Time Is Running Out

Benjamin F. Hunter cabin 02-09-2016There’s quite a difference in the way the Benjamin F. Hunter Cabin looked February 9, 2016, and the way it looked when I photographed it in August 2014. Click on the photos to make them large enough to see how much the building has deteriorated in less than two years.

The cabin in August 2014

Benjamin Hunter Cabin 08-09-2014I did a post December 13, 2014, that explored some of the history of the reconstructed log cabin on the road to Old McKendree Chapel.

Has been treated with benign neglect

Benjamin F. Hunter cabin 02-09-2016The structure, which was built outside Sikeston in the 1880s and taken apart in the 1980s, was a preservation project undertaken by Southeast Missouri State University in the 1990s. It quickly became a house without a home, with the university proposing, then discarding a number of possible locations.

Gravity will take its toll

Benjamin F. Hunter cabin 02-09-2016The story I did in 2014 said Dr. Bonnie Stepenoff continued work on the cabin in the mid 1990s, including repairs on the roof, chinking and daubing the walls, placing a gate around the property, reglazing the windows, and conducting additional student research.

From the amount of light streaming through the gaps between the logs, I would say most of that chinking has fallen out. The roof has holes in it, and you can see some of the logs have fallen out just between 2014 and this week. Unless something is done fairly soon, gravity is going to take over and all that will be left will be a stack of rotting logs.

Of course, that’s the university’s approach to preservation: neglect a property until you can say that fixing it will cost more than tearing it down.

It’s Still Winter

Snow on Kingsway Dr 02-09-2016Don’t let those warm days fool you. Winter still has a few tricks up her sleeve. I went to bed uncharacteristically early Monday night because I didn’t want to start a fire to take the chill off the basement where I work. I woke up around 3 in the morning craving a snack and saw that it was spitting snow. When I went to bed around 4, it was coming down pretty hard and blowing across the street.

This was the view outside my car windshield this morning. (Florida Friends, you can click on the photos to make them larger. They will NOT radiate cold through your computer monitor, so it’s OK.)

A look to my left

Snow on Kingsway Dr 02-09-2016My jacket and stocking cap were in the back seat, though, so I punched the button that should have opened the sliding side door. No luck. I guess enough ice had formed to make the door think there was some kind of obstruction and it wouldn’t play nicely until the van warmed up a bit.

I let the motor run for a few minutes to let it and my heated seat chase the cold away. My side windows were fairly clean.

And, a look to the right

Snow on Kingsway Dr 02-09-2016The yellow 1977 Datsun pickup truck is still in the driveway. We sold it to a young couple who are going to fix it and drive it around Cape, but they are busy closing on a new house. I told them they could leave it here until they had a driveway of their own to park it in.

It’s funny how many people use that as a landmark when giving directions.

I see the forecast for Wednesday night calls for a 22% chance of snow. I hope it gets cold enough to freeze the ground. I need to order another load of firewood.

FL Van Sees Snow; Surrenders

Snow - Kingsway Dr - 01-20-2016My Odyssey van took a dusting of snow on Tuesday afternoon in stride, even making me switch the heated seat setting from High to Low and turn down the heater.

Predictions had been all over the place for the days leading up to the “snow event,” as the TV folks like to dub it. At first, we were going to get a mix of sleet and freezing rain; then they thought snow would be 1-2 inches, then 2-4, then 4-6, and once it went all the way up to 10-12, before dialing back to 6-8 or thereabouts. In reality, I doubt if we got more than two inches.

“Asking for a friend”

Since I’d been gone a bit, the cupboards were mostly bare. (Question: if you’ve had milk in the fridge for, say, six or eight weeks, and it has lumpy stuff floating on the top of it, is it safe to call it cottage cheese and eat it if you pour on enough sugar? As Bill Hopkins would say, “Asking for a friend.”) Even I know that if something in a plastic zipper bag has something green growing in it like these plants at the old Plaza Galleria, it is best to carry it outside immediately.

I wasn’t looking forward to braving the lines in the stores to stock up, but it wasn’t too crazy. I DID note a lot of bread, milk, chips and toilet paper in the baskets fore and aft. I didn’t see much beer or booze, however. I guess Cape folks keep plenty of that on hand just in case someone slips Prohibition back into the lawbooks without anybody noticing.

“I give up! Take me home”

Snow - Kingsway Dr - 01-20-2016What did I see the next morning? My poor van was holding up its little arms like a dying cockroach and begging to leave the land of Wind Chill to go back to a place where they talk about the Heat Index in January.

Actually, the idea of lifting my wipers was something Kid Matt passed on: “The lifting the wipers thing seems a new trend based on this article from Cleveland. Everyone in Oregon and Washington seemed to be doing it…”

I’m not sure I’d do that in a parking lot where it might tempt vandals, but I was cool doing it in my driveway. I didn’t go anywhere today, so I didn’t test how well it worked. We’re supposed to get some indeterminate amount of snow Thursday and Friday, so I’ll get another shot at it.

It BETTER snow this winter. I bought 50 pounds of ice melt. The way the woodpile is going down, I may be trading it for firewood soon.

Snow on Cyders’ Mountain

TJ Cyders w stuck ATV 03-05-2015Jessica Cyders, curator of the Athens County Historical Society and Museum in Athens, Ohio, and her husband, T.J., live on the top of a tall hill in a rural part of Athens County, a place that practically defines “rural area.”

How tall is the hill?

She texted this photo captioned, “TJ got the ATV stuck in the Ken Steinhoff Memorial Ditch. I just helped him pull it out with the winch. Snowshoes came in handy today.”

Steeper than it looks

Messenger box in snowThe last time she and I took a road trip from Cape to Athens, we rolled into town late to find her driveway covered with wet leaves. “I don’t think you’re going to be able to make it up it,” she warned me.

I gunned the van. I mean, what does SHE know, she just lives there.

Just a little beyond where T.J. is standing, the road kicks up a few degrees. It was there that the traction control kicked in, then the wheels started spinning out. I conceded defeat and stomped on the brakes. The car started sliding back down the hill with all four wheels locked. I might as well have been on ice.

I booted her out to make it up to the house by herself, and started to back down the lane, which, unfortunately, has some curves in it. Every time I had to make a correction or step on the brakes, gravity would take over.

Ken Steinhoff Memorial Ditch

Snow and sky and treesThe next thing I knew, I was in a slow slide into a ditch. It didn’t matter if I gunned the engine or put on the brakes, it was just a slow-motion train wreck. I called Jessica on my cell to tell her about my predicament.

She and T.J. ambled down to see how bad the situation was. She had a smirk on her face.

T.J. teaches engineering at Ohio University, so I counted on him to take one look and say, “No problem. I’ll just go back to the shed and get some duct tape and some binder’s twine and we’ll have you out in less time than it’ll take the Little Woman to heat up some hot chocolate and bake us some cookies.”

Instead, he shook his head and said, “You need a wrecker.”

 “Call me a wrecker”

SnowshoesI remember an exchange on the police scanner one night in the distant past: “Athens 1 to HQ, Call me a wrecker.”

“OK, Athens 1, you’re a wrecker.”

When it’s almost midnight-thirty on a cold, blustery, rainy weekend night, it’s not a good time to call for a wrecker. The first two companies said, “We’ll be there on Monday morning. If we can find you.”

The third guy said, “I’ve got my shoes off and I’m sitting where it’s nice and warm watching my girlfriend do her homework. But, I’ll be there shortly.”

I didn’t even ask how much it was going to cost. It didn’t matter.

The wrecker went sliding down the hill

Creek with snowAbout 40 minutes later, the wrecker showed up. After a little backing and filling, the driver hooked up a tow cable to my van. He told me to stay in the vehicle to “help” him try to move it. I’ve seen what happens when a cable snaps, so I wasn’t crazy about being in direct line of the tow, but I also couldn’t open the driver’s side door because it was up against a bank.

He took up the slack on the cable, the van gave a little lurch, then the wrecker started sliding toward me. He repositioned the wrecker, gave another pull, and got the same result.

It was time to get creative. He rigged a pulley to a tree on the opposite side of the road and said he was going to try to pull me crossways in the road, with the eventual hope that he could get me onto a solid surface pointing downhill.

When he finally got me to a 90-degree angle to the roadway, he said, “Give it the gas. See if you can pull yourself up and out.”

“You can’t see it in the dark, but about four feet in front of me is a steep drop-off that ends up in a creek,” I warned him. “If it grabs hold, you’re going to see a blur and hear a splash.”

“You’ll be OK,” he assured me.

He was right

Snow angel selfieThe tires got some bite, I got pointed downhill, he unhooked the cable and said he’d go to the top of the hill to turn around, then he’d meet me at the bottom to settle up.

The trip down was a little interesting, but I made it down to flat ground where their lane meets what passes for a real road. I waited. And waited. And waited. After about 30 minutes, he pulled alongside me.

“I thought I was going to have to call a wrecker for the wrecker,” he said.

“Are you the owner or a worker bee?” I asked him.

“I own the company, but I’ll entertain an offer right now.”

The job cost me a hundred bucks plus a tip. Worth every penny of it.

I was about as happy as Curator Jessica doing a snow angel selfie.

[Thanks to Jessica for providing the photos.]