I Like My New Flag

Flag 10-07-2020

On Oct. 3, 2020, I posted a pitiful photo of my American Flag that was torn almost in two by a gust of wind or just general tiredness.

At the time, I remarked somberly (and maybe a little too dramatically) that I was afraid that flag was a symbol of this nation that was almost ripped apart, and hanging on by a thread.

I’m happy to say that my new flag is flying proudly from a unique flagpole I engineered, partially by accident.

That’s Bill and Rhonda Bolton’s house in the background on a fine Fall day. We always called it the Tinker House because Bob and Mary Tinker lived there for years. The Boltons have lived in it long enough that it’s probably time to rename the place.

How I made the flagpole

My previous flag was attached to a pole in front of the house. When the rose bushes got high, the flag would snag on the thorns. I figured I could solve that problem if I moved it out in the yard.

After scratching my head a bit, I went to the hardware store and discovered that a 10-foot length of 1-inch galvanized pipe would easily slip inside a 30-inch piece of 1-1/4-inch pipe sunk 24 inches into concrete.

I wanted to make it possible to back a trailer into the yard to get firewood, so this lets me take out the long pole and only leave the sleeve sticking out above the ground about six inches.

I drilled holes through both pipes with the intention of putting a bolt through them,  but it was after dark when I finished, so I turned the flag and pole in the direction where I thought it would be best and went to bed.

Serendipity sets in 

The next morning, I was surprised to see the flag in exactly opposite of the direction it was the previous night.

While I was standing there, a gust of wind rotated the whole pole. I was mesmerized. Figuring there was no way that pole was going to jump out of the sleeve, I decided to forgo the bolts and let it act as a weather vane.

Here’s what it looked like on a gusty day this week. The halo-looking thing at the top is a solar-powered LED array to light the flag at night. The flag sticks up so high that the porch dusk-to-dawn lights only hit the lower half of it.

To be honest, I’m not overly happy with the performance of the halo light, but it’s up there.

One other cool thing is that the pipes make a spooky moaning or groaning sound when they rotate more that about 25 degrees. I couldn’t figure out where the weird sound was coming from until one afternoon when I was outside loading the car and made the connection.

The 10-foot pole is rigid. The “bouncing” is caused by the play from the sleeve being larger than the pole. It’s not going anywhere.

Veterans Day is an appropriate time to show off my new flag.

 

 

Randy Barnhouse, a Kindred Spirit

Randy “Hambone” Barnhouse 10-08-2020

I’ve followed Randy “Hambone” Barnhouse’s musings on Facebook, and have even exchanged mail with him from time to time, but had never met him in the flesh.

When he posted that he’d be hawking his book, “Dear Samuel Clemens” Messages in a Bottle , on Main Street (with a $5 discount to “locals”), I figured it was time we hooked up.

“Want to make a deal?”

Randy “Hambone” Barnhouse 10-08-2020

I introduced myself, and said, “I think a might be able to slip by as a local, and I’d be happy to pay you $15 for your book, but I wondered if you’d like to trade for my Smelterville: A Community of Love.

We bumped elbows and the deal was sealed.

We share a love of the river

Randy has led a much more adventuresome life than I have. He’s been a treasure salvor,  an historian, a teacher, and a devotee of Mark Twain. I’ve just been a chronicler of other folks deeds and foibles.

Several years ago, the Mississippi gave Randy a tantalizing look at the bones of a boat exposed when the water went down.

He and the river have been playing hide and seek with the boat ever since.

I’m pretty sure the first contact I had with Randy was when he offered to share the location of the wreck if I would promise to keep the exact location secret.

I decided the best way for me to keep the secret was for me not to go see the site.

The Mississippi can be unforgiving to the careless. This isn’t Randy’s wreck, but it’s a barge that ran aground near Cape Rock in 2012.

We understand each other

Abandoned house – St Mary Mo c 1966

Randy was a diver with Mel Fisher, who helped recover gold and other items from the Atocha shipwreck off Key West. He and I speak the same language.

“After the initial phase of being allured by the gold and silver discoveries, I found the simple items from every day life just as unique in their own way. They spoke to me. Candlestick holders were fascinating to find. How many meals did they grace a table for and who appreciated the glow of the stick they held, and for what reason were they gathered around it? How much laughter, conversation and arguing had the the candlestick holders, with their fiery tube of wax and string been witness to?”

I walk around in old abandoned houses trying to pick up the vibes of those who lived there. The pride the first owners felt; marks on the door frames chronicling the growth of children; wondering what joys and sorrows were contained inside the walls. Sometimes those vibes hit me too hard.

When I looked through this open window of an old house in St. Mary, I had to wonder what did the owners take from those opened drawers, and why did the random beads, buttons and juice squeezer not make the cut when they closed the door the last time?

Letters to Mark Twain

The book is a series of letters Randy has written to Mark Twain: “each letter I write to you will be sealed in a bottle and tossed into the mighty Mississippi. There are no post offices in heaven or hell. Where we go, we never know until the last breath escapes our lungs. Maybe we disappear into inky oblivion from whence we came. Should your spirit dwell on the river, please read and respond in whatever manner a will-o’-wisp employs. I need your help while looking for your lost and discarded possessions.”

Searching for Mark Twain’s buried treasure

Randy has been using a metal detector to search for artifacts at Mark Twain’s home in Hannibal (with permission, I should note.

Sam, to investigate and excavate the soil where you and your family once lived, loved and walked is an intimate act, too. What will your candlestick holder be that shines light on your time there on Hill Street? A coin, ring, shoe buckle, tool or object that will be attributed to you? Knowing your affinity for buried treasure causes me, in my wildest imagination, to hope that you buried something there.”

Whenever I take someone new to see what’s left of Cairo, we stop here long enough for them to pry up a piece of blue tile from what used to be a large department store.

I hope they keep it as a memory of a town that is rapidly disappearing, and as a link to me. Probably, though, they’ll pull open a drawer some day, and say, “What the hell is this?” and pitch it in the trash.

I guess I can’t be surprised. On any given day, some of my best work ended up on the floor being peed on by a poodle.

Shameless plug

Randy was kind enough to say some nice words about my Smelterville book on his Facebook page, and that caused a lot of folks to wonder where they could find it.

Here’s the answer:

Annie Laurie’s Antique Store, 536 Broadway Street, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63701; Phone 573-339-1301, $20 in person.

Pastimes Antiques, 45 Main Street, Cape Girardeau, Mo., 63701; Phone 573-332-8882. $20 in person.

Cape Girardeau County History Center, 102 S. High Street, Jackson, Mo., 63755; Phone 573-979-5170. $20 in person; $30 to cover shipping and handling if mailed.

 

Woman’s Dominion Over Nature

Mother was a master of the leaf blower

Being as how it would have been Mother’s 99th Birthday Season, it’s appropriate that I dig out these photos Fred Lynch took one day in 2014 when he was driving by the house.

Leaving no leaf unturned

Mother by Fred Lynch 11/12/2014

She could get the hurricane-force wind under a pile of leaves, make them look like waves in the air, and send them all the way down the hill in no time.

I always said I could do better with a wide rake, but I couldn’t keep up with her.

Drastic Measures needed

After nearly falling when a leaf-hidden walnut rolled out from under me, and having one of nature’s Legos in the form of a black walnut sans hull leave me limping, I decided drastic measures were needed.

I was either going to have to display a sign like this and abandon the back yard for the duration, or I was going to have to corral the green (and black) monsters.

Plan B didn’t work

I tried my big rake first, but it couldn’t deal with both leaves AND walnuts. That’s when I reached into the closet for Mother’s leaf blower. It would move the leaves, but it didn’t have enough oomph to roll the walnuts (or I was skill deficient).

Plan C

Plan C was the blow away the leaves so I could see the walnuts. Once the surface detritus was gone, I could use the rake to herd the nuts to the edge of the yard.

That allowed me to create safe passage to the bird bath and bird feeders on Sunday night.

Unfortunately, by Monday morning, another crop of nuts had fallen. Maybe the sign idea wasn’t that bad.

 

 

 

Who Wants Walnuts?

Phoebe the Bleeping Cat and Walnuts 10-13-2020

Phoebe the Bleeping Cat is tired of having to dodge falling walnuts. They also provide an obstacle course that slows her down when she’s trying to catch squirrels who are too tempting. 

She blames the walnuts for her lack of success in apprehending the “fuzzy-tailed tree rats,” as Brother Mark calls them.

I’ve complained about them in the past

Every year it seems like I’m posting about the trials and tribulations of walnuts hitting the roof so hard it sounds like somebody breaking in.

These were a few I raked up out of the driveway last year.

Speaking of raking stuff up, here’s my 2014 rant about the green bombers.

My memory must be fading, because I plowed much the same ground in 2018.

I’m serious. Come and get ’em

Walnuts 10-13-2020

These things are big enough that I’m going to have to corral them before I can run the mower to mulch the leaves.

Give me a ten-minute warning if you want me to be wearing pants, and I’ll loan you a rake, a five-gallon bucket, and two or three trash bags (you can keep the latter).

There are still plenty more in the trees. With that in mind, I might even loan you a hard hat or my bike helmet.