Recommendation: Distilling Thoughts

Distilling Thoughts

You must visit here. I do not usually add "must" to my recommendations but I earnestly mean it in this case. Totomai's photography is magnificent. It is not often that I discover a blog that moves me with its pictures alone.

I love photography. I suck at it. It's my camera. It isn't meant for quality work but rather for happy photographs of family, friends, pets and scenes. When I stumble across a photographer's blog (with pictures that remind me of snapshots that usually grace the covers and pages of National Geographic, Time or other renowned magazines) my bottom lip quivers and I think to myself, "damn, I wish I were him!"

Go, visit, be amazed!



Sunday Scribblings (a weekly writers forum) listed bragging as a theme. “I don’t like myself. I’m crazy about myself!” – Mae West.

Research the word “bragging”.

It is synonymous with: arrogant, bigheaded, conceited, full of yourself, immodest, vain, self-important.

It is akin to: overweening, high and mighty, egotistical, presumptuous, stuck-up, pompous, snobbish, portentous, ostentatious, imperious, and audacious.

I’ve run out of words and do not wish to look at my thesaurus.

(Autrice imparts an imperious sneer as she brags about her vocabulary skill.)

I did leave out one synonym: proud. I think the prompt should be, “What personal achievement or quality are you most proud of doing or possessing.”

I am proud of the fact that at least one person read this post.

The really tough thing about humility
is you can't brag about it.
~ Gene Brown

Listen to Autrice DelDrago  The Tinker’s Café on internet talk radio

Mid Month Thoughts

We’ve had a fairly quiet month. Last Monday was Columbus Day. It was also Thanksgiving in Canada and I thought it would be amusing to celebrate a foreign holiday; my health kept me from getting the game hens stuffed and into the roaster. Suffice to say, we celebrated a day later.

My motivation stems from Better Half’s desire to break away from the norm this holiday season; rabbit would look lovely on the Thanksgiving sideboard. I have always celebrated the feast with ample portions of giblet stuffing, hence the game hens. My friends seemed amused by my ardent efforts to make this year’s Canadian Thanksgiving special.

I couldn’t type that last sentence without cracking a grin. “Any excuse to celebrate a holiday, Autrice!” How true. Catholics celebrate the Christmas season through January 6th – Greek Orthodox consider this Christmas Day. Hallelujah! Rejoice that we have found another reason to have the full-scale Christmas dinner!

The hens turned out perfectly, the zucchini was delightful and my giblet stuffing, as always, achieved perfection. The entire house carried the Thanksgiving scent (a day late.)

The typical American Thanksgiving is rather asinine, in my humble opinion. The television blares football, the children (crammed into clothes they only wear for holidays) fight, the adults pretend to get along and fight. Granted, not all Thanksgivings are like this. My family did get along, I wore my dress clothes to important occasions or to mass and my father did not care for football. (We would watch the parade in the early morning.) Our guests were always part of the family. No one quarreled. This is not a romanticized childhood on my part; this is how holidays are with us. Perhaps it’s the European upbringing?

I digress.

Better Half and I have set out our holiday decorations. I love Halloween. No, we haven’t any cheesy cobwebs cluttering our porch. We have garlands of leaves festooning our front door and porch rails as well as intertwining on our staircase inside. Festive (yet tasteful) autumn hues brighten our living room and dining room. We do pass out candy – Steubenville doesn’t have much in Halloween balls, galas, parties or even gatherings.

We have The Tinker’s Café running at long last. Our audience is very small however we receiving more joy in doing the broadcasts than we do in seeing anyone there. Our topic this week is extremists in the United States (fundie groups such as Westboro Baptist, etc.) We’ll have to do a little clarification prior to the actual show. Many people do not understand that a fundamental "fill in the blank" is not the same as an extremist. A fundie can be a fanatic Christian, Jew, Muslim, Buddhist, Atheist, Republican, Democrat, Pro-Life or Pro-Choice person, gay or lesbian, environmentalist, etc. I think we’ll focus mainly upon religious extremists and their affect on society.

Linda May

I discovered a lovely blog today, linda may. She chanced upon one of my Sunday Scribblings posts and I thought I’d stop by and read hers.

What a charming woman! Reading her entries is much like sitting down and chatting over a cup of coffee. She has many wonderful pictures from her garden as well.

My Autumn Wildlife Habitat Eco-Style

Fall is my favorite season. I enjoy winter with her blustering snow; spring and summer treat us to a riot of green dotted with a rainbow of bee-attracting colors. Autumn provides fabulous opportunity to study nature before the snow comes.

“Fall! Oh Halloween and Thanksgiving! Oh and then we have Christmas and the New Year! I can smell all the good cooking, and I’m thinking of silver bells and soft blue ribbons, or maybe that woodsy pinecone garland, with plaid bows and merry trees. I’ll go shopping on Black Friday and buy toys for the kids! I’ll wrap things in December, but my cards will be out in November. I’ll do my outdoor lights and unbury Mary and Joseph and the manger, with shepherds and angels. I think they’re behind the artificial tree in the garage, somewhere. It’s lit, you know, with tiny white lights. The outdoor manger, that is. I run a cord and have an inflatable snowman globe opposite the driveway. But remember, Jesus is the reason for the season!”

Excuse me but where did Autumn go? Don’t discard it in favor of holidays. It is a crucial time.

The old year is over and the harvest has been collected. Nature lets out her breath in a long and contented sigh. Fall appears to be death. Most people know that new life will emerge out of the decrepit remains after a long winter. Wildlife, however, is still active even when you can’t see it. It is not death to them; it is the cycle by which they live. We have encroached upon their territory. We owe it to them to give back a little of what we have taken away. I'll share my eco-style (my techniques) with you. Perhaps I will inspire you to incorporate my ideas into your own setting.

Nothing is as cute as teeny mouse nostrils flickering from underneath a carpet of leaves. It takes a keen eye to spot him. You might here the telltale rustle of the mouse as he goes about his business while moving though the crackly leaves if you are not yammering away on your cell phone or loudly talking to the person next to you. (Please, for the love of all animals, keep your odious pet cat indoors where it can eat the food you provide rather than stealing the wild mouse from a needy omnivore.)

The first rule in this game is: natural habitats work wonders. Allow animals to go undisturbed in their habitats. You can help by creating habitats in your own yard for small animals and birds. These animals will have a better chance at getting through the fall if you provide them with the tools that they need: Juniper bushes, toad holes, bark, rock piles and woodpiles (away from your house). Nature keeps the wildlife population in check. Do not fret too much if your favorite cardinal disappears one day.

I am not suggesting that you feed the carnivores (although you will help them out by giving shelter to their prey.) I also am adamant: do not feed the elk and deer. You may think that you are being kind but you are actually creating a nuisance problem as well as killing them. Wildlife will die off or will thrive.

Habitats are easy to construct. You should start in the spring and follow planting guides for you area. You can still have a habitat this fall, however.

Your leaves, which you see as a nuisance that must be swept from your lawn and flowerbeds, will provide a cozy winter respite to field mice, shrews, voles and other small animals. Some will bury deep into the ground and use the foliage as a handy door. Leave some behind along a fence or in a place where (I hope) you’ve observed animals using as a trail. Be aware of the fact that toads, snakes and chipmunks hyphenate: please do not disturb their carefully worked shelters. You will want these creatures around come spring.

Rabbits will search for twigs, moss, bark and leaves to eat during the winter. They are more than happy to eat your vegetable kitchen waste. I am in favor of this but I also disapprove, depending on the situation. Do not throw carrots out on the lawn unless you have been feeding rabbits in this same manner all year. We don’t want to unbalance their digestive system. Further, do not throw scraps out where a rabbit can be picked off by a predator. Mrs. Bunny might be too busy eating to hear some jackass’ domesticated cat creeping up on her. (Autrice is in favor of allowing evolutionary principles to take care of domesticated cats: survival of the fittest. Domesticated urban and suburban cats have decimated the ecology around them by removing essential prey such as birds and mice. Don’t come crying to me if a mountain lion eats your cat, you irresponsible pet owner!)

As I was saying –

You yank your summer annuals from the ground and throw them into a garbage bag. Those still-juicy stems would benefit many creatures. Find a remote corner in your yard and let that biodegradable vegetation have a final purpose. Make a compost heap, if you can.

Allow birds to eat the berries from your bushes. Wait to prune bushes back until the final moments of the season. Many plants should be pruned in the fall only; summer pruning is destroying stored energy. Allow the berries to rest upon the ground as an energy source for other animals.

Junipers make charming holiday backdrops. Hang bits of apple, mullet (found in pet and feed stores), seed ornaments, corncobs or other such edible foods on the junipers (make certain that your items are not too heavy for the bush; allow it to keep its shape.)

Keep your bird feeder clean and stocked with seed. Hang suet baskets and place high-energy suet in them. Keep these filled through winter and fall. Do you have a dog? Do you brush it? Throw the hair into the yard for the benefit of birds and small animals (you can do this year round.) Dryer lint is another fun nesting material.

Peanuts (unsalted) are a squirrel treat. Put them out and observe the antics.

Dig a shallow furrow that is two feet wide and a foot deep, length doesn’t matter. You can place rocks, old branches, grass clippings (chemical free, please), leaves and other “woodsy” material from your yard. This is a perfect sanctuary for everything from mice and snakes to frogs, lizards and toads.

A water dish is helpful during the winter, but you must keep in clean and break up any ice that forms.

Why is this important? What purpose could possibly be gained from letting rotting old leaves, dog fur, dead plants and spent berries to litter my perfect, beautiful, treasured yard? Have you seen those Christmas cards with critters dotting the landscape? If you feed them, they will come. They become a glorious addition to the natural backdrop of your yard. You are also playing an important role in the environment around you.

Do you hate mice invading your home? An outside shelter tempts them away; the population will be kept in check by predators.

Do you hate insects in your home in the early spring? You’ve coaxed toads, mice and other rodents, and birds into your yard (your wildlife habitat!) They will thank you by keeping the creepy crawlies to a minimum. (Leave the spiders, please. They are your first line of natural defense.)

We are mammals. We are part of Nature’s cycle. We benefit when we blend into nature rather than attempting to fight it. My approach is not too difficult to master. Step into your yard and incorporate things to match your personal style and tastes.


WDFW Fact Sheet: Winter Wildlife Feeding lists the thinking behind this.

Feeding Wild Birds what every hobbyist should know - please read.

Sunday Scribblings the prompt for today's post.

NWF Certified Wildlife Habitat creating your own.

Bird Seed Ornaments the recipe. Instead of rolling out balls, tinker with this recipe to get the mixture just right and roll it out between sheets of wax paper. Use a cookie cutter (star-shaped or leaf-shaped) and cut out the ornaments. Make certain that you grease the cookie cutter with something to keep the mixture from sticking. Crisco works wonders. I like to thread them with a sharp needle and some thick white twine. Hang in a spot where birds can easily perch and pick at your creation.


Wellsburg Apple Festival, 2008

Wellsburg is a charming small town along Highway 2 in West Virginia. It has been around for quite a long time, sitting placidly alongside the Ohio River. Better Half and I discovered the Wellsburg Apple Festival last Sunday and thoroughly enjoyed the afternoon.

My first objet de plaisir was this odd little house tucked against a heavy brick building. I love old things. I married one. This old thing caught my fancy because of the timber and plaster walls.

The Wells Log House dates back to 1788, when Wellsburg WV was Buffaloe VA. Alexander Wells (I assume that Wellsburg is named after him or his descendents) constructed the four room/two-floor building. It was doomed to demolition until someone tore off the old siding and saw the old beams. It is now on the National Register of Historic Places, District of Wellsburg (registered 1981.) The home is a cornerstone in this area’s History, which you can find in another of my blog entries.

They permitted people to walk through. We entered the back door and found ourselves in an ancient kitchen. (I fully intend to go back and take better photographs!)

The fireplace is known as a turkey breast. It has a matching fireplace sharing a flue; that fireplace warms the second (main) room. The kitchen and main rooms are the same size. There are no plumbing fixtures. A bare bulb illuminates both rooms, added as an afterthought by either the church that owned the building or the previous owners. We were not allowed upstairs (or perhaps we were, but didn’t realize it.)

They have gathered some artifacts and put them on display. I didn’t have the heart to tell them that a few of those items were from the early 1900’s. That's okay. It is the feel that counts.

Standing in an old building is standing in the tide of history and feeling it churn around your body. You close your eyes and block out all the sounds and then, quite clearly, you can sense things from a bygone era. There was struggle here; life was not easy. There was death, there was birth and ghosts of things that once were.

Better Half can be impatient. Yes, it’s an old house. Yes, that fireplace is interesting. He didn’t seem too keen on staying in there for any length of time. He certainly didn’t have any desire to run his hand along the old wooden beams. I am not saying that he didn’t find it fascinating; he lacks my “whatever you want to call it” when it comes to antiques. I, on the other hand, would have remained there for an hour or more.

I got a kick out of someone’s seemingly long forgotten home. Better Half thought it was abandoned. There was a yard sale going on in the back yard, however. People lived inside.

The structure had gaping hold along the roof and a “haunted” tree in the front yard. It was pretty however. I could imagine the various activities that were held here. It had such a view, too. The river was just outside their door. I took several photographs but my favorite was a humble black and white negative. It screamed, “Happy Halloween”.

The Apple Festival wasn’t as appley as we thought it was going to be. There was apple-themed bric-a-brac but the normal country kitsch crowded it out. There were two Avon stands, an apple farmer, the Rotary was present, there were plenty of food stands and we discovered an excellent honey seller (who happens to live in Steubenville.)

Buena Vista Honey Farms offers the tastiest honey I’ve had in a long time. The flavor found in your honey comes from what you allow your bees to play with. Buena Vitsa offered locust blossom and bamboo honeys; we purchased both. They also had a variety of goods: cleverly shaped beeswax candles, gift bags, wedding favors, honey sticks and honey candies. They had some fact sheets and I enjoyed expanding my bee knowledge.

I do not mind bees. They are beautiful little creatures with soft bodies, interesting wings, and a sting that will kill me.

“You’ll be all right if you don’t swat at them.”

Really? Are you INSANE? Why would I want my hand anywhere near them?

I intend to run in the other direction. To hell with the “stand still” thing. Have you seen the Africanized bees? They swarm a cow and in under a minute the poor beast is on the grass and dying as an incalculable amount of bees inject it with venom.

That was my biggest fear when I lived in the Rockies: Africanized bees.

(I’ll do a bee entry at a later time.)

My second biggest fear, as it so happens, is the Granolas. Only in Colorado can someone stroll around and reek of body odor and pot and still be embraced by people from all walks of life.

Susan (the bleached blond and tanned-by-light-bulbs yuppie attorney cougar who also serves on the City Council) turns to her lover (Brittany the gen x’er health food store manager who sexually services half of City Council, unbeknownst to Susan) and says, “Oh, here comes John, that Granola rascal (who I slept with last night while Brittany was at work.) I heard that he launched a “save the Mountain Whale and Pink Titted Owl” campaign. Instant success. John! Yoo-hoo! Over here. Join us for a Starbucks double espresso!”

(Brittany cringes, of course. She slept with John the Granola this morning after Susan left for work.)

I do not miss Colorado. Colorado is where all the plastic people relocate once they discover that they can not be Somebody while living in California. They are too phony for the real phonies. In Colorado (particularly Colorado Springs) they can act as if they’re Somebody as they maneuver their obnoxious diesel SUVs around. They have an inclination to hose themselves down with cheap perfume and bray (LOUDLY) into their Blackberries at Olive Garden. There is no middle ground with these people. They are either furiously angry liberals who are against any and all oppression (to include the oppression of things that should be oppressed, such as loud farts in public) or they are furiously angry ultra-conservatives who believe that everything should be oppressed as God intended it to be (except for loud farts in public, which they promptly blame on the closest liberal.)

You will occasionally find a smile on your face with one group trumps another.

You go boy! And take that outfit with you.

Back to the Apple Festival. There were no Granolas present.

We met the Gourmet Pizzelle guy. He ships. My parents might receive some pizzelles for Christmas!

Why settle for anise pizzelles? That’s old school. He offers “banana nut, butter almond, butter pecan, two chocolate varieties, cran-raspberry, lemon, maple walnut, orange, pistachio, raspberry, rum’n’spice, vanilla butter nut and……. Watermelon!” He also offers “amaretto, cherry cordial, grand marnier, Irish cream, kahlua, pina colada and toffee”. This isn’t enough, however. He populates the rest of his stock with “apple cinnamon, apple swirl, butterscotch, cran-apple, peanut butter, peanut swirl, pumpkin, rum raisin, strawberry and chocolate mint”. He will make them with rice flour on request, and will also made the “no sugar added” variety.

A gorgeous old Victorian façade fascinated me. It was a pharmacy (and probably the old chemist’s shop at one time.) It apparently didn’t fascinate anyone else. It would be easy to say, “they’ve lived in that town all their lives and it seems part of the backdrop, uninteresting.” I can’t fathom that sort of thinking.

I found old homes bemusing as a child. There was a small orchard and dilapidated old home between my street and the closest stores and I would walk past that property every time I craved a pixie stick from the 7-11 or wanted to buy socks at Gemco. I wanted to walk down that long path and ring their bell (if they had a bell, if they had electricity to have a bell) but I never marshaled up the courage. Too late, I would imagine; the house has most likely been torn down to make room for something overly priced and extremely obnoxious.

Back to the Apple Festival.

Irish musicians mixed with bluegrass and folk as we strolled down Third Street. Children, ever polite, enjoyed playing and day dreaming, their laughter mixing with the music in an enchanting way.

Parking meters are taken very seriously in Wellsburg. The citizens decorate some of their meters as though paying homage to the small change gods. Festive flowers crowned these meters, trailing ivy as their American flags waved gailed in the breeze. I thought it was a very nice touch. Given the extremely friendly nature of all the people that we ran in to, I can easily see a women’s group or even the local high school kids setting each of these meter decorations into place.

Equally as amusing was the parking meter fine drop box. This was not a hoax. People really were on the honor system and the honor system in this town was alive and well.

We left the Festival and headed up to Robinson for Joe’s Crab Shack. We haven’t been to one in a while and we were in the mood for fish and fun. I asked Better Half to please stand in front of the restaurant so that I could snap a picture. He, as usual, stood there like a lump. I had to finally say, “will you &^$@ do something to make it interesting?!”

It worked, as you can see.

Getting Bongo Better Half to “do things” for a picture is nearly impossible. I have fourteen years of film with Better Half "doing nothing". Same pose. Same expression. I can flick through them quickly as if they were one of those cartoon books where you watch the dog fetch the ball. In his case, the hair recedes and the face fills out. Poor fellow.

We drove back to Ohio, a bit worn out from our long day but also very satisfied. I allowed myself to be mugged by some of the dogs and then called it a day. I, unlike Better Half, at least do something in a picture, even if it is pulling a face due to dog breath. Pardon the lack of furniture and things in disarray; we just cleaned the carpets. Yes, ewww - the living room green will be painted over soon.


History Time Capsule (Mingo, Wellsburg)

A bit of history in the Ohio Valley. The Wells Log House, mentioned below, still stands to this day.

The following information was written in 1906 and was found in the cornerstone of Jefferson School, June 23, 1967. Some of the landmarks have been updated to reflect current locations for better reference.

In the year 1749, the French inaugurated the trading system with the Indians along the Ohio River Valley. At that period, the Mingo Indians held the undisputed possession of what was formerly known as “Old Mingo Bottom”, where the City of Follansbee is now located. Here, they had large fields of maize, and the surrounding hills were their hunting grounds. During the years from 1754 to 1756, while the French and Indian War was waging, the English settlers who had forged their way in to this district were forced to return to the more thickly populated districts beyond the Allegheny Mountains for protection against Indian massacres. As a result of the French and Indian War, and the subsequent withdrawal of the English settlers, there was little development along the Ohio River Valley in this section from 1758 until about 1762, when a treaty was signed. The Indians; however, held control of the greater part of the Ohio River Valley until about 1768. At that time, at the suggestion of the General Assembly of the Virginia Colony, a treaty was drawn up between the Six Great Nations of Indians and the English settlers, by which it was agreed that the settlers were to have all the territory south of the Ohio River, the River to be the boundary line between the lands held by the settlers and that held by the Indians. The rich bottom land known as “Old Mingo Bottom” was, until the signing of the treaty in 1768, still the home of the Mingo Indians, but under the conditions of the treaty, they were compelled to move across the Ohio River to what is now Mingo Junction, where they pitched their tents on land now occupied by Wheeling-Pittsburgh Steel Corporation.

After the signing of the treaty in 1768, the settlers again pushed westward to the border and, in the spring of 1772, Isaac Cox and his companions, eager for adventure, located on Mingo Bottom and erected a log house. During the same year, Isaac Cox made a formal entry upon the land, but afterward transferred all of his rights in the same to John Decker. In 1774, quite a number of massacres occurred and many forts along the Ohio River fell into the hands of the Indians. In order to protect his family and property, John Decker built a fort on the land he had taken up on Mingo Bottom. This fort was constructed of logs and stone and was situated on the ground over which the tracks of the Norfolk & Southern Rail Road now run, at a point immediately in front of the old Rail Station and just south of Broad Street in the City of Follansbee. This fort, known as Fort Decker, was the scene of many conflicts, as the leaden bullets and arrow-heads found on the River bank in front spot bear witness. The indications are that the fort had been fired upon from Mingo Island. John Decker owned 343 acres which comprised of the land from the Wabash Bridge, west of the top of the hill, including the land once owned by W.B. Mahan.

In 1780, Alexander Wells received a patent from Thomas Jefferson, then Governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia for 200 acres of land “lying and being in the county of Ohio, on the eastern branch of the Ohio River and including the lower end of the rich bottom land called “Old Mingo Bottom” opposite the “Town of Mingo”. Shortly after this patent was received, we find that Alexander Wells institutes suit against the Heirs of John Decker for possession of the land, and the suit seems to have been decided in favor of Alexander Wells. Alexander Wells conveyed this land to his son, Henry Wells in 1799, who held the same up until the time of his death in 1815. In his will, it appeared that previous to the time of his death, Henry Wells agreed to sell the tract of land containing 360 acres to William Mahan for a consideration of $3,500.00. The 360 acres includes all of the land once owned by Webster B. Davidson and the Brooke County Improvement Company and about 100 acres lying immediately north of the land of the Brooke County Improvement Company.

William Mahan was a native of Hartford Cross Roads, Hartford County, Maryland. He was born in 1776, married in 1800, and in 1814, he brought his family, then consisting of his wife and one small son, Thomas, 8 years of age, to Mingo Bottom where he agreed to purchase the land of Henry Wells. William Mahan and his family made the trip from Maryland to their home by wagon. They descended the fill from what is now Walker Road through the Tenth and Eight Addition Plans of the City of Follansbee, to the log house that was to be their future home.

(I'm interrupting: This log home, dear readers, is the same one mentioned.)

The road down over Walker Hill (before it became know as Walker Road) was the only one in this part of the country at that time. The log house on the plantation purchased by William Mahan was one of the first built by Isaac Cox in 1772. Henry Wells, during his possession of the land, built an addition about twelve feet from the original house, which consisted of but one room, leaving a porch between the two houses over which he built a roof. When William Mahan and his little family arrived at the log house described above, they found Henry Wells, then an old man, sick on his death-bed, which made it necessary for them to wait for the possession of their new home. They journeyed on to the Army Barracks at Fort Steuben, which stood where the City of Steubenville is now situated, and took up winter quarters at the fort. During the month of February, 1815, Henry Wells dies and William Mahan took possession of the Old Mingo Bottom Plantation, which he made his home until his death in 1853 at the age of 77 years. He left his plantation to his son, Thomas Mahan, who enjoyed possession of the same until he, also at the age of 77, died in 1883 leaving quite a number of heirs, who all joined in conveying the farm to TJ Mahan and H.B. Mahan, sons of Thomas Mahan, and it was used by them as a fruit and truck farm until 1902, when they sold it to Benjamin G. Follansbee. Benjamin G. Follansbee conveyed to Follansbee Brothers Company a tract of 40-acres on which they have erected their large Tin Mill, and the remainder of the land they conveyed to the Brooke County Improvement Company, who laid the same out in town lots.

Since the establishment of the Follansbee Brothers Company Tin Mill and the many improvements made by the Brooke County Improvement Company, the City of Follansbee has grown very rapidly and much credit for its rapid advancement is due to William Banfield, the able Manager of Follansbee Brothers Company Mill and President of the Brooke County Improvement Company, whose discretion and judgment and tireless efforts have largely contributed to the marked success of this thriving little City.

At the June term of Court, 1906, the City of Follansbee received is charter as a municipal corporation, and at the first election held in the new city, Thomas J. Mahan, one of the former owners of “Old Mingo Bottom” was selected as Mayor, Brown Latimer the first City Recorder, and the following citizens compose the City Council: Thomas Rogers, George Hahne, J.W. Nott, Harry Herbert and A.S. Craig.

When the Brooke County Improvement Company laid out “Old Mingo Bottom” in town lots, there were forced to destroy two landmarks in order to secure the proper grade for the streets. These landmarks were two prehistoric mounds, supposed to have been built by the Indians who formerly inhabited the country. The smaller of the two mounds showed evidence of being fifteen or twenty feet across the base and several feet high, and was located on Main Street, midway between the intersections of Broad and State Streets with Main Street. This mound, by reason of the cultivation of the soil was partially destroyed many years ago. The large mound was thirty feet in diameter and twelve feet high. When these mounds were removed, quite a number of Tomahawks, arrowheads, scalping knives and other Indian relics were found.

In the year of 1830, William Mahan tore away a part of the old log house originally built by Isaac Cox and to which he made an addition shortly after purchasing the land from Henry Wells and built part of structure occupied as the office of the Follansbee Brothers Company. The structure consisted of a room north of the hall, the hall-way and rooms over it, while the balance of the log house was removed by Thomas Mahan in 1864 and the remaining portion of the building was erected, and up until the time of the sale of the property by Thomas J. Mahan and H.B. Mahan to Benjamin G. Follansbee on May 9, 1902, it was occupied as the Mahan Homestead.

William Mahan, soon after he acquired the “Old Mingo Bottom” plantation, built a log house near the site of the brick house once owned by W. D. Davidson, and the W.D. Davidson Homestead was built by Thomas Mahan in 1864. Thomas Mahan also erected the house near the one once owned by W. B. Mahan, and known as the William Mahan Homestead, and which was the property of Cyrus Ferguson and others, and stands immediately north of the City of Follansbee.

The Sheet Metal Specialty Company occupied the tract of land on Broad Street, adjoining the old P.W. and Ky Depot and were engaged in the manufacturing of sheet metal specialties. The S. Keighly Metal Ceiling and Manufacturing Company was once situated immediately north of State Street and near the Pennsylvania Depot and manufactured steel window and door frames, iron shutters, reinforced iron work for concreting, and metal ceilings.

The Jefferson Glass Company’s plant was located immediately south of State Street and it was their intention to manufacture fine glass table ware. The Union Lumber Company purchased a lot south of Duquesne Way where they had their lumberyard. The Builder’s Supply Company occupied land immediately west of Mill Alley and Ohio Street. The last two name Companies have furnished nearly all the material used in the early built structures in Follansbee.

The Pan-Handle Abstract Company who have charge of the sale of lots for the Brooke County Improvement Company report that there have been 931 lots offered for sale since June 1, 1904 and 572 lots sold up to September 27, 1906.

R. Humes who purchased 28 and 29 of the Original Plan to the Town of Follansbee on June 1, 1904 broke ground for his store room the same day and erected the first building in the the town of Follansbee, as platted and laid out by the Brooke County Improvement Company. The first brick structure erected in the City of Follansbee was by H.H. Provines on lot #121 of the Original Plan, and the front room of the building was known as the “Citizens Bank of Follansbee.” This bank was established in July, 1906 with an authorized total stock of $25,000.00. The United States Post Office was first established in Follansbee in 1905 with Mrs. Mary Hately as Postmistress, and was located on Lot #34 of the Original Plan of Follansbee.

Writers, Revisions and Woes

Is it Friday yet?

Of course not.

Today is the pre-Friday show. It’s a teasing sort of day where one wishes so badly for it to be Friday yet dreads Friday itself because it will quickly turn into Saturday, then Sunday and then Monday. I, unlike most, do not worry about Friday or weekends in general. Every week is a weekend.
Yes, today is Friday. It only feels like a Thursday.

Mum sent over version 43956 of her book. I jest. She only has 43910.3 rewrites. I’m amused. Truly. “Help me edit this” is followed by “I’ve made some changes”. A day or two later, “When are you going to get around to reading the new chapters, editing them, or giving me your opinion of them?”



I'll let that sink in a moment.

I love my Mum and she is a true genius, but I feel much like the husband as he moves furniture about a room. He could be playing golf or sailing but he is lugging an enormous couch and china cabinet about on his day off.

The couch thunks onto the wood floor with an audible groan (from the man, and not the couch.

“Hmm,” says the wife, “what do you think?”

He draws breath…

She shakes her head and says to him, “I don’t like it. Move the couch over there!”

Eight hours pass. The wife is not buried in the backyard with incriminating couch prints still evident upon her face. The wife is humming and arranging doilies on the upright piano (which was moved only fourteen times that day. Just ask the husband. He counted.)

I can not put off her edit (my mother loves, commas, and uses them, often, so I need to fix them.) The rush this time around is due to Fr. Leonard (he is not aware of this.)

My parents were both involved at Fordham University (NYC). I have heard Fr. Leonard’s name my entire life (the poor man was mentioned more often than any other person in the world, with the exception of….. I really can’t think of any other person.) Fr. Leonard was a phenomenal priest at Fordham. I researched some info regarding Mimes and Mummers at Fordham and chanced upon Fr. Leonard himself. Alive. With email! A call quickly went out to Mum and Dad and they were thrilled.

Mum sent a powerful email to him. She thanked him for being such an inspiration to their lives. (Believe me, Fr. Leonard, you were.) He is the unseen ghost in many things that she had done; a mentor’s invisible touch that lasts through the decades. She has her own style but he influenced it. He encouraged her to direct and teach. He believed in her. He taught my father before Mum was involved with Fordham. He knew them both before they were shackled with a small and terrifying beast, sharp fanged and content to gnaw on the table legs. ::: insert evil laugh here ::: All kidding aside, my parents would not have done what they did without the lessons given to them by this wonderful man. Mum's book reflects many of his teachings from forty years ago.

If he has turned into an old grouch and treats them poorly, I shall travel to New York and kick him in the shin.

An old quote, by any other name, is still enjoyable

Be kind to colleagues, ruthless with theories, is a good rule. A scientific theory isn’t merely idle speculation, it’s a verbal picture of how things might work, how a system in nature might organize things – atom and molecules, species and ecosystems. But old paleontological theories too often aren’t treated roughly enough. Old theories – like the reptilian nature of dinosaurs – are accepted like old friends of the family. You don’t yell at old Aunt Cecilia. So hundred-year-old dinosaur theories live on without being questioned, and too often they are assumed to be totally correct. Even when such theory is caught in an error, it’s likely to be excused.
- Robert T. Bakker, Ph.D., The Dinosaur Heresies

Red Peppers, a Quest for Noel Coward's script

I woke up with Red Peppers on the brain. Not the kind suitable for eating, dear Readers; the play.

I recall my mother telling me about performing in Red Peppers. It is a warm, fuzzy memory, the likes of which make you immediately think, “wow, why in the hell did I grow up?” The topic came up during some sort of play that I was working (or perhaps it was one of her productions that I was acting in?) We lived in California at the time. Perhaps my father was still employed at Paramount, perhaps he had moved on to Hannon Engineering. Who is to say? I can’t recall it. I have no intention of calling Mum to ask. Much too early in the morning (two hour difference between us.)

Let’s jump into our Way, Way Back Machine, preset to the 1970’s or early 1980’s. She hands me the tattered remains of what was once a working script. Noel Coward’s name is fading from the cover and the pages themselves bear the brunt of an actor’s touch.

There was a feeling of connectivity then, standing in their library and grasping something that my mother once used in her Younger Days before she gave up her career to raise me (promise to God, complex, to be explained someday.) Her lines were not highlighted. There were notes scribbled in the margins as well as blocking. It had the scent of old makeup and cigarette smoke. The paper, aged and soft, had the occasional gritty speck stashed between the pages. I imagined a much younger Mum, the sort that would toss the script onto the apron during a rehearsal thereby permitting the particles to embed themselves.

Wow, my mother performed this, I thought to myself, and then added for good measure, in front of people in a theatre.

To this day I have but one regret: I have never seen my mother perform. She was instructing and directing by the time that I came along. She has recited lines for me (such as the Red Peppers moment) and I always found myself to be dumbfounded by her knack of getting quickly into character, to step into a role that she had not embraced in over “a million” years. I was immeasurably proud of her during those moments.

Accents. “A Southern accent is infectious and can ruin an entire show.” It is sage advice from a woman who understands her craft better than most people know their own navels. My mother ran through a few lines (by memory) using a flawless Cockney (or East Ender) accent. The script begs for it. I was duly impressed as I stood in her library.

This is the point where I would insert a bit of dialog in order to give you a peek into Red Peppers. I would like to. I can’t find the lines anywhere.

Pickabook offers: Thisitem is not a usual stock item, but we can try to source it. Our price includes a finder's fee of £2.00 per copy. The usual dispatch time is 4-6 weeks.

No shit, Sherlock. I spent a good hour Googling in hopes of finding a snippet of lines from the script. Class and wit have been replaced by talking vaginas and cuckold men (my apologies to my NOW friends and family.)

Samuel French did have a copy and a short synopsis of the play.
One of the "Tonight At 8:30" series produced in London and New York. Doing a song and dance act in a vaudeville theatre are George Pepper and his wife, Lily. They also have a genius for picking quarrels and insulting co workers. When the house musical director, Bert, comes to the dressing room to bum a cigarette and a beer, they chide him for accompanying them in the wrong tempo, call him a drunk, and oust him. Mr. Edwards, house manager, comes to defend Bert, and he is insulted. At the following show Bert had his revenge when he plays the accompaniment so fast the Peppers get frantic and finally fall down. Lily stalks off the stage after heaving her hat at Bert. Also published in Tonight at8:30.
FEE: $35 per performance. Sheet Music (2 songs), $1.25 each.

La te da, Samuel French. (It's located in Key West. No, not Samuel French. La Te Da.)

I'd like to know some of the lines. I'd like to touch upon a memory. There is only one thing for it: Call Mum.

“Hello,” says my mother and I detect a hint of curiosity in her voice. It’s noon here and I am actually out of bed. Did the house catch fire? Am I in the hospital dying from typhoid? Did we win the lottery?

Detour moment:
I never call her early in the day. I always manage to call her towards the end of the day, as if she were nothing but an afterthought to my busy (NOT) day. This is not the case, dear Readers. My mother is not an afterthought. She is writing a book and I do not wish to disturb her. Also, Better Half drives me nucking futs during the day and I seem unable to string two words together without him shouting at some animal or another.


Jebus Crisp, Better Half! “Better HALF! BETTER HALF. Shush! SHUSH! SSSHHHUSH, I’m on the damned phone”. Thus go my days.

I have a sweet friend who also is cursed with oft-impish fur children. He will politely say, “Simba, get down. Mummy’s on the phone.” So elegant. I sometimes dread calling Michael for fear that Better Half will spontaneously explode from the sound of his own voice.


I would then have to apologize to Michael and offer to pay for his now-ruptured eardrums, hang up the phone and grab the mop and towels before the neighbors notice the red goop trickling down the walls.

Back to my mother:

“Hello,” says my mother and I detect a hint of curiosity in her voice.

“Hey, do you remember Red Peppers?”


“Didn’t you and Dad do that one?”


“Wasn’t there a song in there?”

“Yes… hmm.” She sings some lyrics.

I laugh. Her memory is phenomenal. She goes into lines.
George: Now then.
Lily: Now then what?

She runs the dialog too quickly for me to type out beyond that. She runs it with the Cockney accent (very soft but still there), accurately portraying both characters as they react to each other. She laughs; she can’t remember any further.

“If Dad were here, we could run the lines for you,” she adds. (He is at the dentist today.)

I can feel her smiling as she says, “I directed your Dad in New York [City] with Peggy, and then I performed it with Dad in California.” It has been forty-two years (at the very least) since they performed ‘Red Peppers’. She still remembers.

I cast my mind about for lines from any productions that I’ve been in, reaching far back into my thirty-seven year old memory cache. It’s not impressive compared to Mum’s cache. (I have a hard time remembering what I ate for breakfast, where I left the dog and my own age.)

Lines? I have the ability to remember those. Perhaps it is a gift from Mum.

My first thought is The Decision. I remember the entire script, and I do mean the entire script. Every line. It’s a three-act play. Three hours of lines. I was in every scene; my father initially played the role.
This trial is one of great decision on your part. The accused is not present at this hearing. I have been assured by his counselor that the defendant will be watching these entire proceedings.

I am prepared to present to you many witnesses to prove the accused is guilty of having misled and confused millions of innocent people. In actuality, it is not so much the defendant who is on trial here, but rather it is his lunatic ideals that his followers have plagued mankind with…
I remember things from high school and earlier – first grade at St. Rose of Lima Elementary, we did a production called The Five Stones. I played the part of Martha. I think my husband was Zack. I can recall grabbing that young actor’s arm and delivering an irritated, “Come on, Zachary!” before dragging him stage right. Is this just some sort of floating dream? I reminiscence about a scrapbook and of an old photograph published in our local paper. It depicts that exact scene. Therefore, I can assume that either my memory is foggy or that I am actually remembering the lines.

Red Peppers. Mum and I enjoyed an hour on the phone. We talked about her old haunts and jobs. We discussed the university. We laughed over Vatican II nuns, communist lists, foolish Cardinals and the degradation of the Theatre Arts.

Today is my Grandfather Frank’s birthday. He passed when Mum was sixteen. I know it’s a poignant day for her. I am certain that her memories of her father are just as fresh as the lines that she so easily recollected over the phone. I think of the future Autrice and where I will be in forty years, when I am as old as my Mum and recalling loved ones. I also think of where my Mum was when she was my age. Both are bittersweet thoughts. I have not achieved as much as she did by her mid-thirties. I have not slain dragons or taken on the world with the same determination and fervor as she.

My hope is for my memory. I want to be able to peek over my shoulder and recall things such as soft scripts and Mum’s voice giving lines. I want to be capable of journeying down Memory Lane and seeing all the splendors with my mother’s same accuracy.

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Toast a most extraordinary blog.

VA, zombies and shopping - oh my!

Nothing brings greater domestic ecstasy than stocking our larder with all the premium bits and pieces needed to create magnificent meals (unless you count the sheer pleasure of cooking and consuming said meals.)

Better Half and I journeyed to Pittsburgh today. The lab vampires gorged themselves upon his blood; the LPN, scrying his medical records, decreed him to be a corporally eroding human; the pharmacist plied his secret vodou conjuring and wrought wicked remedies to thwart Better Half’s progression into a zombie-like condition. They injected us both with a live viral culture. We were dispatched like a couple of winged (zombie?) monkeys, perhaps in the hope that we would rummage around the city and spot a pubescent gingham-clad farm girl and her little dog, Toto, too. It was a predictable day at the VAMC.

I happen to like zombies. The ultimate expression of their undead love is exhibited by the amount of body parts left on the carpet. I once found Better Half’s torso in the dining room. I was moved beyond tears but also irked by the amount of dusty blood on the carpet. Furthermore, the dogs feasted upon his withered internal organs while I was out; rotted human jerky tends to unsettle their little tummies. I was picking up liquid pooh all damn night.

Zombie. Zombified. Zombificaiton. Jumbie. Nzambi. Zonbi. Nzumbe.

The Epic of Gilgamesh of ancient Sumer includes zombies in a most threatening fashion. A vengeful Ishtar cries out:

“Father give me the Bull of Heaven,
So he can kill Gilgamesh in his dwelling.
If you do not give me the Bull of Heaven,
I will knock down the Gates of the Netherworld,
I will smash the doorposts, and leave the door flat down,
And will let the dead go up to eat the living!
And the dead will outnumber the living!”
The little bitch gets her way, I should add. Ishtar is granted the Bull of Heaven and all sorts of odd things happen.

Ishtar is a very impish person. We can thank her for all those charming passages in the bible that pertain to “men shall not lie with men as they do women.” We can also thank her for Romans 1 although really we should thank Christians themselves for changing God’s Word to reflect their own pedantic apprehensions. The early church was distraught over the sexually themed worship in Rome. They put their figurative foot down and became rather abstemious in regard to how and why worship would take place. Verses were changed through the ages to reflect sex alone and separate from Ishtar and temple practices.

No way, Autrice. You are wrong!

Many of my fellow Christians do not question their modern bible nor do they question why things read as they do.

Ishtar = the gay is sin debate.
Bacchus = drinking wine is sin debate.

And so on...

I could go on, but I won’t. It is not my job to educate you, dear Readers. Sheeple need to seek the best grass in the pasture instead of blindly following their shepherd (pastor or priest.) If your shepherd cannot point out the good grass and clover to you (or if he or she is unwilling to) then by all means FIND A NEW PASTOR. Don't stagnate; grow through the Holy Spirit.

I have gone completely off topic with this whole thing. My intention was to share our shopping day at the Strip. Zombies, Ishtar, doctors and flying monkeys were not on the program.

The Strip. Shopping. Lovely day.

Better Half and I started at Penn Mac. We stocked up on spices and other things. The large jug below is olive oil. This is how Italians purchase it. We fill our own bottle, allowing the precious liquid to flow from huge vats. It is light and heavenly. We do not use any other oils. Lazy Italians purchase oil it in tins. Clueless Americans purchase it in tiny bottles tucked onto the supermarket shelf.

We had a delightful lunch at our favorite restaurant, Primanti Brothers. I made the mistake of ordering their famous Colossal Fish sandwich. It is a slab of breaded fish almost as long as my forearm fried and slapped onto thick bread. Cheese and shredded greens are added to that. Tomatoes rest on top. Add another slab of bread. The artery clogger is the French fries pressed between the cheese and the greens. My God, I thought I would die. I can’t open my mouth that wide. I turned the entire affair into finger food and picked out the fries on one half. The second half was neglected with the exception of the fish. I picked that out and nibbled on it. (I did not bring my camera with me today. No fish picture for you.) They have the best food.

We stopped into Penzy spices for some Sate seasoning and ground ginger. They were offering a free jar of minced garlic.

Wholey was next. This place is fabulous. A sushi chef and his stand are the first sight you lay eyes on as you walk through the door. The abundance of the sea sits to the right. Beautiful fish with clear eyes and open mouths lay on beds of shaved ice. Thick slabs of deep red tuna tempt the shopper. A large barrel of Spot was placed prominently today. $1.49 a pound, a decent price. I had the fishmonger pull two juicy fish. They were filleted in record time. Other fish swam in large tanks towards the back of the fish section.

The second part of the store is dedicated to meat. You can find hefty cuts of beef or pork. Rabbit ($4.99 a pound) can be had fresh or frozen. A variety of internal organs are at your fingertips or, if you are at peace with it, you can purchase hocks, feet and other “walkie bits”. The shining glory today were the turkeys suspended above the butcher’s counter.

We went to the Asian market and stocked up on our miso paste and bonito flakes. (6 cups water, 2 tablespoons miso, a dash of bonito flakes = easy soup. Add some green onions and mushrooms for a vegetarian dish. Broil some chicken or pork loin, slick thin and add to the soup for a hearty meal. Thinly slick raw beef and add it to scalding hot soup for a unique adventure – I recommend using quality beef and not whatever was on sale at your local Wal-mart.)

Our final stop was Stan’s Produce. You can always fine the freshest goods at Stan’s. I picked up some Roma tomatoes (my own plants are almost dead), green onions, sweet potatoes and zucchini. I cannot recall if I bought the large garlic at Stan’s or Penn Mac.

Dinnertime has arrived. A steaming hot bowl of soup and some sweet fish await fixing.


Papikosh Virginia Spot (or how I made Leiostomus xanthurus tasty)

I did not bring my camera with me today so I do not have a picture of a Virginia Spot while at Wholey's. I did travel around the web in search of one (finding a fantastic blog called Toast in the process.) The picture above is some generic thing I pulled off of the 'net.

Virginia Spot (Leiostomus xanthurus) is a smallish fish with a sweet flavor. I am providing a basic recipe below. Consequentially, it is also my Papikash Catfish recipe. Hmm. Papikash Spot? That has an interesting sound to it.

Fillet your fish if your monger has not already done so for you. Pat dry.

Sprinkle each side of the fillet with kosher salt, white ground pepper, onion powder and Hungarian paprika.

Pan fry on medium-high heat, in extra virgin olive oil for a total of five minutes. I keep the pan covered.

Fish will flake when ready.

You can pair this with a nice green salad and white wine.

Must Do lists and other musings

Fall is out there. I saw it, albeit briefly. My “window tree” treats me to brilliant red foliage on the outermost branches. The air is cooler and much crisper. Dead leaves frolic along the ground, whispering, “ware, pay heed, winter approaches.”

I have a large autumn “MUST DO” list. I must get the downstairs cleaned for the holidays. I must get the upstairs cleaned for my own sanity. I must get the new plastic shower curtain put up. I must have Better Half drag my box of fall décor up from the basement. I certainly must take fall photographs, strip my garden of summer plants, take in the outside fountain near Toad Hall, sweep the porch, brush and wash the dogs, organize my cupboards and get a haircut.

I got a haircut. That is an accomplishment. Insanity is staved off for the moment.

Autrice made the mistake of wanting long, pretty hair that framed her face and hid the excess water retention. Autrice is Not Patient, however. Better Half and I were in Robinson Township last night and I raced to the nearest salon. It isn’t that I don’t appreciate our local cosmetology talent. I do. I simply do not enjoy looking frumpy. The long hair was frumpy. My local talent enjoys the bouffant style, whereupon one sprays and teases hair into place. The Robinson talent, close enough to Pittsburgh to be metro without the metro price tag, does a splendid job. I am now the proud owner of a kicky razor cut. It’s boyish yet playful. I adore it.

We like to play in Robinson (Town Centre.) There are plenty of popular restaurant chains nestled next to metropolitan places such as (scream of joy) Ikea, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Eddie Bauer, Macy’s, Marshalls, and JC Penney and did I mention (scream of joy) Ikea?

There is (o glory of glories) a Saks Fifth Avenue in Pittsburgh proper. It happens to be downtown in my favorite district - the Too Expensive For Most People District, which is nestled in the Fine Arts You Can’t Afford To See District and rather close to The Penn Avenue Market District With Foods That Wal-Mart Shoppers Will Not Be Able To Identify.

Back East living is very different from West Coast living. There is a refinement to it. Hollywood is plastic, be it clothing or breasts or faces. Back East is polished. You can drive down Penn Avenue in the fall and winter and see a tide of black flowing along the sidewalks and licking at the building facades. Dark trench coats shield business professionals and their expensive suits from the elements. Now and then a bright pop of red springs forth from the black sea, the blazingly outspoken emblem of an elderly socialite on her way to purchase tickets for the ballet or pick up her dry cleaning. People have manicures and those manicures are not there in order to impress others. Rather they are there because keeping one’s fingernails looking trim is expected.

Life is very different in Steubenville. It is very laid back. Women scrapbook. Men slap on ball caps and go out the door. Vehicles have Steelers emblems on them. You might see license plates from West Virginia (Weirton is just across the Ohio River.) People are kinder here.

Better Half has accidentally left his wallet in a shopping cart twice. He raced back to the market both times to discover that some good citizen has not only turned his wallet in but also left the cash tucked inside. People open doors for you and will hold that door open no matter how long it takes you to amble through. People say, “thank you” and are met with, “you are welcome.”

There are some unsavory elements that have slithered in. Most of downtown is a dead zone riddled by crime and populated by human beings who really don’t give a flaming fuck about maintaining their property, their lives or their environment.

I have just realized that my office calendar is still showing August. We can’t have that. Didn’t I mention something about a “MUST DO” list? Surely, I shall not accomplish anything on that list if I am sitting here being amused by the sounds the keys make as I type.

Partial Birth Abortion

The interview that left O'Reilly speechless:

CNN story:

It's Faux News but it does echo CNN's report:

Finally, a rather shoddy video but it does contain the bills in question and any and all "changes" to them: