to discover that you have “No recording media in camera.”

Recording media? What’s … oh. You mean the SD card. It’s in the computer. I sure hope I have another one. These days, memory has gone bye-bye, I immediately replace the card before I have a chance to forget I need one … and since there’s just a 15-second lapse between remembering and forgetting, I need to have everything at hand. This message is particularly irritating when you have your shot lined up. You press the shutter. Then you get the message. The camera could warn you sooner, couldn’t it? Like … when you turn it on? Maybe they do and I don’t notice?

At least I know if there’s no battery because the camera doesn’t turn on at all. What I don’t know is that there’s only one more shot in there, after which it’s going to shut down.

It doesn’t take long to put a card in the camera. I try to keep extras with each camera (blessed be, they ALL use the same cards!) but the picture you couldn’t take because you were missing the “recording media” or SD card never comes back. You may get a better or worse picture later, but you won’t get THAT one.

Bicycles signals, usually ignored by drivers who are talking on the phone or messing with their radio …

Meanwhile, how many people remember that there are hand signals you can use in cars and more importantly, on bicycles or motorcycles where you either have no electronic signals or it can be much less obvious what your intentions are?

Of course, there are the official signals … and then there are the “other signals.”

As I said, my personal favorite is hanging out the passenger window, waving both arms and pointing at the right lane indicating (a) a parking space!! or (b) we need to make that turn right NOW. Don’t forget your raincoat and gloves if the weather is bad.