Things That Go Bump

My final offering for Creepy Tales month is a true story of a haunted house and the crazy people who lived in it:  my family.

When I was young my family spent some time sharing a quaint old house with an elderly lady. She was cantankerous at first, but turned out to be nice enough once we got acquainted. The only problem with her was that she was dead.

Throughout my childhood my family moved constantly and, like a troupe of gypsies we dragged our house around behind us. Well, actually a big truck came and dragged our house away, we drove on ahead in the family car to prepare a place for it to be set up again in the new location. Continue reading “Things That Go Bump”

Twist of Fate

For the month of October I’ve been posting true life tales of adventure,  daring and creepiness. This one goes in a different direction from the last three: while a serpent is mentioned, it is not the main character.  It’s a true-life story I first published in 1987.

Fate is like an overly long serpent, twisting and coiling back upon itself until it seems certain to tie itself into knots. Somehow, it never does. I found myself snared in a bight of this serpent a few years ago. I was late for work. I took a short cut past the old airport and pushed the accelerator closer to the floor.

car,automobile, thunderbird
My ’69 T-Bird

I drove a 1969 Thunderbird–then only five years old–with a 429 Thunderjet engine, high performance cams, valves and pistons. The car was too heavy to be any good at street drag racing but on a long haul it was one of the fastest cars around. I could make the long run to Chicago at 115 miles per hour with the engine just purring along. Twice–that I know of–I had flashed past a highway patrol car which was hiding off on the roadside. Neither time did they try to pursue. Continue reading “Twist of Fate”

Autumn Arrives

It’s late October; the mountains are splashed with autumn red, gold, yellow and russet as the hardwood trees settle in for a long nap.  There is a bite of winter to the crisp nighttime air.

Most of the garden is slowing to a crawl if not wilting up entirely.  But not everything in the garden is going dormant. I have a fresh crop of lettuce, beets, squash, chard, Brussels sprouts and onions that have sprouted and will continue to grow and provide us with fresh vegetables well into the winter.  Winter gardening?  Outdoors?  Yes!  Continue reading “Autumn Arrives”

The Second Snake

snake, porch, steps, rockAbout this time three weeks ago I was dealing with a copperhead that came a-calling. Yesterday evening, Marie was out working in her flower gardens. I was inside reading. She stuck her head in the front door and said, “Snake!”


“Right here by the front steps.”

“Can you tell what kind it is?” By now I was up and heading for the door. Continue reading “The Second Snake”

Encounter at Copperhead

Here’s another creepy tail of adventure for Halloween month.

I had completed my morning gardening chores, made my mail run, had lunch, gotten the riding mower out and was starting my mowing when I spotted a snake crawling out of a hole in the underpinning (skirting) of my workshop – a mobile home that was on the property when we bought it and served as our home until we were able to build a house. It looked a lot like a copperhead. Or at least what I remembered a copperhead to look like. But before I went into snake eradication mode I decided to do some fact checking: sometimes good snakes have coloring very similar to the bad snakes, and I don’t want to kill a King Snake because I mistook it for a viper. Continue reading “Encounter at Copperhead”

Snakes Alive!

Sometimes we find adventures – or inspiration for fictional adventures – in the common occurrences of every day life.  Since this is Halloween month, I’m going to share with you some ‘creepy’ stories from my life.

My buddy Mike, who lives in Alabama, was weeding in his yard the other day.  He reached into a clump of plants and found a large snake skin.  Fortunately that snake skin was uninhabited!  He has a lot of copperheads around there and copperheads are just flat-out mean!

king snake, snakes,
Photo of and from Brian O’Hare – Snake Wrangler

My bro, Brian picked up a new golf partner, fortunately it was just a King snake.

I found a snake skin hanging off a hickory tree beside the house a while back.  From the size of it I’d say mine was from a black snake – it was pretty big.  We’ve seen black snakes around here get 6’ to 8’ in length.  I came across one just the other day while I was mowing the grass – he was only about 4 feet.  He hopped and wriggled comically to get away from the mower then slithered through a chink in the skirting under the trailer.

Note to self: next time I have to go under the trailer for something; MAKE A LOT OF NOISE! Continue reading “Snakes Alive!”

A Day with a Dingo

doug and a dingoYesterday Marie and I spent, once again, in the company of a Dingo. In case you don’t remember our last encounter, this Dingo is a walk-behind front loader – well, OK, it can be fitted with other attachments to do other things too, but we were using it as an earth mover. And that’s how we spent the day; moving piles of earth from one place to another.

We chose to go with the Dingo rather than the Bobcat this time because the Dingo does less damage to the ground you’re working than the Bobcat. It also costs less, but it carries 1/6 as much as a Bobcat – so that’s a wash. It was the “tearing things up as fast as I smooth them out” thing that was the determining factor.

The first pile didn’t have to move far, just from where it was, next to our septic tank, to the hole above the septic tank – and the ditches running from the new house to the tank, and the ditch from the trailer to the tank. (The only way I could think of to find the tank was to dig up the existing septic line) And that pile was actually several piles or ridges scattered about the site. Quite a mess really, but it looks better now. It’s still just dirt but now it’s mostly level dirt that can be traversed, not piles and ridges that form barriers to travel. And, before I started digging it all out, I laid down a thick layer of dead leaves over the grass under the big pile to make it easier to know when to stop digging while putting it back and to protect the grass a bit. I had not counted on it sitting there for so many months, but there are still some shoots of grass harboring in a layer of decomposed leaves. They ought to come back fairly well now that sunshine can get to them again.

The second pile, or again: piles, were above and behind the house where the Bobcat and I carried the “fall-out” from our cave-in while building the Great Wall of Edwina. This needed to go back into the caverns behind the wall. That area looks much better now and will look even nicer once we get some flowers (or at least weeds) growing again. This area is the view out our kitchen window, so that’s a priority. I’d bore you with pictures, but our brand new camera quit on us and had to be mailed to Connecticut for repair. Hopefully we’ll get it back soon. The picture above? Oh, that’s a shot from our files of the last time the Dingo entertained us.

The third project was to flatten out the driveway and parking area. The parking area is bare clay and has been pretty badly rutted up by heavy trucks, and equipment used in installing our home. It is now, as Marie put it, “like the infield at Wrigley Field.”

On Friday we decided we could afford some gravel to put on the parking area, but at that late date we were unable to get anyone to deliver it on Saturday. So…

I tried to level out the humps-n-bumps in the driveway, but that was mostly beyond the Dingo’s capability. Here the gravel we spread the last time the dingo visited got churned into the clay below it by the bulldozer and Jadde (as well as by trucks full of cement blocks, a small track hoe, and the truck & trailer of our trim-out guy) forming a very hard, stable base for our driveway. It’s pretty ugly now, but once we get another layer of crusher run on it, it will be a good driveway, even for as steep as it is. Even now, it does not get mucky in the rain like the parking area. I succeeded in scraping off some of the bigger humps and moving that material into the deeper depressions, so it is better, but it is far from smooth.

And finally we moved most of a large pile of black dirt, which I bought from a road crew who were cleaning out the ditches along the Edwina-Bridgeport road last year, from behind the trailer around to the flower beds in front of the new house. There is a high amount of small gravel in this dirt, but it is also very rich, black dirt, not the red or yellow clay you see most everywhere. Around here, even if you buy “top soil” from a garden center, what you will get is red clay that has been screened for rocks and large clumps. This black dirt should be a good start for Marie’s flowers (better than we could buy) and we can cover the stones with mulch once the plants get started. I’ve got a compost pile started using wood chips from the shop. That’s been steeping since last fall so it ought to be ready this summer.

We accomplished in a day what we had hoped to accomplish in… well; in a day, but were afraid we’d need two. A Dingo, in the hands of an experienced operator, is supposed to be able to do some very nice finish work. I am far from ‘experienced’, so it proved very useful for moving around large quantities of earth and some of the spreading but all smoothing and making “pretty” was done with a garden rake and muscle. And those muscles were very sore on both of us last night. Hot showers and liniment all around – make mine a double!

Moonshine Rod Run

It seems we all have our holiday traditions; what would Christmas be without a tree, what would Thanksgiving be without turkey (or ham in some homes), what would the 4th of July be without at least one 3rd degree burn.  And for Marie and I, Father’s Day has always meant… Car Show!

While we lived in St. Louis, we went to a monstrous car show in Forest Park that covered square miles with every conceivable kind of custom and classic cars, trucks, tractors and motorcycles.  Since we’ve lived here (2001), we have attended the Hard Times Street Rod Club Moonshine Rod Run in the Newport City Park every Father’s Day weekend.

Newport has a very nice park, and the Hard Times Street Rod Club does an excellent job of presenting this show.  This year the attendance, both in terms of lookers and in cars displayed, was back up to the level it was when we first came here.  When the economy crashed, this show suffered some.  We did notice that all the tags we saw indicated the cars were from Tennessee, North Carolina and South Carolina.  We saw no tags from Georgia or Florida as we had in the past.  So while the numbers are up again, people are not willing to come long distances for the show.

This year the Moonshine Rod Run again boasted over 500 classic cars ranging from the 1920’s to 1958.  Some were stock restorations, some were fully customized, most were somewhere between.  Some were breathtakingly beautiful, all were interesting.  If you like classic cars, that is.

Continue reading “Moonshine Rod Run”