Sunday, June 16, 2024

I Don't Like Spiders And Snakes

Susan was sorting through some things in the garage Sunday, and was bitten by a brown recluse spider.  I keep snake bite kits handy in my man-purse, and put a suction cup on her hand right away, within minutes of the bite.  We use these things frequently for insect stings, and they pull wasp and bee venom out effectively if we can apply a suction cup right away.  This was the first time we used one on a spider bite.

I pulled it off after a few minutes to have a look, and we were astounded at the amount of blood that had come out.  Evidently, brown recluse venom has anti-coagulant properties.  We put the suction cup on again, and pulled less blood out on the second go.  The third time pulled very little.  The patient has no redness or swelling, only a tiny scab at the bite site. 

If you read about the Cutter kits on the Internet you will find that medical folks despise them, and say they do more harm than good.   I have never been snakebit, and I can sure understand the harm that can come from using one of these kits instead of seeking prompt medical attention, but I also appreciate the way they work for me on bee stings, and insect bites.  Now we know the little suckers are good for spider bites, too.

This is a brown recluse spider.  They like to hide in dark places, under boxes, rags, or etc., and can deliver devastating tissue damage with their venom.  If one gets on you, brush or shake it off; don't smash it on your skin.  Get it on the floor and then step on it.

Sunday, February 25, 2024

The Worms Crawl In, The Worms Crawl Out....

Whether you are a soft-bodied mammal or a hard-hearted hickory, there is something waiting for you at your demise. We do our part to send them up the chimney to heaven, and avoid all the munchiness.

The wood seasons quickly if the tree is dead for a while, so long as it is vertical so rain runs off rather than soaking in through the bark. Those seasoning cracks in hickory in less than a week are amazing and gratifying. Back To The Old Grind!

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Hard Hat Reminder

 Also, that Escape Rule should not be ignored. The hickory tree's fibers slipped, and I stayed in place to get my video. A tap on the head is always a reminder that you should have been somewhere else.

Little Six Point Carcass


                                                                                                          Dusty Photo

Our friend Dusty was out in the timber looking for shed antlers and found this little buck that has been cleaned by coyotes and other varmints. We have a lot of hunting pressure around us. There are two outfitters selling hunts, and deer hunters are all around our timber  through the deer seasons. We saw more than a dozen impressive sets of  antlers on social media that were harvested around us. This deer was probably killed by one of those hunters. The shooter should have contacted us and collected it, but did not. Maybe the shooter was not competent to track a wounded deer, maybe the shooter wasn't brave enough to contact us and ask permission to retrieve it. Maybe he shot this deer, saw a better one, and then shot and tagged the second one. Maybe he shot when this little deer was in line with the one he was aiming at. Who knows? It's an aggravation. The outfitters charge well up into four figures for a successful deer hunt, and there have been many trophy quality racks taken around us. This little guy will not mature to be one of those trophies in the future, so sloppy hunting is not just bothering us, it will be hurting the outfitters. The heavy pressure* around our island of habitat for trophy bucks is not sustainable, and I am sure we will be seeing fewer big racks in the next few years.

*We are skeptical about the ethics of some of the hunting that goes on around us. We commonly hear rifle shots at night during both bow and gun seasons while we are out with the dogs. Deer carcasses discarded off of bridges are big red flags. 

Friday, February 9, 2024

Valentine Countdown Bonus! Tyler Childers Performs John Prine's They Ought To Name A Drink After You!

Valentine Countdown! Dancing In The Moonlight, Rudy Vallee

Before New Math, Before Common Core learned the multiplication and division tables, and were able to work out problems in their head when they went out into the world.  Ernie Pyle was with engineers on Sicily during WW II, and saw them work out complex problems firsthand.  The general waiting on the finished product was the first one across.

Sicily, 1943, with Ernie Pyle:  "When the Forty-fifth Division went into reserve along the north coast of Sicily after several weeks of hard fighting, I moved on with the Third Division, which took up the ax and drove the enemy on to Messina.

It was on my very first day with the Third that we hit the most difficult and spectacular engineering job of the Sicilian campaign.  You may remember Point Calava from the newspaper maps.  It is a great stub of rock that sticks out into the sea, forming a high ridge running back into the interior.  The coast highway is tunneled through this big rock, and on either side of the tunnel the road sticks out like a shelf on the sheer rock wall.  Our engineers figured the Germans would blow the tunnel entrance to seal it up.  But they didn't.  They had an even better idea.  They picked out a spot about fifty feet beyond the tunnel mouth and blew a hole 150 feet long in the road shelf.  They blew it so deeply and thoroughly that a stone dropped into it would never have stopped rolling until it bounced into the sea a couple of hundred feet below.

We were beautifully bottlenecked.  We couldn't bypass around the rock, for it dropped sheer into the sea.  We couldn't bypass over the mountain; that would have taken weeks.  We couldn't fill the hole, for the fill would keep sliding off into the water.

All the engineers could do was bridge it, and that was a hell of a job.  But bridge it they did, and in only twenty-four hours.

When the first engineer officers went up to inspect the tunnel, I went with them.  We had to leave the jeep at a blown bridge and walk the last four miles uphill.  We went with an infantry battalion that was following the retreating Germans.

When we got there we found the tunnel floor mined.  But each spot where they'd dug into the hard rock floor left its telltale mark, so it was no job for the engineers to uncover and unscrew the detonators of scores of mines.  Then we went on through to the vast hole beyond, and the engineering officers began making their calculations.

As they did so, the regiment of infantry crawled across the chasm, one man at a time.  A man could just barely make it on foot by holding on to the rock juttings and practically crawling.  Then another regiment, with only what weapons and provisions they could carry on their backs, went up over the ridge and took out after the evacuating enemy.  Before another twenty-four hours, the two regiments would be twenty miles ahead of us and in contact with the enemy, so getting that hole bridged and supplies and supporting guns to them was indeed a matter of life and death.

It was around 1 P.M. when we got there and in two hours the little platform of highway at the crater mouth resembled a littered street in front of a burning building.  Air hoses covered the ground, serpentined over each other.  Three big air compressors were parked side by side, their engines cutting off and on in that erratically deliberate manner of air compressors, and jackhammers clattered their nerve-shattering din.

Bulldozers came to clear off the stone-blocked highway at the crater edge.  Trucks, with long trailers bearing railroad irons and huge timbers, came and unloaded.  Steel cable was brought up, and kegs of spikes, and all kinds of crowbars and sledges.

The thousands of vehicles of the division were halted some ten miles back in order to keep the highway clear for the engineers.  One platoon of men at a time worked in the hole.  There was no use throwing in the whole company, for there was room for only so many.

At suppertime, hot rations were brought up by truck.  The Third Division engineers went on K ration at noon but morning and evening hot food was got up to them. regardless of the difficulty.  For men working the way those boys were, the hot food was a military necessity.  By dusk the work was in full swing and half the men were stripped to the waist.

The night air of the Mediterranean was tropical.  The moon came out at twilight and extended our light for a little while.  The moon was still new and pale, and transient, high-flying clouds brushed it and scattered shadows down on us.  Then its frail light went out, and the blinding nightlong darkness settled over the grim abyss. But the work never slowed nor halted throughout the night.

The other men of the Third Division didn't just sit and twiddle their thumbs while all this was going on.  The infantry continued to get across on foot and follow after the Germans.  Some supplies and guns were sent around the road block by boat, and even some of the engineers themselves continued on ahead by boat.  They had discovered other craters blown in the road several miles ahead.  These were smaller ones that could be filled in by a bulldozer except that they couldn't get a bulldozer across that vast hole they were trying to bridge.  So the engineers commandeered two little Sicilian fishing boats about twice the size of rowboats.  They lashed them together, nailed planking across them, and ran the bulldozer onto this improvised barge.  They tied an amphibious jeep in front and went chugging around Point Calava at about one mile an hour.

As we looked down at them laboring along so slowly, Lieutenant Colonel Leonard Bingham, Commanding officer of the Third Division's 10th Engineers, grinned and said, "There goes the engineers' homemade Navy."

During the night the real Navy had carried forward supplies and guns in armed landing craft.  These were the cause of a funny incident around midnight.  Our engineers had drilled and laid blasting charges to blow off part of the rock wall that overhung the Point Calava crater.

When all was ready, everybody went back in the tunnel to get out of the way.  When the blast went off, the whole mountain shook and we quivered too-with positive belief that the tunnel was coming down.  The noise there in the silent night was shocking.

Now just as this happened, a small fleet of naval craft was passing in the darkness, just offshore.  The sudden blast alarmed them.  They apparently thought they were being fired upon from the shore.  For just as our men were returning to their work at the crater edge, there came ringing up from the dark water below, so clear it sounded like an execution order, the resounding naval command, "Prepare to return fire."

Boy, you should have seen our men scatter!  They hit the ground and scampered back into the tunnel as though Stukas were diving on them.  We don't know to this day exactly what happened out there, but we do know the Navy never did fire.

Around 10:30 Major General Lucian Truscott, commanding the Third Division, came up to see how the work was coming along.  Bridging that hole was his main interest in life right then.  He couldn't help any, of course, but somehow he couldn't bear to leave.  He stood around and talked to officers, and after a while he went off a few feet to one side and sat down on the ground and lit a cigarette.

A moment later, a passing soldier saw the glow and leaned over and said, "Hey, gimme a light, will you?"  The general did and the soldier never knew he had been ordering the general around.

General Truscott, like many men of great action, had the ability to refresh himself by tiny catnaps of five or ten minutes.  So instead of going back to his command post and going to bed, he stretched out there against some rocks and dozed off.  One of the working engineers came past, dragging some air hose.  It got tangled up in the general's feet.  The tired soldier was annoyed, and he said crossly to the dark, anonymous figure on the ground, "If you're not working, get the hell out of the way."

The general got up and moved farther back without saying a word.

The men worked on and on, and every one of the company officers stayed throughout the night just to be there to make decisions when difficulties arose.  But I got so sleepy I couldn't stand it, and I caught a commuting truck back to the company camp and turned in.  An hour before daylight I heard them rout out a platoon that had been resting.  They ate breakfast noisily, and loaded into trucks, and were off just at dawn.  A little later three truckloads of tired men pulled into camp, gobbled some breakfast, and fell into their blankets on the ground.  The feverish attack on that vital highway obstruction had not lagged a moment during the whole night.

It wasn't long after dawn when I returned to the crater.  At first glance it didn't look as though much had been accomplished, but an engineer's eye would have seen that the groundwork was all laid.  They had drilled and blasted two holes far down the jagged slope.  These were to hold the heavy uprights so they wouldn't slide downhill when weight was applied.  The far side of the crater had been blasted out and leveled off so it formed a road across about one-third of the hole. Small ledges had been jackhammered at each end of the crater and timbers bolted into them, forming abutments of the bridge that was to come.  Steel hooks had been embedded deep in the rock to hold wire cables.  At the tunnel mouth lay great timbers, two feet square, and other big lengths of timber bolted together to make them long enough to span the hole.

At about 10 A.M. the huge uprights were slid down the bank, caught by a group of men clinging to the steep slope below, and their ends worked into the blasted holes.  Then the uprights were brought into place by men on the banks, pulling on ropes tied to the timbers.  Similar heavy beams were slowly and cautiously worked out from the bank until their tops rested on the uprights.

A half-naked soldier, doing practically a wire-walking act, edged out over the timber and with and air-driven bit bored a long hole down through two timbers.  Then he hammered a steel rod into it, tying them together.  Others added more bracing, nailing the parts together with huge spikes driven in by sledge hammers.  Then the engineers slung steel cable from one end of the crater to the other, wrapped it around the upright stanchions and drew it tight with a winch mounted on a truck.

Now came a Chinese coolie scene as shirtless, sweating soldiers--twenty men to each of the long, spliced timbers--carried and slid their burdens out across the chasm, resting them on the two wooden spans just erected.  They sagged in the middle, but still the cable beneath took most of the strain.  They laid ten of the big timbers across and the bridge began to take shape.  Big stringers were bolted down, heavy flooring was carried on and nailed to the stringers.  Men built up the approaches with stones.  The bridge was almost ready.

Around 11 A.M., jeeps had begun to line up at the far end of the tunnel.  They carried reconnaissance platoons,  machine gunners and boxes of ammunition.  They'd been given No. 1 priority to cross the bridge.  Major General Truscott arrived again and sat on a log talking with the engineering officers, waiting patiently.  Around dusk of the day before, the engineers had told me they'd have jeeps across the crater by noon of the next day.  It didn't seem possible at the time, but they knew whereof they spoke.  But even they would have had to admit it was pure coincidence that the first jeep rolled cautiously across the bridge at high noon, to the very second.

In that first jeep were General Truscott and his driver, facing a 200-foot tumble into the sea if the bridge gave way.  The engineers had insisted they send a test jeep across first.  But when he saw it was ready, the general just got in and went.  It wasn't done dramatically but it was a dramatic thing.  It showed that the Old Man had complete faith in his engineers.  I heard soldiers speak of it appreciatively for an hour....The tired men began to pack their tools into trucks.  Engineer officers who hadn't slept for thirty-six hours went back to their olive orchard to clean up.  They had built a jerry bridge, a comical bridge, but above all the kind of bridge that wins wars.  And they had built it in one night and half a day.  The general was mighty pleased."

Ernie then talks about a few of the men he got to know during this wartime engineering feat, and ends Chapter 6 with this:  "During the last half hour of work on the Point Calava  Bridge, I saw as fine a drama as ever I paid $8.80 a seat for in New York: The bridge was almost finished.  The climax of twenty-four hours of frenzied work had come.  The job was done.  Only one man could do the final touches of bracing and balancing.  That man was sitting on the end of a beam far out over the chasm. a hammer in his hand, his legs wrapped around the beam as though he were riding a bronco.

The squirrel out there on the beam was, of course, Sergeant Levesque.  He wore his steel helmet and his pack harness.  He never took it off, no matter what the weather or what he was doing.  His face was dirty and grave and sweating.  He was in complete charge of all he surveyed.  On the opposite bank of the crater, two huge soldier audiences stood watching that noisily profane craftsman play out his role.

Their preoccupation was a tribute to his skill.  I've never seen a more intent audience.  It included all ranks, from privates to generals.

"Gimme some slack, Gimme some slack goddammit," the sergeant yelled to the winch man on the bank.  "That's enough--hold it.  Throw me a sledge.  Where the hell's a spike, goddammit?  Hasn't anybody got a spike?

"How does that look from the bank now, colonel?  She about level?  Okay, slack away.  Watch that air hose.  Let her clear down.  Hey, you under there, watch yourself, goddammit."

Sergeant Levesque drove the final spike deeply with his sledge.  He looked around at his work and found it finished.

With an air of completion, he clambered to his feet and walked the narrow beam back to safety.  You could almost sense the curtain going down, and I know everybody in the crowd had to stifle an impulse to cheer.

If somebody writes another What Price Glory? after this war I know who should play the leading role,  Who?  Why, Sergeant Levesque, goddammit, who do you suppose?"

Excerpts from Chapter 6, The Engineers' War, Brave Men by Ernie Pyle, Henry Holt and Company, 1944

PS:  Go HERE to read about some of the men who made this bridge happen, and to see some photos.  The first photo has a soldier who is obviously Sergeant Levesque in the center, wearing his pack harness and helmet.

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Valentine Countdown! Someday Soon, Suzy Bogguss

Fast And Easy Soil Maps

Anyone shopping for land, planning to build, wanting to plant trees, and etc., needs to consult a soil map for their property. Soil maps published by the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) are available online, and are easily accessible by anyone with basic skills for surfing on websites. The greatest difficulty you may have is navigating to the acreage you are interested in . The NRCS site,, has several navigation methods for you to go to the right spot, and once you have done it a few times it is easy.

(Click On Photos To Enlarge)

Most of the United States is covered by the Public Land Survey System, a grid system that is easy to navigate if you have a plat book for the county you are in.  This system is based on Principal Meridians and Base Lines, and you must know your Meridian number from this map to navigate the PLSS on the soil survey site.

Google Earth can be used to locate a site quickly, which will give you the latitude and longitude at the bottom of the screen.  When you know how to navigate to your site, go to the Web Soil Survey site and begin.

Click on the green Start button.

The navigation page comes up in a new window.  The navigation choices are on the left side of the page.

Plug in the information, and click the View button.

The section you selected will come up on the right side of the screen.

Go to the menu bar above the photo, and click on the Area Of Interest (AOI) polygon icon.

Click your way around the acreage, double clicking on the final corner.

Cross-hatching will appear over the AOI.

Go back to the top, and click on the Soil Map tab.

Soil information will be displayed on the left side of the screen...

...and your soil map will be on the right.  Once you become familiar with the soil types in your area, maps like this one translate into a relief map in your mind, and tell you what types of trees are probably growing there.

Right click on the map, and save it to a folder so you can refer to it later, and print it out for field use.

Friday, January 26, 2024