I’D RATHER BE IN HOBBITON, BUT I’D SETTLE FOR SAN DIEGO

I’D RATHER BE ANYWHERE IT DOES NOT SNOW

I LOVE THE SOUND OF SNOW PLOWS


We finished watching the third 4-1/2 hour piece of “The Lord of the Rings,” extended version last night. Given the weather, I pointed out that we could be trying to climb Caradhras, but Sauron was totally against it and we never made it.

For a variety of reasons — aching muscles maybe? — Garry didn’t find it nearly as hilarious as I did, but the man who shovels is allowed to get grumpy about it. Still, we were definitely atop Caradhras and the snow was not going to quit anytime soon.

There was no noise at all until we heard that wonderful sound, the sound for which I yearn all through the storms of the last two weeks: a plow clearing our driveway. There was an awful lot of snow out there, but the dogs, who go into a medium-level frenzy when trucks are in our drive, gave us a lot of energy. Gibbs is particularly noisy about two things: any kind of diesel-powered vehicle and my son, Owen, of whom he is insanely fond.

Duke and Bonnie in snow

Duke barks hysterically whenever the neighbors emerge from their house. He seems to believe they are about to intrude on our space. Also, they have dogs. Very big dogs. Really, huge dogs. English Mastiff and a boxer. They are really quiet, peaceful creatures who bother no one — except The Duke who gets extremely feisty in the face of Other Dogs Nearby. And they aren’t that near. It’s at least 300 feet from here. More, maybe. We have what is considered a really tiny plot of 2.43 acres of land. Next door, they have maybe 27 acres? Possibly more?

It doesn’t look real. I’m not even sure what bush that is. Rhododendron maybe?

A lot of people around here have a huge amount of land, but the majority of it is wild, thorny, rocky, and generally uninviting to walkers. No trails, either. So mostly, no one on two legs goes in there. No one goes there in the summer because you will be consumed by mosquitoes.

Many other creatures live there, though. Deer, raccoon, fishers, skunk, coyote, bobcats, squirrels, rabbits, bats, eagles and other raptors. Red-tailed hawks and owls. I almost never see them, but I hear woodpeckers constantly.

Foxes, chipmunks. Many fewer chipmunks since the arrival of the bobcat who is very fond of fresh chipmunk. Rats, mice, and some of the biggest spiders to make landfall since Shelob didn’t kill Frodo.

I yearn for New Zealand. If the world should bestow many dollars (or any other currency — I’m not picky) on us, that is the single vacation I would take. Fly to the west coast. Take a ship down the Pacific Ocean and land in some famed harbor. I know that’s the long way, but a cruise to New Zealand and a cruise back sounds like heaven to me.

We might never leave Hobbiton. Well, I suppose we’d have to. There are dogs and family and friends back here … but these days, not living in the U.S. doesn’t seem like such an awful idea. I’ve lived abroad before and I liked it, so it’s not that crazy, for me anyway.

Bonnie and Duke like snow. Gibbs was serious about the sofa.

If New Zealand is impossible, how about San Diego? Great weather. Beautiful beaches. One 5-hour flight and voilà. No more snow. Ever. Or we could go back to Israel. I’ve got a passport. As a citizen, I have — in theory — another home. But that may be my other country. It isn’t Garry’s and while he has nothing against a Jewish country — he’s put up with me for long enough — it might be more change than he is entirely ready for.

So in answer to two questions of the day — where would I rather be and what about noise? I’d like my dogs to shut up, but please, bring the snow plow. Then, send me to New Zealand.

WILD HORSE PASS: THE SHOWDOWN – GARRY ARMSTRONG

Story by Garry Armstrong
Pictures by Garry & Marilyn Armstrong

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THE STORY OF THE POSSE FROM HELL – Garry’s Tale

More than a week in Arizona and we couldn’t lose them. We couldn’t see them. The big country that protected us shielded them, too. It was the posse from Hell!

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We kept to the high country, hoping the cactus, tumbleweed and narrow trails would distance us.

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Scorpion Gulch was the way to the mountains and beyond. We saw a few pilgrims here and there taking in the view. They ignored us. Good for them.

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This was the same trail used by Waco Johnny Dean, Long Tom and Dutch Henry Brown in the relentless chase for that Winchester ’73.

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The same trail used by Sheriff Pearly B. Sweet and the posse from Welcome and Carefree who pursued Bob Hightower, Pete and the Abilene Kid, the three Godfathers.

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There was no losing our posse from Hell.

Rawhide, we figured, might be a good place to lose those guys … whoever they were.

Rawhide — a place where dudes are welcome. We wouldn’t be noticed as the pilgrims sashayed up and down Main Street. Maybe the posse from Hell might have paper on a few of these strangers.

Rawhide also was a good place to grab some grub. Maybe even some shut-eye. But no time for real fun if you get my drift. Those pilgrims kept giving us shifty looks.

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Back on the trail, I thought we saw an old saddle pal. He rode with us in the old days. He was a good old boy. Turned out he was dead and just a statue, probably done in by the railroad men who dogged us for too many years. Close up, our old pal still looked good. They don’t make men like him any more.

We had to move on. No sense chasing memories. We wanted to head back to the high country and the safety of those mountains. But time was running out. We knew the end was near.

Just as well. We were running low on luck and bullets.

The posse from hell finally cornered us at Wild Horse Pass. They stayed with their long guns as we faced them down. It was a long day’s siege into night.

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We would not go quietly. We could see the fear in their eyes as we held our position. Clearly, we  had them on experience, as we stared across the pass and other confrontations which have blurred over the years.

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In the distance, we heard the strains of “Shall We Gather At The River” sung mournfully by the good folks at The Light of The Desert Lutheran Church. Was this a boot hill elegy?

Print the legend.

TOWN AND COUNTRY – PHOTOS BY GARRY & MARILYN ARMSTRONG

A LOOK AT THE BLACKSTONE VALLEY


Photo: Garry Armstrong

We don’t get lots of visitors here, probably because we aren’t a major city and we aren’t — any longer — a place for tourists. But oddly enough, this was a tourist area not all that long ago. At some point, it was too close to Boston and became exurban rather than “tourist.” That being said, it’s a beautiful valley and for those who are interested in what country living is like — with access to major cities too — this is a pretty nice place to be.

Welcome to the Blackstone River Valley.

October on the Canal – Photo: Garry Armstrong

In one of the stranger coincidences of history, the Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789 while simultaneously, the American Industrial Revolution took shape on the banks of the Blackstone River.

On the Blackstone – November

Moses Brown had been fighting his own war. He was battling the Blackstone. With a 450 foot drop over a 46-mile course — an average drop of about 10 feet per mile — the Blackstone River is a powerhouse. Not a wide river, its sharp drop combined with its narrowness and meandering path give it much more energy than a river of this size would normally generate.

It invited development. The question was how.

The Mumford River — full foliage 2017

Through 1789, as the Constitution was gaining approval throughout the former British colonies, Brown wrangled the river, trying to build a cotton thread factory in Pawtucket, RI at the falls on the Blackstone River. He was sure he could harness the river to power his mill, but as the end of the 1789 approached, the score stood at Blackstone River – 1, Moses Brown – 0.

Photo: Marilyn Armstrong

Roaring Dam Photo: Garry Armstrong

America had her welcome mat out in those days. We needed more people and especially people with industrial skills. We weren’t picky. All immigrants were welcomed. This turned out to be a stroke of luck for Moses Brown.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

In December 1789, Samuel Slater — a new immigrant from England — began working for Brown. Slater had spent years working at an English textile mill. He recognized that Brown’s machinery was never going to work. Slater had fine engineering skills. In under a year, he’d redesigned and built a working mill on the Blackstone River.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Manchaug Dam

By 1790, Slater’s Mill was up and running, the first successful water-powered cotton-spinning factory in the United States. Slater’s Mill proved you could make money in New England doing something other than whaling, fishing, or running rum and slaves. Entrepreneurs hopped on the idea like fleas on a dog. Mills were an immediate success. New England was inhospitable to agriculture, but fertile for factories.

Mills grew along the Blackstone from Worcester to Providence, then sprouted by the Merrimack in Lowell, and eventually, throughout New England. Wherever the rivers ran, mills and factories followed.

Meanwhile, mill owners on the Blackstone urgently sought a better way to move their goods.

The features that made the Blackstone a natural for generating power made it useless for shipping. The only other choice — horse-drawn wagons — was slow and expensive. The trip took 2 to 3 days over dirt roads from the northern part of the valley to Providence.

February heat wave Canal – Photo: Garry Armstrong

When the weather turned bad, the trip was impossible. All of which led to the building of the Blackstone Canal. Meant as a long-term solution, it actually turned out to be no more than a short-term temporary fix … but it was an impressive undertaking.

All those mills brought employment to the north. It created a real industrial base that would give the north the ability to fight the civil war … and win. It started with a river, continued with a canal, expanded with the railroads.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

Which is why the Blackstone Valley is a National Historic Corridor and known as the birthplace of the American Industrial Revolution … a revolution that brought the U.S. into the modern world and positioned us to become a major player on the international scene.

Now, it’s a peaceful, quiet valley. The mills are gone, the river remains, rolling down from the hills in Worcester through Rhode Island to the sea. Come visit. We are still beautiful.

VARIATIONS ON WIRES IN COOPERSTOWN

WordPress Weekly Photographic Challenge: Variations on a Theme of Wires in Cooperstown


While other people try to erase wires, I’m fascinated by them. The connectors between towns, between data. Voice and pictures and sound and ideas all race along those wires. When the wires arrived, it defines when this country become one country. It was the wires that did it and they still do it.

Dye-Cast wires in Cooperstown

Electric abstract wires in Cooperstown

THE SILENCE OF EARLY MORNING

SILENCE – WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge

Up in the mountains of Vermont, it is quiet in the morning. Not silent, usually. There are always birds and somewhere in the distance, the sound of farm machinery. But it is about as silent as our world gets in these times.

Sunrise

It’s another bright early morning.

A place from which to watch the world.

 

MY FAVORITE PHOTOGRAPHS – 2017

And what a year it has been! Terrifying politics and weird weather. Dogs and new dogs and a summer that wouldn’t end … plus an autumn that never quite began. Now, it’s New Year’s Eve! This is it. The end and a beginning.

I don’t believe it is already 2018!

Month by month, this was the year that was.

JANUARY


FEBRUARY


MARCH


APRIL


MAY


JUNE


JULY


AUGUST


SEPTEMBER


OCTOBER


NOVEMBER


DECEMBER


I participate in WordPress’ Weekly Photo Challenge 2017